July 16th, 2020
Check out our online worship for Sunday, July 26th!
Mixing Metaphors by Pastor David Hodd
Morning Has Broken
This Is My Father’s World
He Is Exalted
“Jesus returned to the synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Step up where people can see you.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?’ But they said nothing. Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he did, and his hand was made healthy. At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus.”
Grace and peace friends,
There is a Jewish law called pikuach nefesh, translated “saving a life.” In this principle of the Jewish faith, it is believed that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule—even the command not to work on the Sabbath. These two principles of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) and mitzvah lo ta’aseh (command to do no action) are the stars of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees at the synagogue that Sabbath day over two thousand years ago. Jesus saw the man with the withered hand, and saw a person whose life was destroyed by an illness; an illness that could be healed in that moment, so that this man’s life could begin in a new way. “Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?” Jesus asked the people who spent their lives studying the Law. That was the situation Jesus was in, an argument over the Law while an innocent person suffered needlessly. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And when these experts in the Law choose the latter option, Jesus becomes indignant and begins to act. As I look at our country’s inability to act with compassion toward our neighbors by simply wearing a cloth mask, I too am deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts.
I will start off by saying that some people have had traumatic experiences in their lives, and cannot physically wear a facemask without triggering anxiety and fear caused by their trauma. So I understand the reasoning that some people are unable to wear a facemask. And there are resources and services available to those people where they can get their needs met without putting others at risk through grocery delivery to friends and family helping out. If you are in that boat and need help, let me know, I am happy to put on my own facemask and bring supplies to you. But for the overwhelming majority, the act of being slightly uncomfortable is too much to ask for them to do good and save a life. It is especially hard for me to watch people say things like, “They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.” Because if someone is invoking the name of God or Christ to not wear a facemask, I would ask them to read the story above and ask them which is better, to do good or to do evil?
The reality is, the pandemic did not need to hurt the United States this much. States have been making their beds since March and are now lying in them. From reopening too quickly, to not mandating facemasks, to outright banning the mandating of facemasks; this is the consequence of ignoring the data that says facemasks prevent the spread of illness. Here is a link to 70 academic papers that show evidence that wearing a mask reduces the spread of germs. If you find yourself feeling that your rights are infringed upon, or that a facemask is a political statement, or that if a business requires a facemask you won’t shop there; I am humbly, compassionately, and sincerely asking you to wake up. Wearing a facemask is not an infringement on anyone’s rights. Wearing a facemask is not a political statement. Businesses requiring facemasks is meant to protect human lives. The same way wearing a seatbelt, banning smoking, or stopping people from driving drunk saves lives. Other countries have embraced facemasks, contact tracing, and following the guidelines set by health experts and are able to safely reopen businesses, schools, and churches. Let us be part of the movement that helps our country do that as well.
Not only is wearing a facemask good for the overall health of our nation, but it also answers the call Christ gives us in Mark; to do good, to save life, and to heal the sick. So please, from someone who has shopped with foggy glasses, stay home when you can, practice physical distancing, and wear a facemask.
Pastor David Hodd
Like many of you, I have been struggling to cope with the events we’ve seen in the last week. As I sat at my desk the last few days trying to type any sort of constructive sentence, the only thing that came to me was grief and heaviness. It is okay to not have the words when witnessing such blatant injustice. Take the time to process, and then articulate your feelings.
Grace and peace friends,
Early last week I was perusing the internet trying to pass time in quarantine. I stumbled upon a video of a white woman sitting in her car, shaking a surgical mask at the camera as if it was a used tissue. Tears streamed down her face as she listed the reasons why she should not have to wear a mask to go shopping. (1) It hurts her face. (2) It was uncomfortable. (3) It gives her a headache. (4) She cannot breathe. This woman was moved to tears because of the discomfort of a mask that would help protect the people around her from spreading a deadly disease. The top comment I saw was along the lines of, “she really won’t be able to breathe when she catches coronavirus.”
Not long after, I watched a video of a white police officer placing his knee on a black man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while investigating the possible use of a counterfeit $20 bill. George Floyd gasps for air, cries out for his mother, and pleads with the cops to let him breathe. “I can’t breathe, they are going to kill me,” says George, hoarsely. This is not the first time a black American cried these words out to an officer who killed them. If you’ve seen the video, you probably felt the shock and rage of a community who has suffered this violence for decades. A community that was segregated, impoverished, and built to live in systematic oppression. A community that immediately is demonized after they lash out in grief at a system that does not value their lives more than a building or a $20 bill.
The world that the woman who was upset about the mask lives in, and the world that George Floyd died in are two separate worlds.
I am sitting in my office on Pentecost Sunday as I write this. I’m thinking about how Jesus was a person of color in a marginalized community. And how he must have struggled for every breath as he was nailed upon the cross by a police state.
I’m thinking about Christ overturning tables in the temple. Vandalizing property and disrupting commerce because the money changers in the temple valued the profit they made off of impoverished people more than the people.
I’m thinking about the Holy Spirit which has been called the breath of God, which we celebrate today, on Pentecost Sunday. In an instant, the world was different. Suddenly God’s breath was with the disciples, and they were immediately called into the streets to preach about the unjust murder of a black man by the hands of the state, and how in that injustice there is salvation.
My emotions and mind struggle to keep up with the many new realities we face every week. The call to be a Christian does not feel as clear as it did for the disciples in the upper room experiencing Pentecost. If you watched the video of George Floyd and immediately thought, “How can I help? What can I do?” You are not alone. The urge to do something sits deep in my stomach. The call to be a white Christian in this moment is a call to the back of the line. Instead of pontificating from the pedestal of privilege into a community and world that I do not understand, Christ is calling me to support and elevate the voices of the people who have been marginalized their entire lives.
I pray you will join me in the effort of centering the conversation of change around those whom the change affects. That the reforms or dismantling of the Minneapolis Police Departments is led by the communities who live in Minneapolis. That the restoration and rebuilding of the system that has been burned down be built to serve those who have had their necks crushed by the system, unable to breath.
This summer I plan on leading several small groups around the conversation of anti-racism. If you are interested in joining or hosting a group centered around dismantling the world of systemic racism and white supremacy through Tori Williams Douglass’ White Homework and a study of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, go to gum.church/connect and send me an email. This is uncomfortable work, but it is work that needs to be done if we want to love our neighbors as Christ loves every person.
If you need to connect, process, vent, question, or need help understanding what is happening to our state, do not hesitate to reach out.
Pastor David Hodd
Do Not Look Away by Rev. Dr. Ron Bell
The Theology of Riot by Jim Coppoc
New City Church Online Vigil by Rev. Sit, Rev. Brown, Mayyadda, Rox, Chavvon Shen, and Rev. Malachi
The Daily Social Distancing Show by Trevor Noah (Video)
Where to Donate by NYU Local
Grace and peace friends,
I find it impossible to work in my garden without thinking of Jesus’ parables. So much of Jesus’ words and so much of what made up Jesus’ world was agriculture. That is why so many of his parables begin with farmers, or gardeners, or sowers, or people going out to tend their fields. And it is also why Jesus’ parables spoke so deeply into the lives of the common person in Judah—because they were farmers! So as Amy and I were toiling in the soil pull out dead things and weeds, this parable came into mind:
“Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
I didn’t plant the weeds (or the flowers!) in this garden! They were here when we moved in! It was easy to move in and start enjoying the flowers last June, but the weeds evoke different emotions: annoyance at the sight, irritation knowing it is a job I have to do later, annoyance when the root isn’t dug up all the way so I know this weed will come back in a few weeks.
Jesus hit the nail on the head when he compared God’s Kindom to a field full of wheat and weeds. People always say the church is like a family, well families are dysfunctional (no exceptions). We get to enjoy all the great things about family: celebrations, support, friendship, and love. But we also have to deal with the weeds, the problems that put a strain on relationships, that pop up again and again, just like weeds.
As I think of Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday (May 10th!!), I think about my own mother. How she must have watched her children grow up as a garden. The skills and talents blooming and producing goodness in their lives. Witnessing heartache and insecurities creeping their way into the garden causing them to questions their self-worth the same way she has questioned herself. Taking joy in the gardens of her grandchildren as she sees her daughter become a gardener too.
We are weeds and wheat. Jesus said the good and the bad grow together, we cannot expect them to be separate, we are all human. When the harvest comes God uses all of us, our wheat is used for nourishment and our weeds are used for warmth. We are weeds and wheat, God uses all of us.
Pastor David Hodd
Grace and peace friends,
This last week I was floored by this photo. I could not believe the image I was seeing and the stories I was hearing as a group of people went out to protest a quarantine in the middle of a pandemic. Driving around government buildings and hospitals, honking, yelling at nurses and medical professionals as they pleaded for them to go home and remain in quarantine. There is as verse in Scripture that I’ve always kind of winced at when I heard pastors preach on it or hit Christian songs use it, because I find its depth and meaning to be so tied to Jesus’ experience on the cross that very few people can truly say it and convey the depth of Jesus’ suffering in that moment
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”
When Jesus says these words on the cross, it is right before the guards divide up his clothes and cast lots, the rulers of Temple sneer at Jesus, soldiers are mocking him; in this moment Jesus asks God to forgive them. It is this verse that comes to my mind when I see these nurses being ridiculed, being called fake nurses, being called actors, and being told that the pandemic in which they are putting their lives on the line for is a hoax—all because they want to get a haircut. Footnote: Jesus had long hair.
As I reflected on this passage and this situation, I realized I should not be surprised. The Bible is a story of different people constantly rebelling against a God trying to save them. In Exodus we see an entire generation pass away in the desert because they did not trust in God. Judges is the story of flawed people being lifted up to lead the different tribes of Israel only to turn away from God when they got what they wanted. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and most of the prophets are people called by God to beg the leaders to turn away from idols and back to Yahweh. Humanity has a way of working against humanity, this is not a new revelation.
It is Christ on the cross where we see forgiveness and grace. It is in the lives of 49 U.S. healthcare workers who have passed away that we see Christ on the cross. As people lose jobs, homes, and loved ones, we are called to stand with those who are persecuted and marginalized by this pandemic. If people feel the need to protest, then protest about the lack of personal protective equipment available to the healthcare workers, protest the low pay of essential workers risking their lives in the grocery stores, protest the bailout of billion dollar corporations while immigrant families are denied financial support, protest the men, women, and children locked in detention centers at our border where social distancing is impossible.
My friends, this is a moment where we are called to stand with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick. Christ calls us to stand with the least among us, let it be so.
Pastor David Hodd
Grace and peace friends!
I pray you are well on this chilly Easter Sunday. It is at this time when we remember that death does not have the final say, the power of God’s love is stronger than the world’s hate, and that Christ is risen indeed! If you have time, I invite you to worship with us digitally through Jake’s hymns and my message located below. God bless you richly, and know that even though we are physically apart, our spirits are connected with Christians all over the world today. Hallelujah!
Pastor David Hodd
A few years ago Amy and I went to a Tenebrae service at one of our friend’s church. It was a moving, powerful experience to sit in the audience of the crucifixion. To watch the candles go out as the smoke streamed toward heaven and the world grew darker. Tenebrae is Latin for shadows. This practice was developed in the 12th century. I was disappointed I couldn’t perform this service in person, so my friend Penny and I decided to make it happen a different way- through video!
Join us Friday, April 10th at 7:30p on our Facebook page and watch the video live as the sun goes down. If you can’t join us on Facebook, please watch this video this evening as we move into Good Friday and wait with anticipation for Easter. A special thanks to my friend and colleague Pastor Penny Bonsell for providing vocals.
Pastor David Hodd
Grace and peace friends,
I hope you are doing well during our Shelter In Place order. I was able to spend some of my week helping drop off supplies for others as they prepare for 2 weeks of being indoors. Amy was smart and created a dinner calendar, it reminds me of having a lunch schedule in high school!
This week’s aspect of incarnation that we are exploring is authenticity. I’ve always thought of authenticity as the real essence of a person. Someone can be a doctor, a father, a brother, a son, a grocery store clerk, a teach, or any number of things, but those titles do not get to the root of who they are as a person. Their authentic self is rooted deep in their soul. And when someone able to act authentically, they are showing their true character. I am finding my own true, authentic self during quarantine—I think Amy is too. There is something about being cooped up for days on end that makes a person’s true self show up. Whether that shows up in weird actions or irritable behavior, being at home with family for an extended period without the distractions of social identity tends to bring out a person’s essence.
Most of us have an idealized version of ourselves, an image of ourself that is in front of us, calling us to be better. We want to be smarter, kinder, more Christ-like. We spend our time and energy trying to be that way, and when we inevitably get stuck in traffic, or someone walks slowly in front of us, or we get awnry after two weeks in quarantine; then we slip up. We lash out, get mad, yell at anyone and everyone that gets in our way. We are human after all!
When those moments pop up in my life I’m reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s gospel:
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-28)
In Mark’s version, Jesus actually compares the woman to a dog! I usually imagine Jesus is at his wits’ end when he runs into this woman. He has been traveling, teaching the disciples, debating with Pharisees and teacher; Jesus needs a break, he was only human after all!
And it was this authentic, human self that Jesus engaged this woman with. Jesus met people where they were at, not where he thought they should be. During this complex interaction, the Canaanite woman speaks her mind to Jesus despite the disciples urging and his remark. Then something authentic happens, Jesus hears her. People are rarely listened to, authentic engagement is rare. So when it happens, people notice.
I find this story comforting. It tells me that when I am chasing after my ideal self and fail, that it is okay. That whenever I am irritable, quick to judgment, or short-tempered that Jesus still hears me in those moments. That it is okay that my authentic, true self is imperfect. And even though I am imperfect, Christ still calls me toward perfection one step at a time. I pray that as we continue one this Lenten journey to the cross that we would be aware of the ways we are called to be authentic, the ways that Christ invites us to listen to the needs of those around us, and the acceptance of our own limits.
Pastor David Hodd
Grace and peace friends,
As we continue to navigate what church looks like in the world since COVID-19, these posts will serve as one way to reach out and connect with you all on our shared spiritual journeys. Our theme for the week leading up to the quarantine was Intentional. I can think of nothing more intentional than the acts our leaders in the church, government, and service industry have had to make these last two weeks. Every decision from shutting down schools, enacting social distancing, making restaurants take out only, rationing toilet paper, cancelling concerts to the individual sacrifices we have all made. Practicing social distancing, reaching out electronically to people, and the simple act of staying home. We have had to act with purpose, with intention towards the goal of health.
I am reminded of the healing of the blind man in John’s gospel:
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-7)
Several things jump out at me from this text. The first being Jesus was not very conscious of spreading his germs by mixing his saliva with dirt to put in a man’s eyes, but we’ll let him slide this time. Second, Jesus debunks the myth that this man or his parents have sinned to cause his blindness. This was a common understanding going back to Job’s plight, that when people are suffering it is a result from their sin. The man’s blindness is unfortunate, but God can use this situation to show the purpose of Jesus’ ministry.
Lastly, there is the connection between the light and work. There was a relationship between the ability to work and when the sun was up, especially in an agrarian society where most of the people worked on farms or shepherded animals. There was a safety in daylight that did not exist during the night. So when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” he is telling his followers that it is time to work. And that the type of work Jesus was talking about was giving sight to the blind—to heal. And after being healed, this man is then sent to be in the community with others, to be a witness and to be intentional about sharing his Jesus story. To sum up: Jesus is the light of the world, we are called to do the works of God which Jesus shows is the intentional healing of those who are blinded.
The world’s eyes have been opened in these last few weeks. We’ve learned that grocery store clerks, delivery people, and healthcare workers are the lifeblood of our society. We’ve seen the distortions and unfair treatment of people in our healthcare system. We’ve become acutely aware of the things we touch, door knobs, light switches, our faces. We’ve seen people try to blame this illness on others, to shift responsibility, and try to exploit fear in a time of scarcity for personal gain. We are called to be a force of healing in this time. For every story I see of someone hoarding food, toilet paper, or hand sanitizer, I see other giving those supplies away freely.
We are not alone in this world. Christ is still shining. We need to be intentional now more than ever. About our own health, and about how we care for others. There is work to be done.
Pastor David Hodd