August 14, 2022
There is something very off-putting about Jesus’ words this morning. We’re very used to the idea of a loving, accepting Jesus who brings people together, right? We hear his prayer in John’s gospel, “that they may all be one,” and nod our heads in agreement. Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world who rescues us from its brokenness, is a guy who’s supposed to bring us together. He’s supposed to be the one who invites us to just love one another, set aside differences, and work toward the common goal of the kingdom.
But then here he is in our gospel reading, in what seems to be a rebuke of that idea. “You think I’ve come to bring peace? No! I’ve come to bring a sword that will divide families!” Uffda, right? I don’t want Jesus telling me that my very household is going to be divided. As a congregation, we don’t want to hear Jesus talking about his word causing rifts. As a nation already experiencing awful division with bad feelings on both sides, we don’t want Jesus to tell us that division is what happens when his word is spoken. So how do we understand what Jesus is saying here?
August 7, 2022
Over the summer, we had our daughter going to gymnastics class. It was mostly about moving her body and getting comfortable with things like tumbling and jumping and balancing, but she had fun. One thing that would happen pretty frequently, though, was when she was up high somewhere. She was, as we all would be, afraid of falling. But, it didn’t seem to matter how high up she was as long as she was holding my hand. She would walk like a champ along the five foot high balance beams or hang on the six foot bars as long as I was there to catch her! Having that safety net let her be brave.
And that’s the case any time we do something that’s scary, right? Trapeze artists do their crazy flips and jumps and twirls twenty, thirty feet in the air—but they can do it with confidence because they know there’s a net below them in case anything goes wrong. Skydivers, who are some of the craziest kinds of people I think, still only jump out of planes when they know there’s a second parachute in case the first doesn’t work. When we know there is something there to keep us safe, to support us in case something goes wrong, it’s pretty amazing the stuff we end up being able to do.
July 31, 2022
Out on the west coast, around the Seattle area and up the coast of British Columbia, there is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the world. Water from the relatively warm Pacific Ocean feeds clouds that head straight for the coast, and then they run into the Cascades where they drop an absolutely stunning amount of water every year. The ocean also keeps the temperatures of the whole region pretty stable and mild, so the growing season basically doesn’t end. The result is a region of some of the highest biomass in the world outside of the tropics.
In this region, for thousands of years, there were native tribes who were shaped by the sheer abundance of the landscape. Even though they never developed indigenous agriculture, tribes like the Chinook and Klamath were able to settle down instead of wandering from place to place looking for food and resources. These cultures were so accustomed to abundance that they developed a special kind of ceremony celebrating that abundance—the potlatch.
July 24, 2022
There was an article I read recently that talked about how we are formed to make requests—to ask people for something. The author said that there are “askers” and “guessers.” “Askers” are the kind of people who are very comfortable asking for things—like requesting a pay raise from a boss, or asking for a friend to help them pack boxes for a big move, or a volunteer coordinator asking individuals to help out with things. Then the other type, the “guessers,” are people who are very selective about asking for things—they will wait until they’re basically certain the answer will be “yes” before they even ask.
But it’s not just the way we make requests. It’s also the way we expect others to form their requests. Askers expect others to be like them, and ask for things when they need or want them. Askers are comfortable saying “no” because they themselves are comfortable with receiving a “no.” Guessers, on the other hand, don’t like to have to say “no,” and may even resent someone who asks them for something they think it’s obvious they won’t agree to. Obviously, like everything else, no one is 100% one or the other, but it’s a great way of understanding how and why people do what they do. It’s this crazy way of understanding how people interact that I find endlessly fascinating.
July 17, 2022
For a long time, I’ve found that I’m the type of person who needs to make a to-do list in order to get things done. It helps me focus on what the next thing is, and makes sure that I get to each task I need to do for the day. I’m sure many of y’all are like that. To-do lists help us be productive and keep us from wasting too much time. Of course, there are some of y’all who don’t need a to-do list, and can just know, intuitively, what the next thing that needs to be done will be.
But whether you’re a to-do lister or not, we all know that there are always tasks that need to be done. At the end of the day, there will always be another thing that could’ve been accomplished, another task that could’ve been finished, another project that could’ve been worked on. Whether it’s work or home, friendships or professional connections, we can always tack on more things that could be done to make us more productive. And productivity, it seems, is a cultural obsession of ours.