That Gospel Crazy Law

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 10.25-37

I’m going to go out on a limb here… have any of you heard of this thing called the ‘Internet’? Yes, you use the internet? Wonderful tool, isn’t it? One of the blessings of the Internet is that it offers us a place where folks like you and me can discuss and learn. It offers a chance for us to offer our thoughts and our opinions and to listen to the perspectives of others. It offers us the opportunity for mature and reasoned and useful dialogue. Right? Right? Well, the opportunity is there. Yes, the comments section on internet stories offer us chances for good dialogue, but that’s not what we get, much of the time.

There is a maxim that has been offered about internet dialogue called “Godwin’s Law” – I don’t know if any of you have heard that. It’s an observation, and I’m paraphrasing here, that no matter what the discussion may be, it can be about science or politics, it doesn’t matter what it is, at some point sooner or later, someone is going to call someone else a Nazi. Or someone’s going to compare another to a Nazi. Sooner or later, dialogue devolves, says the maxim, to a place where one demonizes another as the epitome of evil. That’s what Nazis are, right? The epitome of evil.

It’s interesting for me to reflect on what this says about us, that this maxim turns out so often to be true, but the reason I raise this law at this moment is that it popped into my head when I was thinking about the story that Jesus tells us in scripture. Because Jesus seems to fall right into Godwin’s Law. Jesus and the lawyer, scripture says… Well, let me go off on a small tangent here. I had to apologize in the first service to Nathan, who happens to be a lawyer, and lawyers you know, always get a bad rap, right?. Any other lawyers here? Sorry about that! But in this story I have to come clean and say that the lawyer is much more like a scholar of the Torah, a bible teacher, a preacher. That’s me.

Jesus and the one who studies the bible are having a discussion, and a good one. They are dialoguing about the law and the lawyer asks a question that we all ask at one point or another: What do we need to do to inherit eternal life? It’s a good discussion, perking along, and wouldn’t you know it, Godwin’s Law comes up because Jesus ends up talking about a Nazi. Except that in the telling of his story, the Nazi is the hero and not the demon. Jesus tells the story about a Samaritan playing the role of hero. Now Samaritans weren’t Nazis, but for the lawyer and many of Jesus’ listeners, the Samaritans were the hated enemy. The hated ones. The demonized ones. If you wanted to insult a Jew, you would say, “You Samaritan, you.”

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

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