Am I the jerk?
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
I am not a fan of most online conversation – there are too many people who become their worst selves when shielded from consequence behind the anonymity of a user name and avatar. But occasionally, a link leads to a link leads to a link and I find myself somewhere like Reddit (if you’re not familiar, it’s kind of an online clearinghouse of conversations and message boards), where there is a forum called “Am I The Jerk?,” except “Jerk” is replaced by a slightly more colorful word. In this forum, people post situations they have found themselves in that have some grey area regarding manners, morals, or ethics, and ask if their actions in said situation make them the…jerk. So I bemusedly read about someone else’s antics in a supermarket checkout line, bridal party, family gathering, or other such situation, each then asking the titular question and receiving the collected “wisdom” of internet commenters worldwide.
Recently, I found myself in a situation where, after the fact, I asked myself, “was I the jerk?” Without getting into a lot of details, I was on the road and a driver behind me made several poor decisions that left them blocking traffic in several directions. Their maneuvering left them in a place where they wished to now enter my lane in front me (rather than continue on and correct their mistake further down the road), and I chose to “hold my ground” and let them enter my lane behind me.
I didn’t do anything to make the situation actively worse, but I also made a decision to not be as helpful as I could have been. I felt it wasn’t fair if someone’s poor decisions (intentional or otherwise) would cause me to be delayed. So…was I the jerk?
After discussing this with my (much wiser) wife, I thought about what Scripture might say on this. Of course, the “Golden Rule” came to my mind first. Was I doing unto others what I would want done unto me? And my first response was “Yes! If I made such a bone-headed move on the road, I would accept my error and find a safe place to turn around and get back on track. I wouldn’t expect other drivers to make accommodations for my mistakes.” (It should be noted, I consider myself to be a reasonable driver. Not spectacular, not terrible. I certainly have my share of mistakes.)
But…it would be nice of them if they did. And I realized that, as much as I try to be nice in my daily interactions, I was now using the cocoon of my vehicle to be my worst self – just like the internet trolls I made mention of above. It was not my job to hold this driver accountable for their error – I wasn’t going to change behavior, nor would the eight seconds’ delay have changed my life. The Golden Rule isn’t designed to be applied as necessary on a case-by-case basis. How I expect others to treat me isn’t the same as how I would like others to treat me. And quite possibly, the Rule matters more when you’re dealing with a stranger than with your closest companions.
Always be nice. Don’t be the jerk.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” --Hebrews 13:2
Change and adaptations
By Michael Flanagin, Council Vice President
When I was 5 we moved from a small town in rural Maine to the booming metropolis of San Jose, CA. I couldn't wait to be there, and was sure that we would be right next door to Disneyland and I knew that all the fabulous and wonderful things California had to offer would be mine to enjoy. While we weren't next door to Disneyland, I loved our new home and made friends quickly. It was one of the most important changes in my childhood, and one that I embraced with enthusiasm. I carried this excitement regarding change to adulthood.
I know that not everyone embraces change this way. Some find comfort in routine, wrapping it around themselves like a warm blanket. Others take trepidatious steps toward change, testing the waters with each movement forward, evaluating and judging if it's wise to continue down that path. Regardless of your feelings and reactions to change, we know that it is inevitable. We grow older, we learn, we adapt, and we find a way forward as the world changes around us.
None of those viewpoints of change are right or wrong, and honestly sometimes I need those who are trepidatious to put into check my enthusiasm to help us all discern the wise path. This is what makes the church body at CGS an amazing and wonderful organism. We wouldn't function well as a team if we didn't have all viewpoints to consider.
There have been many changes at CGS in the 9 years I have been here. We called an Interim Pastor, a Pastor, hired new staff, we've had changes in ministries and tenants, and the property has had transformations. And there are still more changes to come as we consider calling a Deacon and undergoing a building transformation that would enable us to live out our mission to serve and be welcoming in a greater way.
Sometimes the changes can seem overwhelming, and I take comfort knowing that I don't need to be anxious about anything, because I can take my concerns to the Lord in prayer, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).
How are you feeling about the changes occurring at CGS? Anxious? Excited? Trepidatious? Schedule a time to have coffee with a church council member. We want to hear from you, pray with you, and walk with you as we face the joys and challenges of change together.
What is an AED? Good question . . . An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a medical device that can analyze the heart's rhythm and deliver an electrical shock to help the heart re-establish its rhythm. Having an AED defibrillator makes it possible for anyone trained to treat a heart attack victim and increase their chance of survival. Did you know we have one located above and to the left of the bulletin board on the way to the Great Hall at our church? Would you like to know how to use it in case of an emergency at church? Good news, we are having a training class led by Laura Rinde starting at 11:30 Sunday, June 23, 2019. Hope to see you there!
Living out our mission
By Theo Olson, Council President
This year the council asked you to take a leap of faith with us as we moved forward on utilizing the property to live out our mission of Proclaim, Welcome, Serve! The council has really wrestled with how do we balance living out our mission with the practicalities of the budget. I'm extremely grateful for their thoughtful discernment and am happy to provide an update on some of the wonderful progress:
One of our big questions has been what to do with the parsonage. As a congregation we are blessed to have this space available for ministry. While many ideas have been floated, including many wonderful suggestions from you, we find we still need time to explore longer term solutions that align with our ministry.
Last Council meeting we were presented a short-term option via an inquiry from our sister congregation, Advent Lutheran (Morgan Hill), who are in need of housing for an intern. The Council agreed to explore this opportunity to serve others, in this case the ELCA, by supporting the development of our new church leaders.
We are thrilled to announce that the parsonage will be rented to Advent Lutheran to support the internship of Brandon Peck, who you might remember preached at CGS a few Sundays ago. He and fiancé David, will be moving in the parsonage officially on July 1, 2019, but are planning to move things in the week before. They'll be living in the parsonage until August 31, 2020.
In addition, this is a wonderful opportunity for Advent and CGS to partner in ministry together as we welcome Brandon and David. Advent is developing a list of furniture and household items the guys need and we'll join them in doing a drive for these items. We also look forward to hosting a joint work day at the parsonage to spruce the home and yard up. Please stay tuned on how you can join in welcoming and serving Brandon and David in the next few weeks.
The Council is also excited about the progress with the classrooms. As you know, Godly Play has moved into one of the classrooms which provides a much better space for our children to learn and grow in their faith. Thank you to everyone that assisted with preparing the room for this important ministry of our congregation.
Classroom #1 is now the location for most of the recovery meetings. One group will continue to hold their meetings in the Great Hall. This room is also used by Christ Community Multicultural Ministry, the new congregation we're helping Pastor Jared and Nora establish.
We look forward to providing more updates on how the remaining spaces will be used to further our mission of Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve as they are finalized in the weeks ahead.
With all the new ways we are using the space for ministry and outreach, the Council has agreed to purchase new chairs for the classrooms. Laura, our Office Manager, found a great deal on chairs similar to the maroon stacking chairs we currently use, including free shipping! This nominal cost will ultimately save us in time spent by staff moving chairs around the property each week.
Thank you for your generosity
None of this ministry is possible without your generous support of Christ the Good Shepherd. On behalf of the Council, thank you for your ongoing gifts of time, talent and treasure. God is indeed working through our hands here at CGS.
O Sifuni Mungu
By Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
This past Sunday in our Pentecost Service, our men’s choir, Keynote Vocal Group, sang “O Sifuni Mungu”, a song partly in Swahili, originally recorded by the group First Call. It is a very lively music set with clear African beat and rhythm, accompanied with drums, percussive instruments, and piano. As the song goes, “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing. All men, all creatures, everybody, praise the Lord!” - it is undoubtedly a song of praise and worship to God. But as most cases in song writing, its conception and composition go beyond one particular purpose.
According to the composer, Marty McCall, “The first spark of inspiration for the song happened during a 1987 Grammy show performance. When Paul Simon entered the stage to perform a song from his “Graceland” album, he was joined and backed up by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a male vocal group from South Africa. It was a musical and cultural innovation rarely seen at that time in pop music and it was thrilling! I’ve always loved exploring music from diverse cultures so this experience affected me powerfully. Ladysmith was authentically African yet still accessible to American audiences, using the same diatonic scale and chord progressions found in western music. While Paul Simon’s music is solidly American, the addition of Ladysmith’s strong but sensitive vocal accompaniment, the unique style, and the traditional clothing of the group made the performance an equally African cultural statement. A powerful fusion. It was a moment of clear inspiration for me.
“I saw a spiritual, musical and culturally blended vision that I wanted deeply to express, believing that within the Body of Christ, heightened awareness of our varied cultures gives us a unique pathway to celebrate and worship God together.”
These composer’s words about the song’s conception struck me the most, especially thinking about our CGS family. With our members’ diverse backgrounds, we are a blending of cultural, musical, and spiritual expressions. Each of us brings something different and unique to our church family, that make our faith growth and experience special. We share foods from our different cultures, share experiences from involvements from past churches and religions, and of course for me, share music that we love to sing. All of these, as the composer mentions, give us a unique pathway to celebrate and worship God together. This is also a reason why I try to have the choirs occasionally sing music in a different language. That as we celebrate and worship God through these music, it is also an opportunity for us to learn, grow, and appreciate different cultures. It truly is a thrilling experience!
Do unto others
By Pastor Manda
I don’t have to tell you about the immigration crisis at our southern border. If you’ve consumed any amount of news, you know something of the story and you may have even formed an opinion on what we should be doing about who is and is not allowed to become a US citizen or live within our nation’s borders.
I don’t care to influence your thoughts on that today. I don’t have an agenda that you should think one way or another about immigration. I do have a concern for how we treat others, no matter what our relationship with them is.
We usually talk about the way we treat one another and cite the golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Which we have adopted and adapted from Matthew 7.12 “In everything you do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” He says this as part of a longer sermon – the same one that contains the beatitudes (blessed are..) and a bunch of other teachings that you would recognize. They were amazed because Jesus taught these familiar things in a way that they hadn’t heard before. And while he was upholding the laws, he was also changing our relationship to them.
After this sermon, the next three things Jesus does in the story are:
For this reason, Peace Lutheran Church and Border Servant Corps in Las Cruces, New Mexico are extending hospitality to those asylum seekers and immigrants who have been detained by the US government at the southern border. After their degrading and traumatizing treatment at the detention center, Peace LC, with the staffing of Border Servant Corps becomes a place of safety and refuge.
30-50 detainees arrive there every week. In the next 7 days they receive warm beds, food, showers, medical care, and assistance to get to the next stage of their journey. For some people this means going on to a city in the US where they can move through the next part of the asylum process. For others this means travelling back to one of the places that they came from.
During the week of July 21st, a group of people from CGS are going to go and volunteer with the Border Servant Corps to support them as they extend grace to the recently released detainees. Matt Byom, Shirley Woods, Joshua Armstrong, Michael Flanagin, and myself are not people who have any expertise to lend, nor do we have the ability to heal the trauma of emigration or detention. What we do have is the same thing we all have – the ability to extend grace to others. So that is what we’ll do, following the example of Jesus.
My hope is that our group will be able to invite you in to share in this ministry with us before and after our trip. I hope that you will speak with these individuals about what they are doing. I hope also that you will keep us in your prayers along with those who work every day to extend grace to those who are vulnerable in and around the US border, and every individual whose life is so devoid of hope that they risk safety and law-breaking to find a better life in the US.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.