“How Does Jesus Use Power?”

This was the title of the sermon preached on September 30 by Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Senior Pastor Tim Hart-Andersen.

The Prayer of Confession

As part of the first part of the worship service—Preparing for the Word—Associate Pastor Alanna Simone Tyler led the congregation in the following unison Prayer of Confession:

  • “Merciful God, by your grace we confess our sin and the sin of this world. Although Christ is among us as our peace, we are a people divided against ourselves as we cling to the values of a broken world. The fears and jealousies that we harbor set neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation. Lord, have mercy on us; heal and forgive us. Set us free to serve you in the world as agents of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ.”

The Scriptures

Psalm 82 (NRSV):

“God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
‘How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?Selah
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk around in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, ‘You are gods,
children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.’

Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
for all the nations belong to you!”

John 2: 1-12 (NRSV):

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

“After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.”

The Sermon

At “the wedding party in Cana, 2,000 years ago, only the servants know what happens in the kitchen. Not even Jesus’ mother knows, although when the good wine starts flowing late into the feast she must suspect her son is behind it.”

“Jesus’ first miracle isn’t his idea. In fact, that’s true of all the miracles of Jesus. Someone presents him with a problem to solve: stop the bleeding, feed the 5,000, bring back sight, heal disease, cure paralysis, exorcise demons. Jesus is a reluctant miracle worker.At the wedding feast in Cana the wine steward is impressed with the vintage, but Mary’s son keeps quiet about it.”

“’At the wedding feast in Cana,’ I said 20 months ago, ‘Jesus launches a movement, a movement of joyful resistance against the baser impulses that run through each of us and through the principalities and powers of every time and place.’”

“That was then, and this is now, and we’re back at the wedding party where the wine runs out, seeing more signs of the resistance movement that is the gospel. . . . And now this same text shifts from a lesson in hospitality to a primer on the use of power.”

“At the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus tries not to exercise power. When his mother learns of the wine crisis, she turns to her son to solve it. He’s a grown man, and in that patriarchal system – as in ours – he’s in a position of power simply by virtue of his gender. His mother knows he’s capable of taking over and managing things, as men do. But he doesn’t rush in. He has no need to be in control.”

“That’s the first lesson from this story about how Jesus uses power: start with humility. Don’t be too eager to solve everything with your power. Be more modest. Jesus is reluctant to step in, take over, and make everything right. He’s not interested in the use of power to make himself or anyone else look good. People using power are always tempted to make it so they come out a winner, on top. Jesus doesn’t use power that way.”

“When he does finally take action, Jesus exercises power anonymously. He doesn’t need everyone to know what he can do, or what he has done. . . . Jesus doesn’t need to take credit.”

Second lesson from this story about how Jesus uses power: do it for the sake of building up the community, for the good of others, especially those who are most vulnerable. Don’t use it to burnish a reputation, or puff up an ego. The gifts Jesus has are considerable, but he knows they aren’t for his own aggrandizement. This is not about him. People using power are always tempted to make it about them. Jesus doesn’t use power that way.”

“When Jesus decides to help with the wine he asks the servants to fill the large stone jars with water. Those jars were reserved for one purpose only: for religious rituals, purification rites – not for holding wedding party wine. His choice of religious vessels to hold the wine shows his willingness to rethink tradition if necessary. We’ve always done it that way doesn’t carry much weight with Jesus. Remember when he allowed his followers to glean in the fields and eat on the Sabbath – even though it was prohibited by tradition – because they were hungry? That was the priority for Jesus, not the rules.”

Third lesson from this story about how Jesus uses power: use it to change the status quo, if it makes the world a better place. So often power is used to defend the way things are, rather than to imagine the way things might be and then make something new happen. That’s precisely what Jesus does with those stone jars; some look at them and see religious rituals and rules and a prescribed use. Jesus looks at them and sees jars of good wine for the party. 4 Structures and systems inevitably work to preserve the power that built them in the first place. People using power are always tempted to maintain tradition for its own sake, to keep things the way they are. Jesus doesn’t use power that way.”

“There’s a lot to unpack in this little gospel story about a party in Cana long ago. At the wedding feast Jesus shows how to use power humbly, to use it on behalf of the community, and to use it in a way that challenges the status quo.”

“But that’s only the start. He does it again and again. His entire ministry overturns the typical use of power in his time – and, therefore, in our time, if we follow him. When he’s in a superior position relative to others Jesus doesn’t see that as a chance to exercise leverage, but, rather, to listen and learn and bring healing.”

“Think of the Samaritan woman at the well, a foreigner, alone with Jesus, a male stranger from another group, who no doubt represents a threat. What happens? They talk about the water they both need – his, that which is to be found in the well, and hers, the living water of hope. They each ask the other for help. It’s mutual. It’s balanced.”

“Think of the Syrophoenician woman, another outsider. She asks Jesus to heal her daughter and he refuses, saying his own people deserve to be fed first. Then he adds, cruelly, that food shouldn’t be wasted by throwing it to the dogs.”

“The woman is furious at this, but her fury empowers her. She finds her voice, much as women today who have kept silent about sexual assault and are now speaking up. It shouldn’t have to wait until the victim gets angry, but the system is stacked against her.. . . “

“The Syrophoenician woman, a foreigner, an immigrant with no authority in that system, persists nevertheless. She challenges Jesus, a man in power presiding over a gathering of other men. . . . You can almost hear the Syrophoenician woman telling Jesus to look her in the eye.”

“She takes him to task and speaks directly and boldly and courageously to him, not letting him get away with a mean-spirited use of power. Jesus listens, and believes her – and he changes his mind and heals her daughter.”

“Think of the men who follow Jesus getting into a debate about who will be first in the coming kingdom – the guys competing with one another. Jesus rebukes them – and then invites little children to come to him, saying only people who become like children will enter the kingdom of heaven. Give up your privilege, he says, let go of your desire for power, and then you will see the light of God.”

“As people of faith we’re called to exercise power in the way of Jesus, in a way that points to the goodness of God, in a way that spreads the light of God, in a way that leads to the justice of God.”

At its best our democracy has the potential to offer light in a grim and gloomy world, and spread the most good for the most people. But we’re not there in so many ways. . . .”

“The noise echoing across our nation in recent years, and in the halls of Congress this week may show, as former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said recently, ‘the decline of democracy.’ (https://www.newsweek.com/former-justice-anthony-kennedy-warnsdemocracy-danger-1145017) “

“Or it may be the sound of democracy awakening.”

“It may be the cry of those demanding equity and fairness for people outside the places of wealth and advantage. It may be the demand for an end to mistreatment because of gender or race.”

“ It may be the rustling of the Holy Spirit finally getting our attention. Scripture resounds with the cries of the oppressed.”

“‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked’ God asks through the voice of the poet in Psalm 82”

How long?

“‘Give justice to the weak and the orphan,’ God says.”

“How long will you judge unjustly?”

“’Maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute,’ God says.”

How long will you show partiality to the wicked?

“’Rescue the weak and the needy,’ God insists “

How long?”

“‘Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ (Psalm 82:2-4)”

“The Hebrew poet expresses the heart of our faith and its urgent plea for justice. Jesus, son of Mary, winemaker in Cana, will embody that same call centuries later. Serving humbly. Listening carefully. Building up the community. Challenging the status quo. Sharing power.”

“Today you and I, as people of faith living in this land, are challenged to take up that good work, God’s work in our time. Those whose voices have not been heard and who have been victims of violence and injustice are now insisting that we listen, that those of us who hold privilege and power stop talking and hear their stories, and be changed by them.”

“As a new day dawns, the rising fear we’re witnessing across the country is the response of those – mostly straight white men in power – whose place in America is shifting, is being challenged by courageous women and others demanding to be heard.”

“The true test of the just use of power is who benefits from it. As Jesus makes clear in Cana and throughout his life, those who hold power should not be the ones who gain from its use. There’s no gospel in that, no good news at all.”

“In fact, as Jesus sees it, it’s just the opposite. Those with power are called either to relinquish it or use it to lift up others – especially those who have been excluded and despised, left out and pushed down, battered and abused – and invite them into the very places where they were not previously welcome.”

“Then, and only then, will the world shine with the justice of God. Then, and only then, will the light of goodness fill our lives. Then, and only then, will all God’s people, all God’s people, rejoice.”

“Thanks be to God.”

Reflections

This sermon uncovered at least six unexpected lessons about the use of power from the familiar story about the wedding at Cana. First, start with humility. Second, do it for the sake of building up the community. Third, use power to change the status quo if it makes the world a better place. Fourth, listen and learn from others, especially those who are being oppressed. Fifth, ask others for help. Sixth, be willing to change your mind.

These are lessons or challenges for all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What Does It Mean To Choose Life?”

This was the title of the September 23rd sermon at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church by Senior Pastor, Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen. Below are photographs of the late 19th century and 21st century entrances to the church.

 

 

 

 

 

The Scriptures

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 (NRSV):

  • “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

John 3: 1-10 (NRSV)

  • “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?”

The Sermon

“If we glide through . . . worship on Sunday morning or evening and never have any qualms or second thoughts or doubts, either we’re not paying attention or we’ve missed the point altogether. Christian faith, when taken seriously, should be difficult. It should be demanding. It should be challenging. This is deep stuff; it matters. . . .”

“We’re all working on something – understanding Jesus or the Holy Spirit or the Trinity, or struggling with personal challenges or systemic injustice. None of us has it all figured out, but we’ve decided to cast our lot with this band of pilgrims called the Christian Church to find our way forward together..  . .”

“Nicodemus, the Pharisee in the story from John’s gospel this morning, is . . . honestly facing his questions about faith. But . . . Nicodemus isn’t willing to air his questions publicly. Instead, he sneaks out to visit Jesus late at night. He doesn’t want to be seen by those who think they have religion all figured out and buttoned down, and for whom Jesus is not relevant. . . .”

“The particular point Nicodemus wants to talk about with Jesus is the teaching that we all must be “born anew,” or “born from above.”

“Just how is that supposed to happen?” the pragmatically-minded Pharisee asks . . .  .“We’ve all been born once; shall we all somehow go back into the womb? . . . “

“Nicodemus brings his questions and asks Jesus to explain faith in a way that makes sense to him, that meets him at his points of doubt. But Jesus looks beyond the immediate questions and tells Nicodemus that faith is not explicable, not empirical, not observable, not something that can be – in our terms – scientifically proven. It’s like trying to control the wind, Jesus says, which blows when and where it will.”

“ Faith is a matter of the Spirit at work in our lives, bringing new life, a second chance, a starting-over, the experience of being born anew, if we embrace it. . . .”

“Faith is a gift given by God that we’re free to receive, or not. It’s the same decision the writer of Deuteronomy describes centuries before this gospel text.”

“’Today,’” God says in Deuteronomy, ‘I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses.’ This is the deciding point.”

“Choose life.”

“What does it mean to choose life?

“For the writer of Deuteronomy it means deciding, deciding to follow God, to live with others as God would desire, to pursue God’s commandments. Centuries later, that same text is burning in the mind of a lawyer who asks Jesus which of those commandments is the greatest. Jesus responds by saying there really are only two, from which all the others hang: love God and love neighbor. “

Choosing life means choosing to love, deciding to put God and the well-being of others at the very center, practicing generosity and kindness to all, and trusting in a higher purpose, a greater good, an unnamable source of light beyond us.”

“Choosing life is not only an individual decision. It’s the choice of the community of faith to love God, together, and to love neighbor, together.”

“Nicodemus the Pharisee went to Jesus under cover of darkness, trying to find his way home to a God who would love him so fiercely, so completely, so unconditionally, that his life could begin again. Born anew. Turned around and starting over.”

“He trusted that Jesus could lead him on that path. What, or who, do we trust like that?”

“In the 19th century in Denmark Søren Kierkegaard argued with those who insisted on a strictly rational approach to life that rejected the notion of any source beyond observable reality. He used the phrase – now commonly known – leap of faith to name what we take when we choose to trust God. We span the perceived gap between human reason and faith in a God we can never fully know. . . .”

“But you’ve learned something valuable about Christian faith along the way, something each of us would do well to remember: faith is a gift – the wind blowing – our response is what matters. What do we decide? What do we choose? . . .”

“Together we have chosen life.”

Reflections

I too continue to work on understanding Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, personal challenges and systemic injustice. I have not figured it all out, but have decided to cast my lot with this band of pilgrims at Westminster to find my and our way forward.

I concur that faith is not explicable, not empirical, not observable, not scientifically provable. instead it is a matter of the Spirit working in our lives, bringing new life, a second chance, a starting over.

This sermon provided another answer to the question, “What Is Jesus for Us Today?” that was posed in the sermon on September 9.

Therefore, everyone is faced with an opportunity to choose life, deciding to follow God, to live with others as God desires, by loving God and neighbor.

 

 

 

 

 

“Where Do We Go From Here?”

This was the title of the September 16th sermon at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church by Senior Pastor, Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen. Below are photographs of the church’s late 19th century sanctuary and its Westminster Hall in the 21st century addition.

 

 

 

 

Scripture Passages

 Deuteronomy 30: 11-14 (NRSV)

“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”

John 1: 1-14 (NRSV) 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

The Sermon

“One of the chief purposes of religion is to create communities of memory. . . . We come to worship to remember, to tell the story again and again, to rediscover and re-claim what our forebears in the faith found to be true about life. We come to address big questions, as they did: Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? What is the purpose of life? How did it all begin?”

“The gospel of John opens determined to respond to such questions. . . . ‘In the beginning,’ he says, ‘Was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’”

“This is the story of Jesus, son of Mary, but told through a cosmic lens, with echoes of a deep memory of the beginning of all time. . . .’He was in the beginning with God,’ John says of Jesus, the Word. ‘All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. . . .’”

“The gospel of John connects the genesis of the Messiah with the origins of earth itself. ‘What has come into being in him was life,’ John says of the Word, ‘And the life was the light of all people.’”

“This Jesus, as presented by John, breaks free of the limitations of a certain time and a definite place. The Word, in John’s view, is universal, the source of light and life for the entire human family, indeed, for all creation. . . .”

“In the beginning was the Word, with a capital W. If we search the lines of Genesis for that Word, and listen carefully, we will hear it in the ancient story of God’s handiwork, in the repeated refrain and it was good.”

“The creator completes a day and delights in the emerging earth’s splendor and declares it to be good. The division of time into night and day. That was good. The splattering of stars across the dome of darkness. That was good. The pushing up of mountains and the shaping of hills through which rivers began to flow. That was good. The first green plants stirred to life by the warmth of the sun and the nourishment of water. That was good. The  animals, the fishes and the birds. All of that was good. And then the ones formed in the creator’s own image, the earthlings. That was good.”

“The word at the start of the story is good, and that goodness permeates all creation and links it, links us, to the Creator. Julian of Norwich said that we should think of ourselves as made not by God, but ‘of God.’ Everything springs from the same, one source.”

“When the Word becomes flesh all life takes on new meaning and is woven into a singular whole. The Creator and the creation share the same matter, the same life. . . .”

“The Word of John’s gospel is not so distant that we might not discover it for ourselves in our time. Here the writer of Deuteronomy – many generations, centuries before John – anticipates the fourth gospel. ‘Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.’”

“God says through the writer of Deuteronomy. ‘No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.’”

“We need not cross the sea or ascend to the heavens or climb a mountain or recite the Bible to encounter God’s word. . . .”

“That’s essentially what John tells us in the gospel: ‘And the Word’ – the Word placed in the human heart at the beginning of all time – ‘The Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.’”

“Jesus is the living memory of the goodness of God.”

“The church is the community in which that memory resides and is carried along. And so the church gathers to remember and reaffirm the baseline of what it means to be human. All our efforts at justice and equity, all our attempts to end racism and alleviate poverty and eliminate disparities begin with that good word – that God word – about every human being, that each of us bears the word of God – the love of God, the image of God, the life of God – within. Each one of us.”

“The world is acting as if it had no memory, no remembering of ancient truths, no recollection of insights beyond those of our own immediate invention. What are the deep, abiding affirmations about life? They’re found in the religions of the world; for us, they’re found in the pages of scripture, in the stories that have been passed down over the ages, and in the communities that have conveyed those texts and those stories along…that there is a creator…that the creation is good…that each member of the human family bears the creator’s image…that God’s love comes to life in Jesus…that God has already given us all we need to live just, peaceful, and sustainable lives.”

“When we remember that, then the Word becomes flesh not only once, but over and over again, in your life and in mine, as we let the light that was placed in the human heart at the beginning of all time shine in the world.” (Emphasis added.)

“A hospital chaplain told me recently about a visit she made to an older patient who had just survived a ‘Code Blue’ – meaning she had almost died. . . The chaplain talked with her about her experience and their conversation turned to a familiar passage from Isaiah:

  • ‘Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31)

“‘That’s the Word of God made flesh!’ the woman who had nearly died said from her hospital bed, with a spark of light in her eyes. That’s the Word of God made flesh. She had remembered . . . . that the Word of God – the same Word present at creation – is within each of us.”

“A few days ago I met a young woman whose company had worked on our wonderful new addition.. . . I invited her to Sunday morning worship. She smiled and said, “I’m busy every Sunday morning. I volunteer with a woman with a debilitating disease. She needs help. So I go every Sunday morning to do laundry for her, and clean house, make meals and visit.” That’s the Word made flesh. It may not be what we think of as traditional church, but it is certainly the goodness of God coming to life. Serving others as an act of worship on a Sunday morning – if that’s not church, what is?”

“What happens when the Word becomes flesh? The light of God, present at the beginning, that light breaks into the world anew. The love of God takes root in our communities and begins to grow. The justice of God becomes more visible. God’s dream for the earth comes a little closer.”

“That happens most fully in Jesus, but it also happens in each one of us. The light of God shines in the world through us, and through communities like this one.”

“When the Word becomes flesh we remember. We remember the goodness of God visible in all creation and planted deep within our hearts.”

By the grace of God and by how we live, we – you and I – help bring that Word to life, give it flesh, in the world.” (Emphasis added.)

“Thanks be to God.”

Reflections

This sermon gave me a new perspective on this familiar passage from the Gospel of John.

When we remember that there is a creator, that the creation is good, that each member of the human family bears the creator’s image, that God’s love comes to life in Jesus and that God already has given us all that we need to live just, peaceful and sustainable lives, then the Word becomes flesh not only once, but over and over again in your life and mine, as we let the light that was placed in the human heart at the beginning of all time shine in the world. (Emphasis added.)

By the grace of god and by how we live, we help bring the Word to life, give it flesh, in the world. (Emphasis added.)

This sermon also gave one answer to the question posed in the prior Sunday’s sermon, “What Is Jesus For Us Today?”that was discussed in a prior post.

 

“Who Is Jesus for Us Today?”  

This was the title of the sermon on September 9, 2018, by Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen, Senior Pastor, Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. (A photograph of the church with its new addition is below.)

Biblical Texts for the Day

 Psalm 8 (NRSV):

“O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”

“O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

 John 1: 45-51 (NRSV):

“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you get to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’”

 The Sermon[1]

 “The work of the Church is fundamentally a teaching task: asking questions, seeking answers, exploring possibilities – and then translating all of that into life between Sundays. . . .”

“Christianity is never settled for any of us, no matter our age or the extent of our involvement in church. The world is always changing. If our faith is not similarly dynamic, not living, not rising to the challenges we see all around us, not attuned to the context in which we live, it will slowly wither away. . . .”

“Actually there’s something appealing to the notion that what happens in churches can be hazardous to the status quo. Powerful worship is subversive; it wants to upend the dominant ethos. A church ought to be considered a place the world enters at its own risk. After all, we follow a Savior perceived to be such a serious threat that he was crucified.”

“But the Church is not only what happens inside these walls for a few hours each week. . . . Church mostly happens the rest of the week, out there. We – you and I – are the Church when we leave here and go out into the world. . . . “

“The faith we practice has always felt compelled to move out into the streets and ask, ‘What is God up to in this place and in this time?’ because we want to join that work. Call it public theology, or our witness in the world, or the pursuit of biblical justice – our faith has never wanted to sequester Jesus in the sanctuary, as if he might – we might – be sullied by the messy reality of what’s going on in the world around us.”

“We Come Together not to be sheltered in this sacred space, but, rather, to hear the call of God to go forth and be the Church. To do that, however, means we need to understand whom we follow out into those streets. . . .”

“The decision to follow Jesus, Professor Gail O’Day says, ‘Is inseparable from the decision one makes about Jesus’ identity.’ [New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. IX (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995) p. 534] . . . .”

“Who we think he is will determine the kind of Christians we become.”

“In the 1930s in Germany, the young pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer found himself growing skeptical about the Jesus being preached in the churches of that land. As political rhetoric became more overtly racist and the culture increasingly supportive of extreme Aryan nationalism, most German Christian churches rolled over and acquiesced to all of that. They gave their Jesus over to the rising ideology of the times. It was expedient for them, convenient for them, to go along with the predominant and popular spirit of the land.”

“Bonhoeffer and his colleagues – Karl Barth, Martin Niemoller, and others – resisted, and some of them eventually paid for it with their lives. They wrote an affirmation of faith rejecting the distorted theology used to underpin racism and nationalism. They started an alternative church, called the Confessing Church, as opposed to the German Christian Church, which supported the ideology of the times.. They founded an underground seminary, as over against the schools of the German Christian Church, which taught theology that supported the direction the nation was moving. They preached and worked against the tide.”

“And behind all that work, according to Bonhoeffer, was a single, driving question: Who is Jesus Christ for us today? . . . .”

“Who is Jesus Christ for us today? That question will inform our worship at Westminster this fall, even as it informs our life as we move from this place out into the world . . . “

 “Eighty years ago in Germany was not the only time when Christians have resisted the prevailing winds. Forty years ago in South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Mission Church wrote and adopted what became known as the Confession of Belhar. The Dutch Reformed Mission Church was the segregated denomination created for “mixed race” persons in the 19th century by the white Dutch Reformed Church, the denomination that eventually – by the mid-20th century – would develop a theological justification for apartheid, a theological basis for apartheid.”

 “The Confession of Belhar is a theological denunciation of the racist political system of South Africa of that time. It rejects the notion that God would accept the dividing of the human family on the basis of race or color. The Confession answers Bonhoeffer’s question, ‘Who is Jesus Christ for us today,’ by portraying Jesus as the one standing with those on the receiving end of the cruelties of history, those excluded from places of privilege and power by virtue of who they are or where they live or what language they speak or whom they love or the circumstances of their lives.” (Emphasis added.)

“Who Jesus is for us determines what it means for us to pursue his way – to be Christian in our time.”

.“Like the Germans of the Confessing Church, and like many in our land today, the ‘mixed race’ South Africans stood their ground . . .against those who would corrupt Christianity to make it supportive of the politics of exclusion and racial superiority. They declared that one could not be a follower of Jesus and, at the same time, a supporter of apartheid. Think of that in our time: it is not possible to a follower of Jesus and supporter of racism at the same time.” (Emphasis added.)

“Our denomination adopted the Confession of Belhar two years ago. . . .  We chose to adopt it to speak to our own historic and current racism in America, a system that has been in place for so many centuries.”

“Westminster has embarked on a pilgrimage to join the great effort in our nation finally, finally now wanting to come to terms with the original sin of this land, the enslavement – the buying and selling of human beings, the thinking of people as less than human – the enslavement of Africans to build up our nation. The legacy of that terrible time yet endures today. That journey for us, as followers of Jesus, starts with the question: Who is Jesus Christ for us today?” (Emphasis added.)

“Following Jesus is costly. The South Africans found that out. The Confessing Church in Germany discovered that. We will learn that, as well. The challenge to love in the way of Jesus should not be undertaken lightly. It will change each one of us and, hopefully, the world in which we live.”

“That’s why it matters what we do here in worship week after week. That’s why it matters that our children and youth are engaged in nurturing their faith. That’s why it matters who we are as a congregation in this city.”

The Confession of Belhar[2]

After the  sermon, the congregation read in unison the following extracts from the Confession of Belhar:

  • “We believe: that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ; that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world; that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker; that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells;
  • That the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation hatred and enmity;
  • Therefore, we reject any doctrine which, in such a situation, sanctions in the name of the gospel or the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.” (Emphasis added.)

Conclusion

This sermon provided at least a partial answer to the question, ‘Who is Jesus for us today?’ It d did so by referencing the creation of the Confessing Church in Germany and the Confession of Belhar in stating, “Jesus stood “with those on the receiving end of the cruelties of history, those excluded from places of privilege and power by virtue of who they are or where they live or what language they speak or whom they love or the circumstances of their lives.” [3](Emphasis added.) ==================================

[1] Sermon: Who Is Jesus for Us Today? (Sept. 9, 2018).

[2]  See The Confession of Belhar Is Adopted by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), dwkcommentaries.com (July 21, 2016).

[3] The sermon went on to say that further answers to this question will be provided in future sermons and other discussions at Westminster.

 

 

Nelson Mandela Was Inspired by Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution

The world this year rightfully commemorates the centennial of the birth of Nelson Mandela, who survived nearly 27 years in South African prisons to become the President of his country and to end its apartheid system with grace and humility.[1]

Also should be remembered was Mandel’s “special fondness for Fidel Castro, who had inspired the African National Congress (ANC) radicals with his daring revolution in 1959 [and] Cuba’s intervention in Angola. Mandela and his colleagues saw Cuba as “a dangerous model; a freak victory, but they were fired by the story of how Castro and Che Guevara, with only ten other survivors from their ship the Granma had mustered a guerilla army of 10,000 in eighteen months, and had marched on Havana in January 1959.” For Mandela, “Castro, not the Party, . . . had realized the moment of revolution had come. He would never lose his admiration for Castro.” Mandela’s “chief defiance of the Western World was his championing of the two American bête noirés [persons one especially dislikes], Libya’s Muammar] Qadaffi and Castro.”[2]

That was why only a year-and-a-half after his release from prison, Mandela went to the city of Matanzas in Cuba to give an emotional speech on July 26, 1991, which is Cuba’s national independence day, with Fidel in attendance as shown in the photograph below.

Mandela thanked Fidel and Cuba for helping the ANC to defeat Angolan invaders of South Africa in 1988.  That defeat, Mandela said, “enables me to be here today.”[3] Here are just a few of his other tributes to Cuba that day:[4]

  • “Today this is revolutionary Cuba, internationalist Cuba, the country that has done so much for the peoples of Africa. The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom, and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character.”
  • “From its earliest days the Cuban revolution has itself been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious imperialist-orchestrated campaign to destroy the impressive gains made in the Cuban revolution.”
  • “We admire the achievements of the Cuban revolution in the sphere of social welfare. We note the transformation from a country of imposed backwardness to universal literacy. We acknowledge your advances in the fields of health, education, and science.
  • We “are moved by your affirmation of the historical connection to the continent and people of Africa. Your consistent commitment to the systematic eradication of racism is unparalleled.”

In response, Fidel in his three-hour speech without notes called Mandela “one of the most extraordinary symbols of this era” by explaining that “apartheid is capitalism and imperialism in its fascist form.”[5]

Conclusion

In July 1991 I was totally unaware of the Mandela-Fidel connection and of Mandela’s speech in the city of Matanzas. It only was in the first decade of the 21st century that I learned of the existence of that city as a result of going there on three mission trips  to visit its Versalles Redeemer Presbyterian-Reformed Church, which is a partner of my Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian Church. Now I have friends from that city. [6]

I was somewhat surprised to find that Mandela’s speech has no mention of Matanzas as a major port of entry for African slaves to work on sugar plantations, especially in the first half of the 19th century. As a result, it is said, due to the high number of both slaves and, importantly, free Afro-Cubans in Matanzas, the retention of African traditions is especially strong there. Perhaps that is the reason Fidel chose this celebration to be in that city. The city’s San Severiino Museum has an exhibit about Cuba’s slave trade.

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[1] Details about the commemoration are available on the website of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. One of the events is the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on July 17, 2018, which  this year will be given by former U.S. President Barack Obama and will be covered in a future post to this blog.

[2] Sampson, Mandela: The Authorized Biography at 152, 191, 414, 554 (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1999).

[3] Id. at 414.

[4] Speech by Nelson Mandela at the Rally in Cuba (July 26, 1991).

[5] Sampson at 414.

[6]  See these posts to dwkcommentaries: The Cuban Revolution and Religion (Dec. 30, 2011); Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba (Jan. 13, 2015); Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church Celebrates U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation (Jan. 4, 2015).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powerful Call to Service in Sermon at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church

In the January 28 sermon at Westminster Presbyterian Church Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen delivered a powerful call for all to go out into the world and serve those in need.[1]

Reading from Holy Scripture

The Bible text was Luke 4:14-30 (NRSV):

  • “Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.”
  • “When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”

  • “And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers[a]in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”

The Sermon: “What Is Jesus Up To?”

“The preacher that day in Nazareth was on a roll when he came to town. He’d been on a speaking tour throughout Galilee, visiting the villages and synagogues there, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and things were going his way. The response was good. He was being praised everywhere. His reputation was growing.”

“esus is strategic in starting his ministry. He comes out of 40 days in the Judean wilderness and does not go home first. Instead, he goes to the larger towns in the area and begins preaching there – in Capernaum and Magdala, home to the woman we will come to know as Mary Magdalene.”

“Two years ago Beth and I walked from Nazareth down to the Sea of Galilee. It took us four days. On the pilgrimage we visited the ancient synagogues of Magdala and Capernaum where Jesus had taught before going home to Nazareth. Those villages were quite different from his hilltop hometown. They were on the Sea of Galilee, along busy trade routes, coming from Egypt and going on to Syria. In contrast, Nazareth was off the beaten path, high in the hills. It was a small, isolated village – maybe 300-400 people – full of conservative, traditional Jews, and somewhat closed off, sheltered from the rest of the world.”

“By the time Jesus finally gets back to his hometown he’s made a real name for himself in the more cosmopolitan region along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The people of Nazareth have heard all about him. They expect him to do for them what he has done for those down in Capernaum and the other towns.”

“Jesus goes to his family synagogue on the Sabbath Day. He’s going to be guest preacher there. He’s handed the scroll of Isaiah and unrolls it to a familiar passage about the hoped-for Messiah who would open a new era, a new day of justice and peace among the people of God. And then he begins his sermon this way:”

“’Today,’  he says, ‘This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

“So far, so good. Hometown boy makes a name for himself.”

“It will be the first and only time he ever gets that close to an outright claim to the messiah mantle. He should have stopped there, but Jesus keeps going. Jesus is up to something else, and that’s when he gets into trouble. The preacher’s good run is about to come crashing to a halt – and I have great sympathy for him.”

“God, he says, is breaking into history and calling them to account for the way they live. To illustrate this, he mentions two times in Hebrew history when God had intervened to save the people from certain destruction, through famine or drought. The problem is that both times God chose to work not through the most pious believers, like those seated in the synagogue that day, but, rather, through unexpected people, even reviled people – a non-Jewish widow and a non-Jew with leprosy, neither of whom had any standing whatsoever among those assumed to be God’s people.”

“That was too much for the congregation in Nazareth. First to equate himself with the long-awaited Messiah – sounding like blasphemy! And then to imply they were not among those through whom God would work – sounding like heresy!”

“Professor Tom Long says of preaching that at its heart is ‘the astonishing cry of the witness, ‘Something has happened! Everything has changed!.’”’ (Why I’ve focused on form and function,” Christian Century, 12/20/17, p. 29)

“That’s what the preacher is up to that day in Nazareth. That’s what Jesus is saying. Something has happened. Everything has changed!”

“But his listeners have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. Their hearts are closed. That will be the story of the rest of the ministry of Jesus.”

“Those who are the most religiously observant will not be the ones who believe that something has happened and everything has changed. It will be the women and children, who don’t count for anything in that time, whom he honors. It will be the people rejected because of disease or disability or age or status in life, whom he heals and loves. It will be the sinners condemned by everyone else, whom he accepts. They will hear him. They will believe. Their lives will be changed.”

“But the people in Nazareth in the synagogue that day aren’t ready for that. They’re furious at Jesus for suggesting they’re not in God’s good graces. In their fury they push Jesus out of the synagogue and into the streets and to the edge of town and nearly throw him off the cliff.”

“Surely that experience reminded Jesus what he had just gone through in the desert temptations, when the devil took him to a high tower and told him to jump and the angels would save him. We don’t learn what saves him that day in Nazareth, but he breaks free and walks away, unscathed, and heads back down toward the towns along the Sea of Galilee.”

“In a way, the townspeople do exactly what Jesus calls them to do: they leave the confines of the synagogue and go out into the streets, out into the town, out among the people who are at the center of God’s concern. A summons to go out into the city should sound familiar to us at Westminster – something of a recurring theme these days.”

“If they are ‘to bring good news to the poor’ and ‘proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind (and) let the oppressed go free,”’that will not happen inside their house of worship. We will never address the crying needs of so many in our world if we sit behind these walls, comfortable in our religious rituals and never go outside to encounter the world. And if we do go outside we will not be able to do much by ourselves.”

“Ministry in the 21st century necessarily draws us out of the protection of our own way of doing religion and into coalitions with people of other faiths or of good will. This afternoon’s interfaith gathering in our sanctuary, Bold Hope in the North, will help prevent homelessness because we’re working with thousands of others whose religious practice requires them – as does ours – to leave their houses of worship and work together in the streets of the city for the common good.”[2]

“If we want to  join Jesus in proclaiming ‘the year of the Lord’s favor’ we will find ourselves having to stand up for things we had at one time counted on someone else to deal with. We will need to speak out against what we had previously accepted or ignored or let slide. We will go places we have not gone before.”

“We know those places, and we try to avoid them. It’s simpler to hide behind the mantle of our professed religion and go through the motions than it is truly to practice our faith. And it’s always easier to see that kind of hypocrisy happening in others, especially if they are within our own tradition, than to see it in ourselves. I am guilty of this.”

“This week when I read about Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, saying that evangelical Christians were tired of being ‘kicked around’ by the previous administration in Washington and, referring to the current administration, ‘are finally glad there’s somebody on the playground…willing to punch the bully.’ I reacted to that.”

“When asked about the injunction to turn the other cheek, Perkins said, ‘You know, you only have two cheeks. Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.’”

“Tell that to Jesus as he’s pushed out of the synagogue by his pious countrymen and nearly thrown off the cliff, as he’s persecuted and hounded by the religious and political authorities of his time, and as he’s walking up the hill to Calvary.”

“Too often self-described evangelicals seem willing to set aside the kind of biblical mandate Jesus lays on us in Nazareth for short-term political gain. Not all evangelicals agree; in fact, there’s quite a discussion among them now. Many of them are wondering if the term ‘evangelical’ still has any shred of meaning.”

“But before we judge our sisters and brothers in the faith too harshly let’s remember that Jesus was speaking not only to them, but to us, as well. We should take care not to become obsessed with the speck in someone else’s eye and not notice the log in our own. In the cultural and political and religious climate of America today it is so easy, and – shall we not confess it – sosatisfying, to see all that is wrong in somebody else, in the other, those with whom we disagree.”

“The danger with putting on such blinders, of course, is that we can’t see where we fall short, as well. And then we become the righteously offended worshippers in the synagogue in Nazareth. We imagine Jesus is talking about someone else, not us, when he repeats those words from Isaiah about bringing good news to the poor, and when he says that God will choose to work through not those in the synagogue, not those in the sanctuary, but through the last people we would expect.”

“’Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,’ Jesus says of Isaiah’s words. Something has happened. Everything has changed!”

“That synagogue scene is the start of the public ministry of Jesus. He’s not come to Nazareth to meet the religious expectations of his fellow townspeople or to play into their prejudice and affirm it. He’s not there to talk about religious things at all, really, about tithing, or keeping the Sabbath, or following the religious proscriptions about eating and farming and marriage and sex and family life – there were rules for everything, 613 of them in the Torah – but Jesus does not turn to them in his one and only sermon in his hometown synagogue.”

“That’s because Jesus isn’t focused on religion for its own sake. And he’s especially not interested in religiosity, that is, adhering to the rules, keeping the tradition, following the path trod for centuries, but missing the point of it altogether. As if nothing had happened and everything were the same.”

“If our faith doesn’t shake us up and wake us up and turn us around then we’re not paying attention. And in Jesus’ eyes there’s nothing worse than mouthing the faith and not meaning it. His most strident words in the gospel are reserved for hypocrites, those who profess religion but have no intention of practicing what God desires of us.”

“Jesus is challenging those of us who would follow him to reexamine our lives. Not somebody else’s life; our lives.”

“I know at certain points in my life I’ve found it was time to take stock of how I was living. Most recently that occurred when my parents died. Those of you who have gone through the death of a loved one know what I mean: something happens and everything changes. And we find ourselves asking big questions about the purpose of life. We look for new approaches, make new discoveries about ourselves, draw new conclusions about what really matters. We wonder what difference we’re making in life.”

“And if we profess to follow Jesus, as most of us do, we might ask how we’re part of the unfolding reign of God of which Isaiah speaks.”.

“Jesus is not concerned with getting the doctrine right. He’s focused instead on getting the practice of our faith right. He wants to get relationships right – not only personal relationships, but relationships among the human family, within our communities. Our faith is fundamentally about God’s hope for humanity, about just relationships among neighbors and among nations, about loving the most vulnerable among us – not about a religious creed or system, and getting it just right.”

“The preacher that day in Nazareth was digging deep and hitting home:  ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

“It was not about their religion. It was about their lives. It was, and it is, about our lives.”

“Something has happened. Everything has changed.”

“Thanks be to God.”

Conclusion

Yes, everyone in the world, Christian or not, should go out into the world and help others. Yet no one can do everything that needs to be done and that thought often is daunting and debilitating. Therefore, one needs to go through a process of discernment to determine what your vocation is or should be and then you need to go out and work to further that vocation. Also one needs to recognize that your vocation may change over time. Just get started.[3]

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[1] The service’s bulletin  and the sermon text are available on the church website.

[2] See Minneapolis Interfaith Gathering To End Homelessness, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 29, 2018)

[3] See these posts to this blog: My General Thoughts on Vocation (Feb. 6, 2014); Another Powerful Worship Service about Vocation (Feb.  2014); Other Scriptural Passages About Vocation (Feb. 17, 2014); My Vocations (Feb. 23, 2014); Where Is the Sense of Vocation in Roger Cohen’s Writings? (Dec. 7, 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

Minneapolis Interfaith Gathering To End Homelessness 

On January 28 nearly 1,000 people gathered at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis to support the Emergency Rental Assistance Program of Downtown Congregations To End Homelessness (DCEH).[1]

The gathering was  emceed by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey  and  joined by senior clergy from the downtown congregations (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) and two former NFL Vikings stars: punter Greg Coleman and defensive end Mark Mullaney. Testimony was offered by two individuals who had been helped by the DCEH.

Music was provided by local artists J.D. and Fred Steele, who are members of the popular singing group The Steele Family; Amwaaj Middle Eastern Ensemble; MacPhail Community Youth Choir; Mill City Singers; Street Song MN; and Klezmer Cabaret Orchestra. Teen artist Kaaha Kaahiye shared her spoken words. Below is a photograph of J.D. Steele and Becky Bratton with the Mill City Singers:

Attendees enjoyed delicious food from Holy Land Market and assembled dignity bags for people who are homeless (consisting of hygiene products, socks, hand warmers, food, etc.).

The event showcased Minnesota interfaith cooperation one week before the Super Bowl football game just several miles from this church and was co-sponsored by the Super Bowl Host Committee. An amusing promotional video for the event had Greg Coleman coaching clergy getting ready for a fictitious football game with the cheer “One Hope, One Mind, One Spirit.”

===========================

[1]  Hopfensperger, Faith and football combine at unusual Super Bowl event, StarTribune (Jan. 28, 2018).