Pacific Union “All God’s People,” March 27, 2020 S4:E12

In this week’s episode:

—Local Church Food Banks Help Communities—
With social distancing the new normal, Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist church is lending a helping hand with a drive-thru food bank. Good Day Sacramento visited the Carmichael church on March 18 and talked with Pastor Keith Jacobsen.

Watch the interview: https://gooddaysacramento.cbslocal.com/video/4485464-drive-thru-food-bank/?fbclid=IwAR2IwlTsAYOlafnpKNY9c8jqQR5OqgO2kMMf-JwZgWK6u04b7yxNsdo2J5U

About 400 miles south of Carmichael, Mario Melendez, the community services director at the Spanish American church in the heart of East Los Angeles, with his team of volunteers, served giant bags and boxes of groceries to those in need in their community on March 18. The number of volunteers and the amount of donated food was incredible. 100-150 families depend on Spanish American to meet their needs.

Learn more: https://www.dropbox.com/s/b8eu06c6w4w0063/Servico%20a%20la%20Comunidad.mp4?dl=0

Note: At the time both of these stories took place, California was not under the mandatory “stay at home” order it is today. We’re sure local churches will continue to find ways to serve the essential needs of their communities while staying within the state guidelines!

—A Message from Executive Secretary Bradford Newton—

This week, Pacific Union Executive Secretary Bradford Newton shares how we can serve Jesus during times of difficulty. Watch this week’s episode of All God’s People to hear his timely and encouraging message.

—Women’s History Month: Julia Ann White’s Story—

In 1905 Julia White traveled from Battle Creek to join the staff of the newly founded Loma Linda Sanitarium. Dr. White was the first woman physician on the Sanitarium staff. Seeing the need for more nursing staff in 1905, she initiated a nurses’ training program that became the first school of the College of Medical Evangelists.

Serving as the Superintendent of Lady Nurses, Dr. White taught physiology, obstetrics, and gynecology to the nurses. When the School of Medicine was founded in 1909, she taught medical students.

On the occasion of Dr. Julia’s arrival at Loma Linda, Ellen White predicted, “I think she will do well here.” She was certainly right.

Learn more about Dr. Julia White: https://medicine.llu.edu/research/department-basic-sciences/division-physiology/faculty/john-h-zhang-md-phd/zhang-lab/heritage

~ ~ ~

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” –Hebrews 6:10

Sign up for news and stories from around the Pacific Southwest: https://adventistfaith.com/subscribe/

2020-03-27T15:38:35-07:00March 27th, 2020|All Gods People|

A Lot of Words

by Becky De Oliveira

Shutterfly reminded me yesterday that this past week, 10 years ago, I was on spring break with my children and parents in Kentucky, at Mammoth Cave National Park and Dinosaur World. My kids were ten and six. My parents couldn’t join us for the cave tour since my mother has Parkinson’s disease and would have been unable to manage the rough terrain, tight spaces, and stairs. Later, when we met up with them to stroll around the surface of the park, my six-year-old began enthusiastically explaining to Grandpa everything we had seen and done. When we passed the entrance to the cave tour, where the operator had spent perhaps 20 minutes orienting us to the realities and rules of the experience (he was particularly concerned that we understand just how tight the section called “Fat Man’s Misery” really was so we wouldn’t freak out underground), my son said. “And Grandpa, this is where a man said a lot of words.”

That boy is now 16, and his enduring ability to distill almost anything he sees to its basic and most essential quality occasionally astonishes me. Watching a reality TV show about couples, he will say something like, “This relationship is 99 percent her and only one percent him.” Since we’ve all been in a de facto shelter-in-place for the past week here in Colorado—going out only to take walks and make the occasional dart to the grocery store, or, on Monday, to McDonald’s for St. Patrick’s Day shamrock shakes obtained through the drive-thru—he has had more opportunity than usual to share his insights. “Dad is more religious than you are,” he said.

“How do you figure?” I asked, resisting the urge to demand an operationalized definition of the construct religious. I don’t disagree with my son; my husband is more religious than I am. But I’m not sure why. And I really wanted to know how the difference between us appears to a 16-year-old who has spent his entire life watching us, quietly amassing data.

“Dad reads only religious books,” he offered as his first piece of evidence. “You read things like Fifty Shades of Grey.” (For the record, I have never read a single word of the Fifty Shades franchise. He is thinking of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, a book I embarrassed him by bringing to school when I substitute-taught his seventh-grade class, thinking I could read it during lunch and gym class, my free periods. I assumed the kids would associate the name with the county in England. This was a grave misjudgment on my part.) He went on to explain that Dad also prays more often than I do, that he encourages prayer as a solution to problems, something I never do, and that he thinks and talks about religion all the time. “If I have a problem,” my son said, “you offer a solution. Dad tells me to pray.”

On the one hand, being the person that I am, I found this assessment quite flattering. I am a rational being—one who offers solutions rather than magical thinking. But in the midst of the crisis in which we find ourselves, I’m not, to be honest, finding solace in much of anything. People are saying a lot of words. Some of them are what I would describe as religious platitudes. (“Let go and let God.” “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”) Others are based on data or reason or common sense or any of a thousand other epistemological models, and they pretty much add up to…a lot of words. I’m adding to those words right here, on this page, as I type. Words are the only thing I know how to do, the only skill I have, and here, right now, they begin to fail me.

We are facing the kind of uncertainty none of us ever expected. I have friends who have lost jobs, lost their salaries for the foreseeable future. Schools and universities closed. If we’re lucky, we are working from home—and wondering how long that will last. Worrying about how many will get sick, about what happens if food runs out. Most of us have lost investments. Some have to put off retirement, like what happened in 2008. One of my clients told me this week he lost just under a million dollars, but he was pretty sanguine about it. He has lost more than money in his life—his wife died suddenly nearly 20 years ago when his daughters were teenagers. “Don’t worry, Becky,” he said. “We are people of faith and we have to believe that God has us, through everything that happens.”

Well, no. We don’t have to believe that. Or anything. We can be skeptical, can let our thoughts go to dark places, thinking of all the people who have had faith that went unrewarded. Anne Frank and her family. The Tutsis in Rwanda. Everyone you’ve ever known who died of cancer. But maybe this is a good time to experiment more with faith—not just words but faith. That feeling of peace that can suddenly wash over you, unbidden, that makes you quite certain that no matter how cliché it might sound, you really do believe that God has us, through everything that happens.

 

Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2020-03-22T14:34:56-07:00March 23rd, 2020|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” March 20, 2020 S4:E11

In this week’s All God’s People—

From the Pacific Union Conference: Coronavirus Update and Resources

We have watched together as the coronavirus crisis has caused the leaders in our nation and community to call for the virtual suspension of public life. Our church leaders have prayerfully decided to cancel worship services in most of the churches across the Pacific Southwest, and activities and instruction have been suspended in the majority of our schools. Almost all of the church business meetings and events are canceled or postponed well into April.

—Operation Updates—

General Conference, North American Division, and Pacific Union Conference personnel are all working remotely, and the office buildings are closed. This is true for several of our conferences as well. La Sierra University and Pacific Union College—as well as Loma Linda University and many of the other Adventist Colleges across the country—have moved to online instruction for the Spring Quarter.

—Connecting Despite Distance—

The leaders of our churches, schools, and hospitals are carefully following the recommendations and requirements of civil authorities—recognizing that public health and safety are paramount during this time.

As new terms like social distancing and self-quarantine have become commonplace, our understanding of how we relate to one another has been challenged and changed. The handshakes must now become phone calls and text messages. While we may be constrained from embracing, we can still be warm and appreciative in our conversations with one another—verbal and virtual.

—Faithful Support—

The fiscal viability and health of our ministries and churches is very much at risk because of the impact of the coronavirus crisis. We are thinking quite specifically about the tithe and the support of the church and congregation that you are a part of. God will be faithful to us in helping us meet every situation, of this we have no doubt. And each of us is given the opportunity to be a part of how His mission is fulfilled.

Please continue to pray for our pastors, teachers, and leaders. Special prayer is needed for those who are serving in our hospitals and clinics—and for the thousands of dedicated women and men serving in healthcare throughout our nation and the world. Pray for the health and safety of all those who are personally impacted by this virus.

Join us in praying that the crisis will end soon and that our communities will be spared further losses. Thank you for your faithfulness in the support of our shared faith. May you sense God’s blessing and grace during this time.

—Churches Go Online—

Our churches have responded so wonderfully to the extraordinary task of keeping our members informed and engaged during this time. Many churches are live-streaming their worship services and are using online tools and social media to bring our churches together virtually.

Bryant Taylor, media pastor at Azure Hills church, recently shared tips on streaming sermons. He covers prerecording as well as live stream options.

Streaming your Sermon: https://vimeo.com/398403274?fbclid=IwAR1vJy1t4pYpyuI-gQxSVMR8L6Xfi2mydPsPW4tb6WXVGCeEre2S6s5RGmA

—Continuing Support of the Gospel Ministry During COVID-19—

Orville Ortiz, treasurer and CFO of the Southern California Conference recently responded to frequently asked questions about the online tool for supporting ministry—Adventist Giving. Watch the video on YouTube via the links below.

English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQXtdm8WDog&t=

Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khC05ipcm-w

—World Church Executive Committee Votes to Postpone General Conference Session to Spring of 2021—

Read the statement—

English: https://news.adventist.org/en/all-news/news/go/2020-03-19/world-church-executive-committee-votes-to-postpone-general-conference-session/

Spanish: https://noticias.adventistas.org/es/noticia/institucional/el-congreso-mundial-de-la-iglesia-se-realizara-recien-en-2021/

2020-03-20T17:36:58-07:00March 20th, 2020|All Gods People|

Some Thoughts on Toilet Paper

by Becky De Oliveira

Who doesn’t have thoughts on toilet paper these days? I grew up hiking with my dad, and he always said, “Toilet paper is mountain currency.” Who knew it would someday be currency off the mountain as well? The United States—along with much of the rest of the world—seems neatly divided into two camps: those who hoard toilet paper and those who make snarky remarks about those who hoard toilet paper. I have staked my claim firmly in the latter camp but mostly with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. I’m not yet particularly angry about the toilet paper hoarding. People want to feel a sense of safety and control. As a former anorexic, I can’t hate anyone for that. I well know the feeling, the heady sense of euphoria that comes with having your ducks in a row.

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I won’t hate them for that. Or for anything. To paraphrase Chief Joseph, “From where the sun now stands, I will hate no one else forever.” Last week in Connect Group (what our church calls Sabbath School) my husband tells me they discussed the character of God and a few people argued about it. I was resting from a hard week and Mohs surgery for skin cancer on my face, and it’s just as well I wasn’t there. I would have raised this question: Why are we worried about the character of God? What we need to ask right now is what is the character of me? Because things are not really bad yet—and they don’t ever have to be. They will only be bad if we start to turn on each other, bitter, snarling, taking chunks of flesh.

In the last 48 hours, my oldest son’s university—currently on spring break—asked its students not to return until April 13 at the earliest. They will conduct classes online. My son is on a school trip to Death Valley National Park and has to return to campus before flying home. There was much online discussion over whether the students would be allowed in the dorms at all, with everyone posting different theories, opinions, or reports of what they’d heard. He emailed the rector and asked whether he could spend the night and the rector said yes. Whew.

A few hour later, my university announced it would go online after we return from spring break, starting today. We will not return to campus until April 6 at the earliest. My high school-aged son is out for three weeks. My niece, in Washington State, is out until the end of April. My husband is working from home. So is my brother. My parents, both well over 70, are self-quarantined.

People are stockpiling water, cleaning supplies, tissues, paper towels, rice, beans. My friends are posting photos of empty shelves. One friend had the last packet of toilet paper snatched from her hands by another shopper in Holland, Michigan, which used to be called the happiest place in America. I went to the grocery store last night myself in preparation for having a houseful of males (two of them growing) rifling the cupboards for sustenance, and I found what I needed with a minimum of difficulty. A huge bag of dog food had spilled on the floor and the poor checkout clerk swept some of it out of the way and stepped aside to let me pass. We smiled at each other. “That sucks,” I said. We laughed. This whole situation sucks.

All of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You are living your own versions of the same story: closures, cancellations, shortages, uncertainty. For some of us, the situation is much more serious than for others. If my major problem right now is less toilet paper than I might ideally like, I think I can say I am truly blessed.

When one of my classes met earlier this week to discuss our contingency plans should the university go online for the rest of the semester, the professor said, “Now I don’t want to hear anyone talking about whether or not people should be hoarding toilet paper. I don’t want you to say whether you think it’s right or wrong. Some of you are talking about it (was she looking at me?) while others of you have bought a lot of toilet paper. No one needs to feel bad. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong.”

I take her point but also feel the urge to question it a little. What is a crisis for if not to learn, to clarify your own beliefs, to determine which lines you will not cross? Here’s a line I will not cross: I will never snatch a package of toilet paper from another person’s hands. But if you did do this, dear reader, you and I can still be friends. I have probably crossed lines that you would never cross, done things you would find disgusting, beyond the pale. We can be judgmental—maybe even occasionally snarky—without becoming enemies. We can learn from each other. Can’t we?

Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2020-03-13T12:22:23-07:00March 16th, 2020|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” March 13, 2020 S4:E10

In this week’s episode of All God’s People—

—Former Pacific Union Conference Treasurer Passes Away — Theodore R. “Ted” Benson April 22, 1948 – March 8, 2020—
Theodore R. “Ted” Benson died Sunday evening, March 8, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. He was 71 years old. Benson graduated from La Sierra Academy and was a graduate of Loma Linda University/La Sierra Campus, where he studied business administration and accounting. He began his long career with the Pacific Union in 1976 as a systems analyst, and he helped establish the computer operations department in the newly-constructed offices of the Pacific Union in Westlake Village, California. He served as associate treasurer from 1981 through 2001, as undertreasurer from 2002 through 2005, and as treasurer from 2006 until his retirement on March 31, 2019. Benson is survived by his wife of 52 years, Beverly (nee Wood), and their son, Ted, Jr. A memorial service has been set for Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 4 p.m. in the Camarillo Seventh-day Adventist church. The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be made to Holbrook SDA Indian School in Ted’s name.

—Pacific Union College Named Among Top 25 Best Colleges for Nursing—
Recently, GradReports released their list of the Top 25 Best Colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing—and Pacific Union College made the grade. The nationwide list compiled by GradReports is based on the median salary for graduates one year after graduation, so PUC’s Nursing students have a lot to look forward to when they make the jump from classroom to career. Nursing is consistently one of the college’s most popular programs and PUC graduates are serving in medical facilities throughout Northern Calif., across the west and the country, and around the world.
Learn more about PUC’s nursing program: https://www.puc.edu/academics/departments/nursing-health-sciences
Read GradReports Best Colleges for Nursing list: https://www.gradreports.com/best-colleges/nursing

—Love. Serve. Lead. – March 2020 Recorder Magazine—
We hope you’re enjoying your March Recorder. Mailed to approximately 70,000 homes each month, the Recorder continues to bring news and inspiration from around the Pacific Union. How does God lead the church? As part of our “Love. Serve. Lead.” focus for ministry in 2020, this month we begin a journey to better understand the Christian leadership that will equip and engage the church in ministry and mission. Read “First Principles of Kingdom Leadership”, “Lessons from Moses on Leadership” and “Behold the Lion!” as well as all the news from around our union. As always, you can read the Recorder online via the link below. Next month look for our annual Education issue.
Read the Recorder online: https://adventistfaith.com/recorder/

—Women’s History Month: Anna Knight’s Story—
March is Women’s History Month – commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. For the remaining 3 weeks in the month, in recognition of Women’s History month, we’ll be highlighting some extraordinary women in Adventist History. Our first profile is a very special woman named Anna Knight. Watch this week’s episode of All God’s People to learn more about Anna’s story.
Learn more about Anna Knight:
http://www.blacksdahistory.org/anna-knight.html
Learn about Women’s History Month: https://womenshistorymonth.gov/

~ ~ ~

In Ephesians 4, Paul writes: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church; the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” –Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT

2020-03-12T16:18:48-07:00March 12th, 2020|All Gods People|

A Case of Denial

by Becky De Oliveira

As a child, I was routinely taught that scientists were most just “guessing” about their theories. “They have to have faith just as much as we do,” teachers and other adults said. These adults made scientific-sounding arguments for a young earth, evolution being the primary scientific theory they were eager to debunk. When my children were in elementary school, they came home telling me they’d been informed that dinosaur bones had been placed in the earth by Satan himself, to trick us and cause us to lose our faith.

“Interesting,” I said. “That certainly is a theory.”

My oldest son has gone on to study environmental earth science at university—basically, geology. This sits uncomfortably with certain Adventist church members, who raise their eyebrows and cluck about the “dangers” involved in studying earth science.

What are those dangers?

I suppose the primary danger is that increased knowledge would lead to a corresponding and highly correlated decrease in faith. That is possible. But as many a wise person before me has pointed out, faith that is untested is not faith at all. Faith based on ignorance is…what, exactly?

Skepticism toward the scientific community has led to some foolish and destructive behavior by individuals and leaders, in this country and many others. How many outbreaks of measles have resulted from an insistence—against overwhelming consensus to the contrary from the medical community—that the MMR vaccine is responsible for autism? It is interesting that so many people are convinced of the likelihood that doctors, medical researchers, and other experts are conspiring to cause harm to millions of people (for profit perhaps)—but that the sources they trust that call these experts’ claims into question are blameless and trustworthy with no ulterior agendas whatsoever. Why would that be the case?

Sometimes it is easy enough to see why people reject evidence they don’t like. Certain discoveries may “touch on people’s lifestyle or worldviews, or impinge on corporate interests” (Lewandowsky & Oberaur, 2016). Other times rejection of science appears to be an identity-based decision, a sort of tribal impulse. Perhaps alignment against a much-hated political party?

One interesting factor with climate change denial is its association with low tolerance for ambiguity (Jessani & Harris, 2018). The science surrounding climate change is complicated and messy and contains a high level of complexity. People with low tolerance for ambiguity like familiar explanations and black-and-white conclusions. I am reminded of a person who wrote to me about a year ago complaining that I raise unsettling questions in my writing and, at that time, on the podcast I co-hosted. She did not want to think about hard or uncomfortable things. And fair enough. It’s a free world. But it’s also a complicated world, which won’t get any easier from our collective refusal to see problems. If we truly have faith, perhaps it’s time to stop being so afraid of what we may see if we look. “Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel” (Proverbs 20:15, NIV).

 

Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado. This blog will also appear in the spring issue of Mountain Views, the quarterly magazine of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

 

References

Jessani, Z., & Harris, P. B. (2018). Personality, politics, and denial: Tolerance of ambiguity, political orientation and disbelief in climate change. Personality and Individual Differences, 131, 121-123.

Lewandowsky, S., & Oberauer, K. (2016). Motivated rejection of science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(4), 217–222.

2020-03-08T19:38:12-07:00March 9th, 2020|Living God's Love|

Good at Heart

by Becky De Oliveira

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” –Anne Frank

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has more than a million visitors each year. I was one of them back in 2014 when I decided to brave the two-hour-minimum line to visit with a former student of mine who now lives in The Netherlands.

“What makes this place so popular?” I wondered idly, looking around at the hordes of people

standing patiently in the cold. (I’m always surprised to find anyone wanting to do the same things I want to do. On other occasions, like my recent trip to Las Vegas, I find myself quite alone, the single customer in Bauman’s Rare Books, tucked away safely away from the madness of the Strip and looking longingly at a first edition of 1984 for $8, 200.) The evening before, I’d walked past the house at almost 9:00 p.m. and found a line of equal length even at that hour. Tickets sell out months in advance.

As I made my way through the house, up steep staircases and through unfurnished rooms

containing textual information, photographs, and other artefacts, I was conscious of the constant creaking of the floor. There was a hushed, almost reverent quality to the way the crowds moved through the house, so the noise was hardly the result of wanton trampling. We walked meekly, gingerly, trying to be quiet—much, I realized, as the Frank family must have walked during the more than two years they remained hidden in a secret room in this very building. “How that must have driven them nuts,” I thought. Especially Anne, who was an exuberant and lively girl, just in her very early teens at the time of her death. And an extraordinary girl, who was able to capture her thoughts and experiences in a wise and mature voice that is at once honest and unfailingly generous. I’m not certain at what point she wrote the words at the top of this article—obviously it was before her betrayal by a person or persons unknown, a betrayal that resulted in her incarceration and death at Bergen-Belsen—but I think it is likely that she would have penned those same words even after her arrest: “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

Was she right about that? Are people good at heart? I like to think so. I certainly hope they are—reliant as I so often am, as we all so often are—on the goodwill of strangers. There are days, weeks, months, years even, when the news is so bad that one can become discouraged and begin to doubt humanity. Perhaps this is OK and even natural. Perhaps we can only have faith in the good of humanity because we can have faith in the goodness of God, who created us and who has instilled something of His own nature inside each of us. We make choices as to whether we allow His goodness to influence the way we live our lives, and the good news is that a large number of us seem to make reasonable choices most of the time. We are generally kind and caring toward others, even in our fumbling, inept ways. We don’t—most of us—intend to cause harm. We line up—millions of us—just to see the house in which a young girl who was generations removed from any of us wrote a diary in which she expressed her faith in all of us.

Coming back from that Las Vegas trip last week, I went through CLEAR, a service that uses biometrics (retinas, fingerprints) instead of ID documents. I’m not thrilled about belonging to this service; I worry about privacy issues. My husband, who never worries about anything, nagged me into signing up nearly a year ago at 4:30 a.m. when I was still bleary and half-awake. As a result, I’m usually grumpy when I encounter CLEAR. It makes me think of everything I hate about the world. “Have you had a good time in Las Vegas?” a cheerful CLEAR employee asked as he urged me to move my forehead toward the screen, all the better to position my retinas.

“No,” I answered flatly. Las Vegas also reminds me of everything I hate about the world. I’d come to the airport five hours before my flight just to get away from it.

Instead of responding to my tone with equal irritation, the man flooded me with empathy. He carried my bags over to security, wished me a safe flight, hoped the rest of my day would be better. He smiled at me with genuine warmth. Later, when I got an email survey asking me to rate CLEAR, I gave it the highest rating I ever have (only a 7, but normally I give a 0). In my comments, I noted my continued concerns about privacy and the use of biometric data but praised the staff at McCarran International Airport for lifting my spirits more than I would have thought possible on that day.

That CLEAR agent reminded me of everything I love about the world. Are people good at heart? Sure.

 

Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2020-03-01T12:38:58-08:00March 2nd, 2020|Living God's Love|

Be Love

by Japhet De Oliveira

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV).

I had booked a flight from Denver to Sacramento in the middle of the Super Bowl. Passengers were bumping into one another, their eyes fixed on their cell phones as they tried to follow the game. Crowds huddled around tables in restaurants offering a live broadcast of the game. I sat in a corner, just out of earshot of the game, waiting for my flight and working on my laptop to create a presentation for later that week. I enjoyed the occasional noisy distraction when one of the teams had clearly scored or had a near miss. I felt closer to the other 102 million viewers just by being in the airport. I felt I belonged.

The last professional American football game I had seen was with my friend, Terry Swenson, a lifelong fan of the 49ers. We sat in BJ’s Brewhouse, ordered too many fries, caught up on life, and watched the game (49ers vs. Saints) on multiple big screens. It was easy to see which of our fellow patrons were 49ers fans and which were Saints fans. They cheered, laughed, and applauded the tension. One group of eight adults sitting next to us was made up of fans from both sides who were still friends at the end of that game.

This feeling of community was quite different from what I observed in the office the week following Super Bowl LIV. Bob—a fake name I use in all my stories when anonymity is required—was passing by my desk when we struck up a conversation. Bob’s partner is a really keen 49ers fan, so Bob has also become a 49ers fan. The week before the Super Bowl, Bob decided to wear a 49ers jersey in support. As Bob moved around the building, there were all sorts of wonderful comments by fans of other teams. But there were also some genuinely hostile comments. These took Bob by surprise. Some people physically turned away in disdain or made snide remarks under their breath. If not for the fact that there was work to do, Bob would have avoided certain areas. The week after the Super Bowl was even harder because the 49ers lost, and the comments from the “winners” were sometimes hostile and hurtful.

I am from England, where football (soccer) is also a passionate sport. Some fans, often known as “football hooligans,” have started riots and perpetuated all kinds of violence. When you buy a ticket for a game, you want to make sure you are sitting on the side of the team you support. Once, when I was in Australia, I attended a State of Origin rugby match with the NSW Blues against the QLD Maroons. Good idea to keep the correct colors on in your seating area! The culture of the fans (excluding some of those sitting near me) seemed to dictate tense slanderous teasing. Yet, I also saw fans congratulate the winning competition after the match was over. I felt I belonged.

This is not always the case. There are people who take competition too far and don’t understand what they are doing. They make other people feel as if they don’t belong. What happened to Bob happens to all of us at some point. Others may think they are only teasing, or they may very well be being intentionally hurtful—either way, the effect is the same. It cuts to the core of who we are. We feel we do not belong, as if the same jokes are made about us all the time. We remember what it was like to be the last one to be asked to join a sports team during recess at kindergarten. This feeling weighs us down.

What do we do? What should we tell Bob? What should we tell the little kid who gets picked last every time? What should we tell the friend who feels they are the butt of all the jokes? Grow a thick skin. Give as good as you get. Just ignore them. Or could there be a better way for us to live God’s love? Could we pause and listen more? Could we grow our capacity for empathy? Could we, like Jesus, see the potential in others and make space for everyone to belong?

My friend, Lisa Clark Diller, shared a phenomenal reflection at the One project gathering in Boulder, Colorado, in mid-February. The entire message was groundbreaking, but there was a single thought that I need to share with you today. In addition to all that the Incarnation was, it was also Jesus taking on a disabled body. Because every single human is disabled in some shape or form. We all need help. Listening to her speak, with hundreds of other people, I felt I belonged.

When I read John 1:14, I see that Jesus chose to live among us so that we would understand what it is to live love. Try it today. Live God’s love by lifting up the person next to you instead of tearing them down.

 

Japhet De Oliveira is administrative director for the Center for Mission at Adventist Health in Roseville, California.

 

2020-02-24T09:31:23-08:00February 24th, 2020|Living God's Love|