How do we deal with stress and anxiety about COVID-19? How should I talk to my kids? How do I consume the news? We spoke with Dr. Sylvia Palomino in the first of our FOL Conversations series.
Vision and Vocation: Rebekah Oragwu
I teach 6 and 7 year olds. This means I like: young children, movement, sunshine, art, bugs, invented spelling, play, number logic, community health, zillions of questions, singing, reading aloud.
It also means that I am learning to fight: germs, copy machines, my own expectations, others’ expectations, bureaucracy, regret, perfectionism, sentences beginning with “these kids can’t,” unbelief.
Especially during my first years in the classroom, there was a part of me that struggled to believe that God could tolerate (love?!) me if I didn’t earn it. I couldn’t earn it unless I felt that I had a good teaching day. I wouldn’t know if the day was good or not until I walked to the parking lot.
The school day itself would pass by in a blur, but as soon as I stepped into my car after work, I’d get an HD slow-mo IMAX 3D replay of my Top 10 Worst Educator Moments. Suddenly, the car was hot with my inadequacies and missteps and disappointments of the day. Whenever I told people I was a teacher, they’d tell me, “How perfect!” but they didn’t see me alone in the car, feeling grimy and empty and not-cut-out-for-this. I should’ve learned to code.
As I merged onto the 110, Jesus would say something like, “Let me wash your feet. Let me fill you.”
And I’d say something like, “But I’m supposed to be good at this!”
And He’d say something like, “There’s no ‘supposed to.’ Come.”
If I came, what would I find? What would He find?
“You shall never wash my feet!” I would say, and choose a playlist, and tune out, and come home weary.
Slowly, my perfect Teacher taught me that being broken and empty before him is not only fine with him, but is exactly where I need to be to receive His power. He reminds me that His Kingdom is given freely to the poor, weak, hungry, thirsty, and meek.
These days, I am learning to sit less and less in the self-judgment seat and more and more in the shadow of the Cross, and know that I can dare to be a sinner before Christ crucified, and know that His Work, not mine, saves me, heals me, and makes me acceptable.
Thanks be to God for daily showing me the truth about who He is and who I am. I begin to see both the places He is healing and the gifts He is affirming. I begin to be both the learner and the teacher He has created me to be.
IT’S FRIDAY SUNDAY’S COMING!
by Pastor Dan Palomino
As we finish out our Lenten journey this week, having celebrated Palm Sunday and Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem, we are now into Passion Week. On Palm Sunday, everything seems wonderful. Jesus is lauded with Hosannahs and praise. But the story takes a drastic turn. The darkness of evil descends to the point of blotting out the sun on that awful, awful Friday (Mark 15:33). Jesus is beaten and whipped, his flesh ripped apart. He’s ridiculed and dehumanized, then nailed to a criminal’s cross, naked and bleeding. So why is Good Friday “good”?
Good Friday reminds us, ironically, that there is evil in this world. But, the story isn’t over yet. Our story isn’t over yet. Evil does NOT have the final say. Death is NOT the end of the story.
In the work that I do as a hospice chaplain, I am constantly reminded that bad things happen this side of heaven. Hospice is end of life care, focusing on symptom management so that the person may be as comfortable and pain-free as possible, thus making their last days more bearable and maintaining their dignity as a human being.
Good Friday stands as a reminder of the truth that bad things happen. Jesus actually warned us, “In this world you will have trouble, tribulation” (John 16:33), but he also reminds us of the hope of Sunday, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” That’s the promise of Easter. Redemption. Resurrection. New Life!
Yes, Friday is here and it’s awful. It’s terrible. But we can say “Thank God it’s Friday!” because we know that Sunday is coming!
The biggest question in the world is summed up in one little, three-letter word: Why?
I hear this question a lot. Why? Why is this happening? If God is such a good God, then why is this happening to my loved one? “Why?” is the unanswerable question. Life on this side of heaven is not fair. We don’t all live to be the same age. We don’t all get treated the same way. We don’t all have the same opportunities. The list is endless.
Honestly, it’s no comfort to me to hear Jesus say, “In this world you will have tribulation.” But thank God Friday is not the end of the story. Sunday’s coming. Easter is coming! “But take heart, for I have overcome the world!”
As a hospice chaplain, I have many opportunities to remind people that, even in the face of death, hope is not lost. In the face of a disease that has gone beyond the point of reversal where there is no hope of a cure, Hope is not lost.
In the dark days of Lent, and on the darkest day, (Good) Friday, when the disciples feel like the wind has been knocked out of them and fear takes over, they scatter, they run. Our temptation is to return to our old ways of life when we think God has let us down, that our Lord has been crucified and lies dead in a grave. But “take heart” because it’s not the end of the story. Sunday is coming. There is the promise of victory, even victory over death!
While Jesus says from the Cross, “It is finished,” the story isn’t yet over. He makes all things NEW! The promise of a new heaven and a new earth in the Book of Revelation is the ultimate Easter of history.
God is ever on his throne. Harkening back to Hebrews 12, Jesus endured the tribulation of this world. He endured the shame of the cross “for the joy set before him” — the promise that Sunday is coming, that he already HAS overcome the world! That promise is already in the Books. It is already reality from God’s eternal vantage point. God gives us total assurance of this as fact.
Jesus does not promise the avoidance of Friday. But he does promise the Victory of Sunday.
Why is Good Friday good? Because it isn’t the end of the story. Resurrection is at hand!
Learning to be a Guest
by Vanessa Carter
I would like to begin by acknowledging the Tongva people whose land this was before it was stolen.
When I hear about Christian hospitality, my mind usually drifts to how I can be a better host. Instead, last week, Jesus-loving indigenous people from the lands now called the United States and Australia asked me to consider being a good “guest.”
As part of a project on ecojustice, career discernment, and Christ, I attended the 2019 Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute: “Indigenous Justice and Christian Faith: Land, Law, Language” in Ojai, CA, from which I have just returned. I was humbled by the indigenous leaders who shared their pain, their joy, and their love of Jesus.
On Tuesday, we studied Luke 9 and 19 — Jesus sending out his disciples and Jesus being the guest of Zacchaeus. Both stories are those of guests: people who have materially little and are dependent on their hosts. As a middle-class white woman, this is generally far from my experience of the world.
For indigenous people, however, relating as guests is more the norm — particularly when it comes to relating to creation. Nature is not to be dominated, but appreciated as that which sustains us and points us back to God, the Creator. A new friend, Ms. Four Stars, told me a story of her childhood, picking only the middle berries on the bushes so birds could have those on the top, and mice those on the bottom. She tread lightly on the earth as a guest and played well with our Creator’s other creations.
This comes in massive contrast to westward expansion, manifest destiny, and the California mission system — which resulted in the enslavement, kidnapping, and state-sponsored genocide of indigenous Californians. This brutal history doesn’t reflect the meekness and vulnerability of Luke 9 and 19. Rather, it reflects westerners — some even under the banner of the church — assuming the role of hosts, not guests.
As I have returned home, I am left unsettled. I am a 34-year old woman who was reared in California and knew so little of the depth of this history. I am of European descent and am more likely to see myself as host instead of guest. While nature nurtures my relationship with God, I am so thinly connected to it, unlike my indigenous friends.
Lord Creator, in your mercy and grace, please decolonize my reading of scripture and my relationship with you and your creation. Lord Provider, please help me learn to practice the vulnerability of being a guest. Lord of Justice, please teach me to see our indigenous sisters and brothers and work to repair the damage we have done. Amen.
Vanessa became a member of FOL in 2017 and loves tutoring the junior high kiddos and riding bikes. She works at USC but graduated from UCLA (go Bruins!) and has a certificate from Fuller Theological Seminary.