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Commentary

Homecoming by Jon Schmidt

I’m still chugging my way through this piano book by Jon Schmidt. The latest one I learned was Homecoming (Spotify link). I decided to just record this one at home instead of doing it on the nicer piano at church. I plugged an audio recorder into the headphone jack on the piano and that worked well, but I couldn’t get a good camera angle so it’s more obvious when I change splice two clips together to take out my page turn.

Come To Church With Me?

Have I ever invited you to come to church with me? If not, now is a super easy time for you to accept the invitation. Throughout the lockdown, I’ve been working with Pastor and our organists to post full service videos every Sunday morning at 8am.

Our church follows a standard liturgy (order of events) for each service and sometimes it can be tricky to know where we are in the hymnal, but with the online videos, everything you need to know is right on the screen. We even include the pre and post service music from our organists.

By the way, wonder WHY we use a liturgy? There are a few reasons, but one is that even if the Pastor were to give a total dud of a sermon (which would hopefully result in a chat from the elders!), we’d still cover key parts of the service like confession and absolution along with a pre-planned/organized series of readings and prayers.

Here’s a direct link to our playlist of full services on YouTube or you can find them on our Facebook page too. Or if you just want something embedded here, check out this service which talks about how faith grows in our hearts. If you watch any of these and have questions, I’d love to chat with you.

They’ll Never Believe Me

I don’t remember the source, but recently I heard some people talking about totally absurd things that happened in their lives. Things where people would struggle to believe it if they weren’t there. I came up with quite a few but here are three of my favorites:

Up the Middle
I spent a lot of my time on the baseball field on the pitcher’s mound. While pitching, one of the scariest (in retrospect) parts was the line drive rocketing back at me faster than I threw it. If you do the math, there’s less than half a second from the time a pitcher releases the ball until it reaches home plate and makes the return trip. It hurts. A lot. I feel like I remember every ball that came back at me but one from high school stands out. It was all I could do to spin out of the way in what I’m sure was a very undignified manner, but once I realized I wasn’t broken, I looked out towards center field to see where it had ended up. But nobody was moving… why were they cheering instead of chasing the ball? One of them pointed at my glove and when I looked down, there it was! As I had spun to the left, my left hand went behind my back and the ball not only hit my glove, but lodged itself in and stayed there. That’s one out, the scary lucky way.

One Down, One Million to Go
When we were kids, Dad built us an amazing treehouse. Over the years, the squirrels got a lot of use out of it. The siding on the treehouse was a smorgasbord for them. From my bedroom window, Google Maps says it was 65 feet to the treehouse. One of my windows didn’t have a screen on it and Dad gave me permission to open it up and shoot squirrels from my room with my BB gun. I could usually scare them enough to make them leave but nothing more than that. One morning, as usual, I spooked one enough that it headed back towards the woods. I quickly put another pellet into my gun, pumped it 10 times and fired as the squirrel was on a dead run across the yard, 85 feet away. My mouth dropped in amazement when the squirrel did a somersault and didn’t get up. I ran to tell Dad and he gave me a .410 to go make sure it was dead. It turns out I didn’t even need the shotgun because I had sent the pellet right through its tiny little skull.

The Kickball Shot
I don’t remember what grade I was in, at some point in grade school, I was walking across the parking lot during recess with the kickball. Someone behind me asked if they could have it. I said sure and instead of turning around nicely and rolling it to them, I punted it backward over my head as I was walking away. I turned around to see where it landed and to our collective surprise, it flew directly over the backboard of the hoop that was probably 20-30 feet behind me and swished through. These were big kickballs so making a basket at all was difficult. Doing it from that far away accidentally with a kick backwards over your head? I could try for the rest of my life and never repeat that.

COVID-19: Day 157

https://xkcd.com/2346/

Here are some common questions and statements that you might be hearing these days:

  • It’s probably not going to impact me personally.
  • I don’t feel the need to modify my behavior to help to global situation.
  • Can you even prove that this is really a problem?
  • Making these changes will be more detrimental then just letting it run its course.
  • Maybe we do have a problem, but who cares? Technology will save us.

Oh, did you think I was talking about COVID? No, those were about global warming. Pretty early on it struck me how this pandemic is a different version of the global warming problem on a very accelerated scale. I hesitated to mention it much because people are instantly divided into camps as soon as you mention global warming and I didn’t want to do that with the pandemic but that ship has sailed.

Both issues are these global, long-term, large-scale problems where a single person’s actions have very minimal impact, but it’s very hard to solve the overall problem without help from every individual making changes in their lives.

I realize that the comparison falls apart in many places too. For example, it’s a lot easier (but still difficult) to gather data about COVID. We know how many people are dying with COVID. The problem expands and contracts more rapidly and we’re able to measure it more effectively. We can try different approaches and see results in months instead of decades.

The problems are not the same and many people will have opposite opinions about the two issues, but you have to admit that core conundrum bares a strong resemblance: How do you get people to change their own behavior when they might never personally experience the rewards from their change? It ends up dividing people into angry, dug-in positions where they’re so busy yelling that they’re missing the reality. The truth is out there in no-man’s land and it’s hard to stand up in the middle without getting blasted by both sides.

Ok, enough with metaphors and similes, let’s circle back to that CDC graphic from last time. Remember that image that was going around social media showing how even the CDC says that the death rate is plummeting? I posted a copy of the image in the last post and said we should revisit it in a few weeks. The image was being misused because the posters failed to read the part which said that it takes weeks for the data to arrive. Well the data has arrived and now look at the data from July 4 and the data from August 8 on the right.

You can click into those images to see the timelines but even from a glance you can see how the numbers for July 4 are way higher then when the internet was claiming victory over the pandemic. Unfortunately I don’t know how many people will ever go back and notice the full dataset.

As you’re trying to internalize these numbers and what they mean for you, consider checking out this event planning tool from Georgia Tech. You tell it what county you’re in and tell it the size of your gathering and it gives you the odds that someone with COVID will be present. It’s a tad bit rough around the edges so it’s worth reading through some of the documentation before you have a reaction to it. But as an example, if I go to a gathering of 25 people in my county, there is a 1 in 5 chance that someone with COVID will be in the group. The big question in this data is how many people have COVID but never know it or get tested for it, but the site does allow you to adjust for that if you disagree with the 10 to 1 ratio that scientists estimate today.

Here in Washington, we seem to be plateauing after a second rise in cases started a month or two ago. I pray that people can actually stick with the guidelines and get a better grip on this situation instead of relaxing and letting it creep up again.

Nationally, the anger continues to build. Social media a dumpster fire, and even though we’re making slow progress, our country is falling behind other countries because we can’t get our act together. One of you told me you were at work wearing your mask and someone drove by on the street swearing at you for being a sheep. Even if that was more visible than most emotions, who doesn’t feel judged for the simple act of living their life these days? The mask has been turned into a visible pronouncement of your viewpoint.

Our sinful natures love the feeling of superiority. We love to see somebody doing something wrong and then act like we are able to withhold forgiveness. A recent episode of No Dumb Questions compared that feeling to black magic. You start off with a little taste of it, but you want more. As you get more comfortable with it, it feels better and better. Eventually your heart is consumed by it and you’re angry at everyone. The devil gives you that sweet little taste of hatred and self-righteousness and fans it into a roaring fire. The Bible speaks out against this in many places. For example:

Remember this, my dear brothers: Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Certainly, a man’s anger does not bring about what is right before God. (James 1:19-20)

It’s possible to be informed about the pandemic without getting sucked into either angry trench but it’s impossible to do it alone. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone. God is still in control and he will guide us through this. Don’t let the devil strengthen his foothold in your life through fear and anger.