COVID-19: A Response

If you are reading this, your life has been turned around, upside-down, and sideways by a virus that we didn’t see coming. Some of us are handling this better than I am… but most of us are still trying to get our feet underneath us as new information comes out every day that feels like it can rock our world at every turn.
As you interact with your own journey through the COVID-19 crisis, I would love Grafted to be a people that can walk along with you. We can gather our turned around, upside-down, and sideways lives and find ways to make it through together.
One of the keys to finding the light at the end of the tunnel is to know two basic truths: God is good and God is in control. These two truths can create a tension when we look out our windows and the world doesn’t look either good nor in control. Living in this tension can be difficult, but if we do it together, it makes it just a bit easier.

In order to be socially responsible, loving to the physically vulnerable among us, caring for those who are caring for the sick among us, and love our neighbors, Grafted is going to not meet physically on Sundays until a time when we can do so safely for everyone. We are going to rely on the suggestions of the CDC, the Minnesota Government, and the United State Government to know when that time comes. Until we can meet together physical and worship God together face to face, we will be gathering online on Sundays on Facebook to worship God through song, to look at His word, and to hear a meditation from one of our Elders. If you would like to have access to the privately streamed service: contact Pastor Dave and he will do his best to figure out how to get you connected!

Our Small Groups are still going to be the bread and butter of our church! We may not be able to meet in person, share a meal, or hug each other in excitement or sorrow, we can still check in on each other, we can pray for each other, we can study the Bible together, and we can remind each other of the love God has shown to us through His Son. Some of our Small Groups meet using Facebook, others with Zoom, but all of them are trying to care for everyone in the group. If you would like to get connected to a group, Pastor Dave, is once again the person to go to in this time. He will get you in contact with one of the small groups so that you can have someone to walk with you during this time.

In all of this, we are trying to do our best to distance from each other physically. But this is a wonderful time to connect with each other, to pray for each other, to connect with God, and to connect with ourselves. If you would like to talk more, Pastor Dave is one resource, but there are so many other Grafites with whom you can connect. Don’t be afraid to reach out!

Thank you for continuing to be the church while the church building may be shut down. We might not know exactly how to do everything… but we are working on getting better and better at being the Family of God even as the times change!

Responses to COVID-19

It is no suprise to anyone to hear that 2020 has been an incredibly rough year. From wildfires in the eastern States and Australia to fires on the streets of Minneapolis, from murder hornets to devastating hurricanes… and throughout all of it we have had a global health crisis caused by the novel corona virus SARS-CoV-2 and the resultant disease from contracting the virus, COVID-19.

As we have journeyed through this year, one of the hardest parts I have found is that because I have never lived through anything like this I don’t have the language to discuss everything that is happening with other people. This is something I hope we can change, at least for inside our church .

This past Sunday, 9/20/2020, for the “Grafted Story” during the service, I proposed some language that we could use to understand and discuss each other’s reaction to COVID-19. I had a ton of help from both Grafites and my church planting coach, Steve Treichler. I want to make sure that this information was available for everyone who happened to miss the service! It all starts with this graphic:

I proposed that we use these 5 different responses to help us talk about how we and others are responding to COVID-19.

The CARELESS person is one who thinks that there is no pandemic, it is all made up by the government to control us, and that people who are responding in any way other than to go about their daily lives as they normally would are sheeple, evil, and perhaps under demonic control.

The CHILL person sees the pandemic and the emotional pain this year has caused many, and responds to the overarching problems with only minimal changes to their daily routine. This person is willing to put a mask on when they go in a store or around those who have asked them to do so, but if it were up to them, they would just meet outside, 6 feet apart if possible, and forego the face coverings.

The CONSCIOUS person sees the pandemic and the emotional pain this year has caused many, and is attempting their best to live in a difficult balance required by the tension between the desire to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the human need for social interaction. This person will still meet with folks, but will want everyone to be wearing masks, keep strict 6 feet between people, and will most likely not eat food in the presence of those who are not from their household.

The CAUTIOUS person sees the pandemic and the emotional pain this year has caused many, and responds, out of love for others, primarily by trying to save as many lives as possible from the effects that COVID-19 can have on the human body. This person will want as many meetings as possible to take place over a phone call or zoom and will seek to find social interaction in an online format as much as possible.

The CAUSTIC person has changed their life the most because of COVID-19. They may be interacting with the world much like the CAUTIOUS person, but the trait that sets them apart is the way they think about everyone else. The CAUSTIC person thinks that everyone who is doing anything other than remaining in quarantine until COVID-19 has been defeated hates humanity, is evil, and they hope that THAT person ends up on a respirator close to death because of their ignorance.

As we think about these 5 responses, I want us to see a couple of differnt things. First, these responses are on a scale (1-5) instead of being binary (on or off). People are all over the map in response to this unprecedented in our lifetime global event. Human nature is often much more nuanced than falling along a strict dividing line between right and wrong. (As a bonus: I think I have identified as all 5 of these since March! <sigh> Shoot me an email dave@graftedcc.com to hear about my journey and you can tell me yours.)

Second, these pictures depict each person from CARELESS to CAUSTIC as the same photo. This is because no matter where a person fall on this scale, they are still a sinner in need of mercy and forgiveness from God and from us. Underneath our skin and opinions we all are skeletons that look very similar! No matter a person’s response, our job as followers of Jesus is to extend extravagant love, like the kind shown to us while we were still enemies of God.

Thirdly, the 2 ends of this scale have a different background color from the middle three. The purely CARELESS and the purely CAUSTIC person demonizes and objectifies people who are not like them. This is not a response that should be present in the Kingdom of God. Those who are not like us are the very people that Jesus told us are our neighbors, people followers of Jesus are commanded to love.

This language of CARELESS, CHILL, CONSCIOUS, CAUTIOUS, and CAUSTIC is going to be important for us to have in our back pockets if we are going to figure out how to gather in communities, both large and small, as the COVID era continues forward.

The Sermon on the Mount: Teachings from the King

The life of Jesus, as it was recorded by His follower Matthew, contains many miraculous stories and many confused people, is set in a world that is very different from ours, yet is similar enough because it is filled with broken searching people, just like today, and holds 5 big blocks of teaching from Jesus.

The first of these blocks has been called The Sermon on the Mount because,

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

Matthew 5:1-2

These words contain some of most clear teachings on how Jesus expects His Kingdom to look. And so, there is a lot here.

We will be breaking this sermon series into smaller mini-series to help us have a clearer road map of what Jesus is talking about in each section. Jump in at any time. We will do our best to always catch everyone up to where we are, hoping that at the end of this series we will have a firmer grasp on the teachings of the King.

Habakkuk: Conversation with God in a Time of Crisis

This, admittedly short, minor prophet in the Old Testament is incredibly unique. In it we don’t find Habakkuk preaching long sermons about how to follow God. Habakkuk doesn’t ever address Israel or Judah directly.

Instead what we find is a conversation between Habakkuk and God about the current situation for the people of God . The book of Habakkuk starts with the prophet asking God to rid His people of the sin that has become ubiquitous. And it ends with Habakkuk faithfully and patiently waiting, trusting that the God of all goodness is going to do what is best.

Listen to the sermons from this series here.

Psalm a Day?

Well, I must say that this spring has not been the spring I thought it was going to be. I thought we were going to be looking into our Constitution together (which is a few years old and in need of tweaking). I was looking forward to gathering each Sunday to worship with all of you face to face (because the value of worshiping in each other’s presence is immeasurable better than either not or doing so on an online platform). I was excited about getting back to posting on the blog once a week (which is something that had been put on the back burner at some point during the year of chemo treatments for Chelsea). I was even considering what it would look like to update our web page (which many hours have gone into making it as good as it is… and there are some areas that need a bit of touching up).

But instead, a global pandemic erupted when a novel coronavirus started spreading and causing the illness known as COVID-19. Which changed things drastically.

There are many areas where I am lamenting the loss of the future memories I thought I was going to be making. But there are also a couple areas that I think can be really exciting!

One reality is that most of our neighbors are home at a level that we have never seen before. Which has led to two realities:

  1. Most people are craving some kind of social interaction also at unprecedented levels. Just a simple walk outside at the same time every day will yield incredible dividends in building relationships with your neighbors. You will run into so many people, and as you pass them on the sidewalk, step slightly into the road, and carry on a normal conversation 6 feet apart, relationship building is happening without much effort on anyone’s part.
  2. People are ingesting online content like it’s their job. There is such a low threshold for so many to head online looking for a distraction from the loneliness, confusion, frustration, and fear that surrounds them.

These two realities have created a wonderful time to be spreading the good news that God has shown off His love for us in His sacrificial death. I am not advocating for taking advantage of anyone’s misfortune (see last week’s blog post), I am only saying that we are in the middle of a time that is like no other that has occurred in any of our lives.

If you are at a place where you aren’t quite sure what to do, sharing a bit of encouragement on your Facebook wall or in the Twitterverse that is Gospel Centered is a simple way to start. You don’t need to go overboard and post every single encouraging thing you see every moment of every day. Eventually those posts just become white noise that people no longer listen to… But a post a day that encourages you to follow Jesus might encourage a friend or follower to follow Jesus in a way that you may never have seen coming.

While there are a ton of resources out there of Gospel Centered Content, I have been trying to lend my voice to the mix as well. I have been posting around noon every day for the past month looking at a single Psalm every day. It is not an incredibly deep dive into each one, but rather all I do is read the Psalm, notice what I am encouraged by in the Psalm, and then share it with whomever happens to be watching. It might just be the thing that you need each day; it might just be what your friend needs today.

These certainly are odd times. And odd times sometimes call us to rethink the way we go about our normal lives. What are you going to do to connect with your neighbor this week?

Sunday Worship, for now…

Looking for a way to connect to Grafted?
Our services are currently being live streamed every Sunday at 4:00 PM in our Private Facebook Group where we can worship God through music, share prayer requests, and listen to a teaching from the Bible together.
If you want to check it out, email Pastor Dave at dave@graftedcc.com and he will make sure you have access!
Hope to see you there!

Taking Advantage of Misfortune Is Not Okay.

I am not sure why I feel the need to write this post; and we are in a weird time in history when simple truths need to be repeated.

We live in a time where so many people have so many different misfortunes. Financial, emotional, psychological, social, relational… the list goes on and on.

In these times, some would use them to their own advantage and gain from the misfortunes of others. While it is easy to see how those whose gain is personal from taking advantage of those whose fortunes have turned for the worse can be simply be labeled malicious, what about those who would seek out those who are hurting and use their pain to help expose their need to be in right relationship with their Creator?

We, as followers of Jesus, could use this situation, and the people in it, to make “gains” for the Kingdom of God. And while these gains may appeal to some in the short term, what people are won with, they are won to. If people are won to a God who can bring them respite from their pain, what happens when the source of their pain has been soothed? What happens when the Shelter in Place orders have all been lifted?

Now is the time to put into action the words of Paul, written to the church in Rome:

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Romans 12:!5

By this, if people see the good that our relationship with the Creator of all things is to us, and they start a relationship of their own, they will have been won with actions that mirror the heart of God who met each of us in our hour of need by stepping into our situation and being Immanuel, God with us.

Meet those in need of support and love in this time of uncertainty. Meet them during a walk around your neighborhood, meet them on social media, meet them in your household, meet them while looking in the mirror… But when you meet them, don’t be afraid to cry with them for the pain that you both share as things don’t quite go the way that you had hoped this spring would go. And then enjoy the relationship that grows from there!

On Saturday, We Wait…

Guest Post by Jordan Hirsch

Hey all.  I wanted to share something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and that I finally found words for today.

I spent part of my afternoon today mixing our compost before it maybe snows tomorrow.  This mostly just involved removing the winter’s worth of food scraps from the top and mixing those in with the layers of yard and garden waste from this fall.

I went from rake to shovel to gloved hands, digging to the bottom of our homemade bin.  There were our non-decomposed, mostly dried flowers from Valentine’s Day, lots of moldy but still intact spaghetti squash skins, bits of brussel sprouts and carrot peels, and an embarrassing number of eggs shells.  I dug, and I dug, and I dug, and finally, under a layer of last year’s late leaf drop, I found something I wasn’t expecting: new composted soil.

This past winter was long and hard, mostly emotionally (weather-wise, we’ve had much worse), and even though it’s been sunnier and warmer lately, Staying at Home due to trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 feels like a kind of winter of its own.

But friends, I want to remind you of something, especially today, Holy Saturday.  Christ’s death and suffering bring new life. Christ conquered death, bringing reconciliation to us, bringing near those who were once far away.  

Sometimes that death and suffering is a short-term thing: the heat of August turns our food scraps to usable soil pretty darn quickly.  But sometimes, it takes a whole lot longer for that to happen–a whole winter for a few shovelfuls of compost.  

I can’t imagine what it was like for Christ’s disciples on the Saturday after His death, how long it must have felt while the One they thought was the Messiah, the One who had declared Himself God, was dead and in a tomb.  But Sunday did come, family. The tomb was opened, Christ defeated death, and He brought not just life, but everlasting life and life to the full.

Here’s the thing, though.  In many ways, it’s still Saturday.  The New Heavens and New Earth aren’t here yet.  We’re still waiting, and sometimes that feels like Good Friday when death and suffering are right before us; sometimes that feels like Easter Sunday when we find healing, restoration, and freedom; and sometimes that feels like Holy Saturday: a long, slow wait for what’s been promised, wondering if winter will ever end.

And here’s the thing that hit me while I was in onion peels and decomposed weeds up to my wrists: in many areas of our lives, we won’t reach Sunday until we get to heaven.  Our compost bin produced some soil for our garden beds this winter, but there were still plenty of apple cores and sweet potato peels and pine needles that winter had left nearly whole.  Christ has conquered death, but He hasn’t returned yet. We’re still waiting for His final victory.

Until that comes, Saturday is going to be part of our reality.  Suffering is still here, sin is still a struggle, and death and sickness still happen.  We’re still waiting.

So praise God for the fresh soil He makes in you through hard times, and trust that He’ll keep doing so.  But sit with those things have yet to be made new, hoping that they will be soon and knowing that if Sunday and new life don’t come until you see God face-to-face, it will still be worth it.

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Philippians: Christ at the Center

The letter from Paul to the church at Philippi was written from a jail cell, to a community that had sent aide in Paul’s time of need. It contains a wonderful encouragement to both see Jesus as exalted, and to press the reality of who Jesus is and what He has done for the Philippians into their lives. Come join us as we journey through this letter, seeing how this ancient wisdom is still practical for us today.

To listen to the sermons that have been recorded, click here.

What Child is This?

For the 2019 Advent Season Grafted Community Church will be attempting to answer the question, “What Child is This?”

Often during the Christmas season people gather together and sing hymns that have been sung for many generations before us. One of these popular hymns is “What Child is This?” Its lyrics bring up some wonderful questions and themes that we will look into during this short 4 week sermon series.

We hope to see you there; but if you cannot make it, we will be uploading the sermons so that you can listen online here. As always, if you have any questions, please reach out and Pastor Dave would love to talk through anything these sermons bring up! (Or really anything at all, he loves to talk.) You can email him at dave@graftedc.com.