Where is Jesus When Everything Sucks?

Reimagining Faith with the Pastors Jackson

Jun 2 2022 • 51 mins

Episode 3

Last week, there was a terrible home explosion in Pottstown that claimed the life of at least five people, four of whom were children. A dozen church leaders from the borough held a prayer vigil for healing for the community, and as it was wrapping up, someone was fatally shot a few blocks away. All this on the heels of the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. Even as I write these show notes, there was a shooting in a Tulsa hospital that left 5 people dead. Around the country and across the globe, it all just feels too heavy to hold right now. Where is Jesus in the midst of these endless tragedies? What is our role in the aftermath? Can rediscovering the historical Jesus provide new insights into God's overall plan for humanity? Heads up, there are no easy answers in this episode, but there are a lot of honest questions.

If you'd like to help the injured and displaced in Pottstown, two funds have been set up to help those victims. One is through the TriCounty Network. Donations to build on that may be made online at www.tcnetwork.org/donate-pottstown-explosion-fund. Checks may be mailed to TriCounty Community Network’s office at 724 N. Adams Street, No. 203, Pottstown, PA 19464, with Pottstown Explosion Support Fund in the memo line.

The other is through the Foundation for Pottstown Education and will go directly to the families. If you wish to contribute, go to https://foundationpottstowned.org/donate/ and in the notes section, you can indicate your support for families affected by writing  “Pottstown 526 Emergency Fund.”





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This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.

Zack Jackson 00:00

Welcome to the reimagining faith podcast with the pastor's Jackson. This is a podcast for seekers, dreamers and fellow sojourners who are trying to figure out what it means to be followers of Jesus in the 21st century. We want to thank all of you who have been with us so far on this journey, those of you who listened to the first two episodes of the podcast, those you who shared the first two episodes, those of you who left comments and give us suggestions of people, we could talk to a special thank you to all of the those of you who support this podcast on Patreon, if you are interested, as well, in supporting this work, you can find us at patreon.com/reimagining Faith, where you will find all kinds of fun perks as well as opportunities for connecting with us and with the larger community. I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has showed up in Pottstown, the past couple of days, those of you who may not be aware who may not be following us on social media, there was a awful traumatic home explosion on last Thursday, that left at least five people dead and two more injured, just destroyed an entire family and rocked the whole neighborhood. And we're going to talk a lot more about that today about that specific trauma. And as well as a lot of the national and international trauma that the world seems to be facing. Right now. We want to get into a little bit about how Jesus is there through that, and what that even means and how we can say that with any kind of authenticity, knowing the true horrors of the world and wondering where God is in the midst of all of that. So we hope to get into some of that, and maybe, you know, answer the problem of evil that's been around since Babylon. In the next 45 minutes or so.

Nichole Jackson 02:03

Or maybe just prayerfully consider them. I don't want to know we have answers prayerfully

Zack Jackson 02:09

consider them. Yeah, so Nicole, you want to tell us a little bit more about what's been going on?

Nichole Jackson 02:16

Yeah. So as Zack mentioned, there was a horrific house explosion in Pottstown, a couple blocks up from the high school that completely destroyed two homes, terribly damaged others, and just sent shockwaves through an entire community of people who, who are left with a lot more questions and there are answers and who are trying to grapple with collective grief. And that not only happened this past week, but it feels like it was in this like series have on ending trauma. I don't even want to mention all of them. Because honestly, it's quite possible we could leave something out. So but just last week, is when we heard about this horrendous school shooting another one that took the lives of children and the adults who are caring for them. Again, a lot more questions than there are answers. But that happened early in the week. And then this happened on Thursday evening and left a lot of us trying to grapple with what to do next. And so there were all kinds of folks who showed up to help. I mean, definitely the first responders there were people who showed up to this scene that was just traumatizing. I would imagine. I earned a new respect for our first responders in the work that they show up to do when things are just chaotic and awful and terrible. And still show up and still do an amazing job. There were faith leaders, there were neighbors, adult volunteers, student volunteers, I think the question on everybody's mind was how can we help? What can we do like and that was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Our favorite saint Fred Rogers said that when he talked to his mom about the bad things that were happening in the world, she said, look for the helpers. Look for the people who who show up and go to them. Look, look to them for for hope, and for help, and even just their hope. And so that happened within you know, an hour. People were on the scene. A couple of faith leaders came together on Saturday. and said what it what do we do? How can we support this community? We know we can't fix this. We know we can't even assign meaning or purpose to it. But what do we what do we do in these times we gather, and we pray. And so we couldn't we put a call out 24 hours before the planned event. And I would say, What do you think like 300 people at least 300, at least 300 people showed up, there were multiple news sources, there were folks who showed up to sing folks who showed up to pray folks who showed up to honor the names of the deceased and lots of clergy who showed up to offer support, it was a tough half hour, it felt like a lot longer than a half hour, but we gathered for a half hour and held each other and we cried. And we prayed. And we held each other. It was a powerful scene, after days of horrible scenes, but it felt like, okay, like we can, we can breathe our grief a little bit. And when we do that together, it's a little, a little, I don't wanna say easier to hold, but it's more possible. So, yeah, so thank you. First of all, if you have been one of those people who physically showed up, if you have been one of those folks who have been holding Pottstown, in prayer, thank you, thank you for your questions about how to help and how to show up. And if you would, please continue to keep Pottstown in your prayers in the midst of all of the other horrible, horrible things that that seem to just keep happening, we would greatly appreciate that.

Zack Jackson 06:48

Yeah, and thank you for the couple dozen of you or so who showed up on the live stream, as well. If if you wanted to watch any of those, any of that live stream, you can go to the OpenTable UCC Facebook page, where it is now I think you can pray along at any point in time as well. Because this is going to be a long process, we'll have links in the show notes for ways that you can help if you'd like to give money, if there's things that you can give time you can give, we will have all of that down below. So make sure you check that out. You know, one of the things that that I've been struggling with, that really hit me during that time. I don't think we mentioned this before, that four of the five people who died or children between the ages of I think seven and 15. And the other fatality was their grandmother, and their parents were in critical condition in the hospital. And everything that they have as lost and their children. And when when there's tragedy that happens to some of us, it can be so easy to then be like, well, you know, God is going to teach you a lesson through this right God is going to use this to make you better. I've heard that this existence is a veil of soul making is some long dead Christian once said that this is this is we suffer so that we might grow. But how do you possibly make sense of the senseless death of children? You can't? This is literally the plot of The Brothers Karamazov. And so when we were singing some of the songs at this vigil, especially his eyes on the sparrow, I sing because I'm happy I sang because I'm free. His eyes on the sparrow and I know he watches over me. And I thought I'm not happy. Sure as hell don't feel free. And was God so busy birdwatching that he wasn't looking out for these children. How? How on earth can I affirm this beautiful song that made everyone cry? While at the same time acknowledging the reality. There was one of the one of the prayers I think it may have been one of the closing prayers or it was the Reverend Justin Valentine. Oh, no, it

Nichole Jackson 09:30

was the opening opening prayer. Okay. Where is he the pastor of he's pastor at kingdom life. Church

Zack Jackson 09:35

Kingdom left church. Yeah. So he said, and this I'm taking from the article that was in the Pottstown mercury. He said, Lord, we come to you asking that you could provide hope. We ask that you provide healing. Do what you said you do best. Send your Holy Spirit, because your Holy Spirit will comfort those who mourn. So every broken heart, every grieving heart, every heart that mourns every heart that is heavy laden and burdened down today, and all these young people here, pray that they know that there is real hope and real healing in you. I pray that this community that has seen better days, begins to realize that its greatest days are yet ahead. And that new things are springing forth, and great things are to come. And the next line in the article is what hit me in which the journalist Evan Brandt wrote, but it may be a while before residents of the chicken Hill neighborhood are ready to accept Valentine's words on faith. He said in that one sentence, this feeling in my gut that I have had this whole time. It may be a while before the residents are ready to accept Valentine's words on faith. I don't think I'm ready to accept those words on faith. I don't know if I have the the rock solid, steadfast faith to say, Glory to God in this awful tragedy, tragic time. There's definitely a reason for everything. And all things come together for good. I, I want to, but I don't know if I can.

Nichole Jackson 11:14

I had a conversation with a priest once in which I was having a really hard time doing, quote, the right thing, believing that you know, God was going to come through and that I could still do the right thing. And you may even do it with my heart because I was like, Well, I can forgive this person, but I don't know that I can actually forgive them. And so is it just lip service. And he said, sometimes you don't have to, quote, do the right thing right away. Like you keep praying that God will help you to do the right thing. And you'll keep, like, sometimes the prayer doesn't start with God, we trust you. Like sometimes the prayer starts at God, I really want to try, like, I really want to trust you, I think I need your help to even get to the point where I can. And so when I hear songs, like his eyes on the sparrow, or, you know, hit Justin's prayers, I mean, they were, it was beautiful, and it was moving and and I felt, I felt them deep within me. Because even if I'm struggling with them, I can lean on his hope until I get there. So I feel like a lot of the things that we do as faith communities is praying for the thing that can't quite be here yet. But like, we want to get there like it as well is one of those beloved hymns by so many people and I have such a hard time singing it because we sing it when it's not well, like we sing hit when our hearts are breaking, and we're crushed. And, and so I often feel like we sing those songs, we say the words we pray the words that we most hope for, even when we're not there yet. Yeah, I think for me, I really want to lean on on his prayer. I want to be there. I want to get to the point where I can see that good days are ahead. But yeah, I think a lot of people I think I think what Mr. Brandt wrote in his article is, is valid and maybe speaking what a lot of us are probably feeling how do we get to there? How do we get to the point where I can believe that better days are ahead.

Zack Jackson 13:43

Yeah, what I what I'm hearing, you saying reminds me of one of maybe the hardest books I've ever read in seminary, just from a density standpoint, as well as from a subject matter standpoint, a book called Christ and horrors by Marilyn McCord, Adams horrors, H O R R O R S, which is just an awful word to say horrors. Basically, she defines a horror as something that is so bad, that it diminishes our ability to make meaning out of something. So suffering is one thing, right? You, you stubbed your toe, you lost your job, you did whatever you know, and you can learn from it and you can make meaning out of it. And then you have now just redeemed that suffering. By making something good out of it. You did that yourself. Congratulations, humans are really good at this. But then there are some things like the death of children or torture, atrocities that are so bad, they break us and there's no way to make meaning out of them anymore. And that to her was the main problem of how God can be good and still have these things exist. And so for her, there were three stages of God's victory over that. So the first stage is making meaning out of these horrors. And for most people who experienced something like that, that meaning can only be made in the next life or in some kind of recreated world, there's, you kind of need to have a hope of heaven in some way, shape, or form in order to have that thing be overcome. The second stage is that God needs to be able to suffer with us needs to Chaplain us, in the midst of it, because if God has overcome it in stage one, but we're still living in the effects of it, now, there needs to be something. And so God can't understand suffering, because suffering is all about a lack of control, it's about losing your control. Because if you, if you have control over your suffering, then it's just tourism, or it's a horror movie. You know, it's not real suffering. And so that is where Jesus comes in for her. And then the third stage is ultimately recreating a world in which horrors are not possible. And we are fundamentally remade, so we are not vulnerable to that anymore. And that's a her is the Christian faith, right there. And that's how God overcomes horrors, by by giving us meaning in this life or the next by suffering alongside us in this life and the now, and then by recreating us and the world in such a way that we are no longer vulnerable to that. And, I mean, that's, she says it in a whole lot more words than that.

Nichole Jackson 16:50

But maybe can put a link to that book in the show notes

Zack Jackson 16:54

for anyone who was interested enough to read through this book. But I did want to latch on a little bit to step two, if I can. Yeah, because we are planting a church that we say is, Has Jesus at the center of everything that we do. And a part of this podcast is unpacking some of our convictions. And our conviction about who Jesus is, matters. Because Jesus is kind of like a has been kind of a green screen for so many people that you just kind of you put whatever you are on that you can just change Jesus to mean 10,000 things Jesus votes for whoever you vote for, hates whoever you hates, and he's a good moral teacher. He's a social revolutionary, he's, he's whatever you want him to be. But above all of that, before he was anything else, he was just a guy. Just a guy born into a very specific time. And so I want to take a second and tell you a story about that time, if that's okay.

Nichole Jackson 17:58

Just the guy who is also God, but like, again, I mean, we can impact that too. But

Zack Jackson 18:05

I don't know how high your Christology is. Yeah, apparently mine is fairly low. So I don't want to start with Jesus. I want to tell you a story about Jesus, His great great grandfather, by the name a man by the name of Lea czar, at least that's how that's what Matthew tells us. Jesus had many great, great grandfather's I would imagine, but le A's are lived in Judea. So the southern parts you think of Jerusalem Jericho, down south, the main part, that's where he was from. And he lived in a very unique time, he got to see a free and independent Judea. For the first time and 500 years, the prophets had been had been praying for this time prophesying this time, in which the kingdom of Judah would be made free, again from foreign occupation from these empires that were just draining them dry, that the Messiah would come and would free them and would reestablish the kingdom in Jerusalem. And he got to see it happen. And under under the rulers at that time, the Hasmoneans, who had forcibly taken their country back from the latest empire that was oppressing them, they expanded the territory, up through Samaria and Galilee. So think Judas at the south, Judea, Samaria, Galilee galleys on the very top. And for the first time in 1000 years, they had reestablished the original boundaries under King Solomon, who is at this point is basically a mythical king. And he has seen this amazing time of growth and God's faithfulness of, of underdog victories and the sorts of things that legends are made out of. This was the time of the Messiah and the rule her in his day gave three options to the residents of Samaria and Galilee. He said to them, you can leave, you can die, or you can convert, which by the way, the only time ever, that a Jewish leader has forced people to convert that is not in their history. So after that there's all of this land was open land, this new territory, and they want to solidify a Jewish presence in these places. And so he pays all of these people to leave Judea take their families North to Galilee, and to plant farms to make homesteads that land up there had not been lived on for hundreds and hundreds of years, because that's like the first place that the the wandering armies from the Empires enter into. And so if there's ever a city or town there, it gets ransacked and burned down first. And so it's mostly just been laid fallow land that has so fertile and ready for farmlands. It was the promised land. And so the rulers paid these families to move up there, and to start their own farms, their own little heaven up there. So LEA is our took his his his wife and his children, and they marched up there that week long journey. And they built a little house, a little homestead for them and their their descendants. And they farmed a little plot of land that became a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger and LA's RS children, they built homes on that land. And then eventually you had a little town, a little town springing up where before, there was nothing but now there was promised and prosperity and people living by their own hands. People were creating the future that they wanted a place where their hopes and dreams could grow from the very soil, a free independent and self sufficient people of God. And Lea czars children grew old and passed the land on to their children as well. But then something happened, something changed. The husband and family that had freed Judea from the grip of exploitative Empires was falling apart, due to their own infighting and greed and the Roman Empire stepped in as it is all too willing to do in those days and annexed all of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, ending the dream of a new golden independent era, and the hopes of the Messiah being dashed along with it. Can you imagine, had disappointed Jesus's grandparents must have been like to see God's promises of a new kingdom come to fruition in their lifetime, and then just to have it snatched away so quickly, by yet another empire. And under Rome, things started to change, things were worse than they had been under any empire under Rome, Rome appointed an intermediate man named Herod to become king of the Jews. And it domion Not even a Jew, not even a proper Jew is now the king of the Jews. And Herod starts handing out land rights left and right to his friends all throughout Galilee. And those farms that he gave to them were massive tracts of land. And they were farmed, not by families, but they were farmed by slaves brought in from across the Empire. And they were given special tax breaks, because they're buddies with Herod. And so these little farms, these little homesteads from the settlers three generations earlier, they can't compete anymore. And they start to close down, they get bought out by the rich neighbors, or they get their land seized, you know, Dad might get conveniently arrested for something he didn't do, and then their property taken from them and their families left destitute. This happened over the course of a generation or two. And left and right, these family homesteads were were just disappearing. And under Herod, the wealthiest 2% of the population ended up owning every single square acre in Galilee. And once he owned your farm, if you were lucky enough to continue to live in the house that your great great grandfather built, well, then you needed to rent the land back from Herot. You had to pay exorbitant taxes on everything that you put in the soil. And if there was a drought one year, and you didn't really get much more than now you're in debt for next year. Same thing with fisherman, right? Oh, my goodness. Herod in the law literally owned all of the fish in the sea of Galilee. Like that's in the law. He owns the fish. He also owns the boats and he owns the water itself. And so if you wanted to fish, then you needed to buy a fishing permit. You needed to rent a boat, and then you needed to go out there while the tax electors were in boats out there checking your permits. And then after you caught your fish, you came back and you gave it right away to the tax collector on the beach, who weighed it took what belonged to Herod and gave you a little bit back. And so if you didn't catch fish one day, like we read about the Gospels, like you did, it's not just that maybe you don't eat that night. It's that you now Oh, you're in debt, you're in debt. Yeah, the whole process is created to hold people down. And so Herod and his son that aptly named an easy to remember, Herod Herod Antipas, as you might see Him in the Bible, same as it ever was same as it ever was. They just created this system in which 2% of people owned everything, and the poverty rate was close to 90%. So men like Lea Tsar's great grandson Joseph would have been forced off to the family farm. And he would have found work anywhere he can, like in one of Herod's newly constructed cities, looking for construction work, spending his days doing heavy labor building the opulent palaces of men who robbed their family's land. Forget what you think you know about Joseph and his, his his woodworking career. The fact that we think of Joseph and Jesus as carpenters, and that meaning somebody who you know, was cutting wood and building tables and stuff is pretty anachronistic. There's not a whole lot of trees in Galilee. That's something that Europeans read into the text. You know, a couple 100 years later, most of them had never been to Galilee. More than likely, Joseph is a day laborer, tradesmen, he's a tradesman, maybe he's laying stone when he can, he's fixing rooms when he can. He's going into the city with groups of men and waiting for some construction manager to pick him out of a crowd, throw him in the back of a pickup truck and bring him off to earn his day's wages pickup chariot, pickup chariot and the pickup wagon. Yeah, but by the time that Joseph and his fiancee marry, well, by the time Mary was pregnant, galleys poverty rate was about 90%. So there was no middle class, there was no comfortable living, you were either obscenely wealthy, or you are close to starvation. So within two generations Galilee went from a place of promise and family and opportunity to a blighted hellscape, in which 2% of the population sucked the people and the land dry for riches that they couldn't possibly ever spend in their lifetimes. And this was the land that Jesus was born into poor, exploited and hopeless, having just been promised something great, a time of a messiah a two generations prior, and now, nothing. And even probably within his own community was ostracized, for being born out of wedlock. Right. And when Jesus was six years old, Rome tightened its grip once again, and ordered a census of the land, which Luke gets wrong, and puts at the time of Jesus's birth. Right. The census when Quirinius was governor of Syria that we read about in the Christmas story actually took place in about three ad. So when Jesus was about six years old, and the point of that was, so they could tax you more, so that they would have a better count of how many people were there, so that they could somehow extract more wealth from the people who are already dying of starvation. You know, like, charging overage fees on overdrafting a an account, right? Now you owe more because you don't have anything. It's basically what it was. And so at when Jesus was six years old, and this happened, a man named Judas of Galilee, not Judas Iscariot, this is one of Jesus's followers. Jesus as a kid at this point, creates this terrorist organization that we later know is the Zealots who roams the countryside and, and promises to burn down anyone's house who complies with the census. They ambush and kill Roman soldiers and tax collectors and even priests and anyone who complies with Rome. They are threatening to murder and kill their whole families to terrorize the both the Romans and the Jews into I don't know, making it so costly for the Romans to be there that they'll back off, I guess,

Nichole Jackson 29:40

meaning violence of violence. Yeah. We think that works.

Zack Jackson 29:45

Right. At later we learned that one of Jesus's 12 disciples is identified as a zealot. Right, Simon the Zealot. So it makes sense, because Jesus was teaching a pretty radical message that would have really appealed to people like the zealots. I think about the fact that Jesus's ministry was almost entirely done in the margins. He was just among his fellow peasants, he traveled into towns like Nazareth that maybe had 300 people in it. On a good day. All the wealth and power in Galilee was centralized in the cities of Tiberius, and sephorus. But the Gospels don't have him going there at all. Not one time, that's where the money is, the power is the government is the people who make a difference. That's where that is. But Jesus doesn't step foot in Tiberius, or sephorus. fact, the only place of power where Jesus seems to show up is Jerusalem. That's at the end. And that's right, that's at the end. And that's only because that's where the temple is where the religious center is, he has to go to Jerusalem. And when he does go there, well, what does he do he, he literally braids a leather whip, and assaulted bankers and businessmen around the temple whose transaction fees were further burdening the poor. And then he got killed for it. Yeah. I mean, simply put, Jesus did not just advocate for the poor, the hurting, the broken, he was the poor, the hurting, and the broken. And I think that has to be intentional. Because what if Jesus was born in in the palace, or Jesus was born into a royal family, or Jesus was even born into a priestly family Jesus was born the right way. And he grew up with any sort of privilege, then how does he truly understand suffering? Yeah, he doesn't, in order for if one of the purposes of Jesus's birth life death incarnation, the whole deal was to be able to Chaplain people through the suffering of their lives. He had to experience it for himself. He had to take that suffering back with him into the Godhead. So the God of all the Creator, the Sustainer, the one who is untouched by by suffering, had to feel that powerlessness and suffering in order to then suffer with us in a way that is authentic and true. So we can rejoice that one day, God will save us and make things better. But what about in the meantime, what about now? What about the senseless tragedies that we keep experiencing? Like how could a God who was always in control ever comfort people who are suffering that God can't? And that's why Jesus is particularity matters so much, at least, at least to me.

Nichole Jackson 32:50

I think that brings the scripture passage and Matthew 25 that talks about how when we feed and we give drink, and we visit those in prison, and we do these things, we're doing it as if to Jesus, right, like Matthew 2534. Starting at 34, reigns, Then the King will say to those that his right hand come you that are blessed when my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it? That we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcome to you are naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? The King will answer them. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Every time you come alongside folks in pain, you're coming alongside me. I came to this earth, to accompany you, to to be you, to save you and to love you.

Zack Jackson 34:18

So what I love about that passage, by the way, is that so many of us in our religious traditions have been taught all of these really specific things that will get you into heaven, when you're supposed to believe and the things you're supposed to do, and especially the things you're not supposed to do. Right. Right. And what are Jesus's criteria? For for the right judgment at the end? How will you be judged? You'll be judged almost entirely on how you treated people on the margins. Yeah, people who are vulnerable. He doesn't say you need to uh, show up and have a proper understanding of this trinity. Or, you know, did you have sex before marriage or something like that? He says, What did you do with your life? And if you did not, you know, advocate for and take care of these people, then it's very clear that you never knew me in the first place. Because God has a preference for the poor for the hurting for the broken, a strong preference. I mean, you cannot read Scripture and see otherwise. Yeah, it is throughout the Hebrew Bible throughout the Christian Bible, that God has a very strong preference for the underdog for the broken for the one who does not belong in the way society has been made. And if you can't see that, and if you don't live your life in such a way that also accentuates that, then that just means you didn't know Jesus.

Nichole Jackson 35:56

You created him in your own image. Right. Well, Anne Lamott,

Zack Jackson 35:59

I love that, that she says you can safely assume you've created God in your own image when he hates the same people as you.

Nichole Jackson 36:06

Yeah, yeah.

Zack Jackson 36:08

So when, when they're suffering, when there's there's tragedy, when there's things that we can avoid, when people keep dying unnecessarily, and we keep letting them die. Because, you know, bad excuses, or our own selfishness or our own greed, or our own love of assault weapons, as it were. And we prioritize our own freedoms over literally the lives of the most vulnerable people than we show ourselves to have not known Jesus. And even those who claim to know Jesus who attend church every single week, who are the most faithful people who have Jesus bumper stickers on their car will show up in the pearly gates. And Jesus will say, you never knew me. And that's terrifying. Right?

Nichole Jackson 37:08

So our friend, Johnny Rasheed pastor Johnny Rasheed. We're recording this on on May 31, which is the day that his book is being released. It's a book called Jesus takes the side,

Zack Jackson 37:23

embracing the political demands of the gospel is the subtitle of that.

Nichole Jackson 37:27

Yeah. And I, I, I said to Zack several times while I read this, like, I wish he wasn't right, I wish that the demands were not so high that, that I'm responsible, not only for the things that I say and do, but the things that I don't say the things that I don't do, even for trying to find some kind of non existent third way.

Zack Jackson 37:53

Yeah, as if we're like creating a timetable, in that is acceptable to those who are in power enough that it would liberate those who are not. Yeah, we are taking some kind of middle third way reconciliatory stance that will hopefully bring both sides together. But in all of those, it the timetable is always set by the most resistant person in power, and not by the person who is suffering. And so we're asking the person who is being oppressed, to just stay oppressed for a little bit longer. We don't want to upset these other while we sort out the details in a way that that is easy on those people who have privilege, as if their lives haven't been made easy by privilege. And so what we're doing is perpetuating the suffering of the suffering in order to prioritize the comfort of the comfortable.

Nichole Jackson 38:49

Also, side note, we're gonna be interviewing pastor Johnny Rashid. Joe just so you can hear from the man himself, his convictions and where he's coming from, but I it's not an easy read. And I have in the notes like, guilty, guilty, guilty. So this is his book is not something that is meant to lift up the holy people and shame everybody else. It's like, he just wants us all to know that there is responsibility here and, and it comes from Jesus. It doesn't come from some follower of Jesus, like no, this is this is who Jesus was. This is how he taught. These were his convictions. And this is how he showed up in the world. And he told everybody you follow them. This is required of you. If you're not stirring up trouble something's you're not doing it right. Like it's gonna make a stir. Yeah.

Zack Jackson 39:51

You think about like, the times in in the stories of Jesus where he breaks the Sabbath, where at one point he Allah As his hungry disciples to pick some, some wheat, and another time he heals a person's withered hand on the Sabbath, and the religious leaders come to him and shame. How dare you? Yeah, right. And to us, that seems silly. That seems like okay, he's breaking religious law, he's basically you know, he's wearing jeans to church or something like that. But there is no difference between civil and religious law in first century Judea. what Jesus has done is civil disobedience, he has broken the law in order to expose the hypocrisy of those who should know better. So Jesus at this point is basically performing a sit in, he's blocking a bridge, he is doing something that is intentionally meant to draw attention to the fact that the people who are supposed to be caring for the well being of everyone are not, you know, when he when he points out, that the opulent Pharisees give all this money into the temple, and then a widow puts in her last might. And he tells his disciples that she has given more than any of them. there supposed to be a, a provision for widows, taken from the money given to the temple that is required, in the laws of Moses, that the widows be taken care of, by the ties to the temple, not the temple, then, but you know what I mean. And the the religious leaders who had totally bought in to the Roman rule, because they were then a part of that 2%, who made all the money, they were instead robbing the widow is blind. And so that that story is not one of like, Wow, she's so faithful, God's gonna give her riches and make her better. likely she goes home and starves to death, is how that story ends. And you're supposed to read that and then feel like disgusted by the Pharisees, by the religious leaders who should know better, who should do better. We should be the first ones out there. When there's tragedy, we should be the first ones lobbying for the rights of those people who don't have rights, we need to be the first ones. They're not the people who are in bed with power, and drunk on money. That's when that's why the church is dying across the West, because the church has been in bed with power for too long. And the gospel doesn't work. We're in positions of power. There's such cognitive dissonance you cannot read the words of Jesus, there's radical words of care and of equality, and of tearing down making the mountains lows, the valleys can be lifted up this radical equality and the Gospel, you cannot read that. And then also be an oppressive power. You have to do so many, backflips in order to twist the gospel to work. And it only works for so long before people realize that this is BS. And so the churches dying because the church has basically just been American exceptionalism with Jesus on the front of it, or it's been white supremacy with Jesus on the front of it. It has not been Jesus centered.

Nichole Jackson 43:33

So what does this have to do with all of the storm is raging in our world right now. Especially for those of us who are looking for signs of hope, who are looking to even figure out what to do or how to show up I think a lot of us are feeling helpless and angry. Furious.

Zack Jackson 44:05

Do you want me to answer that?

Nichole Jackson 44:08

Yes. No, I mean, I think who Jesus was, when he came, how he came, has everything to do with it. I God who loved us so much that he took on skin as a person on the margins, to save us, to walk with us and to show us how to do better to show us what it looks like to love our neighbor as ourselves, even when it hurts to know that even in the darkest days, which, frankly, here we find our feet. We're not alone. And he inspires us to to do the same.

Zack Jackson 44:59

I think there's two things As I find comfort in Christianity began as an apocalyptic religion in which they believe that Jesus was returning, you know, next Thursday, and would come and would make everything better. And so the first generation of Christians kind of didn't feel like they had to change the systems, they didn't have to change the world, because Jesus was going to come back and do all the heavy lifting. But then he didn't. So the second generation of Christians had to then figure out what it means to be a people who are reforming this world from within. And generations afterwards have, have struggled with that. And many of the church have failed and have given right into power. But there's always been a remnant, always been a reforming remnant within the church out there doing the work of Christ. And the fact that Jesus has not returned, tells me that God still has faith in us, like God still trust that we are capable of doing more than we think we are. And so there is work out there for all of us to do. And as we do that, as we try to listen, and we try to do it faithfully, because man, I'll tell you, this book with Gianni really has convicted me a lot of ways because I think of myself as somebody who tries. And I read a book like that, and I realized all the places I've still fallen short, even though I try. And I say that not from like, oh, woe is me, I'm such a word, a horrible person, but like, all right, I still have work to do, I'll probably have work to do my whole life. And that's great. That's good. Yeah, that means more is being uncovered. This is there's more to explore more, to do more to more to know more people to connect to more stories, to to understand. But in the meantime, you know, we'll fight for the rights of, of immigrants of of children who are being killed in schools of LGBTQ people who are being and how many anti trans legislations have come before state representative bodies in the past year, that's like 250 Already this year. Right. So the battle needs to continue for human dignity, you know, situations with with lead, drinking water, in places where government would rather not pour money. You know, all of the places where there are toxic waste facilities where there are factories polluting the air, these are all places in poor communities, our children are being poisoned in places because it is, it is cheaper to do that for these companies. And they know that they're not going to litigate. And so we need to be in that fight, you need to be in that battle. But in the meantime, when there is tragedy, when that strikes, I wanted to read some of the words from one of the pastors from the from the vigil, who said that we are not here to solve anything. We are not here to fix this because we can't, we're here to do two things that you do in the face of chaos, gather together to support one another, and to pray. That was no call who said that? By the way, and I thought that was brilliant. That was the best way to start. The vigil was that today is not a day for fixing things. This is not a day for pointing fingers for immediately saying whose fault this is. Today is a day to gather together to hold each other. This is the day we recognize that Christ suffered too. And Christ suffers with us as somebody who understands our suffering. And Tomorrow's the day, when we get up and we demand change. And we did you do actionable change in the midst of suffering however, we suffer together. I thought that was brilliant. Thank you for, for saying that.

Nichole Jackson 48:58

Well, friends, I think that's a good place to stop. We'd said that we wanted to shed some light on wonderings. And I hope that this gave you some good things to think about and to consider. But again, we don't have the easy answers. I really wish we did. But we don't. And so let's keep listening to God together and try to show up. One of the ways that we are wanting to do that is by offering some time to gather to pray. We also recognize that this community extends beyond Pottstown even if it is located in Pottstown. And so we are going to begin having morning prayer together at 6:30am. We know that's early, but we also recognize that a lot of people go to work early to drop their kids off early. We just want to offer in some space to just start the day All right. So we're gonna be meeting on zoom at 6:30am Eastern Standard Time, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we're going to be utilizing a resource that has meant a lot to me over the years, called Common Prayer liturgy for from ordinary radical liturgy for ordinary radicals. And it's a resource that takes you through Scripture and and song and just some prayer really offers some some prompts for prayer. So, half hour, at most 45 minutes, we're wanting to keep it to half an hour. And we invite you to join us. So the link to the the zoom, the Zoom link is will be in the show notes. It's also on our Facebook page. And everyone is welcome to join us.

Zack Jackson 51:00

That Facebook page by the way is facebook.com/opentablePottstown.

Nichole Jackson 51:07

Yes. So hope you can join us. It's not something that if you show up once, or you don't show up at the first one, you can't show up for the second one. It's it's a daily entry every single day. That every day is different. So hope you can join us for that.