The Journey: Hot week in Ukiah

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                     It is hot this week in Ukiah! When I started working at the church on a cold rainy spring morning I was told that, “it gets hot here, and your office doesn’t have air conditioning… hang in there when summer arrives.” The information delivered as kind warning didn’t hit me that hard. I grew up in a town just east of downtown Los Angeles. During the summer my hometown was a frequent national record setter for the hottest place in the United States. So when it comes to heat, I can handle it!

Then I came to Ukiah. I ran and “borrowed a fan” from our Vacation Bible School. Oh the shame I felt. I was now stealing from children so I could stay sane from the heat. I went to the public library on North Main Street to “work remotely,” because they have air conditioning.

My wife Michelle and I as newbies to Ukiah thought we’d play golf at the Ukiah Valley Golf Course… it was 102 degrees and yes, we were the only ones out there. After eleven holes we headed to Walmart. She went shopping and I stuck my head in the freezer section just to get some relief.

That evening our Vacation Bible School began with laughter, squirt bottles, music, whirling fans, dressing up as Super Heroes, more whirling fans and along the way we learned about King David.

As a teenage Sunday school teacher I had experienced a traumatic King David craft project gone wrong with fifteen kindergartners. In short, Popsicle sticks, snapping rubber bands and Styrofoam plates were destroyed, and every child was crying.

So who is King David anyway?

The King David story reveals grace in the face of the agony of human suffering. God emerges in the most unlikely place to the most unlikely person. This is isn’t just good news, this is great news.

King Saul has turned away from God, and now God pursues another. God turns to Samuel, a prophet, and it is Samuel who must now anoint a new King. Samuel is God’s messenger.

The prophet Samuel is commissioned to go to Jesse, David’s father, in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is far outside King Saul’s reach. Samuel is dispatched by God to venture into a new territory.

God turns to a family tree that is not distinguished. Not a Trump, Bush, or Kennedy in this part of town.

The drama here is explosive. To anoint a new king, when the old one is very much alive, is certain death. This is risky business and hazardous to Samuel’s health. Samuel entering Bethlehem is treated with great caution. Why is the prophet coming to our little town of Bethlehem? Bethlehem is far from the eyes of the powerful and proud.

In God’s choice we see a radical shift. If this were a headline today, David is the 99 percent. David is a light of hope for the many who live outside the palace walls. For the 1 percent inside the palace walls, David is a seismic shift for the future of Israel.

God comes to a cultural and political backwater town and anoints a new king to lead the future of Israel. In the most unlikely place, with the most unlikely of people, God’s grace abounds.

The beauty and hope in the King David story is that if God can make it to Bethlehem, surely God can make it to Mendocino and even Ukiah, during a summer heat wave!

In our personal moments when we feel marginalized, or alone, when we feel so far away from other human beings, God can find possibilities for grace.

For thousands of years people around the world hear the story of David, and experience the seeds of hope, that are planted with every generation. It is the hope that out of the ordinariness of our life God’s love reaches the most unlikely people.

That evening at sunset Michelle and I sat on the porch and watched the neighborhood fill with walkers, skate boarders and strollers. It was hot. We had finally cooled off. It was pleasant. The evenings in Ukiah during a heat wave are lovely. During the days however, I am praying for the gift of God’s creation known as air conditioning! Have a joyous and blessed week.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah