I hope that last month’s INSPIRE 2020 offered you some new tools to help you grow closer to God and God’s community. I am so excited to share in this next month’s journey with you. The reading is something I have been looking forward to sharing with you for a while. A reminder that the Inspired Dialogue zoom gathering is the 3rd Monday of the month from 7-8pm. Let me know if you have any questions. If you aren’t signed up for the INSPIRE newsletter, sign up today on the website and follow us on your preferred social media platform to continue the conversation. And as always, we are excited to see you Sunday for worship where we talk even more about the spaces of inspiration God is calling us toward.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I take the Bible for granted. It is so constant that sometimes I forget that God’s word, guidance, love, and support, is available in a tangible form. Does that make sense? If I have a bad day, I can think of several helpful scripture passages that I can recite from memory, and they offer me comfort – “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10) is a favorite. But sitting down, opening my Bible, and reading that same scripture, is sometimes an option I forget I have. I read my Bible for sermons, newsletters, and pastoral care- but in my own life, I tend to rely on my memory and what I call the “scriptures of my heart.” They are useful and guide me well. But I have also noticed that they can be somewhat limited.
This may be a surprise (this will not be a surprise) but I don’t know the whole Bible by heart. But God is trying to tell me all sorts of things-in all the scriptures. So, when I sit down with a physical Bible, and read a passage that I don’t know by heart, or haven’t read in a while, it can feel like discovering God all over again. Scripture offers a new source of liberation and hope each time we read it, because God is still speaking to us, calling us to new spaces of understanding, love, and justice. God is telling us new things with the same words that we know and love, because God created us to grow and be open to change as God sees fit. Which is why this scripture story of how Paul received the gospel is so moving. That someone received God’s message so fully that they wrote it down so that I have this tool today is something that I am so grateful for. So, with thanks to all the prophets, authors, writers of the law, and story tellers that gave us this tool, let’s read together from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
I assure you, my siblings: the gospel I proclaim to you is no mere human invention. I didn’t receive it from any person, nor was I schooled in it. It came by revelation from Jesus Christ.
You have heard, I know, the story of my former way of life in Judaism. You know that I went to extremes in persecuting the church of God and tried to destroy it. (Galatians 1:11-13)
This week’s scripture really spoke something new to me. As someone who also has a past before I came to value God and church in my life, this story was exactly what I needed to hear. No matter where you have been or what you have done, God can (and will!!) still use you. In fact, God is using you now. Shaping you. Pulling and growing you. Moving you. So that you too can share the good news of Christ Jesus with others in a way that is relatable and unique to your own journey and relationship with God. I sat down and opened this scripture in several different translations and each one reminded me that my whole self is on a journey with God and that I am beloved to God- no matter what. Even today will one day be a part of my past. I will grow and learn and share in ways that change me for the good of God- and this week’s scripture reminds us that is not only okay, but it’s the point. Change, no matter what.
Friends, what might you be used to do, if you listened to God? What needs to change in you to make that happen? Change can happen overnight, but it also can take time. So, if you aren’t sure, that is what I and our church community, are here to help you figure out. God is calling you and using you for something- no matter what- and I can’t wait to see what it is.
A quick prayer for your week: God, use me no matter what. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
Dear Park People,
This is my third January report since starting as Children’s Minister at The Park, which means that it’s my second anniversary in this position (I started on the second Sunday in January, 2018). Anniversaries are natural times for reflection, and, as I reflect on the last two years, there is so much cause for rejoicing. We have gone from being an itinerant Sunday school (sometimes even needing to rent spaces off site, due to the construction) to having a lovely, stable space in the Fellowship Hall, where the children’s art can be displayed, and there’s enough floor space for dancing, and active play.
A couple of children, who were just learning their letters and numbers when I started, are now able to take their turns reading the Bible stories aloud! And we continue to grow our friendships, becoming a true spiritual community.
We have been working throughout January on plans and preparation for our craft fair and bake sale to benefit Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital. On January 26th, the children had a sort of “craft-a-palooza,” looking through our art supplies together, and making a variety of items for the fair, including bracelets, notebooks, hair clips, door hangers...
In February, our readings will focus on the nature of God, and how we discover our personal theological understanding, by witnessing God’s work in the world, and our lives. Our creative response activities will have to do with the ways that God protects and provides for us (Psalm 23) what “love is” for us (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3), how we witness the “fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians5:22-23), and the ways that we can live as disciples of Jesus by doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). We’ll be singing, dancing, drawing, writing, playing, and crafting together, as we travel the holy road, with joy!
I hope that this is being a happy, healthy, and holy New Year for all of you, thus far, with warm hearts for cold days...
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam): Children’s Minister
The SoulFood fellowship group spent time last year discussing and contemplating our call to take action to support climate and environment solutions. The result was a resolution approved by the Ministry Council for The Park to be environmentally responsible consistent with our ongoing commitment to be good stewards of God's creation. There are many ways in which we all can contribute to this effort. The Park staff will take steps to prioritize the use of consumable products and to refrain from purchasing new plastic products. As we use up the products in our inventory, we will transition to the use of products which are recycled, biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. We invite you to do the same in your homes and offices. Every small step can make a positive impact!
- Bonnie English
WHEREAS, The Disciples of Christ’s commitment to the environment is codified in its Green Chalice Movement; and
WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ’s commitment to the environment is codified in its Creation Justice Movement;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The Park Avenue Christian Church, consistent with its ongoing commitment to being a good steward of God’s creations and to being environmentally responsible, will prioritize the use of consumable products which are biodegradable, compostable or otherwise made of recycled or sustainable materials and will use every best effort to refrain from purchasing and using plastic products, including but not limited to, cups, plates, flatware, decorations, etc.
How does it work? Once you're trained you become part of the accompaniment program. You'll learn about upcoming accompaniments and can sign up for time slots and locations that work for you.