I hope you are safe and warm as the winter storms continue to come down on us. Our prayers are with Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma and all of those who are facing freezing temperatures without the infrastructure to support it. We are grateful for all of you who are helping the unhoused and God’s wider creation in this time. Thank you to all who joined us for Ash Wednesday, and we hope your Lenten journey is off to a good and faithful start. We look forward to seeing you Sunday and hearing all the ways you are answering the questions, “How am I following Jesus today?” and “How am I leading with Jesus today?” If you haven’t seen our Lenten Photo Challenge as well, we hope you will enjoy that daily photo prompt to help you see God at work in new ways during this time.
So, I know it’s only day two, but I have to tell on myself, I already messed up my Lenten practice. Day 1! I felt a little defeated that I was not successful for even one day to this practice, but then I read this week’s scripture and was reassured that God’s faithfulness does not require perfection. It requires intention and the commitment to keep at it – even when we slip. Even God says today is a new day and some things God has done, God will not do again.
Intention not perfection, friends.
I know many of us know the story of Noah, but when we think of it, we generally think of the animals going two by two into the ark. But today we are looking at what happened after the flood. The commitment from God to do no harm to us going forward, but to journey with us through life as loving support. God also offers us a visual reminder of God’s covenant to God’s people. Let’s read together this message from the Book of Genesis.
8 God then said to Noah and his family, 9 “I hereby establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you—birds, cattle, and the earth’s wildlife—everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. 11 I hereby establish my covenant with you: All flesh will never again be swept away by the waters of the flood; never again will a flood destroy all the earth.”
12 God said, “Here is the sign of the covenant between me and you and every living creature for ageless generations: 13 I set my bow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth, my bow will appear in the clouds. 15 Then I will remember the covenant that is between me and you and every kind of living creature, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 Whenever my bow appears in the clouds I will see it, and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all living things on the earth.”
[Genesis 9:8-17 (ILB)/ Génesis 9:8-17 (NVI)]
A rainbow as a sign of God’s loving faithfulness and grace is one of the first things I remember being told about God as a child. Rainbows are beautiful and special, and I always think of God’s love when I see them. But the problem with rainbows is that they are not always visible to everyone. And they don’t always show up when you feel the need for God’s reassurance. I am sure there is a rainbow on this earth at any given time, but we are not always around or able to see them. It’s hard to see a rainbow in Istanbul from my apartment in New York – although not impossible thanks to technology- and surely our visually impaired siblings, who may have never seen a rainbow, are a part of God’s covenant. God shows up for us all in ways that are accessible to each of us and all of us. Be it a rainbow or a memory. So, this week, I invite you to look for rainbows that aren’t traditional. What images, sounds, or feelings has God placed in your life as a sign of God’s loving covenant? How do those messages of God’s love and faithfulness help and support us in times of challenge?
Friends, each of you serve as a rainbow in my life. I am so grateful to serve with and for you. Every day you remind me of God’s loving faithfulness in this world, but I am especially grateful for you on days when I have to start again. Blessings on your journey be it day one, two, or many and remember that when you slip or feel discouraged God has placed a rainbow in your life- it just may not be in the place you were looking.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, make me a rainbow of your loving faithfulness. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
On Sunday, February 14, the older students and I read the story of the Transfiguration in Mark 9:2-8 in our Inclusive Language Bible. We then discussed this passage, noting the weirdness of the suddenly shiny clothes, the conversing with dead people, and the desire to build a dwelling place there. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that this passage taught us something unique about the holiness of Jesus and about God’s view of humanity. God regards some humans so highly that he would perform miracles to converse with them.
After this study, the younger children and I read the beginning of “Jesus Helps and Heals” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. We talked about how it would feel to be blind with no guide dog or person to help you and the joy that would come with being healed by Jesus. We also spent some time discussing all the holidays this week: Valentine’s Day, Transfiguration Sunday, Mardi Gras, and Ash Wednesday. We talked about what they mean and how they fit together in our calendar.
As always, we parted ways with a song and blessing and a question to take home. This week, I invited the students and their families to discuss: What is so special about Jesus? I look forward to the myriad of answers that they’ll come up with.
This Coming Sunday, February 21, the Children’s Ministry will be led by Pastor Kaji and Rev. Stephanie.
Pastor Kaji will lead the older students’ study. They will read Genesis 9:8-17, about the covenant God makes with Noah after the flood. Rev. Stephanie will lead the younger student’s study. They will read “Noah” in the Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. They’ll pray, sing, and say goodbye with a blessing.
I find myself particularly grateful for the Park Avenue Community following our Bloom in Conversation event Monday evening. This church is unique in so many ways, and I continue to be humbled and renewed by the loving vision of this community.
Well, it isn't food for your stomach (though when we are able to meet again in person, we will share a brown bag lunch right after church), but it is food — almost a banquet — for your soul.
SoulFood Fellowship is a gathering of The PARK members and friends who get together from near and far after worship on the third Sunday of each month. We engage in conversation that is bound to get you thinking and talking. We discuss and reflect on books, articles, documentary films, or plays —in light of our faith, Bible Study, and concern for social justice.
Right now we’re focusing on Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own, by Eddie Glaude, Jr. Don't worry if you haven't read the book. It is a slow read that calls forth loads of discussion and reflection on our country, racism, and what God requires of us. We would love to have you join us and share your perspective, experience, hopes, and concerns.
For more information, please contact either Richard Sturm or Stephanie Wilson at the church.
Pandemic of Love is a mutual aid community of care that was started in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. It humbly began on March 14th, 2020 by one person and was intended to help her own local community. But, like an epidemic, the act of love and kindness spread quickly and is now a beautiful movement helping those in need throughout the world.
What is a mutual aid community? It connects people in need with patrons who can help with that need. This is a tangible way for people to give to each other, quickly, discretely and directly.
What’s the catch? There is none. Kind people are introduced to kind people which results in an act of kindness and human connection.