How is it already October? It feels like Easter was just last month and yet, advent is on the horizon. This year has been challenging to say the least, but we have found ways to survive and thrive together. What a gift this community is. As always, we have much happening in the life of our church. Worship, Bible Study with Park Avenue Synagogue, and Soulfood Fellowship are all happening this Sunday. Then on Monday, mark your calendars for Inspired Dialogue which is always an incredible time. All are welcome and as always if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to one of your Pastors.
This week’s scripture is a doozy. So much is happening within these thirteen verses. Each line a glimpse into the world of the early Jewish people. What they cared about. Who their friends were. What the ruling class thought of them. And in this text, we see a lot of division through labels, socioeconomics, and even gender. I don’t know about you but that resonates with me a lot right now. There is a lot of division in our world. Do you feel it too? Often, I even feel it within myself. See if you also spot the ways people are being divided in this week’s scripture from Exodus.
8 A new Pharaoh—one who did not know Joseph—came to power in Egypt. 9 Pharaoh said to the Egyptians, “Look at how powerful the Israelites have become, and how they outnumber us! 10 We need to deal shrewdly with their increase, against a time of war when they might turn against us and join our enemy, and so escape out of the country.”
11 So they oppressed the Israelites with overseers who put them to forced labor; and with them they built the storage cities of Pitom and Ra’amses. 12 Yet the more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they multiplied and burst forth, until the Egyptians dreaded the Israelites. 13 So they made the Israelites utterly subservient with hard labor, brick-and-mortar work, and every kind of field work. 14 The Egyptians were merciless in subjugating them with crushing labor.
15 Pharaoh spoke to the midwives of the Hebrews —one was Shiphrah, and the other Puah— 16 and said, “When you assist the Hebrew women in childbirth, examine them on the birthing-stool. If the baby is a boy, kill it. If it is a girl, let it live.”
17 But the midwives were God-fearing women, and they ignored the Pharaoh’s instructions, and let the male babies live. 18 So Pharaoh summoned the midwives and asked why they let the male babies live. 19 The midwives responded, “These Hebrew women are different from Egyptian women; they are more robust and deliver even before the midwife arrives.” 20 God rewarded the midwives, and the people increased in numbers and in power. 21 And since the midwives were God-fearing, God gave them families of their own.
Did you sense the division I am talking about? How did that sit with you? What are some times in your life where you have been divided or separated from your community? How did you react? How did you find your way back? Sometimes, keeping yourself separated is an act of self-care especially in oppressive systems. But when division and separation are a product of force and fear as it is in the case with Pharaoh, you can’t help but ask “If he knew God was among them, would Pharaoh have done any differently?”
One would hope, yet historically we know that absolute power corrupts absolutely, as John Dalberg-Acton said, and as we have seen played out in our scriptures and in our world. And as Christians we know this to be true with the exception of one person- Jesus.
So, friends, as followers of Jesus, how are you showing up and centering the lives and voices of those whom our modern Pharaoh’s-and the systems of oppression and power they serve-have subjugated? How are you living into the scriptural call to be the midwife helping birth a new vision of love, equity, and justice into the world? And most of all, what can this community do to help you gain the courage to live into all that God is calling you to? This week’s scripture is filled with spaces of division, but it is also filled with courage, faithfulness, and love. And in the end, we know that love wins. Your love in a community of God’s love, will be the catalyst of liberation for all God’s creation. What a courageous task and what an incredible gift love is.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, grant me the courage to love boldly and without fear. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday, October 11th, the Park Sunday School children read Psalm 133, and “played with” the text in various ways, which included re-phrasing the non-inclusive language in the first line (one child suggested that we change “brothers” to “siblings”) as well as making up tunes to sing the words, and chanting them, accompanied by improvised percussion instruments (I used two wooden spoons; a couple of the children used rocks.)
We then discussed the concept of “living together in unity,” while the children used the Wiki Stix from their worship boxes, to create images of unity. When I asked the children, “Why is it good for people to live together in unity?”, they said “So people will get along with each other,” and also “To have more money.” (Digging into that last one, what emerged, was the idea that people have more money when they live together, and share. Answers like that one are part of what makes children’s ministry so fascinating. Sometimes, the most “spiritual” questions receive the most practical answers, which are, in their own way, particularly spiritual!)
On October 18th, we’ll be reading Exodus 1 (from the Beginner’s Bible) in which God sends plagues on Egypt in response to Pharoah’s oppression of the Israelites. Since children tend to be fascinated by the creatures in this story, our discussion will focus on why it might be a bad thing to experience a “plague of frogs”, for instance, even though most people like frogs. Beyond that, we will also think about how hurting others (as Pharoah did) can bring harm on us, too (that being the deeper meaning of the story, beyond the frog-and-locust details!) Using the Play-Doh from their Worship boxes, to “think with their hands,” the children will be encouraged to create images from the story, as they see it in their minds.
Oh, how good and pleasant it is, to live together in unity, with the wonderful children of our Park Avenue Christian Church community!
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister
The families of Eleanor Bumpurs and Breonna Taylor and other victims of police and state violence are gathering in NYC this Saturday for a major rally to encourage us all to VOTE with their loved ones in mind!
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.