I hope this email finds you safe and healthy and loving the sunny day. I continue to be filled with such energy and excitement coming back into our sanctuary and worshipping our ever-present God with all of you who join in person, and I continue to be grateful for the ways those of you who worship and do ministry with us online engage and grow our incredible community. If you haven’t had the opportunity to join us in person and you are comfortable and able to do so, we hope you will consider it, but know that every member of The Park – be you in person or online – are a beloved and valued member of this community.
This week’s scripture comes from the book of Matthew, and it is such a wonderful text to Root us is Resurrection. It reminds us that the work we do here in this life matters. So often we think about resurrection (and really all things that are holy) as being located in a heavenly space far away from the humanness of this life. But God reminds us that the work of the resurrection is not for those who have gone home to God, but for the living. We in our very beautiful, broken, and believing bodies – today – need the work of resurrection. The hope and the grace that comes when something new begins. But it can be a challenge. Life is hard and life with people – especially people we don’t have deep relationship with – is often challenging. But the newness that comes with the resurrection, and the hope that dwells in us when we root ourselves in Jesus is an invitation to choose now to commune with God and each other. So let us open our hearts to the text, and use our eyes to read the words, and posture our bodies to receive the Good News of Christ that is for us and of us – the living.
23 The same day [that Jesus taught about taxes] some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they questioned him, saying, 24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without having children, his brother shall marry the [widow] woman, and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and without having offspring, leaving the woman to his brother. 26 The same for the second, and the third, to the seventh. 27 After everything the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, then, for which of the seven will she be wife? For they all had her.” 29 Jesus answered them, “You all are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, rather they are like angels in heaven. 31 And about the resurrection of the dead, have you all not read what was said to you by God, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is God not of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.
Matthew 22:23-33 (Year W)
Do you agree that God is of the living? What does that mean to you?
The woman in this story is talked about like property, what might it mean to know her name and her story and to share it with the loving affection that happens when we share our holy stories?
What do you think it would feel like to have Jesus tell you that you are wrong?
What are unhelpful ways this text has been understood and what is its message of liberation?
Friends, I leave for two weeks to go on a continuing education trip to the Holy Lands of Palestine and Israel on Monday. I will carry you all with me and pray for you all as I journey the stories of our scriptures. I will be bringing our scriptures for the next two weeks with me as well praying and studying them with you- just from afar. While we are apart, I hope that you remain curious about the texts, wrestle with the hard questions of our faith, and find everlasting comfort knowing that our God is always present and speaking. I am so grateful for this community and hope you have a wonderful next few weeks.
Simple Prayer: O Holy One, Thank you for being God of my Now. Amen
RETURNING TO IN-PERSON WORSHIP
Dear Beloved Park Family,
We are so excited to start gathering back in person after 2 years apart!
These past few years have been challenging in so many ways and yet we proved time and time again that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
First, we want to say a huge thank you to those that made the digital worship experiences possible over the last few years. The time, talent, patience, and courage it took from each of you to create, lead, and worship in this new way was and continues to be inspiring. If this new way of worship was a helpful way for you to gain access to our community and our ministries, do not worry – our online access to all our ministries is not going anywhere. Going forward, our plan is for all ministries and experiences to be accessible to everyone both in person and online.
Meanwhile, many of us long to be together in person. Leadership has dedicated months to discern and make decisions to get us to this point.
Here are the church’s expectations for how we will spend our time together in person. In person, we will:
Be fully vaccinated (if eligible) and show proof of vaccination every time we enter the building.
Respect social distancing standards.
Share our love and excitement through words and not physical touch.
Always wear a mask over the nose and mouth, unless otherwise instructed.
Understand that these expectations will be implemented with the possibility of removal in cases where guidelines are not met.
We are still an active construction site and will not go into restricted areas for my own safety.
We do not have main floor accessible bathrooms. Using the bathrooms will require a staff member to accompany me because of the construction.
It is 100% okay if I am not ready to come back yet. I am loved just the same.
We have been apart for two years, we have changed and grown in so many ways and will refrain from commenting on physical looks and emotional tenderness.
We will continue to evaluate the best practices for the health and safety of our community and will be updated as things change.
We look forward to seeing you in person as you feel ready. We are so grateful to share in the love of God with each of you.
Pastor Kaji and Rev. Stephanie
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Nordia Bennett, Children’s Minister
Last Sunday, the 10 am youth (4th grade or older) explored The Book of Luke 13. We chatted about truth and what does it looks like for us to dive into truth knowing others may not uplift our same ethics. The 10:30 am children (3rd grade or younger) explored, “The Road to Emmaus” in The Sparks Story Bible. We discussed our experiences with long trips—do we enjoy long trips where we are able to take the scenic route or do we prefer to reach our destination with swiftness?
This Sunday, the 10 am youth (4th grade or older) will continue to dive into The Book of Luke, exploring the Parables and the relevancy to our current lives. The 10:30 am children (3rd grade and younger) will be diving deep into “Doubting Thomas” in The Sparks Story Bible.
Gregory Stephen Ionman Tate (1957-2021) was a giant of Black radical thought and creativity, and a conductor of incandescent, community-driven music. Tate's body of writing as an influential critic would be enough to enshrine him as a cultural icon, but he is equally important to a generation of musicians as both the co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the complete creative freedom of Black artists; and the creator of Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, a sprawling, omnivorous, and outrageously accomplished improv collective. Under his co-leadership, BSAC has issued more than 20 releases in its two-decade history, featuring a cavalcade of virtuoso musicians. Tate's sudden passing in December 2021 was a blow to his many loved ones, friends, collaborators, and admirers around the globe. For this homecoming concert, curated and presented with The Tate Family at one of his favorite venues, more than thirty BSAC members will perform in celebration and tribute to one of the most essential voices in the history of 21st Century Avant Groidd music and thought.