I hope this week finds you filled with the peace of God and looking forward to the Joy of this coming Sunday. Can you believe it is almost Christmas? And to our Jewish siblings Happy Hanukkah! Park Avenue Synagogue has invited us to join in their menorah lighting tonight and a Hanukkah concert next Thursday. Their website has all the details. Speaking of our PASYN siblings, don’t forget that this Sunday is our final (for now) Bible Study with them. Our very own Kelsey will be leading that discussion on Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11. And after worship will be our final YASS gathering of the year. So much continues to happen in the life of the church. We are so grateful for each and every one of you who makes it so.
This week’s scripture is one that I love so much. It goes by many names, but I would imagine most of you know it by “Magnificat.” It is Mary’s response to visiting her sister Elizabeth (who is also pregnant) and the support of her family as she embarks on this journey of faith.
So many people have put their own lens on this story and this statement by Mary, as we all do when we read, but I want to offer a simpler understanding (things are complicated enough right now, right?). And my simple lens is this – She said what she said. Let’s take that approach together as we read Mary’s words from the Gospel of Luke.
46 Mary said:
“My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
47 and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior.
48 For you have looked with favor
upon your lowly servant,
and from this day forward
all generations will call me blessed.
49 For you, the Almighty, have done great things for
me, and holy is your Name.
50 Your mercy reaches from age to age
for those who fear you.
51 You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their conceit;
52 you have deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
53 You have filled the hungry with good things,
while you have sent the rich away empty.
54 You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
mindful of your mercy—
55 the promise you made to our ancestors—
to Sarah and Abraham
and their descendants forever.”
Luke 1:46b-55 (ILB) / Lucas 1:46-55 (NVI))
Mary said. Mary didn’t imply, suggest, or cry out. Mary said. During this year, where we have been so removed from each other, I have noticed the way a text message and email often lacks the nuance, tone, and inflection with which I had intended. It has led to confusion, a couple sorry-s and more than a few laughs. And in most of those times, has the message been taken at face value, the confusion could have been avoided. The simplicity of letting our words be enough and knowing that they are always sent with the loving care of Christ’s communal vision, is a prayer that I hold for each of us as we continue forward in these spaces of uncertainty. Something Mary know a bit about. So, may what she said, be what she said, and may that be enough for her and for us.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, help me speak with love and may it always be received that way. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday December 6th, we read from our Mystic Bibles, about Mary’s song for her already-beloved baby-on-the-way, Jesus. We thought about the sorts of words that we might use, in writing about Jesus. We could sing that Jesus is “Wonderful!” “Amazing!” “A Star!”
After coming up with words for our own song about Jesus, we spent some time singing the song “Jesus In The Morning” (a Sunday school “classic” which the children had sung a few times before, during the three years that I’ve been with them.) Singing always seems to make this particular group of children happy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Park choir includes some of them, in ten or fifteen years.
On Sunday December 13th, we’ll continue reading from The Mystic Bible, as Mary and Joseph begin their journey to Bethlehem. We’ll be focusing on the animals in the story, including the donkey that Mary and Joseph ride, and the animals in the barn, where they end up spending the night when they finally arrive. We’ll be pondering how they animals in the story might have been feeling, as well as Mary and Jospeh’s feelings about them. The children will be invited to use their various art materials to draw or sculpt the animals that they see in their imaginations, as we read the story.
The weather prognosticators are saying that we might have some snow tonight and tomorrow. If so, I hope you’ll enjoy it in whatever ways please you most (in my case, that means watching it from my windows, with a big sweater on, and a large mug of tea!) Blessings and well wishes as always, Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister
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.