I hope this week you have been able to experience God’s love in new and unexpected ways. Maybe a walk or a new friend, maybe a book or an overheard story. These times have been difficult to say the least, but our God is at work with us and through us, and it is part of our journeys to be watchful for God at work. We hope you will join us for YASS Happy Hour, Worship, Digital Meet and Greet, Children’s Worship and much more. For all the information, make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram!
When I was in seminary, I had a professor ask me, “What is one thing you want to know about God?” My classmates came back with wonderful answers such as, “What happens when we die?” “Are you happy with the church?” and, “What is the ultimate form of love?” I asked, “What makes God laugh?”
Laughter to me has always had healing properties. I have had times where a laugh brightened my mood, and I have had times in which I laughed so hard that I cried – which helped me actually cry and grieve the loss of a loved one. Laughter is powerful and can be an incredible tool of justice and loving care. This week’s scripture talks about laughter as well. It comes from the Book of Genesis and tells the story about Sarah and Abraham and how their hospitality led to some unimaginable news.
God appeared to Abraham by the oak grove of Mamre, while Abraham sat at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Looking up, Abraham saw three travelers standing nearby.
When he saw them, Abraham ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass by our tent. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves beneath this tree. As you have come to your faithful one, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves. Afterward, you may go on your way.”
“Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.”
Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick—take a bushel of fine flour and knead it into loaves of bread.” Abraham then ran to the herd, selected a choice and tender calf, and sent a worker hurrying to prepare it. Then Abraham took cheese and milk and the calf which had been prepared and placed it before the travelers; and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.
“Where is Sarah?” they asked.
“There in the tent,” Abraham replied.
One of them said, “I will surely return to you this time next year, and Sarah will then have a child.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him.
Now Sarah and Abraham were old, well on in years, and Sarah no longer had her periods. So, Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am so old and my husband even older, is pleasure to come my way again?” (Genesis 18:1-12)
So, Sarah laughed…
When I asked my question of what makes God laugh, I spoke out a need for a new connection with God. I wanted that connection of laughter. For me, laughter is powerful and meaningful and what better way to experience God? I also figured, since we are made in the Divine Image or Imago Dei then surely the things that bring me healing and wholeness like laughter, are things that God relates to as well. But I continue to ask the question, “What makes god Laugh?”
Since then, as I read my bible in prayer, faith formation, and academic study I have paid particular attention to the times that people laughed. The words laugh (including laughed and laughter) appears in our scriptures only 48 times. And each time, I learn something about the role laughter plays in my life. In today’s scripture I think Sarah laughs out of disbelief and hope. I have definitely shared in that type of laughter, perhaps more than ever during these past few months. The type of laughter that escapes from you like a newly sprung leak- forceful in its disbelief, and unexpected in its hope. So, Sarah and I have laughed, but has God?
Friends, I don’t know about you, but I think God laughs. Being made in the divine image means that what we do reflects God-and that includes laughter. I think the spirit can help us with a needed laugh like in the case of Sarah. And I think God is present in the laughter itself. Bubbling up in us at the wonder of the world, and releasing its cathartic, enveloping, and healing sound back into creation.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord bring me laughter. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday, June 14th, the Park Sunday school children read Acts 10, in which Peter preaches that Jesus’ message of love is for all people; not only for a selected few. We used that reading as a lead-in to talking about the meaning of our Pride celebrations in June, which lift up all people, and all forms of love. For our creative response activity, we made rainbow fans, and, while doing so, discussed what the rainbow meant to us. There seemed to be a general consensus that the rainbow was a symbol of love (one child decided to add hearts to their rainbow drawing), but that was not the only idea to emerge from the conversation. One statement that struck me as an interesting idea to ponder, was that the rainbow is “a sign of prayer.” Perhaps a reference to the sign received by Noah, after the great flood, but there could be more to that...
On June 21st, we will read Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8, about the power of God’s love for humanity, especially during times of hardship. We will discuss the places where we feel the power of God’s love in our lives, and things that we can say, or do, to help other people know that holy love power, when they are struggling or suffering. For our creative response activity, each of us will draw a picture of something that reminds us of God’s love for us.
Blessings and well wishes as always, Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam) Fortunato: Children’s Minister
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.
Classes are in English now but we are working on adding a Spanish speaking class soon.
Become a Telechaplaincy Volunteer
From the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education:
We are facing unprecedented times, and many of us are wondering how we can respond. We are receiving requests from institutions seeking additional spiritual care support, particularly through telechaplaincy. At the same time, we know some CPE students have been unable to complete units due to new restrictions for visitation. We hope telechaplaincy might provide them additional hours towards the completion of units.
We are seeking volunteers to meet these requests. If you would like to be considered for telechaplaincy support, please complete the volunteer form below. Your information will only be shared with institutional leadership working to meet the needs of those whom they serve. If you have questions or need more information, please email COVID19@acpe.edu.
You may also want to explore resources for spiritual care during this crisis, available here from our colleagues at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. Thank you for your dedication to our shared work.