Happy Thursday! I hope this week has offered new spaces of hope and joy but above all, I hope you are safe, well, and cared for. I know the newness of leadership does not erase the pain and hurt we continue to experience as people and a nation, so please know your pastors and church are here for you. This week we have a new ministry that I want you to be aware of - Bloom with Prayer. Bloom with Prayer is a part of our monthly Bloom curriculum and it seeks to deepen and broaden your prayer life during this time of necessary separation. Bloom with Prayer will function as a prayer station of sorts. After worship on Sunday, hop on over to the Bloom with Prayer link and get some one-on-one prayer time with the Deacons. If you would like to participate in this ministry, please email Stephanie Wilson for the link. And as always, we hope to see you Sunday for worship.
This week’s scripture comes from the book of Jonah. Now most of us know at least a vague version of Jonah’s story – God’s call, Jonah runs away, a big fish, Nineveh saved. It’s a great story if you haven’t read it or haven’t read it in a while. But as I read it again this week, I really resonated with what it means to wrestle with being called to speak up. We think that what we say has so much to do with our words- and it does- but we also speak with our works. And when our words and works match the call that God has placed on each of us – we preach. So I hope you will look for the works and words – the preaching – in this week’s message from Jonah.
We are called to learn from scripture so that we might see God at work more clearly in the world, through the words and works of our neighbors, and hopefully our neighbors see God in us. And so, we heed the call to preach. Wherever we are and with the words and works we have in us. Preaching is a conversation with God and community and where I experienced that this week was from a young woman poet, Amanda Gorman, whom I had heard speak in the past but her words from the inauguration preached to me, spoke to me, live in me now anew. So, I wanted to share a part of her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” in hopes that it continues to preach to you too.
... And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we'll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we're to live up to our own time
Then victory won't lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we've made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it's the past we step into
and how we repair it
We've seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves...
Friends, I am grateful for the words and works – the preaching – that each of you do in this world. May this this pulpit of your life offer you support, encouragement, and a rootedness in God and community so that it may continue.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, I will preach of your love in words and works. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
On Sunday January 17th, I first met with our older children (fourth grade and above) to discuss the week’s scripture, John 1:43-47. In this story, Jesus calls Philip who welcomes in Nathaniel, and Nathaniel has his famous line, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” The youth and I examined each verse, and I provided some context to root us in the biblical narrative. By the end of our half hour together, we were analyzing the translation of the Greek word, δόλος. It was a very engaging and illuminating study.
During our next half hour, all the children and I read the book, God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmund Tutu. We talked about the ways that each of us can be a part of God’s dream and why we think we should try to make God’s dream a reality. We talked about our weeks, prayed, sang and said goodbye with a blessing.
I then encouraged the children to have a conversation with their parents that tied together both our lesson and Pastor Kaji’s sermon from this Sunday. To borrow a turn of phrase from Pastor Kaji’s sermon, I asked: Why do we want to live God’s Dream? And How do we wake people up, so they can come work for God’s Dream alongside us?
This week at 10:30, we’ll read as a group the story of “Jonah and the Big Fish” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. We’ll talk about how and why we don’t always go exactly where God points us, but, more closely, we’ll wonder together about Jonah’s experience with Nineveh: Why did Jonah not want to go? How did the Ninevites change? Can we change from our behaviors that make God mad? And all sorts of other questions the children wonder when we finish reading.
The older students and I will meet at 10, before the class, to discuss the story of Jonah as told in the Bible and compare it to the ones they heard as young children. We’ll read this week’s scripture, Jonah 3:1-5, and wonder about the details of sackcloth and the word “overthrown” among other things.
Jonah is among my favorite books of the Bible for its satiric nature and playful skepticism. I look forward to gathering with the children on Sundays each week, but I am especially eager to share with them this mythic tale of a disobedient prophet and the ways God loves even God’s enemies.
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.