Our scripture for worship this week (Interfaith Bible Study will have a Hebrew Bible Text) comes from 1 Thessalonians. This is one of Paul’s first letters-some scholars even name this as Paul’s first letter- and what I like most about it is that it is a letter that feels personal. The letter writ large shares with the reader Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus’s personal understanding of God at work with only the last two chapters being more proscriptive in nature and dealing with doctrine. I like this because it feels a bit like a long-distance friend reaching out-a pen pal of sorts- something I think many of us have experienced in this time of digitality. And like all letters from long lost friends it contains a multitude of worldviews and experiences that we are called to critically engage. So, this week, I want you to read the letter as if you just received it from a friend you met years ago who is reaching out to share their story, their fears, and their hopes. Let’s read together from 1 Thess. 5:1-11:
But as to specific times and eras, siblings, you don’t need me to tell you anything— you know very well that the Day of God is coming like a thief in the night. Just when people are saying, “At last we have peace and security,” then destruction will fall on them with the suddenness of labor pains, and there will be no escape.
But you, siblings, are not in the dark. The Day of God will not catch you like a thief. No, you are all children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to the darkness or the night. So, let’s not be asleep as others are—let’s be awake and sober! Those who sleep do so at night, and those who get drunk do so at night. But we belong to the day, so let us be sober. Let us put on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation.
God has destined us not to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Savior Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, whether awake or asleep, we might live together with Christ. So, encourage each other and build each other up, just as you’re already doing.
How would you respond to your friend here? What words of comfort, vision, and healing might you want to say to them? If you had or have similar thoughts, expectations, or fears what would you want someone to say to you? The language of our time has shifted as well as our understanding of God at work- and yet this letter feels familiar and relevant.
Friends, each moment of our life is an opportunity to experience God anew. This was true for Paul and friends, and it is true for us too. Even when God feels sneaky or distant. Even when we see God clearly. God is at work and that work is best known when we do our part. And the only thing we need to do on our part is show up authentically with God by radically loving God’s people. What a gift it is to be God’s people.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, give me ears to hear Your message. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday November 8th, I was excited to lead my first lesson incorporating The Mystic Bible, which is a wonderful interpretation of the Gospels for children, by Alexandra Sangster. The art work is truly beautiful, and the language is simultaneously poetic and accessible for children. We read about Jesus’ teaching on God’s care for all of creation, including the flowers, the grass; the little birds...from the Mystic Bible: “He said: Look at the little sparrow and the lilies in the field. God is holding them all in love.”
While listening to this reading, the children had been drawing (some using paper; others their dry-erase boards) beautiful images of all of the life-forms in God’s care. In our conversation, I made reference to another part of the reading: “Do you ever feel really small? Like a tiny sparrow hopping around on the ground, with the world so big all around you?” It was at that point, that one child broke my heart, by saying, “It’s hard to feel that way when you’re inside all the time.” (Bam! Back to our difficult, present reality.) I asked, “All the time? Do you get to go out and play in the park?”
Child: “Sometimes.” Me: “Good! I know we’re inside a lot more than we used to be, and it IS hard.”
At that point, we segued to the children’s drawings, with each child holding their work up, to be admired by the others. I think that the children enjoyed the rest of their time together. They do seem to really appreciate the opportunity to connect with their Sunday school community. I cherished that joy on their behalf, while setting an inward intention to remember that things are, in some ways, harder for children (who have so much less agency than adults) to pray for them, and seek ways to make them feel empowered.
On Sunday November 15th, we’ll be reading a Christian story book, called “God Bless My Friends,” (by Hannah C. Hall) which describes the many ways that different friends (portrayed as animals; tigers, monkeys; squirrels; turtles) help each other and have fun together, using their varied physical gifts. The idea of this story is that it’s really good to be friends with those who are different from you; the blessings of diversity. I’m hoping to spark some lively conversation about the children’s circles of friends, and inspire some beautiful collaborative writing, as we work together to create our own prayer of blessing for our friends.
Blessings and well wishes as always, Rev. Francesca 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.