I hope that you have found yourself safe and warm this past week. So much is happening and there is much to be thankful for as we continue to hold in prayer the many spaces of hope and grief that have accompanied us this past year. Please do continue to hold each other in prayer and if a specific prayer is needed, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the pastoral staff or join our Deacons for Bloom with Prayer on the 4th Sunday of the month. Also, if you haven’t looked over the Bloom curriculum for February please be sure to do so, there are several ways to continue community engagement this month, include getting a “Bloom Bag” for Ash Wednesday. If you have any questions, please let me know when we are together on Sunday for another chance to Bloom Together in worship.
This week, New York got hit with a snowstorm that kept most of us inside for two days. I did not grow up having snow in winter so it’s still a little bit magical for me. I love to look out my window and watch the snow accumulate. I even made a time lapse video that you can see on our social media feeds. I love the snow – now- but my first winter here I was less enthusiastic. I felt unprepared and a bit overwhelmed at the unknown. For example, I have always been able to wear flipflops year-round. And of course, I knew that NY winters were snowy and cold and that flip-flops weren’t appropriate – but that didn’t tell me what I was supposed to wear. What would keep me warm. We spend so much time in what isn’t that we sometimes forget what is! That is where we find ourselves in Isaiah this week. There is something magical about this book that lifts my spirits, makes me curious, and beckons me into new relationship with God. It calls on us to reflect on what we don’t know, and the expansiveness of what God is and what God can do. Read these words from Isaiah:
Did you not know?
Have you not heard?
Was it not told to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
God sits above the vaulted roof of the world,
and its inhabitants look like grasshoppers!
God stretches out the skies like a curtain,
and spreads them out like a tent for mortals to live under!
God reduces the privileged to nothing
and throws the rulers of the earth into chaos.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root on earth,
than God blows on them and they wither,
and a storm wind sweeps them away like chaff.
“To whom can you liken me?
Who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and ask yourself
who made these stars,
if not the One who drills them like an army,
calling each by name?
Because God is so great in strength,
so mighty in power,
not a single one is missing.
How can you say,
tribe of Leah and Rachel and Jacob,
“My destiny is hidden from God,
my rights are ignored by my God?”
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
God is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
This God does not faint or grow weary;
with a depth of understanding that is unsearchable.
God give strength to the weary,
and empowers the powerless.
Young women may grow tired and weary,
young men may stumble and fall,
but those who wait for God
find a renewed power:
they soar on eagles’ wings,
they run and don’t get weary,
they walk and never tire.
[Isaiah 40:21-31 (ILB)/ Isaías 40:21-31 (NVI)
This week I was in a gathering of New York clergy and by chance, 5 of us are originally from California. Specifically we are all from parts where it doesn’t snow, so, we collectively commiserated about the cold. But one colleague offered his new perspective about the cold weather. He said, “I’ve come to understand that there is no bad weather only bad gear.” I find that reframing so helpful right now. The “bad weather” of winter is only bad if we aren’t prepared. After all the snow is a vital part of our environment. It keeps the plants nourished (and in turn humanity nourished) long after the winter seasons. But it can be harsh and unpleasant, especially when we are not prepared. This week’s scripture to me is like a warm coat in a blizzard. It reminds me that church, my relationship with Jesus, and our collective work with God in this world is like owning the right gear for the season. A relationship with God, and an understanding that God is faithful in all seasons of life is the good gear we need in this world. And as we bundle up to go outside let us give thanks for good gear.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, Bring us knowledge and wisdom for the things we do not know, and good gear to face the things we do. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
On Sunday January 31st, the older students and I read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 in the Inclusive Language Bible, then we discussed what meaning we find in these instructions from Paul and what we imagine the situation may have been at the Church in Corinth for Paul to write so much about eating food from sacrifices to false gods. We prayed and spoke about the difference between showing love to people and puffing ourselves up with knowledge to educate them.
At 10:30, the younger students and I gathered and read 1 Corinthians 8:1-3,6 in the New International Reader’s Version. We spent some time discussing God’s love for us and how knowledge that makes us proud is different from knowledge of God’s love and actually loving others. We spoke about ways we can love others this week and what we would say to our Church Community if we wrote a letter like Paul.
As we closed, one of our children asked me if God was “a made-up character.” We talked about this question for a while and it sparked our discussion questions for the week, which were:
How do you know that God is real?
How do you know that God loves you?
This Sunday, the older children and I will read Isaiah 40:21-31, and discuss the passage, the time in Israel’s history when it was originally spoken, and how we make meaning of it today. The younger children and I will read “Jesus Loves Kids” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible, and discuss how knowing we are loved by Jesus and God makes us feel and what that love does. We will pray, sing, and say goodbye with a blessing.
The children here continue to teach me with their insight and wonder. It is a gift to journey alongside them.
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.