What an incredible Sunday we had together. I hope you have had some time this week to sit with our scripture and let it speak to you in a new way. Part two of our God is Still Speaking sermon is this Sunday. I hope to see you all there (or online!). After the service, we will have our YASS gathering at The Pony Bar and after the Elders' meeting, many of our members will head over to the installation of Rev. Sharon Codner-Walker. You are invited to it all! We hope you will join us.
I think at this point, I have read this scripture 30+ times. And each time I have noticed something different. This week what spoke to me was the conversation that the Pharisees and religious scholars have with Jesus. What does the text mean when it says the Pharisees and religious scholars asked Jesus? Was it one at a time? As a group? Did they all have the same question? Take a read again and see what sticks out to you.
“1 The Pharisees and some of the religious scholars who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. 2 They had noticed that some of the disciples were eating with unclean hands—that is, without ritually washing them. 3 For the Pharisees, and Jewish people in general, follow the tradition of their ancestors and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow. 4 Moreover, they never eat anything from the market without first sprinkling it. There are many other traditions which have been handed down to them, such as the washing of cups and pots and dishes. 5 So these Pharisees and religious scholars asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of our ancestors, but eat their food with unclean hands?” 6 Jesus answered, “How accurately Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites when he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me. 7 The worship they offer me is worthless;
the doctrines they teach are only human precepts.’ 8 You disregard God’s commandments and cling to human traditions.”
Who the Pharisees and religious scholars are is one major thing that sticks out to me this week. It says,” 5 So these Pharisees and religious scholars asked Jesus.” That means that more than one asked Jesus the exact same question. Surely Jesus didn’t wait until the end to answer the initial question. So not only was the question being asked multiple times, but Jesus was having to answer the same question again and again. I don’t know about you, but having to answer the same question again and again - especially when it’s a question that as we learned last week, was purely meant to shame someone else - would make me at worst really angry and at best, really disappointed in the Pharisees and religious leaders. Maybe this is why Jesus called them hypocrites. One person is an inquiry, two people is a misunderstanding, but all the Pharisees and religious scholars as a group is a gathering of hypocrites. Has this ever happened to you? How do you respond when you get asked over and over again the same question? How much patience does our faith require?
Friends, I am thankful for our community who is willing to keep asking the questions. But I am especially thankful for a God filled with grace that has enough patience to let us all ask our questions, even if we don’t like the answer. This week may we think about the questions we pose to Jesus and the ways Jesus is answering us. Are we open enough to hear the response? How many different ways is God reaching out to us, answering our questions and prayers? I don’t know about you, but this week I am going to be prayerfully open for an unexpected response.
Children and Youth Ministry
from Rev. Francesca Fortunato, Children and Youth Ministry Leader
The Park Sunday School children will begin the 2018-19 program year, on 9/9/18, with a reading from the Gospel of Mark (7:1-8). We will talk about the ways that we experience God’s presence (and receive God’s messages) outside of church/Sunday school, as well as in them, and the children will be led to share the ways that they encountered God during the Summer hiatus. Our creative response will be to draw, write (or both) examples of Divine presence and meaning, in our lives outside the church walls, including those places in nature that inspire us, but also places where we simply have fun (the swimming pool, the amusement park; the movies.) There will also be plenty of time for social interaction and play, catching up with each other, and enjoying the fellowship of church community friends.
"Little Rock, The Play" – Reflections by Estella Pate
This past Wednesday evening, August 29, 2018, 9 participants in the SoulFood Fellowship and their guests attended the play “Little Rock” at the Sheen Center. It was an incredible experience – the actors, the play, the fear, the hatred.
Written and directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj and performed by a cast of 13 incredibly talented young actors – who could also sing – it brought to life the horror and fear those incredible students faced. Nine of them, young African American high school age students, wanting nothing more than an education and the right to have the best education they could receive. It started with their hopes and dreams and moved rapidly into hate, racism, fear and despair. And integration.
August 17, 2018 photo, taken in Little Rock, AR, of Rev. Dr. Richard Sturm and Grace and Preston Davis, former members of The Park and sister and brother-in-law of Thelma Mothershed-Wair, one of the Little Rock Nine