Bloom in New Beginnings:
The Peace of Beloved Community
I hope this week has been one that has filled you with a new sense of call and vision for the love of God and beloved community. As we prepare for all that is to come this holiday season, I find myself constantly grateful that we start the Advent season with hope. As I shared last week, hope is the thing that offers more and as we head into Advent II and the posture of peace that we are called into, peace is the more that God wants for us. I hope that you have also been enjoying the Bloom in Advent kits and that your moments of prayer and reflection have brought you closer to God and are helping you prepare for the coming of Christ in this new season. We hope to see you online for worship on Sunday and if you haven’t done so already, please mark your calendars for our Christmas Eve service at 11 pm on December 24th.
As you all know this Sunday is Advent II, the Sunday of peace and we also have our last Bloom Curriculum for the year. This month we are Blooming in New Beginnings. Blooming in New Beginnings means to bloom where you are- immediately. So often new beginnings require a time of waiting in order to thrive. However, our text today from the gospel of Luke as translated by Dr. Wil Gafney in A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church, the lectionary and translation we will be using for the coming year, we see that neither Elizabeth nor Mary wait on the next chapters of their life to bloom and thrive. Let’s read together from Luke 1:
Mary set out in those days and went to the hill country with haste, to a Judean town. There she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Now when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. From where does this [visit] come to me? That the mother of my Sovereign comes to me? Look! As soon as I heard the sound of your greeting in my ear, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Now blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of those things spoken to her by the Holy One.”
[Luke 1:39-45 (Year W)]
As we know both of these women were pregnant with the possibility of new life in the midst of their own. Being an unwed mother, Mary’s pregnancy would have been one of great controversy and traveling and visiting loved ones would have brought some attention to her that would make her vulnerable. But she did not hide or cower in the corners of life until the baby came. No, she traveled and lived life as the woman she was, not just as the mother she would become. And Elizabeth, who also would have known of the scandal surrounding Mary, also blooms in this new beginning by immediately believing Mary’s words and the reaction of her own body, and offers Mary what Dr. Gafney calls, “transgenerational support and comfort,” and what I will name also as peace.
Blooming in new beginnings like Mary and Elizabeth reminds us that we can flourish in even the most trying of times. But being in beloved community means that we don’t just care for our own thriving but for the thriving of others.
Friends, who in your life has brought you peace in uncertain times? Have you ever been able to help someone achieve peace? New beginnings are often fraught with anxiety and anticipation at the unknown and the not-yet, but they can also be a place to start again, to try, to bloom if we can just find (or offer) the things and people that bring us peace. And luckily for us, the Prince of peace will be here soon to usher in all things new.
Simple Prayer: O Holy God, bring us peace. Amen.
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Nordia Bennett, Children’s Minister
This past Sunday, our children’s ministry connected with Minister Nordia and reflected on the impact of emotions when we receive shocking news as Mary receive news of her unexpected pregnancy. At 10AM, our older students spent the time reflecting on their desires for community and briefly, in our 10:30 group, we played a game called “gimme gimme” where students would have to find objects around their house and describe it to the group. We also talked about how it feels when we receive shocking news and how we adapt/accept it.
This Sunday, our older and younger students will meet at 10 am & 10:30 am for fellowship and to read Luke 1:39-45. We’ll talk about the importance of relationships and how we can see God in the friendships we create with others, and using Mary and Elizabeth’s encounter as a guide to see joy, excitement, and compassion.
Join the Coalition for the Homeless as we spread holiday cheer to homeless children through our annual Holiday Toy Drive!
Nearly 15,000 children in New York City will spend this holiday season in homeless shelters. By purchasing a toy through our Amazon Wishlist, you can make sure these kids get to experience the magic and warmth of the holidays!
To avoid possible spread of the virus, the Coalition is not able to accept drop-off donations this year.
Here's how you can help: • Buy a toy from our Amazon Wish List. Idea: Get the family involved and have your child pick out their favorite toy to give to a homeless kid!
Invitation to the Ecclesiastical Council of Meghan Janssen
Saturday, December 11, 2021 11:00 am ET
An Ecclesiastical Council is a gathering of people called to examine, authorize, and approve the Ordination of a Member in Discernment within the United Church of Christ. Meghan has been a Member in Discernment with the Metropolitan Association since February 2019. She is an active member and integral part of The Park community and we hope you will consider attending this online gathering to offer our loving support to Meghan, to bear witness to the call of ordained ministry we see in her, and to celebrate all that she and God are doing together. Please email Meghan for more details.
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.