Today, you’re receiving the newsletter stylings of Kelsey Creech, your resident seminarian, as Rev. Stephanie has taken a well-deserved break from her work at The Park to participate in some continuing education through the Bethany Fellows program. She is looking forward to worshipping with our community this Sunday as she returns from her retreat.
This week held a crucial moment in the civic life of our nation. As we waited with bated breath for the verdict from the jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, many prayers were said for justice. When Judge Cahill read the verdict finding Chauvin guilty of all three charges, I expected to breathe a sigh of relief, but instead, as the jury confirmed the accuracy of their verdict, I found myself crying.
We have not found justice; we have barely scratched the surface of accountability. There is so much work left to do. Even over the course of this trial, we’ve added an average of three victims a day to the list of those murdered by police, most recently 16 year old, Ma’Khia Bryant. #SayHerName
In our scripture for this week, I did find some hope. Here, we have Jesus identifying himself as the good shepherd, the uniter of sheep and flocks. I invite you to read this passage considering the unity to which the good shepherd leads us and the causes of disunity Jesus names. As you read, consider where the good shepherd is at work in our criminal justice system and where God’s voice is being stifled by evil and carelessness. Justice is not a goal but a continual process which can never be perfected. This process occurs hand in hand with God and each other as we follow where the good shepherd leads. It requires daily commitment to work and to hope as we follow Christ to somewhere we aren’t even sure exists. Committing ourselves to follow the good shepherd in hope, we read these words from the Gospel of John:
11 I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd would die for the sheep.
12 The hired hand, who is neither shepherd
nor owner of the sheep,
catches sight of the wolf coming
and runs away,
leaving the sheep to be scattered
or snatched by the wolf.
13 That’s because the hired hand works only for pay
and has no concern for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd
I know my sheep
and my sheep know me,
15 in the same way Abba God knows me
and I know God—
and for these sheep
I will lay down my life.
16 I have other sheep
that don’t belong to this fold—
I must lead them too,
and they will hear my voice.
And then there will be one flock,
17 This is why Abba God loves me—
because I lay down my life,
only to take it up again.
18 No one takes my life from me;
I lay it down freely.
I have the power to lay it down,
and I have the power to take it up again.
This command I received from my Abba.”
[John 10:11-18 (ILB)]
It is my prayer that more sheep and their flocks will join us as we continue to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd as God leads us towards and through justice, piece by piece.
It took multiple flocks following the good shepherd, rather than the hired hand, to get us here. From the girl who pulled out her phone to record the murder and the people who called the police on the police, to the voters of Minneapolis who elected Attorney General Keith Ellison, the state’s first Black attorney general, and the police chief who broke years of police silence and testified against his fellow officer, multiple sheep in multiple flocks listened and followed the voice of the good shepherd to bring us to this point.
Yours by Grace,
Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Blessing us in these stories and the imagery of Jesus as the good shepherd, is the story of “The Lost Sheep,” of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine others to find the one who is lost. Basking in the promise this offers that each life matters, we say emphatically alongside this week’s court decision: Black. Lives. Matter.
Our younger students will read “The Lost Sheep” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. We’ll wonder about how the sheep might feel when it’s lost and then how it’ll feel when it’s found. We’ll pray, sing, and say goodbye with a blessing.
This week, our older students will read John 10:11-18 and we’ll talk about Jesus as the good shepherd. Last week, we read about Jesus as the way, truth, and life. I believe our conversation will lead rather seamlessly into this conversation about Jesus shepherding us.
Last week, our children read about heaven and embodying God’s love. We spent time dreaming about what heaven might be like and left with the affirmation that they could show the love of God just by being themselves. Trevor Allen joined us for our younger children’s worship. The children enjoyed meeting him and are looking forward to getting to see his famous puppets soon!
Joyfully yours, Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
(Illustration from Page 172 of the Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible)
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 Juan Gonzalez’sHarvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. 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, colonialism, and what God requires of us. We would love to have you join us and share your perspective, experience, hopes, and concerns.
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.