“And even though the church I love has been the oppressor as often as it has been the champion of the oppressed I can’t let go of my belief in Church- in a universal body of belonging, in a community that reaches toward love in a world so often filled with hate.” - I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a world made for whiteness by Austin Channing Brown, Pg 21-22.
As you have heard, this year is all about commitment with our theme of COMMIT 2019. This is meant to be a touchstone theme with helpful tools to accompany you on your faith journey each month. January is Commit to Be Seen, and one of those tools this month is a book recommendation, I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. I recommended this book because it challenges the way white communities have allowed (or more often not allowed) people of color to be seen fully as God created them. This book opens up a helpful dialogue around spaces that have been claimed as “traditional” meaning “traditionally white,” and what is our responsibility to seek justice and deconstruct those embedded understandings and practices. I love this book and I hope you have started reading it and taking to heart what it means to “Be Seen” in today's world. Options to purchase the book are on the author's website, to get you started and to hopefully invite our leadership into faithful and prayerful conversation about what it means to do the work of deconstructing white supremacy - a task that The Park has been passionate about for as long as we can remember. This is not easy work, but it is holy work, and it is best accomplished together.
I am so thankful for each one of you and look forward to this year of growth and love together.
The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
Commit to Be Seen: Share Your Joy
What a week. I am so thankful for those of you who joined us in person and online last week for worship as we talked about what it meant to show up and be seen as a person of faith. January’s action item for COMMIT 2019 is to tell 5 people that you are a Christian. This helps us share that being a person of faith is an important pillar of our identities. It also helps us reclaim the space of what it means to be a person of faith in our communities, nation, and world. If it is safe for you to do so (we recognize that this may not always be the case), share this part of yourself with people in your life that may not know you are a Christian. Be Seen Christians! What a gift that would be to our world.
This week’s scripture is one of those passages that people know no matter their relationship with the church or even God; Jesus turned water into wine. But do you know the whole story? Did you know where he performed this miracle? Who else was there? Who did he perform it for? Let’s take a look at the scripture and get a deeper understanding of what happened during that special moment.
“2:1 Three days later, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there. Jesus and his disciples had likewise been invited to the celebration.
At a certain point, the wine ran out, and Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus replied, “Mother, what does that have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
She instructed those waiting on tables, “Do whatever he tells you.”
As prescribed for Jewish ceremonial washings, there were six stone water jars on hand, each one holding between fifteen and twenty-five gallons. “Fill those jars with water,” Jesus said, and the servers filled them to the brim.
“Now,” said Jesus, “draw some out and take it to the caterer.” They did as they were instructed.
The caterer tasted the water—which had been turned into wine—without knowing where it had come from; the only ones who knew were those who were waiting on tables, since they had drawn the water. The caterer called the bride and groom over and remarked, “People usually serve the best wine first; then, when the guests have been drinking a while, a lesser vintage is served. What you’ve done is to keep the best wine until now!”
Jesus performed this first of his signs at Cana in Galilee; in this way he revealed his glory, and the disciples believed in him.” (John 2:1-11)
Did you know that Jesus was at a wedding with his friends and his mom? Did you pick up on the fact that the first people to know were those not there to enjoy the party, but those that were there to serve and work? This is a theme throughout Jesus’s life that he shares his gifts and extra special connection with God, with those that were marginalized. Most often Jesus did his work and then went on his way, not discussing it with people at length. Sometimes saying nothing, sometimes just a sentence or two. Jesus reminds us that our actions are what is important. However sometimes we need to share the good work being done so that others who may not have seen it firsthand still get to experience it.
Jesus calls us to work. And sometimes we need to share the work we have done with God. Always to the benefit of glorifying God and with the humility shown to us in Jesus, but nonetheless sometimes we are called to share our own works. This may seem like we are bragging, or that we are making a competition of our faith, but like Jesus, sometimes the good news has to start with us. A way that I propose we can do that is again in this month’s commit to “Be Seen” action item of telling people that you are a Christian. Sharing that part of your identity, may surprise people and be the miracle they needed to hear to be their best self too.
Friends, I am thankful for a lot these days. I am thankful for Jesus. I am thankful for the joy I get when thinking of Jesus keeping the party going by turning water into wine! And I am also thankful for each and every one of you. Because you are who I get to share my faith with most often. And while it isn’t wine, it is definitely a gift that keeps on giving.
A quick prayer for your week: Thank you for sharing your joy. May the joy in me remind others of you. Amen.
Children and Youth Ministry Update
Dear Park People,
On Sunday 1/13/19, the Park Sunday school children read the story of the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17.) We disused some of the things that baptism can mean for people who follow Jesus today (joining the church, affirming devotion to Jesus; having a chance for a fresh start, after making mistakes.) We also focused on the expression of “great joy” that God spoke to Jesus on that day, and considered ways that we might be a part of God’s joy. (Children’s ideas included “Helping people,” “Being kind,” and “Making peace,” among others.)
For our creative response activity, we made a collaborative poster, filled with words and images about God’s joy.
On Sunday 1/20/19, the children will read the story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11.) We’ll speculate what it must have felt like to be a guest at that wedding and witness the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine? What might you think about Jesus, if you saw that happen, tasted the wine; heard everyone talking about how amazing it was?
For our creative response, we will do dramatic improvisation on this story, acting the roles of Jesus, Mary, the servants, the wine steward, and the guests. By putting ourselves right into the story, we will, hopefully, gain some insight into what this first public miracle meant to the first followers of Jesus.
Blessings and joy to you! Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister