What a blessing to have such an active community of faith. There is so much going on this week: Soulfood Fellowship, YASS Movie Event, Worship, and the Bilingual Prayer call are just a few of the wonderful ways that you can stay involved with this community throughout the week. I hope you will join us!
This week Pastor Kaji and I went to Albany. It was my first time to our state's capital and after my experience I can assure you that I will be going back. We went as part of “Concerned Clergy for Choice,” to offer our voice and presence as a counter narrative to those who use religion as a source of oppression towards female bodily autonomy. I talked to people and listened to stories. Then I listened to how other people heard those exact same stories, and then repeated them to other people. Often the stories were pretty much the same, with a word or two mixed up or left out. But the intention of the narrative was the same and interpreted as I had understood it. Like a game of telephone.
But what happens when you are that one person in the game of telephone that doesn’t quite hear what is being said? Do you get a second chance to hear it? Or what if you heard it but don’t want to repeat what it said? Authentically hearing and be able to justly share what you heard is a huge part of what we ask lobbyists and politicians to do. It is also what the Bible asks us to do to. Scripture gives us many examples of how to listen to each other such as our text for this week from the book of 1 Samuel chapter 3.
1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!”[a] and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that the Lord told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that was told to you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let God do what seems good.” (1Sam 3:1-18 NRSV)
Samuel teaches us how to listen and really hear what is being said. Listening to others is a part of life, but really hearing people is a key piece of community. Samuel listened to God but couldn’t really hear God, he couldn’t really understand the message God was telling him, until Eli shed light on God's word for Samuel. Listening to God is only possible when we also listen to each other. Without each other we don’t get the whole part of God’s story, and it becomes harder to know the good news of God’s encompassing love and grace.
But it is hard work to build these communities. Communities that hear rather than listen. Communities that take responsibility for their actions. Communities that are sharing stories of justice and peace, fear and sadness, hope and joy. And then can share the intention of those stories, this holy gospel message with others. Communities like the one we are building here at The Park.
Friends, as we think about what God continues to tell us, and what we are willing to listen to, may we remember the Elis in our life that make it possible for us to deeply hear the word of God. In this game of telephone, if you are only listening to your neighbor, invite God into the conversation, and hopefully you will be able to really hear the messages of each other which are the holy words of God.
May we as a community truly hear the stories of each other and all those that may join us on our journey.
Update from Rev. Francesca Fortunato,
Children and Youth Ministry Leader
On Sunday, June 3rd, The Park Sunday School children read Mark 2:13-17. We discussed the criticism (and even downright hostility) that Jesus endured, for being friends with “tax collectors and sinners.” We thought about the ways that people in our own time and place can still face pressure to avoid making friends with people who are different from themselves, and the tendency to consider some people “in” and others “out.” For our creative response, we made collages, using pictures of people cut from magazines, to illustrate the people that Jesus would choose as friends today (short answer: “everyone!”)
On Sunday June 10th, we will read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. We will discuss the idea that children, as well as adults, can receive callings from God. The children will be invited to think about those things that God might be calling them to do. In response, we will write short poems or stories (whichever form each child prefers) about answering God’s call in our own lives. Blessings and joy!
A Congregational Meeting of Park Avenue Christian Church will take place on Sunday, June 24. At that time, a slate of nominees prepared and approved by the Nominations Team and the Ministry Council will be presented for vote, electing new leadership for 2018-2019.
Offices to be filled include the following: Ministry Council, Elder, Deacon, and the Nominations Team. If you —or someone you would recommend— would like to serve the congregation in any of these roles, please write your name and the position(s) for you or that person to serve, and give it to Richard Sturm, Secretary of the Congregation.
Please submit your nominations between now and June 15.