I hope that this week has you reflecting on all the ways you prepare in your life. Preparing for the safety needed to gather. Preparing for a holiday alone. Preparing for a meal – or meals! (Ha! I’ve seen some of y’alls menus for the week). Preparing for time away. And preparing for the ranging emotions that can accompany the holidays. We prepare in so many ways for so many things, that I hope you find the comfort that I do, in knowing that in every stage of preparation God is with you. This week besides being a holiday week, we have some wonderful news to share with you.
We have brought on Minister Nordia Bennett to lead our Children and Family ministry. Their first Sunday is this Sunday and all children, youth, and their families are invited to join in Children’s Bible Study (10am is 4th grade and up, 10:30 is 3rd grade and under) so that you can all get to know each other. Minister Nordia’s bio is in today’s newsletter and can also be found on our website. We know they will make an incredible addition to the staff and help shepherd our young members as they learn and grow in their faith. Finally, Stephanie Wilson and I have been working around the clock to prepare and ship the Bloom in Advent kits. If you registered for yours, you should be getting it soon. As you unbox it and each week as you use it, we hope that you will share your experience with us via email of by tagging The Park on your social media platforms. Let’s share in the experience of Advent together and Bloom together as community. Finally, as always, we look forward to seeing you this Sunday in worship at 11am as we explore Advent 1 and what it means to hope in this Season.
Friends, this week’s newsletter reflection is an invitation to explore the text through different experiences. Think of it as a mini- Bloom curriculum. There are things to hear, read, and see, and each are followed by some questions to consider. Today’s newsletter exercise can be done by yourself or even in groups. I hope you have some fun with it and that it brings you closer to God and beloved community in new ways.
There are two texts that I am going to be using this Sunday. The first is 1Cor. 11:23-26 from the First Nations Version An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament. This translation of the Bible was written by and for Indigenous and First Nation Christians and communities so they might see themselves, their culture, and their traditions in the Bible without stereotypes or appropriation, but all faith communities are invited to use it as well. I chose this text and this translation because it’s about communal gathering, food, and hope. This week as we gather for Thanksgiving and Advent 1, I could think of no better text for us to explore all that this week holds.
1Cor. 11:23-26 (FNV) The Ceremonial Meal of the Chosen One This is the sacred tradition that came from our Honored Chief, a tradition that I have received and passed on to you: On the night that Creator Sets Free (Jesus) our Honored Chief was betrayed, he took some frybread. He then gave thanks to the Great Spirit, broke the frybread into pieces, and said “This is my body, broken for you. Eat it to remember me.” In the same manner, when the evening meal was over, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks to the Great Spirit, and said, “This cup represents the new peace treaty, brought into being at the cost of my lifeblood. Whenever you drink this cup, drink it to remember me.” For until our Honored Chief returns, each time you ceremonially eat from this frybread and drink from this cup, you are retelling the story of his death and its full purpose and meaning.
CONSIDER: What is a favorite food of yours that comes from your family, culture, or has significant meaning to you? What does it take to prepare it? How would you feel if that food was used to remember the life of Jesus every time you ate it? IS hope a word that you ever use to describe food?
The second scripture, Luke 1:26-32 is from Dr. Wil Gafney’s A Woman’s Lectionary for the Whole Church. This lectionary is an incredible resource that we will be using in the coming year and this text is about Mary learning of her pregnancy with Jesus. When preparing for something you must start at the beginning. We can’t make a pie without first getting the ingredients and breaking a few eggs. In that same understanding, we can’t get to the birth of Jesus without a pregnancy, and this one came as quite a shock.
Luke 1:26-32 (Gafney-Year W) In the sixth month the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee, Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the House of David. And the name of the virgin was Mary. And the Angel came to Mary and said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Most High God is with you.” Now, she was troubled by the angels words and pondered what sort of greeting this was. Then the Angel said to her, “Fear not Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
CONSIDER: Has someone ever give you news out of the blue, that changed your life? How did you feel? Did you believe them? Who did you turn to for comfort? Where did you find hope? How did that experience prepare you for the unexpected in life?
In 2019 four solo americana and country artists formed the band “The Highwomen.” Their debut album was an incredible journey as they broke the barriers of traditional themes in the Americana/Country genre by singing about their real lives including chosen family, equality, and expansive love. My favorite song off their self-titles debut album is called “Crowded Table.” You can listen to it wherever you get your music or watch this video of them and some friends preforming the song together.
CONSIDER: What kind of preparation goes into feeding a crowded table? What about creating a crowded table? Have you ever had to extend the table to make room for more people? Have you ever hoped to join a table that you weren’t invited to? We often think about the Disciples at the Last Supper, but we know that so many more people were there. It was a crowded table. What can you do, to make room for people to join your table and feel welcome? What can the church do?
This week I typed into a search engine “Feeding people” and I pulled the following three images. Take a look at them and see if they speak to you about preparation, hope, and thanksgiving.
CONSIDER: This week many of us will prepare to feed people in various stages of life. Where do you see God ‘s hope at work in these photos? In your life what does it mean to be fed? Is that different than how you understand being fed in your faith? What is same or different about both of those understandings?
If you are not an Indigenous or First Nation person, it is probably likely that you, like me, and like many of us grew up with the myth of the first thanksgiving. And while we know that the colonizers and the Indigenous First Nation people were not having a shared meal as friends, many of us have not learned the actual history. We know that preparing takes work, so as you prepare to learn and research the truth about those that came to colonize North America and the experiences of the Indigenous people, I invite you to look up where you live and learn about the Indigenous people who lived there first.
CONSIDER: What did you learn about the Indigenous people? What questions do you have about the land you are on? What will you do to prepare to seek answers for those questions that you have – and the more that will come? If you met the Indigenous people of your land, what would you say to them? What is a prayer of lament and recognition, that you would hope to share with them?
Friends, I want a crowded table filled with you, Jesus, and everyone else. However, as we continue to fight a global pandemic and while we still have populations that are unable to get vaccinated, I recognize that gathering might be possible for some and not possible for others. If you find yourself alone this year for the holidays, please know that I am praying with you and for you and so is your whole church family. The communion table is my favorite place in the world. Even if I am the only one there, I know I am there with God. So here is a service of communion for you this Thanksgiving, so that we prepare, remember, and hope together – even if we are apart – God is always with us.
CONSIDER: That you are a beloved child of God, learning, growing, loving, and hoping with each new day and each new experience. May this meal shared together, help you prepare and hope for all that is yet to come.
I am so thankful for you all and am humbled to serve God with you this day and always.
Simple Prayer: O Holy God, we give thanks for all that you are, we commit to the preparation necessary to Bloom into all that you made us to be, and we hope for the good news of what is yet to come. Amen.
A womanist scholar, holistic spiritual educator, and recent graduate of Union Theological Seminary, Nordia believes the revelation of God is here and now on earth waiting to be experienced. Nordia works full-time as the Program Coordinator of the Upstander Program at Center for Anti-Violence Education where she facilitates dialogue on the ways in which we can engage and show up for others in community using non-violent communication and self-defense empowerment tools. When she is not working, she enjoys a cozy cafe setting to drink matcha lattes with oat milk. You can also catch her binge watching the latest Netflix show. It is their joy to design pleasurable participatory experiences where community is cultivated and people have freedom to make different choices with new knowledge. Nordia’s ministry is dedicated to decolonizing and expanding our understanding of God and capacity to witness God in our lives.
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.