I hope this week has found you filled with the love of God and the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. As kids and teachers head back to school and as our lives have taken on new ways of “normal,” I continue to be struck by the tenacity of people to show up for each other. Keep it up, friends. I see you doing the most and doing it so well. These times are challenging and not what any of us had in mind for this year, but God is with us- guiding our steps and loving our people. We can do these hard things because we do them with God, and what a gift it is to be God’s people. We hope to see you this Sunday in SoulFood Fellowship, on Monday at Inspired Dialogue, and of course every Sunday for Children’s Sunday School, Bible Study, and Worship! Finally, many of you joined us for the first Inter-faith Bible Study with Park Avenue Synagogue last week, and it was a really lovely time. We hope you will all join us for the next one in October. As this community grows and creates new relationships with our Jewish siblings at PASYN, let us wish them l’shanah tovah, and hold them in prayer this weekend as they celebrate Rosh Hashana.
The breadth and depth of our scriptures is overwhelming at times. It is why often you hear me say, “I haven’t engaged in this text in a while,” because we have so much to learn and listen to in our scriptures each week, that sometimes you can go years without thinking of a particular text (or at least until it comes up again in the lectionary!). However, that is not how I feel about this week’s text. This week’s text is the text that at the beginning of the pandemic I cited most often.
It feels like both yesterday and years ago, that the news was telling us to ration toilet paper and other household items. You still can’t find consistent and reasonably priced Clorox wipes online. And there was a full two months where the only fresh produce I got consistently was onions. So, I would text my friends, “apparently (insert item) is the new manna,” because people took more than was needed. If I said that to you, would you know the reference? Manna was an edible substance from God for the Israelites who were hungry. Learn more about it (and where my reference comes from) in this week’s scripture from the book of Exodus.
The people of Israel said to them, “If only we had died by God’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat next to pots of meat and ate our bread till, we were filled! But now you have brought the whole community out into this wilderness to die of hunger!”
Then God said to Moses, “Look, I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people will go out and gather a day’s portion every day, so that I can test them to see if they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they brought in, it will be twice as much as the daily gathering.”
So, Moses and Aaron said to the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was God who brought you up out of Egypt.”
This story goes on to tell how some of the Israelites took more than they needed and woke up to worms and inedible bread. But why? They prayed in their hangry state (this may be the first documented example of hangry people- Ha!) and God answered; So, why did they not listen? Why did they panic and go against God’s plan? The truth is, they probably bought into the myth of scarcity- and we do it too. God tells us that we are provided for and yet we still take more than our share. For example, according to the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture we already grow enough food to feed 10 billion people a year (the world only has 7.8 billion in 2020), and yet we still have a local and global hunger problem. There are enough resources for humans to live just and equitable lives, if only we would learn to name what is ours to take, and then take nothing more. It would right size our priorities, our relationship to our communities, and our commitment to creation.
So, friends, what do you have more than enough of, and what will it take for you to share your excess? I don’t expect any of us to be able to answer that question overnight, but I do think the work of accountable community is to make sure each of us eventually do find an answer to that question- and then help each other get to work. There is enough y’all, there is enough.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, may I learn to take only my share. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday, September 13th, Rev. Cara and I led the children’s worship and lesson together, with me leading the children’s liturgy, and Rev. Cara reading the Bible story (Genesis 50: 15-21, plus some of the backstory about Joseph’s mistreatment by, and ultimate reconciliation with, his brothers.) We all talked about times in our own lives, when we had done unkind things, and needed others to forgive us, as well as those times when we were the ones being asked to forgive those who had harmed us. The children mentioned conflicts with siblings, cousins; schoolmates. They agreed that forgiving (and asking forgiveness) could be hard but (in the words of one child) “Worth it, because it’s very important.”
It was good to see the children’s faces again, and notice how much they had grown over the Summer. We got to do some catching up on each other’s lives, and I was pleased to learn that many of them had (even under the challenging pandemic circumstances) been able to swim, play outside, and have some fun adventures. They felt sad to say goodbye to Rev. Cara, but she assured them that she would keep in touch, and talked about visiting New York at some point in the future, when it would be safe to travel and be together in person. We thanked her for all of her wonderful work with the summer Sunday school, and let her know that we would keep her, and her family, in our prayers.
Next Sunday, we’ll be reading from the book of Exodus (12:3-6) using one of the new children’s Bibles that I ordered over the summer: The Beginner’s Bible, published by Zonderkidz (the children’s imprint of Zondervan.) I’m excited to start using that bible (as well as the other new ones) with the children. I love the illustrations, which capture wonderful facial expressions, bringing out the emotions of the characters in the stories. Reading from that bible makes my own inner child happy, and I expect that our Park Sunday school children will have great fun with it.
I hope that all of you have stayed healthy and safe over the summer, and that you are finding hope and inspiration, in church and your other communities, for the challenges and opportunities that will arise for us in this new program year.
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister
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.