I hope this week you have started to see the path that God has put before you this Lenten season. Blooming with Vision means that with God you take in the wisdom of those who have come before you and the experiences that led you to now, to cast vision and guide your steps towards the world to come. When we cast vision with God, we give God the permission we need to let go of in order to bring a new way of being- one that is unexpected. Blooming with Vision prepares us for God in ways that are unfamiliar. It does not act as permission for the Kindom to come to us, rather for us to let go of our expectations of what God can and will do. In other words, God’s going to do what God’s going to do, so let’s prepare ourselves to help. A way in which we prepare ourselves is worship, which we hope you will join us for this Sunday at 11am. Another way we prepare ourselves is through prayer, so we hope you will take this opportunity to join us for Bloom in Prayer after worship on Sunday. This is a wonderful opportunity to pray one on one with one of our beloved Deacons.
Y’all, I believe all of scripture is imbued with the Spirit of God which allows it to continuously speak to us anew, but there are some texts that lay it out a little more clearly than others. Those texts are what I call the “how” scriptures. In my opinion, the “what” of our faith is most clearly shown in the holy week texts, but the “how” can sometime be a little more elusive because they come to us in the form of allegory or prose. But this week is a “how” scripture that in no uncertain terms tells us what to do. I have found that in seasons of chaos like grief, storms, and viruses a plain message is not only helpful but needed.
Our scripture this week comes from the book of Mark. Of the four Gospels, Mark is considered by most biblical scholars to be the first Gospel written. Mark is direct and forward in its teachings, which is perfect for this time in our lives. It is meant to get your attention and inspire You to action. Let’s read together this “how” passage from Mark.
Then Jesus began to teach them that the Promised One had to suffer much, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and religious scholars, be put to death, and rise again three days later. Jesus said these things quite openly.
Peter then took him aside and began to take issue with him. At this, Jesus turned around and, eyeing the disciples, reprimanded Peter: “Get out of my sight, you Satan! You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s!”
Jesus summoned the crowd and the disciples and said, “If you wish to come after me, you must deny your very self, take up your cross and follow in my footsteps. If you would save your life, you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you’ll save it. What would you gain if you were to win the whole world but lose yourself in the process? What can you offer in exchange for your soul? Whoever in this faithless and corrupt generation is ashamed of me and my words will find, in turn, that the Promised One and the holy angels will be ashamed of that person, when all stand before our God in glory.”
[Mark 8:31-38 (ILB) / Marcos 8:31-38 (NVI)]
Making sure the Disciples heard (that means You!) Jesus tells you to take up your cross and follow Jesus, but to not lose yourself in the process. This text is written for You- yes, You! It is a reminder that the work of Kindom building is a journey best done in community but dependent on the unique gifts of each of us. Being You with God is the “how” of the Gospel. Only You know your cross (your entry point into justice seeking work). Only You know who you are called to be. Only You know your best self and the needs to keep you healthy and whole. God is reminding us that each of us are needed for the work of the Kindom and that the only requirement is Your participation. You are what is needed and necessary to do the work of God here on earth.
Friends, you were created to be You. Everything that makes You- gender, passion, ability, experience, sexuality, health, race, joy, fear, etc.- is made in the holy image of God or Imago Dei and is made to serve the Kindom (this is why I am capitalizing You!). Only you know what your cross is and only you know when you are losing Yourself in the process. So, take a moment to check in with Yourself. Find a mirror and talk to Yourself- talk to God. Are you being your best You? What do you need to let Her shine? To let Him be heard? To allow Them the space to thrive? Do not lose Yourself in the process, but do not let the process stop you from picking up your cross to follow Jesus. The call is clear. The path is before us. All that is needed is You.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, I will pick up my cross and follow you. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
On Sunday, February 21, Pastor Kaji and Rev. Stephanie led the Children’s Ministry as I was at a wedding. Pastor Kaji and the older students read Genesis 9:8-17 in their Inclusive Language Bible and Rev. Stephanie and the younger students read “Noah” in their Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible.
I’m told the conversations were fruitful, that they discussed the Rainbow as a symbol of God’s presence, considering how often they saw rainbows and taking with them the knowledge that when they wanted to feel God’s presence, they could look for, or draw, or even just think about a rainbow. They prayed, sang, and said goodbye with a blessing.
As we turn our eyes towards the cross in this season of Lent, we will begin a short series with our children. Together, we will walk the week of time between Palm Sunday and the Crucifixion, and then, on Palm Sunday, we will revisit the celebration, keeping in mind all that is about to happen.
On Sunday February 28th, our older children will meet at 10 AM, and we will read Luke 19:28-44, one recounting of Palm Sunday. This marks the beginning of the series. We will spend the next five weeks reading a selection of scriptures from Luke 19-23 in an effort to understand all the events following Palm Sunday that lead up to and give context for Easter Morning. My hope is that this slower pace will allow us to really understand the order and significance of each piece of this section of Jesus’ journey to the cross.
Our younger children will follow this same storytelling structure. This Sunday, we will read the first section of “Jesus’ Last Days” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. Following this, we will read one section of this story a week until it is finished, then on Palm Sunday, we will re-read the whole story, putting all the pieces together and preparing ourselves for Easter. As always, we will pray, sing, and say goodbye with a blessing.
I’m looking forward to being back in Worship with you all this Sunday!
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 Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own, by Eddie Glaude, Jr. 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, and what God requires of us. We would love to have you join us and share your perspective, experience, hopes, and concerns.
For more information, please contact either Richard Sturm or Stephanie Wilson at the church.
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.