What a gift it is to be with you all again. Thank you to all of you who came to Bloom with Community last night and a BIG thank you to Trevor for leading. It was so wonderful to get to learn and grow together. This Sunday don’t forget to come to YASS at 12:30 after worship and mark your calendar for Bloom in Conversation this Monday. Friends, for many of us, this week marks the year anniversary of when we last saw our loved ones in person. It was the last this community met in person. New spaces of grief may pop up. Remember to be gentle with yourselves. Your community is here for you and loves you.
This week our text is from the book of Numbers. It is a continuation of the Exodus story in which we find ourselves back in the wilderness with the Israelites. Wilderness is something that we understand more deeply during the Lenten season. And even more so this year as it has been exacerbated by social distancing and the continued threat of illness. Everything feels a little unruly this Lent. And that is where we find Moses and the Israelites this week too. They are alive after some pretty harrowing circumstances. They have no water or food. That is something many in the US have become intimately familiar with this past year. And they get mad and don’t act their best. Something we can all relate to as well. But through it all, God is ultimately faithful to them, and we know God will be for us as well. Let’s read together this passage from Numbers.
4 The Israelites traveled from Mount Hor along the road to the Sea of Reeds in order to avoid Edom. But the people grew impatient along the way, 5 and they addressed their concerns to God and Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? We have no bread! We have no water! And we are disgusted with this terrible food!”
6 Then God sent venomous snakes among the people. They fatally bit many of the people. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against God and against you. Intercede for us and ask that God remove the snakes from us.”
So, Moses prayed for the people. 8 And God said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on the end of a pole. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then whenever the people were bitten by a snake, they looked at the bronze snake and lived.
[Numbers 21:4-9 (ILB)/ Números 21:4-9 (NVI)]
Friends, it must be said, this is a challenging version of God. But that is okay, because God can handle our questions, our challenges, our curiosity, and our doubt. So, don’t be afraid to dig into this text deeply. But also, don’t miss the goodness God is doing too. God is talking to you and your community. God is guiding your steps. God is showing you the sins of this world and inviting you into life with God. When you wander in life and faith, and get stuck in the wilderness of your journey, God is with you.
This moment is big for the Israelites and carries on in our faith and life today. You see the bronze snake idol would have been so offensive to the spirit of the Israelites that the only reason to look at it is because they had faith in what God told them. Lifting their eyes to the idol for healing and salvation reminds us of the cross, as we head toward the cross this Lent. But in this season of healing, this story is also believed to have influenced the Rod of Asclepius, otherwise known as the symbol of medicine and healing. And friends, my hope is that more and more of you find healing and wholeness in this time – I’ll lift my eyes to that any day.
Beloveds, this week may we not look away from the suffering around, and may we also see how God is calling us into life-giving relationship with God through each other.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, Guide my steps in this season of lent. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Continuing our series on the events that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion, on Sunday March 7, we read about Jesus’ time in the Upper Room with his disciples. We discussed foot washing and servant leadership in particular.
At 10 AM, our older students met to read John 13:1-17. We learned some of the cultural context of foot washing, then pondered the significance of Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples’ feet and what his words mean for us. We dwelled on his words, “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” We talked about equality, equity, and issues of justice. We also talked about the ways these words gave us confidence that everyone’s voice matters.
At 10:30 AM, our younger children followed this same story line. Last Sunday, we read the second section of “Jesus’ Last Days” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. We talked about foot-washing, communion, and how it would have felt to be there with Jesus and his disciples. As always, we said prayers, sung, and said goodbye with a blessing.
This week, our older students will read Luke 22:39-53 and our younger students will read the third section of “Jesus’ Last Days” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. In both groups, we will review what we’ve heard of the story so far, read the new text, then talk about where we believe the story will go next and how the story matters for our lives. We will pray, sing, and say goodbye with a blessing.
This marks the halfway point in our Lenten Study. We’ve only 3 more weeks until Easter Sunday. It is my prayer that you and yours are finding meaning in this wilderness.
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.