Worship with us Sundays at 11 - Venga a adorar con nosotros los domingos a las 11
This is the power of love, this is the heart of the Christian message: accompany each other, do not be afraid. And that power of love is going to stop Ravi from being deported, and all these immigrants facing that danger. Join us in this struggle. Text “IStandWithRavi” to 41411 for more information – all one word: “IStandWithRavi” – Thank you.
Here at The Park, we have determined that we want to have some focus in how we dig deeper for 2018. And so, throughout this year we’re going to be focusing on three thematic areas: the first is “Pivot,” the second is “Power,” and the third is “Praise.” Pivot, Power, Praise. The first takes the season of Lent and Pivots us towards God. Because that’s what repentance is, it’s a pivot away from the things that would take away our focus on God, putting God first. The second season will be reflecting on the Power that the Holy Spirit gives us, both in community and in our communal nature, and especially in our own individual power. How does the Holy Spirit empower us for what God needs in this world right now, and God intends for our lives? And the third part is Praise. With all this Pivot towards God and living in our Power, how do we live a life of Praise? And so, we invite you to join The Park as we take this journey through 2018: from January all the way through December. You will find yourself living in your Pivot towards God, your Power in the Holy Spirit and your Praise for all that God is doing and has done and will do in your life. Amen. Amen.
Once upon a time someone challenged me to take a close look at my calendar and at my budget so that I could understand what my priorities are. And as I looked to see where I spent all my time, and how I spent all my money, I realize that I was putting all of my energy towards things that didn’t really matter that much to me. And what I wasn’t putting first was God. And so I had to completely shift my life. Of course, most of my time went to work. And work was obviously important, and I didn’t have a lot of choices around that, but what I did have a choice on was that I could start my day and put God first in the day. And setting my life up around that form of devotion helps for the rest of the day to go right. And so my challenge for myself and perhaps to you is to think how can we orient our lives so that we are putting God before everything else. We do have choices. We have chances to orient our lives towards holiness. And putting God first means putting God first in all our choices. Making sure our budget reflects our commitment to God. And our time reflects our commitment to serving God. That is how holiness infuses your whole life. And once you start that, you realize you were born for this. Amen.
Pastor Kaji’s full sermon is available here: https://www.parkavenuechristian.com/your-holiness-by-the-rev-kaji-dousa-jan-29-2018/
On Thursday, January 11, my dear friend, immigrant advocate, and executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition Of New York City, Ravi Ragbir, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as he went for his routine check-in – been checking in with Ravi for nine years – he has pending legal cases and he should not be deported. I say that from a legal perspective, but I especially say it from a moral perspective, as a woman of faith, remembering that Jesus himself was an immigrant and a refugee. And what Ravi has done is that he has helped immigrants and refugees not just here in New York City but across the country, to come out of the shadows and to stand strong and brave so that they can receive the legal help they need to stay in the country, and so that they don’t have to be afraid. They’ve been targeting our immigration leaders, by rounding them up – particularly the ones who are also immigrants – and putting them in detention. And I think they think that will break us. And they can weaken us by taking away our leaders, but what they don’t know is that we have a whole slew of people ready to stand in. And they can keep arresting us and they can keep taking us away, and trying to take us down, but we have God on our side, which means that we have the people to step up. I invite you to search your heart and find ways to support immigrants. I invite you to join the movement. I invite you to pray for the leaders of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, that they will melt the ICE. And they will stand on the side of righteousness and of Jesus. Because to oppose an immigrant is to oppose Jesus. We are all created in the image of God, no matter what country we come from, no matter what our circumstances are. And when we treat people as if they are not made in the image of God, then we are opposing God. And when we deport one we are deporting Jesus. So pray for the leaders of ICE. They have choices they can make. They have tremendous discretion and they can do the right thing. Amen.
Pastor Kaji’s full sermon is here: https://youtu.be/kZCDkD8TyYU
From The Rev. Kaji Douša:
News coming out this week makes us really need to think about Jerusalem.
I want to talk a little bit about something that a lot of people don’t understand about a certain strain of Christianity. And what they believe in is what we call “premillennial dispensationalism.” Premillennial dispensationalism is all about trying to figure out how we can prepare for Jesus’ coming. And people who adhere to this thought are concerned based on two passages out of scripture, one from First Thessalonians 4, and the other one from Revelation 20. And the Thessalonians passage talks about the rapture, and the Revelation 20 passage talks about the millennium. And what these folks would like is to make sure that they get to be raptured before the millennium comes – because they believe there will be a period of tribulation that nobody wants to have to live through.
This matters, politically, because this week President Trump declared that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And it’s all connected to this premillennial dispensationalist belief that Jerusalem has to be the capital of Israel in order for Jesus to come back. Here we are in the Advent season planning for Jesus’ return.
And this is scary, because it destabilizes the world unnecessarily. Because God doesn’t need our help getting things ready politically for Jesus. God needs our help socially. God needs our help structurally. God needs our help between human beings caring about every life in the Holy Land, and not just one group of people’s lives.
So we need to pay attention, Christians, and talk to our dispensationalist friends who would like to ignore the needs of, say, the Palestinians, or even of the Israelis, by making things very dangerous for them over there. And God forbid there be any further violence. In this Advent season, let’s pray. Amen.
I remember that the whale that bore Jonah in its belly held a prophet. The ones walking a road of pain sometimes are so close to their need of God that they can see and speak for God in a way that others might struggle to hear and to articulate. On this way of the Cross, I wonder what prophecy the God who will never stop shepherding has given to the refugee? I wonder, too, if we are ready to hear it from the refugee. From that prophet. To be inspired and heartbroken at the same time? To wonder and to be and to know all at once? And to want and to not want while being borne by the angels? In this gorgeous space of paradoxical beauty, despair, wandering and guidance, I offer this prayer:
God. God. Pull me out of the belly of this beast. Bear me to a land that would have me. Ready me for the journey. And may I never lose sight of where you are in it all. And when I do, carry me home, would you please? Amen.
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus tells people to “Be ready.” He says you want to keep your lamps trim and burning and you want to bring oil for the journey. And he describes the story of these women who were waiting for the bridegroom to come. They were waiting at the bride’s house, and, because the bridegroom was taking longer than they thought, they all fall asleep. And as they sleep, someone then comes and says, “OK, time to get up, time to go, go on to the bridegroom’s house.” So they get up and everyone goes to grab a lamp, because now it’s midnight, so it’s dark outside. They all get their lamp and half of the group, half of these women bring oil for the journey and the other half, who Jesus calls foolish, forget, and they don’t bring any oil. Or maybe they thought they didn’t need it. So as they head out with their lamps, the road is taking longer than they expect. And they find that the ones who weren’t prepared or didn’t have enough oil for the journey turn to the sisters and said, “Sis, can I have some oil?” But the sisters knew that they needed their own oil to make their way. And now, the ones who hadn’t prepared went out and it was midnight. I think they went to the bodega or the 24 hour pharmacy they thought they had enough money in the pockets and they went and they bought the oil and they came back it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the right kind of oil. And what we have to remember is this. God provides the oil. You can’t buy it in the store. We can’t take a detour off the road to go get it from some pusher on the corner. If we want the oil we need for this journey of faith to make it to that banquet, we have to remember that it comes only from God. Our faith has no source but the one who inspires faith in the first place. Nobody can give you your faith but God. When you remember that, then that oil will overflow from a cup that God will fill. And that’s God‘s promise to us: you will have all you need, because God is with you every step of that journey. Amen
See Pastor Kaji’s full sermon here: https://youtu.be/GHDiwdEcarE
Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of stories of abuses of power from people who call themselves religious leaders. Which is very easy to happen. And what I love about the Gospels is that they show us that Jesus was very familiar with this phenomenon. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, verses 1 through 12, Jesus describes the Pharisees and the scribes who would sit on Moses’ throne, he says, so you should listen to the word of God they teach, but – and this is fascinating and heartbreaking – he says, “Listen to what they teach, but do not do as they do,” because, basically, they are hypocrites, and they do not always embody the word of God. And we see this time and time again as Jesus says, these leaders, who want to put their burdens on everyone else because they can’t hold them themselves. And that’s what we have to address. That nobody should have to carry a burden alone. But if you do have a burden, it is not your responsibility to give it to someone else. That’s how we break the cycle. We say to leaders, “We’re not going to take on your stuff, you need to deal with it yourself.” We break the cycle by saying we believe in “servanthood” which places you as everyone else as equal. And you have to be just as accountable as do I. Religious servanthood from Jesus means that the first comes last and the last comes first. And if you’re around leaders who insist on being exalted to high places while exalting no one else, and pushing other people down, what they’re doing is precisely what Jesus said: they’re putting their burdens on us. On you. And you don’t deserve that. No one does. In Jesus name, Amen.