Picnic at Lippett Park 🍉 and last week of Sunday School!
Dear Friends in Christ,
Some questions to ponder in preparation for Sunday’s sermon:
Where do you see people placing their trust these days? What secular sirens do we hear every day that remind us of the contest between the Word and the World?
In what do you trust? What helps you recenter your trust and faith on God?
How have you heard the seed/kingdom of God parables that Jesus tells in Mark 4 interpreted through the years? Has your understanding of those parables evolved or changed and, if so, how?
As the world and our congregations emerge from the pandemic, how can these stories equip us with new eyes to see what comes next in life and in church? Do you believe that God can do a new thing? From where might that new thing emerge?
On my visit to Israel (the part that had once been Judah) we visited the Shepherd’s Field where myth tells us the shepherds were when the angels paid them a visit. Surrounding the outdoor chapel/gazebo, were hundreds of mustard seed weeds. That is what they are in Israel. Weeds. Their seeds are almost microscopic - certainly much smaller than the ones we can buy in the grocery store. Those tiny seeds had produced shrubbery that was enormous and invasive. If they hadn’t been tended, you could see the potential for them to take over the land.
In our Mark reading this week, Jesus the Christ tells two somewhat befuddling parables in only eight verses. In the first parable, we are left to ponder how the seed grows with little understanding by the planter, who might as well sleep until harvest. While we are puzzling over that parable, Jesus goes right on to the story of how the tiny and insignificant mustard seed becomes the “the greatest shrub of all,” sheltering the birds seeking cover.
We are left with many questions about these tales and we are not comforted when Mark writes that Jesus spoke in parables to his followers “as they were able to hear.” And then he explained everything privately to his disciples. Are we among those “able to hear”? What are we to think about this two-tiered system where God seems to reveal divine truths only to those who are the in-crowd?
Then, we are asked to trust. In today’s “alternate facts” culture, we are to trust? When so many people believe in a conspiracy theory about Satan-worshipping child molesters ruling America rather than God’s faith, hope, and love, we are to trust? When a major political party keeps alive the idea that the election was stolen, we are to trust?
For we Americans of a certain age, trust was part of the Reformed faith upbringing. Of course, we could trust our government. We believed in American exceptionalism. Somewhere along the way the church lost a generation or two because we failed to uphold the truth. The most recent news about church membership in houses of worship reported that the decline last year dropped below 50% for the first time. As we prepare to re-open we are left with many questions and not many answers. “Any pastor, elder, or member who confidently predicts what church will look like in six months or a year better not be trusted. All we know, as a friend said to me recently, is that life will not look like 2019. Anything beyond that is boastful arrogance or anxious prediction.”*
We are a work in progress as well as a church in progress. Through this time of uncertainty we are being asked to consider what our future will be. I’m not sure that is a question that can be answered readily. We must spend more time in small group discussions, hearing from everyone. We must lean into our faith’s mystery, of our already-and-not-yet faith. While so many of us are drawn to dangerous conspiracy theories and other secular sirens, we are invited to be at peace with a God who has proven throughout history to be sovereign.
Can we be at peace, not worrying about what we should be doing to move on and get ahead? Will we be open to God’s voice so that we may discern where we are being called? Can we live in God’s time and be at peace with where we are now?
In peace and grace, Deb
* John Cleghorn, The Presbyterian Outlook, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, “Looking into the Lectionary."
Last Week of Sunday School
This will be the last week of Sunday school before breaking for summer.
Grades 1-5: 9:30-10:00 am before worship
Youth Grades 6-12: at the start of the children's sermon (zoom link will be shared during worship, and also emailed in advance to the group)
Sunday Worship 6/6 @ 10am
Welcome to online worship with PPC. Youth grades 6-12 will meet for their final Sunday school session of the year at the start of the children's sermon.
By phone: call (646) 558-8656 and enter meeting ID 817 8173 3351
Click on the image below to open/download the worship bulletin and hymns.
While we are unable to pass the offering plate during worship, we hope you will continue to support the mission and ministry of the church if and as you are able—online, through your bank's bill payment system, or with a check mailed to the church (500 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02906). All offerings are gratefully received. Thank you!
We invite you to stay online after worship for our virtual coffee hour.
Transcripts and audio recordings of recent sermons can be found on our website here. Audio recordings of older sermons are available here.
PPC Picnic in the Park - Tomorrow
We're so excited to reconnect in person tomorrow at Lippitt Park!!
WHEN: This Sunday, June 13 @ Noon
WHERE: Lippett Park [map]
Please bring your own picnic and chairs/blankets.
The next PPC book group gathering will be on Saturday, June 26, from 10:00-11:30am to discuss Toni Morrison's novel, Home. We plan to continue meeting on zoom, since this format is more accessible for a number of people in the group.