"Bread for Our Journey" is a new online approach to faith development you can do as an individual, in informal small groups, or as a family.
This weekly collection is curated and written by Saint John's staff.
These reflections are intended to deepen our understanding
of scripture, to open our awareness of different voices and wisdom,
and to broaden our spiritual practices that bring creativity and justice to our world. 
July 25th 2021
This the ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

This week we conclude our series "Bird by Bird". Birds appear in Scripture multiple times. Jesus, the psalmists, and the prophets call us to look to birds as examples of strength and trust. In July, Saint John’s will borrow this wisdom for a worship series. Look up with us to the birds of the air to learn more about the God of creation and God’s hopes for our lives.

Read the scripture below and choose how you journey through this week's reflection questions, poetry, activities, and more.
Our scripture for today is taken from the worship reading for this Sunday.

Mark 4:30-32

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
NRSV Translation
Use these questions as prompts to journal
on your own or to reflect in discussion
with family or friends.
What words would you use to describe the kingdom of God?

The mustard seed is one of the tiniest seeds that Jesus could have referenced, and it grows to be a wild and massive plant. Mustard plants were banned from gardens in first century Palestine because they are an invasive species that would grow anywhere and take over. 

Have you heard these words about the mustard plant (wild, massive, banned, invasive) to describe the kingdom of God?

How does your vision of the kingdom of God change if you describe it this way?
Each week through this season, Executive Director of the Travis Audubon Society and Saint John's member Nicole Netherton has shared a way to learn more and connect with our avian neighbors.

Make Peanut butter bird food*
Birds have lots of different foods available at nature's buffet table, but sometimes they need extra energy-- when they prepare to migrate, or especially when the weather is cold. This recipe is a great way to supplement birds' diet and enjoy some time together in the kitchen. You can spread this food on pinecones and hang from tree branches, or use a fork to smoosh it directly on tree trunks. Watch how many different kinds of birds come to enjoy it!

3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup Crisco
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
Cream together shortening and peanut butter, then stir in cornmeal and oatmeal.
Spread on the feeder or branch of your choice!
Refrigerate any unused portion of Mama C’s Cardinal Cookie Dough until needed.

*Nut-Free Recipe found here

Image: Oranage-crowned Warbler on the Kyles’ feeder log. Photo courtesy of the Kyles.
These activities can be spiritual practices for your mind, body, and heart, they are ways to help bring love and hope.
Living in Wonder

Often we take the same walk around our neighborhood or drive the same path to work. We listen to the same news outlets and talk with the same group of friends for input and advice. We read the same authors and watch the same genre of shows.
For various reasons, we make our world smaller and limit ourselves and our perspective on the world.
But God is too great and the world it too wide.

How can you be curious and expand your worldview this week?

"It is not our differences that divide us; it is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." ~ Audre Lorde

"How many times when the topic of division comes up do you hear someone talk about how 'much we all have in common'? Like focusing on our commonalities will somehow erase the realities of the things that keep us divided. Sigh/ugh
Maybe we all need to memorize this [quote above] for the inevitable next time that happens. Division must not be blamed on difference." ~ Austin Channing Brown

How can you recognize, accept, and celebrate difference this week?
Loving in Beloved Community

Jesus used the term "kingdom of God" as a direct response in contrast to the powers at work his time. Today, we don't have kingdoms in the same sense, and the direct response to our systems in power now could be "government of God" or "monopoly of God", neither of which roll off the tongue quite so well.

Some have begun to use the term "kin-dom of God" to reclaim and recast this notion that Jesus taught. Kin-dom evokes a sense of beloved community together.
The mustard seed parable highlights the organic, relational, and messy kin-dom of God. In this kin-dom, we relate to one another in genuine ways, caring for our siblings in Christ as Jesus taught us.

A big part of how we are called to care is to love one another as we would love ourselves. The practice of empathy is exactly that.

Click on the video short above to watch Dr. Brené Brown describe empathy in a way we can all relate to.
Resting in God

Sometimes resting in God looks like working against the grain. Listening to God's guidance for your life can give a deep rest and sense of peace and fulfillment.

Watch the video "Learning To Fly", a StoryCorps animation and mini-autobiography with birder Drew Lanham.

Drew took courage and stepped away from what was expected of him. His family told him to become an engineer, and he tried to follow that path. But just like the birds leaving the nest, he had to learn on his own to fly.
This week's prayer comes from Tea Gonzales, St. Therese Catholic Grade School, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Thank you Lord for all you’ve made.
Thank you for the trees, flowers, butterflies, animals,
and people you have created in your image.
Thank you for letting me share in the joy of your beautiful creation.
Your light shines bright in my heart
and I will do your will to protect the paradise of Earth.
Thank you for blessing me with the gift of the world and making me in your image
and creating me with the beauty of all things you made.
I am grateful for the love you have shown me by placing me on this Earth
with all the other things big and small. I love you God.
The egret pictured above was photographed by Saint John's member Mike Wolfe
at Murphy Park as part of a wildlife photography class in March of 2019.
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If you have questions or suggestions for this curriculum, 
click here to email Shelley Walters and Laura Schwarcz.

Saint John's United Methodist Church | 512-452-5737 | stjohnsaustin.org