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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 9, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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The Day of Pentecost May 31, 2020

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

Last week, we read that Jesus ascended to heaven and the disciples returned to the upper room in Jerusalem to pray and wait expectantly for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Jewish tradition, Pentecost, or the feast of Weeks, came fifty days after the first day of Passover. James D. Newsome tells us that the Jewish feast of  Pentecost marked the end of the celebration of the spring harvest. This is why there were devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world—to celebrate the feast of Pentecost or Weeks.

But this feast was also the beginning of another season, which lasted until the feast of booths or tabernacles. On that feast, the people offered the first fruits of the fields to God. 

Newsome writes, “Pentecost/Weeks is thus a pregnant moment in the life of the people of God and in the relationship between the people and God. Or to put the matter more graphically, but also more accurately, Pentecost is the moment when gestation ceases and birthing occurs. Thus, it is both an end and a beginning, the leaving behind of that which is past, the launching forth into that which is only now beginning to be. Pentecost therefore is not a time of completion. It is moving forward into new dimensions of being, whose basic forms are clear but whose fulfillment has yet to be realized.”  (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year A, p. 329.

The disciples are gathered. Jesus has told them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. A rushing wind sweeps in, the desert wind, the ruach, symbolizing the power of the Spirit. Flames of fire dance over the heads of the disciples, and they speak in all the languages of the known world. They are filled with the gifts of the Spirit.

We say that the feast of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The Spirit comes upon the disciples to shower gifts upon them and set their hearts on fire, and from that point, the new faith spreads over the known world.

In our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we read his stirring description of the Church as the Body of Christ, with each member given different gifts, all of the gifts empowered by the same Spirit. All the members of the body are one, as Jesus and the  Father and the Spirit are one. We have all been baptized in the Spirit—everyone, no matter what our nationality or previous religion or gender or status in life, or race, or any of the other things we use to divide ourselves. All these distinctions are  gone—we are all one in Christ. Each person is precious in the sight of God. All members are equal as the Body builds itself up in love.

Newsome’s comment that Pentecost is a moment of birthing, a leaving behind of what is past, and a launching forth into something new which is just beginning, rings forth with the truth of the Holy Spirit.

“Peace be with you,” our Lord says in that first evening of the first Easter day. Shalom is the word he uses. He walks through walls of fear to say that word.

Here are some glimpses of shalom. Isaiah 11:6-8a “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, ad the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”

Walter Brueggemann: “That persistent vision of joy, well being, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible, and a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness…It bears tremendous freight, the freight of a dream of God that resists all our tendencies to division, hostility, fear, … and misery. Shalom is the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation.  (Brueggemann,  Living Toward a Vision, p. 16.)

Retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori: “Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.” (Jefferts Schori, A Wing and a Prayer, p. 33.)

This past Friday, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other faith leaders called us to a service of lament and mourning for the more than 100,000. Americans who have died of Covid 19. We will also be mourning the death of George Floyd, who was killed this past Monday by a police officer in Minneapolis.  On May 24, Dr. Matthew W. Hughey, a member of the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, had an article in the Hartford Courant entitled “There’s another pandemic besides the corona virus that we must fight: racism.”  Ever since white people brought African people to America in 1619 to sell them as slaves, we have unsuccessfully grappled with what Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community calls “America’s Original Sin.” The full title of his 2017 book is “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.” 

There is much to mourn and lament, so many lives lost to both pandemics. Dr. Martin Luther King has said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

If James Newsome is right about Pentecost being a time for birth,—and I think he is right—maybe, just maybe, with God’s grace, we can all come together and begin to listen to each other and learn from each other and find that bridge, or those many bridges, that Wallis is talking about. I pray that we can. I pray that we can live in peace as brothers and sisters. Because that is the vision our loving and healing God is calling us to fulfill. May we lean on the everlasting arms of God. May we trust in the power of God. May we bring all of God’s gifts of love and wisdom to heal both these pandemics.

May we now pray the Prayer for the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Easter 7A, May 24, 2020

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

Our opening reading today describes what happened on the feast day the Church celebrated this past Thursday, the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. He has been telling the disciples that he has to go to the Father and that he will send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. 

There he is with them on Mount Olivet. They ask him if he is going to bring in his kingdom. He tells them that it is not for them to know the timing, but then he assures them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and that they will be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth.”

Let us take a few moments and think about this. Jesus has been telling them that he will go to be with God and will send the Holy Spirit, but there is a huge difference between hearing him say these things and standing there watching him rise into heaven, leaving them alone and grief-stricken. 

We can imagine that the apostles felt completely lost as they watched him ascend. He said he would not leave them comfortless, but I think they felt sad and lost as they gazed up into the heavens and saw him disappear behind that cloud.

Two angels appear and ask them why they are staring up to heaven. These angels obviously are not very sympathetic. Then the angels tell them that Jesus will come to them again. This seems to help. They recall that he had told them that he would come again.

Sometimes the Bible leaves things out. We can imagine what a shock it was for the apostles to see Jesus disappear. They had spent every waking moment with him for somewhere between eighteen months and three years, depending on which gospel we are reading. In any case, it was a long time. They had shared meals; they had prayed together; he had taught them; when they had questions, there he was to answer those questions. When they wondered what was the best course of action,  he was there to guide them. Now, he was gone. What would they do? Who would be their leader? We can imagine that perhaps they wept. Perhaps they felt abandoned. They could have felt a whole flood of emotions.

But the scripture does not address that. It simply says, “Then they returned to Jerusalem.” When they got there, they went to that familiar upper room. And Luke tells us who was there—Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. Also Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the other women who had been there through it all. And Jesus’ brothers. And we are told that they constantly devoted themselves to prayer. He had told them to wait and pray, and the Spirit would come to them, and that is what they did.

We were not physically there when all of this happened, but this story is our story. We did not have the great joy of spending several years with Jesus in a literal sense, but we do have the privilege of knowing him because we have spent time in community together with each other and with him. We have felt his love. He has taught us as we have read the scriptures together. He has led us as we have sought his guidance in prayer together and individually. We have shared the Eucharist, the meal at which he is our host. We have talked to him and listened to him, individually and corporately.

We have not literally stood and watched him ascend, yet we have gazed in awe at the beautiful window over the altar at Grace. As we have looked at that window, we have joined the apostles in watching Jesus ascend, and we have tried to figure out which apostle is whom.

We have not experienced in a literal sense the shock of watching our beloved Lord ascend into heaven, which may be a great blessing, because we have not experienced the sense of loss they must have felt. But we have experienced his presence with us.

That is the important thing. We have experienced his presence. We are his sheep. He is our good shepherd.

Our gospel for today is our Lord’s prayer to God for us.  Jesus says to God, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine.” At other times he has said that he and God are one. I have no doubt that the apostles felt that, as they were walking and talking with Jesus, they were walking and talking with their loving God. As Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

At the end of our gospel, Jesus prays, “And now I am no longer in the world, but they ( meaning his followers, us) are in the world.”  And then Jesus prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

As we stand and watch out Lord ascend to be with the Father, and as we realize on deeper and deeper levels that Jesus is God walking the face of the earth, and as we think of all the time we have spent with our Lord, sharing Eucharist with him and learning from him, and as we realize more and more profoundly that Jesus, God, and the Spirit are one, and as we pray, we may be able to get a sense of what was happening with the apostles all those years ago as they stayed together and prayed, as he had told them to do, and waited actively, expectantly, faithfully, for the coming of the Spirit just as we will do this week as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost.

Jesus asked God to protect us, his followers, so that we may be one as Jesus and God are one. Our Lord was praying in a world where a ruthless empire could kill you for no reason, just as Covid-19 can snuff us out. Our Lord prayed for protection for his followers, and I am hoping and praying that each of us can feel that protection coming from God so that we can feel as close to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Jesus did to his heavenly Father. And I hope and pray that this sense of closeness with and protection by our Loving God will bring you a deep peace, even in the midst of this most distressing pandemic. Our loving God is as close as our breath. Our loving Shepherd. Jesus, is leading us. May we wait and pray for the gifts of the Spirit at Pentecost. 

May we pray together the Collect for Ascension Day, p. 226.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he  fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in gory everlasting.  Amen.

Easter 6A  May 17, 2020

Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:7-18
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, a year has passed since last Sunday’s reading. Saul has met our Lord on the road to Damascus, and he has been completely transformed from a person who wanted to kill all the followers of Jesus into an outstanding and gifted teacher and preacher. So profound is his transformation that he has a new name—Paul.

He has preached and taught many people in Asia Minor, which today we call Turkey, and now he has crossed over into Greece. He has endured many hardships. He has spent time in prison; he has been driven out of towns for preaching the good news, and now he is in one of the great cultural centers of the world, Athens.

Just before this passage begins, in verse 16, Luke tells us that Paul “was very distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” Yet, when Paul stands in front of the Areopagus, a place where philosophers presented and discussed their ideas, he frames that observation in a different way. He says, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.” Paul notes that they have even dedicated a monument to an unknown God, and then he quotes the Greek poet Epimenides, who wrote that in God, “We live and move and have our being.” In a spirit of knowledge of and respect for their traditions and scholarship, Paul preaches about God and Jesus. When he is finished, some of his listeners scoff, some say that they want to hear more, and some follow him. One of Paul’s great gifts was the ability to approach his listeners where they were, to listen to them, to learn about and respect their culture. As we try to share the good news in our culture, we need to follow Paul’s example.

Once again, in our epistle, Peter is addressing new Christians who are experiencing persecution. Peter is encouraging these people to continue to do good rather than retaliate with evil, and to show the hope that is in them and conduct their lives with gentleness and reverence. One note. The text says to do all these things, “if suffering should be God’s will.” Suffering is never God’s will. God’s kingdom is one in which everyone has a safe place to live, nourishing food, clothing, medical care, and good work to do. Suffering is not something that God inflicts on us. It is something we inflict on each other. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with each other.

But there is suffering on this earth, and in the midst of this pandemic, we see that very clearly. Some of our brothers and sisters are suffering and dying in disproportionate numbers during this time. God is calling us to bring justice to this situation.

In our gospel, our Lord says, If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He says that he will send the Holy Spirit to energize us to spread his love around the whole wide earth. He says, “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” This led me to meditate on how important it is to seek truth and to listen to those who speak the truth in love. 

One of our truth tellers is Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has served as the Director of the Institute of National Allergy and Infectious Diseases since November 2, 1984, through the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. This past week, in the face of great pressure to open up the country and get back to business as usual, Dr. Fauci called all of us to move carefully and follow the science.

Much closer to home, we have another truth teller, our own Governor, Phil Scott. He has been calling us to follow the science all along as Dr. Fauci has, and he has called upon Dr. Mark Levine, our Commissioner of Health, to give us the facts we need in order to act wisely and save lives. This past Wednesday, Governor Scott also spoke truth on a different issue. There had been an encounter in Hartford, Vermont which involved verbal abuse with racial overtones. Governor Scott addressed this issue and said, “This virus cannot be used as an excuse for hatred, division, or bigotry.” Dr. Fauci, Governor Scott, Dr. Levine, and so many others are speaking the truth in a time when we deeply need to hear the truth.

Our Lord says of the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit: “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” In other words, we can recognize when God’s Holy Spirit is at work in a person or in a situation. We can recognize when people are calling us to live in God’s love. As our Presiding bishop has said, “It’s all about God’s love.” God’s love calls away from hatred division, and bigotry and toward compassion, unity, and understanding of others.

We in Vermont are fortunate to have leaders who respect scientific findings and reliable data abut pandemics and about the Corona virus. Please continue to follow the guidance of Governor Scott,  Dr. Levine, and our other leaders. And please continue to listen to Dr. Fauci and others on the national level who are speaking the truth.

Our Lord has gone to be with God. He is no longer here with us. We are his risen, living body here on earth. As he said, he has not left us orphaned. He has not left us comfortless. He said, “You will see me; because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

In this pandemic, as our beloved Presiding Bishop has said, love is about taking care of each other. At this time, love is abut continuing with social distancing, wearing masks when we are around others, and all the other things our truthful leaders are telling us. God gave us minds and calls us to use them. In these very strange times, God’s love is about listening to people who are telling the truth. May God continue to bless and protect Dr. Anthony Fauci, Governor Scott, Dr. Levine, and all truth tellers.   And may God lead us and guide us in the way of love. Amen.

Easter 5A May 10, 2020

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

In our very short first reading from the Book of Acts, the community of followers of Jesus has been growing by leaps and bounds. As we learned last Sunday, the community takes care of its members. In the portion of Acts that precedes today’s reading, the apostles have gotten so busy trying to teach people and preach the Good News, that they ask the community of faith to appoint seven men of good repute to take on the ministry of distributing food to the poor. This is a ministry of servanthood, diaconia, and these men are the first deacons in the Church.

Among these seven men is Stephen, a man full of the Holy Spirit and the love of God. In our passage for today, Stephen has been preaching about the history of God’s people and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Some of the people listening to Stephen accuse him of blasphemy. In the portion we read today, Stephen is stoned to death by an angry mob. As he is dying, Stephen asks God to forgive these people who are killing him. Stephen is the first Christian martyr, and we celebrate his feast day on December 26, the day after Christmas.

There is a brief mention in this passage of a man named Saul, who witnesses this horrible event. People leave their coats with him. Saul of Tarsus is on a personal campaign to wipe out the followers of Jesus. Very soon, on the road to Damascus, he will meet the risen Lord and his life mission will change from hate to love.

In our epistle from the First Letter of Peter, we read that Jesus is the living stone, the foundation of the Church. To paraphrase the scripture, Jesus calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Stephen shows forth that light in his life and ministry, and in his death as well.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is aware that he is going to the cross. He is trying to be sure that his closest followers understand everything that they are going to need to know about him so that they can carry on his ministry.

First, our Lord tells his disciples and us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God,  believe also in me.” He is telling them and us that he is going to die, and he wants to make our faith as strong as possible.

So he talks about heaven, and he says some unforgettable words that have comforted people over all the centuries since he first said them. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” he says. I like the King James version, too. “In my father’s house are many mansions.” It gives us such a sense of the expansive, inclusive nature of heaven. It also makes us think twice. In my father’s house are many dwelling places, or many mansions. A house is a dwelling pace, A house could be a mansion. But how does a house contain many mansions or many dwelling places? What he is trying to tell us is that heaven is big. There is plenty of room for everyone. God’s love includes everyone. As Archbishop Tutu says, “God has a big family.” So, if we or the disciples are worried about getting into heaven, the point is that God wants us to be there. God is not trying to shut people out. God is trying to welcome people in. Some people think that there are a lot of rules and regulations about getting into heaven. But, as someone has said, God is a lover, not a lawyer. Everyone is welcome in heaven.

And then Jesus says, “You know the place where I am going.” And Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.” And that is when Jesus says to him and to us,”I am the way and the truth and the life.” The conversation goes on, The disciples are trying to grasp some very difficult concepts about God.

Finally Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Later on, he will say, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is telling his disciples and us that if we have seen him, we have seen God. In the entire history of God’ s people, God was seen as very scary. People were taught that they could not see God and live. 

Now Jesus is telling us that by seeing him and walking with him and learning from him about the power of love, we have seen God. And then he says something that blows all the circuit breakers in our minds. He says, “Very truly, I tell you. the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.”

Our Lord says that we will do greater things than he has done because he is going to the Father. He is going to send the Holy Spirit, and is commissioning us to carry on his ministry. Stephen heard that commissioning loudly and clearly, So did Saul, after our Lord straightened out his thinking. Of course, we know him as St. Paul.

What are these readings saying to us in this time of pandemic? We have the account of Stephen’s martyrdom. He was a deacon. He was given a ministry of servanthood. May we serve others in the Name of Christ. Thank you Lord, for the ministry of our food shelf servants, several of whom are among us, and their number is growing.

At the beginning of this Covid 19 journey, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was asked about social distancing, or maybe we should call it physical distancing. He said that this distancing is all about God’s love. God wants people to be safe. We are doing this out of love for our brothers and sisters. We are wearing masks for the same reason—to keep from giving the virus to others. It’s about love. 

Like Stephen and the other deacons, we are called to be servants. These days, we are especially called to serve and help those who cannot work from home and are risking their lives to do everything from ministering to the sick to stocking shelves in grocery stores. We are also called to help those who have lost their jobs. We are going to have to extend financial and other help to them so that they can feed their families. We are going to have to think as the early Church thought. God calls us to take care of each other.

I also ask your prayers for our brothers and sisters in areas where folks are opening shops and restaurants and trying to return to normal when the numbers of new cases and deaths are still rising. We pray that they may decide to stay safe.

It’s all about love. God is calling us to use our minds and our hearts. God is calling us to seek and to do God’s will. May we seek the mind of Christ. May we seek the love of God. May we seek the wisdom of the Spirit. Amen.

Easter 4A   May 3, 2020

Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23, p. 476
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

Today is one of my favorite Sundays in the Church year, and I hope it is one of yours, too. This is Good Shepherd Sunday, the Fourth Sunday after Easter. Our opening reading, continuing the study of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, tells us something about the community life of the early followers of Jesus.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of head and the prayers, just as we have promised to do in our baptismal vows. They shared their resources. The scripture says they “had all things in common.” They helped those who were in need. They celebrated the breaking of the bread. They were grateful for all of God’s gifts to them, and they were generous. And their number kept growing.

Our psalm for today is one of the most powerful and beloved psalms in the Bible. This psalm guided the followers of Jesus in England during World War II as they fought valiantly to keep Adolph Hitler from invading Britain. This psalm reminds us that our Good Shepherd leads us to the green pastures and the still waters. Our Lord sets the table with a feast even in the presence of our enemies and nourishes and sustains us so that we can persevere in the face of every threat. He calms our fears and strengthens our faith. 

Our reading from the First Letter of Peter to those who are suffering persecution reminds us that our Lord has gone through everything that we may have to endure. 

Our gospel tells us in a powerful and compelling way that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He knows each of us, warts and all, and he loves each of us, and he loves the entire flock. When he calls, we follow him.

Back in Biblical times, the shepherds would lead their flocks out to the country to find good pasture. At night they would bring the sheep into the village where there was a communal sheepfold, The sheep would be placed there to stay safe through the night. 

In the morning, each shepherd would come to the sheepfold. Each one had a unique call. When each shepherd called, the sheep of his flock would follow him. When the next shepherd came to the fold, his sheep would follow him. That is how our relationship is with Jesus, We know his voice. We know he will lead us to good nourishment and we know he will lead us to that place where we can be still and know that he is God.

Our Good Shepherd protects us. If lions or bears come to attack, he will fend them off. Yes, in the time of Jesus there were lions and bears in the Holy Land. Our Good Shepherd will give his life for us. That is how much he loves each one of us and all of us together. Our relationship with him is extremely close. We depend on him for everything. We trust him because we know how much he loves us and how determined he is to protect us.

The biblical shepherd went out in front of the sheep. He walked the path ahead of the flock. He found the good water holes. He kept them out of the brambles. He led them away from poisonous plants or anything else that might harm them. This image of the Biblical shepherd tells us that our Lord has been through anything and everything that we might encounter, even death itself.

In this portion of Chapter 10, Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Later on in John’s gospel. Jesus says,” I am the way and the truth and the life,” Our Good Shepherd is the way, the path, the one who leads us to newness of life, eternal life, life in a deeper dimension that begins right now, We are already in the new life, the kingdom, the shalom of Christ.

Like our brothers and sisters in England in World War II, we can receive strength and renewal from Psalm 23 and from the knowledge that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We have never experienced what we are going through with this pandemic. We have never had to stay home like prisoners in our own homes. We have never been unable to gather and celebrate Holy Eucharist together.

Because he is our Good Shepherd and is out in front leading us, we can take comfort in the fact that our Lord has walked this way before us. We can hear his loving voice calling us to have faith that he will bring us through this. We can hear him reminding us not to panic and rush out to resume our normal lives before he has guided us to use our heads, trust the advice of our expert medical and scientific guides, and create the conditions necessary to make each step toward a new normal as safe as possible.

And he is also calling us to love others as he loves us, to help those who are hurting so badly because of being unemployed through no fault of their own, to support those who are on the front lines working in dangerous conditions and becoming so tired they can hardly stand up. He is calling us to help each other just as he helps us.

And he is calling us to love each other, to stay connected, to be a strong flock relying on him for strength and guidance.

Lord Jesus, our loving Good Shepherd, help us to listen for your voice; help us to follow you; help us to love each other as you love us, and give us the grace to share your love and care with others. In your holy Name we pray. Amen.