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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 2022 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 December 18, 2022 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 December 25, 2022 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:…

Pent 13 Proper 17A RCL August 30, 2020

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26. 45c
Exodus 3:1-15
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Last week, we read the inspiring story of the birth of Moses. The new Pharaoh was a cruel tyrant, but Moses’ parents, his sister, the midwives, and the princess all showed profound courage, and Moses’ life was saved. When he grew older, he was adopted by the princess and went to the palace to live.

Much has happened between last Sunday’s reading and our lesson for today. To summarize, the young man Moses leaves the palace and sees the sufferings of the Hebrew people. Though he is a prince, he still identifies with his own people. He sees an Egyptian trying to kill a Hebrew man, and he kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. His sense of justice calls him to defend his fellow Israelite.

A short time later, he goes out again, but this time he sees two Hebrew men fighting each other. He confronts the man who is at fault and tells them not to fight. He is trying to teach his people to work together, not against each other. But the man who is at fault confronts Moses and asks him whether Moses is going to kill him the way he killed the Egyptian. Soon, Moses realizes the king is looking for him. He escapes and goes to Midian.

He stops by a well and meets the seven daughters of Reuel, the priest of Midian. Some shepherds harass the young women. Moses defends Reuel’s daughters and waters their flock. Once again, he is defending and protecting those who are vulnerable. Moses fights for justice everywhere he goes. The young women see him as an Egyptian, but he sees himself as an Israelite.

The young women arrive home early and their father asks them how they watered the flock so quickly. They tell him about the Egyptian young man who protected them from the shepherds and watered the flock in record time. Reuel realizes that this is an extraordinary young man and welcomes Moses to visit the family. Eventually, Moses marries Reuel’s daughter Zippporah and becomes a shepherd.

These events have a deep connection with Grace Church because Keith’s ancestor, Reuel Keith, founder of Virginia Theological Seminary, was named after Reuel, the priest of Midian, who welcomed Moses into his family and thus became a mentor and protector to the man who would lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt.

This brings us to today’s reading. God has heard the cries of God’s captive people in Egypt. Moses is faithfully going about his daily work as a shepherd. He is alert.  He pays attention to the world around him. And he notices a most unusual thing— a bush that is on fire but is not consumed. He goes to investigate. And God calls to him. Moses realizes he is on holy ground. He is in the presence of God, and God is calling him to lead God’s people out of slavery.

Like so many people called by God over the ages, Moses does not feel up to the task.  And God tells Moses something very important.  God assures Moses that God will be with Moses every step of the way. God does not call us to do difficult things and them leave us alone. God walks with us, God leads us and guides us.

God helps Moses understand who God is—“I am who I am.” And the wonderful thing about Hebrew verbs is that they are all tenses at once—I am who I am; I was who I was; I will be who I will be. God is dynamic and eternal. God will guide Moses as he leads the people out of slavery into freedom. God has chosen a leader who sees the suffering of God’s people, defends his own people, protects those who are vulnerable, and tries to bring justice in every situation. As we know from reading the Scriptures, leading God’s people to the promised land was not easy, but God was with Moses on the journey.

In our gospel, Peter cannot bear to think of Jesus suffering. In his effort to banish this thought, he gets in the way of our Lord’s accepting his own cross, and Jesus admonishes him and tells him to get out of the way. He even calls him Satan because he is so upset that Peter, in showing compassion for our Lord’s suffering, is actually deflecting our Lord from his vocation. Each of us has our own cross to bear. Each of us will suffer in one way or another as we try to follow our Lord and be faithful. We may have rifts with family members. We may lose friends. We may not achieve success in the world’s terms. But in the end these crosses also lead us into life in a new dimension.

Our epistle for today is addressed to a community which is suffering persecution. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor….Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer….Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly…Live peaceably with all….If your enemies are hungry, feed them.” This is the vision of God’s shalom which Jesus expresses in the beatitudes and which his mother, Mary, sings about in the Magnificat.

What are these readings saying to us in this time of Covid 19? Moses was the person God chose to lead God’s people out of slavery. He did not feel that he was up to the job. When God calls us, most of us do not feel adequate to the task. We are part of a long line of people, a “great cloud of witnesses,” who say Yes in spite of all our misgivings and, with the grace of God, do our ministries to the best of our ability, depending solely on the grace of God.

Jesus came to show us what a life centered in God’s love looks like. Paul, born a Pharisee, a persecutor of the Church, met our Lord on the road to Damascus and was blinded for three days by the light of that love. In our epistle for today Paul offers us a poetic blueprint of living the life in Christ and being ministers of reconciliation.

Jesus has called us to live the Way of Love, and I’m pretty sure that not one of us feels that we are up to the task. But we are in very good company. Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah. and so many heroes and heroines of the faith felt inadequate, too. Nowadays, sharing God’s love with others involves being careful not to spread Covid 19. It has been difficult to do all the things the medical experts are telling us to do. but here in Vermont we have the lowest statistics in the country, and, as our Presiding Bishop reminds us, keeping people safe and saving lives is our first priority. 

This means that we will not be able to hug each other, or share Communion, or sing together, or have a coffee hour with actual food—for a while. We don’t know for how long. In the meanwhile, “Let love be genuine, love one another with mutual affection, rejoice in hope.” Live the Way of Love. Amen.

Pentecost 12 Proper 16A August 23, 2020

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

In our opening reading today, we hear one of the most important stories in the Bible. We recall that in last Sunday’s reading, the Pharaoh had recognized Joseph’s gifts of administration, and  God’s people were invited to come to Egypt, where there was plenty of food stored up to help everyone survive the time of famine.

Our reading begins with an important sentence. “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. This king rules on the basis of fear. He sees that the Israelites are more numerous than the Egyptians, and he thinks the Israelites will join his enemies and overthrow him and escape from Egypt. So he forces the Israelites into slavery, and imposes increasingly ruthless burdens upon them.

The king then tells the midwives to be sure that all the Israelite baby boys will die. But the midwives believe in God, and they do not follow the king’s instructions. The king then orders that all the Hebrew baby boys must be killed. Things become worse and worse.

In the midst of this turmoil and suffering, a Levite man marries a woman from the house of Levi. She gives birth to a son. She hides him for three months. Then she knows she has to do something. She gets a papyrus basket and puts tar and pitch on it to make it into a little boat. She puts the beautiful little baby into the little boat and hides it in the reeds beside the great Nile river. The baby’s older sister, Miriam, keeps watch from a distance.

The daughter of Pharaoh comes to the river to bathe. She finds the baby, has pity on him, and concludes that he must be one of the Hebrews’ children. Just as this moment, Miriam comes up and offers to find a nurse for the baby. The king’s daughter accepts the offer.  She knows that her father has ordered the Hebrew baby boys to be killed, yet she saves this little one. The baby Moses will grow up in his own home and will have his very own mother as his nurse. When he grows older, his mother will take him to the king’s daughter, and she will adopt him. God rescues this baby from slavery and death and arranges for him to grow up in the royal palace. This is Moses, who will free his people from slavery. Biblical scholar James Newsome writes of this passage, “The oppressive hand of Pharaoh may be strong, but the redemptive hand of God is stronger still.” (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year A, p, 454.)

In our epistle for today, St. Paul calls us to offer everything that we have and everything that we are to God. He calls us to allow ourselves to be transformed by the grace of God into the people God calls us to be. Paul encourages us to be humble, and he calls us to think clearly and carefully about things, and to use the faith that God has given us. And then he reminds us that we are members of the Body of Christ. We have different gifts, and we are called to use those gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ, because we are all one in Him.

In our gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that the Son of Man is?” And they give a report on what people are saying. Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, others Jeremiah, others say one of the prophets. And Jesus asks, “”But who do you say that I am?” Without hesitation, Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus praises Peter’s faith, and he says that Peter is the rock on which he will build his church. Like us, Peter is not perfect. He jumps into the water, walks a few feet on the water and then begins to sink. He blurts out thoughts of building three booths and preserving the moment of transfiguration when he is with Jesus, James, and John on the mountain. He denies our Lord three times. But in this moment, when our Lord is asking him this crucial question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, with all his heart and soul and mind and strength, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” 

In these days of Covid 19 and so much turmoil, our readings call us to that depth of faith. Moses’ courageous, resourceful, and faithful mother put her beautiful baby in a little boat that she made herself, and, with unceasing prayer, hoped that God would protect this little one. Miriam stood by the river on constant watch to be sure her little brother was all right. And then, miracle of miracles, the Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe, and this little baby came under her protection. The liberator of God’s people grew up in his own home with his mother, father, and sister, and then, when he was older, was adopted and lived at the palace.

This is how God works through people who have deep, abiding faith.

Moses’ mother and sister, Peter, and so many others who have followed in their footsteps have been holy examples to us because of their deep, powerful faith.

This week, at this time in our journey with and through Covid 19, let us meditate on Moses’ mother and father and sister and on their faith. Let us meditate on the midwives, who courageously followed God instead of the corrupt king. Let us meditate upon the Pharaoh’s daughter, who knew she was going against her father’s wishes in protecting this little baby. And let us meditate on Peter, who is such a wonderful example because we can identify with him. He is so human. He has faults, just as we do. And he has faith. He knows who Jesus is. He stumbles a few times, but in the end his faith is as solid as a rock. Let us pray that we may have that strong faith.

These are not easy times. This is a time for faith, and thanks be to God, the Creator,  who has given us the gift of faith, and the gift of hope, and the gift of love. Thanks be to Jesus, the Redeemer, who has made us members of his Body, the Church, here to share his love with all people. And thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, who is always at work in us and in the world, bringing in God’s shalom of peace harmony, and wholeness. Amen.

May we say the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.

Pentecost 11 Proper 15A August 16, 2020

Genesis 45: 1-15
Psalm 133
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20) 21-28

In our opening reading today, we continue the story of Joseph. Last week, we looked on as his brothers plotted to kill him and then decided to throw him into a pit and eventually sold him to slave traders who were going to Egypt.

When they reached Egypt, the human traffickers sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer in the Pharaoh’s army, the Captain of the Guard. It is a fast-moving story. Through many trials and tribulations, Joseph finally becomes the head assistant to the Pharaoh himself. His steady rise to this high office is due to his high moral caliber, his integrity, and his God-given gift of interpreting dreams. Joseph is now in charge of everything the Pharaoh has.

One of the dreams has to do with seven fat cows and seven lean cows. Joseph tells the Pharaoh that the seven fat cows mean that there are going to be seven years in which there will be record high harvests and the seven lean cows mean that there will be a famine.

Joseph brilliantly fills granaries full of grain during the fat years so that everyone will have something to eat in the lean years.

Joseph has now been in his high position for several years, and his brothers have already come to Egypt asking to buy grain. He has not let them know who he is and they have not recognized him. Now they are back again, and he is having great difficulty in controlling his emotions. He wants to cry at the sight of them. They threw him into a pit and then sold him to human traffickers for twenty pieces of silver, but he is not holding any grudges. He could have had them killed. He could have turned them away. But he did not do that. Now, here they are again. Joseph sends everyone else out of the room.

He bursts into tears and cries so loudly that everyone in the palace hears him, and then he tells his brothers who he is. And he gives them his interpretation of the meaning of all his struggles. God sent him to Egypt so that he could save his family and save the life of his people. He tells them to go back to their father and invite everyone to come and live in Egypt and not only survive, but thrive.

Then he hugs Benjamin and Benjamin hugs him, and they all shed tears of joy at being together again and hug each other and have a good cry and an even better talk. After all those years. And then the family comes and settles in the land of Goshen.

The story of Joseph and his brothers can teach us so much. They threw him into a pit. He could have died at any point along the way. Things didn’t start out well in Egypt. He spent some time in jail over a misunderstanding. But he never lost his faith; he always acted ethically; and he was a faithful steward of the Pharaoh’s and Egypt’s and God’s abundance. He saved a nation. And he forgave his brothers. Mercy and forgiveness are one of the themes in our readings for today. In spite of everything Joseph loved his brothers and forgave them. In spite of all the challenges and near tragedies in his life, he felt the hand of God leading him to save his family and his people, God’s people.

In our gospel for today, we have another unforgettable story. Jesus is in Gentile territory. A woman comes to him and begins to shout, “Have mercy on me Lord, Son of David, my daughter is possessed by a demon.” In those times, people thought a demon was causing diseases such as mental illness and seizure disorders. At first, Jesus does not answer. He is considered a rabbi and in those days rabbis were not supposed to speak with women. He is Jewish and in those days Jews did not speak to Gentiles. His disciples tell him to send her away. Jesus says that he was sent only to his own people, the “Lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Now the women kneels at his feet. “Lord, help me,” she begs. For the second time, she is addressing him as the Savior. Though she is a Gentile, she knows who he is.

And then our Lord says something that almost shocks us. “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs. Biblical scholar Charles Cousar writes, “The use of the term ‘dogs,’ even though metaphorical, is hardly a label of endearment. It was regularly applied, with some condescension, to Gentiles. The woman has every right to take offense.” (Cousar, Texts for Preaching Year A, p, 450.)

Jesus is showing his humanity. The Church teaches that Jesus is fully divine and fully human. In his time, people thought that Gentiles were inferior. In his humanity he is looking down on someone of a different ethnicity and religion.

But this woman has a laser focus on only one thing—making sure that her child is healed. She may be a Canaanite, but somehow she has deep faith in God and a profound understanding of God. And she answers, with calmness, reason, and enduring perseverance, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Jesus recognizes the depth and strength of her faith. “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter is healed. Because of the faith and persistence of this devoted mother, Jesus is beginning to realize that his mission is to all people, that he is sent to bring good news, healing, forgiveness, and love to everyone.

And that is what we are called to do—to bring the love of God and Jesus and the Spirit to everyone. We are the Body of Christ in the world. We are called to be his hands reaching out to welcome people, his eyes looking at people with love, his mouth speaking words of hope and encouragement. There are no barriers. As Archbishop Tutu says, “God has a big family.” Amen.

Let us pray together the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.

Pentecost 10 Proper 14 August 9, 2020

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

Our first reading today is one of the most famous in the Bible and in Christian education classes—the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was his father’s favorite, and Jacob made his beloved son a coat with long sleeves, what we have come to call Joseph’s “coat of many colors”, or Joseph’s “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Joseph did have dreams, which he shared with his brothers, and this did not help the situation, One dream that particularly got their goat was that they were in the field binding sheaves when Joseph’s sheaf 

rose above his brothers’ sheaves, and the sheaves of his brothers worshipped his sheaf.

In our reading, Israel sends Joseph out to find his brothers. When Joseph finally finds them after some investigation, his brothers conspire to kill him. Reuben arrives just in time to stop them from actually killing Joseph and they decide to throw him into a pit. When Joseph arrives, they strip him of his clothes and throw him into the pit. It is dry, so at least he will not drown.

Then some traders come by, and Judah convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders for twenty pieces of silver. As Christians, we can’t help but think of the thirty pieces of silver which Judas received for betraying Jesus. The Ishmaelite traders take Joseph to Egypt. 

The Bible is a library of books written over centuries of time, and between its pages we can find all kinds of stories about things we humans can think and do. Together with the birth of Jacob and Esau, with Jacob hanging on to Esau’s heel, this story is one of the classic examples of sibling rivalry. What does it take for brothers to decide to kill their own sibling? Will Joseph seek revenge? Will he forgive his brothers? Joseph has an amazing, God-given gift for interpreting dreams, and we will see what happens.

In our gospel for today, Jesus has just fed over five thousand people. He tells the disciples to go across the Sea of Galilee while he dismisses the crowd. After the crowd leaves, Jesus goes to the mountain to pray. This is something that he did often. He took time apart to be with God. This is his wonderful example to us—to take time away in quiet to ask God for guidance. By the time he comes back to the shore of the lake, night is falling.

The disciples are out in the boat, but the wind has come up and the boat is far from the land. Large waves are battering the boat. The wind has blown them far out on the lake. With the howling of the wind and the size of the waves, they are afraid.

Jesus comes walking toward them on the water— right through the waves, the wind, and the chaos. They see him, but they do not recognize him. They are terrified. They cry out, “It is a ghost!” They are gripped in icy fear.

But then, Jesus speaks to them, and let us remember these words when we are sailing stormy seas with high waves and winds that threaten to swamp us: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 

Peter immediately responds to the presence of his Lord. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus says, “Come.” So Peter starts walking toward him. But when he notices exactly how strong the wind is, fear rises in his heart  and he begins to sink. He calls out to Jesus, “Lord. save me!” And Jesus reaches out his hand to Peter and saves him. They get into the boat; the wind stops, and Peter says, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

How many times have we been afraid, stricken with pure terror, and we ask our Lord for help, and he stretches out his hand and saves us? We all know that fear can paralyze us. Our Lord can calm any storm. Our Lord can save us from the storms of life. He is reaching out his hand to us right now to steady us, lift us from the chaos of fear, and bring us to a safe place.

In our epistle for today, Paul says many wonderful things. He says, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” Jesus, the eternal Word who brought  the worlds into being, is near us. We can reach out our hands and touch him.

And the other thing that I think is very important for us to remember is that Paul writes here and in other letters, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek.” In his Letter to the Galatians,  he writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek. there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28.)

Two thousand years ago, Saint Paul was telling us that there are no distinctions between human beings. God loves us all, infinitely and equally. Any distinctions of race, gender, class, social status and all the other things we humans have used to divide us are created by human beings, not by God. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all in this together.

Here we are, sailing in the high winds and choppy seas of Covid-19, and our Lord is saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” As we look out on the rest of our country and see that the rates of illness and death are rising in places where there have been large parties and other gatherings where folks were close together and not wearing masks, we might imagine to ourselves that our Lord might be telling us, “Do not be afraid, but do not be cocky. This is a powerful virus.Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other. I love you.”

When Jesus reaches out his hand to take us into the boat and bring us to safety, his hand is not only a hand of rescue, but it is a hand of guidance. He gave us minds so that we could do research and determine exactly what we are facing, and then take the actions we need to in order to stay safe and keep our brothers and sisters safe from illness and death. The Way of Love is to help everyone stay safe and stay healthy. May we continue to walk in the Way of Love. Amen.

Pentecost 9 Proper 13A August 2, 2020

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17:1-7, 16
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14: 13-21

Our opening reading today is one of the most fascinating passages in the Bible. It goes back centuries, to a time when people believed that you had to be careful of local deities who governed rivers. This story was passed down by word of mouth and was finally recorded by the Biblical writer we call J because he calls God Jahweh. J’s ministry took place around 950 years before the birth of Christ, over three thousand years ago.

Jacob has schemed during his time with Laban, and he has managed to grow wealthy by taking more than his share of Laban’s many flocks and other possessions. Laban has not been exactly pleased about this, but the two men have made a covenant, so at least Laban is not pursuing Jacob.

Now Jacob is going home, and, of course, he has not forgotten that his older brother, Esau, had vowed to kill him. He sends messengers ahead to tell Esau that Jacob is on his way with many possessions and is seeking the favor of his brother. They have met Esau and given him the message. Jacob is hoping that Esau will be properly impressed with all of Jacob’s things, see that Jacob is a man of substance and power, and maybe decide not to kill Jacob after all. He has heard from his messengers that they have met Esau, and Esau is heading toward Jacob with four hundred men.

Jacob splits all the people and animals and possessions into two groups and sets them on ahead, thinking that, if Esau kills everyone and everything in one group, perhaps the other group will survive. Then he prays to God for help.

It is night, and night, especially in those times, was considered a mysterious and dangerous time. Anything could happen.

Now Jacob is left alone and vulnerable on the banks of the river.  The text tells us that “a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” They are about equal in strength. As they struggle, the man strikes Jacob in the hip and knocks it out of joint. Then the man asks Jacob to let him go because dawn is coming. But Jacob has figured out that this is not just a man. This is at least an angel and probably God. Jacob says he will not let his adversary go until the adversary gives him a blessing.

God asks Jacob his name, Jacob tells the truth. His name is Jacob. In those days, people believed that giving your name gave the adversary power over you. Jacob is surrendering his power to God. And then God gives Jacob a new name—Israel.  Jacob the supplanter becomes Israel, “he who has striven with God and man and has prevailed.” He is now the head of the tribe of Israel. Jacob names the place Peniel, “for I have seen God face to face and yet my life is preserved.” Scholars tell us that Peniel means “the face of God.”

Jacob has seen God face to face. In ancient times, people believed that you could not see God and live. But Jacob has actually wrestled with God and has been given a new identity. He will forever walk with a limp. Sometimes our struggles leave us with scars.

This story is so compelling because all of us have struggled. We have struggled at times with God, asking for direction in difficult situations. We have struggled with ourselves when we get to a crossroads in life and we’re trying to discern which path to take. We have struggled to take what we know is the right and difficult path instead of the wrong and easy path.

Now, we are struggling with a deadly virus and all of its implications. Should we wear masks when we are around other people and can’t social distance? Definitely yes. Our medical experts make that clear. Should we open our schools, and, if so how? Should Congress pass an aid package, and, if so, what should it contain? Will life ever return to normal, or what we used to call normal? At this point, we may have more questions than answers.

As it turns out, Esau arrived with his four hundred men, and Esau hugged and kissed Jacob, and they both wept with joy to see each other. God is always at work. God is always with us, transforming us into the people God calls us to be.

In our gospel, Jesus has just heard of the murder of his beloved cousin, John the Baptist. He goes off in a boat to a deserted place to pray and the people follow him. When he goes ashore there is a huge crowd, and he has compassion on them and heals those who are sick.

Evening is coming. The disciples tell Jesus to send the people away so that they can buy food. But Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.” What is their response? “We have only five loaves and two fish.” They are operating from a theology of scarcity. This is all we have, they think. We can’t possibly feed these people. 

Jesus takes the loaves and fish, looks up to heaven, blesses and breaks the loaves and fish. This is a Eucharistic action. The disciples feed the people and there are twelve baskets left over. Over five thousand people have been fed. Last year our food shelf fed a little over four thousand people. God always gives us the gifts we need to do our ministry.

We are struggling with a powerful virus. And we are struggling with our long history of racism. Jacob thought Esau was going to kill him. Instead, Esau hugged and kissed him and they had a good healing cry. The disciples saw only a huge crowd of hungry people for whom they could do nothing. Jesus fed the crowd. God is always at work. God is a God of abundance, a God of healing and wholeness, a God of transformation, and, always, always, a God of love.

God is leading us on our journey through this pandemic and our journey toward honoring the dignity of every person. God is also feeding us with God’s wisdom and guidance in the difficult decisions we will need to make. God is calling us to stay on the path of the Way of Love. Let us seek and do the will of our loving God. Amen.

May we say together the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.