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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:…

Lent 2B February 28, 2021

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

In our first reading today, we meet Abram and Sarai, who will become Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is a shining example of someone who has deep and abiding faith in God. God is telling Abraham and Sarah that God is going to make Abraham and Sarah the parents of  “a multitude of nations.” Abraham is 99 and Sarah is not far behind him in age, yet God is making this covenant with them. They will have as many descendants as the number of grains of sand on the beach or the number of stars in the sky.

Frederick Buechner is a Presbyterian minister and writer who lives in southern Vermont. Here is his description of Abraham and Sarah. “They had quite a life, the old pair. Years before. they had gotten off to a good start in Mesopotamia. They had a nice house in the suburbs with a two-car garage and color TV and a barbecue pit. They had a room all fixed up for when the babies started coming. With their health and each other and their families behind them they had what is known as a future. Sarah got her clothes at Bonwit’s, did volunteer work at the hospital, was a member of the League of Women Voters. Abraham was pulling down an excellent salary for a young man, plus generous fringe benefits and an enlightened retirement plan. And then they got religion, or religion got them, and Abraham was convinced that what God wanted them to do was pull up stakes and head out for Canaan where God promised that he would make Abraham the father of a great nation which would in turn be a blessing to all nations and that’s where their troubles started.

“They put their house on the market and gave the color TV to the hospital and got a good price for the crib and bassinet because they had never been used and were as good as new….

“So off they went in their station wagon with a U-Haul behind and a handful of friends and relations, who, if they didn’t share Abraham’s religious convictions, decided to hitch their wagon to his star anyway.

(Buechner, Telling the truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, pp. 50-51.)

Abraham and Sarah lived in Ur of the  Chaldeans, which is now a city in southern Iraq. The distance from Ur to Canaan is 3,461 miles. Abraham and Sara had no idea where they were going. God told them God would lead them there, and they trusted God. Think of starting on a journey to an unknown land and trusting God to help us find the way. That is real faith. Think of packing everything into a U-Haul and driving into the unknown. Think of packing everything onto camels or donkeys. Abraham and Sarah had deep faith. And, since we know the ending, we know that they persevered to the end. Sarah had a son, Isaac.

The other example of faith I would like to share today is Eric Liddell. In Holy Women, Holy Men and A Great Cloud of Witnesses, his commemoration date is February 22. Eric was born to Scottish missionaries in China in 1902. He and his older  brother Rob, were sent to a school for the children of missionaries in London. In school and later at the University of Edinburgh, Eric was a champion runner and rugby prayer. He was also an excellent student and a person of deep faith. On their leaves from missionary work, his family lived in Scotland, and the film Chariots of Fire portrays Eric running fleet-footed in the Scottish highlands.

In the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Eric was slated to run the 100 meter race and was strongly favored to win the gold medal. After arriving in Paris, Eric was told that the race was scheduled for a Sunday. Because he strongly believed in the observance of the Sabbath, Eric refused to run the race. He ran the 400 meter race and won the gold medal. He also ran the 200 meter and won a bronze medal behind two American runners.

After his graduation from Edinburgh, Eric returned to the area in China where he had been born and served as a missionary from 1925 to 1943. In 1932, he was ordained a minister in the Congregational Union of Scotland. Because of conflict between China and Japan, the missionaries suffered many hardships. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the British government advised all British citizens to leave the country. Eric’s wife, Florence, who was from Canada, took their three children and went to be near her parents.

Eric and his brother Rob stayed on and continued their work. In 1943 Eric was interned in the Japanese concentration camp in Weihsein. This camp held 1,800 people from many allied countries under terrible conditions. Holy Women, Holy Men tells us that Eric won the trust of his captors so that he could go around the camp and minister to his fellow prisoners. He died shortly before the camp’s liberation on August 17, 1945. He was 43 years old.

We have Abraham and Sarah and so many other people of deep faith, On Tuesday, we remembered Polycarp, a faithful and gentle Bishop who was burned at the stake. On Wednesday, Matthias, who replaced Judas as an apostle, on Thursday,  John Roberts, a priest who worked with First Nation people in Wyoming. We are all on a journey of faith, and thank God for all the holy examples of people we have to guide us. We are all taking up our cross, trying, with God’s grace, to follow our Lord Jesus in the way of the Cross, the Way of Love.

We can think of Abraham and Sarah, traveling all those miles without a road map, GPS, cars, or airplanes. We can think of Eric Liddell, a champion athlete in sport, and a champion of faith, doing all he could do to comfort his fellow prisoners who were suffering under inhumane conditions. And all the saints of God who have shared God’s love and hope with others over all these centuries. We are part of that great cloud of witnesses. And we love and support each other. Through this wilderness journey we have stayed together and prayed together and encouraged each other. And in the midst of us, often out ahead us leading us, is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, making sure we stay on track, nourishing us with his presence, protecting us so that we can share the good news of his love.  Amen.

Lent 1 Year B February 21, 2021

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

We all remember the story of the Flood which precedes our reading for today from the Book of Genesis. That story, which comes from an ancient Babylonian epic, says that people were becoming so sinful that there were only eight good people on earth, Noah and his family. God told Noah to build an ark and fill it with two of every animal, and then God made a flood that covered the earth and drowned everyone except Noah and his family.

Scholars tell us that the first part of the Noah story was written by a different person or persons than the part we are reading today. These learned people tell us that the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch or Torah, were written by four different people, or groups of people, at four different times in history. The first writer is called J, the Jahwist, because he or she called God Jahweh. J was working around 900-950 B.C.E. The second writer is known as E, the Elohist,  because this writer called God Elohim, meaning Lord. The third, called D or the Deuteronomist, worked around 620 B.C.E. during the reign of King Josiah, and the fourth writer was called P or the Priestly writer. This person or group of people was at work during and after the exile, around 587-539 B.C.E.

The Jahwist writer, J, writing around three thousand years ago, gave us an anthropomorphic view of God. God was like a human being. In the view of the Jahwist writer, people are sinning, God gets angry, God causes a flood and drowns all the sinners and saves the eight people who are good.

Our passage today was written by the PrIestly writer, who has a far less primitive understanding of who God is. Walter Brueggemann tells us that the bow which God hangs in the sky is the bow used for warfare. God is hanging up this weapon and declaring that God will protect the creation and all that is in it. Brueggemann writes, “That the bow is suspended in the sky means that God has made a gesture of disarmament, has hung up the primary weapon, and now has no intention of being an aggressor or adversary. That is, the demobilized weapon of God is a  gesture of peace and reconciliation. God intends to be ‘at peace’ with God’s world, recalcitrant though it has been.”

(Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 193. 

Brueggemann tells us that this view of God’s compassion comes from the experience of the exile, and that this text was first written and read during the exile. He says that the exile “was the quintessential disruption in the life of ancient Israel. “ He continues, “Thus it is plausible to see that the exile is the historical experience of chaos narrated through the Flood.” (Brueggemann, Ibid,. p. 192.) Writing 500 years after the Jahwist writer, the Priestly writer and his community have a much deeper sense of the compassion of God.

In our gospel, Jesus comes to be baptized by John in the river Jordan and the voice of God comes from heaven, saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus then goes into the wilderness to be tempted, and the angels take care of him. John is arrested, but that does not deter Jesus. He goes through Galilee proclaiming the good news and telling the people, “The kingdom of God has come near.” In some translations, he says, “The kingdom of God is within you.”

Over the centuries, our understanding of God has grown. The Jahwist writer portrays God as someone who would flood the earth to kill sinners. About five hundred years later, the Priestly writer has realized that God wants to protect us and the creation. Jesus, God walking the face of the earth, comes to be with us, tells us that his shalom is within us, goes through forty days of struggle with the forces of darkness, and emerges faithful to God and the Way of Love, showing us that we can do the same. God has become one of us.

Sometime during this pandemic, with my Covid brain I don’t know exactly when, I was driving home. I have been driving as little as possible, so it was some form of essential trip. The important thing is that I saw a rainbow, It wasn’t the most dramatic rainbow I have ever seen, but there it was, in the midst of this pandemic, shining forth the promise of God’s shalom. Usually, when a rainbow appears, especially on the Interstate,  everybody pulls over to the side of the road. I think we all know what it means, no matter what our religion or lack thereof. This wasn’t the aInterstate and there was not enough space to pull over, so I kept on going, and the rainbow faded quite quickly. But however brief it was, I saw it as a clear sign of blessing and peace from our loving God.

It was that experience with the gift of the rainbow that drew me to focus on the reading from Genesis about God’s promise to Noah and to all of us.

But our dear brother in Christ, the highly respected, even revered scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, Walter Brueggemann, has opened up for us a connection we should not ignore. Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Priestly writer or group, having lived through the exile, could tell us that God made a covenant with all of us that God would never again flood the earth, that God is a God of peace, God loves us and the creation, and God is calling us to cherish the creation and  each other.

And to top it all off, our gospel tells us that Jesus, the One we are following, God walking the face of the earth, was tempted as we are and fought and prayed and asked God for help just as we do, and gave us a living example and experience of our God who loves us and the whole creation and everyone and everything in it. God hangs up the bow as a reminder that our loving God calls us be people of peace and reconciliation. And God will die on a cross to make that call as clear as possible.

God’s people learned all this through their exile in Babylon. May our awareness of God’s compassion grow deeper and stronger during our Lenten exile in the wilderness of Covid-19.  Amen.

Ash Wednesday February 17, 2021

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Ashes are a symbol of mortality. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. It is good to be reminded of our mortality and our weakness. Yet within these ashes is a paradox, because these ashes are made from the palms we waved on Palm Sunday, palms we would have placed on the road in front of our Lord to welcome him as our King. We are on a journey to grow into the likeness of Christ our King. We are on a journey to grow from brokenness to wholeness. This Ash Wednesday we will be putting the ashes on our own foreheads. We will be fasting from the sensation of having the ashes placed on our foreheads by a fellow-journeyer in Christ. Some us do not have ashes to place on our foreheads, but we can still be aware of our mortality by tracing the sign of the cross on our foreheads. All of us are here because we want to observe a holy and life-giving Lent. The word Lent, after all, comes from the Middle English word lente, meaning “spring.”

We are beginning a time of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and spiritual growth. Some of us are also participating in the Social Justice Bible Challenge and Lent Madness.

Our opening reading comes from the person we call the Third Isaiah. God’s people have come home from their exile in Babylon and have begun to rebuild the temple and the city wall. They have become discouraged at the huge task before them. They fast and pray, but they argue and treat each other badly. They oppress their workers. The summary of the law calls us to love God and to treat others as we would have then treat us. Their behavior does not match their profession of faith.

God calls them to an authentic fast that includes social justice. And God calls them and us to “Loose the bonds of injustice,…to let the oppressed go free”…to share our bread with the hungry, to give shelter to the homeless, to clothe the naked—in other words, to extend the love of God to our brothers and sisters of all colors and creeds.

In our epistle, Paul calls us to “be reconciled to God,” In order to do that, we need to take the words of God spoken through Isaiah very seriously. As Christians, we are called to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

In our gospel, our Lord reminds us that our spiritual growth is between us and God. We are not focusing on earthly treasure, but on the precious heavenly treasure of God’s love and grace. We are fasting, praying, and giving to deepen our love for God and others.

This year, we have been through so much with Covid and everything else. Bishop Shannon is inviting us to focus on social justice issues, and I think that is a wonderful idea. We need to heal our nation, just as Isaiah’s community needed to heal their nation twenty-five hundred years ago. God is calling us to treat each other as beloved children of our loving God.

During this liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we would normally celebrate Holy Eucharist. We will not be doing that. We have been fasting from Holy Communion for eleven months, except for one Distanced Communion. We have not been together in person inside our church building for a very long time. We have much in common with God’s people who spent several decades in exile in Babylon.

My point is that we have already been engaged in a very long fast from singing together in person, celebrating Holy Communion, talking to each other face to face, hugging each other, gathering for coffee hour and conversation in person. So, as we follow our Lenten discipline, I ask that we try to be especially aware of God’s love for us, God’s love that cannot be stopped or diminished. And then let us be aware our love for God and each other, our love for all our brothers and sisters, and let us work, fast, and pray to increase and deepen that love. Let us work and pray that we may become “repairers of the breach” and “restorers of streets to live in.” Amen.

Meditation and A Prayer of Self-Offering

We have just exchanged the Peace and sung the Offertory Hymn. As we all know, we will not be celebrating Holy Eucharist. This is a huge loss. It has been an extended exile, a wandering in the wilderness. Nothing can replace sharing Holy Eucharist. Nothing can replace greeting and hugging each other at the Peace. But rather than simply reverting to the ending for Morning Prayer to conclude the service, I wanted to acknowledge the fast we have been in and the exile we have been experiencing.

We are not able literally to stand before the altar at Grace and place bread, wine, and money on the altar, to represent our offering of our God-given time, talent and treasure to God, but, at this time of offering when we would normally move into the Eucharistic Prayer, we offer to you, our loving God, our feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, hopelessness, powerlessness, all the feelings that are welling up during this time of exile and pandemic.

Loving and forgiving and healing God, we thank you for keeping us together, for giving us strength to keep gathering virtually. Thank you for your gift of faith, for those glimmers of hope, for the gift of perseverance. Thank you for binding us together with your love.

Lord Jesus, we are not celebrating Communion, but we know that you are here with us, You told us that where two or three are gathered, you would be with us and you would hear our prayers. We cannot literally receive your Body and Blood today, but we know that you are giving us spiritual food and energy. 

We know that you are walking the Way of Love, the Way of the Cross, with us. Thank you for your presence and for your love. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit leading and guiding us. Because of you, we are here. You have called us together.

With all our heart, we thank you, and we offer our selves and our lives to your service. Lead us and guide us, that we may observe a Holy Lent, that we may love and serve you with singleness of heart, and that we may share your love with others. In your Holy Name, the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Last Sunday after Epiphany Year B February 14, 2021

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

In our opening reading today, we meet the great prophet Elijah and his disciple, Elisha. Elijah is about to be carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire. His student and successor, Elisha, cannot bear to think of Elijah leaving. He is also a faithful disciple, so he keeps following Elijah. He does not want to leave his teacher. He will follow Elijah to the end.

To make the parting a bit more gentle, Elijah asks Elisha what he can do for him before he goes to be with God. Elisha’s response is full of wisdom and honesty. He asks for a double share of Elijah’s spirit.  And then, Elijah is borne up to heaven.

Scholars tell us that, by the time his Second Letter to the Corinthians was written, there were some tensions between Paul and the community in Corinth. Paul had planned to visit them and that had not happened, and other issues had arisen. In this passage, Paul is calling us to concentrate on why we are here and what our mission is.

He calls us to focus on “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” He reminds us that “…it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone is our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

In our gospel for today, Jesus has been telling his disciples about the cross, and he has been calling them to take up their own cross. He takes his closest followers, Peter, James, and John, and they go up on the mountain. This morning, we have the privilege of walking with Jesus, Peter, James, and John.

Here we are, climbing higher and higher with our Lord and his three most trusted companions. Just a few days ago, he fed five thousand people. Now, we are following him upward, upward,  into more and more silence. As we move upward, the noise and stress of the world slip away.

As we follow Jesus and Peter and James and John, we think of how Moses received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. We think of how many times Jesus goes to the mountains to pray, and we know that we are going to a special place, a hallowed place.

Shortly after we reach the summit, something happens that we will never forget. Jesus is transfigured. His skin and clothes become a dazzling white, so bright that we have to shade our eyes. And then two great prophets appear, Moses on one side of Jesus and Elijah on the other side, and they are talking with Jesus as if they are old friends, communicating with the greatest love and respect.

Peter is so overcome that he says a few things about booths and trying to preserve this moment forever. We cannot speak. We are in awe and silent in the face of what we are witnessing.

Then a cloud overshadows Jesus and Moses and Elijah. There is a voice, unlike any voice we have ever heard. It is a voice resonating with the power of love and grace. “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.” That is the same voice we heard at his Baptism in the Jordan River, the voice of God, telling us who Jesus truly is, the Beloved Son of God.

We are blinded by the dazzling light, and our hearts almost stop when we hear that voice telling us that Jesus is not only our teacher and our friend and our leader, but the Son of God. And then that voice commands: “listen to him.” And we answer with a silent promise to listen to him always. To seek and do his will.

And then we remember that our Lord has been saying he is going to have to die on a cross, He is our king and yet he is going to suffer. But right now, as we stand in the remaining glow of that shimmering, powerful light and listen to the receding echoes of that unforgettable voice, we are realizing that our beloved leader is the Son of God. We are in the presence of the Son of God.

And then, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus remains.

On the way down, we don’t talk very much. We are thinking about what has just happened, absorbing the meaning of it. He is going to suffer on the worst instrument of torture ever invented. But he tells us not to tell anyone about all of this until after he has risen from the dead.  He is telling us that he is going to rise from the dead!     

Coming back to Vermont, Virginia, and Florida in 2021, this is the end of the Epiphany season of light and mission. This Wednesday will be Ash Wednesday and we will begin our Lenten journey. In our gospel today, we are given the vision of our Lord transfigured so that we can remember that he is the Son of God; he is God walking the face of the earth. He suffered on the cross to show us the Way of Love and he calls us to live the Way of Love.

In some small way, we will be following him this Lent by fasting, praying, and giving alms. Some of us will be following Lent Madness. Some may be attending the Social Justice Bible Challenge with Bishop Shannon on Wednesday evenings from 7-8 PM.

We will be walking the Way of the Cross during this season of penitence and that way will lead to the cross on Good Friday. As we walk that path of self-examination, self-discipline, and transformation, we will have this vision from the Last Sunday of Epiphany to lead us and guide us. We will recall that dazzling image of our Lord atop that mountain standing with two great prophets and we will hear the voice of God reminding us about whom we are following and calling us to listen to him.

May we listen to him, carefully and with open hearts. May we follow him faithfully. And, as we pray in our collect, “May we be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.” Amen.

Epiphany 5B February 7, 2021

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 
Mark 1:29-39

Scholars tell us that our first reading today dates back to 540 years before the birth of Christ. King Cyrus of Persia has just conquered Babylon, where God’s people have been in exile for several decades. It hasn’t been easy for them. They miss their homeland. They are devastated at the loss of their temple, the center of their worship. But they have persevered. They have continued to pray and study the Scriptures. They have kept their community together.

Thus sounds a bit like us, doesn’t it? We miss our beloved church building. We yearn to be back together. We are tired of fasting from the Holy Eucharist. Yet we are staying together, as much as we can on Zoom. We study the Scriptures together and reflect on how they apply to our lives even though they were written so long ago.

In this particular passage, God’s people are feeling as though God has abandoned them. Why would God let an enemy like the Babylonians conquer them, drag them to a foreign land with alien gods and leave them to fend for themselves?

This passage is God’s answer to these people who are suffering. First, God puts things in perspective. God portrays Godself as the Holy One who sits enthroned on high, looks down at the earth, and sees us humans as the size of  grasshoppers. But even though we look like insects from God’s holy vantage point, God cares deeply about us. God asks the people, “Have you not seen? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or weary….He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” 

Have we perhaps wondered whether God is abandoning us? Have we thought that God is just leaving us alone to cope with this pandemic?

Even though it deals with events that occurred twenty-five hundred years ago, this passage is saying to us, “No, God does not abandon God’s people.” As Christians, we know that Jesus is right in the midst of us, leading and guiding us as we cope with this situation.

In our epistle, Paul is giving us a wonderful example. He is saying that, when he ministers to people, he becomes one of them, just as Jesus became one of us. Paul is reminding us that when we minister to folks, we need to walk in their shoes; we need to understand where they are coming from, how they think, what problems they are facing, and how we can help them. That is exactly what our Lord did when he was here with us during his earthly life.

In our gospel, Jesus leaves the synagogue in Capernaum, where he has just healed a man, and goes to the home of Peter and Andrew. Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. and of course, they tell Jesus about this. Immediately Jesus goes to help her.

He takes her by the hand. Imagine how it would feel to have Jesus take you by the hand. His healing power is flowing into you. You are filled with love and hope. You feel all of his healing energy focused on you. All that is broken within you is being made whole.

The fever leaves her. And she immediately gets back to her ministry among them. She serves the meal.

And then the word gets out, People from all over bring sick folks to be healed. The text says, “The whole city was gathered around the door.” We can imagine that Jesus continued healing people into the night and then finally lay down to get some rest.

But while it is still dark, he gets up and goes to a deserted place to pray. This is something Jesus always did. He took time away to pray. This is how he stayed close to God, just as we need to do. If we are going to be able to light our lamps, we have to put in the oil. Prayer is the source of our closeness with our Lord. Prayer is how we allow God to nurture our gifts, renew us, and give us guidance.

When they finally find him out in the deserted place, he tells them that they have to go to the neighboring towns so that he can share the good news and heal people. He has spent time with God, and his energy is renewed. He will journey with them throughout Galilee.

What are these readings saying to us today? Many centuries ago, when God’s people were in exile and feeling abandoned, God spoke to God’s people through the prophet Isaiah.  God let them know that God was with them. God had not abandoned them. God was helping them to keep the faith, stay together as a community, and prepare for their life together after the exile. Indeed, they did return to Jerusalem.

As Christians, we have an even stronger message from God about how much God loves us and how close God is to us right now. In Jesus, God came among us to show us how to live. We see Jesus in our gospel today, pouring out his energy to heal people and to show us how to live the Way of Love.

The risen Christ is with us now. He is in our midst, helping us to cope with Zoom and perhaps even be grateful for it; giving us the resilience to hang in there and take care of ourselves and others; giving us the patience to wait for our chance to be immunized; keeping us together; leading and guiding us as our Good Shepherd. May we always remember that. He is with us. Always. He will never abandon us.

Loving God, thank you for being with us. Thank you for leading and guiding us. Give us your grace that we may follow where you lead. In your Holy Name. Amen.