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July 31, 2020

“And Jesus had compassion on them. . .” Jesus, upon hearing that John the Baptist has been killed and his head presented on a platter as part of an empress’s party joke, withdraws to be alone, to mourn and think and pray. People follow him. Actually, they take a short cut and are there to meet him when he arrives! So filled with his own pain, struggling with his own woundedness, he looks around him and sees people in pain, people wounded, and he has compassion.

The word, compassion, originally meant, “to suffer with”. In current times it means “to have pity and concern for the suffering or misfortune of others”. To be honest, I like the second definition best. It allows me to be a good, loving person without suffering. I can, from my safe, content existence, look across at others, less fortunate than me, and express concern at their suffering as I perceive it. Why, if I can avoid it, should I want to engage, as the original definition seems to demand, in suffering “with” someone? Can’t we be good, loving people from afar? Why does Jesus seem to demand that we be up close and personal with our compassion, with our love, with our forgiveness? John the Baptist was certainly up close and personal, taking the king to task about his decadent life style and see where that got him? I suspect that the disciples had these same questions when they found themselves overwhelmed by the needs of the crowd on what was supposed to be a day off.

You know the story. Jesus is out in the middle of nowhere with 5000 people (plus some women and children!) and its getting late and everyone is hungry. I suspect that means that everyone is a little grumpy as well. The disciples, who haven’t eaten either, come to Jesus and say, “Don’t you think we should call it a day? Nobody has eaten and everybody needs to go home. They are hungry. (We are hungry!)” Jesus replies, “If they are hungry, you give them something to eat!” You give them something to eat. To their credit, they get out the food they have, which is suspiciously little, and bring it to Jesus. He blesses the food and breaks the loaves and the disciples set about sharing their lunch with those who are hungry. And a miracle happens. Somehow everyone is fed. Now some people have insisted that Jesus magically multiplied the loaves. If he did, they left that out of the story. What we know for sure, is that everyone was hungry, probably very hungry and Jesus told the disciples to feed the people and, what do you know! There was food enough for everyone and 12 baskets of left overs—enough to feed the nation!

It turned out that when the disciples were willing to share in the hunger of the people gathered, instead of sending them away so the disciples could eat in peace, everything changed. First, they became companions, fellow travelers, literally people you share bread with. You trust a companion. You share important things with a companion, maybe even the food you have hidden away in your pack. And as you eat together, with people not like you, you find you have things in common, connections that bind you together in unexpected ways. After a while you begin to tell one another important things; hopes and dreams, grief and struggles. Together you laugh and cry and somewhere along the way, transformation happens. Neither of you walks away the person who came. You are both, instead, more healed, more whole. You are hopeful and empowered because between you and among you there is enough. Enough to feed the people, enough to house the poor, enough to heal the sick, enough to confront and meet the needs of the community and have leftovers for others!

But the story is clear. When we are unwilling to “suffer with”, there is no transformation. There is no transformation for those in need. There is no transformation for those seeking to provide from a distance. Jesus could have multiplied the loaves. He didn’t. He called the people to sit and eat together and he blessed the loaves that were shared. And everyone that day, five thousand (and women and children!) sat and ate in the Kingdom of Heaven!

A wonderful book that highlights the powerful transformative effects of "suffering with" that I have recently discovered is "The Triumphs of Joseph" by Robert Woodson, Sr. Robert Woodson, a civil rights activist in the 60's, has empowered change in the last fifty years by working with leaders on the ground in many of our inner cities. In his book he uses Joseph, the outcast son of Jacob as his model. Joseph was a man of the people who had suffered with them when Pharaoh chose him to save Egypt from the coming famine. We know Joseph was successful but I don't think we wonder why her often. I wonder if it wasn't in large part because he suffered with them rather than had pity for them? This is a great book to read in these challenging times.


We will live stream services from the church for the next few weeks until the infection numbers come down in Canyon County. Please wear masks, eat healthy and get a lot of fresh air and sunshine so we can get back to worshiping together in person as soon as possible!

Due to the increase in coronavirus cases in Canyon County, we will be shutting the office except for Wednesday and Friday. If you need to contact Karen+, please call her cell phone, 208-993-0048. Do keep all those who are ill in your prayers and let us encourage one another to be cautious in this difficult time.

Since we are back to online worship, please don't forget your pledge support of Grace. We have an online giving account you can access on the website if that is helpful for you. Your faithfulness in this difficult time has been a blessing!

Digital Coffee Hour. This Sunday we’ll be gathering via Zoom for coffee hour right after worship (11:30am). After worship, grab a cup of coffee (or whatever), click on the link, and check in with each other. Use this Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 744 8849 4582

Passcode: 6bQcxK

If you haven’t completed the parish survey, please give us your feedback:

Mia’s ordination will be August 10th at 7pm. You can participate via Zoom. Link to be shared soon.

Mia’s ordination will be August 10th at 7pm. You can participate via Zoom. Link to be shared soon.

Spiritual Gifts Workshop. Mark your calendar: Sept. 13th. This will be an all-day parish-wide event. We’ll make sure that everyone can participate (on-site/at-home). This is a chance to examine the ways God works through you for the good of the world with unique gifts and talents. After exploring your own, we’ll also discuss how to spot spiritual gifts in others. When we all come out of our charisms, amazing things happen by the grace of God.


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