Dear friends in Christ,
We had all hoped that by this time, the pandemic would be yesterday’s news, and we would be gathering freely, without masks or fear. It seemed, a couple of months ago when we began our in-person services, that we were on a steady positive trajectory. That hope that kept us going has been bruised of late, and I sense that many of us are discouraged and tired. I wonder, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert for forty years, how many times they thought they were almost there, only to find they weren’t. And what they did – how they were able to keep the faith and keep moving.
This month in church, we are talking about Jesus being the bread of life. Jesus feeds a huge crowd with just a few small loaves of bread and a couple of fish. This reminds the people, and us, that God fed the Israelites with manna – bread from heaven – every day they were in the wilderness. This was not only food for their bodies. It was also food for their spirits. It reminded them that God was still with them. God cared for them. God was forming them into a new kind of community focused on love of God and one another. When they ate that bread, they were reminded of God’s faithfulness and they were strengthened, body and soul, to continue journeying together toward the Promised Land.
Whether we are worshiping on Zoom or in person, we are being fed by the bread of life. In this hybrid era, we are more spread out, split almost evenly between Zoom and in-person, both for worship and coffee hour. The community feels different, for sure. I have heard some concern about declining attendance, but I assure you the numbers do not show that. We may not be in the same place at the same time, but we are still journeying together, because Jesus is with us, in every gathering, in every small group meeting, in every outreach activity, every time two or three are gathered. And that is very, very often.
As God led and fed the Israelites in the wilderness, God is leading and feeding us into our future, even though we cannot know exactly what that future holds. I hope that as we discern that future, step by step, we will reach out to one another, to hear each other’s stories and experiences, to share how God is working in each of our lives and in our communal life. In sharing our joys, our joy is multiplied. In sharing our challenges, our burdens are lightened.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13