Today, we again meet the original 12 disciples that have returned from their 1st journey to offer God’s hope to the peoples. They are both excited and exhausted. They’ve seen much and done much. They’ve probably had great ‘highs’ of the power of healing as well as terrible ‘lows’ in the frustration of not being able to see that they’ve made a difference. Yup I can understand the complexity of emotions they may be experiencing right now.  I am empathic to them…I’m thinking many in this room are as well. Yet feeling this empathy for the disciples is probably not causing most of us to get up and act.

Jesus sees their need, their exhaustion right away and offers them time for quietness and rest to restore their spirits.  He sees, he understands, he cares and…He acts…he is compassionate. He is frankly, the epitome of compassion.

We hear the word compassion often in our lives and we often refer to others as compassionate beings. When we apply for jobs and fill out resumes, we may describe ourselves as compassionate. Yet, do we ever take a step back and think…not in just our minds…in our hearts as well…what compassion, compassionate really mean before we ascribe those words to ourselves or another.

Jesus, in verse 34 of our reading today, saw a great crowd; “and He had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd…”

After this thought Jesus doesn’t just sigh…and say, ‘I hear you man’… and then move on to what he has on his plate already…

Jesus knows that having empathy is not enough. He knows that having that emotion that gives us the ability to be able to feel and understand in our own hearts the pain and need that others are experiencing without action will not help others. It is true in our own lives that we are often empathetic to the plight of others but for whatever reason we may not move beyond the emotion of empathy to act out of compassion.

To clarify, compassion is not an emotion…it is a learned way of behavior that yes, some people can adapt to more easily, more naturally than others, but is a behavior that ANY person can learn. …Jesus showed it initially in today’s gospel reading with the 12 disciples who were exhausted from all their work and then he showed it when He saw the crowd.  He switched gears to assist all those who had need…he put His own initial needs aside to help them.  This is compassion.

It is true and important to understand that we could never have the level of compassion that Jesus has…it is OK…Jesus merely demonstrates for us how to use it and he also explains to us why we use it in our world in verse 34…for they were like sheep without a shepherd.

We know somewhat of how shepherds lead their flocks…we’ve been warned of how false shepherds can lead us astray and that we may fall off the cliff if we don’t turn toward the REAL shepherd. We also know that in Jesus’ commandment that we all love one another he was asking us to be good Shepherds to all the lost sheep. I am not saying that we are to knock on doors and ‘convert’ others…I am saying that we are to follow Jesus’ example and use compassion and use it liberally.

Just as we see in Mark,: we are seeing and learning about how a GOOD AND TRUE shepherd looks out for all of his/her sheep…the dirty, smelly and the irritatingly needy. Do we get angry and frustrated and try to get rid of them…after all there are plenty more sheep…too many to care for: ‘let’s just stick to our own’…some shepherds of today would say.

Those same shepherds have attempted to have us forget that we too have dirty, smelly neediness. They want us to think we are above others.  They try to lead us away from sharing in the mutual suffering of being human. Yes, they have brought us close to the edge of the cliff in subtle and in sometimes not so subtle ways.

This Mark reading for today is a much needed reminder that we do not have to be lost sheep. And that we cannot be a self-centered shepherd either.  It has reminded us of the importance of moving beyond empathy. God, Jesus, the HS…our triune shepherd shows us how and explains to us why we reach out and love one another.

We must act…not out of pity for pity is a self-righteous thought that leads us to place ourselves above others…we act out of compassion…understanding ourselves what it means to be a lost sheep without a shepherd…for we all have had times when we have been lost. Or times when we have lost another and the pain we have felt has been enormous!

We have been reminded again today that we are all a part of the deep neediness of Humankind and to be truly connected to others…to truly be in relationship with other as Jesus is in relationship with us…we must be compassionate and not only see the pain behind the façade of our human existence we must act upon it. We must act on it today, tomorrow and all of our tomorrows.

REOPENING of Saint Paul's Church 27 June at 10:00am - click for details

Dear Saint Paul’s faith community members and friends,

God’s peace be with you! Rejoice! Rejoice! Given the decrease in COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and the increase in the number of people who have been vaccinated, we are excited to announce the re- opening of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church building on Lake of the Isles on Sunday, 27 June at 10:00AM. We will have a beautiful and joyful worship with Eucharist, and coffee hour to follow. For those of you who are unable to come to the church building, a live Zoom stream will be available. Look for the Zoom link in the E-pistle.

Saint Paul’s COVID-19 Response Team Members (Mark Anderson, Steve Riendl, Angie Paulson, Jacob Manier, Rev. Janet MacNally, and Rev. Ramona Scarpace) have put together guidelines for worshiping together in-person. These guidelines are based on information from the Centers for Disease Control, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. The team asks that, in the spirit of loving God and neighbor, everyone follow the guidelines as listed below. If you have any questions or concerns about these guidelines, please contact Junior Warden and COVID Response Team Chair Steve Riendl at sriendl@stpaulsmpls.org.

IN-PERSON WORSHIP GUIDELINES: Attendance

  • No pre-registration for worship is required

Your Health

  • If you aren’t feeling well for any reason, please take care of yourself at home. You may join the service via Zoom.
  • If you have any personal health questions or concerns about attending in-person worship services, please speak with your medical provider.

Creating a Welcoming and Safer Environment

  • Greeters and ushers will be on-hand to assist you with seating, service bulletins, questions
  • The church and restrooms will be cleaned before and after each Sunday worship service
  • Hand sanitizer and masks will be available
  • All books will be removed from the pews. Worship bulletins will be available in paper and electronic format.

Masks and Social Distancing

  • If you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask or socially distance. You may wear a mask and socially distance for your own comfort level.
  • If you are not vaccinated, please wear a mask and socially distance.
  • If someone is wearing a mask, please keep socially distant from them.

Seating

  • Saint Paul’s Church seats approximately 250 people. Given our regular Sunday attendance numbers, there is plenty of room to spread out.
  • We recommend that family groups sit together.
  • Fully vaccinated people may sit with other fully vaccinated people.
  • If someone is wearing a mask, please socially distance from them when selecting a seat

Singing

  • Congregational singing is permitted.

The Peace

  • Please remain in your seats for the Peace. Use a wave, a nod, a smile, etc.

The Eucharist

  • Clergy and those assisting at the altar will sanitize their hands in view of the congregation.
  • Communion will be of bread only. We will use gluten-free wafers for all. Receive the bread in your hands.
  • The common cup of wine will not be used at this time.
  • You may receive at the altar rail kneeling or standing. If you are unable to or do not wish to come up to the altar rail, please notify an usher, and the bread will be brought to you.
  • Note: Rev. Ramona, and Rev. Janet are fully vaccinated.

Coffee Hour

  • To be held at the back of the church
  • Coffee and lemonade only, served in disposable cups
  • A limited number of people will set up refreshments and pour
  • No foods at this time

Nursery

  • The nursery will be available and staffed.
  • The nursery will be cleaned before and after each Sunday.
  • Parents must give contact information (name and phone number)

COVID-19 Tracing

  • If Saint Paul’s becomes aware of a situation where someone who attended the service receives information that they have contacted COVID, Saint Paul’s will notify people of the occurrence via the E-pistle.

We give thanks for the gift of coming together in-person to worship God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life. We give thanks for all who worked so diligently to create and distribute vaccines. We give thanks for those who put themselves at risk to keep others safe. We remember those who have died and hold their families in our prayers.

We look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday, 27 June!

Blessings,
Mark Anderson, Senior Warden
Steve Riendl, Junior Warden
Rev. Ramona Scarpace, Priest-in-Charge

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