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.

Letters from our Wardens and Rector (click to view)

August 29, 2019
Dear Saint Paul’s Parish Family,

We are sorry to share so early in our journey with Father Marcus that he has submitted his resignation and will be leaving us October 6, 2019. He has accepted a position at the Diocese of Connecticut. In his new position, he will be the Dean of Formation and will also be working as a Missional Priest-in-Charge of a faith community. This is a wonderful opportunity for him allowing him to continue to strengthen his gifts. The Diocese of Connecticut will benefit as we have from Father Marcus’s passion. Although it is hard to see him go, we have learned and done wonderful things as a parish with his leadership and guidance over the past 2-1/2 years. It will be exciting to watch his continued growth from afar knowing we were blessed to have been part of his early career. Father Marcus’s letter to the parish is included in this email.

So now we begin to look forward. Beth and I will be in contact with ECMN and Bishop Prior to plan for an interim priest and to look at putting together a search committee. We will gather together and consider what we have learned about ourselves during our time with Father Marcus. This is a chance for us to evaluate where we are and to make plans for moving forward: what we want to be sure to carry forward, what things we might want back that have changed, and yes, what might not have been tackled yet that we want to explore? We ask that each of you give prayerful consideration to these questions. They will be foundational to our Rector search.

We know the amazing strength of this parish and are confident we will become even stronger from the challenge that has been put in front of us. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Blessings,
Meredith Johnson, Senior Warden (meredithvj@gmail.com) Beth Carlson, Junior Warden (pbcarlson@comcast.net)


Dear Saint Paul’s,

It is with a mix of sadness and joy that I inform you that I offered my resignation to the Vestry on Monday, August 19. My last day as your priest will be Sunday, October 6, 2019. I have accepted a call to serve as the Dean of Formation for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, a position that will also include serving as a Missional Priest-in- Charge of a faith community there.

Throughout my time as your Rector, I’ve tried to preach, teach, and exemplify a consistent message: each of us is called to grow in Christian maturity to meet the challenges and opportunities of being the Church in this new missional age. Our patron, Saint Paul the Apostle, calls this the “full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This means taking seriously our individual and collective calls to be leaders, not only within the walls of our parish but also in the wider community. Leading, especially in times of great change, means taking risks, being open to failure that leads to learning, collaborating with others, and standing firmly in our identity and purpose.

People across Saint Paul’s Church have heard this message, stepped up, and stepped forward. Together, we have faced down a major challenge head-on –tackling our budget deficit– and as a result are experiencing a renewal of energy and spirit. We have new ministries popping up all around, a greater capacity for innovation, and deeper commitment to Christ and the mission of God he invites us into. There are others who are still afraid to step forward or unsure where they fit, and that’s okay. Saint Paul’s moves forward together.

My new role will give me the opportunity to help form other ordained leaders in what we’ve done together: translating an age-old faith to a contemporary context. I am excited and honored to be asked by Bishop Ian Douglas to serve the Church in this role.

None of this takes away the anxiety, sadness, or grief that many will feel at this time. Transitions are always hard, especially when it comes when things are going well. I have not served as your Rector for long, but we’ve done a lot together. I will pray for you as you discern what leadership model God might be inviting you to try and who might best step into that role to walk alongside you as you continue engaging God’s mission. Your wardens are two of the most capable people I’ve ever met and together with your vestry and the entire community, as it has for the last 139 years, your journey continues.

There will be time to say goodbye, and I will continue to serve faithfully until my final day. In the meantime, the mission of God calls us onward. There are individuals and communities in need of the Gospel – and it is our job as followers of Jesus Christ to proclaim it, in word and example.

Faithfully, Marcus+

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