8/20/21: Clergy Message from Fr. Eric
Dear St. Paul’s,
Our family loves to go camping. When Shyla and I were married we decided to register at REI. We were given some good solid camping gear; we each got backpacks and a set of boots a backpacking tent and stove. On our honeymoon we set out backpacking in Yosemite.
I have been thinking about our love of adventure a lot lately as we embark on this new adventure as a family.
On Sunday I mentioned the ways in which God makes provision for us, giving us food for our Journey. I spoke about how God heard the cries of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness on their 40 year journey before they arrived in the Promised Land and provided them with manna, that sustaining bread from the heavens. The Exodus story speaks powerfully about the way in which God travelled among the Israelites during that time, leading them through the many wilderness challenges by being made manifest as pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. As a way of symbolizing that God was in the midst of the people, Moses was instructed to create a Tabernacle, a Tent of Meeting, where God’s people could encounter the Divine.
One of the most amazing things about the scriptures is how many layers there are. In the epically poetic prologue of John’s Gospel, it is written, “and the word became flesh and lived among us”—the word we translate “lived” (skene) was used to describe a tent—it could be more accurately translated, “and the word became flesh and pitched a tent among us.” There is dynamism in this. God is not staid. Nor is it we who have to “come to God.” God has come to us! God has pitched a tent among us and is living among us.
God is with us on our many journeys, travelling along the road with us, always on the move—always setting off on a new adventure. I love the story from Luke’s Gospel of Cleopas and his companion who are journeying along the road to Emmaus after Jesus’ brutal crucifixion. They are experiencing grief and trauma as they process the violence they have just encountered. The Risen Jesus walks alongside them on the road (though they do not recognize him) and gently gives them words of encouragement. Little by little they begin to feel better again as they walk with this empathetic stranger. They invite him to join them for supper and when he breaks the bread he is revealed to be Jesus and he vanishes from their sight. The Risen Jesus walks alongside us in our many wanderings, we may not always recognize him, but he is there.
Fittingly, our patron Saint, before he became Paul the Apostle, was Saul of Tarsus. His profession? You guessed it: a tentmaker.
Last Sunday was such a joyous occasion! I am filled with deep gratitude for all of the thoughtfulness, care, and considerate welcome that you have shown us so far. It was a thrill to see our kids making friends right away, to hear the soaring music of worship, to feel the breeze in the porte cochere after the service. You have been journeying for over two years to come to this new moment in the life of this parish family. It has been a time of listening, searching, and rearranging.
Our family has journeyed for a long time to get to you as well. We have prayed, discerned, prepared, said farewell to our former parish and our family members in Texas. We have driven many miles and we have anxiously awaited the moment when our things would arrive and we could move into the rectory. Now as I write to you, I am sitting on the sofa in the sitting room of the rectory, feeling like I am home at last. We have pitched our tent among you in the full assurance that God has made this happen. This is a beautiful place and you are a beautiful people and we are so very honored to be a part of the story of this people.
This is an exciting new chapter which we will write together with God’s hand guiding us. There will be many comings and goings over the years. There will be tragedy and there will be triumph. There will be struggle and there will be moments of untold bliss when we encounter glimpses of the Transcendent. Whatever we go through on this Pilgrimage, we are in this together.
In Christ’s Unfailing Love,