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Grace Lutheran Church
Grace Notes
This newsletter is designed to be used with Daily Worship in a Time of Anxiety
Other resources that may be helpful:  Worship in the Home, https://blogs.elca.org/worship/2027/
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Contact information for pastors is at the end of this mailing.
Sunday, August 2, 2020                Lectionary 18, Year A
Alleluia.   One does not live by bread alone,  but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.   Alleluia. (Matt. 4:4)
Prayer of the Day
Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
Readings and Psalm
Su        August 2 (Lectionary 18)                    
Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
            M         Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Genesis 31:22-42; Romans 1:8-15
            Tu        Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Genesis 32:3-21; Acts 2:37-47
            W        Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Isaiah 43:1-7; Matthew 15:32-39
            Th        Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Genesis 35:22b-29; Acts 17:10-15
            F          Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Genesis 36:1-8;   Acts 18:24-28
            Sa        Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Genesis 37:5-11; Matthew 16:1-4
            Su        August 9 (Lectionary 19)
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
Unreasonable Love
Imagine throwing an impromptu dinner party for thousands of people. Looking out at the huge crowd, would you think, “Yeah, we can do this. It’ll be fun!”? Or would you look in your fridge, cupboards, and freezer and become absolutely certain there was not enough to go around?
It is normal and human to look at the supplies available and make a judgment about whether or not something can be accomplished. It’s reasonable, even! But God’s kingdom is not reasonable. God’s kingdom defies all of our human expectations.
It is not reasonable that the last shall be first. It is not reasonable that God would pour forgiveness on us when we hardly know how to confess. It is not reasonable that the disciples could feed thousands of people with just a few loaves and fishes.
Thanks be to God for the unreasonable, unexpected grace we find in the kingdom! May we brim with gratitude that where we see limits, God knows what is possible. When we stare in shock at the Son of God nailed to the cross, we are sure it’s the end of the story, but God knows differently: love and life are unreasonably more abundant than hatred and death.
When we bring whatever “loaves and fishes” we have in our cupboards to God, God blesses them and makes of them enough. At the Lord’s table, we find the mystery of Christ’s abundant presence in the bread and the wine. At the font, we are joined to the immeasurable, eternal covenant of being God’s beloved through the profuse waters of baptism. It’s preposterous, really, how lavishly, how unreasonably God loves the world! Let us rejoice in God’s unreasonable love and mercy, and join the feast.
From sundaysandseasons.com.
Abundance from Scraps
Jesus is able to feed us abundantly, even with scraps. He meets earthly needs by feeding the crowds and continues now to offer himself as holy meal, freely given to all, no matter their income or rank in society. Advertisers have trained us that what’s proclaimed as FREE usually isn’t. More often, it’s a ploy to get our money for some other, larger, purchase. Today we are invited to trust and receive Jesus’ free gift of love without mistrusting that he’s got up his sleeve some scheme to swindle our money.
It can be hard to relax and trust God to take care of us and nourish us with the mere scraps we often see around us. We panic and take matters into our own hands instead of trusting. We experience that crushing sense of responsibility, not just to ourselves, but to our children or parents or other loved ones to keep them fed and clothed and healthy. Trusting as the crowd did that day seems completely foreign to those of us living in North America, abundant in resources.
With food freely given, with quantity enough to feed only a few, Jesus makes this miracle, and there are leftovers to clean up. But for most of us, belief comes slowly and warily when we’ve been burned by experience: how will there be enough for all of us, when we’ve been the last one at the lunch line, the late arrival at the party, and everything’s gone? What if we see people in the crowd we don’t want fed and jostle our way to the head of the line to get first choice? Will it be fair? Trusting that our daily bread and even our very lives are in God’s hands is hard to do as we grow older and burdened by responsibility, but God has compassion for every member of the crowd, and we are blessed and invited to be joyful recipients of that generosity
Real-life Story
Jesus and the disciples find themselves in a deserted place without food. Some neighborhoods in the United States are labeled “food deserts” because their residents do not have access to affordable, nutritious food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a food-access locator to identify communities in which at least a third of the people live a mile or more from a grocery store. Check it out to find the nearest food desert to your congregation. How can your church work locally to partner with these communities and advocate for food justice?
Denominational Resource
When we encounter today’s gospel story we might identify with the hungry crowd, or with the disciples feeling inadequate to feed so many people. What happens when, as the body of Christ, we identify with Jesus? The passage begins with Jesus being moved with “compassion,” a word which in Greek refers to the bowels. As Jesus was moved in his “guts,” how might we be a “gutsy” church with that same courageous compassion for hungry people? Perhaps it starts by asking questions about the inequality of food distribution around the world and close to home. Oxfam and ELCA World Hunger are good sources for those questions and potential answers.
Real-life Story
Jesus takes a meager offering of food and multiplies its impact to feed a crowd. Yet we often interpret smallness as inadequacy or failure. Whether the discouragement stems from dwindling attendance, aging members, or changing neighborhoods, churches tend to react to a decline with self-limiting behaviors, as if they have little or nothing left to offer. But the size of the congregation does not have to determine the size of its mission. For example, forty-one members of Shekinah Chapel in Riverdale, Illinois, pledged to build a church for Lutherans in Zambia. St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church, a small church in Vancouver, British Columbia, helped to settle more than one hundred Syrian refugees.
God can use the resources we have, as limited as they may be, to create abundance for all. To brainstorm how God might use the resources of your own community, introduce an asset-mapping exercise to your congregation this week. Read Claiming Resurrection in the Dying Church for an imaginative retelling of this gospel passage and further ideas on creating a culture of possibility, not inadequacy, in small churches (Anna B. Olson, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, pp. 42–43).
Just as today’s readings point us to issues of food insecurity and physical hunger, they also invite us to consider other kinds of hunger, including ones that manifest as eating disorders or disordered eating. Author Geneen Roth considers the complex connections between hunger, food, emotions, and spirituality in books such as Feeding the Hungry Heart (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1982) and Women, Food, and God (New York: Scribner, 2011). How might Jesus address such spiritual and emotional hungers through communion and the church?
Theological Reflection
How often do you echo the words of scarcity coming from the disciples: “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” (Matt. 14:17)? Brené Brown refers to scarcity as the “never enough” problem. We are never (good, perfect, thin, etc.) enough, nor do we have enough (time, money, etc.). Her research suggests that scarcity thrives in shame-prone environments that are deeply steeped in comparison and fractured by disengagement (Daring Greatly, New York: Penguin Group, 2012). The gospel moves us from a mindset of deficiency to one of sufficiency by providing a counter-narrative of worthiness, compassion, and connection. We should never experience a moment of not being enough or having enough for Jesus.
Pop Culture
Contrast the abundance that Jesus creates to the “abundance mindset” taught by self-help books, workshops, and coaches. As long ago as 1989, Stephen Covey was using that term in his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Free Press). Today people can practice many strategies for leaving behind a mentality of scarcity. How does Jesus offer something different from most of those strategies? How do you articulate the difference between receiving abundance and creating it?
Real-life Story
Around the world, Karma Kitchen invites people to come and eat “without price.” The website explains how it works: “Run by volunteers, our meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them.” One of Karma Kitchen’s goals is to shift people “from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance,” as Jesus’ miraculous feeding does.
Testimony          Practice at home:— Ponder food and faith. Have you experienced physical hunger? How was it satisfied? Who do you thank for that food? Have you experienced Spiritual hunger? How is that satisfied? Who do you thank for that food? Put either or both of these stories into a 30 second to one minute message? Share  with your household, family member or a neighbor.
Life on the Earth
It is instructive that in the miracle story Jesus did not fabricate wondrous food out of nothing: rather, the story says that he used the stuff of this earth, actual loaves of bread and real fish. Behind the story then are the folk who baked the bread and who caught the fish. We too use the genuine stuff of this earth for our nourishment, while in faith we see the action of the Creator in the foods we eat. 
Visual Art
A simple Coptic icon depicts today’s gospel reading. As was traditional in Christian art, Jesus’ outer robe is red, to signify that for us he is royalty. In accord with Matthew’s accounts of the miraculous feeding, women and children are part of the picture.
A Hymn for the Day
One of the many hymns appropriate for the day is “We come to the hungry feast” (ELW 479). We are among the world’s multitudes who need the food that God provides. Ray Makeever, a Lutheran pastor and songwriter, wrote this hymn after hearing a theologian describe the Eucharist as a hungry feast, a meal that gathers into itself all the world’s hungers.
Comments from the Cloud of Witnesses
Eternal Goodness, I shall contemplate myself in you.
By this light I shall come to know that you, eternal Trinity,
are table and food and waiter for us.
You, eternal Father, are the table that offers us as food,
the Lamb, your only-begotten Son.
He is the most exquisite of foods for us,
both in his teaching, which nourishes us in your will,
and in the sacrament that we receive in Holy Communion,
which feeds and strengthens us while we are pilgrim travelers in this life.
And the Holy Spirit is indeed a waiter for us,
who serves us this teaching by enlightening our mind’s eye with it
and inspiring us to follow it,
and who serves us charity for our neighbors
and the salvation of the whole world for the Father’s honor.
Catherine of Siena
[Catherine of Siena, The Prayers of Catherine of Siena, ed. Suzanne Noffke OP (NY: Paulist, 1983), 101-102.]
From sundaysandseasons.com.                       Copyright © 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.
Upcoming Commemorations
Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), died 1221
Saturday, August 8, 2020
Dominic was a Spanish priest who saw the wealth of the clergy as a stumbling block for the church, so he formed a movement, the Order of Preachers (commonly called Dominicans) devoted to itinerant preaching and living in poverty.
SCRIPTURE VERSE FOR THIS WEEK: Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish. He looked up toward heaven and blessed the food. Then he broke the bread and handed it to his disciples, and they gave it to the people.  Matthew 14:19b (CEV)
A Prayer for the Week:
Lord God, we depend on you to live. Please give us what we need most
of all - trust in you. Amen.
Mealtime Prayer:
Jesus, bless the food upon our dishes, as you did the loaves and fishes.
By your grace we eat and live, hear our thanks for all you give. Amen.
A Blessing to Give:
May the Lord Jesus be kind to you. May he feed you in body and in spirit,
and meet all of your needs. Amen.
CARING CONVERSATION:  Discuss in your household or small group:
Matthew 14:14 tells us that Jesus had “compassion” on the crowds. What is compassion? • Share about a time when someone showed compassion to you, or when you showed compassion to someone else. • Have you ever experienced God providing for your needs in a special way? Share your story.
DEVOTIONS: In the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus took what the disciples brought to him and used it to feed the whole crowd. Using paper and scissors, cut out a fish or breadloaf-shaped figure for each household member, and write their name upon it. As part of your home devotional times this week, share talents or gifts that you see in one another. Write these down on your “loaves” or “fish.” Talk about ways that we can bless others through these God-given gifts and talents, and pray for God’s guidance in using them.
SERVICE: God calls those who have been materially blessed to share with those who have less. Set aside some time this week to bake some bread or cookies together. Invite friends or neighbors to enjoy with you the fruits of your labor!
RITUALS AND TRADITIONS: Our household meals can be occasions where we experience Jesus “multiplying our blessings.” Here is some advice for making the most of your mealtimes: • Get rid of all distractions. Pledge to switch off the TV or the radio, allow your phone calls to go to your answering machine or message bank, and ban electronic games at the table. Reading of books or newspapers should also be discouraged. • Sit together around the table rather than sitting side-by-side at the kitchen counter or sitting in different parts of the house. This gives your family more opportunities for conversation. • Avoid turning your household mealtimes into “checking up” or “instructional” times. Share “highs” and “lows” and anecdotes from the day. Express thanks and appreciation to one another
© 2010 Vibrant Faith Ministries. All rights reserved. Written by Pr. Greg Priebbenow and edited by Vibrant Faith Ministries
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