Week of May 10, 2020

Welcome to 
The Church of St. Paul and Incarnation!

An Episcopal / Anglican Parish
in the Heart of Jersey City

May 8, 2020

"In the Wilderness"

Dear Friends,

Even in the midst of pandemic and quarantine, God continues to give us good gifts.

By now you know that I think one of the best gifts we have received has been the chance to pray together three times a day over the phone. It's been good to hear your voices greeting one another and lifting up so many intentions to God. It has also been an extraordinary opportunity to read Scripture together, sharing more of God's Word than we ever have before.

During this week's Zoom conference call with the clergy, Bishop Hughes mentioned how the Exodus story (which we've been reading during the morning prayer services) has really spoken to her during this difficult time. I've been thinking the same thing and I bet many of you have, too. We probably all know the story in broad strokes, the journey from slavery in Egypt to the promised land of freedom, this great tale of liberation that has inspired oppressed people through the centuries and captures the imagination even today. But, our daily reading of Exodus, step by step, has been like hearing the story for the first time, each portion offering new details, including some that may remind us of our own time in the wilderness today.

Admittedly, certain episodes in Exodus are difficult for us to digest. Would God really engineer the drowning of the Egyptians so that the Israelites could escape? Would God really want the "sons of Levi" to kill three thousand of their countrymen? Passages like these are strange and uncomfortable, highlighting the great distance between us and the people who recorded these memories.

But, much of the story seems all too recognizable. There is the unlikely leader of Moses, an imperfect man who, with God's help, rises to the challenge of guiding his people through the wilderness, just as some leaders today, including some we might not have expected, have bravely and honestly met this most challenging moment. And then there is Moses' brother Aaron, a leader who at one point fails badly, encouraging the worst instincts of the people. Aaron gives them what they think they want by gathering gold to create an idol, the famous "Golden Calf," so that now the Israelites can worship a god like all the other gods. Unfortunately, some of today's leaders are quick to tap into our worst instincts, cleverly stoking our fear and selfishness. Our worst leaders call us to worship in a shrine full of golden calves: the false gods of the economy, ignorance, violence, nationalism, and, as we have just seen so tragically yet again, white supremacy.

Throughout much of their wilderness journey, the "stiff-necked" Israelites complain bitterly. They blame Moses for getting them into this mess, and yearn for a return to Egypt, back to the way things used to be, no matter the consequences. In a similar way, misguided people in our own land are pushing - sometimes with ominous threats of violence - to immediately open up the country once again, apparently not believing or not caring that they would be sentencing even more people to illness and death.

The exodus story even features hoarding! When God gives the hungry Israelites the gift of manna, they are given strict instructions to only gather one day's worth of food (two days' worth before the sabbath). The story goes that even those who tried to gather more still ended up with only just enough. But, human nature being what it is, and the fear of scarcity being very real, some of the Israelites didn't trust that God would continue to provide and instead stashed away some manna, only to discover the next morning that the leftovers were rotten with maggots. (It's tempting to wish that those who hoarded toilet paper at the start of our crisis might have had a similarly unwelcome surprise!)

The forty years of the exodus must have been unimaginably difficult, and yet God was with the Israelites each step of their journey in the wilderness. God provided for the people. God taught them how to live. God called them to turn away from golden calves and to put their trust in God. And, in the end, God brought the people home.

Today, during our strange and unsettling stay-at-home exodus, during our time in the wilderness of disease and fear, God continues to show us the way - speaking the Word into our ears and hearts, melting the golden calves before our very eyes and lifting up leaders of wisdom and compassion, and giving us food enough and even some to share with the less fortunate.

For the Israelites long ago, God appeared mysteriously as a "pillar of cloud" by day and as a "pillar of fire" at night. We Christians see God best in and through Jesus, our brother who walks beside us, promising us that no matter how dangerous and frightening the wilderness, life and love always have the final word.



Please pray for all those on our parish prayer list, especially Jean A. (who is home recovering from surgery), Andy, Joe, and Roderick.

Please also remember in your prayers these sisters and brothers who have died, and those who grieve their loss:
Nellie Adderly, sister-in-law of Lillian Collins
Pamela Gallagher
Jesus Maldonado
Ahmaud Arbery

And, this weekend we give special thanks for our mothers and all those who have offered us motherly love.

Supporting Our Church:

We are aware that, unfortunately, some parishioners have been laid off or furloughed and others are in danger of losing their jobs. Please know that you are in our prayers and we are here to help any way we can. In these extremely challenging economic times, we are especially grateful to those of you who have been able to keep up with your pledges. You can still mail checks to the church or you can use online giving. Visit stpaulsjc.org and click on "Online Giving." We also have a Venmo account. Call the office or email me for more information about that.

Worship Schedule:

Monday through Friday: "Church By Phone"
Morning Prayer, 7:30
Noonday Prayer, 12:00
Evening Prayer, 5:30
Call 201-433-4922 for call-in information.

Sunday at 10:00am
Join us on Facebook Live for a celebration of Holy Eucharist

From the Diocese:

Be sure to read this week's edition of "The Voice Online" for the Bishop's weekly video and her op-ed piece in the Jersey Journal, plus information for youth, and more. (Also, remember that Bishop Hughes will host a Zoom conversation with those of us in this part of the diocese on June 2 at 6:00pm. More information to follow.)

And, don't miss the excellent Pastoral Letter written by the Bishops of Newark and New Jersey:

Helpful Resources:

State of New Jersey Covid-19 Information Hub:

The Diocese of Newark posts Covid-19 resources here:

You can subscribe to diocesan newsletters here:

The Episcopal Church has collected Covid-19 resources here:

"Habits of Grace," weekly reflections from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry:

The Church of England has some wonderful prayers and other materials here:

My sermons can be found here: