Sometimes a scripture reading will really speak to you and stay with you. For me, it has been last week’s Tuesday (7/20) reading from Exodus that recalled God’s providence in dividing the Red Sea for the escaping Israelites.
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the children of Israel marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left. Exodus 14:21
This has had me reflecting on the miracles that occur when we stretch out our hands. On the cross, Jesus’ outstretched arms embraced the world with the gift and miracle of redemption for all. It seems to me that God works most powerfully when we engage the world with outstretched arms to embrace the world emulating the pure and unconditional love of Jesus on the cross. One common attribute of the Saints is their amazing ability to embrace those around them and work what many would consider miracles in the world around them. Greeting others with preverbal outstretched arms leaves us vulnerable and welcoming of others, letting them know they are loved and have a dignity that is worth our time, notice, and embrace.
My reflection on outstretched arms led to consideration of how well I have been doing in engaging, loving, and welcoming others with outstretched arms.
Welcoming strangers, visitors, immigrants, and refugees.
Providing an environment in which LGBTQ people feel welcome and valued.
Embracing and standing up with and for people of color.
Reaching my hands out to the poor.
Making family members feel unconditionally loved.
The Gospel reading on that same Tuesday had Jesus expanding our earthly concept of family.
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Matthew 12:48-50
As we celebrate 75 years as a parish we should take some time for reflection on how we go beyond our families (natural and parish) to consider how we as a parish can be seen as having outstretched arms for our neighbors on the East Side of St Paul. As I mentioned in my homily for Ascension Sunday:
What sort of outreach will we do as a parish to help our neighbors?
How will St Pascals stand for and advocate for the poor and oppressed among us?
What changes can we make to our worship, programs, events to help us connect with the changing demographics of our neighborhood?
How can we consider in everything we do as a parish: “How will we be the hands and feet of Christ to our neighbors?”
I would love to hear your thoughts on these and other ways we can be seen as the image of God standing in our neighborhood with outstretched arms. Please comment below or email me or Fr. John as we are very interested in what parishioners think the future direction of St Pascals should be.
Peace, love, and blessings