As we live through this time of physical distancing, wearing masks and staying home as much as possible, we have seen a huge change in the way people shop. More and more people are signing up on line to home delivery businesses so as to avoid going down to Coles or Woolworths or the local IGA for what we need.
Not so long ago home deliveries were regarded as being too expensive, but now it seems it’s the new normal. How the wheel turns! It reminds me a lot of my early childhood where the milk was delivered in bottles by a horse- drawn wagon, in the same way the bread was delivered. The smell of hot bread and the scent of the horses comes vividly to mind even as I put pen to paper.
All this makes me think of how much we rely on one another. In this case those who deliver food to our doors, or the network that brings produce from the farm gate to the Supermarket. So many people, so many different trades and occupations form that network which undergirds our lives. The Apostle Paul understood this well when he likened the church to a human body where all the different parts enable the body to function well. Where would we be without legs or arms, fingers or toes, lungs or heart? Just as the Church is an inter-connected body of people bound together by the love and grace of God, so in our wider community we rely so much on other people. We are social beings, made to function best in community. And that’s what makes these restrictions hard for us when we are isolated physically from one another, and especially our families.
This week’s reading from Genesis tells the story of Jacob who has made the courageous decision to return home and face his brother Esau, whom he deceived and hurt big time. Jacob wants reconciliation. He wants to heal the breach with his twin brother, and he knows it’s not going to be easy. He has to deal with his own fears and so needs time to sort himself out alone. If I were to say that Jacob had a restless night worrying about how he was to face Esau, it would be a gross understatement. The story-teller of Genesis tells of an all-night wrestling match with an un-named stranger that mysteriously turns out to be God, and leaves Jacob transformed both physically and emotionally. As dawn breaks, a figure limps through the rushing waters of the river Jabbok. He’s exhausted from wrestling but he has a new look in his eyes. He’s no longer Jacob – the deceiver – he is now Israel, the one who strives with God. And he’s no longer afraid of what might happen in his meeting with Esau. He has dealt with his demons and conquered his fears and guilt, and moves on with deliberation and purpose to heal old wounds.
As such it’s a powerful story of reconciliation, and shows the courage needed to turn and face the pain and brokenness in our lives and families. What is affirming, is the message that God was in the very midst of Jacob’s struggles to deal with all this, just as God promises to be with us.
Matthew’s account of Jesus feeding the five thousand begins by describing how Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the great crowd that had gathered to meet him. What he saw were people who were desperate for healing, desperate for hope, longing for something or someone to help turn their lives around. What he heard was a big cry for help, a longing for connection, for community, for wholeness.
The psalmist wrote, ‘I sought the Lord, and he answered me. From all my fears he set me free.’
In this time of restrictions, masks and isolation, take the opportunities we do have, (which are many more than in previous pandemics), to ring one another up, join our zoom morning teas after the on-line Church Service on Sunday, and above all hold one another in prayer. I encourage you to read Psalm 34:1-10 and make it your own prayer.