Sunday Service Video Stream

Happy Sunday, St. Stephen’s Family!

Let’s watch the service together on Sunday, Day of Pentecost, May 31st, 2020, at 11:00 am from the comfort and safety of our homes.  The link is below:

https://youtu.be/KYYwfh65EXk

This week Fr. Steve, Karen, and Mark are joined by readers Laurie Austen and Thomas Honeycutt. Prayers of the People are given by Heather.

The hymns in order are 225, 511, and 531.  Plan to sing along from the privacy of your home.

–Mike Wells, Senior Warden

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Readings and Comments for Pentecost Sunday, May 31st, 2020

MAY 31, 2020 SUNDAY – PENTECOST

Dear Church Family,

This is Pentecost Sunday, celebrating the Spirit’s arrival, and a new creation, the Body of Christ in us. The Collect reflects the universal reach of the Gospel. We are the witnesses carrying on the Pentecost event — in our words and by our lives — as we welcome the Spirit. Jesus’ promise to the disciples in John, as he breathed the Spirit into them, is fulfilled on Pentecost.

Acts 2: 1-21 — narrates the events that happened. One of the interesting observations Biblical scholars make, is to note that Genesis’ story of the tower of Babel that scattered nations and separation by differing languages, now is reversed. At Pentecost, devout Jews are confused, as I would imagine those disciples spilling into the street would have been, speaking a language they did not know, and non-Judea residing Jews of different languages were able to hear, and understand. Some thought Jesus’ followers were drunk. Peter clarifies what has happened. It’s the beginning of the Spirit that comes and unifies – male and female, young and old, slave and free — divisions are torn down. God’s Spirit comes to all — empowering them to speak, to prophecy, what they’ve witnessed in Jesus, by the coming of the Spirit.

Paul in Corinthians — says that we know Jesus as Lord, because of the Holy Spirit. Formation, instruction, baptism, gathering for worship, a life-style that  corresponds to God’s dream in Jesus is God’s grace and gives perhaps some division has arisen at Corinth for Paul to list “gifts” (not talents) great and small, that God gives to individuals. A gift’s “significance is not our concern, for all are great and needed to fulfill God’s purposes. Grateful for our spiritual gift, we use it for the building of the Body and the mission of the church. Christ is our unity, and are not just welcomed, but needed — ALL, as Peter says at Pentecost.

John’s Gospel — takes us back to that first evening after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples, mysteriously, bearing two gifts needed for their mission soon to come. One is his peace. The other the Advocate — the helper — the ongoing presence of Jesus in the Holy Spirit. This is John’s “Pentecost.”

Again, as sometimes I say, don’t get too tied up in details, a timeline, what actually happened and who got it right. All of it is. These stories point to a truth beyond our ability to understand. It’s a truth that is like a jewel, with many glittering facets. Pentecost — a dynamic intervention of God’s love for the world — for you, me, and everyone who was, is now, and yet to be — awaits the final word that only God one day, will speak. And a hint – it will be better than you or I can imagine.

Prepare for Sunday by reading these texts, so when you hear them read, and we pray the Psalm, you will have already been in God’s presence by prayer and meditating, welcoming his Spirit, bringing words on a page to life in your heart.

Blessings, and we’ll see each other Sunday. Happy Pentecost — Fr. Steve
 

DAY OF PENTECOST 

The Collect

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Lesson
Acts 2:1-21
 
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
 
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
 
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ “
 
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Benedic, anima mea
 
25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! *
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
26 Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number, *
creatures both small and great.
27 There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.
28 All of them look to you *
to give them their food in due season.
29 You give it to them; they gather it; *
you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
30 You hide your face, and they are terrified; *
you take away their breath,
and they die and return to their dust.
31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; *
and so you renew the face of the earth.
32 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; *
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.
33 He looks at the earth and it trembles; *
he touches the mountains and they smoke.
34 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; *
I will praise my God while I have my being.
35 May these words of mine please him; *
I will rejoice in the Lord.
37 Bless the Lord, O my soul. *
Hallelujah!
 
The New Testament
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
 
No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
 
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
 
The Gospel
John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

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Daily Gospel

MAY 28, 2020 THURSDAY

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” — Mark 1:35
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A number of times when Jesus “went missing,” the disciples knew where to look for him. In the night he got up, wandered off to find a quiet, out of the way place, There he prayed. They learned where to find Jesus.

You and I are called to unceasing prayer, by following Jesus’ example, and by paying attention to Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians - Pray without ceasing. 

Do you have more time to make room for prayer these days? I do. How do you fill that time? Solitude and silence, as Henri Nouwen writes, “can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer.” These are acts we choose to invest ourselves with the Lord. Solitude is more than stepping back from a “busy joy,” and silence more than escaping noise and distraction.

Solitude and silence are not escape mechanisms — for days full and rich with activity. Nor in days like now, of isolation and the spiritual practice of caring for others safety — social distancing. You may have more time, to choose what you’ll do.

Prayer is not a time for being alone. It is a time for “being with” God. The Desert Mothers and Fathers spent time with God, not talking but listening. Solitude and silence are your intentional acts to do like Jesus. Create time and place to be with God.

Today, think about how you might do this. Could you give God 5 minutes — maybe 10 or more? Are you able to silent within, so that you can make room for what God may be trying to say? Maybe it’s okay to talk just a bit. Remember that conversation Eli had with young Samuel? Samuel keeps hearing a voice, thinking Eli’s calling him. Eli realizes God is trying to get Samuel’s attention. The third time he tells Samuel, to go back and lie down. If the voice comes again say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Tell God you’re ready — then be quiet, and listen. Sometimes I realize, God has been calling me. It’s a voice that sometimes comforts, sometimes troubles, often slows and stops me to show me what I am not seeing. Five, ten minutes – even more?

May God’s love hold you, and the grace of the divine find room within you this day, Fr. Steve 
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Daily Gospel

MAY 27, 2020 WEDNESDAY

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.”  —John 20: 21-22

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

This coming Sunday the church celebrates Pentecost. The story of its origin is recorded in Acts 2, where the disciples are waiting for the coming of the Spirit. It’s not the only “Pentecost” story.

In John we read on Easter evening, Jesus breathes the Spirit into the disciples. It’s not nearly as dramatic. Which is correct? Does it matter? Some experiences of the Divine are beyond our minds to explain. They can only be experienced, for us to know their truth.

“Pentecost” Sunday brings Easter’s season to a close. Easter lives on in our lives, and each day we experience signs of resurrection, if we pay close attention. Pentecost signifies the Spirit’s presence, filling us with a re-creation, for those welcoming God’s love into our lives. By the spirit’s presence, you are able to see the “more” of this world – the beautiful gifts of creation, the wonder of being alive.

Through the Spirit we are able to live free, joyful, courageous lives. Think of when you feel most free, joyful and courageous. Even though these present days are difficult, the Spirit is ever present. Often you forget, become distracted, overly attentive to what’s wrongs, you may fail to notice evidence of the divine holding you.

Moments when you notice something as spectacular as birds’ songs, a small finch flapping water in a birdbath, a frog chorus by a pond, puffy clouds against the background of mystery beyond the blue skies — think of other ways joy surprises you. Think Spirit.

When you feel gratitude, want to say “thank you,” knowing you are not a creator – you are recipient, the spirit of Christ prays within. It’s a moment you realize lasting peace and joy can be found is in this world. Again, Christ prays in us.

We are unable to break through barriers that divide us in this world — human created barriers of race, sex, nationality. The Spirit of Christ breaks through, to bring healing and unity, drawing us up and into God’s love. The Spirit helps us see our enemy, those who annoy and irritate us, who can’t see as you see — as God’s beloved. Times you fail, you feel you’re not enough, you could never be beloved of anyone, the Spirit lifts you back up, into God’s ever-present love. The Spirit drives away fear and anxiety, frees us to breathe again, and re-centers us in God’s perfect peace.

As Pentecost Sunday approaches, prepare yourself. The Spirit of God is at work to free us – fill us with God’s love to love and serve one another. It’s the fruit of our salvation. In fact, don’t wait until Sunday, it’s here now. Sunday, we’ll celebrate the breath that keeps bringing us back to God.

Blessings, and the joy of the Spirit be with you this day, Fr. Steve 
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Daily Gospel

MAY 26, 2020 TUESDAY

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”    — Matthew 25: 35-40
 

Dear Friends in Christ,

I anxiously wonder what life will be like a year from now. What lessons will we learn as we move forward. That implies we have choices. We adapt to a changed world, or keep living as if the “old” will return. Will we despondently cling to a past that won’t return, or will we have the strength to embrace and make a new way into different ways of being together, being a church, being neighbors? It may be too early to know what that will eventually be. It’s not too early to think about that four-letter word, change. Our attitude, our spirit, where our hearts lie will help us learn. Is the cup going to be half-full or half-empty?

Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 has haunted me. When I have driven by someone at a street corner asking for help, the light was green, and I could keep driving, my first reaction was relief, not compassion. I didn’t have to struggle with passing by someone asking for help. How did I know I wasn’t being scammed? Then that ol’ Spirit taps my shoulder. What’s missing here? Compassion. The traffic light made my decision. Compassion? What would it be like to live as that person? How did they come to this sort of life? Is it their fault, or does that matter? Could I not mutter a prayer for this person – or does prayer do anything more than ease my mind?

Matthew 25 keeps asking me to listen and hear God’s voice differently. Prayer and action are not two separate spheres. Action flows out of prayer. A life of prayer leads to a changed heart. Action that springs from other motives, may be more ego-driven than acting because I see God’s image is in people I’ve learned not to see.  Concrete acts of serving others, feeding the hungry, tending the sick and dying, freeing the oppressed — can lead you to prayer, where Jesus has been waiting for you. In all people we meet suffering of some kind, and in suffering we meet Christ.

Maybe a new normal is to see and act for people we’ve learned not to see. Those living below the poverty line who go unseen in “normal” times. Parents, unable to put food on the table for their children, who can’t afford for they know would bring joy to their child. The homeless — the veteran with PTSD, or has been denied benefits. The poor who cannot afford health care. Seniors who must choose between paying the rent or affording medications that keep them alive. Can a new normal be to see to see Jesus waiting for us, in these beloved of God? What can we do better?

Maybe prayer is a place to start. From the heart of prayer comes compassion, which can lead to acting for the suffering. Jesus calls us into a larger world. It’s hard to see God in those who irritate you, people you don’t like, people who don’t share your values or how you see the world. Prayer opens us, if we listen, to see how Jesus sees the world, each one of us. It can open us to compassion in whomever the least of these are to you — the person you don’t get along with, the neighbor who doesn’t see as you do, the person you wish would change. Jesus never says, “love those you can bring yourself to love.” It’s more like, “love like I do. Treat others as I have. Follow me.”

To return to “normal?” Maybe one lesson in God calls us to see — what has been normal and comfortable to you and me, may be “hell” for others we don’t want to have to see. What feels like upheaval, inconvenience, uncertainty for you, may have been the “normal” for others. Maybe God is calling us to see, listen, serve, with actions springing from prayer — actions which reveal our treasure, and not just words from our lips.

Blessings, and God’s love and grace holding you, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

MAY 25, 2020 MONDAY

Dear Family in Christ,

Today, Memorial Day, has been an important day to me. My dad, a man of peace who taught me to respect all others, served as an Army Captain during WWII and the Korean conflict. This is important day for me, because it was for him. Especially during the Vietnam War, when some of my friends died, the cost of wars came home to me.

For nine years I planned, presided and preached for the Memorial Day Service at the cemetery our parish began in 1850, and continued to own and manage. The service was held in the chapel on the grounds. Around 125 people filled the cemetery chapel. We concluded with a procession to the military burial areas, laying a wreath to honor the dead from the Civil War on. Many were retired service members, and each had a memory, a friend, they held in their hearts.

I share with you one of the sermons I preached during those years. That Memorial Day worship gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for women and men who have served their country, for the willingness to sacrifice their life if needed, and for the wounds still carried by survivors, emotional and physical.

Today, take a few moments, reflect and offer your prayer. Perhaps at 3pm, take a special moment to whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, and a petition for God’s love and peace to fill our hearts, and heal our present divisions and the suffering we perpetuate.

Blessings — and peace, Fr. Steve
 
 
Memorial Day Service
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector, St. Paul’s Church
Forest Home Cemetery
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 

Some years ago the founder of an organization dedicated to restoring the meaning and dignity of Memorial Day asked some school children what the day means. The response was: “That’s the day the pools open.” The Gallup Poll discovered only 28% of Americans could do any better. On TV we hear about the price of gas rising for this three-day weekend, or it’s the official start of summer, heat up the grills, and yes, swimming pools are opening. 

I sense many forget, or don’t even know the importance of Memorial Day. Remembering and honoring fallen soldiers began in our towns and cities long ago. In the south before the end of the Civil War ladies began decorating the graves of the Confederate dead. After the war women of the North and South joined to honor the graves of both sides. In 1868 General John Logan issued a general order establishing May 30 as an official memorial day to pay respect for all those who had died, in war or peace. The tradition of placing American flags on the graves of those buried in Arlington Cemetery began. These efforts springing up in so many places and ways testify to the universal desire to make sense of sacrifices others make; and the need to honor and remember their lives – their stories and their families. 

Officially President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace of Memorial Day, in May of 1966, where a druggist there led a movement to honor the fallen.  In 1971 Congress declared the last Monday of May would be known as Memorial Day – a national holiday to remember those who gave their lives in service for this country.

Today in Arlington Cemetery small flags continue to be planted at graves. A wreath will be laid at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier – in memory of those who died and whose places of burial are unknown – or a place is known, but not the person. In death all matter and each one is known by God. 

I am grateful we are here today to reflect, pray and remember before God – friends and family members who have died in service to the nation, and remember those whose lives go on, forever altered because of sacrifices others have made. Today is a holiday, and also a holy day, to remember the dream of our Creator God for us all.  

In December of 2000 the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed, asking that at 3 PM on this day, in each local time zone, a moment of remembrance, voluntarily observed. That’s a rather small thing to ask of us – a few moments from whatever we are doing for silence, to do something to remind us of those we honor this day, and the meaning of sacrifice, death, and faith. 

I am grateful to be an American citizen. I also try to be a decent citizen in another realm – God’s reign. Faith is the lens I use to make sense of the senselessness of this world. I say this to remind us we are all the beloved children of our Creator – even our enemies and those who perpetrate evil. When we fight wars and kill others; when we no longer respect each other, when civil discourse becomes extinct among us; when we forget the walking dead among us, victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and other deadly wounds of war, I believe we break the heart of God. All of us suffer. Wars may be necessary, but honor and respect for one another, remembering in whose image we are all made, is a truth that transcends the violence we do and the web of suffering it brings. We live in a broken world, and sometimes evil must be stopped, even if we don’t like the means that must be used. I wish the good Lord would tell us more directly how to get along. But then maybe God has, and we are just slow to pay attention. 

Jesus’ words are appropriate as we reflect on this day in light God’s desires. “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and take you to myself.” We can take a moment to thank God that he forgets not, nor loses one of his children, regardless of what side we’re on, or what views we hold. We are all children of the Creator who knows each one as His beloved. And regardless of the messes we make of His world, God’s love is faithful. One day we shall rest in a peace we could not create nor build on our own. Along the way and until that day comes, may God’s peace be more fully among us – between us and within us.  

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Sunday Service Video Stream

MAY 24, 2020 THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Happy Sunday, St. Stephen’s Family!

It is hard to believe this Sunday’s service (5/24) is the 11th recorded service Saint Stephen’s has posted during the COVID-19 pandemic!  Please know that Fr. Steve and the vestry want to get back to normal church as soon as possible.  Many of our parishioners are in categories that are cited as vulnerable to the virus, so we must proceed with caution and under the guidelines of the state and diocese.  Until we’re back together for real, we’ll continue to post the service videos.  We are working on a transition plan that allows a minimum cast (6 or less) to meet and record services in the sanctuary for several weeks while the virus subsides.  Hopefully by summer’s end we can return to church following appropriate safety guidelines.  Until then, enjoy the e-services and abundant spiritual nourishment provided by Fr. Steve via email. 

Let’s watch the service together on Sunday May 24, 2020, at 11:00 am from the comfort and safety of our homes.  The link is below:

 https://youtu.be/OBHIXIu62nc

This week Fr. Steve, Karen, and Mark are joined by readers Heather and Caroline.
The hymns in order are 460, 214, and 494.  Plan to sing along from the privacy of your home.

-Mike Wells, Senior Warden

==================================

 

 

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Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church Erwin NC May 24, 2020
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Sunday Readings & Comments

The Seventh Sunday of Easter — Ascension Sunday

May 24, 2020 – Year A

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. Jesus’ time of preparing the disciples for his departure is here.

The Collect summarizes the events of this day — ascending not to an identified, visible place, but the Divine presence filling “all things,” especially the church on earth. Even in these days of being apart, Christ holds us together. We abide in him, as he abides in the Father. It is the divine Communion.

In the reading from Acts, Luke in “writing Theophilus,” sets the stage for the church’s birth. Jesus must take leave of being here, some way. The disciples are left, befuddled, staring up into heaven, as Luke tells it here. “Two men in white robes” (hint, angels), nudge them to listen to Jesus. He left. He’ll come again, and again, and again – until a day, when his glory fills all the earth, every knee bows and tongue confesses him Lord.

Paul reminds the Ephesians of the source of their power and salvation. The God of Jesus on earth, Jesus the Christ, risen from death, now ascended, is the Lord in whom the Father abides. That holy presence is a grace, a gift God offers and bestows as we assent and accept, grow into. The life of the Holy abides in us, the church, expressed through us for the sake of the world.

The Gospel of Luke places Jesus’ ascension at the end of Easter Day. He takes the remaining disciples out to Bethany, and they see him no more in his present form. They do as he instructs, returning to Jerusalem, to await the Spirit to empower them to carry Jesus’ mission into all the world — Jews and Gentiles, all who will listen and receive. As Jesus has opened the scripture of the Jewish Bible for them, as for the two on Emmaus’ road a bit earlier that day —Luke underscores that his life and their future is a continuation of God’s work to bring the Divine Light into all the world. Note their response — returning to Jerusalem with joy, and to the Temple to bless God. Now they wait.

In these stories, we see wonderments and hints that God’s new rule is beyond our comprehension, our logic. The community of Jesus’ followers, returning now with joy, yet without certainty of what has happened, or will happen. They’ll become empowered with God’s love and life, the “glue” holding us together as Christ’s Body. As in them, so in us, the Spirit of God fills us with the power to make disciples, teach, and baptize. If we think it’s our church, we can do this on our own, we fool ourselves. Jesus promises to be with us. Let’s not forget this promise, especially in these days in which we find ourselves. You are not alone.

Read the Collect, and pause to listen for God. Then read the First Lesson, the Response, the Epistle, and finally the Gospel. Give each a separate time, attentive to the words, expecting to hear what you need right now. And you will. Make room for God within. At the end of your reading and meditation, pray the words we say, “Thanks be to God!”

Blessings, love, and God’s keeping us in these days, Fr. Steve 
 
The Collect

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The Response
Psalm 47
Omnes gentes, plaudite
1 Clap your hands, all you peoples; *
shout to God with a cry of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is to be feared; *
he is the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdues the peoples under us, *
and the nations under our feet.
4 He chooses our inheritance for us, *
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
5 God has gone up with a shout, *
the Lord with the sound of the ram’s-horn.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; *
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is King of all the earth; *
sing praises with all your skill.
8 God reigns over the nations; *
God sits upon his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the peoples have gathered together *
with the people of the God of Abraham.
10 The rulers of the earth belong to God, *
and he is highly exalted.
 

Ephesians 1:15-23

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The Gospel

Luke 24:44-53

Jesus said to his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

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Daily Gospel

MAY 23, 2020 SATURDAY

The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you. --Luke 17:6
 
 

Dear Friends in Christ,

Jesus has just “raised the bar” for the disciples – live so as not to cause others to get the wrong idea – and they stumble and fall. For us, it might seem small. For Jesus it’s serious. If someone “sins,” be seriously gentle and loving, even it’s hard to forgive and restore. How hard – in Luke? “Seven times” forgive. I believe Jesus is saying, however long it takes. Don’t ever give up.

That’s pretty hard stuff. Jesus loves his followers enough to set the bar high, because he’s seriously and singularly immersed in the Father’s love.  Noting the heaviness of Jesus’s words, his followers realize their faith may not be up to Jesus’ standards – a brilliant conclusion. Humility is an opening for wisdom. And that’s where Jesus says it takes just a tiny seed to do some miraculous things.

God comes to us in small ways. Jesus is “hidden” in God – not readily seen, especially for those who are “certain.” Jesus was born under a government of oppression, a system in which religious leaders derived their power from the state. Jesus has “power,” too. He did all sorts of miracles, gave wise teachings – but not persuasive enough to awaken those living under an illusion of their own power. God tries to get our attention through a humble, lowly Jewish carpenter. His death was a public spectacle. His resurrection was a “mustard seed” event – a few women, a handful of followers – that’s about it.

For us today, the Jesus movement that began so long ago, and caught fire at Pentecost, has made great strides. Some put us on pedestals as high as a restaurant, a mall, a liquor store. Really? How far we’ve come from our roots, a God who comes hidden, lowly, with a different power, a yeasty, hardly visible power – of love, humility, forgiveness – power caught in the hiddenness of prayer, an unseen Spirit guiding and teaching you, picking you up when you fall, quietly following Jesus without blowing a trumpet to get noticed. It doesn’t take much — so choose wisely what seed you plant in your heart. Jesus often talks about a secret, hidden presence in the Father – a presence revealed quietly, gently, drawing you into the heart of God. That’s what too often goes unnoticed.

In these days I continually am drawn back to G. K. Chesterton’s profound insight: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” When I look inside my heart these days, I notice a gap in what I aspire to be and what I am, in light of God’s love. I often fail. It is difficult. But then, if it were easy, why is Jesus so focused on God’s love for you, something he is willing to suffer and die for him to be your way, truth and life into the heart of God. Just a mustard seed, a tiny mustard seed is what it takes.

Blessings, this day, and let’s not forget the “small things,” Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

MAY 22, 2020 FRIDAY

You keep insisting, I feel good because the world is right! Wrong! The world is right because I feel good. That’s what all the mystics are saying. 
— Awareness by Anthony de Mello

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Years ago I was introduced to the writings of Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit who was born in India. He brought the best of two spiritual worlds together.

Reading the above quote from Awareness caught my attention. What happens if we adhere to the first sentence? We are in a time when the world doesn’t feel right. Is the world good, or a dark and fearful place for you right now? How are you feeling these days? Is what’s outside you shaping how you feel?

To see the world differently, as being right, what would that take? What helps you feel good?

For the world to be right before you feel good, you may have a long wait ahead. If you find and hold onto what is good, God’s love for you – and let that fill you — to know nothing can separate you from that, the world will look quite a bit different.

You can’t wait for the world to feel right to feel good. That’s why I encourage us to take time each day to re-center in the one in whom we find goodness and love that never fails. From that center, God, you begin to see yourself, others, and the world is right, not perfect. Centering in God might help you notice what’s right and gives you life, not what’s wrong and steals life.

Find a place where you can be alone. Invite the God already within to enter your awareness. What do you need to move aside in your life to find time and space to see and taste the feast God sets before you? What is right and good? What gives you life and joy? Those who love you, those who’ll be with you through thick and thin, memories of times when God has been palpably present and changed your life? Waking up means letting God set the agenda, not culture, conditioning, or what others may say or think.

The world is right — not because it is. Because the God who made you and loves you is. Lean into that love. Remember that old Negro Spiritual – “He’s got the whole world in his hands” — even if you can’t hold a tune, sing it – hum it to yourself today — and feel good. The world make seem, at least, a little more right.

May we find our peace in God’s goodness and love for us, Fr. Steve
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