Sunday Service Video Stream


Happy Independence Day,  Saint Stephen’s Family!

Abiding by physical distancing guidelines and other safety measures, a small cast was able to record the service in church again.  Fr. Steve was joined by readers Paul Wells and me.  Mark Gibbons provided the music. I think this is our 17th video!  You may watch the service here:

The hymns are 657, 404, and 718.

Let’s watch the service at 11:00 am Sunday, July 5, together as a church from the safety of our homes. Virtual services will likely continue through Labor Day when there will be a reevaluation of our ability to hold in-person services.

I look forward to the day we’re back in church for real!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Michael B Wells, Senior Warden

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Sunday Reading & Comments


Dear Family in Christ,

As usual, I invite you to read, read again slowly, listen, and hear what God is saying in these four scripture readings for this Sunday. Pick one passage that speaks especially to you. What word or idea jumps out? Pay attention to that word or idea. Listen for what new thing God may saying, or calling you to do.

The Collect is at heart of both the Jewish Scripture and Christian, based on Jesus’ teaching of the commandment. He combines two commands from the Old Testament – love God and love one another. Be devoted to God, and united to one another — important guidelines for us in these days of division in our nation and communities, our politics and rhetoric — even how we cope with this virus. Jesus’ “way, truth, and life” is transforming. When we follow Jesus, we no longer follow the world. We live in the world. Our allegiance is to another.

The Old Testament reading from Genesis continues the story of Abraham, and the creation of a nation to enlighten all peoples. Rebekah joins the family entrusted with God’s promise. Today’s task, find Abraham’s son Isaac a wife. The servant sent, prayer to a greater being, Rebekah who agrees and goes home to be Isaac’s wife. Sarah, Isaac’s mother’s death. And the story of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim peoples begins to grow – God’s promise.

The psalm is placed with these readings, probably to match the story from Genesis. The king, one like Isaac, will have sons, one who will continue the history of God creating Judah. God blesses this people, not because they are worthy, or superior – far from it, as we shall see with the twins. God’s ways and wisdom are not ours. And here we are, offspring, too of the promise.

Romans 7 depicts a battle of human life. Doing good, serving God rightly is threatened by the enemy, sin. Sin eats at the best of human motives and actions. Humanity does not have the strength, wisdom or power to overcome sin alone. Even good gifts, like the law can be used by sin to destroy humanity – taking over the innermost being of a person – mind, thought and actions. Only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, does God reveal victory over sin. The promise of salvation, healing, redemption of God continues to be kept.

Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus, exasperated by the religious establishment’s reception to the fulfillment of God’s promise. Jesus to them, a loose person – a glutton and drunkard – John, grim, too serious and uptight. Neither pleases them. Jesus’ prayer tells us God’s wisdom is understood, not by knowledge and intelligence, according to human standards — but by inner wisdom, to “infants” who joyfully receive God’s revelation. Those who follow Jesus will find by their close relationship with him, a new understanding — that frees them from the law, and its misuse, and draws them into a new understanding of God’s promise — one who gives rest to the weary — worn down by religion’s burdens. God invites us to be at one – to rest in Jesus, gentle and meek, not so much for the body, as the soul.

May God’s Spirit be with you as you “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” these texts. Blessings, Fr. Steve

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 5, 2020

Proper 9 – Year A

The Collect

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

The servant said to Laban, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” —let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

The Response

Psalm 45: 11-18

Eructavit cor meum

11 “Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely; * 
forget your people and your father’s house.
12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty; * 
he is your master; therefore do him honor.
13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift; * 
the rich among the people seek your favor.”
14 All glorious is the princess as she enters; * 
her gown is cloth-of-gold.
15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king; * 
after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.
16 With joy and gladness they are brought, * 
and enter into the palace of the king.
17 “In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons; * 
you shall make them princes over all the earth.
18 I will make your name to be remembered 
from one generation to another; * 
therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”

The Epistle

Romans 7:15-25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The Gospel

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
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Daily Gospel


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Today, July 4th, I offer several prayers from the Book of Common Prayer, appropriate to this day —and our present days for meditation. Take time to read each. Listen carefully to the words as you read each aloud, slowly. Think about what you are saying to God. I have added a brief comment/prayer.

Independence Day — July 4

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this
country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the
torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and
all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our
liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 “To maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace” — In God’s kingdom, righteousness and peace are for all. We are to strive and work for justice — to live in safety, without fear. I pray that we shall all, one day live in the freedom God gives us in Christ our Lord, and be at peace with one another.

17. For the Nation
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the
earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the
strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in
accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.


“Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will;”  I pray that I shall strive to live in this world, with God’s will and kingdom to guide my relationship with all others, those I agree with, and those I don’t.

36. For the Oppressed

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“Have mercy upon us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land;”  I pray to be more of an instrument of God’s peace – to those who’ve given up, those who live in fear, on the edge, stare into a face of hopelessness. I pray for those who protect us, and our liberties — regardless of who we are, where we have come from, the color of our skin. May we all live in peace, harmony, ordering our lives in accordance with God’s will.

Today, this July 4th, I give thanks for our nation. I pray we can work together to make our nation a better place for all. Prayer shapes us, not God. Prayer opens us to receive and welcome, the gifts of God’s kingdom, here on earth. May God bless us and strengthen us to serve Him and his kingdom, here, where we are.

In Christ’s love and mine for you, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel


What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  — Matthew 18:12

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

For the present, one final meditation with Julian:

Julian’s work grew in popularity through the Anglican Church. While Roman Catholics today embrace Julian, her teachings were sometimes seen as heretical. Fr William Meninger tells Anglicans, who forget — “Look, Julian was a religious. She was a nun from the 14th century, so she was a holy Roman Catholic. Let’s get that straight.” They’d stare at him. Then he added, “But after she died, she became an Episcopalian.”

Julian recognized we are creatures, finite and sometimes aware of something greater. It is this impulse that takes you outside ourself and draws you into something greater. Think of prayer – the impulse to be found by someone greater. Many do not realize they have already been found. We are the ones who go astray. Regardless of one’s belief in a Higher Being — when the low clouds part, the sun breaks through, and the peak of a great mountain is seen, a cry bursts forth, “Wow!” That is prayer. You are “wowing” to something greater.

Prayer, regardless of what we call it, prayer begins when we sense something greater. Prayer emerges from hope. From that hope Julian prayed. Jesus came to her in her suffering and dying. God awaits you. You don’t search for God. The Shepherd knows where to find you. You pray because yearn “Something More,” to be found. You awaken to the “Wow” – God is already in this place.

For Julian the fullness of joy is to see God in everything. You realize you didn’t get here on your own. Something greater created you, everyone, and all things.  As Paul writes there are no divisions in Christ. Regardless of language, skin tone, place of birth, politics — we are created, sisters and brothers of the one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Julian would say that. You change when you see and experience that.

Today, ask God to be in everything you do, you experience, everything you say. Feel his presence and rejoice in it. Let the presence of his love flow through you. It may surprise you, and others around you. Pray, anyway. Practice. You’ll find more “Wow” moments when thanksgiving springs unexpectedly from within. Your persistence in prayer pleases God, and opens a way for God to be with you. Live this moment, and everyone after in Jesus’ gift to us through Julian’s persistence in prayer — All will be well.

Blessings, and peace that passes your understanding, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. — Matthew 8: 26-27

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1 

Dear Church Family

Seasons in our lives – we go through seasons, changes. We grow, learn, mature — pick up, set down, return and pick up again. In the first entry in my journal this morning, I write about such seasons.

I went through a dry, empty season. I was praying words, without listening and connecting. Communication was one-way, prayers read and spoken – expected of me as worship leader. Prayers said at the bed of the sick, the dying. Scripture I read, but my mind was elsewhere. I realized I was going through motions. I was in a dry, desert season. “Help me!” is a trustworthy, humbling prayer.

I talked with one of my best friends at the time, a chaplain at one of our local hospitals. He referred me to — his wife, a Quaker spiritual director. By direction, prayer, spiritual practices, gradually, I began to awaken. I found ways of being with God I knew exist, yet never experienced. I was running on empty, and didn’t know my prayer was to tell my friend what I was experiencing — a brother, who also knew such desolation and what I might need. Therein, the reason. My emptiness, a blessing, that God is reaching me, in facing my emptiness and hunger. Paul says it’s the Spirit, comforting words, “for I know not how to pray as I ought,” the Spirit, at the right time, when you or I are ready, reveals what you need.

In Julian’s “Revelations” you read that she believed God was as near as her next breath. Prayer often emerges in times you admit weakness, and cry out for help – to others, to God. Then, listen. God is in each breath, thought, help you ask for. Julian writes that God…”is the ground of all your praying.”

Think of God as praying through you for your well-being and the well-being of everyone, even for creation. God is in every place and space. Stop at times today, and think of each breath as God’s Spirit entering you, and each thought as a word of healing for you. Be still. Speak, then listen. God is present. Listen more. As you offer intercessions, for you and others, petitions, and thanksgivings, imagine God’s presence, connecting you more fully with those you know and love. Realize we, as I came to learn, go through seasons – purposeful seasons. It’s God’s breath praying in you, growing you into the joy of life of the Beloved. In this offering, you are doing God’s will, as Paul says.

Blessings, and awareness of God praying through you this day, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel


We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  — Romans 8:28

Dear Church Family,

People know Julian of Norwich’s quote, “All Shall Be Well,” but won’t know who said it. They see it as a glib saying on coffee mugs at Family Dollar Store. It’s sent in a card, words of comfort someone sick or grieving. The phrase for many is a boost of hope, “Don’t worry. It’s going to turn out okay.” Julian meant more.

In Roberta Bondi’s lecture years ago, I remember her saying that the way many hear Julian’s words is not how she means it. She’s looking at the long journey, primarily, not the immediate moment.

Julian was very familiar with pain, loss, grief, and death. She knew God is not a “rabbit’s foot,” or if you say you believe the “right things,” the magic mantra that makes what’s wrong, right. Not even Julian by her visions of Jesus would say “ask, and all you want shall be given.” Joy and sorrow are part of this earthly journey. One day our hearts soar. The next we crash in tears of sorrow. That’s this earthly journey. People of faith know you are not alone. You live in a community who holds onto you, and a with God who is faithful to love and never leave you in times of pain and fears. This life is well, because you trust life beyond shall be well. “All Shall Be Well” is a declaration of confidence that we are united in God’s life, here and in the life to come. You can live confidently now, because you know and trust that the end of the story for you here, is the beginning of all things being well in a final, everlasting way. Julian’s phrase is a not a wish or hope that all turns out right, as you want or ask God for here on earth. It’s the confidence that nothing separates you from God’s love, now and beyond. Whatever that life is, God welcomes you and then you know what Julian experienced from Jesus — All is Well.

You and I can experience God’s love right now. Eternal life is to experience God’s everlasting love, life – renewed or resurrected through small deaths. We “die” continually in this life – to bad habits, unhealthy ways of thinking, the “old self,” a journey into Christ where we are continually being “raised” to new ways of thinking, living and being.

Today, treasure this moment – temporary as it is – as God’s will and love for you. Breathe in the air of God’s gracious providence — that all will be well, because in God, all is well. Live this day and each, knowing that in all things, God works for good. You love God. You are called to His purposes. You know — all may not turn out as you pray and wish, but All is Well. Practice seeing God in all things.

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

JUNE 29, 2020 – MONDAY

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. — Matthew 16:18
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’ — Acts 9:4

Dear Church Family,

Today I offer a detour from Julian of Norwich to commemorate with the larger church, the Solemnity of Peter and Paul. They are two different forces whose lives were claimed for Jesus. Neither knew what this would mean. We are who we are today, because of God’s love, and their response of faithful trust, and with our cousin Julian, as well.  That same Spirit is alive in you and me.

Peter says the right words but has no clue what he says, “You are the Messiah (Mark 8:29b). Peter has a knack for saying things he’s yet to understand. His story reveals Jesus’ patience and love, calling out strengths, failures and wisdom Peter is yet to discover in himself. From that day Jesus called from one type of fishing to another, from the miscue of challenging Jesus on his ideas about Messiah, from his denial of knowing Jesus – the stark realization of what he’d done – and Jesus’ restoration, “Do you love me?” Jesus never gave up on Peter. Jesus never gives up on anyone, even you and me.

Jesus comes to Julian, in a different time and way. Jesus has come to you just as you are, and where you are. Think about that today as we remember and give thanks for our ancestor in faith, Peter. Listen prayerfully for moments Jesus is asking you, “Do you love me?” To answer “yes” is more than nodding your head. It is also means you take up Jesus’ charge — to love and feed his sheep, one another, with the spiritual food of divine love. Your life is a sacrament – an outward and visible sign of your inner experience of God’s grace.

On a “Damascus Road” Jesus calls Paul. In a momentary vision, as Jesus came to Julian in her dying, Jesus calls Paul to reckon with who he is before God. One feared by his brothers and sisters who now will follow Jesus whom he has persecuted, falls before his Lord. From that moment he will welcome the outcast — Gentiles, as his sisters and brothers by the God of Abraham and Jesus. Paul’s conviction – only God saves. No human effort on our part – only by faith, not proof, we accept the grace of God. Paul always remembered his roots. Jesus calls Paul to see his roots extend much deeper than he imagined — to all people, who need to share his vision, and be knocked over by God’s love. We are all God’s chosen and beloved children.

Also, today take Paul with you as well as Peter. Think about moments of insight when you experience God’s love for you. You know times you have opposed God’s love — or doubted God’s gift of grace for you. God has already forgiven you. Forgive yourself. God has called you, too. Close your eyes, breathe, and feel held in God’s love, the security that never lets you go, just as Jesus imparts to Julian.

These stories of Peter, Paul, and later Julian – are ways God calls you and me. Their stories open to us the wonder of God’s universal love for us all. Keep your eyes open for ways you can and are letting that holy love flow through you, especially as a light to others, in these days of disease, death, and division. Live today confidently, that no matter, we’re in God’s hands. All shall ultimately be well — for God makes it so.

Blessings and God’s grace filling you this day, Fr. Steve
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Sunday Service Video Stream


======== good news ===========

I am happy to announce that Fr. Steve will continue to serve as our rector through December 2020! His time with us was slated to expire in mid-July 2020, but thankfully he was able to extend his stay.  His pastoral and spiritual leadership was already stellar when COVID-19 hit.  He has not rested during this trying time, providing inspiring virtual services weekly and daily devotional material.  Although he has not been able to visit person,  hIs pastoral care has continued by phone and other electronic means.  Thank you, Fr. Steve!

 ========== link to service =========================

Abiding by physical distancing guidelines and other safety measures, a small cast was able to record the service in church again. The sound is noticeably better again this week and the video quality came back! Fr. Steve was joined by readers Jega Dapuyen and John Todd.  Mark Gibbons provided the music. You may watch the service here:

The hymns are 48, 321, and 362.

Let’s watch the service at 11:00 am Sunday, June 28, together as a church from the safety of our homes. Virtual services will likely continue through Labor Day when there will be a reevaluation of our ability to hold in-person services.  I look forward to the day we’re back in church for real!

- Michael B Wells, Senior Warden

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Sunday Readings & Comments


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our readings this week are diverse in themes. The Collect for Sunday may bring focus — foundations of apostles and prophets before us — the faith of Abraham, the Lament of the Psalms, Paul’s words on our status – freed of sin in Christ, and Jesus’ words to prepare the disciples, and the church for our mission for God’s kingdom. Read each — maybe at different times – silently one time, aloud a second time. Listen to hear what God is saying to you. And then take some time to meditate on what that means for you.

The passage from Genesis 22 is difficult – God wants Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Evidently child sacrifice was still practiced. God’s order places in jeopardy the promise to Abraham, and the future generations of Abraham. Abraham’s continuing trust and faith, and God’s grace prevail. God provides. Abraham trusts. Isaac and the promise live. We are the offspring of this story.

Psalm 13 is a classic lament. Troubled anxiety stirs in the soul of the one addressing pain and abandonment to God. An appeal is made for relief. Something happens that shifts the focus and spirit, perhaps found in honest lament to God, and memory when the psalmist could trust God, and now remembers times of God’s trustworthiness.

In Romans, Paul juxtaposes three opposites: sin and righteousness, freedom and slavery; wages and gifts. Sin is more than what one does or fails to do. For Paul sin is a power, that human strength alone cannot defeat. Only in God do we receive strength from beyond. God is the liberator, not us. We are freed from sin — not because we earn or deserve it. Eternal life is a gift freely given by God. We accept what we cannot earn, and over our lives become transformed and changed into God’s likeness through grace and divine love.

Matthew’s words that whoever welcomes you, welcomes Jesus, and God who sends Jesus into our lives. It’s a powerful claim. As we have read building to the end of chapter 10 the past few weeks, not everyone will receive the ones sends. Jesus’ message and God’s kingdom cause disruption in family, in beliefs, in how we arrange our lives in this present world. Now, we are the ones who are sent. If we have not received such transforming love — we become like those Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians — without love, we’re just noise. Right relationship with God creates right relationship with this world, and with others. It’s the gift of God’s grace and love, we receive by faith and trust.

Blessings as you pray, read, reflect and grow in grace, Fr. Steve
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – June 28, 2020
Proper 8 – Year A
The Collect

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament
Genesis 22:1-14

God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Psalm 13
Usquequo, Domine?
1 How long, O Lord?
will you forget me for ever? *
how long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,
and grief in my heart, day after day? *
how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God; *
give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” *
and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
5 But I put my trust in your mercy; *
my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6 I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly; *
I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.
The Epistle
Romans 6:12-23

Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Gospel
Matthew 10:40-42

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

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Daily Gospel


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. — 1 John 4:18

Dear Friends in Christ,

Years ago, in Pastoral Care and Counseling training, we learned to be aware of people whose parents were harsh and abusive. Some fathers and mothers have been wounded and scarred, and have never faced, nor healed, from their past. They treat a child the way they were treated. It can cause such abuse that a child cannot trust parental images of God.

Julian experienced both fathering and mothering qualities of Jesus. The father is an image of Creator; the mother aspect redeems, heals, and forgives. Both aspects of the divine are found woven in Hebrew scripture and Jesus’s teaching — Hosea (God as a mother bear; as a mother teaching a child to walk), Deuteronomy (God as mother eagle; as one giving birth), Psalm 131 (as a Mother). As Karen and I walked the road into Jerusalem, Jesus wept over the city, as a mother hen trying to protect her young.

Julian experienced the divine loving protection of God — both as tenacious strength and tender love. God walks our journey with us — even if you cannot see or sense that divine protection in the dark and empty moments. As John writes, perfect love casts out fear. The opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

In a Julian lecture a number of years ago, Church History professor Roberta Bondi — helped me understand the tenacious personality of Julian. In the “showings” of Jesus, she’d say (Roberta’s paraphrase), “Now, Jesus, I know you are God’s son and all, but you can’t be right.” Jesus insists otherwise. God’s love is so much deeper, higher, wider than Julian believed. Jesus gives her confidence and assurance that all shall be well, and all is well. God’s love never leaves or loses anyone of us. God, the Divine Source and Creator of life and love — so much more than the puny ideas and images we have — perfect love.

Today, take a few moments and notice if you hear a voice in your head, that sometimes says you are not enough, a failure, you’ll never amount to anything, you never “get it right.” I think we all do – part of our human journey. I notice when someone criticizes me and my first reaction is to defend and protect myself because I fear I am “not enough.” Or maybe you experience fear about the future because you felt unsure, even abandoned, unloved in the past. These voices and images can become “god like” to us. We need a deeper of understanding of God’s everlasting love – not condemnation.  God, who protects and holds your life, and whose love never lets you go. In your prayers, thank God for such love. Then let that love hold you, as a mother or father caresses their beloved child.

May God’s eternal love hold and fill you this day, Fr. Steve 

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