Sunday Service Video Stream

OCTOBER 11, 2020 SUNDAY

Happy Sunday,  Saint Stephen’s Family!

Abiding by physical distancing guidelines and other safety measures, a small cast was able to produce our 31st virtual service! Thanks to Barbara Nicholl this video features some vintage pictures of our church.

The Cast

Rector and Celebrant: Father Steve Teague
Crucifer: John Todd
Lay Reader: Peter Strickland
Organist: Mark Gibbons
Videographer: Michael Wells

You may watch the church service here:

 https://youtu.be/k9ARGjJj0V8

The hymns are 316, 321, and 663.

Let’s watch the service at 11:00 am Sunday together as a church from the safety of our homes. Virtual services will continue through mid-October.  We are exploring the possibility of an outdoor in-person service in late October.  Stay tuned.

I look forward to seeing you in person soon!

Michael B Wells, Senior  Warden
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Erwin NC
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Sunday Readings & Comments

OCTOBER 11, 2020 SUNDAY

Dear Church Family,

Our Collect for this next week asks gathers that God’s grace go before us, and behind us. You live in a divine bubble of grace. It strengthens us with power to seek good works and do them. In what ways does God’s grace touch and strengthen you? How does grace change you, and help you do the good works of God’s love, forgiveness and compassion for others?

The theme of the golden calf dominates the reading from Exodus and the Psalm for this Sunday. If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny. Unable to wait patiently on Moses or the Lord, the children of Israel hold an idol making class. The plan to make sacrifices to this altar. Realizing what’s going in the valley, Yahweh dispatches Moses with the Torah on stones, commands to destroy these people, so he can raise up a new nation. Moses, though, intervenes for the people, telling Yahweh he needs to uphold his reputation before the Egyptians, and keep promises made to Abraham and his offspring. Moses calls on Yahweh to repent. Interestingly — Yahweh repents. Think about that one.

The Psalm recalls the folly of the people, God’s anger, and all Yahweh has done to bring them this far. He would destroy them, but Moses intervenes. One of the interesting and beautiful aspects of these stories is conversation (argument) over whose these people are — God’s or Moses’s. God says he’s given them to him. Moses argues – “no, they’re yours.” It’s as if both at are ready to get rid of them by reassigning ownership. “They’re your people, Moses.” “No they’re not. They’re yours. You set them free. It’s your fault.”

Readings from the letter to the Philippians conclude and draw together a number of themes from Paul. Faithfulness to the gospel is most important and urgent. As Jesus was faithful to God’s way of salvation, through suffering and death, and as Paul has stood firm in is calling, he now calls on the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord. Both Christ and Paul are examples to follow.

“Faithlessness” begins Jesus’ parable in Matthew – an allegorical tale of a wedding banquet. Those invited don’t take the king seriously — even to the point of killing those he sends to call them to his table. And when the banquet hall is finally filled, it’s not those first invited. It’s anyone – good and bad who’ll come, good and bad. One guest dares come without proper wedding attire. Matthew has taken this story and applied it to his church — now some years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. What does it mean to be properly attired before God? I’ll try and answer that in Sunday’s sermon.

Read the Collect. Then read each text. Take time to listen to the words, either you speak aloud, or in your mind. Listen for God to speak. Sit with what you “hear” or comes into your mind — meditate with it. What do you believe God is asking you to do differently?

Blessings, God’s peace, and we gather via YouTube, Sunday — Fr. Steve
 

19th Sunday after Pentecost – October 11, 2020

Year A – Proper 23

The Collect

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Exodus 32:1-14

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

The Response

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Confitemini Domino, Et fecerunt vitulum

1 Hallelujah!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
for his mercy endures for ever.
2 Who can declare the mighty acts of the Lord *
or show forth all his praise?
3 Happy are those who act with justice *
and always do what is right!
4 Remember me, O Lord, with the favor you have for your people, *
and visit me with your saving help;
5 That I may see the prosperity of your elect
and be glad with the gladness of your people, *
that I may glory with your inheritance.
6 We have sinned as our forebears did; *
we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.
19 Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb *
and worshiped a molten image;
20 And so they exchanged their Glory *
for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.
21 They forgot God their Savior, *
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham, *
and fearful things at the Red Sea.
23 So he would have destroyed them,
had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, *
to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

The Epistle

Philippians 4:1-9

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Gospel

Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 10, 2020 SATURDAY

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  — Luke 13: 9-10

Dear Church Family,

Stage Two in Four Stages of Prayer: Talking to God. We’re first taught to say simple, childhood prayers. Or we listen and mimic adults, praying their words.s Sometimes notice a person switches into King James English when praying, thinking that’s a more formal and presentable way to address God, as they heard as a child – a “thee, thou, art or shalt.” In King James’ day it was the equivalent of our day – “you, you all, are, or shall.” Just a little example of Stage Two — words we overhear or are taught no longer “carry the luggage.”

Jesus is pretty simple. Talking to God — just ask, seek knock, in your words. Speak to God from your heart, not someone else’s. At first it may seem hard -you stumble, stammer, not sure. God already knows what you’re trying to say. Prayer is a way we develop a personal relationship with God, as we do a friend.

But you may wonder — how do I talk to a being with no physical body. God is no bearded man sitting on a throne in the clouds — even though God is described in human-like terms. What emotions does your God-image evoke from you? To whom do you speak? And God speaks, but how? More later.

Hold onto such questions. They don’t go away, for God is a mystery, known and unknown. Pray what’s in your heart to One who loves and wants to be in relationship with you. God becomes more than a distant acquaintance. God is a captive audience ready and waiting to listen to what you have to say. You are in God’s presence – your mind focused and heart opened to God, who accepts you without critique and loves you without question. You begin to speak your words, not someone else’s – share your thoughts, hopes, what’s most on your mind. It’s the positive thoughts – and negative ones – what’s upsetting you, what you fear, asking God for a miracle. Never fear how God will react. God always waits to hear your words, and holds you in his love – regardless of silence, disappointment, or satisfaction. Your relationship with God is greater than magically receiving what you ask. He gives you far more than you imagine.

It takes a leap of faith to ask, search, knock. Trust God never rejects you or anyone. It’s your leap of faith and trust. God invites and waits. Come with your hands open, your heart open – sharing your joys, sorrows, regrets, failures – your up’s and down’s.

Nothing is wrong with using prayers of others. Let those prayers help free you, to speak with God in your own words. In this way, you begin talking to and with God. And if you don’t get what you ask, search for, pound on heaven’s door to receive — don’t ever let that stop you. Trust God that one day you’ll understand. Here’s where Julian of Norwich – Jesus’ words to her – help me: “All shall be well.”

Blessings — let God hear from YOU today, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 8, 2020 THURSDAY

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. - 1 Corinthians 13:11

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The Christian journey moves us through birth, childhood, maturity and death. It’s a destination we strive toward, knowing we can’t get there from here by ourselves. God gets us to where we’ll need to be, here and beyond. We take small steps, bigger steps. Sometimes we go forward, sometimes backwards. With age and experience we grow. And if we’re blessed, with the gift of journeying with the Father of divine love — from one birth, through another, and into our final birth into the heavenly realm.

You grow up in the church, learning, unlearning and relearning with age. Or you came to Christ later on, and join a church as an adult. You have a beginning point. Stage One of the prayer life begins simply. As a child, my mom taught me, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” we prayed before she turned out my light. I learned to say a prayer before meals, “God is great, God is good…” Stage one - Talking to God. You listen from others what to pray. Later you read prayers and Collects from the Book of Common Prayer. You parrot prayers – like the Lord’s Prayer, or maybe the Anglican Rosary. These are foundations that help start us in prayer, and help you when you’re unsure what to say.

This first stage is not to give God information. It is the practice and discipline of performing “an act of love” for God. We use words more to express our love to spouse, children, grandchildren. We tell God He is important to us, and you love him. God knows our heart in taking the time to think about him – we know what is important, and where our hearts find rest.

When you are tired, exhausted— have no energy left for conversation, a simple, “Lord, I love you,” works. Or pray the Lord’s Prayer. When you are in a crisis – received bad news, and you’re too broken to know what to say — again recite a prayer, or a simple, “Lord, help me.” When you’re afraid – have a pending, dreaded conversation you can’t avoid with someone — recall those in your heavenly company and ask them to join you and God, with their loving energy. Remember, in the monastic tradition of daily prayers, around the world, people are always praying. You are in community with God and others.

However, you are able, whatever comes from your heart and into your mind, and out to your lips, think of yourself as the only person talking with God at that moment. Only you have God’s attention right then. What you say matters. Nothing you say is trivial or unimportant even if it embarrasses you. God already knows. God always loves you – nothing will change that. Sometimes in prayer – talking with God, honestly — we learn about ourselves and explore the deepest places of our hearts with the only One whose touch heals and holds you — now and forever. First stage — talk, to God.

May God’s blessings of love and grace hold you this day, Fr. Steve

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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 7, 2020 WEDNESDAY

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  — 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-22.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Some people find it difficult to make time to pray. They may say every moment holds a possibility for prayer. And that is true. God is present in every moment – awake or asleep. So, will creating specific space and time to be with God each day. It’s a discipline and practice that helps you be able to see God in every moment. Both are important – a prayerful life, and a life of prayer.

All Christians are called to pray. You have to figure what’s best for you. You won’t decide this alone. And it can change over time. Your relationship with God is growing. God calls us into new ways of being in relationship together, especially if a way you pray feels stale and obligatory. To me, that’s God pulling me forward. To realize this may be, pray as young Samuel did – “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

I have embraced a prayer form. After a time, I notice it has become stale. The honest thing is for me to admit it. I can try and keep at it for awhile. But when I feel a consistent weight of obligation to keep trying, that may be God calling me to be in relationship with him in a different way. God is looking for us to deepen our relationship, however that best happens. God waits for your desire to draw you. And many paths can take you to the same place. If you decide to pray daily and often as a spiritual practice, commit a time and place for prayer.

Don’t worry if at first it seems hard, even impossible. Don’t expect “instant” results. You must commit yourself and keep your commitment. It takes time for prayer to move from obligation to a holy conversation that feels natural. If you need some help, read some of the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer — in the Morning and Evening Offices. Pray the Collects you receive each week with the readings. Think about the words, and what they mean for you. Let that form an inner conversation with God. Secondly, think about keeping a prayer journal to record your daily experience. Periodically, look back and see what’s been important at a particular moment in your life, and the adjustments you sense God calling you to make. The only wrong way — is not to pray. Even then, God won’t ever turn away or stop loving you just as much as God does when you do pray, whatever that is. “God help me,” is a good prayer. If you mean it, God will. It’s you and I who need not wait.

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

OCTOBER 6, 2020 TUESDAY

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. John 1: 35-39

Dear Church Family,

I pick up from yesterday – what DO you desire? And if you desire a deeper relationship with God, do you know what may be required?

“What are you looking for?” The two disciples who follow Jesus are asking more than where he’s lodging. Something John says awakens a desire to know more about this rabbi — the “Lamb of God.” To stay, here, means “who are you? We desire to know you. They go with and remain with Jesus that day, and become his disciples.

St. Francis de Sales wrote long ago – “Each Christian needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy…then we need an hour.” It’s not that we doubt God’s existence, or don’t want to know more of God and his love for me — but honestly, prayer can be tedious and boring sometimes. We resist, avoid, forget – try, then realize we aren’t sure how. It’s easier to pray our wants or make our complaints. It’s harder to quiet the soul, be still and let go of yourself into the love of God’s near presence. Let God hold your resistance with you. Keep asking until you begin to realize God’s love envelopes and holds you. You won’t hear a bell go off – see dazzling lights to affirm you’ve connected with God. You might experience something like a soft, warm, relaxing breeze of love overcome you. Some days you feel it. Others you won’t. What DO you desire?

Maybe like the two who follow Jesus, for a reason they can’t fully explain or know at this point, you and God create a relationship that fits you. God will help you do that. God never stops loving you — even if you give up. Sometimes letting go is that opening you need for God to reach you. Desire sharpens through such “growing pains.” When you are ready — God is there, waiting. Think about that for a moment. You are his beloved before you arrived on this planet. You’re his beloved when and after you leave. For me, drives my desire to be in a deepening relationship with the Divine Mystery of Love. Who is God for you – for me? We won’t find out by sitting in the stands. Get up, for he gently calls each of us, when we’re ready — “Come and see.”

Think about what you desire this day.

Blessings, and God’s love holding us all, Fr. Steve 
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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 5, 2020 MONDAY

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. — 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

 Dear Church Family,

Some of you have asked about prayer practices that traditionally lead people closer to God. Paul writes that God’s will is that we pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.

As I walk in our neighborhood, I notice signs in yards that say, “Thank you Jesus.” As with Mother Teresa and her first words of the morning – “Good morning Jesus,” it’s a quick connection that draws me, at least in that moment, closer to God. “What am I thankful for, God?” That opens me into a different world. How better to begin your morning and end your day than talking to Jesus, falling asleep in his presence as you say goodnight.

There are “amateurs” — like prayers as a substitute for studying for Spanish in college. In Milwaukee I became friends with a business man, who was between jobs. He asked if he could pray at noon during the week in the nave, and faithfully did so – leaning into God and laying out his concerns for his life and family in a time of crisis. You may whisper a  quick prayer for a child, or grandchild – for some special need or concern a friend, or you, have.

And then there’s a second tier – the professionals, people who are cloistered, trained, spend hours daily in prayer – and seem so far beyond us. Mark Thibodeaux, S.J., a spiritual director, author and priest, says there is “no divide between the marketplace and the monastery” – the frantic pre-exam prayer of the college kid and the quiet contemplative prayer of the monk.”

The beginning place for everyone – listen and pay attention to a desire in your heart. That’s God’s way of reaching you. We either ignore – or answer. That desire for relationship and companionship with the Father never leaves. You may be too distracted and busy with other things. You may think it’s some ear or mind worm that won’t leave you alone. In the words of St. Augustine – our hearts are restless until they rest in God.

Today, give it some thought. Even better, if not unceasingly as Paul suggests, make a few moments and ask God for help. Ask the Lord if he wants to “talk” with you — not in words necessarily, but awareness – meeting that inner desire for his presence. To be in that zone, realizing even you’re distracted, asleep, or asking for help – God is always on call. Do more than think about prayer, telling yourself you must be more committed. Just do it. God waits – for our openness and invitation to welcome the gifts he waits to give us. This is God’s will for you — in every moment you live.

Blessings and God’s peace be with you, Fr. Steve
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Sunday Service Video Stream

Happy Sunday,  Saint Stephen’s Family!

Abiding by physical distancing guidelines and INCREASED safety measures, a small cast was able to produce our 30th virtual service!

THE CAST

Rector and Celebrant: Father Steve Teague
Crucifer: John Todd
Lay Reader: Winsome Foulkes
Organist: Mark Gibbons
Videographer: Michael Wells

You may watch the church service here:  

https://youtu.be/aBMKeO_8LYk

The hymns are 625, 552, and 618.

Let’s watch the service at 11:00 am Sunday together as a church from the safety of our homes. Virtual services will continue through mid-October.  We are exploring the possibility of an outdoor in-person service in late October.  Stay tuned.

I look forward to seeing you in person soon!

Michael B Wells, Senior  Warden
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church – Erwin NC
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Sunday Readings & Comments

OCTOBER 4, 2020 SUNDAY

Dear Friends,

Life with God and life in community are common threads in our readings for Sunday. Read the Collect and the texts carefully, several times if possible. Listen and think about what the words and phrases say to you, about your life with God, and our life together in Christ. Pick a word or phrase that you especially notice. Think more deeply about its meaning. Linger with it. In reading scripture with intention and a quiet mind to focus, we begin to hear God’s voice.

 The Collect reminds us God awaits our prayers directed. God is more ready to give than we can imagine, when we ask and wait. God gives good things — mercy, forgiveness, and the good we believe we are unworthy to ask for. It is through Jesus God’s, love draws us into the life God wants to give us — just for the asking (prayer) with proper humility and gratitude.

Isaiah 5 begins with a love song to God. Note the similarities with today’s Gospel as Jesus describes a landlord/owner and tenants for his vineyard. The Lord pleads his case. He is at odds with what’s happened with his vineyard. It didn’t bear the fruit he planted – “wild” grapes – useless. The vineyard’s coming down. Drought will come. That vineyard is Israel. The owner expected justice. Instead there’s violence – righteousness, not suffering and cries.

Psalm 80 responds to Israel’s plight, a prayer for the Lord to restore the relationship of Isaiah 5. The Psalmist reminds God of his leading, loving attention to their needs. But now that’s changed. Protection is gone – it’s wall fallen. People help themselves, as if they are the owners of the vineyard. The project is vulnerable to outside intrusion. The plea goes up to the Lord — Look this way. Do something. Tend and preserve us.

In Philippians 3 Paul was a law-abiding, ritual-keeping dedicated to God Jew. He was righteous, blinded by his zeal, unable to see God is doing something new. Then Jesus got ahold of him. His accumulated achievements now mean nothing in comparison to the Gospel. He puts the past behind him, and leans strains toward a future, now directed by the law’s fulfillment – Jesus. Paul addresses himself, the Philippians, and you and me.

The Gospel parable in Matthew also reminds us, our work is to produce the “fruits of the kingdom.” A day of reckoning will come. The owner looks for a return on his investment. We must never be careless or reckless with what God entrusts to us. We are not the owners, though in this story, the tenants think they are. The ones Jesus addresses – the religious elite – become so caught up in the story, it takes them a moment to realize the judgment they now pronounce on themselves. Fortunately for them, God’s justice is different from theirs. It’s a wake up call — then, and now – in the hearing and by our response. They were offended and violent themselves, not repentant. They are not alone.

I look forward for those who can, to gather on Sunday as we worship together from our homes. I hope before long we can gather in small numbers in the church, safely, and as you feel safe – healthy, masked and properly distanced. We need to plan to offer a version of our “in person” service that can be recorded and played later for those with access, but unable to attend that day. As the Diocese says, when we have taken the necessary steps to prepare, and Harnett County data corresponds to state targets, we can.

Prayers, love and blessings, Fr. Steve

 

 

18th Sunday after Pentecost – October 4, 2020

Proper 22 – Year A

 

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved

my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem

and people of Judah,

judge between me

and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard

that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

I will also command the clouds

that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;

righteousness,

but heard a cry!

 

Psalm 80:7-14

Qui regis Israel

7 Restore us, O God of hosts; *

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *

you cast out the nations and planted it.

9 You prepared the ground for it; *

it took root and filled the land.

10 The mountains were covered by its shadow *

and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11 You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *

and its branches to the River.

12 Why have you broken down its wall, *

so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13 The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *

and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14 Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;

behold and tend this vine; *

preserve what your right hand has planted.

 

Philippians 3:4b-14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel

Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 3, 2020 SATURDAY

I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 
                                                                                                                             John 17: 15-16

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are part of, participate in, and live in this world, as people of faith. But ultimately, we do not belong to this world. These days I often remind myself of John’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. I like one line of an old gospel song you might have heard — “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” There’s more. God expects us not to waste our time while life passes on.

Many feel exhausted by the news – especially right now. I’m paying less attention to it, and look for healthier, more spiritual ways to “spend” my time. This election year is crazier and darker than any previous ones. Lies fly from every direction. The Coronavirus and a divided nation, masks and no masks, what and if to expect a “new” normal life – confronting racial injustice, white supremacy – the economy, jobs, the underclass suffering, health care for too few. I could go on. Chaos and divisiveness can make us feel hopeless, dazed and uncentered.

Jesus’ prayer in John — some say – is the second “Lord’s Prayer.” These two verses take me to a clearer and more centered place. We are not removed from the world. Jesus prays for the Father to protect us from evil, in whatever form it takes. We no more belong in this world, Jesus says, than he does. He came and still is here to be with us, to redirect us from fear, death, and destructive ways. He touches this world with the hope of heaven – now.

I pray more these days, read divine texts, and other spiritual writings. I write more in my journal — approach it with more intention. I pray the Offices and prayers with more focus and attention. Spiritual practices remind us this world is not our only home. They draw us into the life Jesus promises — abiding in him, as he and the Father abide. The Spirit – the Mystery undefined, yet so real and present, if we stop and wait for it to come. Our true house is not a place of fear and disorder, threats, powers of hatred and violence. It is a house of love, where God abides. Jesus invites us to discover this house within – a place where the Father waits for you — your real home — a place to find renewal, refreshment, and strength to live more fully in Christ — in this world.

God’s peace, love and grace holding you this and every day, Fr. Steve
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