SUNDAY READINGS & COMMENTS MARCH 30, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 29, 2020 – Year A

Dear Church Family,

Our readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent follow my comments below. Again on Sunday morning, our recorded service will be available. Watch for notifications this weekend. Invite someone to join us from their home. We who worked to make this possible, are grateful for your gracious comments of appreciation. Let’s also thank Clea for sending emails and making phone calls; the groundwork Abigail has laid, and Laurie who is able to get information on the website so quickly. “Doing” church, in these days, takes a small village – and we have a fine one.

We can have only 6 people in the nave for recording the service, according to Diocesan guidelines: Two production people, two musicians (organ/cantor), and two others, one being the Priest if a Eucharist is done. Keep in mind, it is through our Baptism we are united in Christ. In our prayers, in spirit – watching and listening, reading along the texts you receive for this Sunday, in prayers, we are one body, the Body of Christ as St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, as we worship together, apart. Pray that before long, we can return to the church building. Some forecast that when churches do, people will have gotten out of the habit, and attendance will fall. I don’t think we shall. I sense a marvelous and deep spirit for each other, for Christ, for our church in you. 

I also encourage you, as able, to continue to support the church with your pledge and other contributions. The church still has bills, expenses, and obligations. Thank you.

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The Collect for Sunday sets the tone for the readings. God alone can re-order human lives, as we align ourselves with His will and desires. Certainly, the Collect names our present days — a turbulence of swift and varied changes. Our prayer together – slow down, be silent for a moment, fix your hearts upon Jesus, the enfleshment of God the Father, the Spirit that brings us into the life and love of God. That is where lasting, living joy is found. Release your worries and fears to God in this moment. Focusing on what is wrong and scary won’t help. Our help is in the Lord. 

Read the texts for several themes:
First, all four readings, remind us of the reality of human alienation and sin. God is more than just a word. God is living and knowable, if we take time for God. God wants to forgive and heal your brokenness. As Jesus once said, those who know and call his name, cannot be guaranteed they really know him. 
Secondly, “What can we do?” We are helpless to solve our sin and alienation alone. Ezekiel has a vision of a valley of bones – an unrepentant people. “Can these bones live?” The prophet asks God for the answer. God says, “Prophesy to these bones.” Paul contrasts life in the flesh and life in the spirit. How do we move from one realm to the other? Many confuse the two, and end up spending more time apart from the spirit. The Psalm and Gospel also also prompt the question, “What can we do?” The answer: we are helpless. We cannot solve the problem of sin, nor can we raise dry bones, nor call forth the dead. 

Thirdly, realize your powerlessness. These days starkly remind us of that. In a way it’s a wake-up call to repent – not feel sorry for sins and promise to do better — but truly repent as the word means — turn toward God, return to God. God is acting in each of these readings to call us to return – to breathe divine life into us. We have the power to choose to turn and return, and be filled with God’s power of love, a power that the realm of the flesh cannot know or receive. God, not the world, holds both life and death. Finally God brings us into what Paul calls the realm of the Spirit. Those whose minds and hearts are fixed on the flesh, cannot see the glory of God. They seek  their own. Read the rest of John 11. Our reading ends at verse 45. The following verses show the fear and resistance Jesus faces, and sets the stage for Palm Sunday.

Blessings, love, grace, and God’s keeping of us in these days, Fr. Steve

The Collect

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

The Response

Psalm 130

De profundis

1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?
3 For there is forgiveness with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.
4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.
5 My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.
6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
for with the Lord there is mercy;
7 With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

The Epistle

Romans 8:6-11

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

The Gospel

John 11:1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

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Daily Gospel

SATURDAY MARCH 28, 2020

Dear Church Family,

I am sending an article from the Shalem Institute, in Washington, DC. Shalem provides training in spiritual direction and formation.
May God bless you with the inner peace of Divine Love, and his Presence
— Fr. Steve

Now is the Time for Deep Inner Listening                                      From Shalem Institute – March 27, 2020Lerita Coleman Brown

I gave up watching weekday television for Lent. I noticed that I was watching too much. I compassionately observed myself one week and discovered that my daily schedule revolved around television programs. I tuned in to an early morning show and it became my company for breakfast. Next I would arrange lunch for around 2:00 pm so I could watch Daily Blast, the show whose tag line is, “We’re talking about what you’re talking about.” Clearly, all of that chatter should have served as an omen. Typically, dinner was accompanied by the news with a dose of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah or some comedic program to soften the tumult of nightly news. Later I might top off the evening with light drama like Grey’s Anatomy, This is Us, or Cherish the Day, which often overflowed into bedtime. Granted, I could have recorded most of the shows for viewing anytime, but TV determined my daily routine.

I found TV to be distracting. Unfortunately, it sapped my productivity as well. And if I watched something particularly stark or disturbing in the evenings, the content seeped into my dreams. Why was I dreaming about the horrific Coronavirus Icon, face masks, DonaldTrump, KobeGiggi Bryant, MeaganMarkleHarry, NBA, NCCA, pandemic, not enough tests, stay in the house, rainy weather, talking heads, stock market red, retirement plans, cases rising, is there enough food, quarantine? Television was not only keeping me from my loves (e.g., sewing, reading, writing, crocheting, gardening) but it cluttered up my mind to an almost unbearable state. Most importantly, TV was keeping me from hearing the Voice of God.

I didn’t realize, until Lent, how kind, gentle, and nurturing the silence is in my home. I was missing the sweet stillness heard in the chirping of the birds outside. Who can hear the Guidance when as my niece, Liz, told me last night, “There are a thousand thoughts twirling through my mind and I don’t know how I can survive the stress of all of this?” I knew it was time to return to the discipline of quiet listening from within.

I understand what it feels like to be freaked out. About 27 years ago, I became totally discombobulated when told I was going to need a heart transplant. Similarly, I experienced a partial meltdown when during a rejection episode the doctor informed me the transplant team would be able to save my heart but would need to kill my kidneys, later leading to dialysis and a kidney transplant. I came home and cried when they said I would need more surgery to replace the tricuspid valve of my dear sweet transplanted heart. Yes, I’ve become hysterical and screamed to anyone who would listen, got underneath the bed covers and boohooed with my teddy bear and tissues. But at a certain time in the midst of it, I would hear a soft inner Voice say, “Okay. Time to get up and do something else. This too will pass.”

Impermanence is the permanent in our lives. So how do we adapt? Here are some of the ways I utilize inner listening during a time such as this.

  1. I truly believe that during trauma, crisis and challenge rather than being finely tuned into the fear, panic, anxiety and chaos of the world, I am better served by “Centering Down,” a term that Howard Thurman, Thomas Kelly, and Rufus Jones all recommended as a way to access wisdom instead of terror. I grew weary of feeling anything but peaceful. Thus, I take time each morning and evening and on the hour when I am available to PAUSE. I stop ruminating about the latest statistics and seek the Peace that I know lies deep inside. I continue to practice controlling my thoughts instead of allowing them to control me. Once I feel the deep peace that inner listening brings, I refuse to settle for less.
  2. For those who possess runaway minds like mine and especially during a calamity, mantras and chants are a saving grace. Among my favorites, “Peace be still;” “The Lord is my Shepard and I shall not want;” “I am as God created me;” or any parts of “Be still/and know/that I am God.” What a mantra does is slow down and in some cases eliminates the out of control thoughts that lead to panic, fear, anxiety, and anxiousness. But you must practice. Next time you feel your mood shift as though you pulled into the vortex of alarm and terror, start chanting your selected inspirational phrase over and over and over until you feel a shift.
  3. Another method that I have used in workshops and retreats recently is the heart exercise. Some form of this I learned on the Math-Heart Institute website (HeartMath Tools) to encourage people to live from and through their hearts. It is important to locate a quiet spot (even if it’s the bathroom) and comfortable chair or cushion. Sit in a relaxed positionclose your eyes and take three deep breaths (inhale through the nose and exhale out of the mouth). Then relax and notice your heart beating. Next park yourself in your heart. Yes, sit in your heart for a few minutes. Feel the peace, the stillness and the joy. Listen. What are you being guided to do next? Do you need to engage in a creative activity with yourself or your family, go outside and get some fresh air or enjoy some emerging spring flowers, watch a movie or read a great book? You may need to turn off your television, radio, or stop checking social media about the latest outrage or panic-stricken comment. Periodically stepping out of the whirlwind can be healing.

Now is the time for deep INNER listening. We are in the midst of a “Holy Interruption!” Embrace it and discover all that you have been yearning for but haven’t pursued because you’ve been too busy running from one activity to another. They are canceled. Can you shift your focus from fear to the love, from panic to peace? What brings you joy and makes your heart sing? Who can you call to check on or offer some comfort to?

Know that Guidance goes with you wherever you are. Cease looking outside of yourself for the Answers. I promise, if you engage in this ancient tradition of quieting the mind and stilling the heart, you will feel more of the peace and joy that lies within you. You will discover a Connection that has never been broken. The Living Presence patiently awaits your attention and awareness.

A slightly different version of this blog appears on Lerita’s website, https://peaceforhearts.com/author/leritaheart/
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Daily Gospel

FRIDAY MARCH 27, 2020

Dear Church Family,

Today I share the Weekly post of an old, dear friend in Milwaukee — the Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner. Scott was a former Associate where I was Rector, a priest, and founder of the Living Compass. We piloted the program in our parish, and Karen and I worked with he and Holly to help launch this. Scott is a gifted psychologist, priest, and expert in wellness – body, mind, soul and spirit. That’s his passion and center of his ministry.

Below is the meditation he offers for this Friday. His words, I commend to your reading and reflection. Of particular note and resonance for me is the spiritual part of a day — Number 8. Also, you will find some ideas others implement, that cheer the soul in these — such as what people in Atlanta are doing (Number 4); what parents and families are going through (Number 10), including isolation from other family members; and certainly, to acknowledge grief in our lives, and even if not at the moment, we, over time learn something that strengthens us and can make us better people. This is one of those times — grief, loss over the old “normal” and quite possibly the dawn of a “new normal,” as yet unknown and unseen. Trust God is in the midst of all this with us. For God is, and as Jesus said as he physically departed this earth to his disciples and friends, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end.”

Blessings, grace and peace this day — Fr. Steve

The Hidden Curriculum                  

I am married to a former teacher. I have recently been thinking about the idea of the “hidden curriculum,” a concept I learned from her quite a few years ago. This concept refers to lessons and values that students learn, sometimes unintended because they are not directly part of the subject being taught in the curriculum. This could include planning ahead, getting along with others, the importance of honesty, and other important lessons related to values and character.

I thought about the idea of the hidden curriculum in light of how all of us, adults and children, are currently being homeschooled in the midst of the current pandemic. I began to reflect on what unintended lessons I am learning in the midst of my own at home learning experience.

I’m guessing you are learning a few lessons of your own, and thus I will invite you near the end of this column to share yours on our Living Compass Facebook page.

Here is what I am learning at this moment, in no particular order.
  1. We are all more interdependent and interconnected than I ever realized. I am reminded of a quote I heard a few years ago, “When ‘I’ is replaced with “We” Illness becomes Wellness. It will require a worldwide collective “we” to get to the other side of this.
  2. My life is enriched because I am listening to more music while at home, thanks, in large part, to the many artists who are sharing live performances online right now. Music (for me) is the language of the soul. Case in point-here is one of Yo Yo Ma’s current online offerings. 
  3. The word essential has taken on new meaning for me. As in nurses, grocery store employees, skilled-care facility workers, teachers, mental health providers, food producers, childcare workers, pharmacy workers, truck drivers, first responders, doctors, farmers, and all who work in health care.
  4. Heartfelt expressions of love and gratitude can sometimes make me cry. I’m referring to the video that shows hundreds of people who come out on their high-rise balconies in Atlanta to applaud the healthcare workers at a nearby hospital during each evening’s shift change.
  5. I now realize I have taken the opportunity to give and receive affection for granted. I so very much miss being able to hug my grandchildren and so many other people I love.
  6. A long walk or a good run does wonders for my mood. Even more so when said walk or run is through the woods or in a park.  
  7. Ditto for the wonders of a good night’s sleep.
  8. Ten to twenty minutes of some form of spiritual practice each morning (mindfulness, centering prayer, spiritual reading) helps me to be less anxious throughout the day.
  9. Brené Brown often has just the words that I need to hear. This week she wrote, “The pandemic experience is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self-protection. We don’t need to be scary when we are scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind. And let’s choose each other.”
  10. Parents are some of the hardest working and often most under-appreciated people I know. They need our encouragement and support, now more than ever.  
  11. Grief expresses itself in a myriad of ways, including anger, fighting, illness, hopelessness, distancing, shutting down, numbing out, and exhaustion. And the amount of grief and loss that so many are experiencing right now is getting very real. Let’s give ourselves and others the space needed to feel and express loss.
  12. The human spirit is resilient and beautiful in ways that continually inspire me.
  13. Healing cannot be rushed, and it always takes longer, sometimes way longer than I wish it would.

When I look back over my life, I see that the times that I experienced the most profound spiritual growth were often during and after times of loss and upheaval. For this reason, I know this time contains a hidden curriculum that will forever influence the way I live my life. A wise friend of mine (thank you, Julia Gray) shared a quote this week that sums this up, “In a rush to return to normal, may we use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

We are all students and teachers in this collective, unfolding journey. I invite you to share what you are learning by posting your wisdom on our Living Compass Facebook page, which you can find Here.

 What’s been the hidden curriculum for you during this pandemic, and what have you learned so far?
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Daily Gospel

MARCH 26, 2020

Dear Church Family,

Today I offer a simple gift — from Spirituality and Practice, a daily blog I receive. Simple — profound, and something to try, as you go through the day.

Blessings and prayers with you, Fr. Steve

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, and swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in ink.

— G. K. Chesterton in Different Seasons by Dale Turner

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Daily Gospel

MARCH 25, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I offer this Collect, readings, and my prayerful thoughts to you, on this Holy Day. I hope you were able to join the church, Episcopal and worldwide Anglican Communion, with others throughout the world, praying the Lord’s Prayer. When you think about it, for 24 hours, the Lord’s Prayer is being offered. Imagine the intention and positive energy we send throughout the world – for others, as Jesus has taught us to pray.

Collect of the Day: The Annunication

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord; that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

ISAIAH 7: 10-14

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

LUKE 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD…

The feast (or solemnity) of the Annunciation was first celebrated in the fourth or fifth century. Cyril of Jerusalem coined the term “Theotokos” which means “God-bearer” for the Blessed Virgin, affirmed at the Council of Ephesus in 451. The central focus of this day is the incarnation: God at one with us in the second member of the Trinity.

The angel Gabriel appeared to the young Mary, betrothed to be married to Joseph, with a rather complicated request. She was asked to be the mother of Jesus, Son of the Most High God. After nearly 600 years God is keeping his promise to David. He will sit on David’s throne, and rule the house of Jacob forever. Through her body Mary, a lowly maiden, would give life to a child, Jesus. To the announcement of the angel, Mary’s response, “Let it be with me according to your word.” Through Mary the God-Man was born, died, and reigns forever to embrace all humanity, all creation, and draw us into God’s love for the world. It meant that Mary’s child would suffer and die, to show how far divine love will go to claim us. This child would redefine “power.”

Mary stood beneath the cross watching her child suffer and die. Jesus, not calling her mother, but woman, loved her by asking his disciple John to care for her. Jesus her child by birth and upbringing, with Joseph – hers, and not. He was here for others, for the world. Imagine her broken heart, her grief, in that moment. Perhaps she went back to the moment she said, “Yes,” to God, not realizing this is the journey the angel got her into, “Let it be according to your word,” and so it was. It had come to this — and then God…

As you read these texts, pray the collect and meditate on this story, ask God what he is calling and asking of you in these days of fear and uncertainty as people battle the Coronavirus throughout the world. As we care for each other, at a distance. And on this day, of all days, we have taken our place with others throughout the world, with Presiding Bishop Curry, Archbishop Marcus Welby, and Pope Francis — in praying the Lord’s Prayer together, as one voice, for 24 hours.

Let us give thanks for the Blessed Virgin Mary, who models for us, the YES God seeks from you and me. Through our lives may we join her in a different way, bearing Christ’s life through us to those in need and fear around you. In the midst of Mary’s extraordinary role in the plan of our salvation, and the ordinary life of raising her eldest, and a family – widowed young, through her comes God’s shout for us to awaken and realize the marvelous creatures each person is, in his love and design.

Blessings, love and the grace and peace of God be with you this day,  Fr. Steve
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Updated Link for Noon!

Presiding Bishop Curry – Midday Prayer on Livestream.com

When Wed Mar 25, 2020 12:00 – 12:30 Eastern Time – New York
Where https://livestream.com/accounts/12656718/events/9055824 (map)
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Media update: Join Presiding Bishop Curry on Livestream or Facebook Live to pray the Lord’s Prayer at noon ET

https://episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/media-update-join-presiding-bishop-curry-livestream-or-facebook-live-pray-lords

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All Christians Invited to Pray on Wednesday, March 25th

March 23, 2020

Please read, and I invite you to participate with me at noon tomorrow in this time we join our brothers and sisters in Prayer throughout the world, on the Day of Commemoration of the Annunciation to Mary.                                                 Blessings, and thank you — Fr. Steve

Episcopalians are invited to join with Christians around the world as together we join in praying the Lord’s Prayer on Wednesday, March 25 at noon in our own time zones in response to the coronavirus pandemic.                                                                                 
Pope Francis Invites Christians to Pray on March 25th

Pope Francis on Sunday invited all Christians to respond to the coronavirus pandemic “with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness”, adding, “Let us remain united. Let us make our closeness felt toward those persons who are the most lonely and tried”.  Speaking after the traditional recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father called on all Christians to join together in prayer. “In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the thread of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven,” he said.

On Wednesday, 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis has invited “the Heads of the Churches and the leaders of every Christian community, together with all Christians of the various confessions, to invoke the Almighty, the omnipotent God, to recite at the same time the prayer that Jesus, our Lord, taught us” – the Our Father. Pope Francis prayed, “may the Lord listen to the united prayer of all of His disciples who are preparing themselves to celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ”.

We are inviting you to issue a call through your networks and social media for Christians to join in praying the Lord’s Prayer, and in any other ways we are led to pray, at:

Wednesday, March 25 at 12:00 noon in our own time zones.

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Daily Gospels

MARCH 23, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This morning — a sign (or that’s how I see it). Twice I read this poem in two different meditations – one from Church of the Savior, Washington, DC — and the second from Sr. Joan Chiittister, a Benedictine sister in her Monday post. The sign? — You were asking to read it with me.????????
Last year, I remember the Friday evening of Sabbath at our hotel in Jerusalem. One of our colleagues had grown up in a Jewish family, before converting to Christianity and entering the Master of Divinity program at Campbell. She took us through a Sabbath ritual as her mother would have led, lighting candles for the meal. The hotel lobby was quiet. Life came to a stop, and a different mood. All had become still. It was contagious, and I felt still inside. I had room for awareness of God’s presence, and aware of our connections with one other, our new friends in Jerusalem, family, friends, church back home. In Jesus’ words to the Pharisee, who asked, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40).
This has become a time we must slow down, become quiet, create new ways of being together by staying apart. Let us so love, by caring for one another, safely and prayerfully, by making time each day — for Sabbath, to experience God’s love, and love one another as God loves you.
Blessings, prayers, and love this day, Fr. Steve
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar
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Sunday Service – Video Stream

Dear St. Stephen’s Family,

The Sunday March 22, 2020 church service has been recorded and is available to view.  Ideally, we will all view the service at the same time (11:00 AM Sunday morning) from the comfort and safety of our homes.

The service may be viewed by clicking this link ->  https://youtu.be/AiBB2WsSvew .

If you watch it now, please re-watch it with the entire church at 11:00 AM Sunday morning.  Thanks to all that participated in this first attempt at recording our service during the COVID-19 social distancing period. The video was made in ONE take! The sound is not ideal, so turn up the volume.

Mike Wells, Senior Warden

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