Daily Gospel

JUNE 24, 2020 WEDNESDAY

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.’
 
And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’                                                                — Isaiah 6: 1-3; 5
 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The mystical tradition – direct experiences and encounters with the Holy – is a long tradition of scripture. About 742 BCE, the young Isaiah, in the Jerusalem Temple, “saw” God, was overwhelmed by divine glory and holiness, and responded, “Here am I. Send me,” when the voice of vision asked.

Julian of Norwich experienced Jesus during her illness unto death, and returns to life, to serve God as an anchoress. In an era when plague (1348-50), a peasant’s revolt throughout England (1381), and violent suppression of the religious Lollards near by, Julian relinquished her identity and life, probably around age 30 to serve God fully. She spent her life in seclusion, living in a cell, or anchor, attached to the St. Julian Cathedral at Norwich, from which she took her name, from then on. It would have been a rather small room, with a window giving her access to worship in the Cathedral, and one opening to the outside for her to meet with people and give counsel. She was a writer, her work preserved by Benedictine nuns.

As an anchoress, she devoted her life to prayer to augment the vocation of clergy as keepers of souls. She was like a spiritual counselor or director for others. Similar to our present times, she lived in isolation, as many Anchorites did, not just to preserve her life, but also to devote her life to silence, prayer, and God in a chaotic world.

In an era when the medieval church preached hell and damnation, Julian from her experience (vision) teaches that Divine Love guides and saves every soul. She trusted her experience with Jesus over tradition, and what Jesus tells her over church doctrine. She learns from Jesus that sin causes personal pain, pain to others, and God suffers with us — yet God loves the sinner, and forgives the sin. In God’s mercy, sin is transformed and has no reality. Our part in this transformation is to accept and live in God’s grace. God is love — not full of wrath and punishment. God uses sin to draw us more deeply into divine love. “All things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” writes Paul to the Romans. All of us are called to his purpose. With Isaiah and Julian as examples, we respond to — accept God’s call of love. Only love has the power to heal and draw us into God.

Today take a few moments to think about how God’s love has touched and healed you – spiritually and physically. What are the regrets, times you hurt someone, how you allow inner voices of the past to haunt and eat at you – crowded out God’s voice that who calls you forgiven and Beloved. Can you experience that sin has drawn you more deeply into God’s healing and love for you? In this time of isolation and chaos, our peace and strength comes when we make room, for silence, for prayer and experience God’s holy love.

Blessings and joy for those moments you experience God this day, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

JUNE 23, 2020 – TUESDAY

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side,  and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  — Job 19: 25-27
 
 

Dear Beloved in Christ,

I take a shift today — to introduce Julian of Norwich, a mystic of fourteenth century England. Some of you already know of her. You may be familiar with one of her most beloved sayings from a book she wrote — “Revelations of Divine Love” — “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” In these days when a virus upends our lives, when the polarization of our society and politics erupts and divides us, Julian reminds us, that God is yet in control. We can trust God’s loving providence in all of life’s seasons. Nothing can separate us from divine. God’s grace is already within, with, and among us.

Julian lived in a dark time of the 14th Century — plague, death and upheaval were the norm. As in our day, both wealthy and impoverished were affected. She probably lived through three iterations of a plague. Her husband and three children probably died with it. She became deathly ill, and a priest was called to give her last rites. The priest had brought a crucifix for her to focus on as she died. She had a mystical experience of conversation with Christ on that crucifix, who gave her the sixteen teachings or revelations – visions of a “near death” experience. She miraculously recovered.

Early in her life she asked God for three gifts to reveal His compassion and mercy. She prayed to participate in the sufferings of Jesus to experience his suffering and compassion for those who suffer. She prayed to receive a life threatening illness, to come so close to death, yet live to tell about it. And her final desire — to pray for contrition, compassion, and longing for God.

In receiving these “gifts” through Jesus’ revelations, she affirms that God will redeem all things, all sin is forgiven, and everyone finally receives wholeness in God’s love. If ever we need Julian’s “revelations,” it is in these days.

My spiritual director of years ago was ending a session with me. I felt he was giving me hope for something I was praying for. I summed up what I believed I learned that morning with him — “in Julian’s words, ‘All shall be well.’” I meant that he affirms with me, I would get what I want. He said, “No, Steve, that’s not what I am saying at all.” I became angered, thinking he’d led me down this path, and I let him know. His response — “All is well. You just don’t know it yet.” Turns out I disappointedly didn’t get what I wanted. Over time it became clearer I really wouldn’t have wanted what I was asking for. I now understand — even when it feels otherwise, in God’s providence, “All is well,” and we just don’t know how that will work out yet. The overriding truth spoken by Job and Julian, “I know my redeemer lives.” One day, we shall clearly see. More later —

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

JUNE 22, 2020 MONDAY

‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. —  Matthew 7: 12-14
 

Dear Church Family,

Letting go is the beginning of change and transformation. Karen and I have been watching a television series where a struggling person’s friend invites a small team of gifted and talent people to bring change to their lives. A person has become stuck in a life draining routine that has become normal. In that “normal” they’ve lost hope and joy, until someone helps them see where they are, and what their potential is. They are safely led into a new place – out of chaos, pain, shame, and anger turned inward and experience themselves and their power in a new way. They are awakened — “transformed.”

Often transformation happens when something old falls apart. You’re forced to to awaken, notice. In our present days, change comes at us from multiple directions. It doesn’t feel good. You can either sink into despair, or listen inwardly at a deeper level. Mystics have a number of terms for this — the dark night, death, evil, abandonment. You’ll feel insecure, uncertain. At least you were familiar with what you had, even if it wasn’t good. Now transformation — even if the new is uncertain is an opportunity. Maybe Jesus’ words about choosing to enter a narrow gate that is hard, can have new meaning in times that force you to face transformation.

Jesus is the teacher and inspiration of transformation. The Sermon on the Mount describes life in the divine kingdom Jesus offers. Right before Jesus teaches us about the narrow gate, he gives us the “Golden Rule” — treat others as you wish they would treat you. That is one of many divine principles of life in God’s kingdom that is easy to say, yet hard to live into. It’s life through the narrow gate.

Sometimes life forces change. When we can invite God to help us change and be transformed — which means for me, learning to live more fully in God’s realm here on earth, it’s an opening which can lead to finding new meaning, growth, flourish in a new way. Or you can close down and sink into bitterness. Your inner life with the Divine Spirit — letting go into God, inviting that Spirit be beside you  — choosing the narrow gate of asking God for strength, can be a blessing in a time of change.

Today, think of times when you have faced changes in your life, even now. Where have you found the narrow gate, and entered. What are the new green pastures you eventually enter, like? Remember such times when God has been with you — and thank God for that presence now, even in times you may feel abandoned. God’s love and grace are always there for you.

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

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Sunday Service Video Stream

JUNE 21, 2020 THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Hello 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. The sound is noticeably better this week.

Fr. Steve was joined by readers Winsome Foulkes and Jay Elliot.  Mark Gibbons provided the music. You may watch the service here:

 https://youtu.be/UMT7vGF2VPg

The hymns are 537, 661, and 530.

Let’s watch the service at 11:00 am Sunday, June 21, together as a church from the safety of our homes. I look forward to the day we’re back in church for real!

Happy Father’s Day!

-Mike Wells, Senior Warden

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Sunday Readings & Comments

JUNE 21, 2020 READINGS & COMMENTS

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

A common theme in this Sunday’s readings is “threat and promise.” Under threatening shadows, God fulfills promises, in surprising ways.

In Genesis we continue to read the story of our ancestral beginnings through Abraham and Sarah, and God’s promises to and through him and his offspring. Sarah perceives a threat from the child of her servant Hagar and Abraham. She demands the mother and child be banished. God intervenes, Hagar and Ishmael survive, ancestors and cousins of another Abrahamic religion, Islam.

Paul addresses a threat in the early church. Jewish converts found freedom from having to obey the Law of Moses. Some, called “Antinomians,” believed since they were forgiven by grace, they were set free from the Law and other rituals to earn God’s favor. Paul addresses this issue in the first verse of the Epistle reading for Sunday — “no worries about sin, grace abounds?” “Not quite,” writes Paul. God’s justification of you by grace, does not erase the results of sin. We accept God’s promise that frees us from sin, and we are able live in the power of Christ’s resurrection. As Jesus died and was buried, so we in baptism have been buried with him. As God raised Jesus, so God raises you into a new life – of loving grace that draws you into the life God has made you for. Our Baptismal Vows remind us of the shape of our new life, and how different now we become as we follow God’s priorities (see pg. 304 in the Book of Common Prayer to remind you – the Apostles’ Creed and The Baptismal Covenant).

Matthew 10 also demonstrates God’s power to intervene. In stories where God’s people are threatened, God is yet present. We are not guaranteed the result we wish for. Yet God is present even in times when evil threatens — divisions are created with those we love. God’s care is so great, he watches over the tiny sparrow, and even counts the hairs on your head (for some of us, that doesn’t take as long now).

God keeps promises — maybe not as we want. Over and over God promised a future for his people. Over and over God’s people could be disappointed when their desires were not filled their schedule. God promised a King — a Messiah, from the linage of David. Those waiting had their ideas. God has His. We live by faith, wait in hope, confident when we find ourselves in unknown, fear-filling places of life — God knows just where you are. God is good. God gives what you need. Trust God knows it better than you or I. God is Love.

Blessings, love and peace — and Sunday morning, 11am, when we gather around our screens at home — Fr. Steve

 

THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST – June 21, 2020
Year A – Proper 7
The Collect

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; 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 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The Response
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Inclina, Domine
1 Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, *
for I am poor and in misery.
2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; *
save your servant who puts his trust in you.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; *
I call upon you all the day long.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant, *
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, *
and great is your love toward all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer, *
and attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, *
for you will answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, *
nor anything like your works.
9 All nations you have made will come and worship you, O Lord, *
and glorify your Name.
10 For you are great;
you do wondrous things; *
and you alone are God.
16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me; *
give your strength to your servant;
and save the child of your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; *
because you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
 
 
Romans 6:1b-11

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel 
Matthew 10:24-39

Jesus said to the twelve disciples, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father, 
and a daughter against her mother, 
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
 
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
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Daily Gospel

JUNE 20, 2020 SATURDAY

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ — Genesis 28: 16-17

Dear Beloved in Christ,

Years ago I taught a summer course on the Psalms, using Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann’s insight of orientation, disorientation, and re-orientation. Many of the Psalms of Lament follow this progression.

We resist the old, falling apart. In such times we must trust we can let go, instead of fighting to maintain control. Jesus may be saying something like this when he described the narrow gate we must enter. In Matthew this image comes right after he teaches the “Golden Rule.” It’s part of the Sermon on the Mount, a blueprint for a redirection of life from this world – to God’s kingdom. That can be disorienting. How difficult to treat someone who has hurt you with the love and kindness you’d like to receive – teachings like love and forgive your enemies, do to others as you’d want done to you, and such – life in God’s kingdom. Jesus continually reorients our lives from this earthly kingdom, to walk us through the gate more fully into God’s kingdom.

Spiritual transformation includes a disorienting of what we have believed, for what is new — reorientation. Reorientation is not to return where we’ve been, but to move into a new place. How we negotiate this change is determined by our inner life, our spiritual orientation, centered in the changeless – the love and grace of God. Change happens. Transformation is how we deal with it — a process of letting go, being confused until we arrive at the new place, and unexpected place. For a time we’ll yearn for the security of what was. Staying in the past doesn’t take us back there. Slowly, it is confidence in the “yeses” where we, spiritually, know God is, holding us, always. It is hard to be patient in these times and trust Love always wins out.

God is much more patient, and effective. Jacob had a long way to grow from the young man he’d become, into the pillar he would be in the history of Israel, and for us. Through disappointments, deceit, fear, dreams Jacob moves through these three stages to go and grow him into whom God made him and where God needs him – in spite of himself. He’s been blessed by his father, left his family, on the run from brother Esau. Jacob is sleeping and then God pops up – “Here I am!” Jacob wakes, still in that stage of disorientation, to find, “God is in this place.” Jacob is not where he’ll one day be, yet he knows God is with him on his way to where he’ll need to be.

We prefer order, stability, predictability, control. Without these, times of disorientation, such as the present, can feel bad, dark, sad, and even make us angry. As Richard Rohr says only God’s support helps us through the inner transformation. It’s the difference between institutional religion and centering ourselves in the God of mercy, grace and growth.

Today, think of how you experience disorientation right now. Take a moment, prayerfully, and invite God to help you “wake” into His presence, even when you can’t be sure — or fully know it. Trust God is with you, in this time and place.

Blessings and God’s love to secure you where you are this and every day,  Fr Steve 

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Daily Gospel

JUNE 18, 2020 THURSDAY

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. —  Matthew 6:33

Dear Friends in Christ,

Another cornerstone in the Rule of St. Benedict is to seek God in each task. In every task of the day God is to be found. Benedict does not call us first to prayer, sacrifice or devotion. He says to find in all things the kingdom of God — each person, each task, every material thing. Your daily life opens you on the path of sanctification. God is present to listen to your inner voices, to guide and  challenge you. Each task and thought can be an offering of thanksgiving to God. Pray for the wisdom to seek God in all.

Pray your tasks today. What work — not “job” or occupation, but the tasks you need to accomplish? Ask God to bless what you do, and ask that you may see the holiness in each task. Think of what you do as a sacrament — an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace – a place where the love of God in you is expressed outwardly. Treat possessions as what they are — gifts to be used for the glory of God, not permanent and defining of who you are. Remember we are renters here, caretakers, stewards — not owners. You are passing through, and when you’re finished what do you take with you? The life God gave you to live and share – to enjoy and bring joy to others.

Notice your responses to the tasks of the day whatever they are and whomever they are for. When they become more of a burden, when you lose reverence for life and fail to see God present in all you do and offer, pause for a moment. Return to the first word of Benedict’s Prologue — “Listen.” Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteous. Much is given when you return to the cornerstone of where you are — God’s kingdom, and who you are — beloved of God. Nothing you can do will make God love you more than God loves you right now. Nothing you can do will make God love you any less. When you grow weary, feel useless, hear inner voices of the past trying to defeat and bring you down — return to your center, where God is, his kingdom and righteousness. When this day draws to a close, make note of the ways, people, and places you have felt God close and present today. God’s voice may be speaking to you, not just in the pleasantness and successes of the day, but also in what God wants to teach you, and help you grow.

Pray a prayer to listen, be aware – for God to draw you more fully into his kingdom: Loving God, help me see you present, hear your voice, in all I do this day. Challenge me to listen with care, do with love, and strive to treat this world, and others, and the tasks before me, with the love and care you have for me. Let me bring beauty each day to others and for myself, and help me live more fully in your kingdom, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Blessings and grace, the love of God holding you in all things this day, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

TUESDAY JUNE 16, 2020

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

“Pray without ceasing.” Benedict created for eight times a day by his monks. Every three hours, they gathered to pray the Psalms and offer prayers.

The Book of Common Prayer has reduced the Benedictine system to basically four major prayer times. In the first section of the BCP, you find the “Offices” – Morning Prayer (Rite I and II), Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer (Rite I and II), and Compline. In the back of the Prayer Book are two Lectionaries of readings. One is for the Sunday Eucharists for three years. The other is the Daily Office Lectionary for two years. Noonday Prayer and Compline are options — for midday and before going to sleep.

A similar, briefer option is “Daily Devotions for Individuals or Families.” Instructions begin on page 36. This section ends on page 144, with a list of suggested Canticles, spoken (or sung) between the Old and New Testament readings. If you can arrange to make a silent retreat at a Benedictine monastery, you, as a guest, could participate in the community Offices. To awaken in the middle of the night is a jolt. But to walk only by moon and star light, toward the silhouette of the Chapel Steeple is a spiritual experience alone. Then to enter the Chapel, take your seat as monks gather with you in quire stalls, by candlelight, quietly praying as you await the beginning of Prime, the first Office of the new day. To be in a quiet place around you and within you, awakens your senses to God. To remember I am participating in a long tradition of our ancestors, Jews and Muslims, connected me the God of all ages, and with the greater communion of saints.

Benedict believed God speaks to us in every moment of the day. God is within each breath you take. Begin prayer here, imagining what that means for you.
“Pray without ceasing.” Think of Jacob, God is in this place. Now I know it.

You probably don’t have time to pray as Benedict created monastic prayer, or even able to keep the four Daily Offices. As an alternative and a commitment, through the day, take a moment for a simple prayer. Use your Anglican Rosary to gather your mind, heart, and sense before God, if you this is a prayer practice for you. Perhaps every two hours, pause for a few minutes – pray, “This is the day the Lord has made. I shall rejoice and be glad in it.” Or, “God, make haste to help me.” Pray a favorite Psalm you have copied to have with you. Pray it.  Slowly listen as the words sink in, and as you pray them to God. Finish with a short prayer of gratitude. Just a few moments apart with God, several times a day, can be life-changing. In the Benedictine tradition, you will begin to experience God “with you,” in the heights and depths of life.

“Loving and ever-present God, in all the seasons and moments of my life, may I welcome your presence. When I walk through dark valleys and shadow; when my heart soars with joy, may I experience your breath breathing in me. Amen.”

If you can, begin a prayer ritual, and keep it, you’ll find your restless heart begin to rest in God.

Blessings and peace to know God’s presence always holds you, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

 

JUNE 15, 2020 MONDAY

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. -Galatians 6: 8-10

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Benedictine spirituality contains a synthesis of polar opposites. Solitude and silence are not for their own sakes. They help us rest in God’s presence and transform us into a restlessness for God’s kingdom on earth. Silence and speech, tradition and innovation, contemplation and action, solitude and community are at the heart of our tradition and work in tandem.

In Benedict’s day religion was in transition. It was a time of uncertainty. He attempted to bring order. Divine grace is endless, experienced in solitude, and is lived in community. It combines work and prayer, activism and contemplation, and the experience of God’s ever-present activity and guidance in our lives — individually and together. Everyone — married, single, politician, social organizer, laborer, lay or ordained — can God in everyday life. Faith is not something we do on Sundays. As one interpreter of Benedict says – God is everywhere, all the time, and every moment is holy.

Paul writes to the Galatians that we are not created to please ourselves. In communion with the Holy Spirit we experience the eternal life of the Divine. Spiritual practice trains and forms you to bear holy fruit — God’s life and love for one another and creation. Norvene West says the orientation of the Rule of Benedict is to know every element of every moment is potentially holy. We are formed to “see” and then to “do” — God’s vision implemented in our living and doing.

Keep these points that Bruce Epperly, pastor and author, teacher and mystic, notes of Benedictine spirituality before you:

- God is all in all, active and moving through both our cells and souls

- God is all knowing – thoughts, actions – our lives are known to God

- What you do matters to God. Your actions bring you closer or farther from God’s vision for you and the world, and invite divine affirmation or judgment

- God gives you freedom to choose the way of Christ, mindful of God’s presence and the needs of others, or the way of the world which is characterized by individualism, possessiveness, and greed

- We shape one another’s experiences by our actions.

Today be aware of these principles of Benedictine spirituality in your thoughts, prayers and actions. They are not ends, but means to heighten our daily awareness of God’s presence, shaping us in God’s love, that in your unique way you are enabled to live more fully God’s life in yours. Become, in your way – the person God has created you to be — Beloved of God. At the end of the day, make some time to be still and realize how and where you notice “God with you” today, and where you have felt a longing for God’s presence. What will today’s “harvest” yield for God, for others, for you?

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

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SUNDAY READINGS & COMMENTS

JUNE 14, 2020 – THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENETCOST

Dear Church Family,

Our readings this Sunday are thematically diverse, yet related by God’s power to fulfill promises, to love beyond human expectation and imagination, and to act for our healing and good. The Collect of the Day asks God to keep us in steadfast faith and love, not just for our sake, but through us we may proclaim and live God’s truth. God’s justice is rooted in compassion and love for all. Paul teaches God offers it through our justification by Christ’s death for us. Jesus sends us out with compassion for those in need. The world does not always welcome, and often resists the values of God’s kingdom. Thus we pray for God to keep us from straying. God has faith that we can be his presence for the sake of others.

The stories from Genesis hold up the tenacious faith of Abraham in God to keep his promises. The first part is the arrival of three men — an annunciation. Barren and aging Sarah will have a son. She overhears and laughs. What woman wouldn’t with such news at her age? And then later, the promise, when it looks as if forgotten is kept. The child is named, Isaac, meaning laughter. Abraham maintained faith. The promised child for Sarah is what God needs to bring forth the Jewish people. Remember, three religions claim Abraham as their patriarch. For Sarah – the joy of finally bearing a child for Abraham.

Paul holds Abraham as an early example of God’s justification by faith. Paul’s announcement and teaching of God’s justification for redeeming us is startling and life-changing. Nothing gets in the way of God’s love for you. Only you or I can do that. Grace is God’s gift, freely given. We choose if we accept this gift by faith.

In the Gospel, Matthew names Jesus’ followers. They’re a motley group, not the most worthy or deserving — a tax collector, a zealot, two brothers still controlled by their mother, and a betrayer. In so doing, calling and sending this group on mission, entrusted with the kingdom, Jesus demonstrates his faith in them. For faith to be fulfilled, it is received, welcomed, and transforms us. God doesn’t wait for us to come around.  While we are yet sinners, Christ dies for us – not after we clean ourselves up, or “get right” with God. Those called do the part asked of them. Go, proclaim, invite, cure the sick, raise the dead, not a small assignment. Results — leave that in God’s hands.  Be wise as a serpent — and as gentle as a dove. Wisdom is one thing. How we use it, gently. We are God’s ambassadors, not our own. That’s a truth we need to remember in these days of fear and division. Many their interpretation of “today’s” news ahead of the “good news.”

Take time and read the text slowly, aloud. Let a word, phrase or thought emerge. Prayerfully reflect on its meaning for you. Then apply the word or phrase to your life. Listen for God’s wisdom to speak to and guide you. Then offer your insights into God’s care, and listen for God’s guidance.

We continue to worship together from our homes again, knowing that in our love and prayers together is the sacrament of God’s life, love and presence.

Blessings and God’s grace to keep you, Fr. Steve
 
 

Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6

June 14, 2020 – Year A

The Collect

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament
Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

[The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”]

The Response
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Dilexi, quoniam
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, *
because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.
10 How shall I repay the Lord *
for all the good things he has done for me?
11 I will lift up the cup of salvation *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
12 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people.
13 Precious in the sight of the Lord *
is the death of his servants.
14 O Lord, I am your servant; *
I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;
you have freed me from my bonds.
15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
16 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people,
17 In the courts of the Lord’S house, *
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
Hallelujah!
 
The Epistle
Romans 5:1-8

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

The Gospel
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”]

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