Daily Gospel

DECEMBER 2, 2020 WEDNESDAY

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! 
— Psalm 27: 13-14
 
 

Dear Beloved of our Lord,

In this time the church calls us to wait, I am learning to examine my wishes and disappointments. I try and release them, and make room for hope. Your life and mine are precious and meaningful to God. Too often we lose sight of that. We begin trusting lesser desires and wants to give us meaning that leave us uneasy, anxious, empty. We lose that connection of trust in God’s love that always holds you. If you’re fortunate you realize how much you miss it – or never had it.

Trusting God completely requires intention and commitment on our part – in good times and bad. It is to place our bets on hope in the Lord- that something is happening for us – not against us – that we can neither see or even imagine.

I think those who are grounded in what Henri Nouwen called radical waiting, especially waiting now — for a vaccine, a return to living “normally” where we can safely be together again, for God to answer prayers — find hope. With hope, something changes, something beyond expectation happens within. Sometimes we wait for people to change and see things “my way,” and end it frustrated they can’t “change” anyone but themselves.

Even if you look back, thinking last spring you left “the land of the living,” you haven’t and won’t. Not to diminish the importance of life and now, but what we see and experience presently – is not what we finally get. God, if we cooperate, molds us in love. Waiting in the unknown is hard. Being strong to me, means staying focused not our mortal selves and wishes which often turn into dust when we attain them, but centered in the immortal and eternal God. Give up trying to control your life or others’. Ask God to help you relax and trust Him. God molds you in love, holds you in tender compassion, removes our fears, and hands you holy hope in a future that will come, one day, somewhere, somehow.

Living this way, helps me to relax and wait, being actively present to each moment, expecting new and good things are about to happens — things we cannot predict, yet alone imagine. It is a very radical position to take, often against the world’s values — asking God to be in control, recognizing how much “I” want, the myth I create my personal security. You will see God in the land of the living – when you follow Jesus first. It takes strength and courage to wait so radically. And then the Lord comes – one day. Or you might find if you look closely – he’s already here, and is with you. And you realize, if you muster up some courage to trust his goodness, you will see his goodness.

Blessings, hang in here, encouraging each other to wait on the Lord, to open your eyes, now – Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

DECEMBER 1, 2020 TUESDAY

Dear Church Family,

Marc Gellman, a rabbi and Msgr. Tom Hartman, a Catholic priest – teamed up for years to talk about faith, religions — making faith relevant and accessible to many, including youth and children. Fr. Hartman died of Parkinson’s Disease at age 69 in 2016. His death left a big hole in Marc. Together, on radio, TV, and in newspaper, they were the God Squad. Marc continues their mission, often mentioning “Tommy.” They wrote a column, Marc continues.

Sunday, Marc wrote who overwhelmingly sad this Thanksgiving – curtailing family gatherings, travel – social distancing to protect ourselves, friends and family. That left a sad hole in many of us. We naturally focus on what we can’t do. Rabbi Marc’s antidote?—What we can do – laugh more. He calls it “spiritual balancing.” Spend equal time focusing on and talking about your blessings, not just sad burdens. Remembering joy keeps us balanced. Somedays it’s hard to heed the Psalmist — “Serve the Lord with gladness (or joy).” We can’t force gladness or joy. We can look for it. Even in darkness, light is close by.

I know this is a somber, heavy season – Advent, reflection and preparing our souls spiritually, in addition to the burden of this virus and its horrible toll. Marc offers “church bulletin bloopers,” to make us laugh. I remember some I have made — and with time, learn to laugh at myself. The deadly virus does not have the final word. God gets to speak it. And it is joy, hope, everlasting life. Joy isn’t just a heavenly hope for one day. It is ours now. Keep your blessings before you, even small ones. So, to bring a bit of mirth to “spiritually balance” weeping and sadness — I offer a few “Church Bulletin bloopers,” to lift your spirits today – courtesy of Marc Gellman. I recall the morning my dad died. We sat with him for several hours — Karen, my sister and I – recalling memories, singing hymns, laughing and savoring his life and the gifts he gave us. In times of loss and sadness, let not joy and gratitude be too far away. Forgive me for these:

— “Ladies don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. (Ouch)
—  For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
—  At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic is “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice,
—  Low self-esteem group will meet Thursday at 7pm. Please use the back door.
— Weight Watchers will meet at 7pm at the church hall. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

 

No kidding – a Rabbi wouldn’t pull our leg. These are painful days in which we live — for frontline workers, many deaths, fear as numbers head in the wrong direction. It’s serious, but so is the love God holds us in. Step back, and remember the light shines in darkness. Joy and laughter help lift our burdens.

In the end, God wins – not the pain, suffering and losses we experience in these days. It’s called resurrection. Keep your eyes open and be cautious, as advised, not foolish – but also hold fast the God of love and life – who always has you. Present times are not the last word. God speaks that – and it is very, very good.

Blessings, and maybe a smile for you this day, Love — Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

NOVEMBER 30, 2020 MONDAY

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Today, I share a meditation written by an old friend. Ken lives in Southside Virginia. He was the editor of a local newspaper. Now he is retired, and devotes his time to writing and speaking. Ken is also a lay reader and minister in his local Episcopal Church. In my time as a Baptist pastor there, we worked together on a number of projects that overlapped our vocations and faith commitments.

I hope you find his reflection on the texts from the First Sunday of Advent as helpful and insightful as I.

Blessings and peace this day, Fr. Steve
 
 
By Ken Woodley
There always seems to be another wilderness, doesn’t there?
One more “wilderness moment.”
And some are bigger than others.
COVID-19 keeps us in a wilderness that has already lasted more than half a year. And this pandemic-driven landscape is in addition to our own personal wildernesses.
With recent storms, the trees in my part of the world are mostly shorn of leaves, bare limbs silhouetted against the sky.
But in the early morning, and then again at sunset and into the gloaming, they are compelling sights. Their stark darkness emphasizes the beauty of a new day’s dawn and reminds us of its wonder as that day passes away.
They are not unlike our own outstretched prayers reaching up from our souls toward the heavens after wilderness moments have stripped away all of our own “leaves.”
Like beauty, the wilderness can be in the eye of the beholder.
And, crucially, there are leaves we cannot see that are nevertheless storm-proof and beyond the grasp of seasons.
In nature, even the seemingly barren wilds have their own transcendent splendor, if we look hard enough with a discerning eye. Our moments of inner wilderness can provide hidden gifts, as well. They can reveal opportunities for spiritual adventure. Difficult ones, perhaps, but adventures nonetheless.
As we begin the season of Advent, let’s re-frame our minds and set a determined course to have an “Advent-ure” between now and Christmas.
The wilderness doesn’t have to be relentlessly dangerous or continuously scary. It can be liberating. Deepening. Filled with epiphanies, large and small.
The wilderness, after all, is where things happen because it removes all of our artificial props and distractions.
The wilderness is where we can most deeply encounter the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew the wilderness. It was where he embraced his shepherding ministry of servanthood after overcoming the temptation to rule the world.
The wilderness is where we embrace our own spiritual destiny and truest selves, often overcoming the temptation to regard ourselves as lost or left behind.
We are nothing of the kind.
It may seem that we are in a lonely place.
But that’s alright.
That can, in fact, be a good thing.
Jesus often sought out a lonely place to pray, contemplate, and commune with God.
Lonely places are where things happen.
And there’s an interesting thing about the word lonely.
Remove the first L and the word becomes “onely.”
A “onely” place.
A place where we may become one with Jesus, even if only for a flashing instant of reverberating epiphany.
Where we might become one with God for a single breath that goes on breathing.
Where the Holy Spirit brushes past us, touching our arm in a way that tells us it won’t be last time.
Christmas is weeks away.
What an “Advent-ure” it can be getting there from here—with Easter in our hearts.
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Sunday Service Video Stream

NOVEMBER 29, 2020 SUNDAY

Happy Sunday,  Saint Stephen’s Family!

Three items below.

(1) St. Stephen’s Annual Report.  We will not be able to have an annual meeting this year because of COVID-19, but we will prepare a 2020 Annual Report for our records and history.  Committee chairs and other group leaders, please send the report of your group’s 2020 activities to Heather Honeycutt before December 16 at  kheathersauls@yahoo.com  She is compiling the St. Stephen’s Annual Report.\

(2) Stewardship.  You should have received the annual stewardship materials from Stewardship Committee Chair John Todd.  Please review and return your pledge card in a timely manner.  The vestry will be finalizing the budget over the next several weeks.  Accurate budget forecasting relies on a good return rate of pledge cards.  Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

(3) Sunday’s service.  Abiding by physical distancing guidelines and other safety measures, a small cast was able to produce our 38th 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/BQN0EP_le10

The hymns are 58, 68, and 73.

 

Let’s watch the service at 11:00 am Sunday together as a church from the safety of our homes.

Virtual services will continue for the foreseeable future.  We are following Diocesan service guidelines which require our county to be under certain thresholds and have stable or declining case rates.  Harnett county is still above those thresholds and the number of COVID-19 cases is currently climbing.  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

NOVEMBER 29, 2020 SUNDAY

Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Stephen’s,

In just two days — Happy New Year! It’s Year B, already and again. It’s Advent – the season of slowing down and waiting. We wait differently this year – and with maybe a deeper yearning for God to come and make right what’s wrong.

Light and dark are themes of our Collect. We are moving toward the darkest and shortest day of our calendar year. The Incarnation is celebrated in the darkest season of the year, corresponding with the Winter Solstice. We wait and pray for a spiritual experience of light – the light of God’s love. Regardless of the depth of darkness, it still shines. Especially in this year, with all the fear, facing our mortal natures head on, divisions, anger and violence that divide us, and other nations, maybe even more we yearn for that day, however you imagine it, when the Risen and Ascended Lord, will once again descend to uncover his hidden presence within and among us all along. May we cast away our inner darkness to put on the light of his armor now.

Isaiah’s writings play a prominent role in our Old Testament Lessons for Advent in Year B. Isaiah’s words are prayer – speech, calling upon God to act again for his people Israel. He expresses our present yearnings, as does the Psalmist, for God to break silence, remove sin – to draw us more into God’s hope. Lent is not the only season we are called to repent and yield our lives as clay into the Divine Potter’s hands. The Psalm echoes Isaiah’s words.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians begins with thanksgiving, calling forth the best in and from the young church. They await the final revealing of Christ – the second coming. We, as they, in this in-between time, can become aware of our failures – and pray for Christ’s healing, and our redirection. God’s promise is sustain us, so we can be presented, blameless unto God. Our confidence is not in ourselves, but in the Lord’s love and mercy. God provides. God is faithful. God has you covered — assurance.

In Mark we read what is called “the little apocalypse” – scary, foreboding language that fires the imagination. It is metaphor for the disruption of this present world. It frightens, displaces, dislocates. It is dramatic language to grab our attention. No one knows when the second coming will be – not heavenly, cosmic beings, nor humans on earth – regardless of what some say or write in books. Our mission is not to fret and be anxious – but to focus on God – divine love, orienting our lives for God, and loving as Jesus loves. One way to think about “delay” is not for the future, but now – to align ourselves with Jesus, and follow him more fully. To stay awake this way, is to wait with the love and hope God gives freely. We yearn and strive to be faithful to the God who is first faithful to us. Then we live in peace, held in the assurance of eternal, everlasting divine love. As we grow in love, we also grow in becoming more like Christ.

Read the texts – several times. Listen to the words and what begins to stir within – in your waiting. Pray your responses — and then listen for what God may gently “say” to you. Maybe as we are forced to slow down as stores, ads, and catalogues push us toward Christmas, we can be countercultural, take more time this Advent to prepare for Christ’s birth anew within our hearts.

Blessings — and see you this Sunday, Fr. Steve
 
 

First Sunday of Advent – November 29, 2020

The Collect

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Isaiah 64:1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil–
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter; 
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity forever. 
Now consider, we are all your people.

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.
3 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
4 O Lord God of hosts, *
how long will you be angered
despite the prayers of your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; *
you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors, *
and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
16 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, *
the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.
17 And so will we never turn away from you; *
give us life, that we may call upon your Name.
18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
 
 
The Epistle

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind– just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

The Gospel

Mark 13:24-37

Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

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Daily Gospel

November 24, 2020 TUESDAY

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33

Dear Church Family,

As Thanksgiving nears Thursday, and Advent begins Sunday, I want to get more meditations for you in these special seasons. As COVID continues, and our souls grow weary, I hope in my praying and writing, I help you – as it helps me, to gather my thoughts.

Henri Nouwen once suggested making a prayer room in your house. A room may not be practical. If not, try what one of my spiritual directors taught me. Make a space dedicated for prayer. Put objects, sacred and special for you there. Maybe create an “altar” — a table, or space that symbolizes God’s presence for you. Maybe a candle you can light that reminds you of the light of Christ within you and awaiting you. The purpose is to help you focus on God. Go often there, and often return. Close your eyes. Speak with God, then be silent and listen – feeling and experiencing God’s gaze of love upon you.

In these days when it’s hard to be peaceful within, begin with the words from John 16:33. Carry them through the day. Your thoughts become a channel into your heart, an opening to celebrate Christ’s victory over the world throughout your day. It’s not a victory readily seen. Christ who has overcome death, sin, and evil fills you with his peace. Rest into his peace.

A prayer discipline is important to daily life, but especially right now when we are bombarded by death, disease, uncertainty, division and hatred among us. You can’t control what’s outside of you. You can invite Christ to guide your response — to bring his promise of peace to your yearning — to draw you into oneness with the Father. It comes, not in a day, a week, a month – but each moment you hear, see, experience God’s love for you.

People may begin to see peace in your eyes, your hands, your work. Jesus is able to transmit the energy of divine love through you. Jesus never promises to remove us from the troubles of this world. He promises to always be with us. In his death and resurrection, we know he has overcome. This world and its woes are real — but even more real is Jesus, and the peace he breathes into you and me – if we give him our hearts and our time.

Blessings, and much peace this day — Fr. Steve

[Message clipped]  View entire message

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Daily Gospel

November 23, 2020 MONDAY

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, — Matthew 25: 31-32

Dear Beloved in Christ,

I can’t and won’t say all I might in one sermon. Jesus’ parables evoke more than one’s imagination can reduce to a few thoughts – or to one meaning. Evocative – they ignite the imagination and keep it turning. They’re like a kaleidoscope you held to the light as a kid. You keep turning it and the prisms fall differently, creating something new to see.

The parables that draw us into thinking about the end of life/end of time are such – ones we read as the Church Year draws to a close. The end of time still awaits us in Advent – preparing us for the present, between the times, where we live – Christ’s first coming in flesh, and his second – his return, to judge and as ruler to tidy things up in our lives, and here on earth.

Yesterday’s Gospel can be read in many ways – a warning to repent; a threat of hell/heaven; a “king” to both fear and adore. We cannot, in my understanding, read these parables outside the context of Jesus’ other teachings. Separating sheep and goats sounds like a reward and punishment operation. Yet there’s more. Jesus is not just a judge. He is a Shepherd who searches until he finds the lost, wayward, stubborn, independent-thinking goats and brings them home. He is the “prodigal father,” in that he violates religious and family customs by welcoming home the wayward child. He goes out to seek the elder son, begging his return – and leaves the door open, after the boy slammed it shut and stomped out. Who could blame the son? Not even the Father, who invites him back. Goats may get herded off for a “bad place.” But not left there. Maybe God has a “time out” room for us to “season in his love.” We may sometimes, unknowingly, send ourselves there – by the choices we make, the failure to connect our lives with the amazing grace and love of God that changes and transforms us into loving people. That’s where the rubber of faith meets the road, and we grow and change more into the likeness of Christ.

Over the years God has spoken in different ways at different stages of my life. Faith is an ever-evolving, growing experience into the mysteriously beautiful love and yearning of the Father to awaken the deep yearnings of our hearts – as we search for that peace and love — because that is how we are made. We are created. We sin. We learn. We are redeemed. And stamped with the Divine Image, we are forever loved by the Father who continually draws us toward Love.

As we approach Advent, I hold up the image of a tender God of love, a newborn child, the joy of angels singing, shepherds seeking and finding, wise men wandering. If I begin there — I come home to the ending — whenever, of a God of love – waiting, seeking, losing and finding — who gets us all home somehow.

Blessings as we move together into these special days, Fr. Steve
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Sunday Service Video Stream

Happy Sunday,  Saint Stephen’s Family!

Five items below for your review:

(1) Congratulations new vestry members! At the November 18, 2020 meeting, in accordance with diocesan guidelines, the current vestry selected three parishners to begin a three-year term in January. Congratulations to Winsome Foulkes, Florence Lee, and Frank Trainer!

(2) St. Stephen’s Annual Report.  We will not be able to have an annual meeting this year because of COVID-19, but we will prepare a 2020 Annual Report for our records and history.  Committee chairs and other group leaders, please send the report of your group’s 2020 activities to Heather Honeycutt before December 16 at  kheathersauls@yahoo.com  She is compiling the St. Stephen’s Annual Report.

(3) Stewardship.  You should have received the annual stewardship materials from Stewardship Committee Chair John Todd.  Please review and return your pledge card in a timely manner.  The vestry will be finalizing the budget over the next several weeks.  Accurate budget forecasting relies on a good return rate of pledge cards.  Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

(4) Sunday’s service.  Abiding by physical distancing guidelines and other safety measures, a small cast was able to produce our 37th virtual service!

The Cast

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

You may watch the church service here:

   https://youtu.be/GaVrxN46ZpM

The hymns are 460, 544, and 494.

Let’s watch the service at 11:00 am Sunday together as a church from the safety of our         homes. Virtual services will continue for the foreseeable future.  We are                 following Diocesan service guidelines which require our county to be under certain               thresholds and have stable or declining case rates.  Harnett county is still above those           thresholds and the number of COVID-19 cases is currently climbing.  Stay tuned.

(5) Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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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Readings & Comments for Christ the King Sunday

NOVEMBER 22, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Well, here we are now – the end of the Church Year. Time has flown for me, especially since mid-March and we shifted from in-person worship. Maybe that’s a sign of aging. It certainly doesn’t fit with “time flies when you’re having fun.”

Onward with the Collect — Note the optimism — for all peoples, restored to unity in Christ. Think of our present divisions, fears, sin that tears us apart, inwardly and with our neighbors. Pray not for a future day – but now, to be set free from sin that spawns hatred and division, making room to so see Christ in one another, and live more fully into God’s kingdom, now – here on earth.

Today’s readings sound a triumphant note, but not a triumphalist note. God’s universal rule is expressed in Christ, the Shepherd-King. It’s quite a juxtaposition of images – a lowly shepherd. No power finally can withstand or match his. He is seen and enthroned not by demonstrations of power, wealth, greatness – but in the lives of the needy, marginalized and those who slip beneath the cracks of this world and go unseen. If God’s eye is on the sparrow as the spiritual says, you better believe God cares for the least among us. And to live close to God’s kingdom, we will, too.

Both texts – the Old Testament and Psalm dwell on the nurturing and protecting role of the Shepherd-King. We, every one of us, are his people, — like sheep safe in his pasture. We tremble not in his presence but sing our praise. Ezekiel’s words give a political twist to the shepherd’s role by condemning “shepherd-kings” in the land who neglect and exploit the flock. Yahweh intervened in the past — and will in the future through a future king in the line of King David.

Both of our New Testament readings — from Ephesians, and Jesus’ parable in Matthew — echo the Old Testament, pointing toward God’s anointed King above all earthly rule, authority, power and dominion. The texts only point to the nature of God’s rule in the lives of those who love the Lord and anticipate His coming rule over all creation. We live in the interim – and for now, the crucified and suffering Lord is manifest in the hurting and least of this world. God’s reign will be complete. Those ignored and left out – are the subjects of God’s care. The least, surprisingly, think they’re the mighty in this earthly kingdom, while ignoring God’s care for those they consider least. God’s reign will be completed – and complete. Jesus guarantees it. How do we prepare? First, we fall in love with the God incarnate in Jesus Christ, with more than words. Death will one day be vanquished. The Son of Man, will rule over the created order as judge of the nations — and each of us personally. “The slave is our brother,” brother who rescues and redeems, placing us in God’s loving arms forevermore. To be able to see all peoples — beginning with the least and working our way down to the top is the way of God’s kingdom. That’s where the Reign of Christ takes us. Best we begin getting with the program.

Read, learn, pray and meditate with, and inwardly digest our readings. Take your time with them. Give room for the Spirit to find room in your heart. God is always seeking to fill our hearts with the security of Divine Love so that we might be His presence of compassion to those around us.

Blessings and Christ’s peace holding you, as we soon bring this Church Year to a close, Fr. Steve
 
 

Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King

November 22, 2020

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

The Response

Psalm 100

1 Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
2 Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4 For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
 
 

The Epistle

Ephesians 1:15-23

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

The Gospel

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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Daily Gospel

NOVEMBER 17, 2020 TUESDAY

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
   his mercies never come to an end; — Lamentations 3:22
 
Dear Beloved in Christ,

With all swirling around us right now — politics, dissension, divisions, fear and disease, the writer of Lamentations lifts us into a larger place. We can easily become distracted — lose our connection into the presence of Lord who is steadfast love. Many right now feel alone and abandoned.

In all of this the Lord waits to break through our personal darkness. If you still listen to the news, or read the newspaper, do you believe God is working through the events of our day? It’s hard. We struggle with the power of evil, of distractions that take us from God’s love — and the hope of our salvation. Yet God’s love is steadfast — ever present. Can you find room within to trust and have faith that God is love, wills your best, and when the dust settles, God’s love and kingdom will be standing? Read the day’s events through the mind and heart of God. That makes a big difference for me – where I begin.

Prayer — a key to our lives in and with the Father. It needs to be gradually more and more reality-oriented. That reality is God’s love incarnate in Jesus. Think of his presence with you right now. He lived as we, and now through the Spirit fills us with truth, our salvation – and leads us into a future that is not out of control.

Most important, pray — focus on who Jesus is, what those who wrote his words and of his deeds in the Gospels, how disciples like Paul, Jude, John, Peter — encounter Jesus as the core reality from which all things come and exist. What is not real does not belong to God, as Henri Nouwen says.

Filter each day’s events – not through the lens of the world’s version of truth. Filter them through God’s – the heart and mind of the creating Father of our Lord, Jesus. That’s the way we can hold on with faith and trust – in the steadfast mercies of divine love that hold us now — and will carry us forth. For the present time, live in the embrace of God’s steadfast love for you, your neighbor – the whole world. And let go of your worry about the rest. At least breathe deeply and take a rest – in the Lord’s love for you.

Rest in the Lord, as you can, this day…Blessings, Fr. Steve
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