Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 17, 2020 SATURDAY

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. — Psalm 51:17

Dear Church Family,

In this week I have directed our focus to prayer. I have a prayer I struggle with, and ask God’s help. My prayer – to the blessings in these present days. Where do you experience “blessings” in these days?

I went for a “safe haircut,” this week. I asked my stylist how she and her husband are doing – and their grandchildren who often stay at their house during the day and on weekends while their parents work. Her husband’s job is headquartered in another state. Until the quarantine, he spent weeks and months away from home. She tells me the good things happening for him, for her, and the grandkids with him working here, from the house. She said — “we focus on seeing blessings, even in this terrible time.”

We divide the world into good and bad. Deadly viruses are bad. Vaccines are good. Unless we’re effected, we pay little attention to injustice, the plight of the poor – those who have to decide between fixing their roof or buying their life-sustaining medications — those now unemployed or underemployed. Politicians we agree with, and those we don’t.

When we pray the Confession of Sin, receive Absolution – we remember we live lives of contrition before God, accepting our co-responsibility for evil that surrounds and pervades us. If we only complain about these terrible times – what we bear — our suffering, we cannot come to contrition. Is God concerned for what this crisis exposes, lying beneath the surface of life, we’d rather not see and feel part of? If suffering and loss are fate, and gains are luck, fate does not lead to contrition, nor luck to gratitude. One of the blessings of these days may be to listen for the changes God would have us make in our lives, and strive to bring to the world around us. They mustn’t be huge and world-changing — they need to change us and open greater compassion for one another.

Our lives are interconnected in this world. Conflicts within us, as well as beyond – our families, friends, neighbors — people in our larger communities, our nation — even the world. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we believe it or not. It’s our faith. When we “get it,” God changes us, and “not we ourselves.” As we claim our part – our responsibility, we can be made change-agents. Choose the life of Christ, and pray to God for the Holy Spirit’s assistance – to live a life of forgiveness, peace, love and compassion, beginning with you – so that God’s love can flow through you. As pastor John Perkins of years ago said — Our lives can evoke others to ask, “What must I do to be saved.” Blessings are all around us — even now. Be a blessing – don’t just wait for one to come your way.

Peace this day, my compatriots in blessing – both seeing them and being them, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 15, 2020 THURSDAY

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. — Psalm 37:7

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Over the past few days, we have looked at different stages of prayer that lead us through the Martha-state to the Mary-state. As a child, we begin to “talk” at God, listening to our parents pray, using their words for ours. We also begin to discover prayers of others – in hymns, the Psalms, written prayers in the Book of Common Prayer, or a devotional book to form words we “talk” at God. The next stage — we begin to use our own words. We “talk to God,” for ourselves. The third stage is “learning to listen” for God, who, shares our struggles, consoles;  challenges us to repent, urges us to align our values with Jesus. God’ll celebrate victories with you. He wants you to trust him, “I love you always.” The last stage —“being with God,” learning to be in God’s presence, attentive, and at peace. The activities of prayer – talking at, talking to, listening — get us to that place of rest in the Lord’s presence – sitting quietly – not listening to our thoughts and emotions, just to be with God. It’s not easy. It takes practice, work and commitment. We like to be in control. Finally we do arrive at a “Mary-state.”

It seems to be harder in these months, for me to be still and quiet, within myself. The contemplative way does remove the real, difficult, and practical problems of a deadly virus, and life-draining anger and division all around us. The contemplative, “Mary-state” keeps us connected to that larger life in God’s love.

Contemplative life and prayer help us be still, while we’re in storms raging all about us. Think of a sturdy tree. In Milwaukee, winds would blow so hard across Lake Michigan you knew a tree could fall. They would bend, but not topple over. Their roots were deep. Like such trees, prayer and presence with God – wisdom-inspired living, sink our roots more deeply and stabilize our lives. We move, but are not uprooted. In times of sorrow and lament, alongside the joys of blessings – through chaos and angst, we are being drawn more fully into God, and through God’s grace – given peace that passes understanding and reason. And when the walls of sin, defensiveness, inner blindness begin to crack, crumble and fall, we sit attentively at Jesus’ feet in the glow of God’s everlasting love for all of us — that is surrendering to God. That is the direction that takes us to the “one thing necessary.”

Blessings as you grow into a deeper relationship with God. We are on all this journey, together — Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 14, 2020 WEDNESDAY

But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ — Luke 10: 41-42

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

How do we invite God into our hearts and souls? Mark Thibodeaux, S.J. describes a way in Luke’s familiar story of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary. Martha is busy – distracted by many kitchen tasks, carefully preparing a wonderful meal. She needs her sister’s help, and takes her case to Jesus. Jesus’ response surprises. Mary has chosen the better part — sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Often people gloss over Jesus’ point, thinking we are to balance our work for the Lord, and our rest in the Lord. Jesus would respond, “Not so.” We need only one thing.

Martha wants to be Jesus’ disciple. She wants to do great things for Jesus. Jesus wants to do great things in and through her. Mary is the one who has prepared the way for Jesus to do that. Martha is too distracted to notice. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet – nothing to show for herself, nothing to contribute to the meal, or assist her sister’s frenetic agenda.

The problem is not Martha’s work. It’s what’s missing at the center of her heart, and ours. We are tempted to put our actions at the center of our lives. Martha is working for Jesus, to please him — but it is her work, not his. The better part is to sit at Jesus’ feet so his presence can be his work in us.

Prayer is the path from the Martha-state to the Mary-state, away from our good actions to centering ourselves in Jesus who does good works in and through us. How do we do this? Contemplative prayer is an answer. As Mary – we sit quietly at Jesus’ feet in stillness, with nothingness, not presenting our efforts/work to honor Jesus. We wait before him with empty hands for him to fill. Ultimately, we don’t even offer words to him. Again, it’s that mystical abiding in Jesus who abides in the Father. It’s the direction we take in a contemplative prayer life.

Praying the rosary, prayers of others, speaking our deepest thoughts to God, listening for God are important, too. They bring us to God. That is their purpose. They help get us to the Mary-state, to be quiet and still before the Lord. Once they get us there, then we can let go.

As you can today, imagine yourself sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary. Be still in his presence. That is enough. His spirit will do the rest. It’s Mary’s way for us — to be still and welcome God into our lives.

Blessings, patience, persistence as we let God draw us more deeply into the divine life of eternal love, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 13, 2020 TUESDAY

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.             — 2 Corinthians 12:9

Dear Ones in Christ,

How many mornings do you awaken thinking, “Today, I’m going to let everyone know how proud I am of my weaknesses.” Me either. Paul’s words are interesting – “boast of weaknesses.” His experience with Jesus turns him upside down. In becoming aware and seeing his weakness, neither fighting nor disclaiming them, then God’s power and grace transforms us by Christ’s power, not our own. God creates a new spirit within us.

Prayer is a long journey of conversion. God transforms us and keeps growing us through His grace and love. You may not anything but that in the moment. Only as you look back, you know transformation has quietly happened within.

I can think of times of inner awakening. It’s not always gentle. It may come as a jolt to me. I see where God and I have been at odds over who is at the center of my life – God, or me. I realize how large my ego can be. I want to be right – appreciated – see my wishes fulfilled. Conversion is an ongoing conversation with God which can only happen when I begin to see me as God does — my rough edges, my blindspots, my capacity to say things that hurt others saying I don’t intend to do that, but also knowing I try to cover up my weaknesses and defend myself. Trusting God’s love, I can get past pretensions and be more real.

And there’s another part of conversion — that is to trust the Father’s grace. With God, when we’re honest, we get what we feel we don’t deserve. That’s the magnificence and splendor of God’s love for each of us. As I struggle to be master and lord of my life, I am trying to prove I deserve and have earned his love. Walls I erect keep God’s grace from touching my deepest wounds. I am trying to be creator of my own life.

So how then do I – do you – put God at the center of our lives? That assumes there is something I can do – and beneath that thought, the sin – I believe I can be my own savior. My prayer is that I get out of God’s way – and let God do his work. How easily we become stuck in an endless cycle of trying to do God’s work. It takes a lifetime of prayer to begin seeing ourselves as God does. It’s not about achieving the rank of “best” or “holiest Christian.” It’s to surrender – letting go of my inner agenda, and let God be God.

Soon All Saints/All Souls Days will be here. I like what one writer says about saints — “They’re ones who have learned to give up.” They can admit and accept that their failures are holy, so God can do something within them. You never achieve sainthood. It’s a gift of God – freely given, as Paul discovered — so the power of God can work in and through you and me. As I would tell children at their sermon time on All Saints Sunday — “Turn around. Look who’s watching us. We are all – Saints under construction.” Prayer opens a place within where God can begin developing His gift.

Blessings this day — Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 12, 2020 MONDAY

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. — John 15:9

Dear Church Family,

Today I offer the fourth and final stage for developing a deeper prayer practice — Being With God. This is the place I try to center myself with God. We’re always invited into a deeper relationship with God. Our prayer centers on experiencing God’s presence now, in this moment. It’s always been with you, even when you didn’t know it. It’s peace within. You are being with the Father through Jesus who draws you into that abiding presence of the Trinity.

When (prior to COVID) did you make plans to be with someone you like? Over time as the relationship grows past being acquaintances, what you do together becomes less important. Being with your friend is what matters. Sometimes it’s good; other times maybe disappointing. It can be either and both, because you have built history, an inseparable bond. Sometimes you may need to ask forgiveness, or forgive if asked. You don’t want to be betrayed — and your level of trust grows. We are human and the analogy won’t always hold for us. It always will with God, your relationship with the perfect Being of Love.

There comes a time when activities of prayer — praying scripture, prayers of others — forming prayers in your own words and even writing them to remember later — listening for God’s many ways of “speaking” to you — you put all of this down. You just be with God. Meditate and reflect, savor the experience of grace, unconditional love, a relationship unlike any other. Never can you do irreparable harm to it. God is always waiting for you, even in seasons that feel dry and stale. A longing arises in periods when you neglect your relationship with God. Keep trying, keep praying. Realize what’s missing is God’s way of being with you – when you again are ready.

This last stage is not an action. It is a stage of simply being. It is a pure gift from God. For me Centering Prayer is a practice – an action I take — to put my heart in a place of being. Words are not spoken. Thoughts pass on through my mind. You focus on nothing except “being” in mystical union with God. It is pure gift. All you and I can do is prepare and till the soil for God to plant a seed.

Tony deMello, an Indian Jesuit, teacher and writer – who died in 1987, tells a story of a Hindu disciple asking his master about enlightenment. “Master, how do we reach enlightenment?” The teacher replies, “We can no more make enlightenment happen than make the sun rise.” The confused disciple asks, “Then why do we pray at all?” The reply, “So we will be awake when the sun rises.” God gives the gift of growth. We pray with open hands so God can place his gifts in them.

Blessings as you continue to grow into God’s love and peace, Fr. Steve
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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 11, 2020 SUNDAY

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. — Jeremiah 33:3

Dear Beloved in Christ,

God wants conversation with you. God promises to answer and reveal great things. I believe that is the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised. How do you hear God’s answers to your prayers? The next stage in developing a stronger prayer life is listening to God.

Who listens to you? A friend is able to listen to more than your words. They may ask questions that can reveal what you are unable yet to see. They listen deeply to feelings – your fears, dreams, wounds. They won’t “fix” you, unless you ask for what they see.

God has important things to tell you. God wants to share what you struggle with — hold you in peace and console you in hard times. God will challenge you to repent — to turn and return to him often. God wants you to live the gospel more fully. God will guide you in your decisions, celebrate what excites you, and walk with you through the dark valleys. God calls and answers you — and the great and hidden thing, you and I struggle to know and trust — God really does love you. First we ask – speak – pray. God always is – if we stop and listen.

So how do you hear a voice you can’t hear and understand as you do a human voice? You can find help from those farther along on the road of prayer. Spiritual directors can listen and help you discern what God is saying. Books on growth in prayer – different ways of praying and finding what works are a rich resource.

Another way is personal experience. I was with our college religious group on a retreat in the mountains. The sun was setting. We sat on rocks looking across the mountains – the valleys – as the sun went down. Our leader invited us to be quiet – look and listen. I still hold that moment in my mind and heart. I “saw” more than a sunset. In a mystical way I heard the voice of God. I often return to that mental snapshot — and find God wandering with me in my wondering about the universe, the beauty all around me I am too busy to notice – sights I fail to hear. I know that sounds crazy to some. Listen, you’ll hear God’s voice — not like yours – but in your heart. His voice draws you outside yourself.

We will never be able to hear God’s voice around us – in nature, in conversations, in scripture, in liturgy — if we first don’t set ourselves on a path of getting to know God. That takes a commitment of time, patience, practice. That’s how relationships grow and thrive. If we neglect them, they wilt and die.

Sometimes we may not want to listen to God, because his ways are demanding. We already know the answer. I can tell you that from experience. I can also report — God is patient, kind – forgiving, loving — and ready to pick you back up. When we call to him – he answers. What is hidden shall be revealed. Wait patiently upon the Lord (and that’s hard) – so God can be God to you.

Blessings and peace as we together seek to grow in Christ, Fr. Steve
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Sunday Service Video Stream

OCTOBER 11, 2020 SUNDAY

Happy Sunday,  Saint Stephen’s Family!

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

The Cast

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

You may watch the church service here:

 https://youtu.be/k9ARGjJj0V8

The hymns are 316, 321, and 663.

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

I look forward to seeing you in person soon!

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

OCTOBER 11, 2020 SUNDAY

Dear Church Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19th Sunday after Pentecost – October 11, 2020

Year A – Proper 23

The Collect

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

Old Testament

Exodus 32:1-14

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

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

The Response

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

Confitemini Domino, Et fecerunt vitulum

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

The Epistle

Philippians 4:1-9

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

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

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

The Gospel

Matthew 22:1-14

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

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

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Daily Gospel

OCTOBER 10, 2020 SATURDAY

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

Dear Church Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCTOBER 8, 2020 THURSDAY

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

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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