October 1, 2023

We are happy to know that many people new to worship in the Episcopal Church come to St. Stephen’s, and we welcome you!

Throughout the service, the people’s responses are in italics. If you would like to learn more about the parts of our worship, click on the titles of each section.



The people stand for the Processional Hymn.

Processional Hymn #211

Opening Acclamation & Collect for Purity

Blessed be the one, holy, and living God.
Glory to God for ever and ever.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


God be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray. 

O God, you show your glory throughout your Creation, calling it very good: Grant us the fullness of your blessing, that we, stewarding your garden, may become partakers in your joy; through Jesus Christ the Wisdom of Creation, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

The people sit.

A Reading from Exodus

The Israelites left the desert of Syn to travel by stages, as God had directed them. They camped at Rephidim, but found no drinking water. Again they turned on Moses, saying, “Give us drinking water.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test God?”

But the people were thirsty, and complained even more to Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt only to make us and our children and our livestock die of thirst?”

Moses appealed to God. “What am I to do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”

God answered Moses, “Take some of the elders and move to the front of the people. Take with you the staff with which you struck the Nile. Go! I will wait for you there by the rock of Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”

And Moses did so, in the sight the elders. Moses named the place Massah, “Testing,” and Meribah, “Quarreling,” for the Israelites tested God when they said, “Is God with us or not?”

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

The cantor will sing the antiphon once, and the congregation will repeat it. Cantor and congregation will sing the verses together, changing notes on the underlined words and switching between the A and B verses.

A Reading from Philippians

If our life in Christ means anything to you—if love, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness or sympathy can persuade you at all—then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing that would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit, but everybody is to be humble: value others over yourselves, each of you thinking of the interests of others before your own. Your attitude must be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Christ, though in the image of God, didn’t deem equality with God something to be clung to— but instead became completely empty and took on the image of oppressed humankind: born into the human condition, found in the likeness of a human being. Jesus was thus humbled—obediently accepting death, even death on a cross! Because of this, God highly exalted Christ and gave to Jesus the name above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God: Jesus Christ reigns supreme!

Therefore, my dear friends, you who are always obedient to my urging, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, not only when I happen to be with you, but all the more now that I’m absent. It is God at work in you that creates the desire to do God’s will.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.

A Reading attributed to Meister Eckhart

Apprehend God in all things,
for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God,
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature— even a caterpillar—
I would never have to prepare a sermon,
so full of God
is every creature.

The people stand for the Gospel

Gospel Hymn #435

The Gospel

The Holy Gospel of Our Savior Jesus Christ According To Matthew
Glory to You, O Christ.

Jesus entered the Temple precincts and began teaching. The chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing what you do? Who gave you this authority?”

“And I,” replied Jesus, “will ask you a single question; if you give me the answer, I will tell you my authority for these actions. What was the origin of John’s right to baptize? Was it divine or was it human?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘divine,’ he will respond, ‘Then why did you refuse to believe him?’ But if we say ‘human,’ we have the people to fear, for they regard John as a prophet.” So they replied to Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus said in reply, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” Jesus continued, “What do you think? There was a landowner who had two children. The landowner approached the elder and said, ‘My child, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ This first child replied, ‘No, I won’t,’ but afterwards regretted it and went. The landowner then came to the second child and said the same thing. The second child said in reply, ‘I’m on my way,’ but never went. Which of the two did what was wanted?”

They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “The truth is, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kindom of God before you. When John came walking on the road of justice, you didn’t believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you didn’t repent and believe.

The Gospel of Our Savior.
Praise to you, O Christ.

The people sit for the Homily.

The Homily

The people stand for the Nicene Creed.

The Nicene Creed 

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Please stand or kneel for the Prayers of the People.

The Prayers of the People

Let us pray for the Church and for the world. 

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world. 


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer. 

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. 


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. 


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us. 


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your salvation. 


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom. 


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Celebrant: Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. 

Confession & Absolution

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbors.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen. 

Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

Please stand for the peace.

The Peace

The peace of God be with you.
And also with you.

Offertory Anthem: Creator of Creation

Text by Joseph Plunkett, Music by Peter Matthews

I see his blood upon the rose, and in the stars the glory of his eyes;
His body gleams amid eternal snows, his tears fall from the skies.
I see his face in every flower, the thunder and the singing of birds
Are but his voice, and carven by his power Rocks
Are his written word.


As the offering plates are brought forward, we sing…

Praise God from whom all blessing flow, Praise God all creatures here below, Praise God above, ye heavenly hosts, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

The Holy Eucharist

Please stand.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth. For by water and the Holy Spirit you have made us a new people in Jesus Christ our Lord, to show forth your glory in all the world. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

The Sanctus

Holy and gracious God: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and maker of all.  Jesus stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world. 

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Savior Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper Jesus took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.” 

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, Almighty God, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in Christ. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Savior. By Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty God, now and for ever. Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia.

Fraction Anthem

Sung once by the cantor, repeated by the congregation.

The Celebrant offers the gifts to the people, saying

The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

The people are invited to come forward for communion.

Communion Hymn #339

Postcommunion Prayer

Eternal God, you have graciously accepted us as living members of our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Savior. Amen. 


Live without fear: your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road and may God’s blessing be with you always. Amen.

Closing Hymn #690


Alleluia! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!


Notes on our worship:

The Episcopal Church uses hymns from the entirety of the Christian tradition. We sing ancient hymns that were written before there was such a thing as musical notation, Medieval hymns composed for vast, echoing cathedrals, spirituals that were sung in places where slaves gathered to worship in secret, hymns set to folk tunes from throughout the world, and contemporary worship songs.

Our worship starts with an invocation, a way of asking God to be present with us. There are many ways to invite God into our worship and our lives, and many names for God that touch on different aspects of God’s presence. During Easter Season, we focus on Christ and resurrection – the ways in which God is present within our humanity and leads us to new life.

A number of ancient hymns are still used by the church in worship. Many of these hymns draw upon scripture. During the Season After Pentecost we are using a Trisagion, which invokes the Holy Trinity.

A collect is a prayer that “collects” the thoughts and hopes of the congregation. Each Sunday has its own assigned collect, which states the theme that most if not all of the lectionary readings will address.

The Episcopal Church follows The Revised Common Lectionary, which assigns Sunday readings throughout the year. Right now we are in Year A. The Readings consist of passages from the Psalms, Hebrew Testament (also called the Old Testament) and/or the Christian Testament (also called the New Testament). Jesus was Jewish, and so much of what he taught was inspired by centuries of Jewish thinkers and sages. Christianity has always affirmed the need to stay connected to these Jewish roots. At St. Stephen’s, we use The Inclusive Bible translation.

The Psalms also come out of the Jewish tradition. They were the worship songs of ancient Israel. Listen to the words, and you’ll notice that Psalms often express anger, sorrow, and resentment, as well as joy and thanksgiving. All of our emotions are present in the Psalms, and they teach us that it’s okay to bring our whole selves into our worship of God.

As we sing the Gospel Hymn, we bring the Gospel to the center of the church because it is the center of our lives and worship.

There are four Gospels in the New Testament. Three of them are synoptic, a word that means “with one eye.” These three Gospels were drawn from the same sources and tell many of the same stories, with different emphasis depending on the Gospel. The fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, was written for a specific, and now vanished, Christian community, that had a very different set of concerns and ideas than the communities that are addressed in the synoptic Gospels.

The homily is a time of exploring how the readings relate to and inform our daily living. 

We pray for everything — for our community, for our nation, for the world, and for everyone who has asked us for prayers. Requesting prayers is simple. Fill out the prayer request form that you’ll find on the lecture stand near the greeting table with as much information as you would like us to have. We’ll collect them and add your prayers to our weekly prayer list. The list goes out each Tuesday to a dedicated group of people who will pray for you and your loved ones throughout the week. The list will also be used during today’s worship.

The Liturgy of the Table begins with the Sursum Corda, in which the priest asks the people’s permission to pray on their behalf. St. Gregory the Great said that “those who sing pray twice.” Therefore the priest will usually sings part of the Eucharistic prayer. 

The Sanctus is another ancient hymn, drawn from scripture. When we sing the Sanctus, we are presuming to praise God on behalf of all creation. It is possible that animals and insects and plants are all praising God on our behalf as well, in ways that we can’t understand.

Why do we emphasize “one bread, one body”? We believe in Jesus as the only Son of God. We all share in one bread, representing the one body of Jesus, and one cup, memorializing the blood of Christ that was shed for our salvation. 

What do we believe is happening to the bread and wine towards the end of the Eucharistic prayer? Jesus is present in the elements we share during Holy Communion. Our interpretations of what this means may differ from person to person. We may understand this literally or figuratively. Regardless, we know this to be Christ’s true presence. 

At St. Stephen’s, we have an “open table,” meaning that you are invited to receive the Eucharist regardless of where you are on your faith journey. To receive communion, come forward down the center aisle when invited by the priest. The priest will place the bread in your palm. To receive a gluten free wafer, extend your hands, palm down, when receiving communion. If you would like to receive communion in “one kind,” meaning that you want to receive the bread but not the wine, simply cross your arms over your chest as the chalice is offered to you. If you would like a blessing from the priest in lieu of partaking in the Eucharist, please cross your hands over your chest.