July 16, 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 #632
Blessed be the one, holy, and living God.
Glory to God for ever and ever.
All-loving 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 Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The people sit.
These are the generations of Abraham’s son Isaac. Isaac was the son of Abraham. At the age of forty Isaac married Rebecca, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram, and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the God of Israel on behalf of Rebecca, for they had no children. God listened to the prayers and Rebecca conceived. The babies in her womb struggled with each other. Rebecca said, “If this is the way it is to be, why go on living?”
She asked for divine guidance and the God of Israel said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, two tribes in your belly who will be rivals. One will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
When the time came for her to deliver, she gave birth to twin boys. The first to enter the world was very ruddy, and had so much hair on his body that he looked as if he was wearing a fur coat. So they named him Esau, “Rough One.” When the second came out, he was grasping Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob, “Heel-Grabber.” Isaac was sixty years old when Rebecca delivered the twins.
The children grew up. Esau became a skilled hunter and enjoyed the open country, while the quiet Jacob preferred to stay at home. Isaac, who especially enjoyed wild game, favored Esau while Rebecca favored Jacob. One day, when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from hunting, famished. He said to Jacob, “I’m starving—let me have some of the red stuff, that red stew.” This is why he was also called Edom, “Red One.”
Jacob replied, “Not until you sell me the rights you own from being firstborn.”
Esau replied, “Here I am ravenous for food. What good is my birthright to me now?”
Jacob said, “Swear to me first!” So Esau swore to Jacob and sold his birthright. Only then did Jacob give Esau some bread and the lentil stew. He ate and drank, then got up and left. This is how little Esau valued his birthright.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.
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 Romans
There is no longer any condemnation, however, for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit—the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus—has freed you from the law of sin and death. What the Law was powerless to do because human nature made it so weak, God did—by sending the Only Begotten in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, thereby condemning sin in the flesh. In this way, the just demands of the Law could be fulfilled in us, who live not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their mind set on the things of the flesh; those who live by the Spirit, on things of the Spirit. The mind of the flesh is death, but that of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind of the flesh stands in opposition to God; it is not subject to God’s law—indeed, it cannot be, since those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit lives because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the One who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through the Spirit dwelling in you.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
Gospel Hymn #627
The Holy Gospel of Our Savior Jesus Christ According To Matthew
Glory to You, O Christ.
Later that day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lake shore. Such great crowds gathered that he went and took a seat in a boat, while the crowd stood along the shore. He addressed them at length in parables: “One day, a farmer went out sowing seed. Some of the seed landed on a footpath, where birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. This seed sprouted at once since the soil had no depth, but when the sun rose and scorched it, it withered away for lack of roots. Again, some of the seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. And some of it landed on good soil, and yielded a crop thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown. Let those who have ears to hear, hear this!”
“Now listen to the parable of the sower. When people hear the message about the kindom of God without understanding it, the Evil One comes along and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. This is the seed sown along the path. Those who received the seed that fell on rocky ground are the ones who hear the word and at first welcome it with joy. But they have no roots, so they last only for a while. When some setback or persecution comes because of the message, they quickly fall away. Those who receive the message that fell among the thorns are the ones who hear the word, but then worldly anxieties and the lure of wealth choke it off, and the message produces no fruit. But those who receive the seed that fell on rich soil are those who hear the message and understand it. They produce a crop that yields a hundred, or sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The Gospel of Our Savior.
Praise to you, O Christ.
The people sit for the Homily.
The people stand or kneel for the Prayers of the People
Resurrecting God, we pray for your holy Catholic Church;
That we all may be one.
Grant that every member of the Church may truly and humbly serve you;
That your Name may be glorified by all people.
We pray for all bishops, priests, and deacons;
That they may be faithful ministers of your Word and Sacraments.
We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world;
That there may be justice and peace on the earth.
Give us grace to do your will in all that we undertake;
That our works may find favor in your sight.
Have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or trouble;
That they may be delivered from their distress.
Give to the departed eternal rest;
Let light perpetual shine upon them.
We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy;
May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom.
Let us pray for our own needs and those of others.
Celebrant: O Lord our God, accept the fervent prayers of your people; in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, One Holy and Undivided Trinity, now and for 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 of God be with you.
And also with you.
Offertory Hymn #119 (LEVAS)
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!
We praise you and we bless you, holy and gracious God, source of life abundant. From before time you made ready the creation. Your Spirit moved over the deep and brought all things into being: sun, moon, and stars; earth, winds, and waters; and every living thing.
You made us in your image, and taught us to walk in your ways. But we rebelled against you, and wandered far away; and yet, as a mother cares for her children, you would not forget us. Time and again you called us to live in the fullness of your love.
And so this day we join with Saints and Angels in the chorus of praise that rings through eternity, lifting our voices to magnify you as we sing:
Glory and honor and praise to you, holy and living God. To deliver us from the power of sin and death and to reveal the riches of your grace, you looked with favor upon Mary, your willing servant, that she might conceive and bear a son, Jesus the holy child of God. Living among us, Jesus loved us. He broke bread with outcasts and sinners, healed the sick, and proclaimed good news to the poor. He yearned to draw all the world to himself yet we were heedless of his call to walk in love. Then, the time came for him to complete upon the cross the sacrifice of his life, and to be glorified by you.
On the night before he died for us, Jesus was at table with his friends. He took bread, gave thanks to you, broke it, and gave it to them, and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
As supper was ending, Jesus took the cup of wine. Again, he gave thanks to you, gave it to them, and said:“Drink this, all of you. This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
Now gathered at your table, O God of all creation, and remembering Christ, crucified and risen, who was and is and is to come, we offer to you our gifts of bread and wine, and ourselves, a living sacrifice. Pour out your Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Body and Blood of Christ. Breathe your Spirit over the whole earth and make us your new creation, the Body of Christ given for the world you have made.
In the fullness of time bring us, with Saint Stephen and all your saints, from every tribe and language and people and nation, to feast at the banquet prepared from the foundation of the world.
Through Christ and with Christ and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to you be honor, glory, and praise, for ever and 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!
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 #698
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.
God’s Blessing be with you, Christ’s peace be with you, the Spirit’s outpouring be with you, now and always. Amen.
Closing Hymn #478
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.