July 23, 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 #372
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.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The people sit.
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he passed the night there. He took a rock and used it for a headrest and lay down to sleep there. During the night he had a dream: there was a ladder, standing on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and messengers of God were going up and coming down the ladder. God was there, standing over him, saying, “I am the God of Sarah and Abraham, and the God of Rebecca and Isaac. Your descendants will be like the specks of dust on the ground; you will spread to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south, and all the tribes of the earth will bless themselves by you and your descendants. Know that I am with you. I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land; I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you.”
Then Jacob woke and said, “Truly, God is in this place, and I never knew it!” He was filled with trembling and said, “How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven!” Jacob rose early the next morning, and took the stone he had used as a headrest and set it up as a monument, and anointed it with oil.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.
Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23
SThe 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
We are under an obligation, my sisters and brothers—but not to the flesh or to live according to the flesh. If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if you live by the Spirit, you will put to death the evil deeds of the body and you will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. For the Spirit that God has given you does not enslave you and trap you in fear; instead, through the Spirit God has adopted you as children, and by that Spirit we cry out, “Abba!” God’s Spirit joins with our spirit to declare that we are God’s children. And if we are children, we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing in Christ’s suffering and sharing in Christ’s glory.
Indeed, I consider the sufferings of the present to be nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed in us. All creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God. Creation was subjected to transience and futility, not of its own accord, but because of the One who subjected it—in the hope that creation itself would be freed from its slavery to corruption and would come to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that from the beginning until now, all of creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth. And not only creation, but all of us who possess the first fruits of the Spirit—we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. In hope we were saved. But hope is not hope if its object is seen; why does one hope for what one sees? And hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Gospel Hymn #702
The Holy Gospel of Our Savior Jesus Christ According To Matthew
Glory to You, O Christ.
Jesus presented another parable to those gathered: “The kindom of heaven is like a farmer who sowed good seed in a field. While everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then made off. When the crop began to mature and yield grain, the weeds became evident as well. The farmer’s workers came and asked, ‘Did you not sow good seed in your field? Where are the weeds coming from?’
“The farmer replied, ‘I see an enemy’s hand in this.’
“They in turn asked, ‘Do you want us to go out and pull them up?’
“ ‘No,’ replied the farmer, ‘if you pull up the weeds, you might take the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until the harvest, then at harvest time I will order the harvesters first to collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then to gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”
Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. The disciples also came in and said, “Explain the parable about the weeds in the field.”
Jesus answered, “The farmer sowing the good seed is the Chosen One, the field is the world, and the good seed, the citizens of the kindom. The weeds are the followers of the Evil One, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the world, while the harvesters are the angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned, so it will be at the end of the age. The Chosen One will send the angels who will weed out the kindom of everything that causes sin and all who act lawlessly. The angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But those who are just will shine like the sun in the kindom of their Abba God. Let those who have ears to hear, hear this!”
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 #453
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 #151 (LEVAS)
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 #336
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.