The Week of May 12-17, 2020
Paul in the aeropagus
Loved and sustained
by the Holy Trinity
Our readings this Sunday start with Paul in the Aeropagus explaining how God made us in God's likeness and therefore shouldn't be worshiped with man-made objects or idols. The readings end with Jesus explaining that those who love Jesus will follow his commandments and find they are loved by God.
In the Gospel Jesus goes on to explain that we are not alone. God loves us, the Holy Spirit has been sent to be with us forever, abiding with us and in us. We will not be left orphaned, Jesus insists.
He then enters into a famous set of assurances: '...(The) world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." Jesus then closes with this assurance for those faithful followers he has described: "I will love them and reveal myself to them."
Just how this revelation will take place differs for each of us. But for those who have come to know and love Jesus, the issue of Jesus revealing himself is not theoretical, it is experiential. When we know Jesus in the breaking of bread, when we recognize about us and in us the Holy Spirit he gave us, we know he spoke the truth. It carries us through life, through it all.
This is especially heartening at a time of uncertainty and concern such as we are now experiencing.
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he full readings are published
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The Sunday sermon
To know God
SERMON: 5 Easter A 5 10 20
It seems to me that no one ever believed more fervently the opening line of today's collect than Stephen. That line, "
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life," armed Stephen both for the presentation he had to give to his detractors, and prepared him for his gracious death. Clearly no one ever needed to believe that line more than Stephen did, either.
The placement of this sad tale a mere month after Easter tells us a lot. We are given only the martyrdom in the assigned text. But preceding and following our selection for today is significant and important information for us as Christians.
For a full two pages before today's selection the elevation of Stephen as a deacon and his wondrous ministry in the community and his understanding of the Jewish-Christian lineage are detailed. It is written, "Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedman...stood up and argued with Stephen."
We cannot tell if their unhappiness with Stephen was due to his theological position. The concern that Jesus would continue to be identified as the Messiah was a serious problem for the Jews who were committed to the coming of Messiah remaining as a future event. Also, Stephen was so successful as a preacher and teacher that he and his teaching threatened Jewish authority. Stephen had some of the same problems with the authorities as Jesus did: he was too successful.
His opponents brought Stephen before the Jewish authorities and accused him of holding up Jesus as the Messiah. In his defense Stephen rendered a summary of the faith which included repeated failures by the people to believe the prophets, both in Judaism and, now, Christianity.
His detractors were having none of it. Ultimately, in language like that of John the Baptist, Stephen denounced them: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do." His criticism went on, but concluded, "You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it." The response of the people is described in the line just preceding today's reading: "When they heard these things they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen."
That is what preceded the lesson for today from the Acts of the Apostles. The other key contextual information is the short line that followed our reading. It is the first verse of chapter 8: "And Saul approved of their killing him."
As parishioners of St. Paul's Church do in many places, we identify Paul as ours. We recognize his history and we know of the event described in the Acts of the Apostles on which we're focusing today. Even so it requires some adjustment, perhaps taking a deep breath or blinking our eyes a couple of times, to hear and accept such an awful role ascribed to our namesake. We look at the scene described in the scripture and we wonder if Saul's conversion perhaps started with the martyrdom of Stephen in today's reading. Perhaps Saul was beginning to see the light before his experience on the road to Damascus.
Stephen is a profound example of one who came by and lived into his faith without hesitation, without stumble, without blinking an eye. Those of us who contemplate such things imagine how wondrous that would be, to be so sure, to be so convicted, right off. Some of took a little longer. Many of us took a lot longer. But the lessons we are learning in this time after Easter are about discovering our faith. Think about the Good Shepherd. Remember the Road to Emmaus. Stephen is another lesson in faith recognized and lived out to the end.
We have another lesson of faith discovered with the second most famous questioning of Thomas. In the Gospel Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going."
We would think that after three years Thomas would be accustomed to Jesus speaking in metaphor, metaphor like "Many dwelling places," formerly known as mansions. But he has to ask, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?" In that process Thomas gives the world the answer most of us would have been afraid to seek. Jesus' response, of course: I am the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me."
After that Philip asks for more evidence and Jesus chides him. But he concludes with this marvelous summation: Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do ... I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glori
ed in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."
That last promise, that he would do for his disciples whatever they asked in his name, is a trap, you know. Because to ask for things in his name we need to ask for things we believe would comport with the will of Jesus. So it's not our wishlist we should be consulting, it's Jesus's. We can't ask Jesus for things that don't represent loving God and loving our neighbor. So as Jesus said just now, "(T)he one who believes in me will also do the works that I do..."
These lessons stuck, you know. The martydom of Stephen is held up as a glorious faithful moment. And Thomas is credited with taking Christianity to India in 52 AD. Evidently his questions were ansered sufficiently by the risen Jesus.
So what about you and me? Can we evangelize with the face of an angel like Stephen? Can we discover and proclaim our belief in Jesus, like Saul, believing our sins are set aside? Can we aspire to a role in the church as Thomas did, after his "doubting," and his difficulty following Jesus' spiritual signals?
I have two answers for you: one is simple, one more complex. The simple one is yes indeed. We can engage fully in our faith with energy and conviction. We can immerse ourselves in it, learn more and more about it, share it with candor and humility and joy. Not bad, huh?
My second answer is: This is exactly what Jesus had in mind for every one of his followers. And if a significant percentage of believers started to work in that direction, the world would become the place that Jesus envisioned for us all. Amen
A sermon preached in a Zoom gathering of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie NY,
on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2020, by The Rev. Tyler Jones, Rector
A NOTE FROM THE TREASURY TEAM
Total deposit for the past week - $3940 ($2625 from the food pantry). Many thanks to all who are remembering their pledge and to those both within and outside of the church who are generously supporting the Food Pantry. We pray you are all well and look forward to "seeing" you at Zoom Church.
An improved exit has given us
greater capacity in the Parish Hall
|This photo shows the top of the stairs outside the Sacristy. The stairway is now lit, widened restored to public use standards. To attain greater official occupancy in our Parish Hall we have been required to produce a more effective exit than the one existing stairway that leads outside.
|This is a view of the stairs from the new vestibule one enters directly off the Parish Hall. By having no traffic entering from left or right the new stairway qualifies for the size of groups that like to rent the space for parties, meetings and other gatherings.
|From the Parish Hall one wouldn't know that such improvements have been made. The door with crash bar and automatic closer, 24/7 lighting, improved railings, and other improvements will increase our official occupancy to 222.
2 Barbara Gavin
3 Aiden Curtis
|11 Mary Wethington
15 Joanna Frang
|22 Shiann Tatiana Mayorga Cash
| 7 Carolyn Dewald
||17 Kataleya Anahi Mayorga
||27 Mark Goodwin
||18 Claudette Tucker
|| Ananda Payne-Carter
| Clifford Clarke
||20 George Santos Jr.
||30 Deborah Pitcher
| Christiana Prater-Lee
|| Richlina Angel Hodge
Please keep those on our parish prayer list in your minds and in your
prayers, especially at this time of separation and isolation.
Our prayers are asked for:
Michelle, Phil, Kathy B.; Carola and Violet; Whitman, Medical Reserve Corp. of
Dutchess County, Dept. of Behavioral and Community health of Dutchess county;
Peggy;The Bedrossian family; Seth;Lori; The Laken family;
All parishioners; Kairos
International, Catherine, Michelle, Yamily; G.J., Joe; Lois, Matthew, Lillian; Lynita,
Perry, Melius family, Sasha; Stacey, Linda, Phil, Jody; Tucker family, Branch family,
Atkinson family; Ibadan Diocese, All Saints Anglican Church, Oni family; Donna;
Alison, McGhan, Sterling, Unah, Avonel, Kim, Santos family, Madeline, Bramble,
Charlie, Cynthia, Gencia, Val, Joanne, Janet, Corkey, Pelaez, Josephs-Clarke
family, Dixon family, Paulette, Jarah, Mertlyn; Adam, Paul, Andrew & family, Douglas
family, Annie, Ron, Dave, Liz; Jill, Lana, Andrew, Susan; Schneider family, all in
need; Susie; Sherry, Claudia
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St. Paul's Episcopal Church-Poughkeepsie
'In Service to God & You'
Our food pantry volunteers are in active service at St. Paul's these days. We give thanks to them and thanks to God for their willingness to help our by helping others.
1982 400 All creatures of our God and King (Lasst uns erfreuen)
LEVAS-II 181 Amazing Grace (New Britain)
1982 518 Christ is made the sure foundation (Westminster Abbey)
The readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (17:22-31)
Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him-though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said,
'For we too are his offspring.'
Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
The Word of the Lord
7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
9 For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.
10 You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
12 I will enter your house with burnt-offerings
and will pay you my vows, *
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
13 I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
with the smoke of rams; *
I will give you oxen and goats.
14 Come and listen, all you who fear God, *
and I will tell you what he has done for me.
15 I called out to him with my mouth, *
and his praise was on my tongue.
16 If I had found evil in my heart, *
the Lord would not have heard me;
17 But in truth God has heard me; *
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, *
nor withheld his love from me.
A reading from the First Letter of Peter (3:13-22)
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you-- not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
The Word of the Lord
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (14:15-21)
Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."