Staying Safe and Staying Connected
Good Morning Saint Stephen’s Church,
Today is Tuesday in Holy Week
What Happened This Day?
On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to his companions about the importance of faith.
Back at the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. They organized an ambush with the intent to place him under arrest. But Jesus evaded their traps and then warned the crowds about them, saying:
“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearances say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Mark 12:38-40)
Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem. Here Jesus spoke of future persecutions, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and His Second Coming.
After a tiring day of confrontation and warnings about the future, once again, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to stay the night.
Tuesday’s events are recorded in Matthew 21:23–24:51, Mark 11:20–13:37, Luke 20:1–21:38.
Your hands fashioned and made me;Job 10:8, 15, 20-22
and now you turn and destroy me. . . .
If I am wicked, woe to me!
If I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head,
for I am filled with disgrace
and look upon my affliction. . . .
Are not the days of my life few?
Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort
before I go, never to return,
to the land of gloom and deep darkness,
the land of gloom and chaos,
where light is like darkness.”
Most people have some sense of the story of Job. Although he was a righteous person, pain and suffering came crashing into his life without any apparent reason. In the beginning Job was able to praise God and “keep a stiff upper lip,” but eventually his frustration, which is understandable, comes to the surface, as is clear in this prayer.
From Our Prayers of the People
Today, let’s pray:
For the peace and unity of the Church of God; for all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the truth.
For all affected by the Coronavirus around the world. For comfort and healing for all who are affected by the Coronavirus, and for physicians, nurses, and all others who minister to the sick and the suffering, may God grant them wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience, and may God keep them healthy and safe.
Our Government Leaders: Donald Trump, President of the United States; Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State; Gary McCarthy, Mayor of Schenectady
For those on the Parish Prayer Chain: John, Sabrina, Joan, Charlie, Jim, Nichol, Kelly.
For those who are homebound: Stephen, Pauline, Joan, Janet and Marilyn.
Those who are imprisoned: those particularly vulnerable at this time, especially the women in the Schenectady County Jail.
For those in need of healing: Mark Bayer. the Guiles family, Cindi, Peter, Mary Frances, Debbie, and Joe.
For all the blessings of this life.
For our dioceses in the Anglican Communion: Mexico (Mexico), West Tennessee (The Episcopal Church), Ideato (Nigeria)
For all who have died: especially Robert, Charles, Julia, Adele, Glenn and Clark.
For one another.
Something to share
God Does Not Bring PlaguesRabbi Naomi Levy
At every Seder, as we recite the ten plagues over Egypt we pour out a drop of wine to symbolize our sadness. We are heartbroken that any soul had to suffer, even those who hated us,
tormented us and enslaved us.
And still, we sing lighthearted songs with our children about “frogs here, frogs there.”
And as we enumerate the plagues we find ourselves muttering the final plague beneath our breath, not wanting to frighten our own children,
not knowing what to make of a God who would murder innocent children.
Tonight, more than ever, it is time to liberate the God of the Universe from “Acts of God”. There was a time in history when we didn’t understand what caused earthquakes or floods or fires or contagious viruses. In order to feel less helpless in the face of nature’s fierce capricious power, religions found comfort in blaming the victims of plagues for their own suffering. The Torah ascribes mass slaughter to God as divine punishment for sin: “They brought this upon themselves, they had it coming.”
But God is praying to be freed from this monstrous portrayal.
Tonight is the time to liberate God from this twisted, sadistic depiction.
Tonight is the time to proclaim God as the One who lifts us up, frees us,
shelters and blesses us each day.
Passover will survive without a belief in a God who visits plagues upon any soul.
The key to Passover is a belief in rebirth, a belief that tomorrow can be better than today;
a knowing that we each have a critical part to play in the unfolding of hope.
Freedom begins with open eyes and ears and hearts.
Seas will part, answers will come, cures will emerge,
New ways of believing will sprout up and take root,
A universal love that mirrors God’s love for every living creature
And for our world.
In the book of Exodus we are told that Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to replicate the plague of frogs. The only difference between Moses and the sorcerers was: only Moses could remove the plague.
When the sorcerers witnessed Moses reverse the plague they cried out: “This is the hand of God.”
The truth is, it doesn’t take any great supernatural powers to bring about a plague. We all have the power to destroy life and to destroy the earth and our atmosphere. But it does take great holy powers to reverse a plague, to heal the sick, to heal our planet, to heal hatred and war. The Healing Hand of God acting through us is what will save us and lead us from constriction to wide open spaces,
from fear to faith, from darkness to light, from worry to peace of mind,
from economic hardship to abundance, from illness to health.
Let us raise a glass and drink a Cup of Praise to the Soul of Souls
who fills us with the power to end all plagues.
And let us say, Amen.
News and Updates
Face Mask Requirement – The Czech Republic gov’t decided two weeks ago to require everyone to wear a face mask covering the nose and mouth at all times outside the home. People clearly understood the importance of preserving the supply of professional medical/surgical masks for healthcare providers and first responders. So without complaint, the entire nation transformed itself almost overnight into a giant factory churning out homemade masks. Thousands of individuals and businesses immediately began sewing masks out of a variety of fabrics. Dozens of video tutorials for producing makeshift respiratory masks appeared on the Internet in Czech and English. Within three days, there were enough masks for every man, woman, and child in this country of 10 million. So far, the Czech Republic has had fewer than 50 deaths from Covid-19. But more importantly, the percentage of new cases each day among those tested appears to be dropping. In other words, the Czech across-the-board face mask rule is beginning to “flatten the curve”, as has happened in China, Taiwan, South Korea, and other places where masks are widely used. Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhNo_IOPOtU for more information.
Parish Morning Prayer in Zoom – each morning of Holy Week join Dennie and me for an inter-active service of Morning Prayer at 9 am. Time to bring your prayer concerns will be provided. (contact me for the link)
If you did not receive a phone call in the next few days from a member of the Vestry and you would like to be added to the communication list, please let me know (email@example.com or by phone, 518-522-3906) and share with me the best telephone number(s) where we can reach you. We will add you to the list right away.
If you have an update/news, a prayer or poem or something inspirational you would like us to share with the congregation, please send it to us. Please also send us any prayer requests. We will incorporate these into the Morning Prayers as best we can.
Our church campus is closed. All parish meetings and gatherings are canceled and postponed until further notice.
Be careful what you read online. There are reports of false information circulating in an attempt to create fear and confusion. And, God forbid, always remember – any online or texted-based solicitation from me for money is A SCAM. Do not reply to such messages. Delete them.
Our goal is for all of us to stay in touch and connected in this time of isolation.
Share this news, and spread some love, not the virus!
Be of good courage. We are in this together, and we will be together again soon. God bless you and may God be with us in the days ahead.