Blessings over Food at Easter

These blessings are appropriate for use by households at the principal meal on Easter Day:

Over Wine

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, creator of the fruit of the vine: Grant that we who share this wine, which gladdens our hearts, may share for ever the new life of the true Vine, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Over Bread

Blessed are you, O Lord our God; you bring forth bread from the earth and make the risen Lord to be for us the Bread of life: Grant that we who daily seek the bread which sustains our bodies may also hunger for the food of everlasting life, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Over Lamb

Stir up our memory, O Lord, as we eat this Easter lamb that, remembering Israel of old, who in obedience to your command ate the Paschal lamb and was delivered from the bondage of slavery, we, your new Israel, may rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the true Lamb who has delivered us from the bondage of sin and death, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Over Eggs

O Lord our God, in celebration of the Paschal feast we have prepared these eggs from your creation: Grant that they may be to us a sign of the new life and immortality promised to those who follow your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Over Other Foods

Blessed are you, O Lord our God; you have given us the risen Savior to be the Shepherd of your people: Lead us, by him, to springs of living waters, and feed us with the food that endures to eternal life; where with you, O Father, and with the Holy Spirit, he lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday Service Information

We are approaching Palm Sunday this weekend, a day in our Church when we have a tangible connection to a procession that happened almost 2000 years ago. People waved palms and threw them in the path that Jesus was on, heading into Jerusalem to begin His way to the Cross. We’re used to having a blessed palm to hold, and this year is no different.  We will have blessed palms in a container at the front of the church on Saturday.  Please drive by at your convenience and take a palm frond to be able to hold on Sunday morning when we open our online service with music for “All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King!”

Our Palm Sunday worship online will begin at 9:30 am on Google Hangouts, and will be available via your computer, iPad or phone.  If you need help with this, please email or call me. We will have a new code/login each week for security purposes.

The log-in info will be posted on the site 30 minutes prior to service start.

Monday through Friday of Holy Week we will have Morning Prayer at 8 am and Evening Prayer at 7 pm.  These Daily Offices last no more than 30 minutes, probably less. The access codes will be different than for the Sunday service, so if you would like me to provide you with the access information, send me an email at    stpaulschesterny@gmail.com

Maundy Thursday is next Thursday, and there are prayers to be said over the foods in an Agape meal if you are having one. These are posted on the church’s website (thanks to Kerri Haack!)

On Good Friday we will have the formal Good Friday service online with music at noon, in addition to Morning and Evening Prayer.  Holy Saturday‘s Proper Liturgy will be at 9:30 am.  Again, please let me know by email or phone call if you would like the access information.

Easter is in just over a week and we will be celebrating with our “Alleluia’s!” in Morning Prayer online at 9:30 am.

May God bless you all and keep you safe.

In Christ,

Mother Tori

Agape for Maundy Thursday

The following blessings may be said over the food in the evening meal on Maundy Thursday in private homes:

Over Wine

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You create the fruit of the vine; and on this night you have refreshed us with the cup of salvation in the Blood of your Son Jesus Christ. Glory to you for ever and ever. Amen.

Over Bread

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You bring forth bread from the earth; and on this night you have given us the bread of life in the Body of your Son Jesus Christ. As grain scattered upon the earth is gathered into one loaf, so gather your Church in every place into the kingdom of your Son. To you be glory and power for ever and ever.  Amen.

Over the Other Foods

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. You have blessed the earth to bring forth food to satisfy our hunger. Let this food strengthen us in the fast that is before us, that following our Savior in the way of the cross, we may come to the joy of his resurrection. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Sending love and prayers for a safe and contemplative Maundy Thursday

St. Paul’s Sunday Worship

We are not worshipping together in our churches for the time being, out of an abundance of caution and care for each person. However, we are still the Church and we are all still here! We are taking advantage of our many blessings and the most current technology to link us virtually while we are apart physically. The electronic link reminds us that we always are connected by the Holy Spirit to one another and to God eternally. 

We began our online worship on March 22, identifying both successes and things that needed to be tweaked. A grand success was that we worshipped God together using our wonderful Morning Prayer liturgy, and experienced the blessing of being connected to one another! A learning is that we will limit audio sharing to those who are broadcasting, and ask all but the Officiant to turn off their cameras. 

Beginning on March 29, we will expand the Sunday Morning Prayer worship we’ve begun with music as well as readers from both St. John’s in New City and St. Paul’s in Chester. We will alternate each week the church that is providing the readers and intercessor. 

Please join us Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. by either computer or phone with the information below.   For technical assistance or sharing an idea, please contact Mother Tori at:   stpaulschesterny@gmail.com or vduncan@stjohnsnewcity.net . 

On the computer:  

Join Hangouts Meet

meet.google.com/ven-awvn-jkx

– OR –

Join by phone

‪+1 929-329-2054 PIN: ‪857 779 420#

Mother Tori

All corporate worship, meetings, and events canceled for two weeks

Dear beloved of God,
The national, regional, and local experience of the coronavirus pandemic is evolving rapidly. Out of an abundance of caution and love for all, we are canceling corporate worship and all meetings and events at the church for two weeks, effective immediately. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and are working on ways to stay connected to God and to one another during this time. 
The church will be open for private prayer Sunday morning from 9 -11 AM. A sheet of suggested prayers will be available. If you come in to pray, please use hand sanitizer as you come into the building and repeat when leaving.
A special service of Morning Prayer will be led by Bishop Dietsche at St. John the Divine tomorrow morning at 11 AM. I encourage all who are able to go online, both to participate as well as to hear our Bishop preach: https://www.stjohndivine.org/calendar/15334/morning-prayer-rite-ii-livestream

We are the Body of Christ during this time, as always. Together we witness to the Love of God and will move through this time by grace.
Please call or text me with any personal needs or concerns, including a desire for Holy Communion from Reserved Sacrament (646-705-2717.)
May you and those you love be blessed!Mother Tori

Gospel Reflection – The Transfiguration

Mother Tori’s reflection on this week’s Gospel for morning prayer: Matthew 17:1-9

1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” 

Days after Jesus shares with His disciples His imminent suffering, death and resurrection, He takes with Him some of His earliest disciples with whom He has a very close relationship, and ascends a nearby mountain. The ascent of a mountain reminds us of times in Scripture when God has been encountered on a mountain – Abraham taking Isaac as a faithful sacrifice to God as recorded in Genesis 22, Moses on Mt. Sinai encountering God and receiving God’s Covenant with His people (Exodus 24), Elijah encountering God in sheer silence in 1Kings 19, and of course Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Mountains represent holy places where God may be encountered. 

When Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him up a mountain, we may anticipate that God will be encountered in a profound way. Jesus is transformed right in front of the disciples with radiant light making His face to shine like the sun and His clothes to become a brilliant white.

Then two of the greatest prophets, Moses and Elijah, appear with Him. Moses was a significant prophet and liberator of God’s chosen people with the tradition that he died and was buried by God’s own hands.  Elijah shared the spirit of prophecy with his son, Elisha, and then was carried into heaven in a chariot of fire. When these two great people appear with Jesus we expect that there is a new divine age dawning.  

The disciples experienced the moment of transition to see with their own eyes their Lord standing with the great ones of their tradition. So Peter offered the most hospitality he could imagine – to build tents for them to reside in. These tents also then would serve as places where the other disciples and people of God could come to encounter the holy! While Peter was still presenting his offer to Jesus, the voice of God breaks in from heaven with the same words used at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” And then the voice adds, “Listen to Him!” It is really no surprise to us to hear that the disciples were terrified and fell facedown to the ground. 

But Jesus, alone and not glowing radiantly, touches the disciples. A very ordinary and gentle gesture of comfort, assurance, and connection. Jesus is real, non-threatening, and cares deeply about His beloved disciples. He tells them not to cower but to get up. He tells them not to be afraid. 

It’s time to go back down the mountain. But how can Peter, James, and John go back to the regular life happening below? How can they explain what they’ve encountered?  And then Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about what they’ve seen until after Jesus has been raised from the dead.

  • Do we ever go to places where it is likely that we may encounter God?  
  • Have we ever encountered Jesus’ radiance? If so, how has it changed us?
  • What is the new divine age that dawned with Jesus Christ? Where do we fit into that today?
  • What are the tents that we propose making for God today? Why do we want to make them?
  • How can we share with others our experience of knowing God in Holy Communion?

St. Paul’s Focus: John Porvaznik

By Tom Vaillancourt

In a galaxy a long, long time ago (March 1944 to be exact) there was born a young man by the name of John Porvaznik. And we care about this man, not only because he is a vestry member (two times over) of St. Paul’s Church, but because he has lived a life dedicated to his country and to his Christian faith. His father emigrated in 1929 from Slovakia and his mother was born in this country (Johnstown, PA). John was one of 12 children (6 brothers and 5 sisters). Early in life he learned the virtues of humility and hard work. In high school when he wasn’t doing school work, he did heavy manual labor on a nearby dairy farm. He graduated from Warwick High School in June of 1962 with his future wife, Carol. He and his brothers all served in various branches of the military; three, including John became career non-commissioned officers. He enlisted in the Air Force on March 7, 1963 and retired a senior master sergeant on July 1986. He was a Jet Engine Technician with a Top Secret Security Clearance whose skills were put to good use while maintaining Air Force One (Presidential Aircraft) from 1970 to 1981, with a one year break in Thailand from 1974 to 1975. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan enjoyed the safety and peace of mind that John and fellow maintainers brought to the care of Air Force One.  After retiring from the Air Force he worked at British Aerospace Ltd as a spares and logistics planner. He moved back to Warwick, NY in 1999.

He and his wife Carol, of 54 years, were married on February 3, 1964. Carol, the love of John’s life, died on October 6, 2018. They had two children, Amber and John III. John and Carol began attending St. Paul’s in 2009 at a neighbor’s invitation.  In addition to being on the vestry presently, he has served as an assistant warden. Carol worked for many years as a church secretary at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Warwick.

John’s Christian faith came to a turning point at the age of 18 when his mother died of appendicitis. As a family of 12 children and one father, they faced incredible challenges, which in addition to accelerating their maturity and sense of responsibility, encouraged John into a more serious relationship with his God. It sensitized him for the rest of his life in seeing the hand of God working in and through many of his loved ones, friends, and neighbors.

John has enjoyed travel to England, Scotland, Alaska, Okinawa, and Thailand. He enjoys folk music especially that of Clearance Clearwater Revival. Reading has always been of interest, especially in history, biographies, and geography. He also applies his significant mechanical aptitude to fixing and taking apart anything that isn’t working that way it was meant to.

St. Paul’s congregation has been blessed to have John and Carol Porvaznik as members of their community. They have set exceedingly high examples of Christian discipleship from which all of us can learn. Their openness, charity, and faithfulness have lifted and blessed all of us.

And so the “force” looked back over the journey of this man, John, and how he had invested his time, talents, and money; and thought, yes, this was very, very good.

Re-Dedication Celebration for our major refurbishment

Press Release by Leslie Smith for St. Paul’s church

 The Congregation of St. Paul’s has announced that they are undertaking a major refurbishment of the historic Episcopal Church at 101 Main Street.

St. Paul’s, built in 1898 and consecrated in 1899, restored its stained glass windows over several years with the large window facing main street completed in 2010.

The current project will restore the worship space and includes installing a hardwood floor to replace the worn carpet, refinishing the pews and lining the plaster walls with mesh fabric and resurfacing. Completion is expected by 2nd of December.

St. Paul’s is a small but diverse congregation and has a history of outreach to the community which includes a seasonal lunch program for migrant workers, Orange County Safe Homes, Chester food pantry and Habitat for Humanity’s Episcobuild as well as several others.

St. Paul’s is a small church with a family atmosphere, and open hearts and open doors to all who would like to come. You are invited to come visit Sunday mornings at 9:00am.

Do we choose fairness, or generosity?

Across the country, the typical day-laborer’s story goes like this: you show up very early in the morning at some unofficial, designated site—usually a parking lot; you hope for work; you take whatever job is available, such as roofing, pouring concrete, ditch digging; you work for eight-plus hours; you get paid minimum wage. The next day, if the job is still available and you’re still able (meaning, you are not sick, not injured; or, you have child care and reliable transportation) you repeat the process all over again.

The fringe benefits? None to speak of. No sick days, no health insurance, no job security.

Jesus’s parable today puts us squarely in that parking lot pick-up area, indeed into every labor market where men and women desperately needing work persistently press forward, hoping to be chosen. It is a scene repeated thousands of times every day around the world.

But this is a parable, and as parables tend to do, we soon see that fixed notions of how the world operates are overturned, and all attempts to make the story obey the rules of the “real world” fall apart.

In this parable, there is a virtual flipping of the order of the world. Jesus often relates this inversion to the kingdom of God, which he says can be anywhere, among us now, today, or in the future, after our death. The kingdom of God is present wherever there is grace.

When I first read this parable I thought that it was about the need of the landowner. But in fact, nothing at all is said about the need of the landowner. What is highlighted is the need of the workers. The landowner sees them “standing idle” and that sight prompts him to offer them a job. The order of the world is flipped since in the real world, the economy revolves around the need of the bosses, but this story is pulled along by the need of the workers.

Then there is the motive of the workers. Those who were hired first negotiate with the landowner to make sure they will be fairly paid. But the subsequent groups of workers go into the vineyard not based on a contract but simply trusting the character of the landowner that they will be compensated. The order of the world is flipped a second time, since usually in the real world you don’t offer services without a guarantee of reward.

Then there’s the issue of payment and compensation. The workers are paid in the reverse order of their hiring. The workers hired last, were paid first and received a denarius, a whole day’s pay. The workers who were hired first got exactly the same pay. “This is unjust!” they protest. The landowner responds in effect, “You have some nerve accusing me of injustice. You got just what you negotiated for in the beginninga day’s pay for a day’s work. The order of the world is thus flipped a third time since, in contrast to a real world scenario that operates on deals, bargains and rules of fairness, ithis parable, the whole thing revolves around generosity, and everybody gets enough to live on.

As one commentator keenly put it: “This parable allows us to enter for a moment into an alternate world, one that operates on generosity rather than greed, ambition, and competition. It allows us to experience a world in which those who stand ignored, idle, and discarded by society are nevertheless of great value to God – worthy, regardless of their circumstances, to live with dignity each day.

This story also clashes against our rules of fairness, and challenges us to reconcile those rules with our generosity. Are fairness and generosity so different from one another?

In recent days we have been embroiled in a public debate about generosity and fairness, specifically about whether or not to afford generous hospitality to Dreamers, those adults who have lived in the US since they were small children, whose parents brought them here undocumented. They have never known another country. English is their language. They have attended American schools all their lives, and many are now productive tax-payers, doing all kinds of skilled work and contributing to the support of this nation.

Yet, their status is still as an undocumented person living in the United States. DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals legislation– would allow those who fall into this category to stay here. But there is the opposing side who feel it is unfair.

Do we choose fairness, or generosity?

And in Jesus’ parable, the same reality is present. Those who worked the fewest hours would not have been able to live on the little pay that those few hours would have yielded. They needed a full day’s pay. Again, do we chose fairness or generosity?

Can the United States be a place where we have to do the difficult work of making room for people whose experience isn’t like ours, but who are just exactly the people we need? Can we reconcile our fairness and our generosity?

The parable today is about grace. And mercy. And hope. It is about sheer generosity; unexplainable, unfathomable generosity, for no reason at all. It is kingdom thinking. It is when we say each week, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The kingdom of God is present wherever there is grace. And grace, by definition, cannot be computed or calculated. Where fairness calculates, love lets go. Where fairness holds all things in proper balance on the spreadsheet, love and generosity give everything away, upsetting the balances we have so carefully constructed.

When, for instance, we overlook the thousand kindnesses a partner or friend has bestowed upon us on our behalf, but nurse a grudge about the one thing they did to hurt our feelings, will we call for fairness, or will we live out of generosity and love?

And let’s be honest– living out of love? That’s really hard, because we seem almost hardwired to count our hurts and disappointments rather than our blessings. The owner of the vineyard asks those who have worked longest and (most likely) hardest for him, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

God was overwhelmingly generous in giving us Jesus Christ. And because of Jesus, God looks at us in love and therefore overlooks all those places we fall short and chooses to treat us with unmerited grace, mercy, and generosity. We are all equal recipients of God’s gifts. We are all God’s beloveds.

May the grace and power of God’s Holy Spirit enable us to offer to others the same awesome generosity that we ourselves have received.

Please pray with me:

We are thankful for all that you have given us. May our thankfulness overflow to all areas of our lives and may you provide us with opportunities to share our gifts with others. Thank you for giving us new life through Jesus Christ, and enable us to live in the reality of that new life today and in the days ahead.

Amen.

Proper 20, 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

September 24, 2017

The Rev. Deborah A. Lee

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus, how often should I forgive?

In our Gospel reading Peter thinks he’s being extremely generous—like, really, really generous—when he wonders if he should forgive up to seven times. After all, it was the rabbinical custom to forgive up to three times, and then if the individual were to sin a fourth time punishment would befall them. Peter not only doubles this expected number, but he adds one to it. Good ole’ Peter, always going that extra mile to please Jesus!

Of course, Jesus’ response to Peter’s question doesn’t really provide an answer but rather points out the misdirection of the question itself. The issue is not how much or how often we are asked to forgive or should forgive. The act of forgiveness is already a limitless, measureless act. Forgiveness is never not present in our lives and in our relationships. How many times has someone committed an infraction against us and we, “let it go.” We forgive all the time. Forgiveness is part and parcel of the kingdom of heaven. It’s a constant. It’s not optional. It’s not a choice. But we want it to be a choice — and that’s at the heart of Peter’s question.

To punctuate his point, Jesus invokes a “kingdom of heaven” analogy that shows how seriously we are to take the admonition to forgive. He tells the story of a king who is owed a debt by his slaves. At the moment when the king expects to be paid, one slave is not able to pay—and as a result is to be sold along with his wife and children. The man pleads with the king and asks to be given more time. The king has mercy on him and forgives the debt completely—but then the slave does not extend the same mercy to a fellow slave who owes him a debt. When the king finds out, he reinstates the original debt and has the slave tortured until he can repay it. Rough.

Ten thousand talents—the debt owed to the king– would be over four billion dollars today. Needless to say, Jesus used ten thousand talents in this parable as a ridiculously exaggerated sum of money to make a point. In contrast to the outrageous debt of the first servant, the fellow servant’s debt of a hundred denarii was a mere trifle. Its equivalent is four thousand dollars. And we should also note that the king in the parable is not God, in the sense that God does not intend to sell his servants as slaves; he does not throw people into prison and torture them. One must look for the truth of a parable in the impact of the story as a whole. In parables, we have to pay attention to unexpected things that are significant, to surprising details.

For instance, it is unimaginable that a king would let himself be moved by the mere plea of his servant to forgive such a large amount, with no questions asked. That is an incredible exaggeration—quite unbelievable; such a king is not reasonable.

But neither is God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is not reasonable but is quite unbelievable, meaning that it flies in the face of common sense and is beyond all calculation.

In this parable, Jesus holds up a mirror to us each time we think we have to limit our forgiveness. “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?” That question of the king’s is also the question that Christ asks us. To refuse to forgive is, in one sense, illogical for someone who has come to know God’s excessive forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The cross is our mirror.

This story illustrates how seriously God takes forgiveness because forgiveness is an essential part of Christian communal life. Reluctance to forgive disrupts, distorts, and ultimately disempowers a community. We can certainly understand how when someone transgresses against us that it has a disruptive effect on the relationship. Over time the transgression can lead to hurt and increasingly negative feelings. But what’s at stake is not only a matter of debt and repayment. Ultimately, this is about the balance and integrity of community.

In the parable, forgiveness of the debt may not have enriched the king’s coffers, but it would have maintained the integrity of the community and it demonstrates that mercy is the thread that holds the kingdom together.

There is no magic formula to determine what forgiveness should look like or feel like. But one cannot do forgiveness in a vacuum—we cannot do it alone; we need Jesus to help us, because it does not come naturally to us. We need Jesus to help us in the discomfort and complexity of forgiving someone. Forgiveness is not easy; it is hard. For me, pondering forgiveness brings up memories of those people I was reluctant to forgive. It sets in motion thoughts of those waiting for my forgiveness. It sets in motion reminders of those whom I thought I could never forgive. But no matter how difficult it seems, Jesus is the one who can help us negotiate those relationships.

Perhaps we can begin with asking ourselves some questions and being honest with the answers. We can ask ourselves:

What is holding me back? What quid pro quo—or, tit-for-tat/eye-for-and-eye attitude– am I holding onto to make my forgiveness more palatable or possible? What limits do I set to my readiness to forgive? And, why do I set them? How can what is unbelievable and excessive about God’s forgiveness transform my attitude towards those who are unjust to me?

Asking these question, no matter how uncomfortable the answers may be, opens up the path to God’s transformation. Forgiveness is a process, a journey. When we begin to ask these questions it is like we are saying to God, “Okay, God, I do not know exactly how this will unfold, but I trust You are with me in it and will make the path more clear as we walk together.”

Jesus linked receiving forgiveness with offering forgiveness in a sort of law of reciprocity. After all, week-by-week in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

We forgive because we’ve been extravagantly and radically forgiven. We can only long for ourselves what we lavish upon others.

So let us endeavor to move away from this false paradigm of quantification and the question of whether a person deserves so much forgiveness. If we are truly in relationship with God, a relationship built on love, then we will endeavor to forgive as God forgives, not as humans forgive; which is to say that humans usually forgive with conditions and a calculator. But, love doesn’t work that way!

As C.S. Lewis put it: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

May our forgiveness be grounded in the love and forgiveness that God has shown towards us. Amen.

Proper 19, 15th Sunday After Pentecost
Year A
September 17, 2017
The Rev. Deborah A. Lee
Matthew 18:21-35

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