• Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

Home Worship for Sunday, May 3


The Holy Eucharist: The Liturgy of the Word

4th Sunday of Easter (Year A) May 3, 2020


Watch the Livestream at www.Facebook.com/StMattSav/Live/

Sunday at 9:30 a.m. (or anytime afterward)





Preface


I am posting this worship service online because we at St. Matthew's Church in Savannah are unable to gather together in person this week. Due to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak, public health officials recommend avoiding large gatherings of people to avoid spreading the illness to more vulnerable people. Therefore, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia has ordered all parishes in our diocese to suspend in-person worship until further notice.


At 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I will broadcast the following worship service using Facebook Live at www.Facebook.com/StMattSav. After the service concludes, you can re-watch it at any time.


Today's service is the Liturgy of the Word (or the first part of the Holy Eucharist service we use on normal Sundays). This is for use at home while watching the live stream or reading the prayers when you cannot physically attend worship. Lay people may read the entirety of this service as printed.


May God protect you from this virus and protect the most vulnerable among us. May we be God’s hands and feet of compassion and service to all in need during this time. Amen.


Yours in Christ,

Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda




The Word of God

Hymn #377: All People That On Earth Do Dwell

1 All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice: him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell, come ye before him and rejoice.

2 Know that the Lord is God indeed; without our aid he did us make: we are his folk, he doth us feed, and for his sheep he doth us take.

3 O enter then his gates with praise, approach with joy his courts unto; praise, laud, and bless his Name always, for it is seemly so to do.

4 For why? the Lord our God is good; his mercy is for ever sure; his truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure.

5 To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God whom heaven and earth adore, from men and from the angel host be praise and glory evermore.

Opening Sentences

[BCP, p. 355]


Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!



The Collect for Purity

[BCP, p. 355]


Almighty 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.


LEV #41: Christ Has Arisen

Christ has arisen, Alleluia!

Rejoice and praise Him, Alleluia!


For our Redeemer burst from the tomb,

Even from death dispelling its gloom.

Let us sing praise to Him with endless joy.

Death’s fearful sting He has come to destroy,


Our sin forgiving, Alleluia!

Jesus is living, Alleluia!

The Collect of the Day

[BCP, p. 357, 225]


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us pray:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:42-47)

Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God

Psalm 23

[BCP, p. 612]

Read responsively by half-verse (at the asterisk).

1 The Lord is my shepherd; * I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures * and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul * and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.

4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; * for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; * you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, * and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

A Reading from the First Letter of St. Peter (2:19-25)

It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.


The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God

Hymn #645: The King of Love My Shepherd Is

1 The King of love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine for ever.

2 Where streams of living water flow, my ransomed soul he leadeth, and where the verdant pastures grow, with food celestial feedeth.

3 Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me, and on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me.

4 In death's dark vale I fear no ill with thee, dear Lord, beside me; thy rod and staff my comfort still, thy cross before to guide me.

5 Thou spread'st a table in my sight; thy unction grace bestoweth; and oh, what transport of delight from thy pure chalice floweth!

6 And so through all the length of days thy goodness faileth never: Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise within thy house for ever.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. John (10:1-10)

Glory to you, Lord Christ.

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

The Sermon

“1 Peter: Jesus Suffers With Us” by Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

Today, we are continuing our series on First Peter, a short but powerful letter in the New Testament that speaks to our situation in Easter Season but also in this pandemic. Remember, 1 Peter is written to “exiles” (1:1), to Christians who are literally and/or figuratively displaced from their homes against their will. The audience for this letter were people who suffered daily persecution and indignities with no clear way out. They didn’t do anything to deserve their mistreatment, but they suffered anyway. In this way, the coronavirus pandemic is like an exile.

Peter writes to encourage the exiles in their distress. He spends most of the letter reminding them of who they are because of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. Despite their distress, they are precious in God’s sight. They can survive their ordeal with the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Jesus suffered even worse things than we now suffer, and he suffers with us still. That means we can endure as he did.

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 2:19-25. The larger point I want is that Jesus suffers with us whenever we suffer. That applies to us in the pandemic and in many other contexts. But I can’t get to that without talking about the elephant in the room.

1 Peter 2:19-25 is a controversial text. The designers of the lectionary tried to skirt the issue by beginning the reading at verse 19, rather than at 18 where the paragraph naturally begins. (If you read the whole of 1 Peter last week, then you may have already picked up on this.) But, I don’t think we can have a meaningful conversation about this passage without discussing the troubling ways it has been interpreted.

Verse 18 says this: “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” Then it continues with the reading we already heard: “For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval” (1 Pet 2:18-20).

As you might imagine, people have often interpreted Peter to be commanding slaves to accept their lot in life and simply suck it up. It is one of a few New Testament passages that reinforce that slaves ought to “obey their masters” (cf. Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22). Christian slaveholders throughout history have used passages like this to justify their immoral practices.

But they are wrong.

This section was written to enslaved Christians in the church. The author didn’t address slaveowners at all; presumably, they were not Christians. Remember that Peter’s audience is called "exiles." As foreigners in the land, as a small, persecuted religious minority, and especially in their status as slaves, these people were at the very bottom of the Roman social hierarchy. These enslaved people were in a really difficult position. They believed that they had no ability to change their social structures. Peter was writing to people who were learning to deal with their circumstances, not to those who felt empowered to reform it.

So, he offered practical advice on how to survive the suffering and abuse of slavery: Do what is right. If you suffer anyway (because slave masters are often cruel), then know that God is on your side.

The interpretive problem is that Christians have often forgotten the social context for these verses and assumed that it applies in all times and in all places. They used it to uphold the institution of slavery and its global expansion. Particularly in American church history (where slavery was corrupted even further by racism), white Christians used scriptures like these to give slavery moral and religious support. They told other (white) people that it was okay to enslave others because St. Peter and St. Paul never condemned the practice.

The 2019 film Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons, is a biopic about the life and work of Harriet Tubman. The film begins with Tubman as an enslaved woman living in Maryland in the 1840s. There are a series of pointed scenes in which the local white minister and his black preacher surrogate visit the plantation to preach to the enslaved people and repeatedly taught on texts like this one, telling slaves to obey their masters because that’s what God wants. The black people (both enslaved and free) are repulsed by this message and long for a different kind of religion. They reject the “white man’s God” who supports their oppression and trust that God is truly on their side as they suffer.

This piece of scripture has been manipulated to support systems of injustice, abuse, and greed, with tragic and deadly results that continue to affect us today. This is a huge reason why many blacks today continue to hold the church at arm’s length. Christianity has often been a tool of the oppressor rather than a source of liberation for the oppressed.

In its original context, 1 Peter was written by oppressed people to oppressed people trying to help them survive a brutal world. But when Christians gained social and political power and they (we) built unjust structures, this letter should no longer a source of comfort, but of judgment. This letter is written to encourage the downtrodden, not the bullies of the world.

For what it’s worth, Christians have enough political and social influence now that we must organize and fight to abolish systemic injustices like slavery, racism, homelessness, poverty, and more. Peter’s point isn’t to ignore evil and let the bullies win, but to endure it faithfully. We know the world won’t change quickly because people are sinners, but God desires a fair and loving human society.

For us at St. Matthew’s today, we have to acknowledge this sinful and tragic history, but also look ahead to what God still has to say to us through the words of 1 Peter. Even if people abuse the Bible, God can still speak through it.

In our current situation, as people affected by a global pandemic, we have all become something like exiles in our own homes. The governor may be lifting restrictions on business and whatnot, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have given no indication that we are in the clear. COVID-19 is going to continue to hurt us and our loved ones for many more months. My hope and prayer is that it simply limits our social gatherings, church meetings, and work outside the home, but it could also very well endanger our lives. (The virus has already killed more Americans than perished in combat in the Vietnam War.)

So, Peter’s word to us today is not to bear the abuse of oppressive bullies. That’s the wrong takeaway. Our enemy is an invisible virus, not any person. The virus is forcing us into discomfort, illness, and suffering. Peter reminds us that Christ suffers with us. Jesus gives us the example of a righteous sufferer, someone who is hurt despite never doing anything wrong or anything to deserve his punishment (2:21-22). None of us did anything morally wrong to deserve COVID-19. It just happened through the course of nature and a series of unwitting human decisions.

1 Peter says that God isn’t punishing us with this pandemic; God is with us. In fact, God in Christ has suffered so that we could be free from sin and suffering and receive healing. Even though life is still hard, God never abandons us, and Jesus shows us just how much God loves us, enough to heal us through his own suffering. Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (2:24).

If you take away nothing else, remember that Christ died for you and Christ is with you in your moments of deepest darkness, pain, and fear. God will never leave us or forsake us. When the pandemic fills us with anxiety or our loved ones get sick, we have a Savior who loves us beyond our wildest imagination. This Jesus comforts us and draws us into the sheepfold of God. “Now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls,” who is Jesus Christ our Savior (2:25). Amen.

Bibliography

  • Perkins, Pheme.First and Second Peter, James, and Jude. A Volume inInterpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Edited by James L. Mays, et al. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1995.

The Nicene Creed (BCP, p. 358)

We believe in one God,     

the Father, the Almighty,     

maker of heaven and earth,     

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,     

the only Son of God,     

eternally begotten of the Father,     

God from God, Light from Light,     

true God from true God,     

begotten, not made,     

of one Being with the Father.     

Through him all things were made.     

For us and for our salvation         

he came down from heaven:     

by the power of the Holy Spirit         

he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,         

and was made man.     

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;         

he suffered death and was buried.         

On the third day he rose again             

in accordance with the Scriptures;         

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.     

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,         

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,     

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.     

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.     

He has spoken through the Prophets.     

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.     

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.     

We look for the resurrection of the dead,         

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Prayers of the People

[Adapted from Prayers provided by the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and those written by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Ewing, NJ: http://www.stlukesewing.org/prayers-of-the-people-easter]

Rejoicing in the mighty acts of God who has delivered the people of God from sin and death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us lift our voices and pray,

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer.

Let us give thanks to God for the multitude of blessings that God showers upon us: For our lives and for those whom we love, For the beauty of this home God has created for us, For our families and our friendships. Remember especially Craig Gordon (5/7), Wanda Grandbury (5/7), and Antonio Blake (5/8) on their birthdays; and Fr. Guillermo Arboleda and the Rev. Kelly Steele (5/3) on their wedding anniversary. Let us give thanks to the God of Life.

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer. 

Let us pray for the Church, that it may carry forward the redemptive works of God: Gather all the baptized around your presence in the Word. Strengthen the body of your people even when we cannot assemble for worship. Grant Bishop Scott, Bishop-elect Frank and all our deacons and priests faithfulness and creativity for their ministry in this time.

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer. 

Let us pray for the whole creation, for this good earth and for the flowering of springtime. Save dry lands from destructive droughts. Protect the waters from pollution. Allow in this time the planting of fields for food. Make us into care-givers of your plants and animals.

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer.

Let us pray for the nations, leaders, and peoples of the world. Inspire all people to live in peace and concord. Grant wisdom and courage to heads of state and to legislators as they face the coronavirus. Lead our elected officials to champion the cause of the needy.

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer.

Let us pray for those who are sick, those who suffer, those who struggle, for you accompany suffering humanity with love. Abide wherever the coronavirus has struck. Visit all who mourn their dead; all who have contracted the virus; those who are quarantined or stranded away from home; those who have lost their employment; those who fear the present and the future. Support physicians, nurses, and home health aides; medical researchers; and the World Health Organization.

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer.

Let us pray for all the needy, especially those who have asked this parish for prayers: Martha Avery, Cheryl Bennett, Zavier Bradley, Raleigh Bryant, Christine Brown, Mark Case, Genella Chamberlain, Annie Colbert, Lazola Cope, Alice Dailey, Brittany Dawson, Ruby Fernandez, Harry Frazier, Earl Golden, Gary Gordon, Loretta Harmond, Marva Harris, Enoch Henderson, Charles E. Hines, Kenneth Howard, Terri Howard, Dale Hundley, Jared Hundley, Tracy Hundley, Milinda James, Alvin Jenkins, Dana Jenkins, Frances T. Jones, Lori Jones, Robert L. Jones, Sr., Ronald Jones, Whitney Kennedy, Leonard Law, Jr., Ryan Lovett, Tammie Lovett, Craig Maxwell, Sada Maxwell, Carmelita Maynard, Viola Maynard, Bette Milledge, Hollie Moultrie, Patricia Murry, Russell Nails, Dorothy Neal, Glenzy Payne, Robert Payne, James Small, Gwendolyn Smith, Willie Stephens, Gisele Walton, Lori Ward, Gertrude Washington, Noel Wheeler, and Dean Williams. We beg you to feed the hungry, protect the refugee, embrace the distressed, house the homeless, nurse the sick, and comfort the dying.

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer.

Let us pray for those who have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is known to you alone; bring them by your resurrecting power into the place of eternal joy and light

Risen Lord,

Hear our Prayer.

The Celebrant adds a concluding collect.

The Peace

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you.

Announcements

A. We continue under shelter-at-home orders and do not yet know when we can safely return to in-person worship at church. The Right Rev. Scott Benhase, the Bishop of Georgia, has provided guidelines for a return to in-person worship in our diocese, specifically: (1) a steady reduction in new cases of COVID-19 for at least fourteen consecutive days and (2) the widespread availability of COVID-19 tests throughout the Diocese of Georgia.

B. Our worship schedule during this time of social distancing and quarantine is as follows. All services may be read on the blog and/or viewed as a video on Facebook Live.

  1. 9:30 am Sunday Worship

  2. 5:00 pm Tues./Wed./Thurs. Evening Prayer

C. The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia is also offering worship services online through its Facebook and YouTube pages. Fr. Arboleda and Rev. Steele have recorded musical pieces for these services.

  1. 10:00 am Sunday Morning Prayer

  2. 6:00 pm Wednesday Evening Prayer (with sermon and hymns)

D. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church was featured in a news story that aired last week on WJCL’s 6:00 Evening News. You can watch and read the story by clicking here.

E. Many people are already feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, including the church. We still need your support to pay our staff, pay our bills, and provide for these online live streams. If you pledged a donation in 2020 and are able, please continue making those contributions. If you have not pledged, please consider donating to St. Matthew’s now and in the future. There are several ways to give, but the simplest are these:

  1. Mail us a check or money order at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 1401 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd, Savannah, GA 31415; OR

  2. Make a secure online gift to St. Matthew’s and/or automate future gifts at: https://onrealm.org/StMattSav/-/give/now; OR (3) Text “stmattsav” to 73256 to make a secure online donation through your phone.


The Offertory

“O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power; because you have created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)


Give online at: https://onrealm.org/StMattSav/-/give/now



Hymn #708: Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us

1 Savior, like a shepherd lead us; much we need thy tender care; in thy pleasant pastures feed us; for our use thy folds prepare. Blessèd Jesus! Blessèd Jesus! Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

2 Early let us seek thy favor, early let us learn thy will; do thou, Lord, our only Savior, with thy love our bosoms fill. Blessèd Jesus! Blessèd Jesus! Thou hast loved us: love us still.

The Lord’s Prayer

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing & Dismissal

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.


Let us bless the Lord. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!




Note: This service is reproduced from The Book of Common Prayer 1979 (BCP), The Hymnal 1982 (Hymn), Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal (LEV), and other sources cited. The Scripture readings are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

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