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  • Writer's pictureFr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

Home Worship on Sunday, March 15 (3rd Lent A)

Home Worship on Sunday, March 15, 2020

3rd Sunday in Lent (Year A)


I am posting these worship services online because we at St. Matthew's Church in Savannah are unable to gather together in person this week. The Governor of Georgia and President of the U.S.A. have declared states of public health emergency 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.

I offer two options for those who want to take some time with God on this Sunday morning during this viral pandemic:

  1. Follow this link ( ), or start the embedded video below, to watch the Sunday Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral live at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 15 (or re-watch it later). The preacher is the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

  2. Below the video is a service of Morning Prayer, a daily worship service from The Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer. It may be said together in church or at home, by individuals or by small groups. If praying with a group, a designated leader reads most normal text and the "congregation" responds with the italicized text. You do not need a clergy person present to say these prayers. Page numbers from The Book of Common Prayer are listed in parentheses after each section heading using the abbreviation “BCP." I used the Sunday Eucharistic readings that we would have heard in church (Revised Common Lectionary) and included my sermon based on those texts in the prayer service below.

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

Option #1: Watch Presiding Bishop Curry at the Washington National Cathedral (LIVE on Sunday, March 15 at 11:00 a.m.)

Option #2: Pray Morning Prayer (including Fr. Arboleda's Sermon)

Morning Prayer, Rite II

Opening Sentence (BCP, p. 76)

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

The Confession of Sin (BCP, p. 79)

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

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 us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

Invitatory (BCP, p. 80)

Lord, open our lips. And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever Amen.

Jubilate (Psalm 100; BCP, p. 82)

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *      serve the Lord with gladness      and come before his presence with a song. Know this: The Lord himself is God; *      he himself has made us, and we are his;      we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving;  go into his courts with praise; *      give thanks to him and call upon his Name. For the Lord is good;  his mercy is everlasting; *      and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

The Psalm Appointed: Psalm 95 (BCP, p. 724)

1 Come, let us sing to the LORD; *     let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *     and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God, *     and a great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *     and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it, *     and his hands have molded the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *     and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *     Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts, as your forebears did in the wilderness, *     at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,     when they tempted me.

9 They put me to the test, *     though they had seen my works.

10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said, *     "This people are wayward in their hearts;     they do not know my ways."

11 So I swore in my wrath, *     "They shall not enter into my rest."

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

A Reading from the Book of Exodus (17:1-7)

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Canticle 14: The Song of Penitence (Prayer of Manasseh 1-2, 4, 6-7, 11-15; BCP, p. 90)

O Lord and Ruler of the hosts of heaven, *      God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,      and of all their righteous offspring:  You made the heavens and the earth, *      with all their vast array. All things quake with fear at your presence; *      they tremble because of your power.  But your merciful promise is beyond all measure; *      it surpasses all that our minds can fathom.  O Lord, you are full of compassion, *      long-suffering, and abounding in mercy.  You hold back your hand; *      you do not punish as we deserve.  In your great goodness, Lord,  you have promised forgiveness to sinners, *      that they may repent of their sin and be saved.  And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart, *      and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.  I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, *      and I know my wickedness only too well.  Therefore I make this prayer to you: *      Forgive me, Lord, forgive me.  Do not let me perish in my sin, *      nor condemn me to the depths of the earth.  For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent, *      and in me you will show forth your goodness.  Unworthy as I am, you will save me,  in accordance with your great mercy, *      and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.  For all the powers of heaven sing your praises, *      and yours is the glory to ages of ages. Amen.

A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (5:1-11)

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-- though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Canticle 16: The Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79; BCP, p. 92)

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; * he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, * born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old, that he would save us from our enemies, * from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers * and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, * to set us free from the hands of our enemies, Free to worship him without fear, * holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, * for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, To give his people knowledge of salvation * by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God * the dawn from on high shall break upon us, To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: * as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

A Reading from the Gospel of St. John (4:5-42)

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

The Sermon: "Thirst" by Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

Everyone feels thirsty sometimes. We know the sensation of thirst. We know what it’s like for our mouths to feel dry and our throats parched. That feeling can drive us into delirium, to see mirages, to start hallucinating, or to otherwise act a fool. Scientists say that human beings can only survive a couple of days without any water. That’s why the Bible so often uses thirst and water as analogies for our spiritual lives. We need water desperately, and we’ll do anything to get it; just like how we need God. So today, we read two biblical stories about thirst.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites complain and quarrel with Moses while wandering in the desert wilderness. They have just escaped slavery in Egypt but they have not reached the promised land yet. They have run out of supplies and in the desert, they can’t find a spring, so they are very low on safe drinking water. You might call this situation a public health crisis. So they turn on Moses and blame him for their thirst. They blame him from dragging them out of Egypt and into the Sinai desert (as if they didn’t want to leave enslavement). They try to scapegoat him and threaten him. They say that they long even for a return to the “comforts” of slavery. Their thirst drives them to rebel against God and want things that are bad for them. They would rather return to a state of bondage than struggle with God on their side to find grace, healing, and freedom.

In John 4, the Samaritan woman at the well also thirsts, but not really for water. She already has water (she is visiting a well, after all). Instead, she thirsts for community, for true love, for acceptance and belonging. This woman hides from the people of her village by going to the well in the heat of the day instead of in the cool morning or evening. She avoids the busy times because she is afraid of how her neighbors will treat her. She would rather be physically thirsty and uncomfortable in the mornings so long as she avoids the pain of her social abandonment and rejection. Perhaps because of her many husbands (and the rumors that swirl around her), she has been cast out of ordinary society. She feels that no one loves her and even that she is unlovable.

But in both stories God provides. God quenches thirst. For the Israelites, God provided literal water from a spring in the desert (Exodus 17:5-6). For the Samaritan woman, Jesus gives the “living water” of truth and mercy, justice and compassion (John 4:10). Jesus shows her that someone can know her for who she truly is (a foreign woman who has been married five times) and still love her dearly.

Right now, our society is facing something that is unprecedented in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) disease is a deadly contagion that has spread around the world rapidly and has begun to kill and permanently disable many people, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. And unfortunately, there are two complicating factors that make this virus especially dangerous: (1) it can take up to 10 days for symptoms to present themselves; and (2) young and/or healthy people can carry the virus without ever showing symptoms. In both cases, many carriers can spread the virus to more vulnerable people without knowing they have it because they don’t feel sick.

So today is an uncertain and strange day. We’re all home and everything seems fine outside, but we’re not in church on a Sunday morning. There are no basketball games to watch this afternoon. Many other public institutions are shutting down to avoid large gatherings of people where the virus can spread through physical contact, coughing, sneezing, and the like. The mottos of the day are “social distancing” and “self-quarantine.” Keep away from other people and don’t touch them when you see them. These are sound pieces of medical advice and we should do our best to follow them.

But many of us are experiencing a spiritual and psychological thirst right now. There is a pervasive spirit of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about how we should carry on with life right now. We thirst for comfort, understanding, and peace. We thirst for a return to normalcy. Our thirst is not that different from that of the Israelites because this pandemic is forcing us to change our behavior in ways that are deeply uncomfortable, and we would rather go back to the way things were. Our thirst is not that different from the Samaritan woman’s thirst because we long for escape from fear and isolation and self-quarantine; we thirst for community.

When we face fear and isolation, when we thirst for truth, certainty, and community, when we are overcome with the anxieties of the world, know that only God can give us living water. Only God can quench our thirst for love and joy and hope and peace. Only God can give us what we truly need, even if our thirsts and desires get misdirected. Maybe the path to healing and wellness isn’t the easiest or most comfortable. Maybe we will have to be thirsty for a while as we journey in the desert. Maybe we would rather go back to the old ways of sin: selfishness, violence, greed, and bondage to the destructive forces of the world. The old ways are easier. They promise quick hits of relief and good feelings. But they don’t last.

Only Jesus can give us living water so that we’ll never thirst again. Only Jesus can see us as we are in our weakness and dependency, in our faults and failures, and still love us with an everlasting love. Only Jesus can quench the thirst that we all have, now and forever. Psalm 42:1-2b says, “As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God. My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God.” I pray that we grow to thirst for God so that our hearts ache for God just as our bodies ache for water. Then, no matter what happens with coronavirus or any other crisis that comes our way, we will be rooted and grounded in God’s love and acceptance.

May God bless you and keep you, now and always. Amen.

The Apostle's Creed (BCP, p. 96)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer (BCP, p. 97)

The Lord be with you. And also with you. Let us pray.

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, forever and ever. Amen.

Suffrages A (BCP, p. 97)

V.    Show us your mercy, O Lord;  R.    And grant us your salvation.  V.    Clothe your ministers with righteousness;  R.    Let your people sing with joy.  V.    Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;  R.    For only in you can we live in safety. V.    Lord, keep this nation under your care;  R.    And guide us in the way of justice and truth.  V.    Let your way be known upon earth;  R.    Your saving health among all nations.  V.    Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;  R.    Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.  V.    Create in us clean hearts, O God;  R.    And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

The Collect of the Day (BCP, p. 218)

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

A Collect for Sundays (BCP, p. 98)

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Collect for Mission (BCP, p. 101)

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

A Collect for Protection (BCP, p. 832)

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of your servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, we may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Collect for the Sick (BCP, p. 260)

Heavenly Father, give of life and health: Comfort and relieve all your sick servants, and give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, that those affected by COVID-19 for whom our prayers are offered may be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A Collect for the Aged (BCP, p. 830)

Look with mercy, O God our Father, on all whose increasing years bring them weakness, distress, or isolation. Provide for them/us homes of dignity and peace; give them/us understanding helpers, and the willingness to accept help; and as their/our strength diminishes, increase their/our faith and their/our assurance of your love. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

***Offer your own prayers of intercession and thanksgiving, silently or aloud.***

The General Thanksgiving (BCP, p. 101)

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom (BCP, p. 102)

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

Concluding Sentences (BCP, p. 102)

Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Romans 15:13)

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