We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

St. Patrick, March 17

St. Patrick, apostle of Ireland, was born in England, circa 386. Surprisingly, he was not raised with a strong emphasis on religion.  

When St. Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. His job was to tend sheep. He came to view his enslavement of six years as God’s test of his faith, during which he became deeply devoted to Christianity through constant prayer. In a vision, he saw the children of Pagan Ireland reaching out their hands to him, which only increased his determination to free the Irish from Druidism by converting them to Christianity. 

The idea of escaping enslavement came to St. Patrick in a dream, where a voice promised him he would find his way home to England. Eager to see the dream materialize, St. Patrick convinced some sailors to let him board their ship. After three days of sailing, he and the crew abandoned the ship in France and wandered, lost, for 28 days—covering 200 miles of territory in the process. At last, St. Patrick was reunited with his family in England. 

Now a free man, he went to France where he studied and entered the priesthood. He never lost sight of his vision: he was determined to convert Ireland to Christianity. In 431, St. Patrick was Consecrated Bishop of the Irish, and went to Ireland to spread “The Good News” to the Pagans there. Patrick made his headquarters at Armagh in the North, where he built a school, and had the protection of the local monarch. From this base he made extensive missionary journeys, with considerable success.

To say that he single-handedly turned Ireland from a pagan to a Christian country is an exaggeration, but is not far from the truth. He baptized thousands and ordained many priests to lead new communities of Christians. His explanations of God was so simple that he was criticized during his lifetime for his lack of learning. However, he was known for his passion and zeal.

“Patrick was really a first—the first missionary to barbarians beyond the reach of Roman law,” Thomas Cahill writes in How the Irish Saved Civilization. “The step he took was in its way as bold as Columbus’s, and a thousand times more humane.”

Through preaching, writing and performing countless baptisms, he convinced Pagan Druids that they were worshiping idols under a belief system that kept them enslaved. By accepting Christianity, he told them, they would be elevated to “the people of the Lord and the sons of God.” 

Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, demonstrating that God is both three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), yet one, as the shamrock is both three-leafed, yet a single plant. While no hard data proves that Patrick actually went around teaching via plant life, it was a brilliant move if he did. Shamrocks were sacred plants for the Druids, symbolizing eternal life. There is a consistent record of Celtic Christianity’s reinterpreting the culture into Christian forms, and this is a profound example of that.

St. Patrick died in 461 in Saul, Ireland. Though he was never formally canonized by a pope, St. Patrick is on the List of Saints, and was declared a Saint in Heaven by many Catholic churches. 

The Episcopal Church annually honors St. Patrick with the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, the date of his death, which falls during the Christian season of Lent. 

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Remembering Harriet Tubman, March 10, 2023

Today March 10, 2023 the Episcopal Church recognizes Harriet Tubman on her own day from the day she died in 1913

  1. Cleo Coleman as Harriet Tubman video
  1. Catherine’s sermon on Harriet Tubman and St. Patrick

St. Peter’s Episcopal in Port Royal, VA has a unique connection to Tubman through Port Royal resident Cleo Coleman. Coleman is a Baptist but visits our church and is a member of our Wed. Bible study

Cleo has also dramatized Harriet Tubman for years. We have a video of a performance on July 4, 2018. The video is introduced by Cookie Davis who has worked with Coleman. Coleman talks about her dramatization. We have selections of her performance only edited by a malfunctioning camera.

Then there is a sermon Catherine did on March 17, 2019, which pays tribute to both Harriet Tubman and St. Patrick. March 17 is St. Peter’s Day. From the sermon

“In today’s gospel Luke 13:31-35, Jesus is standing firm in the Lord as he heads toward Jerusalem. The Pharisees say to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

“Not bad advice—Jesus has been healing and teaching on his way to Jerusalem. So many people have benefited from his presence and his ministry with them. Certainly, a spiritual comfort zone for Jesus, and his disciples, would be to continue his work not so close to Herod’s interference. He could go back to Galilee and do his thing, and probably worry less about being killed.

“But Jesus knows that God wants him to press on, to Jerusalem, and Jesus knows that Jerusalem will be full of danger for him, because after all, Jerusalem is the city that kills the prophets and kills those who are sent to it!

“When she was about 24, Harriet (Tubman) managed to make it to Canada and escaped slavery. Finally, she was free!

“But like Patrick, Harriet could not rest in this spiritual comfort zone. She could not forget her parents and others who were still enslaved. She had a deep love for her people, so deep that she could not rest in her own freedom and forget them.

“So with the help of the Quakers, she made at least 19 trips back to Maryland, at the risk of her own life, to lead others to freedom.

“Harriet Tubman, saint, stood firm in the Lord, and pressed on, throughout her life, in pursuit of freedom not just for herself, but for her people.

At the conclusion of the sermon, Catherine asks the congregation “How is God calling us, the people of God, St Peter’s, out of our own spiritual comfort zone as this church? Where does God want us to stand firm, with love, and in that strength borne of love to press on? “

Blessing at the Well – A Poem for Lent 3

Jan Richardson is an artist, author , United Methodist minister, and director of The Wellspring Studio, LLC.

Her website is Painted Prayerbook  She combines her art, poems and scriptural references in a wonderful review of church seasons and individual Gospel passages.

This poem is for Lent 3 – -the woman at the well. Richardson writes that “the encounter between Jesus and the unnamed woman offers something of an icon of the Lenten season and the invitation it extends to us. If we give ourselves to a daily practice, if we keep taking our vessel to the source even when we feel uninspired or the well seems empty or the journey is boring, if we walk with an openness to what might be waiting for us in the repetition and rhythm of our routines, we may suddenly find ourselves swimming in the grace and love of God that goes deeper than we ever imagined.”

Blessing of the Well

If you stand at the edge of this blessing and call down into it,

you will hear your words return to you.

If you lean in and listen close, you will hear this blessing give the story of your life back to you.

Quiet your voice quiet your judgment quiet the way you always tell your story to yourself.

Quiet all these and you will hear the whole of it and the hollows of it: the spaces in the telling, the gaps where you hesitate to go.

Sit at the rim of this blessing. Press your ear to its lip, its sides, its curves that were carved out long ago by those whose thirst drove them deep, those who dug into the layers with only their hands and hope.

Rest yourself beside this blessing and you will begin to hear the sound of water entering the gaps.

Still yourself and you will feel it rising up within you, filling every hollow, springing forth anew

Lectionary, Lent 3 Year A 

I.Theme –   Water provides life in a physical sense and in a spiritual sense (affirmation, love, hope) as well as a pathway to the divine.

 “Christ and the Samaritan Woman”  –  Stefano Erardi (1630-1716)

The woman`s reaction of surprise is expressed by her hand placed against her chest as though in disbelief, while Christ points out a finger, not in accusation, but to communicate his innocent request for some water, with an expression of humility and compassion for the woman.

The lectionary readings are here  or individually:

Old Testament – Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm – Psalm 95
Epistle –Romans 5:1-11
Gospel – John 4:5-42

This lectionary readings this week address water both as a commodity and in a symbolic sense. 

The people under Moses had escaped from Egypt where they had become slaves in providing the economic base for Egyptian power. But the desert to which they had come in their bid to secure freedom – trusting that God through Moses would lead them to new life – was an inhospitable place. It was arid, dusty, hot – and seemed to be endless. As a group they railed against Moses. Maybe Egypt had deprived them of dignity, but at least they had had food and water. A crisis in leadership was emerging.

There is a subtheme in obeying God. Moses did what he was told, struck the rock at Horeb and there was water. He had in the past trusted in God and not been let down. He trusted that this trust would once again not be misplaced – and the water flowed.

The Gospel pits Jesus with the Samaritan woman in drawing water. S. Michael Houdmann contrast this passage with the Nicodemus a week ago. “While Nicodemus needed to see himself as a sinner in order to understand grace, the Samaritan woman, who knew she was a sinner, needed to see herself as a person of worth and value…”Jesus’ ministering to those outcasts of the Jewish society (the Samaritans), reveals that all people are valuable to God and that Jesus desires that we demonstrate love to everyone.”     

Water is more than life giving but is life transforming. She had had a difficult life with five husbands and is considered an outcast. In trusting her he uplifts her and gives her back her self-esteem. He accepts her with his conversation  about this “living water.” Well water is necessary for life and is temporary. Living water is necessary for eternal life and is everlasting. This is the water of revelation, love and spirit. This water is giving is life affirming and life enhancing. In the end she is doing more than the disciples in bring the word of Christ to the many.  The Samaritans flock to hear Jesus.

The Epistle doesn’t mention water directly. Paul goes into the benefits of justification by faith, including peace, hope and reconciliation with God. However, God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit like water – evident in baptism into His death and rising. . We were restored to God’s favor by Christ’s death and be given eternal life (“saved”) by the risen Christ.

The Psalm is a shout toward the power of God echoed from the Epistle – as a great god above all other creator of worlds, shepherd sustaining them. There is a reference to Exodus and the conditions of lack of water with the disobedience of the people. Failure to adhere to God’s ways will have dire consequences, as it did for the Israelites during their “forty years.” In the end he sustains them physically.

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The essence of the Samaritan woman at the well

This is a scripture of compassion and giving.

The key is that Jesus sees her, really sees her pain – she’s had five husbands before and then he reveals himself to her. She is living an unfocused life without husband and she is looking for direction and help.

He provides a direction with life giving words and his messianic identity. This is part of the living water. What Jesus is driving at is the divine life that is never exhausted even as it is given, since it is, in its essence, nothing other than giving. Jesus is uniting the tribes of Israel to “worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

“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.” By leaving her water jar there she takes on a new more purposeful life.

Daniel Goldeman looked into compassion in a TED talk –“Why aren’t we more compassionate?”

He explains “And this is, I think, the predicament of our lives: that we don’t take every opportunity to help because our focus is in the wrong direction.”

What is the wrong direction ? Here is the TED talk for his answer

Videos, Lent 3, March 12, 2023

1. Hymn – “Glorious things of thee are spoken”

2. Gospel – Woman at the Well

3. Sermon

4. Prayers of the People

5. Offertory – “Jesus met the woman at the well” – Larry Saylor, guitar.

6. Concluding Prayer

7. Hymn “Guide me O thou great Jehovah”

Sermon, 3rd Sunday in Lent, March 12, 2023

Today’s passages invite us to consider for ourselves who Jesus is and what Jesus offers to each of us, if only we take the time to be in conversation with him and to spend time with him.  Jesus welcomes us into a closer and more loving relationship with God through both his living and his dying.       

In today’s passage from Romans, Paul says that “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.”

Is God really waiting to deal wrathfully with us, miserable sinners that we are? 

In his commentary on Romans, William Barclay, a Scottish theologian, explains “the wrath of God” in this way.

Think about the law. 

We all know that none of us can keep the law perfectly.  That doesn’t stop us from trying to keep the law, but sooner or later, we mess up.  When we mess up, we suffer the consequences.  And if we think of God only in terms of the law, then we can assume that God is going to be angry with us when we break God’s laws.  Barclay points out that if we think of ourselves in terms of the law, then we are all headed for God’s condemnation. 

Paul wants  the Romans to know that trying to be in a right relationship with God through our own efforts will never work, because we will never be perfect. 

Thanks be to God, then, that we have another way to be in right relationship with God, and that way is when we enter by faith into a relationship with God.  We learn God is not waiting to condemn us and wrathfully punish us.  Instead, God loves us and is waiting for us to draw more ever more closely into God’s presence. 

Jesus is the one who leads us into a deeper relationship with God.  As we come to know Jesus more and more, then we find ourselves growing closer to God.  Jesus would do anything for us. He doesn’t wait for us to be good, or to have our act together—in fact, while we were sinners, Christ died for us.    

When Jesus died, he showed us the way to God by showing us the way of God—God is always breaking love wide open so that it can be shared more fully.  When Jesus was broken open in his death on the cross, God’s love flowed from the cross out into the world like a stream of living water that gushes up to eternal life.

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