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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Feb 24, 2019

By

Sitting down to study the lessons Wednesday morning as I watched the snow falling, I was struck that they all seem to focus on the wisdom that derives from the love of God. Now mind you, I was at the same time wondering aloud if there is a recipe for groundhog stew (an imperfect sermon illustration).

When we observe Epiphany as a season of Light, we focus on how to live with the light of Christ as our guide. In the scriptures, we can read many stories of people who are intelligent, who are respectable, or successful, and at the same time, they are disconnected from God. Our lessons are reflect the deep wisdom that develops from a relationship with God. Wisdom is a unique quality. Unlike knowledge, wisdom does not rely on accumulation of facts and making associations between them. Unlike social respectability, wisdom does not focus on building a good reputation or keeping up appearances. Success may or may not reflect one’s wisdom. One can be a successful thief (as Zacchaeus was in his tax collecting), or one can be a successful disciple (as Mary of Bethany was to the dismay of her sister) – I suspect that we might assign the quality of wisdom to Mary and not to Zacchaeus before his conversion. Wisdom is a special quality. Wisdom conveys power to do the work of discernment, to figure out what we should do as friends and lovers of God.

In the scripture, wisdom is the tangible fruit of connection with the divine mind of God, and the path to that connection is a life of spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is very different from indoctrination, which teaches a person to accept a set of beliefs without any critical examination of them. Spiritual practice is a regular, cumulative process through which a person encounters God and experiences a personal transformation. Traditionally, spiritual practice has focused on regular experiences of prayer, self-denial, and generosity, which are the exercises that build a resilient soul.

Today’s lessons give us a picture of what it is to pursue the path of discipleship, seeking wisdom. Joseph is the eleventh son of Jacob, borne by his favorite wife Rachel, (let’s talk about biblical marriage another day, shall we?). His brothers are jealous because he is his father’s favorite. Joseph has a special relationship to God, and he can interpret dreams. In a shocking story of sibling treachery, they sell him as a slave to Midianite traders. In Egypt, Joseph rises within the ranks of the Pharaoh, becoming the vizier, or Pharaoh’s closest adviser. Today we hear the short passage in which Joseph articulates his forgiveness of his brothers’ unforgivable action. This is not his immediate response when he encounters his brothers, who have traveled to Egypt to obtain food during a famine. The process toward this forgiveness takes over 15 years and many chapters of Genesis. As a prayerful, thoughtful man, Joseph comes to see how God has worked good through a terrible experience, and chooses to forgive and reconcile with his family. It is wisdom borne of faith that enables Joseph to rekindle his love and do this.

Psalm 37 is a collection of wisdom sayings in a Hebrew alphabet acrostic. The sayings point to the abiding presence and comfort of the Almighty for those who faithfully pursue a relationship, especially in difficult and oppressive circumstances. The function of the promises is to locate God with those who “do good” (vv 3, 27), who live simply (v 16), who practice generosity (vv 21, 26), and who both proclaim and embody God’s will for justice (vv 30-31). These practices are their own reward, for they embody our connection to God and conformity to the ways of God. Furthermore, they constitute life as God intends life to be, because they have the potential to shape the world in the directions that God intends, including the elimination of poverty and hunger.

Paul writes to the fractious Christian community in Corinth, reminding them that the teaching about the resurrection of Jesus Christ commends to them a new way of living. He does not deny the reality of the physical nature of human life, and at the same time reiterates his teaching that the risen life will be very different. Today’s passage follows close after the segment often reserved for weddings: love is patient and kind. But Paul is not a romantic. He is a tough-minded realist, and for him, a life lived in honor of the tremendous love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus demands spiritual transformation. We have inherited the blessing of the reign of God. The resurrection is a reality in present time, and we need to begin living it now.

While the passage from Luke’s gospel is a beautiful description of how disciples live as if we are part of the Reign of God. When we hear this as a command, it is a hard teaching. How would that change if we can hear it as an invitation to a new way of being? Jesus invites his followers to adopt the spiritual disciplines of love, generosity, and selflessness as tangible signs that we are the people of God on earth, even when our context is one of conflict and oppression. The irenic response to injustice is neither simplistic nor passive: it is instead the kindness of wishing grace upon another person, who is as imperfect as we are. In fact, the word for “kind” (chrestos) is related to the word for grace (charis). How can one manage to cultivate these responses in a world that seems to be so fallen, so unjust, so confrontational? Only through a continual striving for connection to the God of Love, through a spiritual practice that infuses us with grace.

What is it to be wise because we have experienced the love of God?
To be wise is to be kind.
To be wise is to be open to others.
To be wise is to go out of our way to show love to others.

[The following is an excerpt from a letter written by John Knowles to the Cathedral.]

I am very sorry that I cannot be there to do this myself, but I do hope someone will convey this note to you. My name is John. I was once homeless. I am an ex-con and a recovering addict.
I never had the benefit of a true loving, caring family, which I believe made it hard for me to trust in others or that others could truly love or care about me, solely because they are doing God’s work and are good honest loving people who care for others.

That is, until I entered St. Stephen’s last September searching for odds jobs so that I might earn honest money to feed myself. That is when I had the opportunity to meet [Amy Welin and Cindy Harbert], and I began to question my belief that there aren’t any honest, caring people out there. . . . They treated me as their equal, and not a homeless bum . . .

I kept returning to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral, to perform a variety of work . . . with Jim Elliott and Michael Frascella. . . . I began to meet all sorts of people [from the cathedral], who greeted me with open arms filled with love, honesty and caring compassion – never not once did I feel judged or looked down at. Attending church I was in amazement at how during the peace people who just met me greeted me and came from all over the church to wish me peace and shake my hand . . .

I was invited to Christmas dinner . . . and also to a get-together. I must say I was taken aback. . . .

I have never felt so loved and cared about in my life before. This is a direct result in God working through all of you. . . . I thank you with all my heart. I feel you all saved my life. You are all living God’s word. . . . For those od you who doubt you are doing enough, pray for wisdom, direction and knowledge in serving God. It is obvious that God hears you . . . Keep praying, keep trusting, keep the faith. I know everyone [sic] of you saved me. . . You have ignited a flame in me that no one could extinguish. I thank all of you. Let us all remember to seek his Kingdom and righteousness, and all things will be added unto us.

With sincere love and gratitude, John Knowles.

What is it to be wise because we have experienced the love of God?
To be wise is to be kind.
To be wise is to be open to others.
To be wise is to go out of our way to show love to others.


This sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr. Amy Welin at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral on February 22, 2019, for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany. The lessons for the day, which can be found at this link, are:

  • Genesis 45:3-11, 15
  • Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50
  • Luke 6:27-38

Resources
J. Clinton McGann. Commentary on Psalm 37. Available at this link.

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Serve in WorshipAcolyte

Acolytes carry the cross and torches at processions and help the priest prepare for Holy Communion. This ministry is ideal for youth (grades 7 and up), and is also open to adults. A brief training session is offered to help you learn the job. Acolytes are scheduled on a rotating basis.

Clergy & StaffAmy Welin

Dean | Email: adwelin@ststep.org

The Very Rev. Dr. Amy D. Welin has been serving as the Dean of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral since August 2017.

Prior to her priestly ordination, Amy worked as an instructor of medieval and world history, an insurance claims processor, and a pastoral associate in a large mid-western church. Before accepting the call  of the Cathedral Church of St. Stephen in Harrisburg, she served a variety of parishes in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, as a member of the Standing Committee and the Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral.

One of the founding members of the Episcopal Clergy Association in Connecticut (ConnECA), and a prior board member of the Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations (NECA), Amy devotes her energy to issues of clergy and parish wellness.

Married to Greg Welin, who is also an Episcopal priest, and mother of four young adults, Amy likes to garden and practice yoga in her free time.

Clergy & StaffCindy Harbert

Administrator | Email: charbert@ststep.org

Cindy Coombs Harbert joined the staff at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in 2017.  Most of Cindy’s professional career has been centered around non-profit administration.  Cindy holds a BA in social work and education from West Virginia Wesleyan College and has completed graduate coursework in counseling at Messiah University. The mother of two adult children, she enjoys traveling, volunteering in the community, watching field hockey, and exploring new places that she hasn’t visited before.

Clergy & StaffFred Miller

Canon Pastor

The Rev. Canon Fred Miller began on staff as Canon Pastor for spiritual care July 2020.

Fred is a MDIV graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School with graduate studies in Congregational Development at Seabury Western Seminary, and marriage and family counseling at Trinity Counseling Center, Princeton. He served 4 parishes in New Jersey before coming to Central PA at All Saints’, Hershey. After receiving certification with the Interim Ministry Network he served in NJ, & Kansas, before returning to this diocese, working in Altoona, State College & Williamsport. Serving with the YWCA as a volunteer, retired Red Cross volunteer and as a previous College Chaplain in two states has opened the possibilities of living into the Episcopal Church becoming a bridge to interfaith relations.

Married to Kris with whom we proudly share three children, now grown. Fred enjoys outdoor activities, simple meals, and quiet conversation.

Clergy & StaffGene Schofield

Parish Nurse

Gene was born and grew up on family farm in MN. After getting her Bachelor’s degree in nursing, she worked at a Navy hospital where she met and married her husband, Mike. The mother of 4 (Kirsten died of CP complications at age 40) she keeps busy with her children, her 9 grandchildren and her great-granddaughter. Gene returned to work in nursing after her children were in middle school with her last position being a Hospice nurse until her retirement in 2008. Gene is available to assist the newly diagnosed, helps with securing durable medical equipment and checks in with those on our prayer list on a weekly basis.

Serve in WorshipGreeter

Greeters are the public face of the Cathedral on Sunday mornings. Our greeting team welcomes guests and members alike, and helps guests find a seat and matches them up with a member to assist them in the service.

Clergy & StaffJordan Markham

Director of Music

Jordan R. Markham studied at The Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He is a classically-trained lyric-baritone, pianist, organist, and conductor, having previously studied under the Grammy-winning baritone, William Sharp and soprano Susan Solomon Beckley of Bucknell University. For two years he was a professional chorister at The Washington National Cathedral, and was a paid chorister and soloist in The Handel Choir of Baltimore. While with the Handel Choir, he sang the tenor solo role of Apollo in Handel’s Semele, the tenor solo in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (both with full orchestra), and the tenor solo in Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in The Lamb. Prior to this, he sang the baritone solo in Rossini’s  Petite Messe Solennelle with the Peabody Singers and most recently has been heard singing the baritone solo in The Seven Last Words Of Christ by Theodore Dubois, accompanied by a full orchestra.

Throughout the past decade, Mr. Markham has performed at The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Nobuo Uematsu, composer of the soundtracks for the Final Fantasy Games. He has also sung at Carnegie Hall, The Boston Symphony Hall, and the Jackie Gleason Theatre. He has been active in the musical theatre scene for over a decade directing, accompanying, and acting in theaters throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. Mr. Markham has most recently been seen in South Pacific with The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, as “Jimmy” in Reefer Madness, “Peter” in Bare: A Pop Opera, and as “Chip” in The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee, for which he was also the music director and whose cast received a nomination by Broadway World for Best Ensemble. He has also performed onstage with the Peabody Opera in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and  Cosi fan tutte, Verdi’s La Traviata, and Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen.

Mr. Markham is currently the Artistic Director and Conductor of The Central Pennsylvania Womyn’s Chorus, and a co-founding member of Allegro con Fuoco, a keyboard duo with Tyler A. Canonico, and proudly serves as the Director of Music and Organist at St Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Serve in WorshipLay Eucharistic Minister

Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEMs) assist the clergy at the altar by distributing Holy Communion to members of the congregation. LEMs are scheduled based on their availability to serve one or more Sundays each month. This ministry is open to all baptized and confirmed members of the church, after attending two hours of training and receiving a license from the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania.

Serve in WorshipLay Worship Leader

Do you have an interest in leading prayer and worship services that do not require ordained clergy? By receiving a license as a Lay Worship Leader from the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, you will be able to lead the congregation in Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and other prayer services. This ministry requires significant study and preparation, and is open to all baptized and confirmed members of the church. 

Serve in WorshipLector

Lectors proclaim the Word of God by reading from the Old Testament and the New Testament during worship services. Lectors are scheduled based on their availability. All interested persons are eligible to become lectors by attending a 30-minute orientation session.

Clergy & StaffMicalagh Moritz

Director of Formation for Young Adults and Youth

In 2021, Micalagh transitioned into the role of Director of Youth & Young Adult Formation. She previously served as the Sycamore House Program Director, starting in 2017. She has over 15 years of experience in various community nonprofits in Harrisburg, Belize, and Washington, DC.

She majored in Human Development & Family Science in college, and continued on to receive her Masters in Social Work. She has a counseling and therapy background, which is applicable to many areas of life-both on the job and off. She has worked with youth and young adults in many different settings, including through Harrisburg-based after-school programs, through the Sycamore House, as Director of a study abroad program in Belize, and through teaching college courses locally.

She is passionate about helping to create healing spaces for people to grow and learn, exploring the intersections of faith and justice, and building bridges between people of various backgrounds. She is also passionate about spiritual formation as an integral part of building community.

Micalagh lives in Harrisburg and can often be found riding her bike up Riverfront Park, in a local café, or walking to Broad Street Market. She is married to Joshua Moritz, a middle school Case Manager and farmer at heart, and they have 2 children who attend St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. 

Clergy & StaffMichael Frascella

Facilities Manager

Michael Frascella has served as our part-time Facilities Manager for several years.  He works diligently to see that our campus stays beautiful, our buildings are problem-free, and that there are inviting and welcoming spaces for all who enter our doors.  Michael is a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral and is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of 4. 

Clergy & StaffMichael Nailor

Deacon

Michael was born and raised in Mechanicsburg, PA as a member of First Evangelical United Brethren (United Methodist) where he was active throughout childhood and as a young adult.  He came to the Episcopal Church while he was in college at the University of Pennsylvania.  The pioneering women of the “Philadelphia Eleven” had just been irregularly ordained and the church was struggling with the role of women in leadership. Michael was drawn to a church that was willing to deal with – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – the important social justice issues of the day. 

Agreeing to disagree but still staying in communion around the Holy Table appealed to this English teacher and debate coach throughout his 41-year career in education.  Michael serves the Diocese of Central PA as a deacon at St. Stephen’s Cathedral as he has since his ordination in 2018. He also works at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.

Serve in WorshipPrayer Leader

Prayer Leaders lead the Prayers of the People during worship services. Prayers are led from among the congregation, with prayer leaders adding a prayer of their own choosing to reflect the needs of the moment. All persons are eligible for this ministry — a brief orientation session is available to help prepare you for leading prayers.

Service OpportunitiesArtsFest

Downtown Harrisburg

Artsfest is always held the weekend of Memorial Day, Saturday through Monday, with St. Stephen’s members serving hot dogs, hamburgers, snow cones and beverages, while tours of the Cathedral are offered along with free organ concerts every hour. The profits from our ArtsFest work are all dedicated to a selection of service groups in the city.

Service OpportunitiesCommon Ground Cafe

Allison Hill - Harrisburg

When is a breakfast more than just a meal? When it is a community center, a kids’ craft session, a book nook for adults, a reading program and book giveaway for children, an opportunity for family members and neighbors to visit in a warm, welcoming place.

Please join the volunteers and community members who make all of this happen on the last Saturday of every month at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg at 1508 Market St. We serve about 250 people at each breakfast, so we need cooks, waiters, greeters, coffee servers, readers, a set up crew, dishwashers, piano players, and anyone who just wants the best breakfast in town!

Service OpportunitiesDowntown Daily Bread

Downtown Harrisburg

Downtown Daily Bread is a soup kitchen located at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church. Their mission is to provide services for the homeless & feed the hungry (40,000 meals/year) 7 days a week including weekends & holidays. On the first Sunday of every other month from approximately noon until 2 p.m., St. Stephen’s serves the food trays and then helps clean up afterward.

Service OpportunitiesLittle Free Food Pantry

Jessica McClard launched the grassroots mini pantry movement on May 2016 in Fayetteville, AR, when she planted the Little Free Pantry Pilot, a wooden box on a post containing food, personal care, and paper items accessible to everyone all the time no questions asked.

Service OpportunitiesRMMS

We participate in an organized program to support and encourage refugees hoping to make the U.S. their home.

Service OpportunitiesSt. Barnabas Children's Ministry

Uptown Harrisburg

St. Barnabas was founded by our own Bishop Charlie McNutt and Bishop Guy Edmiston from the Lower Susquehanna Synod. Located in Uptown Harrisburg, St. Barnabas offers children ages 7 – 12 an 8-week summer day camp. A variety of experiences allow spiritual, emotional, physical, educational & social growth. St. Stephen’s provides food for the children, along with volunteers to prepare, serve and clean up.

Service OpportunitiesSusquehanna Harbor Safe Haven

Uptown Harrisburg

Operated by the ecumenical group Christian Churches United, Susquehanna Harbor is a residence for homeless men. St. Stephen’s, along with other churches and service groups, is responsible for staffing the 25-unit overnight shelter several weeks each year.

Clergy & StaffStuart Scarborough

Property Manager

Rev. Stuart Scarborough, Deacon, joined St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral part-time as a Property Manager after migrating northward from the Diocese of Maryland when his wife, Rev. Anjel Scarborough, was called to be Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Hershey. Prior to relocating, Stuart spent 13 years managing facilities, including three years as Facilities Operations Director for St. John’s Episcopal Church and Parish Day School in Ellicott City, MD and, before that, ten years as Director of Operations at the Claggett Center, Maryland’s Diocesan conference, retreat and camp center in Adamstown, MD. Prior to this, Stuart, who has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech, worked for 20+ years in manufacturing. Stuart and Anjel have two adult children; Martin, who lives in Cockeysville, MD and Erin, who lives in Newark, DE.

As Property Manager, Stuart will oversee the care and maintenance of all the Cathedral buildings and property. In addition to this part-time role, Stuart is also serving part-time as Property Manager for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. In this role, Stuart will look after all buildings and properties that are owned by the Diocese, but are not parishes. Further, Stuart has been assigned as Deacon to Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church in Camp Hill.

Serve in WorshipTechnical Guild

Are you looking for a behind-the-scenes way to get involved? Consider joining our technical crew and learning to operate our sound and light systems. Sound and Light Technicians facilitate worship services by ensuring that sound levels and amplification are appropriate, and that lighting is used to highlight the liturgical action. Some training is required.

Serve in WorshipUsher

One of the primary functions of an usher is to guide guests and members to various parts of the Cathedral (restrooms, parlors, nursery, etc.) and to assist with any special needs (e.g. wheelchair access). Ushers are also trained to summon help in the case of any emergencies.