Bible Study, Pentecost 4 (B) – June 17, 2018

Proper 6

[RCL]: 1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13; Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6 – 10, [11 – 13], 14 – 17; Mark 4:26 – 34

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

“Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

Grief is something that we all experience throughout the course of life, although it is most typically associated with death and other forms of loss. In this case, Samuel’s grief was twofold; he mourned the loss of Saul as a leader, and he also mourned Saul’s sin that angered God. God, however, encourages Samuel not to be shackled by grief over Saul, whom he clearly no longer endorsed!

While we could meditate for days on what it means for God to regret the decision to raise up Saul, we must not get stuck there; there was more in store for God’s people, and Samuel’s work was not yet finished in helping that future unfold. By the end of this lesson, we know that a new king will emerge – and from an unlikely place. Samuel does what he is commanded to do, and we are introduced to David, the shepherd boy.

  • Do you trust in the forgiveness that has been given to you so that you may live into the unfolding of God’s mission in the world?

Psalm 20

“Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed;
he will answer him out of his holy heaven,
with the victorious strength of his right hand.”

An interesting word study can occur in the sixth verse of the psalm, as the Hebrew used here for “gives victory,” יָשַׁע, yasha, can also be translated as “saves” or “liberates.” This is also the same root that is found in the names Joshua and Jesus. While “gives victory” focuses on triumph and winning, I find more comfort in reading this line as “the Lord liberates his anointed,” because it emphasizes God’s action and speaks to the very human feeling of being held captive to our own devices and disturbances.

Both translations lead to a happy ending, but rescue somehow seems more compelling than conquest. After all, God is the victorious one in all instances, and we are the beneficiaries. God is always on the side of the oppressed, and while we as Christians are called to stand up for those in any state of oppression, we must bear in mind that ultimately – even when our efforts succeed in lessening the suffering and mistreatment of others – we are not the victorious party in the process. God liberates, and God is victorious.

  • What does liberation mean to you, and how might this psalm subvert the power of oppressors?

2 Corinthians 5:6 – 10, [11 – 13], 14 – 17 

“And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

The first few verses of today’s lesson might make some folks squirm in their seats. Christianity has at times dabbled in dualism, with varying degrees of success or catastrophe throughout history. If we were to read v. 10 with a lens that heads toward literalism, it could provoke anxiety almost immediately; we will all be judged for things we’ve done with our bodies, whether good or evil.

Take heart, beloved of God! There is wonderful news later on in the lesson, for we do not – and must not – read a verse of Scripture in isolation without contemplating the totality of the Paschal mystery and the realities of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, he died for all and rose for all. He didn’t rise from the dead only as a spirit, but with his body. By conquering the boundaries of life and death in a holistic way, uniting divinity with humanity, there is great hope for us do great things with our souls and bodies. Judgment then is less about punishment and rewards, and more about taking stock.

  • In what way can neglecting the health of the body be understood as sin, in light of this passage?

Mark 4:26 – 34

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.”

Parables are truly wonderful teaching tools and can range in length from this very brief one about a mustard seed to much longer ones, like that of the Prodigal Son. The Hebrew word most often used for parable is מָשָׁל, mashal, which also means “riddle.” Jesus, of course, was not the first to teach with the use of parables or riddles. In fact, he stands in a long tradition of Jewish teaching. Mashalim are found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, with examples in Ezekiel, 2 Samuel, Isaiah, and 1 Kings. The beauty of this style of teaching is that there is not an objective interpretation, nor is there one that is always immediately obvious; the meaning is veiled and takes some digging to uncover. I often wonder if Jesus gave his own, fuller take on all of his mashalim at the end of the day while lounging with the disciples.

The mustard seed in this parable is most often related to personal faith, and how a tiny bit of faith can grow into something more significant, even moving mountains. Another view, on a somewhat larger scale, would be to see the mustard seed as the Gospel itself. After all, Jesus and his followers were a tiny band of people, and they occupied a tiny speck of land on a vast planet in an infinite universe. And yet somehow, the Gospel spread against all odds and has survived and produced branches, leaves, and a habitat for the soul.

  • Why would Jesus prefer to teach the crowds by way of parable or riddle instead of through direct, unambiguous lessons?

Gus Chrysson is a seminarian of the Diocese of Costa Rica presently studying at Virginia Theological Seminary. Originally from North Carolina, Gus comes from a large family with Greek and Costa Rican roots. Prior to seminary, he worked for many years as a full-time musician in New York City, specializing in vocal and choral music. Gus continues to be active in music ministry through singing, conducting, and overseeing a new partnership with the Diocese of Cuba. When he is not in church, he is most often in the kitchen.

Download the Bible study for Pentecost 4 (B).

Bulletin Insert – June 10, 2018

The Episcopal Asset Map Relaunch

The Episcopal Asset Map, found at, is an online platform showing the location and ministries of Episcopal churches, schools and other communities. The map has been revamped and refreshed with more-detailed information, easier access and ease of navigation.

A joint project of the Episcopal Church and Episcopal Relief & Development, this innovative partnership tracks local ministries and shows the location and the array of ministries and programs offered by Episcopal congregations, schools and institutions throughout the church. Nearly every diocese of the Episcopal Church is represented on the map as well as over 20 networks, such as Jubilee Ministries, the United Thank Offering, Ethnic Ministries, and Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers.

“With the Episcopal Asset Map, you have the opportunity to tell the Church and the world about how your congregation is being called to serve God and neighbor,” explained Tamara Plummer, Asset Map Coordinator for Episcopal Relief & Development. “The Asset Map site will share the many ways you are engaging in the important work that God has called us to. It also helps us assess the gifts of our Church as we prepare to respond to the needs of our vulnerable neighbors after a disaster.”

On the map, Episcopal Church institutions appears as pins, linked to a profile page with additional information about location, hours, facilities, programs, and any photos or videos that have been shared and approved. Because the map is grassroots-populated, local congregations are able to post the most relevant and up-to-date information such as summer worship schedules or special programs that respond to the needs in their communities.

“A website is a tool, but it takes you sharing the stories of our worship communities to make it effective and useful,” said Christopher Sikkema, Coordinator for Digital Evangelism. “We are excited to announce that in the weeks ahead, the Find A Church on will be updated by the Asset Map. This move strongly demonstrates our focus on evangelism: every Episcopalian taking the responsibility to tell the story of this diverse church of ours.”

Among the many updates to the Episcopal Asset Map are: an updated user interface; enhanced search capabilities; improved abilities for networks across the Episcopal Church to display their data; and dedicated pages for Episcopal dioceses and networks to tell their stories and connect people with important contacts

“What remains the same is that the map allows us to tell the stories of the whole church, highlight new and exciting ministries, and begin to understand more fully the ways the Holy Spirit is moving through the congregations, dioceses, and networks of the Episcopal Church,” noted Katie Mears, Senior Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program. “I’m so excited that this map continues to highlight the presence, ministry and capacity of the church both on normal days, but also after a disaster. We are already seeing diocese and regions use this information as they plan disaster responses.”

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Bulletin Insert – June 3, 2018

World Refugee Day

On World Refugee Day, held each year on June 20, we celebrate the strength, resilience, and courage of refugees worldwide. The Episcopal Church is deeply committed to the work of welcome and refugee resettlement, and stands with families forced to flee.

Every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. There are currently over 65.6 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide. Of that number, more than 22.5 million are refugees, and more than half are children.

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) is a living example of the Church’s commitment to aid the stranger in our midst. By working in a public-private partnership with a network of 14 local affiliate partners, congregations, dioceses, and community supporters, EMM offers hope and security to the world’s most vulnerable. It is with the generous support and dedication of all those who stand ready to welcome that EMM is able to offer the vital services of cultural orientation classes, English language classes, employment services, school enrollment, childcare, housing assistance, transportation, and more. The ministry of refugee resettlement provides a strong foundation for families who have been displaced to begin again in safety and peace.

Refugees bring gifts, skills, and talents to our communities, enhancing the very fabric of our nation. Join Episcopalians across the country this World Refugee Day in prayer and action in support of our newest neighbors and friends. Get involved in the ministry of refugee resettlement:

  • Support Episcopal Migration Ministries:
  • Advocate for refugees:
  • Join the welcoming movement: EMM offers opportunities for individuals, congregations, dioceses, and organizations to take an active role in the refugee welcoming movement. Are you discerning a call to service, education, or advocacy? Contact Allison Duvall, EMM Manager for Church Relations & Engagement, at
  • Volunteer with this life-saving ministry through an EMM local partner: Visit

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Bulletin Insert – May 27, 2018

Armed Forces and Federal Ministries: The Frontline of the Jesus Movement

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces [and federal ministries] at home and abroad.  Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer)

The office of the Bishop for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries was established during the turbulent time of the Vietnam War, when our country was divided politically and socially. The Episcopal Church discerned a call to establish a dedicated episcopacy to tend to all members of the church who served in the military. Over the decades, the ministry has grown to include veterans’ hospitals and the Bureau of Prisons.

The Bishop for the Armed Forces is a suffragan who works directly for the Presiding Bishop. Our office supports ministry to the military and oversees the Episcopal chaplains who care for our servicemembers, veterans, and federal prisoners. We equip our chaplains to preach the loving, liberating, and life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ in some of the most challenging locations and demanding situations. It is not an understatement to say that our chaplains serve on the “frontline” of the Jesus Movement.

We currently have 110 chaplains serving in the active duty military, reserves, VA Hospitals, prisons, Civil Air Patrol, and Coast Guard Auxiliary. Their ministry spans the globe. Our Episcopal tradition is uniquely able to respond in Christ’s name to people of different backgrounds, cultures, and gender-identity at a time when ma ny denominations will not. Our priests are empowered to minister to all of God’s children, no matter the situation. It is the greatest honor to serve Christ in that freedom of witness in a world that so desperately needs to hear that Jesus is for them –  no exceptions.

There are some ways that you can support us in our work:

  • Support and encourage priests to consider the call to Federal Chaplaincy
  • Be a parish that calls a clergy person who also serves in the National Guard or Reserves
  • Look for ways your parish might support its local community through affiliation with the Guard, CAP, Coast Guard Auxiliary, local military base, or VA Hospital.
  • If you feel moved to do so, you may make donations to this important ministry by sending a check to “DFMS,” with “Bishop for Armed Forces” in the note line, to: Episcopal Church Center, Attn: Controller’s Office, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017

For more information and links to the various federal branches, visit our website at

The Rt. Rev. Carl W. Wright
The VII Bishop for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries

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Bulletin Insert – May 13, 2018

For Such a Time as This: Veteran Programs

The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continue our united call to Pray, Fast, and Act in support of good policies and programs that provide opportunities for and respect the dignity of all people. This month we focus on programs that assist veterans and their family members. New investments and policies in recent years have helped expand veteran access to education, labor opportunities, healthcare, and housing. Still, too many veterans, active service members and their families still struggle with complex challenges—ranging from barriers to benefits to increased mental health risks. We must continue to support those of us who risk everything for the safety and wellbeing of our communities.

Studies from the Department of Veterans Affairs have found that 22 veterans take their lives each day– a rate 21 percent higher when compared to other civilian adults. Some factors, such as the on-going opioid epidemic, have also disproportionately impacted veterans, increasing demand for services among those seeking recovery and contribute to the many challenges impacting families. There is a great need to do more for veterans in our communities. Through chaplains, dioceses, and congregations across the country the Church plays a special role in welcoming returning veterans. Let us take action by asking Congress to protect programs that address the needs and equip veterans as they return from service.

On May 21, join the EPPN, ELCA Advocacy and Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the ELCA as we #PrayFastAct. 

Pray for those who have answered a vocation of military service and for their families; for the many military chaplains across the world who bear the witness of Christ in word and sacrament; for those who have lost their lives in service of our country and who are moved to harm themselves.

For Memorial Day

We give you thanks, O Lord, for all who have died that we may live, for all who endured pain that we might know joy, for all who made sacrifices that we might have plenty, for all who suffered imprisonment that we might know freedom. Turn our deep feeling now into determination, and our determination into deed, that as men and women died for peace, we may live for peace for the sake of the Prince of Peace, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (based upon a prayer by Leslie D. Weatherhead)

For those who serve

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces [and federal ministries] at home and abroad.  Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Fast in remembrance of the sacrifices men and women in the armed forces make for our common good, and for their families who cope with daily challenges in the absence of their loved ones.

Act by urging our lawmakers to pursue innovative solutions and further address the challenges facing veterans. Prepare to act on May 21 by reading our one-pager on assisting veterans:

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Bulletin Insert – May 20, 2018

Day of Pentecost

Pentecost Episcopal Bulletin

St. David’s Episcopal Church, San Diego – Diocese of San Diego

Today we mark Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit among the apostles and followers of Jesus. Celebrated 50 days after Easter (including the day of Easter itself), the name of the holiday comes from the Greek Pentēkostē, which literally means “the 50th day.”

The events of the day are foretold by Jesus in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, just before his Ascension. While his followers were with the risen Christ, he tells them, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5, NRSV). He goes on to say to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The followers would not wait long for the promised Spirit. The author of Acts, traditionally believed to be Luke, recounts:

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each” (Acts 2:1-6).

We celebrate Pentecost as the inauguration of the Church’s mission in the world. Empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are to go out into our neighborhoods and the wider world—to Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth—witnessing to the risen Christ.

The Day of Pentecost is identified by the Book of Common Prayer as one of the feast days “especially appropriate” for baptism (Book of Common Prayer, p. 312). Because of this, Pentecost is also known as “Whitsun” or “Whitsunday” (“White Sunday”), a term used to describe the white baptismal garments worn by those who were baptized at the Vigil of Pentecost and then worn to church on the Day of Pentecost.

Collect for Pentecost

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 227). 

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Bulletin Insert – May 13, 2018

Frances Perkins: Reminding Them of Their Mothers

Frances Perkins listened sympathetically as a stalwart member of the New York state legislature confessed a political misdeed. Because she barely knew him, she asked why he had confided in her. “Well, Miss Perkins,” he said, “all men have mothers.” The young lobbyist for workers’ welfare realized her tricorne hat and sober manner of dress reminded him of his mother.

The second Sunday of May is celebrated as Mother’s Day in more than 40 nations around the world. The observance is intended to encourage people to appreciate how their own mothers made a home for them and provided for their needs, often without being asked and frequently without acknowledgment.

This year, Mother’s Day falls on May 13, the day the Episcopal Church honors Frances Perkins, whose work providing for our needs often goes unacknowledged. As the chief advocate and architect of the Social Security Act, she succeeded in lifting half the nation’s elderly out of poverty shortly after it became law in 1935. Through it, she also provided unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation to millions of others and stipends through age 18 to millions of children who lost a wage-earning parent. These blessings have continued for 83 years. Last year alone her enduring achievement lifted 22 million Americans above the poverty line.

A lifelong associate of All Saints Sisters of the Poor, she spent one day a month in silent retreat at their Maryland convent throughout her 12 years in the New Deal cabinet. A 1948 lectures series at St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue, revealed her profoundly incarnational theology.

Perkins was confirmed in 1905 at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois while volunteering at Hull House in Chicago. Later, fighting human trafficking in Philadelphia, she worshiped at St. Clement’s. In New York, she married Paul Wilson in the Chantry of Grace Church and then formed a lifelong relationship with the Church of the Resurrection. In Washington, St. James, Capitol Hill, was her beloved parish. While teaching at Cornell late in life, she worshiped at St. John’s, Ithaca.  On summer visits to the Perkins homestead in Maine, St. Andrew’s, Newcastle, was her church home.

Frances Perkins (1880-1965) will be honored at this year’s General Convention with an exhibit created by the Frances Perkins Center ( More information on Perkins can be found at

Donn Mitchell is the author of Tread the City’s Streets Again: Frances Perkins Shares Her Theology. He teaches religion and ethics at Berkeley College in New York.

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Bulletin Insert – May 6, 2018

Ascension Day

The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ is celebrated 40 days after Easter Day, marking the conclusion of Jesus’ postresurrection appearances and his ascension into heaven.

Celebration of this holy day dates back at least to the late fourth century, and scriptural references to Jesus’ ascension occur in both The Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Mark:

“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1: 6-11, NRSV).

“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19, NRSV).

The Ascension of Jesus is also professed in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father” (Book of Common Prayer, pp.120, 358).

Collect for Ascension Day

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 226).

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Bulletin Insert – April 15, 2018

For Such a Time As This: Economic Opportunity Initiatives

The Episcopal Church and the ELCA continue our united call to Pray, Fast, and Act in support of policies and programs that provide opportunities for and respect the dignity of all people.

This month, our focus is on economic opportunity initiatives. Although the U.S. government facilitates a variety of programs, all too often families find it nearly impossible to break out of poverty. Many families work low-wage and low-skill jobs, yet still struggle to keep up with their needs.

The 2018 federal poverty level for a family of two–like a single parent with one child—is $16,460. Sadly, many families are in this group of working poor. Though some individuals can work hard 40-hour weeks and 52-weeks a year, they still can be below the poverty line.

For example, a person working 40-hours a week and 52-weeks a year at the federal minimum wage would earn $15,080 a year. These positions almost never provide paid vacation or sick time and often not even federal holidays, and not all are lucky enough to have consistent full-time work throughout the 52-week year. In Congressional testimony last month, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce heard that this working poor represent 80% of people receiving government assistance.

Education as a means of economic opportunity to increase wages and gain better employment is one means of helping this demographic gain upward mobility.

On April 21, join the EPPN and presiding bishops of The Episcopal Church and ELCA as we Pray, Fast, and Act for economic opportunity initiatives.

PRAY for the working poor of our nation, that while they fight to keep their families housed, fed, and clothed that we may fight to provide them with educational opportunities.

Almighty God, who hast so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and  reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. – Book of Common Prayer – Collect For Labor Day

FAST in solidarity with those who while they labor tirelessly still struggle to provide for themselves and their families. Help us remember that though they are working, they are unable to access education and training which would open greater opportunities to support themselves and their families.

ACT by studying the one-pager on the connection between economic opportunity, education, and poverty (available here: Then, on the 21st of April, write Congress and demand robust federal funding for educational programs from early childhood to adult and trade schools.

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Bulletin Insert – April 8, 2018

The Feast of the Annunciation

Tomorrow, April 9, marks the celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation. This year, because the feast occurred during Holy Week, it was transferred from the customary date of March 25. The feast, dated nine months before the celebration of Christmas Day, commemorates the visitation of the Virgin Mary by the angel Gabriel. During the visit, recounted in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, the angel greets Mary and announces that she will be the mother of Jesus. Mary assents in faith to God’s invitation.

Annunciation Episcopal Bulletin

The Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:26-38, New Revised Standard Version)

Collect for the Annunciation

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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