Monday, October 15, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from October 14, 2018


21 PENTECOST, PROPER XXIII - B - 18      MARK 10. 17-31

 


For the past several weeks in our gospel readings Jesus has been teaching his chosen band what it means to be a disciple. He is teaching them by what he says and what he is doing that obviously has the effect of changing the lives of those who encounter him, who hear what he saying about God and his kingdom, and who open their hearts to receive his word.
 
The disciple’s “on the job training” continues as they travel with Jesus from Galilee to Judea and the surrounding area. As they prepare for yet another journey a young man, I say that because he ran up to Jesus, and knelt before him, asks the question we all should be asking but assume we already know the answer. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
 
The young man was serious in his quest but was not prepared for the answer he received. There is a cost to discipleship. That cost is different for each of us in terms of what it is we have to give up that is preventing us from following Jesus.
 
For this individual it was what he valued most - his earthly possessions, which according to Mark he had plenty of. Sadly, he estimated the cost of following Jesus to be much too high and turned away disappointed. Jesus can see that the disciples are dumb-founded. They don’t get it. If a rich man is unable to enter the kingdom, then who is?
 
Jesus admits that it is not that easy to enter the kingdom. Not because God does not desire that we should all be there, but because we make it difficult to enter by holding tightly to the things of this world we value even more than the heavenly riches that await us. It has to do with choice.
 
It calls for a total divestment of any and all that would hinder one from doing so. To make his point, Jesus uses an old proverb. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
 
I never quite got the image of a camel trying to go through “the eye of the needle” until I was in Germany with Army several years ago. Among the various sights I visited were ancient medieval cities. They were built as fortresses for the most part with huge battlements and narrow entry gates.
 
On either side of the main gate were some small passageways that were made up of twists and turns and were short in height. They were intended to be defensive measures that would slow down an advancing enemy. Soldiers could only enter one at a time.
 
In order to do so they would have to drop whatever they were carrying, like shields, heavy armor, etc., anything that would prohibit their attempt to navigate the “eye of the needle,” as it is still called. In Jesus’ day, many of the cities in the region were also built with similar defensive measures.
 
The disciples get the message. It is impossible. They are well aware that a heavily laden camel cannot do it and now Jesus is saying that a rich man cannot do it. “Then who can be saved?” Jesus is not saying that Christians cannot hold property; the law of the kingdom is individual allegiance. What hinders that must be given up.
 
When it comes to the question of entering the kingdom, there are some of us who know we are not worthy to get into heaven. None of us is. Only by God’s grace will any of us obtain that goal. There are those, however, who like the rich young man who ran up to Jesus in today’s story and rattled off his religious report card, hope that is all they need to be guaranteed a seat at the heavenly banquet. Hope is the optimal word, for even he was not sure.
 
Obedience alone will not lead to salvation. The young man is a Jew, in whose heart riches are slowly dethroning God. In his case, the required cost of following Jesus was complete renunciation of all his worldly dependencies. In their place comes the acceptance of salvation as God’s gift in the form of Trust and Faith.
 
Alas, the value of his earthly possessions meant more to him than his spiritual aspirations. What Christ is trying to teach his followers is that to hold tightly to the things of this world which we deem valuable deadens one’s spiritual aspirations and desires and acts as a deterrent to discipleship.
 
Salvation is something that only the grace and power of God can accomplish. In this man’s case, the giving away of all his possessions is the least of Christ’ instructions to him - following Christ is a far greater challenge as it is to each of us.
 
After thinking about it for a moment, Peter speaks up and asks Jesus, “What about us? Lord, we have left everything and followed you.” Peter is claiming that he and the other disciples have done what the young man refused to do.
 
Jesus acknowledges their sacrifice with a promise. Those who have left everything for “my sake and the sake of the gospel” will receive their reward now and in the age to come will have eternal life. But remember, Jesus tells them, man’s values are not necessarily God’s.
 
Did the disciples finally understand? Do we? We can’t blame the disciples for being slow learners. They too, like all of us, were carrying lots of baggage as they traveled with Jesus. They learned as they continued to follow him what it meant to be a disciple.
 
Little by little, they began to give up their way of thinking about God and His kingdom and gradually began to see what Jesus was saying. In light of that revelation, they began to examine their own relationship to God. That is the way salvation comes to any of us.
 
Formal observation of the Commandments does not make one righteous before God. Think about it. If any of us were to run up to Jesus today and asked what we had to do in order to get into heaven would we be prepared for the answer?
 
Jesus saw in the young man great possibilities and gave to him the same call as he issued to Simon, Andrew, James and John and all the rest: “Come, follow me.” For he saw in each of them, as He sees in each of us, great possibilities.
 
However, if we hold tightly to earthly possessions we will not be able to open our hands to receive what God is offering. To be perfect one must be willing to sacrifice all to follow Jesus. In their place come the acceptance of salvation as God’s gift and with it the promise of Jesus of eternal life. AMEN+
 
 

 

 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christ Episcopal Church 2019 Stewardship Campaign

Breaking News October 14, 2018:  

...Pledge letters for 2019 have been mailed out.  (See copy of pledge letter below.)  If you do not receive a pledge letter and wish to, please contact Mrs. Brenda Funderburg at bfun@me.com

...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays,  October  21 and 28th.

...Diocesan Convention will be held in Pineville, Nov 3rd.  Sam & Faye will be attending for CEC.

...Ordination of seminarian Garrett Boyte (and others) to the transitional diaconate will be held at Saint James, Alexandria, Nov. 24th at 10am.

...The following is a copy of our 2019 pledge request  letter:

September 23, 2018
Dear Members and Congregational Family of Christ Episcopal Church, “Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.”  (Jude v2)
With this letter we begin our 2019 Stewardship Drive.  This letter also provides updates of what Christ Episcopal is doing and what we have planned for the remainder of 2018, 2019 and beyond.  Fortunately our operational budget is expected to remain near $60,000.  Our financial plans for 2019 include a Capital Campaign to raise funds for major projects, like painting the church.
With the giving of your time, talents, and financial assistance, Christ Episcopal presently offers:

1.      Holy Eucharist or Morning Prayer every Sunday.  With the leadership of The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley usually offering Holy Eucharist 3 to 4 Sundays a month and Mrs. Jane Barnett leading us in Morning Prayer on other Sundays.  Cecil Evans and Vickie Sanders lead us in music for our worship services.

2.      Financial and volunteer support to The Shepherd Center.  Jane also offers Morning Prayer each Wednesday at The Shepherd Center.  You should experience this Morning Prayer!

3.      Financial support to Nashotah House Theological Seminary, The School of Theology in the University of the South at Sewanee, and Camp Hardtner.

4.      The requested annual ‘giving’ to the Diocese.

5.      A meeting home for AA, community events and elementary age school tutoring.

The 2019 Stewardship Drive begins with this letter and will conclude with pledges returned in time for a Thanksgiving service on Sunday, November 18. Pledges from the Stewardship Drive are intended to cover our ‘operational costs’ that do not include additional projects like painting and repairing the exterior of the church.  We plan to complete the handicap access ramp in 2018 without the need of funds from the Capital Campaign; however, the Capital Campaign will be the major source for funding for the exterior repairs and painting of the church building.
Your time is as critical as your financial support.  We appreciate the service you provide whether it’s offering refreshments for fellowship time, cutting grass or other landscaping, volunteering to read during the service, serving on the vestry, leading us in our prayerful music, joining the Flower/Altar Guild, serving as lay person with Father Gregg; or, any other support you wish to join us in.  If there is an activity you would like to get involved with, just let us know.  We need your help.
To keep up to date of activities at Christ Episcopal Church, please go to our BlogSpot:

http://christepiscopalstjoe.blogspot.com/   and sign up to receive emails when the BlogSpot is updated. 
 
“…I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:18)  “….Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude v24)

 Yours in Christ,
 

     Sam Corson         Margaret Godfrey          Jane Barnett                    Cecil Evans                  Allein Watson
     Sr.  Warden         Jr. Warden                       Vestry Member               Vestry Member          Vestry Member

 
     The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley
     Priest in Residence
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
2019 Pledge for Christ Episcopal Church, Saint Joseph

Your pledge is greatly appreciated and enables us to provide for our church and community.  Please make your pledge as generous as possible.  Thank you!
NAME(s):_________________________________________

PLEDGE AMOUNT $:_________________ (weekly, monthly, yearly)

Please return your pledge by November 2, 2018.  You may return your pledge by placing this form in the collection plate, mailing it to our Treasurer, Mrs. Brenda Funderburg, 477 Miller Road, Waterproof, LA 71375, or email your pledge to Brenda at bfun@me.com

 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Father Riley's homily from September 30, 2018

 Breaking News:  

...Pledge letters for 2019 are being mailed out at this time.  If you do not receive a pledge letter and wish to, please contact Mrs. Brenda Funderburg at bfun@me.com

… Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer Sunday, October 7th.

 ...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays,  October 14, 21, and 28th.

...Diocesan Convention will be held in Pineville, Nov 3rd.  Sam & Faye will be attending for CEC.

...Ordination of seminarian Garrett Boyte (and others) to the transitional diaconate will be held at Saint James, Alexandria, Nov. 24th at 10am.

19 PENTECOST, PROPER XXI - B - 18                               MARK 9. 38-50



There are at least three sermons in today’s passage. It all begins with a dialogue between Jesus and the disciple John who raises the question of the legitimacy of an independent proclaimer of the gospel, that is, one who is outside the fellowship of the 12.

The question is whether or not they should be stopped. Jesus answers John’s objection with “Whoever is not against us is for us.” There is a sermon in that.

But the heart of today’s passage lies in the stern warning Jesus gives in regards to the difficulty and demands of discipleship. True discipleship calls for sacrifice, that is, anything that gets in our way of being a disciple must go. Jesus uses the foot, hand and eye to make his point.

The warning, however, comes in his reference to hell’s unquenchable fire.  Hell is the Greek word used by the New Testament writers for the final place, after death, for those who reject God. Gehenna is the Greek word for the valley of Hemmon that runs past the southwest corner of the old city of Jerusalem.

In ancient times it was as a place where children were sacrificed by fire to an idol. The idol and its practice were later abolished by Josiah. These inhumane practices gave the place a horrible character, and caused its name to be detested and used a figure for a place of torment. Later it was used as Jerusalem’s rubbish heap, smoldering perpetually; by Jesus’ day it had already become a metaphor for the fate, after death, of those who rejected God.

Thus in his warning, Jesus combines two meanings: he continually warns his contemporaries that unless they follow his way of the kingdom, his way of peace, they, together with the nation and its capitol city, were heading for literal physical destruction, in a great cataclysm that would reduce Jerusalem to a large-scale and horrifying extension of its own smoldering rubbish heap.

He draws on this larger theme to make the personal warning: don’t think that you can keep doing whatever you feel like. The kingdom is breaking in; sacrifices are required; to think otherwise is to risk total ruin. Those who are headed down the wrong road are headed for the rubbish heap, the opposite of life as God intends and away from the kingdom of God.

Jesus is in the process of teaching his chosen 12 what it means to be a disciple. Yet they still have both feet firmly planted in earthly thinking. Their idea of power and glory is based on what they know and what they have seen demonstrated around them by both the Romans and the Pharisees.

Recall last week’s passage where the 12 were arguing over who was the greatest, as if they had ignored, or did they, what Jesus had said for the second time about his being handed over into the hands of sinful men, that he would be killed and raised on the third day.

Not much, if anything, has changed over the centuries. Many would be followers of Jesus are still interested in what is in it for them. They live their lives believing that they can do or say whatever they wish and treat their neighbor in any manner in which they wish and all will be well in the end, that is, the gates of heaven will swing open to receive them and the angels will rejoice at their appearing.

However, Jesus’ warning in today’s passage is clear. Do not think that you can continue to do whatever you feel like. There is a cost to discipleship. Thomas Merton said it well in his “Seven Story Mountain.” “In order to become what God has created me to be I have to give up being what I want to be.” The kingdom is breaking in, as Jesus said, and sacrifices are required.

And they are different for each of us. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Today’s contemporary translations uses the word “stumble” in relation to what prevents us from being what God has created us to be. But the original translation is “sin.” Too often we want to shy away from that word as if the very idea does not exist at all.

Obviously, Jesus did not literally mean one should cut off one’s hand, one’s foot, or to pluck out one’s eye. What he meant was we are to give up, surrender, sacrifice whatever it is that tempts us and prevents us from entering the kingdom. It could be pride, or self-interests, or any number of other things that constitute sin, that is, our living the opposite life that God intends and in a direction that will take us away from the kingdom.

Many today write and speak as if the only purpose in following Jesus were to find complete personal fulfillment and satisfaction, to follow a way or a path of personal spirituality which will meet our felt needs.

The cross, however, turns that kind of thinking up-side down. There is no time or space for self-indulgent spiritualities that shirk the slightest personal cost. God’s love is free, but there is a cost of discipleship. It begins with the sacrifice of self, with a capitol s, in order to receive the love of God. In doing so we discover our true self and who and what it is God has created us to be and do.

Sermon three come at the end of the chapter and brings us back to the squabbling disciples.

Salt purifies, so does fire. The disciples are called, as we all are, to be the salt of the earth, but we must be aware of losing our particular flavor and so become worthless. It is easy to do. We do it by blending in with the crowd so that we are no longer distinguishable from those who believe and those who do not. It is a temptation that we are all faced with on a daily basis.

Finally, if we are to be true followers of the prince of peace we must learn to live at peace within ourselves. Looking at today’s passage in light of the previous week’s gospel readings it would appear that at this point in their following Jesus, the disciples had not yet learned the lesson. The question is, have we?