Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Father Riley's homily from 17 February, 2019 and CEC News Alerts

   CEC News Alerts!

…Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays Feb 24th, March 10, 17, 31.  We will have Morning Prayer March 3 and 24.   Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Ash Wednesday at noon, March 6, 2019.

…Start marking your calendars:    We will begin our Lenten early morning (9am) Sunday School with Father Riley March 10th.  The theme this year is to seek guidance from Father Riley on topics from the Bible and Prayer Book which we may not fully understand.   

6 EPIPHANY - C - 19                       LUKE 6. 17-26

Today’s gospel scene stands in mark contrast to last week’s where Peter, James and John were stunned by a late morning catch of fish from the Sea of Galilee. Even though it was the biggest catch they had ever made, or perhaps had ever seen, they left it on the beach and followed Him who had instructed them to cast their nets.

Here Jesus has been up on a mountain praying with his disciples around him. When he has finished his prayers, he chooses 12 from among those disciples present. These, including Peter, James and John, are to continue with him on his journey to Jerusalem and the cross.

After choosing his disciples, Jesus descends the mountain to a level place where a large crowd is waiting for him. The people just wanted to touch him and when they did he could feel the power go out of him. He heals all that were diseased, and cast out many demons.

Then he begins to deliver a homily that sounds very much like the Beatitudes from Matthew’s “sermon on the mount,” but with only four blessings instead of eight and with the addition of four woes, or warnings if you will. The crowd he was speaking to was a mixed one. It contained both Jews from Judea and Gentiles from Tyre and Sidon.

The “blessings” would sound familiar to the Jews who were present that day, as they reflect promises contained in many of the sayings of the Old Testament prophets. As they would have been received as good news to the Gentile listeners. However, the “blessings” are not to be understood as the qualifications necessary for admission to the kingdom of God.

Instead, they indicate the blessings, which the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ brings to the disciples, to whom the sayings are addressed, and the reversal of the existing order, which the kingdom involves. The idea of a reversal of the existing order would have been upsetting to the Jews and yet something that the Gentiles would have applauded whom heretofore saw themselves outside the reach of God’s love and mercy.

The woes are peculiar to Luke and are not addressed to the disciples but to those who reject the kingdom by rejecting Jesus. The ultimate rejection resulted in his being nailed to the cross. Jesus’ teachings fulfilled the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “The Lord tests the mind and searches the heart.”

We might say that Luke’s story is one that contrasts two expressions, or two directions of the heart. Jeremiah sets forth the two directions in terms of blessing or curse. “Cursed be the heart that turns from the Lord. Blessed be the heart that looks to the Lord in hope.”

The four promises and four woes are presented in terms of Israel’s great scriptural codes in the book of Deuteronomy. Here there were long lists of “blessings” for those who obeyed the law, and “curses” for those who did not. These formed part of the charter, the covenant, the binding agreement between God and Israel.

Now with the renewed Israel formed around him, Jesus gave his own version of the same thing. And a radical version it is. It is an up side down code, or perhaps Jesus might add, a right-way up code instead of the up side down one people have been following. God is doing something new, as Jesus emphasized in the synagogue at Nazareth.

Did the disciples understand what Jesus was saying? If not then, they eventually would. Did the crowd understand that Jesus was leveling the playing field for all who would put their trust in Him? Probably not. Do we?

Why is the heart so important? Throughout the scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, the heart is the key to understanding and responding to God who is love. God can be in our mind (thoughts) and on our lips, but if He is not in our hearts, we deceive ourselves in believing that we are united to Him.

“Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16.7).  The word of God addressed to the heart demands action. In order for conversion to take place, that is choosing to take the path to God, one must first hear the Word.

Not all do. Not all did that day at the foot of the mountain. As Jeremiah says, there are two directions of the heart: one towards God and the other away from him. Living the Word in deed is a blessing. It is a means of being united with God. Whereas refusal or rejection of the Word is a denial of God’s commandments, a denial Jesus warns against.

The woes here are not merely of sorrow, but a warning that those who prize the vices listed here are liable to the utmost misery. As Jeremiah says: “The Lord tests the mind, and searches the heart to give to all according to their wages, according to the fruits of their doings.”

Why, then, would one not chose the promises over the warnings? That is a good question.

The answer can only be that they have not truly heard the Word of God. The Word of God has not resonated with them. Thus, their heart has not been moved to conversion. They have not been convicted of their sin. There is no contrition, no sorrow for their sin. Their heart does not belong to God.

They prefer instead to live their lives up side down or we might say at cross-purposes to God’s right-way up. Life is in the here and now and they mean to make the best of it. Their hope, if you will, is in something other than God in Christ and the power of His resurrection.

Contrast that with the assurances of St. Paul that Jesus Christ risen from the dead is our Hope, our Blessing, and our way to the kingdom. Those who hear His words and take them to heart are the ones who are truly blessed in this life and in the life to come. AMEN+

Monday, February 11, 2019

Father Riley's homily from February 10, 2019 ..and News Updates

…Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays Feb 17 & 24th. 

…Start marking your calendars:  Father Riley will be with us for Ash Wednesday service at noon March 6, 2019.  We will begin our Lenten early morning Sunday School with Father Riley March 10th.  The theme this year is to seek guidance from Father Riley on topics from the Bible and Prayer Book which we may not fully understand.   

5 EPIPHANY - C - 19                        LUKE 5. 1-11

If you have been to the region of Galilee and stood on the shore of the sea, you have seen the many little inlets that dot the shoreline that serve as mini

amphitheaters. Today if you get in a boat and push out a bit from the shore, you can talk in a quite a natural voice, and anyone on the slopes of the inlet can hear you clearly  - more clearly in fact than if you were right there on the shore with them.

Luke says that is exactly what Jesus did. Other wise the crowd would not have been able to hear him. He enlisted Peter to take him out in his boat away from the shore so the crowds could indeed hear him speak the word of God. When He had finished teaching, Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Peter and the other fishermen had toiled all night and caught nothing. They had just finished washing their nets and putting them away. It was not a rational thing to do to put them out again. Yet there was something about Jesus’ command that caused Peter to comply.

Too Peter’s surprise and the surprise of the other fishermen, their nets suddenly became full of fish to the point of breaking. Peter called for help. It took two boats and their crews to make the haul to the shore before they were swamped by the weight of the catch.

In last week’s Old Testament lesson, we heard the call of young Jeremiah. When God called him, he said he was unworthy to respond due to his youthfulness. God touched his mouth with his hand and made Jeremiah worthy to answer the call and to speak for God.

In today’s Old Testament lesson, we have the call of Isaiah. He too felt his unworthiness and confessed it before the Lord. Again, God made him worthy by cleansing his lips with a live coal from the altar. Upon witnessing the miraculous catch of fish, Peter falls down at Jesus’ knees and confesses his sinfulness.

Jesus tells him to not be afraid from henceforth, he will be catching men. What was Peter afraid of? Simon’s fear was a natural one. Upon witnessing the miracle, he realized he was in the presence of divine power in the person of Jesus Christ and was unworthy to be there.

He confesses his sinfulness and is made worthy as evidenced by Jesus’ pronouncement that from now on he will be catching men, meaning he will join Jesus in His mission of bringing God to man and man to God. “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him."

What about the fish? Don’t you think that Peter, astounded by nets bursting with fish, entertained the potential of such a catch? Fish were his business. Suddenly there were more than he ever imagined. Selling would be easier than ever. If Jesus could do it once, couldn’t he do it again?

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to Peter, who grasped at his knees, fearful of the power behind the huge catch of fish. Yet, he, James, and John left everything, including the tremendous catch of fish on the beach, and followed him.

We too follow, but not with the same abandon. The world we live in today contains just as many distractions. Too often, we cling tightly to what seems important to us in this life without regard to the next. Peter, James and John left the sea behind. It was their chosen vocation. The only life they knew. In following Jesus, however, they found their true vocation.

The deep yielded more from the water than a great shoal of fish that day. It yielded the power of Him who died and rose again and these would be disciples realized the power of God at work in Him, perhaps according to Luke, for the first time. Others have not.

We were all buried with Christ and raised to new life with Him through the waters of Holy Baptism. Yet, many Christians still cling to the font and are afraid to venture out to do the work we have been given to do. They have not left everything behind as the disciples did. They do not follow with the same abandonment.

What about the fish, we say. That is, what is it we are afraid of leaving behind? What it is we continue to cling to and are afraid to sacrifice in order to follow Jesus more fully? Our fish comes in different sizes and shapes: power, prestige, wealth, all are tied to self and selfish interests. It is the life we know and are most comfortable with. Yet, it is not our true vocation.

The very idea that Jesus has invited us to participate in his divine mission causes some to become fearful. If it is the same kind of fear Peter possessed at the moment he grasped Jesus’ knees, and confessed his sinfulness, then it is a natural fear brought to light by the presence of God that causes one to realize his or her unworthiness.

On the other hand, if it is the kind of fear that causes one to dread God finding us out, as if he cannot, then it is a fear of retribution. If it is a fear, that if we commit ourselves to Him, as the disciples did with abandon, it will lead us into the unknown then it is a fear that will keep us from following him.

Either way it is a fear that will prevent us from accepting God’s grace that makes us worthy to stand before him; a fear that will result in our failure to discover our true vocation, and a fear that will keep us clinging to the font.

If we are to discover and fulfill our true vocation, we have to forget about the fish, whatever that may be, and leave them behind as Peter, James and John did. We have to acknowledge the fact that none of us is worthy. We have to realize that we have nothing that is truly ours to offer God in exchange for His love, except our own sinfulness.

If we offer it to Him, in all humility, He will absolve us with His grace and make us worthy to receive the liberty of that abundant life which He has made known to us in His Son, Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  His Love will teach us to trust in Him. His Holy Spirit will lead us in the paths He has chosen for us to walk in. Our faith will sustain us when the world’s distractions call out to us.

We are reading and listening to Luke’s gospel today because Jesus kept his promise to Peter. When Jesus calls, he certainly does demand everything, but only because he has already given everything. “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”

May God give us the grace and strength to follow their example of leaving the fish behind and following Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, even Jesus Christ, Our Lord. AMEN+

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Father Riley's sermon from Christ Church, Bastrop February 3, 2019

…Mrs. Jane Barnett led us in Morning Prayer Sunday February 3rd and Father Riley will return to lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays Feb 10, 17; 24th.  Father Gregg was in Christ Church, Bastrop this Sunday.

…The new Forward Day by Day daily devotion booklets  for February, March; April are in the church, please take one.

4 EPIPHANY - C - 19                                 LUKE 4. 21-30

We heard in last week’s gospel that Jesus had returned to his own hometown, Nazareth. That is where our gospel reading picks up today. It was his custom to attend synagogue worship. Lest we forget, Jesus was a practicing Jew.

His reputation as a teacher and healer had preceded him. For he had already made the rounds of the synagogues in the region of the Galilee. Now he was back home among those who knew him, knew his foster-father, Joseph, and had watched him grow up.

He was chosen to read the lesson for the day. He stood up and opened the sacred scroll to the prophet Isaiah. It was a passage concerning the Messiah. After reading the prophecy, he sat down and commented, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

At first those who had known him from his youth spoke well of him. That is, until Jesus alienated them by reciting two ancient parables, and in addition by the use of two illustrations from scripture that magnified the extension of God’s love and mercy beyond the boundaries of Israel to include the Gentiles.

How quickly the accolades turned into a violent action. “They got up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” Why did Jesus chose to do that? Why did the locals react they way they did?

Part of their reaction was because Jesus did not do any miracles there. He could see that what they wanted from him was a “sign,” something like what they had heard he had done in Galilee. However, the main reason they drove him out and threatened him with violence was his use of scripture that he had learned in that very synagogue, and that they knew equally as well, that pointed to the fact that their image of God was skewed in one direction only, theirs.

In that, he was accusing them of failing in their God-given mission to be the light of the world, a light that would reflect the love and mercy of God to all nations including the Gentiles. Could it be, then, that in Jesus’ words the people finally heard what the prophet was saying, and in addition realized what God in Christ was doing?

It was not what they wanted to hear, or even to think about. Jesus’ sermon after the sermon, if you will, was not meant to alienate them, but rather to challenge the people of Israel to turn away from their self-centered approach to God and recommit themselves to carrying out the mission God had given them as His chosen people.

Thus, Jesus is rejected at Nazareth. It was a foreshadowing of his rejection by his own people that will lead to his death on the cross. As far as we know, Jesus never returned to his boyhood home. His escape, however, made possible a mission elsewhere just as his resurrection will make possible a mission to the world.

Can we see ourselves in this picture? Do we not speak well of God, and of His Son, Jesus? Do we not marvel at the things Christ said and the things he has done? Yet, are there not those times when we reject what we know God to be about because we disagree with the extent of God’s love and mercy.

Do we not dig in both heels, especially in those situations where we know God is leading us to do what we feel may take us out of our comfort zone? Jesus is all about change.

He came first to God’s chosen people, Israel to challenge them to re-commit themselves to the divine mission that was theirs. He would not let them stay the same. That is, thinking and acting as if God belonged to them and not the other way around.

Their image of God was slanted in their direction and away from all others. God’s love and mercy belonged to them, so they thought. When Messiah came, he would come to rescue Israel and not the world. They were wrong.

Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus offering his own people a new way of approaching God - as Father. He offered them a new concept of God’s kingdom, one that can be realized here on earth as it already is in heaven. He taught them a new understanding of God’s love and mercy that extends beyond the boundaries they had set to include all people.

Jesus’ call to us is always for us to come away from where he finds us, to leave behind whatever it is that keeps us from following Him. Matthew left his tax table. James and John, Peter and Andrew left their nets and the only life they had ever known and followed him.

The blind man on the road to Jerusalem got up out of the dust threw off his dirty cloak and once his eyes were opened, he saw Jesus. Although he was now free to go anywhere, instead, he chose to follow Jesus.

As there are many examples of individuals who readily answered the call of Jesus to come and follow him, there are also many examples of those who wanted to remain where they where or who made excuses why they could not readily respond. The rich young man stands out, as does the one who wished to go back and say goodbye to his family. Then there was the one who said he had to go to a funeral first before he could accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him.

If we are honest, we can see something of our self in those who crowed into the synagogue at Nazareth who thought they knew Jesus. At first attracted to him. Yet the more we know about him and why he has come into our world and into our lives, the more we reject him, whether we realize it or not, by what we say and do, because it is not what we want to hear, or the image of God we wish to see. All of which serves to point to the fact that our view of God can be narrow at times, especially when we cling to our own self-interests that keep us well within the bounds of our own comfort zones.

Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. This is true. However, God’s love for us in Christ Jesus is a love that calls us to come up higher to a deeper knowledge and understanding of God. His love and mercy goes beyond any and all of our human boundaries real or imagined. For God’s Love knows no bounds and the Cross and the empty tomb are the proof. AMEN+

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Father Riley's homily from January 27, 2019

…Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer Sunday February 3rd and Father Riley will return to lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays Feb 10, 17; 24th. 

…The new Forward Day by Day daily devotion booklets  for February, March; April are in the church, please take one.

3 EPIPHANY - C - 19                    LUKE 4. 14-21

“Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, returned to Galilee…”

Jesus has just returned from the wilderness where he was preparing for his earthly ministry. There he was tempted by Satan to use his divine powers to meet his own needs and to bow down to Satan and worship him.

Jesus countered every temptation with the truth and power of Holy Scripture. Satan, on the other hand, vainly tried to use scripture to tempt Jesus, but understands neither their truth nor their power. Without true understanding knowing and quoting scripture is worthless.

Jesus returns in the power of the Spirit he received at baptism. The Spirit of God becomes the ruling force in his ministry. Jesus was a practicing Jew and synagogue worship was his custom. Thus, he begins his ministry by teaching in the local synagogues and the people are amazed at his teaching.

After making the rounds of the synagogues in Galilee, Jesus returns to his hometown, Nazareth and attends synagogue worship with those who know him. His fame as a teacher and a healer preceded him. It was the custom that a layperson should read from the scriptures. Jesus stands up to read and is handed the scroll. He opens it to Isaiah’s prophecy of messiah.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

It was also the custom that after sitting down the reader would comment on the passage. Jesus does so, but his comment is not what the people expected. “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. “

Some were offended and others were completely in the dark as to the meaning of his interpretation. Jesus understands his ministry as fulfilling the ancient prophecy. The people do not.

How is it we know about God? I mean really know who God is and what our relationship to Him is to be.

We can be introduced to God and His Son, Jesus, through other people. That is, we can be told about God. Like the Samaritans who believed what the woman at the well told them about Jesus, we too can learn something of Him through the witness of others.

However, they took her word only so far. They sought him out for themselves and through their personal encounter with the Living Word; they were moved to a deeper belief in Him based on their own conviction.

We don’t have the luxury of sitting at his feet, as Mary did, listening to his teaching, while her sister Martha worked in the kitchen. What we have as a primary source of information about God and His Son, Jesus, is the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. Which as the catechism teaches, “contain all things necessary for our salvation.”

We can come to know whom God is by reading and studying the Word of God written. That includes the Old Testament - the Bible of Jesus. He quoted the Psalms. He quoted from the prophets and he quoted from the Torah (the first 5 books.) He was raised in the synagogue. He practiced his religion. He knew the word of God.

In knowing God, he understood the divine mission he had been given. In knowing the Word of God, he defeated Satan in the wilderness whose aim was to derail his mission. In knowing and being able to interpret the Word of God to the people, he was able to teach them how to live as God intended, not only in relationship to Him, but also in relationship to one another. (The Ten Commandments.)

In today’s first lesson the priest, Ezra “read from the book, from the law of God, from morning to mid day, with interpretation. He gave sense to the word, so that the people understood the reading.”

In the time of Ezra, the Spirit of God had not yet been given to the people. God lent His Spirit to those whom he had chosen to speak for him at a particular time and place. 

At his baptism, Jesus received the Holy Spirit; the same Spirit that lead him into the wilderness. The same Spirit gave him the wisdom and strength to defeat Satan. This same Spirit filled him with power as he began his ministry by teaching in the local synagogues.

Moreover, it was this same Spirit that Christ gave to the church at Pentecost. His own first gift for those who believed, that empowered the disciples to continue the mission Jesus began of bringing God to man and man to God.

We receive this same Spirit at our baptisms. The Spirit of God has been given to us so that we might come to understand who God really is. To know who Jesus really is and what our relationship to Him and our relationship to one another are meant to be.

We learn this through the reading and meditating on his God’s Holy Word, written, and through our personal encounters with the Word made flesh, Jesus, His Son. Whom we can encounter in the face of friend and stranger. Whom we encounter in a very special way in the sacrament of His Body and Blood.

To be grounded in scripture is the means for us to know God and his plan for us and to see Jesus for who he really is - the Savior and Redeemer of the world. It is the Spirit of God that will lead us to this knowledge and understanding.

A knowledge and understanding that will enable us to resist the temptations of the enemy to turn us away from God. A knowledge and understanding that will enable us to maintain our Faith in those times that test our and love and trust in God.

Genesis to Revelation is a continuing story of our salvation. It introduces us to the true nature of God - Love, and His love made manifest in his son, Jesus, who by the merits of His life, death and resurrection have opened to us the way to eternal life - the pledge and the Hope of our calling. AMEN+

Monday, January 21, 2019

Father Riley's homily from January 20, 2019

2 EPIPHANY - C - 19                           JOHN 2. 1-11

One of the marks of wisdom in old age is that you recall things once said when you were younger that you discover were true. For example, I have often found myself agreeing with the words of my homiletics professor who made the oft repeated statement that it is the more familiar passages of scripture that are the most difficult to preach on.

Today’s gospel is a good example. Even the un-churched are familiar with Jesus having changed the water into wine. What are we to make of it?

John’s gospel is often called the book of “signs.” In it, he uses seven different “signs” or miracles to make his case concerning the divinity of Christ. The miracle at the wedding feast in Cana is the first so-called “sign” Jesus performed, and according to John, “it manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”

That part we can easily understand. For who would not have been impressed, if not awed if we had been there and witnessed such a miracle. The servants and the wine steward were certainly awed and the bridegroom, no doubt left speechless when made aware of it.

Although we do not hear from them, one would imagine the guests were happy as the celebration continued without interruption. Perhaps they were totally oblivious to the fact that the wine had run out in the first place and of the miracle, Jesus performed.

Jesus’ ability to change water into wine revealed his divinity, his glory, as John would say. His disciples got the message even if no one else attending the wedding feast did. No one, save his mother, expected him to be able to do such a thing.

Even Mary did not know what he was going to do but simply told the servants to do whatever he said. She was confident, however, that he could and would do something. She did not feel rebuked by Jesus’ response, but remained expectant.

An interesting side note. Mary only appears twice in John’s gospel, here and at the foot of the cross. In both cases, her name is not used. Jesus simply refers to her as “woman.”

What Jesus did at the wedding feast in Cana was not in response to Mary’s announcement that they had run out of wine, for his “hour” as John refers to it, had not yet come. The hour of Jesus’ full disclosure was to be determined by God, not by Mary’s desire or by the prompting of any other human being for that matter.

The miracle at the wedding feast in Cana was the beginning of the journey to the cross - the final manifestation of His glory.

The setting here is significant. In the Old Testament, marriage feasts symbolized the union of God with his bride, Israel, as alluded to by Isaiah in our first lesson. That this took place “on the third day” set a resurrectional tone. The day that is the sign to which all-preceding signs point and the climax of the gospel.

John uses the term “sign” to show that these miraculous actions point beyond themselves to the truth that the Kingdom of God has come among us in the Person of Jesus Christ. In addition to “signs”, John’s gospel is filled with symbols and contrasts. In this passage, wine is symbolic of life.

The six stone jars (one less than the perfect number 7) indicate the Law, illustrated by the water being reserved for the Jewish rites of purification. However, both the Law and the rite were incomplete, imperfect, and unable to bestow life.

The water being changed into wine, symbolized the old covenant being fulfilled in the new, which is capable of bestowing life. The over abundance, of the gallons of wine illustrates the overflowing grace Christ grants to all.

The disciples believed in him after witnessing the “sign” Jesus performed but not all do.

What is the value of faith based on miracles? The miracles are not in themselves the gospel, as it were, but miniatures in which it is represented; and by such signs, some may be brought to faith in the full significance of Jesus and his work.

N.T. Wright in his commentary on John, states that the whole point of the “signs” is that they are moments when heaven and earth intersect with each other. They point away from earth to a heavenly reality. It is all about transformation, the different dimension of reality that comes into being when Jesus is present.

It takes a miracle for some to believe. Their faith in Jesus as Son of God comes through what they see him do. For others the opposite is true. If you have faith, Jesus says in another place, you can move mountains. There is value in both cases.

Yet there are still others, it would seem, that no matter what God has done or is now doing in their lives to bring them to fullness, they fail to recognize and acknowledge the presence of Jesus. They continue to live from day to day believing that whatever happens for their benefit is somehow due to their own efforts or by chance.

The guests, for the most, were unaware of what had taken place as the celebration continued without interruption. The servants who filled the jars with water, and the steward who drew out the best wine and brought it to the bridegroom were obviously surprised, if not awed. As for the bridegroom, he remained silent and accepted the praise offered by the steward. All the while Jesus went unacknowledged, save by his mother and the disciples.

Of all the characters presented in today’s gospel, it is the mother of Jesus, and the disciples, whose example we should follow in our relationship to Christ. Mary expected Jesus to do something to rectify the situation so that the celebration might continue. Upon their witnessing Jesus’ power to transform, the disciples believed in Him and continued to follow him.

The transformation from water to wine signifies the effect that Jesus can have on people’s lives. He came, as he said in another place, that we might have life in its fullness. It is all about transformation, the different dimension of reality that comes into being when Jesus is present, and the new life that is ours when we make ourselves present to Him. AMEN+


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Breaking News from Christ Episcopal Church

...Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays, Jan 20 and 27.  

...We will have our annual congregational meeting Sunday, Jan 20 after our service.

Ok.  Let's not follow the example above; but, we would love to have as many of you attend our annual meeting as possible.  We will be approving the 2019 budget and electing the 2019 vestry.  It has been a busy 2018 and we have much planned for 2019 and beyond.  THANKS TO YOU,  we had a very successful 2019 Stewardship Drive and our Capital Campaign has already started receiving funding to add to the diocesan grant.  We started the ramp to the entrance of the church and should have the railing fabricated and installed soon.  More information will be available at our annual meeting. Please join us for more news!  Peace be with you all, Sam Corson (Senior Warden)

Excerpt from The Forward Day by Day from Monday, January 14:
"Regardless of how you came to faith, prayerfully ponder the mystery that God specifically loves you.  Whatever you have done or left undone, Jesus' love redeems you completely and entirely.  Thanks be to God."

Friday, January 11, 2019

Father Riley's sermon from January 6, 2019

 …Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer Sunday at 10am January 13th.  We will have a vestry meeting following fellowship this Sunday.

...Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays, Jan 20 and 27.  

...We will have our annual congregational meeting Sunday, Jan 20 after our service.

THE EPIPHANY - C - 19       MATTHEW 2. 1-12

One of my seminary classmates recently posted on face book; yes, I confess I look at it occasionally, that they were traveling from Kansas City to Lexington, Kentucky on Christmas Day to visit family. In their post they lamented over the traffic, the stops and goes, and the minor difficulties they were encountering on their journey.

My friend’s wife concluded their post by raising the question “I wonder what difficulties the wise men must have encountered on their way to visit the Christ-child?” My response was “they did not have any holiday traffic.”

Today the majority of Christendom celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, or as it is sometimes called, The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. These Gentile wise men prefigure the church, in which membership is determined by faith and not by ethnic lineage.

It was the Jewish shepherds who were the first to visit the Christ-child, as the good news of the Savior’s birth came first to God’s chosen people, Israel. The Gentile Magi came to worship him sometime later, after he had been circumcised on the 8th day.

The Christ-child, then, traveled from Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem and back to the city of David before the visitors from the East discovered him. He was right under Herod’s nose during his visit to the Temple without being recognized by the authorities.

Today’s story is unique to Matthew. In it he tells us that it was a star that caught the wise men’s attention that something extraordinary had occurred. To ancient pagans a star signified a god, a deified king (Num. 24.17) Christ being born under a star fulfils the prophecy in Psalm 109.3 and shows all of creation participating in the Incarnation. (Ps 18.2; 148.3)

It was this star that the wise men followed to Jerusalem. Once there they inquired, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” We know from St. Luke’s account of the birth of Christ that he was born in Bethlehem of Judea. Thus, it is safe to say that those in Jerusalem were ignorant of his birth and were amazed at the wise men’s inquiry. No doubt, their presence and their question concerning the Savior’s birth soon reached the ears of an insecure King Herod.

Herod had to summon the Jewish leaders for he knew little about the Jewish Messiah and he feared losing his throne to this newborn king. He called in the Jewish experts to ask where this child was to be born. When he had gathered the information he desired he summoned the wise men and asked what time the star appeared.

His inquiry was not a noble one, however, as attested to by his slaughter of the holy innocents after the wise men had returned to their own home without revealing the child’s whereabouts to him. It was the star that led the wise men to the house where the Holy Family was staying.

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.”

The significance of their gifts is revealed in an ancient hymn: “Gold is for the king of ages. Frankincense is for the God of all. Myrrh is offered to the Immortal One.” The star led them to the Christ-child. God’s warning led them away from Herod. Being obedient they returned to their own home.

The star was no longer visible after the wise men’s visit. Thus, Herod was unable to find the newborn king. Luke gives us the birth story with the shepherds being the first to visit the Christ-child. Matthew gives us the story of a later visit of the Magi. Together they confirm the angels’ message: “good news of a great joy has come to all.”

Jesus’ birth was celebrated by creation and witnessed by Jew and Gentile alike. He is the Savior of the world. Today we who follow Him have no star to lead us to Christ. Instead, God has given us the gift of Faith.

We don’t know what difficulties the wise men may have encountered in their search for the Christ-child. We do know ours. They were determined to find him, who was born king of the Jews. They were relentless in their search. They followed God’s lead until they reached the place where he lay. There they worshipped him and offered him their gifts. Then, being obedient to God’s warning, they returned to their own home.

I can only imagine, like the shepherds, they revealed with great joy what they had seen once they were safely out of the reach of Herod. It was part of God’ plan that these Gentiles see him. Only to Herod were they told not to reveal his presence.

Epiphany is a season of revealing or making known, of stars and light, of dreams come true, of promises fulfilled. To us a child has been born. In Him, God’s plan of salvation has been revealed. In Him, we discover who we are and the role God has given us in making Him known.

The wise men showed determination in finding him. They were relentless in their search. They followed God’s lead and were obedient to His will. In this well-known story, oft repeated in song, we are given examples of how we too can follow Him.

God gives us the gift of Faith and His grace to overcome our human weaknesses in order to do so. God’s Love given to us through Christ enables us to discover and recognize Him wherever we are and in the face of whomever we meet along the way, whether friend or stranger.

The difficulties we will face in our journey to God are common to all. There will be trails and temptations, pain and suffering, times of peace as well as joy. The wise men knew the object of their search and were determined to find Him. Pray God, following their example, we too will have the resolve; come what may, to continue our journey to God.

To discover along the pathway of life Christ’ presence wherever we are, and rejoice in our role of making him known. To worship Him by offering the only true gift we have to offer, the gift of self, and in all humility accept God’s gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love that identify us as belonging to Him.

For we too, like the Magi, know the object of our life-long journey and the promise of God that awaits all the Faithful at its end - eternal life in Him who has come to bring Life and Light to the world, even JCOL. AMEN+