Wednesday, October 23, 2019

CEC News and Father Riley's homily from October 20, 2019

CEC News

  Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer October 27.

… Father Riley will return for the first 3 Sundays in November and we will celebrate All Saints Day November 3rd.  Forms to list names of ones you wish remembered are available in the church and will be distributed again as needed Oct 27.   Please return the forms by Oct 27th.  You may also email your list of names to:

Sam at or Cecil at

… Heads Up! Daylight Savings Time ends November 3rd.  Turn your clocks back one hour, sleep late, or get to church too early.

… It’s is time for our annual giving campaign.  Pledge letters and cards will be mailed out soon.  And, our Episcopal church’s national Annual Appeal has begun. Please check out their website at:

… The Rt. Rev. Bishop Jacob “Jake” W.  Owensby will visit us on Sunday, December 8th to celebrate with us.  A pot-luck luncheon is planned for all to attend.  More news later.

19 PENTECOST, PROPER XXIV - C - 19                  LUKE 18.1-8

There are very few things that I care about watching on TV these days, and a lot more that I do not care about watching at all. One of those is Judge Judy. One time was enough for me. In her courtroom, there are no attorneys present, only the defendant and the plaintiff, and a TV audience.

The judge is sole ruler who finds in favor of either the defendant or the plaintiff at the end of hearing the case. Thus, it was in ancient Jewish law courts, all cases were brought before the judge.

If someone had stolen from you, you had to bring a charge against them; you could not go to the police to do it for you. If someone had murdered a relative of yours, the same would be true. Therefore, every legal case in Jesus’ day was a matter of a judge deciding to vindicate one party or the other. His decision was final.

In today’s gospel passage, Luke gives us yet another of Jesus’ parables this one has to do with faith, prayer, and the true nature of God. There was a widow; Jesus told them that had been wronged. She did what the law required. She took her case to the local judge. She wanted justice.

However, at first the judge refused to hear her complaint. Never the less she persisted. She was relentless in her pursuit of justice. The judge got tired of her pestering him about her case, so he relented, and granted her justice simply in order to get rid of her.

The point in Jesus’ telling this parable is made perfectly clear. He contrasts the unjust judge who feared neither God nor man with the true justice of God. “…And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.”

Christ concludes the parable by contrasting the persistence of the widow in her asking with that of our faith and asks whether he will find such faith when He comes again. That is a good question.

The idea of persistence runs through all three of today’s readings as well as the collect. In today’s first lesson, Jacob wrestled with God. He was persistent in his request for a blessing and was not willing to give up the match until his request was granted him.

The one he wrestled with blessed him and changed his name from Jacob to Israel for he prevailed in his persistence. In today’s Epistle Paul continues to encourage young Timothy who is just beginning his ministry and is facing opposition and the temptation to throw in the prayer shawl.

Don’t quit, Paul tells him, do not give up, rather “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed…be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable…endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.”

The question is can we hold out? We must be persistent in prayer, in making our requests known to God and in seeking His grace to endure the present time. Faith is the requisite for persistent prayer. We can liken the widow’s persistence in her asking of the judge to vindicate her to our prayer life, as Jesus did at the conclusion of the gospel reading this morning.

She did not despair. She kept on until her request was granted, as did Jacob in his wrestling with God. What does it mean that God is longsuffering? He watches triumphant evil and yet in the eyes of some, he does not act. However, scripture teaches us otherwise.

He waits, either until the occasion is ripe, or to give the offender time to repent. God’s ways are not our ways. He does not always respond on our timetable. Wrongs are not easily righted. How long, then, must we ask? How long did Jacob wrestle with God before he received God’s blessing?

The promise that God will act to vindicate the elect was understood by the early church to be fulfilled in the events at the conclusion of the gospel itself. Moreover, the response of God to the wrongs of the world, the injustices, the evil, and the inhumanity to man was given at the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus once and for all.

If it were not for our persisting in our faith and belief that Jesus died and rose again, we could easily look at the world around us and say, there is no justice, no real justice. If there were, God would act to rectify and vindicate all who are oppressed, all who are suffering, and all who are in need. Our faith is always on trial.

When I feel like God is not listening to my prayers or is not paying attention to what is going on in the world around us, I look to the cross, not the empty cross, but one which has the dying body of Jesus nailed to it. There is not a room in my house that does not contain a crucifix.

I need to remind myself that there is nothing in this life that I can or will go though that compares to what He went through so that I might have life and have it more abundantly. The crucifix reminds me of that.

We must not despair. We must remain persistent in our prayers for those in need, for the world in which we live, for steadfastness in our faith and belief that God will act. So that when Jesus comes again he will find in us that kind of Faith is he looking for.

We gather together each week at God’s altar to remember that God has acted in response to all of our human suffering and need. We hear His promise in the readings from Holy Scripture. We share in His promise of new life in the sacrament of Christ’ Body and Blood.

When I hold His Body in my hand and take the cup that contains His most precious Blood to my lips, I do so in Faith, in the knowledge and belief that God’s promise is real, even when it does not appear to be effective in the world today.

The blessing of God in the midst of our fear is the resurrection. One might say that is a bold statement to make, especially in the face of so much that is wrong with and in our world today.

However, the ground for our boldness is this: by the merits of Christ’ death and resurrection we have been given the means of grace to persevere in our faith and the hope of glory that when He shall come again, he may find in us a mansion prepared for Himself. AMEN+

Monday, October 14, 2019

CEC News Flash and Father Riley's homily for October 13, 2019

CEC News

  Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist October 20.  Vestry meeting October 20th after fellowship.  Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer October 27.

… We will celebrate All Saints Day November 3rd.  Forms to list names of ones you wish remembered will be available October 20th.  Please return the forms by Oct 27th.

…Heads Up! Daylight Savings Time ends November 3rd.  Turn your clocks back one hour, sleep late, or get to church too early.

…It’s is time for our annual giving campaign.  Pledge letters and cards will be mailed out soon.

…The Rt. Rev. Bishop Jacob “Jake” W.  Owensby will visit us on Sunday, December 8th to celebrate with us.  A pot-luck luncheon is planned for all to attend.  More news later.

18 PENTECOST, PROPER XXIII - C- 19              LUKE 17. 11-19

I venture to say that none of us here this morning have ever seen or been near a leper. It was a most dreaded disease in ancient times and still is in certain parts of the world today. Two to three million people worldwide suffer from the disease. India has the greatest number of cases reported.

Until 1999, when it closed its doors, the one and only in-patient hospital in the U.S for the treatment of leprosy, or Hansen’s disease was located in Carville, Louisiana, some sixteen miles south of Baton Rogue. At one time, some 400 patients were in residence.

Lepers in the time of Jesus were social outcasts. There were not allowed in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Instead they banded together in small villages and were accepted there as long as they kept there distance.

Upon meeting another person, they were required to cover their mouth with the back of their hand and at a safe distance shout “unclean” as a warning to those approaching that they were lepers.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He passes through a small village in the region between Samaria and Galilee. Ten lepers approach him and instead of making the required announcement they called out saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Luke does not tell us how they were able to recognize Jesus just that they did. Perhaps they had seen him from a distance in another location and witnessed his power to heal. Jesus does not touch them. He simply directs them to go and show themselves to the priests in Jerusalem.

As they go, they discover that their leprosy is cured. One returns to Jesus praising God and falling at Jesus’ feet giving thanks. Jesus sends him on his way. His faith has made him well. He was a Samaritan.

What of the other nine? The nine were Jews and followed Jesus’ direction. The priests were the only ones according to the Mosaic Law that could pronounce one clean and thus re-admit that person back into society.

The Samaritan could not go to Jerusalem. He could not show himself to a priest. Instead, he returned to the one whom he knew had somehow healed him and made him whole again. He was not afraid to humble himself at the feet of Jesus and gave thanks to God.

The things that separate us in this life go by the boards when a crisis strikes that is common to all of us - a 9-11, a flood, a storm, a fire, a mass shooting. Ten lepers approached Jesus. They banded together regardless of their race, culture or religion. The things that would normally have kept them apart were no longer relevant as they shared their common condition.

One was a Samaritan whose religion alone would have prevented his associating with Jews and them with him. Jesus’ sending them to the priests was a kind of test. Jesus had spoken no word of healing. He had not laid his hands upon them. He had said nothing to them about faith. He simply told them to go, and they went.

Their going was a test of their faith, as were the words of the prophet Elisah to the Syrian leper, Naaman, in today’s first lesson. The nine Jews take it as a matter of course that they have to show themselves to the priests. They did not come back. After all, Jesus did not do anything so why should they return to give him thanks. They were cured. That was enough.

They showed themselves to the priests as the law required. They were pronounced clean and were accepted back into society. They went home to their families and friends and that was that.

They simply resumed the life they had lived before contracting the dreaded disease without giving their healing a second thought. Which is more surprising: the fact that one person came back, praised God, and fell at Jesus’ feet? Or the fact that nine did not?

There are times when we, as Christians are no better than the nine. We fail to thank God ‘always and for everything,’ as Paul puts it in Ephesians 5.20. Likewise, there are those times when God tells us what we need to do to be healed, restored and forgiven and yet like Naaman, we balk. We let our pride get in the way. We want to question God’s methods.

Christ came to heal all of fallen humanity, yet only a small portion receive him in faith and thanksgiving and give God the glory.

It is not that as Christians who have any faith at all, we fail to recognize that God is the giver of all things. Every mouthful of food we take, for example, every breath of air we inhale, every note of music we hear, every smile on the face of a child, friend, or stranger - all that, and a million things more, are gifts from God’s generosity.

It is that we forget to give thanks for we take God’s grace for granted. To remember to give thanks is a healthy thing to do, especially in a world where we too often assume that we have an absolute right to health, happiness, and every creature comfort.

The Samaritan returned to Jesus the source of his healing, as he could not go to Jerusalem. The story shows the nature of faith about which the disciples asked in last week’s gospel. The Samaritan’s response is the sort of thankful response to God’s grace, which makes us well and restores us to new life.

Today’s gospel reading is more than a story of healing; it is a story of resurrection. The one who returned to give thanks was as good as dead and now is alive again. Jesus brings new life, and calls out of us, as he did this one leper, faith we did not know that we had.

Faith and healing go hand in hand. Faith means not just any old belief, any general religious attitude to life, but the belief that the God of Love and Mercy, the Lord and the giver of Life is at work in and through His Son, Jesus Christ, here and now.

By his death and resurrection, Jesus has leveled the playing field. God’s love and mercy knows no bounds in relieving the common condition we all face, our sinfulness and lack of gratitude, which requires our continual turning to God in all humility and with genuine repentance.

The proper response, then, to the new life we now live is a rhythm of faith and gratitude. To live a life of faith and to give thanks to God for all things is what being a Christian is all about. AMEN+

Monday, October 7, 2019

CEC News and Father Riley's homily from Oct 6, 2019

CEC News

  Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist October 13; 20.  Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer October 27.

… The Rev. Canon Dr. Stephanie Spellers presented “Episcopal Evangelism 101” at Camp Hardtner September 28th.  “Will you proclaim the good news of God in Christ in word and deed?  I will, with God’s help.”  Go to: to learn more about how we can better fulfill our mission.  Here’s a photo from the session.  Canon Spellers opened the event with: “Love Shack” by the B-52s, and later played “Love Train” by the O’Jays and “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News.  It was fun, Episcopalian Evangelism!  And, you can do it too.

17 PENTECOST, PROPER XXII - C- 19                             LUKE 17. 5-10

One of my favorite movies from the late 80s was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was one of those action adventure films directed by Steven Spielberg and co-written by executive producer George Lucas. It was third in a series of Indiana Jones movies that starred Harrison Ford.
In this particular, one Indiana is searching for the Holy Grail. He hooks up with his father, played by Sean Connery and together they discover the location of the grail. They enter an ancient temple which is booby-trapped to keep would be seekers at bay.
One by one they over come the various devices only to find themselves standing at the edge of a great abyss that separates them from continuing their quest. Indiana is ready to give up. The father, played by Connery, asks his son “have you no faith?”
With that, the father steps out and into what appears to the naked eye to be empty space that would lead directly to one’s fall into the abyss, but in reality is an invisible bridge that connects the two sides and enables the two seekers to continue their journey.
In today’s gospel, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, as if it were as simple as that. Their request comes on the heels of Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness and how often we need to forgive each other. In addition, Christ has also given a warning to those who would knowingly lead another astray.
Maybe it was after hearing these conditions of discipleship and warnings that his followers felt the need to ask for an increase. Jesus’ response to their request would suggest that their faith at this juncture in their relationship to him was less than the size of a mustard seed. In other words, pretty small.
“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed,” he told them, “you could say to the mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.”
What is faith, how do we define it? First, it is a gift from God. It is that which enables us to believe when our eyes and or our intellect tells us otherwise. Faith opens our eyes to see God in all that we do, in the world around us, in the face of friend and stranger.
Faith teaches us to trust in God, and enables us to do the work we have been given to do. Faith opens the door to receive other gifts from God. The Holy Spirit distributes those gifts according to one’s faith. 
As we read the gospel accounts, we see the disciples growing in their faith in proportion to their relationship to Christ. It was not faith, however, that initially drew them to want to follow him, but his personality and the way in which he talked about God and the kingdom.
They were drawn not only by his words but also his actions. He had the power to give sight to the blind, heal the lepers, the lame, and to raise the dead. Their faith grew gradually with each moment, hour and day they spent in his presence. Nevertheless, even after three years of following him, their faith failed them in the dark of the night when Jesus was arrested in the garden and taken away from them.
Fear overcame them. Fear is the opposite of faith. Their fear caused them to abandon him. Like fear, doubt likewise is an enemy of faith. Doubt can drain our faith. On more than one occasion, doubt clouded their belief in him even when they heard the first report of his resurrection. True faith has no room for doubt only belief.
Faith that is not tested, on the other hand, is no faith at all. Sometimes our faith is tested to the breaking point as was theirs. As long as we are in this life, there is no escape, no way to avoid it. How much faith does it take to be a Christian?
More than most of us think that we have. With each test, our faith is tempered like that of steal. Have you ever watched a blacksmith work?
The metal is heated to red-hot and then cooled and hammered.
Then heated and cooled and hammered again and again until finally the desired shape is accomplished. Our faith goes through the same process. With each test, it is hammered and by God’s grace becomes stronger.
Nevertheless, the day comes for each of us as it did for the disciples, when our faith, or lack of it, will fail us. That is when we have to be humble enough to come to Jesus, as the father did at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration confessing our unbelief and asking for God’s help.
What is important is not the quantity but the quality of our faith. What the disciples had to discern, and what we have to discover is the quality of our faith, whether it be the size of a mustard seed or that of an oak tree.
Nowhere in the teachings of Jesus does he ever give us a simple definition of faith. However, the totality of Jesus’ teachings makes it clear to us that faith is our unconditional acceptance of Him.
It is our “yes” to follow Jesus, who died and rose again, whose death and resurrection has opened to us the way to eternal life, that gives us the courage to step out when it appears we cannot go any further and enables us to continue the journey.
St. Paul speaks to this in his letter to young Timothy reminding him “to rekindle the gift of God that is within you…for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” Paul is likewise reminding him that the rich deposit of faith found within him is to be lived and shared with others.
Paul’s words are given to us, then, in the same spirit as they were given to Timothy, in the same spirit as they have been given to others that we have known in our witness to Christ. As Christians, we must be concerned with the quality of how we live our lives and not the quantity the modern world wants us to consider.
Faith begins and ends with Hope - hope of eternal life, the promise of Jesus to all who believe in Him. In the final analysis what will be eternally important to each of us is God’s view of the life we lived and not the worlds, a life lived in Faith, Hope, and Love in service and witness to others in the name of Christ and for the sake of the gospel. AMEN+

Thursday, October 3, 2019

CEC Breaking News and Father Riley's homily from September 29, 2019

CEC News

  Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist October 6, 13; 20.  Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer October 27.

… The Rev. Canon Dr. Stephanie Spellers presented “Episcopal Evangelism 101” at Camp Hardtner September 28th.  “Will you proclaim the good news of God in Christ in word and deed?  I will, with God’s help.”  Go to: to learn more about how we can better fulfill our mission.

16 PENTECOST, PROPER XXI - C - 19                             LUKE 16. 19-31

Today’s gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching his disciples about the coming kingdom when it will be on earth as it already is in heaven. It is a parable about two men and two worlds. In the second their fortunes are totally reversed.

The point of the parable is not to reveal to us the moral grounds on which the two men described were treated as they were, but to terrify those who lived as the rich man lived without regard to those who lived around him, especially those in need.

Again the parable is aimed at the Pharisees. They were the keepers and interpreters of the Law. Yet they were behaving towards the people Jesus was welcoming exactly like the rich man was behaving towards Lazarus.

And just as the steward in last week’s gospel was to be put out of his position, and was commended for taking action in the nick of time to prevent total disaster, so the Pharisees, and anyone else tempted to take a similar line, are now urged to change their ways while there is still time.

With that said, let us take a closer look at the parable. “There was a rich man…” Jesus said. Although he is not named, history has given him one. The Latin word for rich is “Dives.” So we have the story of Dives and Lazarus. In the world above both of these men pass their lives daily within sight and sound of each other.

Dives lived his life without regard for anyone else not even the poor man he had to walk past each time he went in and out of his gate. Eventually they both died. The rich man was buried and found himself in Hades, the Old Testament, Sheol. The poor man, Lazarus, had no one to bury him so the angels carried him away to the bosom of Abraham.

They were both in the next world. Jesus appears to acknowledge the belief of the Jews of his day that there were bodes of joy and misery for souls beyond death in the telling of the parable. Some would say the scene is one after the final judgment.

Others would say both men were in the intermediate state prior to the final judgment. Either way Dives and Lazarus are still within sight and sound of each other. In addition a great chasm separates the two.

In life Dives would not cross over to help Lazarus. Now Lazarus cannot cross over to him. In his torment the rich man realizing the permanence of his state of being intercedes on behalf of his brothers still living, presumably living a similar lifestyle to the one he had lived.

He desires that Abraham send Lazarus to warn his brothers to change their ways before it is too late. Abraham‘s response to the rich man’s plea is a poignant one. “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” The Old Testament speaks to an urgent and sufficient call to repentance.

But the rich man insists that someone from the dead should go and tell them, then they will repent; a hint of the consequences of the resurrection of Jesus himself.

Here is a state of affairs the commonness of which blinds us to its absurdity; two men living close together, but with a great gulf between them, and never a human word passing from one side to the other. Small barriers easily surmounted at first, strengthens as time goes on. Vague dislikes become antipathies, antipathies harden into hatred.

We see this happening everyday. A bully beats up on a smaller kid at school while other students stand around and do nothing save video it on their cell phones so that they can post it on social media. In larger cities hundreds of homeless sleep over grates on the sidewalks of main streets to keep warm during the winter months while hundreds of passer bys walk around them totally ignoring their plight as they go about their daily lives.

And there are many other contemporary examples we could use that correspond with Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the world above. In telling the story Jesus has no quarrels with the accidents of a person’s birth. Today’s parable does not ask ‘how much do you have? But how much do you care?’

Rather the sayings of Jesus and the parables St. Luke recounts in his gospel act as battering rams against the “fortresses of complacency.”

Jesus cast his lot with those society and the religious leaders of his day deemed as outcasts, the powerless and the oppressed, the ones who lived Good Friday everyday because for them Easter had not yet come. Dives should have known better and lived his life differently.

Moses and the prophets bide him care for ‘the stranger within his gates‘; not to turn away from him. Likewise they demand food and hospitality for the poor. God would not continuously throw us together unless he meant for us to make overtures to one another. It would appear that the story ends on a negative note.

But Jesus never leaves us with a warning without opening a window of hope somewhere in the story. The name Lazarus (Eleazar) means the same thing as Jesus; it may be translated ‘God has delivered.’ Dives and his brothers stand for the Jewish nation who has Moses and the prophets. Jesus is the one who stands in the gate, in their very midst without being recognized.

He knows that he will soon die; the holy angels are waiting to take him home, but what of the people he has come to save? All that Jesus is asking them to do, all Jesus is asking us to do is what Moses and the prophets would have said. Anyone who understands the scriptures must see that Jesus is bringing them to completion.

If they do not, not even someone rising from the dead will bring them to their senses. The gospels bear this out. Jesus died on the cross, an instrument of cruel death, yet the cross has become the hope for the future for all who put their trust in Him.

When Christ comes again opening the door to God’s new age all wrongs will be put right, fortunes will be reversed. The last will be first and the first last.

The cross has meaning for all, for there is no part of the universe cut off from the Saving grace of Him who died and rose again, who, as St. John writes in his revelation, has the keys ‘of death and Hades.’ AMEN+

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Reception & memorial service for Mrs. Allein H. Watson, September 19, 2019

Allein Harkey Watson

A Memorial service for Allein Harkey Watson, 83, of Saint Joseph, LA will be held Thursday, September 19, 2019 at Christ Episcopal Church in Saint Joseph at 2 pm following a private family burial. The service will be officiated by Father Gregg Riley under the direction of Young's Funeral Home.

Allein Harkey Watson was born on January 22, 1936 in Vicksburg and passed away Monday, September 16, 2019 in St. Joseph.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Philip Brooks Watson, Jr., parents, Haynes Louis Harkey, Sr. and Allein Wood Harkey, two brothers, Haynes Louis Harkey, Jr. and Thomas Gilbert Harkey, Sr., and sister-in-law, Barbara Harkey.

Survivors include three sons, Benjamin Maddox Watson & his wife Linda of St. Joseph, LA, William Brooks Watson, Sr. & his wife Karen of Monroe, LA, and Scott Harkey Watson & his wife Mary Lynn of Tallulah, LA;
grandchildren, Anna Kate Tonore & her husband Michael, Allie Elizabeth Watson and fiancé Jonathan Doucet, William Brooks Watson, Jr., William Parks Watson, Elizabeth Claire Watson, Elizabeth Lee Watson, and Philip Newell Watson; one great granddaughter, Emory Wade Tonore; nieces, Virginia Harkey Youngblood and husband Gerald of Austin TX; Shelia Harkey of Shreveport, LA and Rebecca Watson Vizard and husband Michael of St. Joseph, LA; nephews, Haynes Louis Harkey, III and wife Alison of Ridgeland, MS, Thomas Gilbert Harkey, Jr. and wife, Sherry of Shreveport, LA;
Matthew Faulk Harkey and wife Robin of Ridgeland, MS, sister-in-law, Peggy Harkey of Shreveport and special friend, Jessie Campbell of Saint Joseph, LA. She is also survived by a host of of great nephews and great-nieces.

Pallbearers will be William Brooks Watson, Jr. William Parks Watson, H.T. Goldman III, Frank R. Burnside, Jr., M. Sterling Blanche, William A. Guthrie, Jr. and Michael D. Thompson.

In lieu of flowers the family request memorials be made to Christ Episcopal Church, PO Box 256, St. Joseph, LA 71366 or Tensas Academy, PO Box 555, St. Joseph, LA 71366.

The family will receive friends Thursday from 1:00 until 2:00 at Christ Episcopal Church in the Parish House. 
(from Young's Funeral home website)

Monday, September 16, 2019

"...we are the Lord's possession."

It is with great sadness that I let you know Mrs. Allein Watson passed away this morning (Monday, September 16th) at home.  Funeral arrangements are being made at this time.  Notifications will be sent as soon as arrangements are complete.

"Happy from now on are those who die in the Lord! So it is, says the Spirit, for they rest from their labors."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

CEC News and Father Riley's homily from September 15, 2019

 CEC News

… Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer September 22nd.  Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist September 29th.

…The vestry has approved a contract with Pearl River Glass Studios to repair our stained glass windows and to add new exterior protection.  Work will begin soon.

…Please check out the diocesan website at  and register for  the upcoming evangelism event at Camp Hardtner, September 28.  Some of us have already registered.  The event features The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers. Here is the note from the diocesan website:
Come to Camp Hardtner  on September 28 to discover a fresh, humble, effective and Episcopal approach to the spiritual practice of evangelism. The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers - Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Stewardship of Creation - will lead an engaging and practical workshop that will offer basic training in evangelism as well as the Way of Love. This workshop is for everyone: clergy, lay leaders, and anyone else who desires to deepen their faith and learn how to share their faith story with others.
14 PENTECOST, PROPER XIX - C - 19                              LUKE 15. 1-10

One of my favorite stain glass windows, and one of the more popular ones I might add, is that which depicts Jesus carrying the lost sheep that was found across his shoulders. Each time I read this passage that image comes to mind, along with one of my favorite hymns, “The King of Love My Shepherd is.”

Luke’s 15th chapter contains three parables of “lost and found.” In today’s gospel, we are presented with the first two. Jesus is relating these little stories in response to a group of grumbling Pharisees and scribes that do not approve of the company he is keeping, namely, those they considered “sinners.”

Tax collectors are lumped in with the sinners as well, as the Pharisees and scribes making no distinction between the two. Tax collectors were Jews who had sold out to the Romans and were making a profit off their own people. The “sinners” were those the religious elite viewed as being “unchurched.” They did not keep the law as prescribed.

Neither of these two were the types that any respecting Jew would keep company with. So why was Jesus? His telling of these two little parables should have silenced his critics.

Luke stresses the repentance of the sinner and contrasts that with the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes. Their view of God’s mercy and the worth of the individual were all wrong. Jesus makes that clear in today’s parables of the lost sheep and coin.

It always seems to be the case that when our idea of God is skewed, we fall for the temptation to discriminate, to see ourselves as somehow better than another. There must have been a lot of that kind of thinking going on among God’s people at the time of Jesus.

For the gospels contain more than one teaching on the subject. In addition to today’s parables, what follows in Luke is that of the prodigal son. In it, we hear of the stay-at-home brother who resents the return of his younger sibling who has squandered his inheritance in riotous living. He now comes home with hat in hand and only to be received by his father with open arms and the throwing of a grand celebration as if his return was something to celebrate.

The older brother sees himself as somehow better, more worthy of his father’s love than the one who has returned. After all he has, in his own eyes, been the faithful one. Then, there is the story Jesus tells of the two men praying in the temple.

One sits up front and turns to view the one sitting in the back. The self-righteous one sitting up front thanks God that he is not like the other one who he deems a sinner. However the Jews of Jesus’ day were not anymore self-righteous in their thinking than we are today.

There is a reason why pride is the number one deadly sin. Its by-products are impenitence, which is a refusal to face one’s own sins and confess them to God, and hypocrisy, arrogance and snobbery that all go together to make up a self-righteous attitude.

As human beings we promote such thinking when we fall for the temptation to discriminate. Just look at our own society where do the divisions lie? Is it not race, creed, culture, religion and politics? Pride and its accompanying sin of self-righteousness build walls that separate.

The self-righteous have no need for repentance for the eyes of their soul have been blinded by their sin. In their own eyes they are fine just like they are. What alienates from God is self - satisfaction which leads us to imagine that there is nothing so very wrong with us, and to treat with contempt those who differ from us, or worse yet, those we deem as unworthy of God’s love.

Such was the case in today’s passage as the Pharisees and scribes watched Jesus sitting down to eat with those they deemed unworthy, not only of Jesus’ company, if he was who he said he was, but more especially their own.

Often when we read this story we think that being found by God is all that is necessary and is worth rejoicing. But the point of the story is that the sheep and the coin were lost. Sinners must repent.

Jesus’ idea of repentance and that of his critics differ.

For them, nothing short of adopting their standards of purity and law observance would do. For Jesus, when people follow him and his way, that is true repentance. Christ says that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents.

And that is the way it should be here. After all, isn’t that the point of praying that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven? The joy of God is in the recovery of the lost who know their own misery. Imagine the impact of this on the repentant sinners who heard these stories.

They didn’t have to earn God’s love or Jesus’ respect. He loved looking for them, and celebrated when he found them. And what Jesus did - this is the deepest point of the parables, and the ultimate reason why the Pharisees objected to them - was what God was doing. Jesus’ actions on earth corresponded exactly to God’s love in the heavenly realm.

What Jesus is doing is offering kingdom hospitality. It is not entertaining, it is evangelism.  The real challenge of these parables for today’s church is what would we have to do in the public’s eye, if we were to make people ask the question to which stories like these are the answer?

What might we as Christians do that would make people ask, ‘why are you doing something like that?’ that would give us the chance to tell our own story of our having been lost but now are found.

Our calling to follow Jesus is to follow his example, to welcome the stranger and the sojourner in our midst, even the sinner and the outcast. To reach out to the hidden places where “lost coins and sheep” tend to hide. To invite all to accept God’s hospitality and to celebrate with those who come the realization of all our need of continual repentance.

For we were once lost but have been found by Him who is the King of Love. Through the merits of His life, death and resurrection we now enjoy the hospitality of God, and live with the Hope that at the last Day He will bring us, with all the saints, into the joy of His eternal kingdom. AMEN+