Sunday, December 20, 2015

Father Riley's homily for Dec 20, 2015

(Reminder:  Caroling will start about 20 minutes before our 5pm Christmas Eve service.  Please come early and help us sing our favorite Christmas carols.)
ADVENT IV - C- 15                                 LUKE 1.39-45 (46-55)

On this final Sunday of Advent the characters and the scene both change dramatically. We go backwards in time before the birth of Christ and of John Baptist. We began the season, you may recall, with Jesus warning his disciples, and all those within earshot, of the last days and the cosmic events that would serve as “signs” of His coming again in power to judge.
For the last two weeks our focus has been on John Baptist as the forerunner of Christ and his message of repentance. Those who responded to his message were baptized by John in the Jordan River as means of preparing for the coming of the Messiah.
Today the focus in on the Blessed Virgin Mary as the one God has chosen to be the mother of His Son, and the Savior of the world.
The scene is up and away from the muddy banks of the Jordan River into the dusty and rocky Judean hill country. More specifically, to the home of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, and the soon to be mother of John Baptist. Following the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will become the mother of God, and that her cousin Elizabeth was soon to give birth in her old age, Mary makes the 80 mile journey from Galilee to Judea to be with Elizabeth until the child is born.
Upon her arrival, Mary hears the same greeting from Elizabeth she received from the angel. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth realizes that Mary is blessed in more than one way. God has chosen her to be the mother of His Only Son, Jesus, and Mary has said “yes” to God’s invitation to participate in the divine drama.
Here the conversation between the two women ends as Mary responds to Elizabeth’s revelation by magnifying the Lord in a most beautiful and poetic song we call the Magnificat.  N.T. Wright says, “the Magnificat is one of the most famous songs in Christianity. It has been whispered in monasteries, chanted in cathedrals, recited in small churches by evening candlelight, and set to music with trumpets and kettledrums by Bach.”
Almost every word is a biblical quotation such as Mary would have known from childhood. Much of it echoes the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2, the song which celebrates the birth of Samuel and all that God was going to do through him. Now these two mothers-to-be celebrate together what God is going to do through their sons, John and Jesus.
Underneath it all is a celebration of God. God has taken the initiative. God is the ultimate reason to celebrate.
Mary is the focus today because of her “yes” to God. She is the model for all of us in terms of how we are to respond to God’s invitation. It has been said that the only legitimate attitude of man to God is represented in her “yes.” What Mary has done by her “yes” to God is similar to what the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus himself has done. He has come into the world to do God’s will.
Just last week, down at the Jordan, those who came out to see and hear the Baptist asked “what should they do?” It was a question of doing God’s will, of seeking God’s will, as a means of demonstrating to the world that they were sincere in their striving to turn their lives around and to live a life worthy of their calling.
The true prayer offered by every Christian is the constant striving to respond to God’s will - to give our “yes” to God. This is what makes us “blessed.”
We are reminded of just how “blessed” we are in the weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist, whether we realize it or not, when the invitation is given to come forward and receive the “gifts of God.” To participate in the Eucharist is a constant reminder that the Lord has come to meet us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood and to make us a people of God despite of all our differences.
The Holy Eucharist reminds us that Jesus is our way of doing God’s will by His example of self-sacrificing love. Even now, as our Advent journey draws to a close and we approach the crèche to ponder once again Christ’ Holy Incarnation, we know that it leads to the cross, where He offered his life for the life of the world.
It is His offering of himself that is life-giving, and His offering of himself that is at the very center of what we do in each and every Eucharist that we celebrate. Underneath it all is a celebration of the Love of God manifested in His Son, Jesus. God has taken the initiative by sending His Son into the world to save us from sin and death and to invite us, through His Son, to become heirs of His kingdom.
The 4th Sunday of Advent brings us to this familiar scene of the Visitation to Elizabeth and to the hearing of Mary’s song; a song of joy and praise to God who has chosen her to be the bearer of good news. It is a scene that takes us back to a time before the birth of Christ or that of John Baptist; one that brings us to the very threshold of another very familiar scene, the one we have anticipated throughout our Advent journey, and with a cast of characters we know so well.
Are we ready once again to accept God’s invitation to receive Him as our Lord and King? Are we prepared to “magnify” the Lord in all that we do and say as a demonstration of our “yes” to God in Thanksgiving for His coming into our world? Our Advent joy is only as real as we make our self-offering of love to God in our daily lives following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The offering of self to the will of God is an act of sacrificial love that demonstrates to a world shrouded in fear and darkness that we know that we are indeed “blessed” - blessed for God having chosen us to receive the good news and blessed by God’s invitation, in the name of His Incarnate Son, to participate in the on-going divine drama by sharing it. AMEN+


Friday, December 18, 2015

Advent activities at Christ Episcopal and Shepherd Center 2015

Our little church has been busy through Advent.  Jane Barnett (CEC) and Gail Waters (FUMC) organized another great Shepherd Center Christmas event Dec 12th.  Nearly 100 children (12 & under) went through the Toy Land aided by Shepherd Center elf volunteers from our community. 

Approximately twice that number of family food bags were also distributed that day.  Santa Claus greeted the children and shared the good news of Jesus' birthday we are getting ready to celebrate.  Many volunteers from the community aided the small, hard-working Shepherd Center staff to make Shepherd Center Christmas a success again this year.

In the afternoon on Dec 12th, children 6 and under were invited to have free pictures taken with Santa in our parish hall. About 12 children came with their guardians to get an 8x10 picture with Santa.  Lead by Garrett Boyte, the children and adults read "The Christmas Story" --the "Little Golden Book" story of Jesus' birth and the Little Golden books donated by Rev. Mitzi last year were given to the children.  Santa and Garrett also presented "The Night Before Christmas" by Clement Moore.

As part of the after school program, Garrett explained the crèche in our church to the children.

Our continuing services include:
Sunday, Dec 20th 10am Holy Eucharist
Thursday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Caroling at 4:30pm followed
by Christmas Eve service at 5pm
Sunday, Dec 27th 10am Morning Prayer

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Father Riley's sermon for Dec 13th 2015

ADVENT III - C- 15                                  LUKE 3. 7-18


Today’s gospel reading from St. Luke picks up where we left off last week. John Baptist has arrived on the scene of divine history by preaching a baptism of repentance as a means of preparing for the coming of the Kingdom of God. His mission is to herald the Messiah and to get God’s people ready to meet him with joy. According to Luke, John moved about in the region of the Jordan and people came to see him and hear him from all Judea.
Some of them listened intently to what he had to say, repented of their sins, and were baptized by him in the Jordan in preparation for the coming of Messiah. Others went out to see what all of the fuss was about, including some Pharisees and Sadducees, according to Matthew. These religious leaders were skeptical of John and his message. “Where did he come from and who does he think he is?”
The Church describes this as a joyful season of expectation, but that stands in marked contrast to John’s greeting of those who came out to hear him in today’s passage: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Of course those who came out to see and hear him were Jews. John quickly dispels their presumption concerning their lineage, that it would in some way automatically pave the way for them to meet the Lord. “Even now the ax is laying at the root of the trees;” John tells the crowd, and “every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” For John Judgment is imminent.
The main theme of today’s passage is “bear fruits that befit repentance.” That message was meant for all who came out to see John, and it is meant for all of us who hear his words today.
John demands right living based on a sincere search for God’s will as an affirmation of one’s repentance. It is one thing to say that we are to search for God’s will, but how do we go about fleshing that out? What does it look like? The people asked John basically the same question “What should we do?”
A cartoon shows a skeptic shouting up to the heavens, “God, if you are up there, tell us what we should do!” Back comes a voice: “Feed the hungry, house the homeless, establish justice.” The skeptic looks alarmed. “Just testing,” he says. “Me too,” replies the voice.
As I am certain there were those down by the Jordan who were just testing John. But John replied with a simple rule of thumb for all who would listen. If you have two coats, give one away to someone who has none. If you have more food than you can eat or need, give it away to those who are hungry. And then, there were the special cases the tax collectors and the soldiers who asked the same question: “what shall we do?”
The same rule applies. Stop cheating John told the tax collectors. Stop lining your own pockets. Don’t charge any more than is required. And to the soldiers John said stop abusing the people with your authority, stop the extortion and the pillaging, be content with your wages and don’t try and add to them by acts of violence.
His rule was simple enough that no one could miss the point. They were simple clear commands that if obeyed would demonstrate that people meant business. None of these things happen by chance; they only occur when people have genuinely repented of the small-scale injustices that quickly turn a society sour.
John seems to have all the answers and it is natural, then, that some who heard him believed not only what he had to say, but believed that he was Messiah; a claim John quickly squelches. “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” And that’s not all, John said, he is coming to judge.
With society’s emphasis on spending and gift giving, black Fridays that begin on Thursday, the hustle and bustle of getting ready for a commercial celebration of Christmas, it is easy for us as Christians to get caught up in all of that and forget what the season of Advent is really all about in the first place.
It is certainly easy for us to forget that the theme of this short season is one of preparation for the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who, as John so aptly reminds us, who will come with winnowing fork in hand to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In addition to all of the hustle and bustle it seems that society, especially at this time of the year, gets more than usually disturbed by the evil around and within us, the violence people bring against one another; neighbor against neighbor, nation against nation.
Recent events only serve to heighten our anxieties. This could be in itself a positive sign in that it causes us to recognize that as a people, we are terribly disordered, and that we need to re-orient our lives in preparation for Christ’ coming.
For all of us are in need of repentance; of straightening out the crookedness in our lives in order to make the pathway straight for the coming of Christ. And so the question posed by those who heard John’s message is a natural one “What shall we do?”  What shall we do in order to be able to rejoice at His appearing?
We don’t have to look very far for the answer. John’ exhortation to all those who came out to see and hear him down at the Jordan applies to all of us today who wish to see Jesus. “Bear fruits that befit repentance.”
To bear fruits that befit repentance demonstrates to a world filled with anxiety, fear, and darkness, that we mean business when it comes to preparing for Christ’ return, and even more so that, we rejoice that the Lord is near. AMEN+







Monday, December 7, 2015

Father Riley's sermon from Dec 6th 2015

ADVENT II - C - 15                    LUKE 3. 1-6

Between the infancy of Jesus and his entry into Israel’s history is an interval of some thirty years spent in the obscurity of a Galilean village. While Jesus dwelt unknown in Nazareth, there appeared suddenly one like a new Elijah - John Baptist, the son of Zachariah the priest. The Jewish expectation of the return of Elijah was herald of Messiah and John Baptist met the expectation and then some.

The prophet Malachi predicted John’s coming 500 years in advance: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me…” While Isaiah declared the activity of John some two hundred fifty years before Malachi: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…”

The old prophets had spoken of a time when God himself would come back to his people. As N.T. Wright says, “they only had a sketchy idea of what this would look like, but when a fiery young prophet appeared in the Judean wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance, they were ready to listen.”

John’s mission was to proclaim the immediate coming of the kingdom of God, conceived on the old line of the prophets and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Thus John Baptist takes center stage two weeks in a row during this short season of Advent. John introduced, if you will, Jesus to the world by preparing God’s people, not only to receive him, but to recognize him as Messiah, the promised one. The prelude to the mission of Jesus was the mission of John Baptist.

St. Luke goes to great lengths to introduce John within the historical, political and religious scene of his day: “In the 15th year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee…” All of the political, that is, earthly powers are listed; a virtual “who’s who” of the time. However, the important event of the time is the coming of the “word of God to John.”

John was doing what the prophet Isaiah had said: preparing a pathway for the Lord himself to return to his people. The time was right for the message to be delivered and John Baptist was the man God chose to deliver it.

No doubt John caught people off guard. He seemed to have come from nowhere. However, the people were drawn to him, not because of his dress, but his personality, his sense of conviction and dedication; his enthusiasm for the message he brought, a message of repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah.

John just didn’t deliver a message of repentance he called for an outward and visible sign - baptism preceded by confession. In the Jewish religion the primary mode of removing impurity was “mikvah” that is, full immersion in a body of living water. John’s immersions in the Jordan River were not baptisms into faith in Jesus, but Jewish ritual immersions.

What John did was to add a heightened spiritual significance to the rite. It became a ceremony of admission to the new Israel. The washing in the waters of the Jordan represented a death to the old life and a birth to the new.  The correspondence between ritual purity and atonement, then, was made explicit in the career of John Baptist.

A new Israel must be fashioned such as God can accept and use. What is wanted here is a righteousness of the sort demanded by the old prophets. John emphasized the ethical requirements as a condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God; but the essential meaning of the baptism was a dedication of the new covenant.

The movement found wide support among the common people, little among the religious leaders. No surprise here.

We might find ourselves looking at John Baptist as an historical oddity today; as one whose message of repentance and activity was applicable only to Jesus’ first coming.  The “way” might appear to be so scrambled to us that there is no way in which we might conceivably make it “straight” in our own day.

These can be discouraging times, to be sure, but we must keep in mind that God is the ultimate source of confidence and strength. Even though we might seem to be working against much greater odds than our ancestors did, God has never failed to provide his people with the strength and courage they need to meet the challenges that face them.

Our world around us today seems to be going mad. And it would be easy to wish that the Lord would come now in all of His power and glory and end it once and for all by ushering in His kingdom of justice and truth. But as I said in last week’s homily what we, as God’s people, are called to be engaged in between Advents, is a patient waiting.

This transient world we live in conspires to keep our attention focused on the here and now. It takes intention and effort to keep our eyes on the goal of God’s coming kingdom. No matter what happens in the world around us, we are called to remain faithful and not lose hope, as we anticipate and expect the Lord’s return.

If the Advent season teaches us anything it is that we can’t just jump to the end. John Baptist’s message was one of preparation; of making the paths straight in one’s life in order to be prepared for the coming of the Lord. The Advent season is a time for just that - preparation. The question is what are we preparing for? Christmas or eternity?

These four weeks also give us an opportunity to reflect on our personal journey with Christ from crèche’ to cross and to practice being the person God has created us to be in anticipation of His return; so “that we may (indeed) greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.” AMEN+

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent to Christmas at Christ Episcopal

Father Riley will lead our services:
...Sunday Dec 13th @ 10am
...Sunday Dec 20th @10am
...Christmas Eve @ 5pm
Morning prayer will be held Dec 27th @ 10am.

During Advent the Nativity scenes will grow (with anticipation) to Christmas Eve with the arrival of baby Jesus.  The Wise Men will approach closer to the crèche each Sunday thru Christmas Eve. Come and see.


Other 'goings-on' in our area:
Saturday morning Dec 12th at the Shepherd Center:  Shepherd Center Christmas--everyone invited.
Saturday afternoon (3-5pm) Dec 12th in the Parish Hall of CEC: free Pictures with Santa for children 6 and under.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Celebrations with The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, 2 Dec 2015

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, IV Bishop of the Diocese of Western Louisiana, visited with us and conducted services at the Shepherd Center and at Christ Episcopal followed by lunch in our Parish Hall.  A feast fit for a Bishop and his friends at Christ Episcopal was enjoyed by all.  Remember, you can follow the Bishop's lessons and other diocesan activities on the Diocese of Western Louisiana website:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Father Riley's sermon for November 29, 2015

ADVENT I - C - 15                          LUKE 21. 25-36

The Advent season is the beginning of a new Church year; a year in which we will recant in word, sacrament, and song the ancient story of our salvation once again. Although Advent is a new beginning the gospel reading for the first Sunday of the new year is always about the “end times” where, as St. Luke says, “the Son of Man,” will be seen, “ coming in a cloud with power and great glory” to which the Collect adds “to judge both the living and the dead.”
You have heard me say before that this brief season, only four weeks long, is one that runs backwards. In essence it does. We begin with Christ’ warning to be watchful for the “day” of His second coming so as not to be caught by surprise. We end this splendid little season of expectation and anticipation with His first coming in great humility as a babe in a manger.
The Latin word “Adventus,” from which we get our word Advent, translates “coming.” All of today’s readings speak of His coming. The prophet Jeremiah proclaims God’s promise of a “righteous branch” that will spring up for David and execute justice and righteousness for God’s people. It was a promise God’s people needed to hear as it raised their hopes and expectation of a day of salvation; a promise delivered to them while they were still in exile.
St. Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica to encourage and strengthen the Christians there to maintain their holiness and their faithfulness so that “they may be blameless before their God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
Jeremiah’s timely proclamation brought hope to Israel. The people looked forward to that “day;” as St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians brought encouragement to the young Christians in that place to remain faithful and anticipate the coming of the Lord.
Our gospel reading for this first Sunday in the Advent season is St. Luke’s take on Jesus’ prophetic announcement (warning) of the day of His coming when “he will appear in a cloud with power and great glory to judge the living and the dead.”  Both Matthew and Mark have similar passages concerning the end of the age as we know it. In today’s passage Jesus warns us to be “on guard;” to “be alert, for that day will come when we least expect it.”
He also encourages us to pray for strength to meet the prelude of cataclysmic events that will precede it, so that we will be able to escape “all these things” and “stand before the Son of Man.” For some, it will obviously be a dark day, not one to anticipate or to look forward to but rather one to fear; for others it will be a day of rejoicing, but only if we are truly prepared for it.
Many today, however, believe that this “day” will never come. After all they say, there has already been two thousand years of Church history and no second coming has occurred. The heavens and earth as we know them have not passed away and life goes on as usual.  But this is at the very heart of the warning Jesus gives in today’s reading.
Christ makes it abundantly clear that it is not a matter of “if” such a day will come, but rather “when” it will come. “All these things will take place,” Christ proclaims. That should be a sobering thought to all of us. Jesus’ emphasis here is on “watchfulness” and the practice of virtue rather than constructing timetables, or trying to second guess God.
The “signs” Christ says will be abundantly clear; signs in sun, moon and stars that will bring confusion and distress among the nations. Watch for them Jesus says and don’t be weighed down by the cares and anxieties of everyday life to the point that you are taken by surprise and find yourselves unprepared for that day.
In addition we find in Matthew and Mark’s account a warning not to follow false “saviors” who say they have all the answers for why these things Jesus predicts are occurring and who go on to say there is no need to worry. However, waiting and watching, expecting and anticipating the Lord’s return, is what the season of Advent is all about.
The spiritual reality is we are living between Advents: Christ’ first coming in great humility as a babe in a manger and His second coming in power and great glory with his holy angels to judge. It is what we do between these two “Advents” that determines where we will spend eternity. For one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of ourselves.
Jesus’ warning is really an exhortation to watchful waiting in which we are to avoid being weighed down by the cares and pleasures of life. We are to avoid having our spiritual senses dulled by diversions to the point that our expectations of Christ’ second coming wanes, and we become complacent in our anticipation of that day and find ourselves caught by surprise. Patience is the key. 
“Be on guard, be alert and pray for strength to meet those days; to survive those days Christ says to all who will listen. That is what it is all about a steady trend of prayer, hope, scripture, sacrament, song and witness, day by day, week by week, year in and year out until He comes again. Patient watchful waiting, anticipating and expectation is what we are called to be engaged in between Advents.
Today we begin a new year of grace by being reminded of the “end times” when all will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory to judge both the living and the dead. Not a day to be feared for the faithful, but a day of rejoicing and hope; a day to stand up and raise our heads, because we will know that our salvation is near.
May God give us the grace and strength to continue our watchful waiting praying that we will be able to endure what lies ahead, so that when the end does come, we shall be found holy and blameless and worthy to stand before Him who is to be our judge, in the hope that we may rise to life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN+


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Father Riley's sermon from 22 Nov 15

LAST PENTECOST, PROPER XXIX - B - 15         JOHN 18. 33-37
Today is the last Sunday after Pentecost and is traditionally referred to as “Christ the King” Sunday as the readings refer to Christ as King. The first reading from Daniel portrays Christ being crowned as king. The reading from the Revelation of St. John the Divine portrays Christ already enthroned as king, and the gospel reading has Pilate asking Jesus if he is a king.
Daniel and Revelation are visions of the future given by God and fall under the category of scripture referred to as “Apocalyptic literature.”
Daniel’s vision is similar to several aspects of St. John’s revelation, including the throne, the multitudes of worshipping angels and other creatures and the books. Both readings are visionary and prophetic and reveal something about the “last days” or “end times."
They are not meant to frighten us, but rather to encourage Christians in every generation in their struggle against sin, the principalities and powers of darkness in this world and the fear of death. These writings assure the faithful that even in the midst of the battles against evil the Lord will bring final victory over all forces of evil.
The reading from Daniel and Revelation are timely. We should take courage in hearing them read this morning believing as the Collect says that it is God’s will to restore all things in His beloved son, the King of kings and Lord of lords. To speak of Christ as king is a matter of faith. Through the eyes of faith we picture our world ruled over by Christ.
Recent events in Paris and other parts of Europe and the Middle East confront us with the hard facts of evil and destructive forces that seem to deny and test our faith’s picture of Christ as King and our world ruled over by Him. It was no different during the time of Daniel or St. John. The evil of their own day stood to destroy God’s people, to deny their faith, and to rend them hopeless.
The essential purpose of their writings was to encourage the faithful to be full of hope and prepared to persevere to the end, no matter what happens. But sometimes that is easier said than done especially when hate seems stronger than love. Conflict is more prevalent than peace. Lies win out over truth. Pain often overshadows happiness.
What hope is there for the future? Can we hope for a victory of love, peace and truth over hate, conflict and lies? Can we hope that goodness and happiness can win out?
Daniel and St. John’s vision of Christ as King was futuristic. They were holding out for that “day” in the face of real persecution. In his vision, Daniel saw “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him who was given dominion and glory and kingship; a dominion that is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and a Kingship that shall never be destroyed.”
As St. John saw Christ, “the firstborn of the dead,” already enthroned as the ruler of the kings of the earth. Both Daniel and St. John were encouraged by their vision to persevere knowing that the final victory belonged to God.  Where can we find sure and certain hope for the future?
Today’s first two readings point us beyond the world as we know it to the world to come when the fullness of God’s Kingdom will be ushered in and Christ as King will rule over all other powers. Until then, we live by faith, and our faith enables us to live with the hope that our future is with God.
Yet to some it appears that the powers of evil and destruction have gotten out of hand. Hate and conflict, lies and pain seem to be ruling the world today. God’s ways are not our ways, however, and to some the very idea that He allows such powers to operate at all is a perplexing puzzle. Why can’t there be more good than evil? More love and less hate? More peace and less conflict?
It’s easy to lose hope in the wake of such evil and destruction as witnessed in recent days and with the threat of more to come. Life sometimes seems to be just one big tragedy, no matter what we do. And when we lose hope, when we give up, that is when life really becomes hopeless, for hopelessness is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
These puzzling questions are often without answers. But even so, faith assures us that Christ is King and whatever suffering our King permits in this age, he suffers with us, for He is with us to the end of the age. Faith makes us feel confident, then, in the final Victory. Faith moves us to see beyond hate and conflict, lies and pain to Christ the King. He holds our future in His hands.
Faith enables us to believe that our King will work things out for good. Evil and destruction will be subdued. Then life will be Truth not lies. Life will be Peace, not conflict. Life will be Love, not hate, Happiness, not pain. Christ promises that such a life will come to those who choose to remain faithful, who do not lose hope, who remain watchful and expectant, and who persevere to the end.
Today’s readings are meant to inspire us to look through the present darkness and to behold the ultimate victory of Christ and the joyful consummation that awaits His Bride - the Church - who, through Her sacraments, has prepared herself for “His coming with the clouds; where every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.”
On that “day” the fullness of His Kingdom will be ushered in; a kingdom without end, where the peoples of the earth, heretofore enslaved and divided by sin, are freed and brought together under the most gracious rule of the King of  kings and the Lord of lords; the King of Truth.
Pilate asked him, “So, you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth, listens to my voice.” AMEN+




Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby to visit December 2nd 2015

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, IV Bishop of the Diocese of Western Louisiana

Friends of Christ Episcopal Church, Peace be with you,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, IV Bishop of the Diocese of Western Louisiana, will visit with us and conduct services Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015.  The Bishop plans to hold service at the Shepherd Center at 10am with Jane Barnett and her usual attendees.  The Bishop will also lead a noonday service at Christ Episcopal followed by lunch in our Parish Hall.  Everyone is invited to join us in each event.
The Vestry
Christ Episcopal Church

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Forward Day by Day reading for November 13th

FRIDAY, November 13

Matthew 16:15 [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Jesus asks the disciples a simple question, and the answer that Peter gives could readily come from the lips of any person who claims to be Christian. I wonder if Peter really understood what he was saying when he proclaimed Jesus as Messiah and Son of the Living God. For that matter, do we really understand what we are saying when we echo Peter’s confession of faith?

Imagine someone asks you to explain Jesus and what you mean when you say he is the Messiah. Where do you begin? Who do YOU say Jesus is, from the depths of your own understanding? Write it down. Keep it visible, in your car or on your coffee maker or bathroom mirror. The challenge is to let that deeply personal confession shape every aspect of our lives.

Jesus doesn’t ask me, or Peter, or any of us to confess who we believe he is for his own sake, but rather for ours—so that we can proclaim Jesus in our lives to all we meet. As for me, I say Jesus is God’s way of showing us how much God loves us—ALL of us. Who do you say he is?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Link to the "Forward: Day by Day"

To access the "Forward: Day by Day" Readings follow this link:

Today's reading:

THURSDAY, November 12

Matthew 16:6 Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
When it comes to yeast, a little goes a long way. A tiny bit can cause a big batch of dough to rise, and by saving a small piece of the risen dough, yet another batch of bread can be made. One tiny bit of yeast makes a lot of bread.

The Pharisees and Sadducees have some bad attitudes—some potent and dangerous yeast. The Pharisees treat anyone who doesn’t think like them as being beneath their notice. The Sadducees are champions of the status quo, doing whatever is necessary to keep the Romans happy so they can maintain their positions of wealth and power. Do any of us really want to be around people who treat others like dirt, people who are so enamored with their own status that they willingly compromise their core principles just to maintain their own influence?

It’s no wonder Jesus warns the disciples (and all of us) to be on guard against such attitudes. But like a bad attitude, a positive one can prevail too—good yeast makes for tender and tasty bread.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Father Riley's sermon from 8 Nov 15

24 PENTECOST, PROPER XXVII - B - 15              MARK 12. 38-44

Today’s first reading and the gospel are lessons in stewardship, hospitality and humility as demonstrated by two different widows. In the first lesson the widow at Zarephath gave her last meal to share with the God-sent visitor, the prophet Elijah during a time of severe famine. In the gospel reading Jesus watches as a widow in the Temple at Jerusalem gives her all into the treasury. Her sacrifice was small, two copper coins, but total.
Wedged between these two examples of sacrificial giving is Jesus’ warning against hypocrisy, pomp and pretense as exhibited by some of the scribes he observed. Who were these people? And do we recognize them today?
Widows, in the time of Jesus, much like today, were poor for the most part. Certainly the widow at Zarephath, and the widow at Jerusalem fall into this class. They would not be the widows Jesus says some of the scribes seek to devour. Rather that would be the rich widows who are sometimes vulnerable and easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals.
In the first lesson the prophet Elijah has predicted a devastating drought. We thought three months without significant rainfall was tough, the drought Elijah predicted, and which came to be, was three and a half years! The King at the time was Ahab. Ahab became enraged at Elijah for making such a prediction and threatened the prophet’s life.
So Elijah flees Ahab’s jurisdiction, as the Lord directs him, and finds himself in Zarephath, some ten miles south of Sidon. The Lord has sent him here to find a certain widow who will take him in and provide for him during his stay. Elijah finds her at the gate of the city gathering sticks and asks for hospitality.
He arrives at the moment when the widow’s last reserve of food is all but exhausted. Yet, in spite of her circumstances, she complies with his request to feed him believing in the promises of God, as Elijah  proclaims, that “the jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.”
The “wedge” comes following Jesus having been tested by all of the religious leaders of the day: the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes. The scribes having just finished testing him, Jesus turns to his disciples and gives the warning. They give themselves airs, he says, and have a great reputation for piety, but are only interested in lining their pockets.
Jesus’ warning is a denunciation of their hypocrisy, their false humility and self righteousness. They liked attention and deference. At their worse they made material profit out of spiritual influence. Thus their sometimes “devouring widow’s houses.”
They were a class of religious leaders whose teaching and examples had a profound influence on others. They were a professional class, not “priests,” but welding religious authority nonetheless. Jesus rightly condemns them.
That having been said, Jesus takes a seat opposite the Temple treasury. The treasury were actually the boxes for contributions and were in the shape of trumpets. There were 13 of them arranged against the wall of the Court of the Women in the Herodian Temple. Since no Gentile could enter there, the offerings were from Jews only.
Only copper coins were allowed in the Temple. A large contribution would necessarily make a great deal of noise and trumpets would sound a fanfare when such contributions were being deposited. According to S. Mark, Jesus sits and watches people come and go making their offerings.
After observing many rich people put in large sums, Christ contrasts the rich who can afford to give plenty to the Temple, and make sure others see them doing it, with the poor widow who gave her all, two small cooper coins.
Jesus puts her gift in perspective, along with the gifts of the rich. The value of the gift cannot be set by its inherent cash value, but by what it represents for the giver. Jesus sees into the hearts of the giver and is not deceived by the difference of values.
St. Mark has given much emphasis to our Lord’s warnings against riches in his gospel thus far. Here he illustrates the converse side, his benediction of the poor. Money is so useful for religious and charitable purposes that there is always the temptation to think more of the large offerings than of the smaller ones which may yet represent a much greater, a truer sacrifice, and a more real self-denial.
Today’s lessons are clear. The widow at Zarephath, a non-Jew, gave her last full measure of meal and cup of oil as a gift to the God-sent visitor who sought her hospitality. Today’s Church likewise should view every stranger in need who comes to us seeking relief as being God-sent and as an opportunity to show forth the Love of Christ by sharing what we have with those who are less fortunate.
The widow in the treasury at Jerusalem gave her all. Her giving of her last two cooper coins did not impress the others who were there that day for no trumpets sounded because of her gift. After all two small copper coins do not make much noise. But her giving was noticed by Jesus and impressed him, so much so, that he held her gift up to his disciples as an example of true sacrifice.
In terms of our own stewardship, none of us gets off the hook by claiming “that there are people out there who have more than I do who should be supporting the church’s mission in witness and giving.” The fact is every gift given, whether large or small, is noticed by God. The true value is not in the number of dollars and cents given, but in what it represents to the giver, that is, whether it is a token or a sacrifice.
May God give us the grace to avoid the temptation to think more of the larger offerings than the smaller one, and may our own giving for the work and ministry of God’s Holy Church be sacrificial and at the same time a Thanks-giving; one that represents our personal commitment to the Age to Come and our Hope of inheriting it, through the merits of Him who died and rose again, even Jesus Christ, Our Savior. AMEN+




Monday, November 2, 2015

Father Riley's sermon for 1 Nov 15




 Today the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout the world skips from Ordinary Time to the celebration of All Saints Day. The Feast of All Saints was first created because the martyrs of the early church overflowed the calendar. There were simply too many of them to name.
In the early church Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of the martyrdom. It was during the persecution of Diocletian (303)that the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. The church, thus, appointed a common day for all.
The first trace of this is found in Antioch (411). Neighboring dioceses began to interchange and transfer relics and to join in a common feast. Originally, the Feast of All Saints was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost (in the East.) Its current date of November 1 can be traced to Pope Gregory III in the first half of the eighth century (731-741).
November 2, likewise, is celebrated as All Souls Day. The Church, however, combines the two when All Saints falls on a Sunday. Thus, as part of the liturgy, we read the names of our departed love ones before the altar of God that have been submitted by those of us who walk as yet by faith.
In contrast, a tradition of the Eastern Church has the priest praying the names of those that have been written down on small slips of paper and submitted by the congregation before the liturgy begins. He prays the names before the altar of God as part of the intercessions not knowing the living from the departed.
To celebrate All Saints and All Souls, then, demonstrates a fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (The Church Triumphant) and the living (The Church Militant).
You might recognize that today’s first two readings are from the Burial Office. They have to do with those who have died, and yet are alive to God. The first reading from the Wisdom of Solomon, indicates a very early (50BC) doctrine of the immortality of the soul. “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died…but they are at peace.”
They are not dead but are at peace. They are alive to God who loves them and who will abide with them and they with him enjoying His love forever.
In the second reading God’s eternal Kingdom is revealed as a city. A new heaven and a new earth, the new Jerusalem. The old is not destroyed as some believe, but is a renewed creation freed from corruption, purified, transfigured, glorified, the perfect Church, the Bride of Christ. The New Jerusalem, then, represents a Union of the Glory of Christ and His church where death will be no more, for all live to Him (Lk. 20.38) who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
Today’s gospel, on the other hand, may seem a bit out of place with the theme of the Feast of All Saints and in light of the first two readings. But is it? It is the last and climatic sign of death and resurrection in the gospel - the raising of Lazarus. Jesus’ motive in calling his friend out of the tomb was not so much as to restore his life, but to show forth the Glory of God.
The theme of glorification in death and resurrection of Jesus is announced in the raising of Lazarus. The raising of Lazarus looks forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus, as if to prepare the disciples to face it. It is a test of Faith and Hope in Jesus Now. Lazarus, then, represents every believer who loves Jesus and is loved by Him - whom the Lord will raise up at the last day.
The early martyrs, you see, were confident that death of the body did not separate them from the love of God. Through faith in Jesus we are brought into such a relation to God as assures eternal life - physical death does not involve spiritual. The spiritual life is independent of the fact of death. It begins here and continues there.
Thus we pray for those who have died that increasing in knowledge and love of God, they may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in God’s heavenly kingdom (BCP 481). It is a spiritual energy of eternal being in knowledge and love that therefore the dead are still living in the presence of the God who created them.
If there is one subject Jesus talked more about than money, it is the Kingdom of God. Every lesson Jesus taught his disciples on the road to Jerusalem and the cross was concerning the kingdom. The kingdom is here and now, Jesus taught, and is yet to come. As mystical as that may sound we can experience a foretaste of God’s kingdom in Church.
Each time we begin the liturgy we do so reminding ourselves of that very fact: “Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be His kingdom NOW and forever. Amen.” In worship we join the heavenly hosts, the saints and the angels and join in their song before the throne of God - “Holy, Holy, Holy…”
In the Eucharist we come liturgically to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly of the church of the firstborn, who are registered in heaven (The Church Triumphant), and to God the judge of all (Heb. 12. 22,23).
With this heavenly vision, each time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist heaven and earth meet and we participate in worshipping God with that “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb.12.1) who in faith have gone on before us to their heavenly rest and abide with Him in Love - The Communion of Saints to which we belong and whom we remember today.
Worship, then, is not a solitary act. Rather it is the Bride of Christ, The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, those on earth joining with those in heaven, the Saints of God, in giving Thanks to our God and King, who has called us through faith to new life in Him who died and rose again and made us citizens of His magnificent Kingdom, Now, and in the Age to Come. AMEN+