Monday, October 31, 2016

Words of wisdom from Mr. William Watson (Treasurer, Christ Episcopal Church)

Our very own Mr. Bill Watson shared the following thoughts from this past Sunday that he prepared and sent to the Monroe paper:

Dear editor:

Was attending my weekly service at the Episcopal church today, and was thinking about missing the Homecoming celebration at my Alma Mater, Tulane, yesterday, and a lot of thoughts ran through my mind.  I began thinking of my attendance at church as a "reunion" with my Lord and Savior every week.
Families look forward to reunions a great deal, whether holidays or anniversary celebrations or whatever, and I doubt if they would even consider missing them.  It suddenly occurred to me that as Christian church membership and attendance is shrinking nationally, more and more are missing the opportunity to "visit" our Lord regularly.
So, I would urge everyone  who has maybe let their "visits" slip a little, to be conscious of how much the Lord probably misses you!!
William W Watson
St Joseph, Louisiana

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sermon shared by Layreader Jane Barnett October 30, 2016

Sermon – September 14, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 19) Track 1
Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22

Please be seated.
Well, when we hear this, don’t we just want to respond incredulously, “Seriously, Jesus?”  Aren’t some things just unforgiveable?

Earlier this week, we remembered the events of September 11, 2001, now 13 years ago!  Can it be so long ago?  The images are seared in our memory, aren’t they?  You mean we must forgive such evil? The writer for our Forward Day by Day wrote, “The terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 forced us to confront the power of evil and challenged us to find a way to respond with forgiveness.” (Forward Day by Day, Vol. 80, No. 3, pg 44)

Last evening, I made a new Facebook friend.  The profile photo shows a younger version of this man who turned 57 yesterday.  In his profile photo, he looks about 5 or six and seems to be perched on his father’s lap.  The father is looking straight out at us…with piercing eyes, a 60sslicked hairdo, gorgeous suit with pretty, thin blue tie and an almost smile on his face.  The epitome of the good-looking early 60s man.  Six years later, the father was murdered on the streets of Detroit.  The boy was only 11 years old, left fatherless.

But that 11-year old boy wrote a letter to the judge in his father’s murder trial, pleading that the judge not sentence his father’s killer to death.  Having lost his own father, this 11-year old boy did not want any other child to go through the same experience of losing their father.

Some things seem unforgiveable and our faith and followship of Jesus Christ demand forgiveness. Every Sunday, we say the prayer Jesus taught us to say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Often we remember that Jesus hung on a cross, dying a most horrible death of torture, betrayed by his own community, yet asking God to forgive his killers.
But still, we want to live in the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” where everyone ends up blind and toothless world.

Why does Jesus demand extreme forgiveness and how in the world can we forgive?
Seriously, forgiveness is good for us, spiritually, emotionally and physically, according to the Mayo Clinic’s “Healthy Adult” website. ( When we can’t forgive, the wrong done to us overtakes us.  We spend lots of brain space to remember what happened, living it over and over.  We spend plenty of emotional energy hanging on to our anger and bitterness.  Not forgiving means we miss what’s happening in our lives today.  We also cut off new and helpful relationships.
Forgiveness, according to the Mayo Clinic site can bring us the following benefits:
  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
Seriously, forgiveness acknowledges our humanity.  None of us are perfect.  We have all done things to hurt ourselves and to hurt others. We are all in need of forgiveness.  Not forgiving means we live as if we could be perfect and as if we are not human, which is ultimately cruel.  Forgiveness means we live with compassion and humility.  That’s what the 11-year-old boy knew – compassion.
Seriously, forgiveness acknowledges our deep understanding of the heart of God.  Time after time, Jesus told stories about how God searches for us when we are lost; how God rejoices when we are found; how God opens wide God’s arms to embrace us when we return.  In other words, God’s forgiveness of us never ends.  There is nothing we can do to separate us from the love of God, Paul writes.  God’s heart of love is rooted in forgiveness, because forgiveness sets us free, both when we forgive and when we know we are forgiven for what we do.
But how can we forgive?

First of all, forgiveness is not forgetting.  People must still face the consequences of their actions. And if the one who wronged us has not acknowledged that wrong, nor repented of it, they may not be the best people for us to be around.  Remember, we are clear-eyed and wise.  We can forgive and remember.

Sister Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic Benedictine nun, has written a book of reflections on forgiveness, God’s Tender Mercy: Reflections on Forgiveness (Twenty-Third Publications).  I found an excerpt online, which I think explains a lot about forgiveness.

“A young woman, the [ancient monastic] story goes, who is heavy with child and terrified of being executed for dishonoring the family name, accuses a revered old monk, who prayed daily at the city gates, of assaulting her and fathering the child. The people confronted the old man with the accusation. But the old man’s only response to the frenzy of the crowd was a laconic, “Is that so?” As he gazed into space and went on fingering his beads, the townspeople became even more infuriated and drove the culprit out of town.

Years later, the woman, exhausted by her guilt and wanting to relieve her burden and make restitution, finally admitted that it was her young lover, not the old monk, who fathered the child. In fear for his life as well as her own, she had lied about the attack. Stricken with compunction, the townspeople rushed to the hermitage in the hills where the old man was still saying his prayers and leading his simple life. “The girl has admitted that you did not assault her,” the people shouted. “What are you going to do about that?” But all the old monk answered was, “Is that so?” and went right on fingering his beads.”

You see, Sister Chittister explains, “The fact is, that there is nothing to forgive in life if and when we manage to create an interior life that has more to do with what we are than with what other people do to us. What we are inside ourselves determines how we react to others — no matter what they do.”  When we are grounded in our faith, knowing deeply our humanity, knowing we are loved and forgiven by God, we are not pulled into the whirlwind of reacting to others around us.

Sister Chittister concludes, “Forgiveness is a gift that says two things. First, I am just as weak as everyone else in the human race and I know it. And, second, my inner life is too rich to be destroyed by anything outside of it.”

So forgive 77 times.  Forgive from the heart so that you may have abundant life…so that you may have joy… so that you may have peace…so that you may live in the love of God.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Father Riley's sermon from October 23, 2016

23 PENTECOST, PROPER XXV - C - 16      LUKE 18. 9-14

“Jesus told his parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others…”
Today’s parable comes on the heels of last week’s gospel reading where Jesus emphasized our need to pray and pray without ceasing. In today’s parable two men go into the Temple to pray; one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-collector.
The Pharisee stood close to the altar and as far away from the tax-collector as he could get. He thanked God that he was not like other men, and then goes on to tell God what kind of men that would be, including the tax-collector who was praying in the Temple with him.
Then he concludes his prayer by boasting before God of his fasting twice a week which was more than the law required. And his alms giving, that included a tithe of all that he had that was well above and beyond what was required by the law. The Pharisee was long on boasting but short on humility.
The tax-collector, on the other hand, acknowledges his sinfulness before God and asks for God’s mercy. He dares not even raise his eyes towards God’s altar. He knows that he is unworthy to stand before God. His prayer comes from the heart. Jesus tells his audience that it was not the Pharisee, but the tax-collector that went home justified before God; a pronouncement which must have surely rattled those whom Jesus was aiming the parable towards. Justified, in this case, means forgiven and set right before God.
Is it a human flaw that some of us have a tendency to look down our noses at our neighbor? Or is it simply the sin of pride that causes us to feel that we are better than others? Pride and prejudice go hand in hand and causes us to have a judgmental attitude towards other people. Prejudice comes in many forms; religious, racial, social, and intellectual to name a few.
Many people come to believe that being a Christian means being against other people, or to use St. Luke’s words in today’s gospel, trusting in our own righteousness and looking down our noses at those who do not meet our expectations. Or else the ones we deem who are not on par with ourselves, or whom are simply different from us. Where is the Charity in that?
There is a grave danger in being self-righteous and that is our becoming consumed by pride and boasting. There us a reason pride is the number one deadly sin. “The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from the Lord; his heart has forsaken his Maker,” so wrote the author of Ecclesiasticus (132 B.C.)
All of us waffle in our faith. Our trust in God can be intermittent at best. Pride gets the best of us at times and when it does we separate ourselves not only from our neighbor but from God. Pride squelches true Charity and humility is no where to be found. God too is absent where there is boasting. When we are full of self there is no room for God.
Scripture defines righteousness as having Faith and trust in God, like that of Abraham. Man is justified by his faith and trust in God, not in his own efforts. Inward humility is blessed while pride in our outward deeds is condemned. It is not for us to judge who is in and who is out. That’s for God to decide.
The reality is that we are all sinners in need of repentance. The Holy Spirit convinces us of our solidarity in human sin, and of our common need for God’s forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. As St. Paul says, were it not for the grace of God, there go I.
If we are honest with ourselves, then, we can see something of ourselves reflected in the both of the church goers in today’s gospel. When we are at our self-righteous worse, our prayers offered to God sound much like that of the Pharisee. We give God a list of all the things we are against and thank God we are not among them. But the truth is, it is not how we see ourselves in the end that will matter, but how God sees us.
At other times life’s situations humble us and make us realize we have nothing going for us except our faith and trust in God and His mercy. The tax-collector’s prayer becomes our prayer “Lord have mercy.” Divine mercy is always reserved for those who are ready to admit their true situation in the sight of God.
Scripture teaches that God promises to hear the prayers of those who are honest enough to acknowledge their unworthiness. Indeed the whole message of the Christian faith is that in Jesus Christ, God has visited the humble and in doing so has set the example of humility for all of us to follow.
In Jesus, God descended in the flesh, humbling His divinity to share in our humanity. He lived and died as one of us, in the hope that through Him we might learn to live our lives to God by placing our faith and trust in God and not in our own self-righteousness.
In Jesus God came to share in our failures and our grief and our regrets, to identify with us in every way, even to the point of sharing our death, so that we might share in His resurrection. This is the Christian Hope.
This is the faith we made at the font of life through the waters of Holy Baptism, where we were “buried with Christ in his death and raised to new life in Him.” This is the faith we celebrate each time we come to God’s altar to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
When we celebrate the Holy Eucharist we recall the sacrifice Christ made on the hardwood of the Cross for our sins and the sins of the whole world that we might in turn learn to live the new life to which we have been called and inherit the promise of eternal life in Him.
The Sacramental presence of the crucified and risen Christ is a sign of God’s eternal love for us and a pledge of the Hope of our calling. Pray that through the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love we may no longer live unto ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, and in all humility give Thanks to God whose Love and great Mercy have made us worthy to stand before Him. AMEN+

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Father Riley's homily for October 9, 2016

21 PENTECOST, PROPER XXIII - C - 16                     LUKE 17. 11-19


Today’s first lesson and the gospel reading combine to give us stories of two lepers, both “outsiders;” one a Syrian, the other a Samaritan who, once they are healed, return to give God the glory.

In today’s first lesson the leper is a great man, the commander of the army of the King of Aram. He had just recently led his army to a great victory. Despite his military success and his fame among his own people the disease that plagued him remains the object of his focus. Leprosy was the most dreaded disease of the time. It brought great physical suffering and isolation. Only God could heal it.

As one might imagine Naaman was willing to do whatever it would take to relieve himself of the dreaded disease. So when his wife discovers that a captive from Israel claims that there is a prophet in Samaria that can cure him, Naaman wastes no time in searching him out. His pride, however, almost costs him the opportunity to be cleansed.

When Naaman arrives at the prophet’s door, Elisha does not come out to greet him, as Naaman expected, but sends a messenger instead to instruct him to wash himself 7 times in the River Jordan and he will be clean. Naaman becomes furious, not only did the prophet not show himself, but there are rivers in his own country, why the Jordan?

Had not those with him intervened Naaman would have returned home a leper. “You have come this far, why not do as the prophet says? What will it hurt?” Thus his companions encouraged him. Setting his anger and his pride aside, the commander of the army immerses himself 7 times in the Jordan as instructed and his flesh is restored.

In all humility and with a genuine sense of gratitude he returns to the prophet, and this time Elisha meets him and receives his praise, “ Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”

The gospel is another story. Here there are ten lepers; nine Jewish and one Samaritan. We don’t know their status or their names. Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem and they approach him outside a small village between Samaria and Galilee. Lepers were not allowed in Jerusalem.

Obviously they have seen him before and recognize him. Instead of placing their hand over their mouths and announcing themselves “unclean” as required by the law; they call out to him by name “Jesus, master, have mercy on us.” Jesus instructs them to go and show themselves to the priests.

According to the law of Moses only the priests could pronounce one clean. By doing so, the individual was restored to society. But again, it would take a miracle, one that only God could perform.

Jesus’ sending them off to the priests is a test of their faith. They go as if they have already been made clean.  It is while they are going the healing takes place. They all have faith to go and all are cleansed; but the nine Jews take it as a matter of course; only one, the Samaritan has the responsive love in his heart which prompts him to return to give God the glory.

He had no need to see a priest. The disease had united him with the others. It was a union that, under normal circumstances, would have never taken place. Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other. But now that they were cleansed of their leprosy the Samaritan was again separated from the others, not by religious prejudice as one might imagine, but by gratitude.

The Samaritan turned back to give thanks and to praise God. “Where are the nine? Jesus asked. They did what Jesus instructed them to do, they went and showed themselves to the priests who must have been more than surprised to see them made clean.

No doubt they were asked how? And in their excitement told that it was Jesus who healed them. The priests must have wondered who this Jesus really was, for only God could cure such a disease. Was he saying that He and God were one in the same?

Perhaps, then, they did not return to give thanks because the priests warned them that this Jesus was a marked man and they would do well not to be seen with him. Or maybe they were so elated over their restoration that they were in a hurry to be re-united with their family and friends and simply did not think about going back. They were not any less cured, but less grateful.

The nine Jews represent the majority who benefited from Christ’ coming into the world who were more than willing to receive from God’s grace but who fail to be thankful. The Samaritan who turned back represents the minority portion who received Christ in faith and thanksgiving to the Glory of God. Either way the Samaritan puts the nine Jews to shame who, for whatever reason, did not turn back and give thanks to God.

Where do we see ourselves in these two stories? If we look at them through the lens of our relationship to God both of the stories reflect our own. Our leprosy is our sin. Only God can cure it; only the blood of Christ can wash us clean. Baptism is where we began the journey of faith.

It is a lifetime road to God we travel. Along the way we sometimes react to life’s situations like Naaman in today’s first lesson. When we need God’s grace the most we let our anger and or our pride get in the way of His healing love. Only when we let go of all of that and with all humility and genuine gratitude acknowledge Him as the source of our wholeness, do we truly recognize the benefit of His grace.

There are times in our lives when we are more like the nine lepers in today’s gospel rather than the one Samaritan. We fail to give thanks to God “always and for everything,” as St. Paul says in Ephesians 5.20. Too often we take God’s grace and love for granted, as a matter of course. We are obedient out of faith but without gratitude.

True, faith and healing go hand in hand. All ten were faithful. Faith cured them all. But there is something else at work here; the rhythm of faith and gratitude that enables us to recognize Jesus as the source of our wholeness; a recognition that elicits a responsive Love prompting us to give God the Glory.

Pray God, to give us the grace to be like the one who turned back, being faithful with a thankful heart. And pray God we will always be able to recognize the One who died and rose again as the source of our wholeness, and the Hope of our calling, even Jesus Christ Our Lord. AMEN+





Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blessing of the Animals October 2, 2016

We gathered with our animal friends (family) on a beautiful Sunday (Oct 2) afternoon for a blessing of the animals in honor and respect for St. Francis.  Each loved pet received a blessing from Father Riley and a sprinkle of Holy Water...when was the last time you received Holy Water?  Our beloved pets may be one up on us.  Cecil and Vickie led us in singing "All Creatures Great and Small".

St. Francis of Assisi abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to Christianity after reportedly hearing the voice of God, who commanded him to rebuild the Christian church and live in poverty. He is the patron saint for ecologists.  For more information, go to:

Collect for St. Francis 
Most high, omnipotent good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy.  O God, you have made us and all living things. You are even more wonderful than what you have made. We thank you for giving us these pets who bring us joy.  As you take care of us, so also we ask your help that we might take care of those who trust us to look after them.  By doing this, we share in your own love for all creation. We ask this in  Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Father Riley's sermon for Oct 2, 2016

20 PENTECOST, PROPER XXII - C - 16                     LUKE 17. 5-10


When reading Luke one sometimes runs into different sayings of Jesus that have no obvious connections between them. The author appears to string them together like pearls one saying right after another. Such is the case in today’s gospel passage.
In the verses that immediately precede today’s gospel Jesus has just given his disciples a teaching on forgiveness. The disciple’s immediate reaction, according to Luke, is to ask for an increase of faith? Jesus responds to their request with the familiar example of the mustard seed.
He tells his followers that what is important in life is not the quantity but the quality of our faith. What the disciples had to discern, and what we have to discover is just that, the quality of our faith, whether it be the size of a mustard seed or that of a sycamore tree.
To look at it another way, faith is like a window through which we can see something. What matters is not whether the window is six inches or six feet high; what matters is the God your faith is looking out on. If it is the God who is active in Jesus and the Spirit, then the tiniest peep hole will give you access to a spiritual power you never dreamed of.
No where in the teachings of Jesus does he ever give us a simple definition of faith. But the totality of Jesus’ teachings makes it clear to us that faith is our unconditional acceptance of Him as Lord and Savior. It is our total “yes” to follow him and like him to fulfill the will of the Father.
Faith is a gift from God, and St. Paul reminds Timothy of that in today’s Epistle. In his spiritual advice to his young protégé, Paul instructs him to “rekindle” the gift and to live out the rich deposit of faith that is within him and share it with others.
The spirit that God gives is not one of timidity. It is a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Paul’ words are given to us, then, in the same spirit they were given to Timothy, in the same spirit they have been given to others that we have known in our witness to Christ. We all need to “rekindle” the gift of faith that is within us, live it out and not be afraid to share it with others. That’s what makes us true disciples.
We need not be concerned with the quantity of our faith, or our lives, as today’s world wants us to consider, but with the quality of how we live our lives as faithful witnesses for Christ. In the final analysis that is what really matters.
The second pearl, if you will, from today’s gospel is only found in Luke. It has to do with how we live out “our bounden duty and service.” Jesus’ parable of the servant who has just come in from working in the field to serve his master at table makes his teaching clear. Man’s relation to God makes obedience to God a duty to be fulfilled and not an occasion for reward.
But how often have we heard it said “I have done all of this for the Church, I have given so much money over the years for the work and mission of the Church, I have worked so hard teaching Church School, or working on the altar guild and serving on the vestry, surely God will be satisfied with that?” Meaning that somehow one feels he can make a claim on God.
No matter how much we do for God; no matter how difficult it may be at times or what it may cost us, God is never in our debt. God doesn’t owe us anything. It is in His nature to give. Our salvation and our calling is based on God’s grace and love, not on anything we have done to merit God’s favor.
On the contrary, all genuine service to God is done from a Eucharistic standpoint, that is, Thanksgiving, and not to earn any special merit, because we can’t. If we believe that we can go beyond our bounden duty and service and somehow have God in our debt we simply deceive ourselves. To do so is to place ourselves in danger of becoming arrogant and impious.
Again Christ makes it clear in today’s parable that when we have done all that is commanded of us, we have only done our duty and we are without merit of our own. To say that we are ‘unworthy servants” is to remind ourselves of the great truth: we can never put God in our debt.
All that we are and all that we have comes from the grace of God. They are all gifts, as is Faith, Hope, and Love. There is nothing we can offer to God that is not already His, except our sin, and God does not desire that we keep it.
In His great love for us He sent His only Son, Jesus, to redeem us, not only from our sin, but from death. It is through the merits of Christ’ life, death, and resurrection, and His continual mediation for us at the right hand of the Father, that “we are forgiven those things of which our conscience is afraid, and given those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,” as today’s collect says.
In the gospel God invites us to become his own, not because of our accomplishments, for there is nothing we can do to commend ourselves to God. He invites us because of His grace and love, for that is God’s nature. God’s genuine desire, and our Hope, is that at the last day we will be brought with all His saints into the joy of His eternal kingdom. AMEN+