Sunday, May 28, 2017

Father Riley's sermon from May 28, 2017...and more....

Pictures from today's baptism and reception:  We welcomed the Godfrey family as John Godfrey was baptized today and we welcomed the Vacation Bible School team from St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Lafayette, LA, led by The Rev. Mitzi George.  VBS will run from May 28 thru June 2.
The Godfrey family after the service.
Congregation after the service.
The reception.
Cecil and Vickie playing beautiful music for us.

[Father Riley's sermon:]
EASTER VII -A - 17          JOHN 17.1-11

The 17th chapter of John contains the “high priestly” prayer of Jesus so-called, as it contains the basic elements of a prayer a priest offers to God when a sacrifice is about to be made: glorification (vs. 3-5), remembrance of God’s works (vs. 2, 6-8), intercession on behalf of others (vs. 9, 11, 15), and a declaration of the offering itself (vs. 1, 5).

Christ’ prayer concludes his final discourse delivered to his disciples in the upper room prior to his arrest in the garden. Today’s gospel reading contains the first two thirds of the prayer. Jesus prays first for himself and then for the disciples he is leaving behind, “the men you have given me.” These are the Apostles. They are the ones through whom God’s word comes to us.

Jesus’ prayer gathers up the themes of the preceding discourse. It is both a final resolution of Jesus’ obedience to the death, which will be his glorification and an intercession for the fruits of his accomplished work after his ascension. The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus is a consecration of himself as the mediator of salvation. In his prayer Jesus offers himself for the Father’s purposes and shows concern for the destiny of his disciples after his return to heaven.

In this portion of the prayer, Christ prays for the unity of the disciples, “that they may one as he and the father are one.” He prays that they will have His joy fulfilled in themselves and that they will be kept safe from the evil one. Moreover, He prays that God will “sanctify” them in truth.

The unity Jesus prays for on behalf of his disciples will undergo many strains, not the least of which were the successive persecutions that plagued the early church. The “fiery trial” as Peter called in his first letter to the church.

The temptation was ever present for the early followers to renounce their faith in the face of death. Jesus prays for their protection and growth, realizing that such growth can only reach perfection in union with each other and with God.

In the midst of Jesus’ prayer for himself is the revelation of what constitutes eternal life “…that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” What does it mean to know God?

We live in world today where information of all sorts and conditions are readily available at the touch of button. You can literally google anything, or simply ask “siri.”  Hardly any decision is made without first learning something. At times, we bring that same intellectual concern to our faith.

We want to know God, and so we attend classes, we read theology, we think and we argue. We support opportunities in our churches to teach the faith once delivered to the saints to our children so they may know God. We extend those opportunities to the wider community through venues like VBS and ecumenical Bible studies. A great part of the Church’s mission is, and always has been, to teach.

Intellectual grasp of Christian teaching does play a role in faith, but it is not all there is. Alone it does not lead to eternal life. To know God is to know Jesus to be the eternal “Word.” “To know,” as it the verb is used in Hebrew, refers to direct experience and intimacy.

It is not enough simply to be in agreement with the teachings of the Church. Eternal life also entails an encounter with the living Christ, and experience of what God has done and is doing, not just in history, but also in our own lives. To know Jesus is to live in relationship with God.

Again, Peter warns us of the temptations to unfaithfulness. To live in relationship with God in this world is a struggle for the enemy explores us individually looking for our weaknesses. The enemy offers appealing visions to our eyes, music to our ears, to each of our senses setting forth whatever might tempt us to sin.

He arouses our tongues to speak evil about others and urges our hands to injure them. He sets forth profits to be earned by shady and immoral means and holds out earthly honors and false values to be preferred to heavenly ones. When he is unable to tempt us, he brings forth a threat of persecution so that fear may come to us to betray the faith that is within us.

Thus, Jesus prayed that God would protect us from the evil one. For our part, we must always be alert for his many faceted attacks ready to resist him at every turn. For the closer we get to God, the more frequent the attacks that are always aimed at our weak points.

Knowing God also means living a life of obedience to God’s commands. Just importantly, it means being a part of a community of believers. To know is to share in the life of God’s people. That is precisely what we see happening in the lesson from Acts.

Those who had been closest to Jesus during his earthly ministry, the eleven, and the women who had followed him, as well as his mother and brothers, had seen him and had heard his message. They know God and that knowledge continued after the Ascension; knowledge they shared that drew others to Christ.

The final and eternally continuing prayer of Jesus is that the unity of love and purpose he has with the Father will be reflected in the unity of the Church, in her mission to make disciples, to teach the faith by sharing our knowledge of God, and to baptize in His name.

In that spirit we meet today as God’s family committed to do the work God has given us to do, eagerly seeking a deeper knowledge and awareness of God in each of our lives. In that spirit John will be presented for holy baptism where he will renounce the enemy and all of his evil ways and accept Jesus Christ as his Savior promising to follow and obey him as his Lord.

In baptism, John will be buried with Christ and raised to new life in Him. He will be sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’ own forever. Our final prayer for John will be that he be given an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and persevere, but more importantly a spirit to “know and to love God and His Son, Jesus Christ. AMEN+


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Father Riley's sermon from May 21, 2017....and more...

[Notes: (1) Sunday, May 28, John Godfrey will be baptized in Christ Episcopal Church at the 10am service.  A reception will follow.  (2) Our Vacation Bible School Team from St. Barnabas and led by The Rev. Mitzi George will join us May 28 and conduct VBS May 29 thru June 2. (3) Also, UTO Spring Ingathering will be May 28, 2017.  Please make checks payable to: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society with UTO on the memo line.]
EASTER VI - A - 17                JOHN 14. 15-21

St. John’s gospel is often referred to as the “love” gospel because of the many references to the word love that come from the lips of Jesus contained in the Apostle’s writing. Today’s passage is but one example, however, an important one.
It is because he loves them, Jesus tells his friends, that he will ask the Father to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them into all truth, and it is love that will make his presence known to them after he has returned to the Father to prepare a place for them.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus is speaking of love and promise to his disciples in the upper room on the eve of his arrest. He has given them the 11th commandment, to love one another as He has loved them. All of this talk of love comes after Judas, the betrayer, has left the room. It is but the tip of the iceberg of his final teaching of his earthly ministry, also known as his final discourse.
His words are punctuated with promises; “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you; because I live you will live. “ His words were meant to bring comfort to them, but he can tell by the look on their faces that they are confused and are in doubt. It isn’t that they don’t want to believe what he is saying, but that they don’t understand what he is saying.
In the beginning of his final discourse, Jesus talked about his going away and coming again and the fact that it was to the disciple’s advantage that he did go away. How can this be? They wondered. It was for the disciples, as we say, both good news and bad news.
Like most of us, they dwelt on the bad news. Love, however, is the key to their understanding what Jesus is saying. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Those who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me and will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
We show our love for Jesus by keeping his commandments, most importantly the one to love as he loves us. In turn, He sends the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth to lead and guide us. The gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence is not a substitute for Christ, but only makes Christ’ presence and the Father’s presence in Him, more real.
This is something new. In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God was given to the prophets to inspire them to speak God’s words. However, in the New Testament teaching the Holy Spirit is poured forth not only on specific chosen witnesses but also on all the faithful believers in Christ.
It was a lot for the disciples to take in all at once. There was no way they could possibly try to absorb all of what Jesus was saying in such a short period. It did not come together for them until the Day of Pentecost, when Jesus’ promise of sending another “Advocate,” even the “Spirit of Truth” who would be with them forever, descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire.
In doing so, the Holy Spirit loosed their tongues to speak in languages understood by all who witnessed it. Then, like the two on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Day, their hearts burned as they realized all that Jesus had said and done. Empowered, then, by the indwelling of the Spirit, and with this gift of knowledge, the disciples boldly proclaimed the gospel throughout the empire.
The Spirit of Truth comes to give God’s people the strength and energy to do what they have to do, to endure what they have to endure, to live to God and witness to His love in the world. As St. Peter writes “…even if you suffer for doing what is right,” you are blessed “…if suffering should be God’s will…for Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”
To be in God is to live in Love. Love and obedience are gifts of grace that come from the Spirit. If we do not understand anything else from today’s gospel lesson, we need to understand this.
This Thursday the Church celebrates the Ascension of Christ. Were it not for the Ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father, where He continues to intercede for us, as one of us, the coming of the Holy Spirit would not have occurred.
It was to our benefit, as it was to the disciples’ that He went away. Yet His presence was made known to them after His resurrection and continues to be made known to us today. A condition of the realization of the presence, however, is love’s obedience. In that, nothing has changed. Love reveals Christ.
His Ascension assures his omnipresence to his own wherever they may be and forever. The Holy Spirit comes from the Father in Jesus’ name and dwells with his followers. He is in fact the presence of God in Christ continuing with his faithful servants and witnesses. After the Ascension of Jesus, the Spirit fulfilled and perfected Christ’ work and still does.
Only those who love Jesus and keep his commandments will know him, for the world cannot receive him. The work of the Spirit is two-fold: he guides and teaches God’s truth and brings to remembrance what Jesus said and reveals those things that are to come by virtue of what Jesus accomplished.
The last three verses present a circle of promises that are ours because of Jesus’ being with us by the Spirit. We will “see” him, plain to the eye of faith; a seeing that is also a knowing. We will live with his new life because He lives. We will know that He and the Father are “in” each other, and that we are “in” Him and He “in” us. In addition, we will be joined to Jesus and the Father by an unbreakable bond of love.
Those who love Jesus will be loved by the Father and by Himself, and both will dwell with the believer with a “spiritual” presence, which the world cannot understand. Love of Christ creates a community of love.
“O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding; Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things; may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” Amen+

Monday, May 8, 2017

VBS set for May 29 thru June 2, 2017!!!

The Episcopal Churches of

St. Barnabas, Lafayette and

Christ Church, St. Joseph


May 29 thru June 2, 2017


It's Free!
For Children Kindergarten thru 5th grade only

To Register:  CALL Sam or Faye at 766-0998 or leave a message with your phone # at the church: 766-3518

VBS is directed by The Reverend Dr. Mitzi George from Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, Lafayette, LA.  This is the 5th year we have been honored to have the VBS team from St. Barnabas come to Saint Joseph and hold Vacation Bible School for us.  All children K – 5th grade are welcome.  Please register early!  It's FREE!

Look for updates at:


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Father Riley's sermon from May 7, 2017 at Christ Episcopal

EASTER IV -A - 17           JOHN 10: 1-10


Today is “Good Shepherd” Sunday throughout the church. The readings, along with today’s collect, lend themselves to the image of shepherd. The Psalm we all know well, and the gospel is somewhat familiar to most.
However, the image that comes to my mind on this day is that of a former senior warden. I was rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Texas before my coming to Louisiana. The senior warden was known to be a bit dramatic, and on my first Sunday as rector, that being Good Shepherd Sunday, she more than proved it.
When it came time for the announcements, after I had finished making mine, as usual, I asked if there were anymore. To my surprise, she walked in from the back of the church dressed from head to toe as little bo-peep! She even had a shepherd’s staff in her hand as she processed to the front.
The point she made was to remind the congregation of our namesake and of our need to “shepherd” one another in the faith and especially those who were new to the faith. Her point was well taken. As you can see, I have never forgotten the image or the point she made over 20 years ago.
In today’s passage, Jesus is in conversation with the Pharisees who are supposed to be the “shepherds” of the people. However, the people no longer follow them, nor do they listen to their voice. In Jesus’ eyes, they have failed as “pastors” of God’s people and Jesus is calling them on it. The word pastor, interestingly enough, comes from the Latin shepherd.
Their leadership has been marked by deceit and pride and has lacked compassion. Christ, on the other hand, fulfills all virtue. Christ, then, is contrasting their leadership with his own. He is talking in an abstract way about the difference between the true shepherd and the false ones.
Jesus is the true shepherd whose sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out and the sheep follow him. The love of the true shepherd is accentuated by his willingness to lay down his life for his sheep, not so with the false ones whose only concern is for self.
Even more so, Jesus says he is the “gate,” by which the sheep go in and out and find pasture. The emphasis is on safety and the fulfilled life of the sheep. As such, Jesus declares himself to be the only Mediator of salvation. Christ not only leads where we are to follow, but is the way we are to follow. It is in him and through him; we have life as God intended it.
I have been fortunate enough to have visited Ireland and the British Isles on more than one occasion. Besides the beauty of the countryside, I was amazed at the ingenuity of the local shepherds in creating their sheepfolds, that is, the enclosures for their sheep. The countryside is littered with stones. Not surprisingly, the shepherds have learned to put them to good use.
They stack the stones high enough to create walls that will keep their sheep enclosed and at the same time safe from predators. The gate to the sheepfold is likewise made of stones stacked on top of one another, again just high enough to keep the sheep from jumping over it.
The sheep cannot get in or out until the shepherd comes and removes enough of the stones from the gate that will enable them to follow him to pasture. Jesus’ image is clear. He is the “good shepherd” and we are the sheep of his pasture. He along can remove the “stones” in our lives that enables us to follow him, to live the new life to which we have been called in Him.
Now we do not like to think of ourselves as sheep for more than one reason. Sheep are considered dumb. They need a shepherd to lead and guide them or else they go astray on their own. We prefer to think of ourselves as independent, leading our own lives, going where we wish.
And to a great extent that is true. We have many freedoms as individuals. We make our own decisions. The choices we have made and continue to make identify us, even in some cases cause us to stand out from the crowd. Some of them have been good and some of them not so good. At least they are ours, as we like to say.
However, as Christians, we acknowledge we have often gone astray like lost sheep by some of the decisions we have made. We have not always listened to his voice. We have not always walked along the right pathways for His name’s sake.
However, by God’s grace we realize our need of God. In Him, we have come to know that our life is not our own but is hide with God in Christ. Our future is with God. He has a plan for each of us that can only be discovered by following where the Good Shepherd leads. Our proper response is from the heart. In love and trust, we follow Him.
Like the Good Shepherd he is, Christ stands ready to lead us back to “green pastures,” and to “revive our souls.” He is the shepherd and guardian of our souls, as Peter writes. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.”  In Him and in Him alone is the life that is overflowing.
Both the Old and New Testaments, are replete with the image of God as shepherd and his people as his sheep. The relation of the shepherd to the sheep is linked to that of the Father and the Son and magnifies the intimacy and love God has for each of us.
God knows that we need him to guide and protect us, to keep us safe, not only from the many dangers of this world, but from the danger of our going astray if left to our own devices.
Jesus said, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” AMEN+

Monday, May 1, 2017

Father Riley's sermon given at Christ Church, Bastrop, LA, April 30, 2017

EASTER III - A - 17               LUKE 24. 13-35

I dare say, there is not one of us here today that does not know the story Luke is sketching in such rich detail. At the level of drama, it has everything, but more than that, it is a model for a great deal of what being a Christian is all about.

The slow, sad dismay at the failure of human hope; the tying to someone who might or might not help; the discovery that in scripture, all unexpected, there lay keys that might unlock the central mysteries and enable us to find the truth; the sudden realization of Jesus himself in the breaking of the bread.

Moreover, if I were to stop with that said, we would have enough to contemplate. However, the familiar story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter afternoon demands our closer attention.

Think about the times when you have undergone a personal tragedy, or a crushing defeat and tried to make sense of it by talking it out with another person, a close friend or perhaps a relative. It helps, does it not, to talk about it, to get it off your chest? However, when you cannot quite make sense of all of it, when you cannot connect all of the dots, it leaves you sad and despondent.

These two disciples of Jesus, having left Jerusalem on Easter day, were making their way back home, some seven miles distance. On their way, they were commiserating with one another over the events of the past three days. They were sharing their pain over the loss of their beloved Jesus whom they had hoped would redeem Israel. But alas, he had been crucified, he was dead, and was buried.

That much they could accept with sadness of heart. However, the report of the women who had gone to the tomb just this morning troubled them. They had found the tomb to be empty and had told the disciples that an angel had said Jesus was risen.

Some of Jesus’ followers had gone to the tomb to see for themselves if what the women had said was true. Indeed, the tomb was empty. But him they did not see. What could it possibly mean?

That’s when a stranger approaches and joins the two in their walk. He asks what they are discussing. They are amazed that he is ignorant of the events of recent days in Jerusalem. And so they share their story and emphasize their dashed hope. The cross, they said, had seen to that.

The stranger listens, then, chides them for their lack of faith as he interprets the scriptures concerning the Christ and the fact that he had to suffer in order to fulfill God’s plan for the redemption, not just of Israel, but of the whole world.

Then it began to dawn on them that they had been seeing it through the wrong end of the telescope of how God would redeem Israel from suffering, but it was instead the story of how God would redeem Israel through suffering.

Why did they not recognize him? The fact that they could not recognize Jesus at first seems to have gone with the fact that they could not recognize the events that had just happened as being the story of God’s redemption.

It happens does it not? We get all wrapped up in the details, weighted down by grief, our hopes dashed, our faith teetering, and all the while the risen Lord is there waiting to be realized and to give us His peace.

“Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that he would have gone further…” However, they “invited” him to stay and have supper. Notice Jesus never forces himself on anyone, but waits for an invitation.

As their guest, they ask Jesus to say the table prayer.  He takes the bread and blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them, and their eyes are opened, and they recognize him. A special opening of the eyes is necessary for seeing the risen Christ.

They could not believe it. Their hope and their joy had returned. Resurrection bridged the gap between their lack of faith and their renewed hope. They could not wait to make the return trip to Jerusalem to tell the disciples that He had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread, only to discover He had appeared to Simon.

How do we know Him? How can we see him, touch him? Through Word and Sacrament. As New Testament Christians, if we are to recognize him in any sense, we must first learn to see him within the entirety of God’s story.

Scripture, once opaque is opened to us through the risen Christ. Only when we see the Old Testament as reaching its natural climax in Jesus will we have understood it. Equally, we will only understand Jesus himself when we see him as the one to whom scripture points, not only in isolated proof texts, but also in the entire flow of the story.

In the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, we are invited to know him in a very special way. The real presence of the risen Christ is made known to us in the consecrated bread and wine. For this reason, the Eucharist is the central act of Christian worship and has been from the very beginning of the Church’s life. Scripture and Sacrament, word and meal, is joined together at God’s altar.

Take scripture away, and the sacrament becomes a piece of magic. Take the sacrament away, and scripture becomes an intellectual or emotional exercise, detached from real life. Put them together, and you have the center of Christian living, as Luke understands it.

In this resurrection story, Luke invites us on a journey of faith, faith that will take us through anxiety and sorrow to meet the Jesus who has accomplished the Father’s work, and longs to share the secret of it, and the gift of his own presence, with us, his followers.

Hearing Jesus’ voice in scripture, knowing him in the breaking of the bread, is the way that God welcomes us into the fullness of his kingdom, not in some future time, but now, in the midst of our pain and sorrow, our hopes and joys, in the everyday market place of our lives. The risen Lord waits to be recognized and to give us His Peace. Amen+