Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Breaking News from CEC February 2018


Christ Episcopal Church “Breaking News” (as they say on TV)

Father Riley plans to be back with us for 9am Lenten class in the Parish house and 10am service this Sunday, March 4, 2018.

On February 11, 2018 CEC held its annual meeting.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with tables beautifully decorated in Mardi Gras d├ęcor arranged by Jane Barnett.  The congregation approved a 2018 operational budget and approved the following members for the 2018 vestry:  Jane Barnett, Sam Corson, Cecil Evans, Margaret Godfrey and Allein Watson.  Faye Corson will serve again as Secretary of the Vestry and Brenda Funderburg will continue as our Treasurer.  We thank Lamar Barnett for his service as Senior Warden for 2015 – 2017.  We hope and encourage other members to offer their time and talents by serving on the vestry in the future.

In a called vestry meeting on February 18, 2018 the vestry elected Sam Corson as Senior Warden and Margaret Godfrey as Junior Warden for 2018.

The Operational 2018 budget is a minimal budget for usual operations, salary, travel; etc.  We have long term projects we are planning for the near future that are not included in the 2018 Operational budget.  Future projects include (but, may not be limited to):  Painting the church and parish house and adding a ramp or lift for access into the church.

Vestry meetings are expected to be held monthly on the 3rd Monday of each month at 4:30pm in our parish house.  Our first scheduled monthly vestry meeting will be March 19.

The vestry looks forward to serving CEC in a busy year.  We have a lot of work to do.

From St. Jude: “Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance”

Sam Corson, Senior Warden CEC

Home #318-766-0998; cell# 601-630-7422

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Father Riley's sermon for February 18, 2018

LENT I - B - 18                  MARK 1. 9-15

Last week’s gospel ended the Epiphany season with St. Mark’s account of the Transfiguration, an event in the life of Jesus that occurred on the holy mountain as he prepared to enter Jerusalem for the last time. Peter, James and John were privy to the event and heard the voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be God’s beloved and with the admonition, listen to him. The events of Holy Week would soon follow. The cross loomed in the distance.

Today’s gospel, on the first Sunday of Lent, turns back the hands of the clock to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. He is anointed by the Holy Spirit and confirmed in his mission by a voice from heaven that only Jesus hears, “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased.”

And with that, he is immediately driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit where he spends forty days preparing for the road that lay ahead - including the cross. Without going into detail, Mark simply tells us that Jesus was tempted by Satan while he was preparing for his mission. However, he was not alone. The wild beasts were there, and the angels ministered to him.

If we want the details of Jesus’ temptations, we have to go to Matthew and Luke’s accounts. They all boil down to allegiance, devotion, and loyalty. Jesus won that round, but the battle was not over. Satan would return to Jesus at a later date to try again to derail his mission by tempting Jesus to use his divine powers to escape his human situation.

What Satan attempted to do was to get Jesus to rely on his divine powers to overcome his physical and spiritual struggles, first in the wilderness, and later as he neared the completion of his mission. The opportune time would come in the garden at Gethsemane as Christ prayed that the cup might pass him by and most notably on the cross when Satan challenged Jesus to prove his true identity by coming down from the cross.

However, Jesus refused. Instead, he stood with us. His humanity was able to overcome and dispel the enemy. How did he do it? If we look closely at Matthew and Luke’s accounts, we see that Jesus used scripture to defeat Satan’s temptations. Being grounded in the word of God is our strongest tool to fight the enemy. However, there was more, much more.

Mark’s account tells us that the holy angels were there, not to prevent Jesus from being tempted, but to remind him of the Father’s love. Jesus relied on God the Father to Love him through it. The Father had said at his baptism that he was His beloved. Thus, Jesus went into the wilderness knowing that the Father loved him.

The love of God gives life. Jesus proved it in the desert and by doing so set the example for all of us to follow. If we are grounded in the knowledge of the Word of God and know that we are loved by God for all eternity we have what we need to pass through this present wilderness, even though we are surrounded by wild beasts of all kinds, and tempted by Satan in all manner of ways.

In our Epistle for today St. Paul reminds us that we have been saved through the waters of Holy Baptism just as Noah and his family was saved through the waters of the great flood. However, our salvation comes not from being washed clean, but through our faith and belief in the resurrection of Jesus.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Satan did not want Jesus to be crucified? He wanted Jesus to come down from the cross and give his allegiance to him. It was Satan speaking though the mouths of the chief priests, scribes and elders who mocked him on Calvary.

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God let God deliver him now…” And it was Satan who spoke through the mouth of the one thief hanging next to him who reviled him in the same way.

For Satan knew that if Christ died, he would rise again. His victory over sin and death would be complete and His kingdom would come, and that of Satan’s would end. As we strive to live the new life to which we have been called in Christ Jesus, know that the enemy will work harder at trying to tempt us in the wrong direction.

Baptism marks us as belonging to Christ forever. However, it does not make us immune to temptation and sin. Having been buried with Christ and raised to life in him through the waters of holy baptism only serves to make us a greater target for the enemy. Satan’s desire is to cause us to doubt our true identity and to whom we ultimately belong thus shaking our allegiance, our loyalty and our devotion to God.

Thus in the invitation to the observance to a holy Lent on Ash Wednesday we are reminded of our continual need of repentance. Today’s collect serves to strengthen that reminder. We are in need of God’s help as we are continually being assaulted by manifold temptations. The enemy knows very well where we are the weakest and that is where he will always strike.

C.S. Lewis, the great Anglican lay-theologian, put it in terms we can all understand in his classic “The Screwtape Letters” It is an engaging account of temptation and triumph over it. The subject of the book is a newly minted Christian. In his book, via a series of letters, he describes how Satan uses various methods to undermined faith and promote sin.

Temptation covers all areas and experiences of life such as pain, sorrow, disappointment, solicitation to sin, and conflict of duties, pride and prejudice and let us not forget the sin of self-righteousness. Incitement to evil may come from without, but the real struggle always takes place within.

To continue the journey to God unimpeded and undeterred we need not rely on our own strength and resources, but on God’s holy Word written and living coupled with the knowledge that we are not alone. God is with us. His holy angels watch over us. In addition, God has given us the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love.

These gifts of grace will strengthen us as we struggle to make our way to God through this present wilderness. Our proper response to God’s gifts of grace is to give Him our total allegiance, our unquestioned loyalty, and above all, our undying devotion and then let God Love us through it to the Glory of His name. AMEN+

Friday, February 16, 2018

Father Riley's Ash Wednesday homily, February 14, 2018

Father Riley will begin our Lenten classes this Sunday (Feb 18) at 9am in the parish house.  Please join us for Gregg's enlightening guidance through Lent.  From the BCP, page 265: "I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word."


What comes to you mind when you hear the yearly invitation to Lent? Is it something like, oh, here we go again and here are the things I am supposed to do to get through the next 40 days. Or do you ask yourself the traditional question what will I give up for Lent this year?

I always like to tease people by asking them what they gave up last year. Some can remember, but most cannot. Instead of thinking about how to get through Lent, think about how Lent might get through to us this year. Lent is a season of preparation. It is a time for us to get ready to celebrate with joy the Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ and what His rising from the dead means to our life and the life of the world.

The Lenten invite is an invitation to examine our spiritual life as a means of preparing ourselves to celebrate Easter. Call it a check-up if you will. It is a call to re-discover and re-commit ourselves to live into our identity, that is, our identity in God. Our life is hid in God as scripture says. It is in Him we live, move, and have our being. Who we are in God is who we really are.

Too often, we allow our culture, or even our own estimation of ourselves to define us. That is where self-examination comes in. Lent invites us to look at the ways in which we have allowed our fears, attitudes, behavior, our accomplishments, successes and failures, as well as our opinion of others to tell us who we are. All of which separates us from God, our true selves, and each other.

Lent invites us to repent of, fast from, and let go of, those false identities and renew our true identity as God’s holy people. With that in mind, let us return to the question of what to give up for Lent. First of all, ask yourself what is my motivation for giving up something? It is meant to be a sacrifice in the true sense of the word.

If it is not something that you will miss that has become part of your life, then it is a mere token and not a sacrifice. Giving up chocolate or the watching of Fox News is not the right idea.

What we choose to give up should be a negative in terms of our spiritual life; something that separates us from God, like pride; a barnacle that needs to be scraped off and removed once and for all.

And another thing, whatever you choose to give up that is detrimental to you spiritual life is not something you to want to go back and retrieve after the 40 days have ended. It should be a permanent surrender. If you give it to Jesus, it belongs to Jesus. Moreover, whatever we choose to give to God creates a space for adding something positive to our life in God. Think about that.

What could you add that would bring you closer to God? The three things Jesus is speaking of in today’s gospel are not things we should be adding during Lent, but three aspects of one’s spiritual life that should always be there: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. These are acts of piety, that is, devotion that comes with living one’s religious life according to one’s beliefs.

All three are a reflection of our relationship to God. God is not impressed with what others think of us, nor by what we think of ourselves. God rewards are based on pure motives of the heart. Thus, a thankful heart should motivate our almsgiving. We give back to God because we are thankful for all that, He gives to us.

We pray in order to communicate with God. The spirit of prayer is intimate, personnel communion with God. True prayer is not telling God what he already knows and then telling him what to do about it. True prayer is lifting up our hearts to God and includes listening, an aspect of prayer we often forget.

Fasting is a means of surrendering our self to God, learning to be dependent on Him. It is a means also of cleansing ourselves both physically and spiritually in order to be filled with God’s presence. Did you know that there is no Ash Wednesday in the Orthodox Church? The idea being that fasting is for spiritual growth and the glory of God, and is not to be seen by those around us.

But does our wearing of the cross of ashes on our foreheads this day communicate our fasting or our commitment to enter the Lenten season reminded of our need of repentance and of our mortality?

Most that come forward for the imposition of ashes do not intend to fast in the traditional sense of the word. Many will not wear the ashes throughout the day. To live a pious life is to live according to one’s religious beliefs in ways that manifest that belief. Isn’t that what we are called to do? Live our lives in such ways that others will know that we are Christians?

The cross of ashes may or may not remain during the day but the sign of the cross that was traced on our foreheads at baptism is indelible. We need to be reminded of that and perhaps the tracing of the sign of the cross with ashes will serve to do so.  It is Christ’s life we are to reflect. Our purpose in living a devout and holy life is not to call attention to ourselves but to Him.

These 40 days, then, belong to us. We can choose to go through the motions of getting through Lent or we can choose to participate in the Lenten exercises that allow Lent to get through to us. The deeper our Lenten practice and experience the more joyful will be our celebration of Easter.

We have been invited by the church to get ready to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with joy and in the hope of eternal life that His rising from dead brings to all who truly believe in Him. To do so, we need to get our spiritual house in order by self-examination and repentance, prayer, fasting and self-denial and the reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

The choice is ours. We can choose to accept the invitation and commit ourselves to following through on the ways and means of drawing closer to God and living into our true identities, so that the joy of Easter is ours throughout the year, or we can choose to ignore it.

Will you accept the Church’s invitation to re-discover and re-commit yourselves to live the Easter life? That is the real Lenten question. AMEN+

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Father Riley's homily from February 11, 2018

LAST EPIPHANY - B - 18                   MARK 9. 2-9

If the major theme of the Epiphany season is that of revealing the true nature of Jesus Christ, then, the Transfiguration of Jesus on the last Sunday of the Epiphany season is the climax of the revelation.

If the main symbol of the Epiphany season is that of light, then, the appearance of Jesus in all of his resplendent glory, if only for an instant of time, atop the mountain before the bewildered eyes of Peter, James, and John is the ultimate example.

We end the Epiphany season with a familiar story that is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels and appears to be all about Jesus, but is it. What is the real meaning of the event? What meaning does it hold for us today?

I have always been intrigued by the last verse of today’s reading. “As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” First of all what could they possibly say? How could they put into words what they had seen and heard? What did Jesus mean about the Son of Man risen from the dead?

Secondly, who would believe them? The story of Jesus’ “transformation” or “transfiguration” describes what seems to have been an actual event, but an event in which the deepest significance of everyday reality suddenly and overwhelmingly confronted Peter, James, and John. It was the kind of event, as we like to say, you cannot make up.

It would be easy to dismiss such an experience as a hallucination, albeit a very odd one. Can’t you just hear Peter blurting out, “I thought I saw Moses standing next to Jesus, but how could that be?” Or James saying, “I think I saw Elijah standing next to him also, but I must have just imagined it.” Then, there would be John asking, “ok, then, whose voice did we hear proclaiming, “This is my Son, the Beloved; Listen to him.”

The whole experience was puzzling and not a little frightening one for the three. The Old Testament and tradition tells of various events like this, when the veil of ordinariness that normally prevents us from seeing the “inside” of a situation is drawn back, so to speak, and a fuller reality is disclosed.

However, unlike the revelations of St. John the Divine, for example, in the last book of the Bible, whose visions were futuristic, what Peter, James and John were experiencing was in the here and now.

Most of us do not have experiences like that, but some do. I had a seminary classmate who did. David and I became very close during our time together at school. Both of us were late vocation. He had left his family behind in Iowa while he attended seminary in Kentucky. Batching as he was, we often invited him over for a meal, especially during the holidays.

During Advent and Lent, we went on retreats together at the various monasteries in the area. It was while we were on a Lenten retreat at the Trappist Monastery of Gethsemane, near Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where, I might add, Thomas Merton once was a member of the community that David told me of the frequent visions he had of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At first, I was highly skeptical. I had never known anyone who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary, a saint or anything for that matter that represented the super natural. The whole idea was bit unnerving. I listened intently as he described how she appeared to him when he was praying.  He never told me if she spoke to him, only that she appeared to him.

He confided in me that he had not told anyone else about his visions. He was afraid no one would believe him. For him they were life changing and had a lot to do with his choosing to enter seminary and to become a priest. After listening to him relate his experiences in detail, I was convinced that, he had indeed seen our Lady.

He, as well as others who have had such experiences usually regard them as highly important and life changing. For Peter, James, and John that life-change would occur later after Jesus had risen from the dead, and appeared to them in the upper room bearing the scars of the crucifixion.

Only then, would they understand what Jesus had meant when he said that they should not say anything about what they had seen or heard on the mountain, “Until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. "

Only then with Jesus’ resurrection appearance coupled with the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, would their fear be removed. With their fear out of the way, their faith would enable them to connect the dots, as we say, between what Jesus had said and done in their presence for over a period of some three years regarding God and the coming kingdom.

Only then, would they be able to understand and realize what they had witnessed atop the mountain of the Transfiguration was not only a revelation of Jesus’ true nature as the Divine Son of God, resplendent in all His glory, but a glimpse of that same glory that would one day be theirs.

Only when they understood all of this would they be able to tell others in a convincing manner, what they had seen and what they had heard and what it now meant to them and would mean to all who would believe in Jesus as God’s Beloved Son.

Most of us will never experience anything like what Peter, James, and John experienced atop the mountain. Or, anything like the visions, my brother in Christ experienced, and perhaps still does to this day. Most of us do not interpret the details of our daily lives according to scriptural events. Perhaps we should. Many do not believe in the super natural. Perhaps they should.

However, each of us is called to do what the voice from heaven said: “Listen to him.”  We are to listen to Jesus, because he is God’s Beloved Son. Moreover, as we learn to listen, even if sometimes we get scared and say the wrong things, as Peter did, we may find that glory overtakes us unawares.

For God continues to reveal Himself and His plan for each of us, drawing back the veil of ordinariness, even if it is only for an instant of time, so that we can see, through the eyes of faith, the vision glorious.

He does so in order to strengthen us to bear our cross, as he did the disciples, for the road that lies ahead, as we continue the journey to God by the means of Grace and in the Hope of Glory. AMEN+

Monday, February 5, 2018

Christ Episcopal Church annual meeting Sunday February 11, 2018

Please join us for Christ Episcopal Church’s 2018 annual meeting this Sunday, February 11 in the Whitaker Parish House.  Records indicate the Episcopal congregation started meeting in Tensas Parish around 1855.  Our church building, built in 1872, is 145 years old and we’re looking forward to continuing our work in the “God Movement” as Clarence Jordan and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry call our work.  Father Riley will lead Holy Eucharist at 10am and the annual meeting and covered dish dinner will follow the 10am service.  Please contact Mrs. Jane Barnett to see what covered dish offering may need to be added for our dinner.  We need everyone’s help in continuing our mission in Tensas Parish and we hold a special responsibility being the oldest church in St. Joseph. 
From the Forward Day by Day:

MONDAY, February 5

Psalm 77:1 I will cry aloud to God. I will cry aloud, and he will hear me.
I am alone, bound and broken by the memory of his assault. And I am not alone, one of millions of women and men who have been touched, torn, and betrayed—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Healing from this kind of wound comes in fits and starts, and just when I think I’m over it, a certain look sends me spiraling.
Maybe you have a wound too, so deep that it never quite scabs over. A rough patch jostles it loose, or just when things seem to be going great, it rises like bile that you can’t swallow back. In these moments, the Great Comforter is my comfort. I cry aloud, and God hears me.
I know God hears me because God has sent love into my life—my husband and children, my parents and sisters, my family and friends—and through this love, I am being made well.
I still cry. You might too. But I am not alone, and neither are you.
God is here, hearing us, loving us.
MOVING FORWARD: Reach out to someone who may be struggling with unseen or unnamed wounds today. Be the love God sends to those who are hurting.