Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018





What is the meaning of Pentecost Sunday?

The Christian holiday of Pentecost, which is celebrated on the seventh Sunday (49 days) after Easter, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).

Please wear red Sunday to celebrate Pentecost.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from May 13, 2018



Breaking News:  We will have Morning Prayer next Sunday (May 20th) and Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist May 27 and June 3,  2018.  Services at 10am as usual.


EASTER VII - B - 18               JOHN 17. 6-19



Did you notice the absence of the Paschal Candle? It is lighted on Easter Day and remains lit until the Feast of the Ascension, which occurred on Thursday. How many of you were here for that? It is a major feast day of the church and always but always falls on a weekday. Even in large churches like Grace, it was poorly attended.

Yet it remains a major event in the life of the church. As Jesus descended from heaven, he ascended back into heaven signaling the completion of his earthly ministry. He did so with the promise of sending the Holy Spirit to lead the church into all Truth.

If it is that important, why do not more people come to church to celebrate it? Good question. In today’s gospel, Jesus is preparing his disciples for that very day when he will be taken up from them. The scene is the upper room; the first Eucharist has just been celebrated to the astonishment of the disciples.

Now Jesus is praying for them in what is become known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. It is called the High Priestly Prayer for it contains the basic elements of a prayer a priest offers to God when a sacrifice is about to be made: glorification, remembrance of God’s works and intercession on behalf of others.

Jesus is praying for his disciples who will be left to continue his mission after he has ascended to the father. Jesus knows that the cross awaits him and that all kinds of trials and temptations await them. After the prayer, he and his disciples will leave the safety of the upper room, cross over the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives, and descend to the garden below where he will pray again.

This time, his prayer will be that the cup the father has given him might pass him by. Then he will be arrested, and the rest we know all too well.

Did the disciples understand what Jesus meant when he said he was going to the father and what that would mean for them and the future of the church? I doubt it. They all scattered when Jesus was arrested. None of them were present for the crucifixion save John. No, it was not until Jesus appeared to them post resurrection in that same upper room bearing the marks of the crucifixion that they had any hope of a future.

Moreover, it was not until the Holy Spirit descended upon them, ten days after the Ascension on the Feast of Pentecost that they had the courage to step out into the world and begin to proclaim Him risen from the dead. With their baptism by the Holy Spirit, they were empowered to begin fulfilling their mission of representing Christ to the world.

Speaking of the word world, Jesus uses it some 13 times in today’s passage. The term “world” is used in several distinct ways in scripture. In some cases, it refers to all that glorious, beautiful, and redeemable in God’s creation.  Other times it refers to that which is finite in contrast to that which is eternal. In still other instances, it indicates all that is in rebellion against God.

The rebellion against God reveals several things: (1) union with Christ brings love, truth, and peace; (2) it also brings persecution because the world hates love and truth. (3) The world hates Christ; therefore, it will hate all who try to live Christ like lives.

He prays knowing that his followers will have to deal with evil. He prays for their unity, that they may have joy, and that they will be sanctified in the truth (God’s word is truth). To sanctify is to make holy, to separate, and set apart from the world for the purposes of God.

For the disciples that purpose is to be sent into the world to testify to the Truth, that is, Jesus Christ, and to manifest the Love of God. I doubt any of this was on the minds of the disciple when Judas appeared in the garden with the Temple guards and arrested Jesus. No, I am certain their only thought was survival. It was everyman for himself.

The unity Jesus prayed for has suffered, and continues to suffer many strains and temptations, schisms and apostasies that continue to be repeated in every generation. Our generation is no exception.

The oneness Jesus prays for has to do with Truth, meaning doctrine, that is, what the Church teaches as Truth. The Body of Christ has been splintered in so many different directions over the centuries that the unity Jesus prayed for in the upper room and continues to pray for at the right hand of the father sadly does not exist.

I, for one, do not believe that God ever intended for there to be denominations. For the first thousand years of the life of the Church, there was only one church. For the next six hundred years, there were two. However, the result of the Protestant Reformation in the 1600s has been a continual splintering of the Body of Christ into literally thousands of Christian denominations each claiming to be the true Church and claiming to possess the Truth.

No wonder the mission Christ gave to the Apostles has suffered. In some cases, whole countries once predominately Christian are no longer so. Even our own nation has seen a decline in maintaining the principals of the Christian faith. Christianity can be easily attacked here but hands off to any other religion for fear their followers might be offended.

Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, but I have no doubt that He weeps yet for the state of the Church.

The Ascension is important, then, for two reasons. At the Ascension Jesus took our humanity into heaven. He sits at the right hand of the father and intercedes on our behalf. He has lived the earthly life. He knows how weak we are and how easily we can be deterred in the mission He has given us as Church.

He knows the temptations by which we are plagued. He knows the fears we face. He knows, because He lived and died as one of us. He is one of us and at the same time, the great High Priest that has passed into the heavens, having made the sacrifice that was required for our salvation and the salvation of the world.

Secondly, the prayer he prayed for his disciples in the upper room on the night in which he was betrayed, he continues to pray - for us, his present day followers. Christ intercedes on our behalf for God’s preservation in the revelation that has come through Him, so that our unity in Truth may be that of the Father and the Son.

Himself God’s missionary, he has made us his missionaries. The mission has not changed. As he was sent, so he sends us. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” remember? His consecration of himself is in view of our consecration to his mission.

Since we have been reborn in Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism we have our citizenship in the Kingdom of God, yet our vocation is in this world that is in rebellion against God; a world that prefers darkness to light.

However, knowing that Christ continues to pray for our protection amid the evil of this world should encourage us to carry out the mission of representing Christ to the world by sharing the love of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ also prays that our joy might be full; to be filled with joy is to live with the hope that one day we will be exalted to that place where He has gone before and now sits at the right hand of the Father; where with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. AMEN+

Monday, May 7, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from 6 May 2018


EASTER VI - B - 18                JOHN 15. 9-17




Today’s gospel begins with love and ends with love. Jesus is telling his disciples that he is loved by the father and the love the father has for him he has for us.

John’s gospel is often referred to as the “love gospel” for obvious reasons. The author uses the word frequently on the lips of Jesus, more often than not when he is addressing his followers. It is not just any “love” Jesus is referring to but “divine” love - love that comes from God that usurps our human love.

God’s love stands in mark contrast to our human love as our love for one another is often based on conditions, whereas God’s love is unconditional. It is a love we cannot have apart from Him, and it is a love we cannot know nor can we share without our obedience to God’s commandments.

Jesus tells us plainly “if we keep his commandments, we will abide in his love.” Moreover, we shall know true joy. Sounds simple enough does it not. All we have to do is to love God and share God’s love with each other. However, we all know it is not that simple.

As fallen human beings, we have a tendency to give our love to those who love us in equal measure and refrain from loving those that differ from us, or those that have in some way offended us. Thankfully, God does not give us his love based on our response to it. Thankfully, Jesus did not withhold his love from the world because of those who rejected him, betrayed him, and eventually turned him over to be crucified.

We think of loving another human being in terms of relationship. However, relationships get broken and we fall out of love with that person. In essence, we take our love back and keep it until we find another to give it to based on their giving us theirs. Again, it is not that simple this loving one another as Christ loves us is it.

We want to love the way we want to love and that’s it. Perhaps that is why the medieval writers changed the scripture to read that God is friendship and the one who abides in friendship abides in God. The idea of friendship is a lot easier to get a handle on that loving one another as God loves us. Don’t you think?

In today’s gospel, Jesus elevates his followers from servants to friends. Friendship is higher than servant hood. Servants obey their masters out of fear or a sense of duty; friends obey out of love and an internal desire to do what is good and right.

Jesus’ point is clear; one cannot love God and disobey His commandments. To love God is to obey Him. Jesus shows his friendship of us in his sacrifice; we in our obedience. What does it mean to be a friend of God? The Quakers got it right hundreds of years ago when they began to refer to themselves as “A Society of Friends.”

That is what the Church is - a society of friends. Such friendship in Christ makes us companions at the Lord’s Table. It brings us into a communion of people banded together because God chose us and loved us first. As always the invitation in this friendship is not ours but his.

As friends of God, we express our friendship in our greeting one another when we gather to worship God, when we exchange the Peace, and when we kneel next to each other before God’s altar as equals. We are not members of Christ based on hierarchies or status.

That is how we express it here in this sacred space. Our friendship with God, however, is not meant to be hoarded among ourselves. How do we express our being a friend of God out there in the marketplace of life?

Each week at the conclusion of our worship, we are dismissed with these words, “now go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” The friendship we share here is one we have been commissioned/appointed to bring to others. It is meant to be a mission of joy, a mission of love.

It is the way we fulfill our having been chosen by him and loved by him first. It is the way we bear fruit that will last, by loving one another as he loves us.

Love is the badge, the outward sign, if you will, that identifies us as belonging to him.

The sign of the cross that was traced on our foreheads at baptism that identifies us as Christians in the eyes of God is not visible to the world or to one another for that matter. Thus, Jesus has given us a sign that is visible.

When we express our love of God outwardly in word or deed, we are announcing to the world that we are Christians and that we belong to Him.

Keeping God’s commandments keeps us abiding in His love and enables us to love one another with the love God has for each of us even when we would otherwise chose not to love.

Fellowship with Jesus, fruit bearing, and prayer, are all dependent on obeying His command to love. Those who have this spirit of loving obedience are open to receive and understand the revelations of the Father and to become more fully human.

That is why Jesus came - to elevate us from being merely human to being fully human; to give us freedom and joy, to bear fruit that will last. Whether it be in terms of a single life changed because we have loved someone as Jesus loves us, or in turn of a single decision that we had to make that changed us or someone else for the better.

Perhaps it was a single task we had to perform, through which, though we couldn’t see it at the time, the world became a different place. All of which have made both the lover and the beloved more truly human.

The test of our loyalty to Christ and our loving obedience to God remains the simple, profound, dangerous and difficult command Jesus gives to his friends in today’s gospel: “love one another.” AMEN+