Saturday, June 16, 2018

June 17 and 24, 2018: "What's the buzz? Tell me what's a-happening."

BREAKING NEWS!  Lay Leader Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer this Sunday, June 17 and Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sunday, June 24.  Please join us for the 10am service and the fellowship time following the service.

From Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus: “Jesus’ words make plain God’s deep desire and dream for us, God’s plan and mission: to draw all people, to invite, to welcome, to include all within the embrace of those arms that were stretched out ‘on the hard wood of the cross.’  As Jesus draws us closer to God, he draws us closer to each other.”
From the Forward: Day by Day (May 19th) “[The Apostle] Paul breaks away from the safety of his circle, taking an incredible risk in following Christ.  His faith reminds me of a saying about ships: ‘Ships are safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.” Neither are we.’

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from June 10, 2018

3 PENTECOST, PROPER V - B- 18         MARK 3. 20-35

“The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat.”

Jesus began his earthly ministry in Galilee after John had been arrested. He called the fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John to leave their nets and follow him. Mark tells us that Jesus preached and taught in the synagogue at Capernaum early in his ministry.

There was present on that day a man with an “unclean” spirit. The unholy spirit recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God. Jesus commanded the spirit to be silent and then he cast him out setting the man free of his demonic possession. His actions and words in the synagogue at Capernaum astonished and amazed the people and sent shock waves as far as Jerusalem.

This, however, was only the beginning. Christ continued his mission of preaching and teaching and healing as he made his way from Galilee to Judea and back again. More than one demonic possessed soul was rescued in the process. His fame spread and the news of his teaching and his power over the unclean spirits brought scribes from Jerusalem to see exactly what he was up to.

It wasn’t just those who were possessed that he healed but the lame, the blind, and as we heard in last week’s gospel, a man with a withered hand. The authorities conspired to get rid of him. The people could not get enough of him. They were hungry for his teaching about God and the coming Kingdom and they continued to be amazed at his power to heal and to cast out demons.

Everywhere he went, the crowds followed him and gathered around him so much so, Mark tells us in today’s gospel that he and his disciples could not even eat. Strange how people interpret the same things they see and hear differently. Mark tells us that some of his own people, some who had known Jesus from childhood, thought that he was out of his mind.

The scribes naturally jumped on that bandwagon and proclaimed that he had an unclean spirit. Jesus was not from God, they said, but was in league with Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, a god worshiped by the Philistines. Here he is called the ruler of the demons.

The scribes were trying to discredit Jesus. He didn’t fit into their scheme of messiah. He had no credentials. His own family and those who knew him thought he was mad. Thus, they sought to label him as such. He would have to be in league with the devil to be doing what he was doing. That would explain it, and it would also justify doing whatever it would take to “silence” him.

The impossibility of demons fighting against themselves illustrates the irrational pride and envy of the Pharisees in their opposition to Jesus. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against the divine activity of the Spirit, that is, blasphemy against pure goodness. A sin against the Son of Man is more easily forgiven because the Jews did not know much about Christ.

But blasphemy against the Spirit, whose divine activity they know from the Old Testament, will not be forgiven because it comes from a willful hardness of heart and a refusal to accept God’s mercy. Once you label what is in fact the work of the Holy Spirit as the work of the devil, there is no way back. Jesus’ critics painted themselves in a corner. They were blinded to the truth.

Obviously, they had forgotten the words of God to the serpent in the garden: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Jesus makes the declaration knowing that those who blasphemed the Spirit are calling pure, divine goodness, “evil,” and are beyond repentance by their own choice.

With that exchange ended, Jesus is told that his mother and members of his immediate family are outside and wish to see him.  They too think that there is something wrong with him and wish to take him home. However, they have not yet understood his true identity and mission. They are not seated at his feet.

He points to a spiritual family based on obedience to the will of the Father in heaven as being his family. It is a statement that sent shock waves through the audience as it shattered the traditional Jewish concept of family. The scribes and those who knew him, now even his own family thought him mad and labeled him so. That is what we do is not it, when we find ourselves opposed to some idea or someone who differs from us or who does not fit into our scheme of things.

We convince ourselves that what they say or do is simply “crazy.” It doesn’t fit with our way of thinking or what we believe to be true. Thus, we label it as such. Moreover, when we do there is no going back. No way are we going to change our minds. No one or anything will convince us that we are wrong. The division we create is permanent.

And so it was for those who opposed Jesus - what he was doing and what he was saying. He must be out of his mind and those who followed him and believed in what he was doing and saying were just as crazy. There is no middle ground for the world today as for Israel then. Jesus is not a mildly interesting historical figure, as some in today’s world would like for him to be, another label, if you will, designed to neutralize him.

He is either the promised one who ushered in God’s kingdom, or else he is a dangerous madman. Those of us who chose to follow him and proclaim him to be the Son of the Most High God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world must be prepared to face opposition of all sorts, sometimes subtle, sometimes threatening. And we must learn how to respond.

The call to follow Jesus, to listen to him, to model our lives after Him, even if those outside think us crazy, is what matters. The Church in every generation, in every place, needs to remember this and act on it. The gospel, and allegiance to Jesus, produces a division, often an unexpected and unwelcome one, in every group, family, and society.

However, “we do not lose heart…” as St. Paul encourages us in today’s Epistle, “for this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure…”

This is the Hope to which you and I have been called in Him who died and rose again - the hope of glory. God will give us the grace to live by Faith and the Holy Spirit will enable us to do His will if we stick with Jesus, whatever the cost. AMEN+

Monday, June 4, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from June 3, 2018

BREAKING NEWS!  Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist again this coming Sunday, June 10, 2018.  Please join us for the 10am service and the fellowship time following the service.

2 PENTECOST, PROPER 4 - B - 18       MARK 2. 23-3.6

“On the Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields…” Today’s passage always brings to mind two things from my past. I lived in Iowa for 7 years. And you haven’t seen cornfields until you have been to Iowa!

Oh, we have them around here too, but up there they stretch for miles as far as the eye can see. I am sure many of you have seen the movie “Field of Dreams” that was made in Iowa. In it a man walking through the cornfields quickly disappears from sight.

Obviously the Pharisees in today’s gospel must have been walking next to Jesus and his disciples in order to observe them plucking the heads of grain and eating them. They were hungry. The Pharisees criticize Jesus for their leniency in the application of Sabbath law.

The Torah explicitly prohibits “labor” on the Sabbath. Courts do not meet. Shops are closed. There is no buying or selling. No labor is to be performed although the law does not define “labor. “ And that brings me to my second thought about today’s passage.

Several years ago now I was fortunate enough to be in Jerusalem with our then Bishop McPherson. We were attending a Gafcon conference together made up of leaders from around the Anglican Communion. Our return flight out of Telav was due to depart on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

There are still areas of Israel today where the Sabbath is strictly kept. Our hotel for instance stopped running the elevators on the Sabbath. We had to walk down several fights of stairs with baggage in hand. We arrived at the airport mid-afternoon, although our flight was not scheduled to depart until around 7p.m.

The Bishop, you see, was afraid we might miss it! Thus, we left too early to have lunch. None of the shops were open in the airport. There was no place to get a bite to eat or anything to drink. The Jewish Sabbath runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
We simply had to wait until Sabbath had ended before we could buy anything to eat. If there had been grain fields nearby we would have been seen plucking the heads, I assure you!

Keeping the Sabbath was, of course, one of the Ten Commandments, and it had been reinforced by the prophets and by subsequent Jewish teaching prior to Jesus’ coming on the scene. It was one of the things that marked out the Jews, over the centuries from their pagan neighbors.

It was one of the things that reminded them, that they were God’s people. It was a sign that they belonged to the One True God, the creator of heaven and earth, who had himself rested on the seventh day. The observance of the Sabbath had been for Israel a remembering, a bringing into the present the Exodus story.

It was not a nostalgic ritual, but a command to remember that God had loved Israel enough to bring the people to freedom. To keep the Commandment was to celebrate in remembrance God’s creation and redemption, past, present and future.

In a way, the Pharisees had forgotten to remember this in their criticizing Jesus’ disciples. They had forgotten the point and priority of the Sabbath. Israel’s memory had faded into laws and rules. Jesus’ response reminded them that God is concerned for all our needs, not our rules.

Even David ate the Bread of the Presence, Jesus reminded them, when hungry and in need. Jesus’ response from a biblical story was intended to prove that the permission he granted to his disciples was within the bounds of the biblical laws of Sabbath rest.

However, Christ did not stop there. Jesus puts the question to the Pharisees in the strictest terms: if the Sabbath speaks of creation and redemption, the answer is obvious.

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” and he added, “so that the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

What Jesus is saying here is that the Sabbath must serve human need. The Pharisees used this principal only in response to danger to human life. In healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, Jesus extends the principal to apply to a situation of human discomfort.

Since the Son of Man has been made Lord of the Sabbath, the Father has granted to the Son complete dominion over the earth, including dominion over the divinely ordained commandments of scripture. As the Son of Man interprets the law, so shall it be.

The resurrection on Easter morning was the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Jesus’ actions and his explanation, were a coded messianic claim, a claim that in Him the new day was dawning in which even Israel’s God-given laws would be seen in a new light.

God knows our need and our hunger. But do we? The Pharisees memory had faded to the point that the rule mattered more than reality. Our priorities must not be idols, which we worship, or laws, which we contrive and control. We must know our need of God.

He feeds us with the real bread of heaven, which is Christ Jesus Our Lord. In the wilderness of perplexity or affliction, it is God who rescues us. In the midst of perplexity, we do not despair. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for “we carry the death of Jesus in our bodies so that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in us.”

That is the greater Truth; that in the midst of darkness, we are assured of God’s faithfulness. Laws can never be ends within themselves, but only means to a greater Truth. God’s priority is to Love us. It is our priority to love God.

To love God is to keep His commandments. It marks us out from the rest of the world. Obedience is one way in which we show our love for God in Thanksgiving for His love for us manifested in His having rescued us from sin and death through the redemptive work of His Son, Jesus, the Lord God of Sabbaoth. AMEN+