Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Addiction and Recovery meetings for our area

To assist the Diocese in providing information regarding help available for addiction and recovery, Christ Episcopal offers the following meeting information for our region:

AA, NA, and Al-Anon Meetings in the Miss-Lou Area

·         AA-Last Straw Group
Christ Episcopal Church
120 Hancock Street
St. Joseph, LA 71366
o   Tuesday-8:00PM
o   Friday-8:00PM

·         AA-Vidalia Friendship Group
Hydro Electric Building
409 Texas Street
Vidalia, LA 71373
o   Sunday-10:00 AM
o   Sunday-4:30 PM
o   Monday-7:00 PM
o   Tuesday-7:00 PM
o   Wednesday-7:00 PM
o   Thursday-7:00 PM
o   Friday-7:00 PM

·         AA-Downtowners Group
Natchez Senior Citizen Center Building
800 Washington Street
Natchez, MS 39120
o   Saturday 7:00 PM

·         AA-Monterey Group
CPSO, Monterey Substation
5869 Hwy 129
Monterey, LA 71354
o   Sunday-8:00PM

·         NA-Downtown Natchez
Natchez Senior Citizen Center Building
800 Washington Street
Natchez, MS 39120
o   Monday-7:00 PM
o   Wednesday-7:00PM
o   Friday-7:00PM

·         Al-Anon Ferriday Unity Group
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church
601 Florida Avenue
Ferriday, LA 71334
o   Monday-7:00PM

·         Al-Anon Vidalia Friendship Group
Hydro Electric Building
409 Texas Street
Vidalia, LA 71373
o   Thursday-7:00PM

·         Al-Anon Natchez Group
Trinity Episcopal Church
305 S. Commerce Street
Natchez, MS 39120
o   Tuesday-5:30PM

AA:  Alcoholics Anonymous
NA:  Narcotics Anonymous

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Father Riley's sermon for September 23, 2018

18 PENTECOST, PROPER XX - B - 18      MARK 9. 30-37

The ninth chapter of Mark begins with the Transfiguration and that glorious and mystifying scene ends with Jesus’ having commanded those who witnessed it, Peter, James, and John, not to tell anyone what they had seen or heard until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.

In last week’s gospel, Jesus announced his first prediction of His death and resurrection following his descent from the mountain. Jesus rebuked Peter for objecting to the very idea. Perhaps, we might say, that in light of what Peter had seen and heard atop the holy mountain his objection was reasonable.

However, Jesus did not see it that way. In today’s gospel, Jesus makes his second prediction of his Passion. The disciples play deaf and dumb asking no questions and making no comments, not even Peter. Mark would have us believe that they did hear Jesus but were afraid to ask. They remained silent for they failed to understand what he was implying and what it might mean for them.

Jesus is not speaking in parables here. He is making it quite clear for a second time. The Son of Man is to be killed and will rise again. The problem seems to be, as I said in last week’s homily, that they were clinging tightly to the old concept of Messiah and the earthly kingdom he would bring into being.

Granted not every Jew in the time of Jesus was looking for a messiah, but those that did, did not envision one whom God would send would end up suffering and dying on a cross. Their total misunderstanding, and their clinging to the old concept is illustrated in their arguing over who will be the greatest in the kingdom Jesus will usher in.

They do not understand what it means to be a disciple. The disciples were seeking great things for themselves, earthly things. They had yet to learn by what why Christ would come into his kingdom and that Christian greatness, if you will, was to consist in renunciation of all that the world values and in the service of those whom the world rates of least account.

Thus, Jesus’ teaching, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” He was teaching his disciples that true greatness lies in humility and the willingness to serve others. He incarnates his teaching by taking the child and placing it in their midst.

Jesus uses a child to jog them out of their up side down thinking. Children in the ancient world had no prestige or status. In his reception of the child, Jesus models the openness, vulnerability and humility to which we are invited if we choose to follow him.

Today’s gospel begs the question: Where do we arrive at our concepts of God and His kingdom? Do we take other people’s word for whom and what God is all about? Or are we clinging to our own concept of God based on what we want God to be? When God is trying to tell us something how good are we at listening?

Over the years, I have heard many a comment along the lines of “I have never heard God speak to me. I have prayed for answers and asked for a sign but have never received either. ” To which I have always responded, how do you know?

The truth is God speaks to each of us in different ways. Sometimes he uses other people to carry his message. Most often, he speaks to us through Holy Scripture.

Think about it. Is there something in scripture you have read in the Daily Office, or heard read in one of the Sunday readings that jumped out at you? Is there something going on around you, in your family life or in the work place through which God is speaking to you, and if so, are you open to it?

A “sign” that the answer still maybe “no” is if, like the disciples, we are still concerned with status, that is, what’s in it for me. If we think, and sadly, there are those who think like this, that in our following Jesus we will somehow enhance our own prestige, our sense of self-worth, or that the gospel exists to make us feel good about ourselves, then we are unlikely to hear what God is actually saying for we are focused on self.

When we are full of self there is no room for God. We need to take seriously James’ warning in today’s Epistle, “for where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.”

Too often, the problem lies in our trying to create God in our image rather than accepting the fact that we have been created in His - and for a purpose - to worship and love him and demonstrate our love for him by serving others in his name.

The disciples may not have been able to see clearly, what Jesus was saying for they were on the other side of the cross. Granted, the cross turns up side down everything the disciples had imagined. The cross turns up side down the way people think, including Christians, or at least it should.

However, we are on this side of the cross. We are called to see God in Christ and his Passion with child-like eyes, to see beyond the cross, to see in the cross a path to new life, to see in servant hood not a denying of personhood but an enhancement of life.

What’s in it for us is to be filled with God’s love and to one day share in the glory of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The glory of Christ that was manifested on the holy mountain was but a foreshadowing of the glory that will one day belong to all who choose to follow him by walking the way of the cross, and by denying self in order to serve others in His name, especially those whom the world deems of least account.

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” To be a servant of the Servant of God is our divine vocation. No greater honor can be bestowed on us in this life than to be called a Christian and to be recognized as such in the eyes of the world. AMEN+

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Retreat offered at Camp Hardtner

Joy in the Journey 2018: Are These Extravagant Promises?
October 5-7
Camp Hardtner

Are These Extravagant Promises? is a three-day retreat presented by the Diocesan Commission on Addiction and Recovery. The retreat leader is John McAndrew, M.A., M.Div. a theologian, teacher, counselor, musician, hospice chaplain and poet.

Alcoholics Anonymous proposes a new way of life filled with extravagant promises that are detailed for us in 'The Big Book", Alcoholics Anonymous. This weekend will be a treasure hunt for people seeking this new 'design for living', looking to find ALL the promises of the Big Book. For more info, view this printable flyer.

PLEASE NOTE: Another diocesan event will also be taking place at Camp Hardtner on Saturday, October 6. Rest assured, however, that the two events will occur in separate areas of Camp Hardtner in order to ensure anonymity of Joy in the Journey participants.

All churches are asked to assist the Commission on Addiction and Recovery in publicizing this retreat. Please include the flyer in your newsletters, emails, and bulletins, and post it on your church bulletin boards. Thank you!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Father Riley's homily from September 16, 2018

17 PENTECOST, PROPER XIX - B - 18         MARK 8. 27-38

“Going My Way” is the title of one my favorite movies. It was released in 1944 in black and white of course. It starred Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby. Some of you may recall having seen it.

It is the story of a young priest played by Bing Crosby who has been assigned as the assistant to the aged pastor Barry Fitzgerald in a crumbling down parish church that is on the verge of being closed by the bishop.

Crosby’s character is a late vocation priest who led a colorful life of sports, song and romance prior to accepting his call to the priesthood. He uses his talent of song to revitalize the parish by establishing a boy’s choir.

The choir helps to raise funds for the repair of the church. Their efforts are successful. In one scene, Crosby, accompanied by the choir, sings the title song, “Going My Way.”

In today’s gospel, following Simon Peter’s confession of Jesus as being God’s Messiah, Jesus reveals “His Way,” that being one of sacrifice and service that will lead to his death on the cross. In doing so, Jesus presents a warning to all who would choose to go His way that to follow him is to live a life of self-denial and service.

This is Christ’s first prediction of His Passion and it sends shock waves through the hearts and minds of his disciples. Peter did not totally comprehend what Jesus was saying. He reacts for all of them when he says “God forbid!” Christ rebukes Peter after having turned to see the look on his disciples faces; a look of surprise and uncertainty after Peter dared to rebuke Jesus.

Satan has gotten a hold of Peter for the moment and darkened his thinking. His comment threatens the faith of all of the disciples. Jesus quickly puts Peter in his place. Your feet are made of clay Peter, you are not thinking as God thinks but like a man whose feet are firmly planted in this world. So get behind me.

Then comes a second shocking statement: “If any want to become my followers,” Jesus tells all of them, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

The first prediction of Christ’s Passion and the challenge of the cross that comes with it is a warning to his followers that this is how he understands his vocation and destiny as Israel’s Messiah, and that they must be prepared to follow his way. Jesus’ words came as a surprise to all who heard him for what he said about his destiny did not fit with their agenda.

Peter’s confession of Jesus being Messiah meant he saw him as the true king of Israel, the final heir to David’s throne. The disciples were not expecting a divine redeemer; they were looking and longing for a king. And they thought that they had found one.

A messiah announcing God’s kingdom was a challenge to Rome itself. The concept of a suffering messiah was a challenge to Jewish expectations for it stood in complete contrast to their idea of the messiah they hoped God would send to defeat Rome and re-establish Israel as a great nation.

The true nature of Christ’s Messiahship, however, was the Mystery of the Passion. The cross was a symbol of Roman cruelty and death. Jews shuttered at the very idea of crucifixion. Nobody survived the cross. What could Jesus possibly mean?

The cross indeed leads to death, but not in the sense, the disciples were thinking. Rather the cross leads to death of self and death of self leads to new life in Him who is Resurrection and Life. That is the paradox of the cross.

To go Jesus’ way is to go the way of the cross. The cross is the way to discipleship and the key to the kingdom. The very idea became a stumbling block to the Jews of Jesus’ day. It remains a sticking point for many would-be followers of Jesus today who prefer the fruits of Easter without the cost of Good Friday.

Jesus’ death on the cross is the point at which God’s kingdom, coming on earth as it already is in heaven, did and continues to challenge and overturn all normal human assumptions about power and glory, about what is really important in life and in the world.

Peter’s reaction is thinking like a mere mortal, not looking at things from God’s point of view. This is a challenge to all of us, as the church in every generation struggles not only to think but to live from God’s point of view in a world where such things are still considered madness. Where unfortunately in addition the world we live in today is one in which Christianity is under a constant attack.

Taking up our own cross symbolizes our suffering with Christ. We practice self-denial for the sake of the Love of God and the gospel. The central paradox of Christian living is that in grasping for temporal things, we lose the eternal; but in sacrificing everything in this world, we gain eternal riches that are unimaginable.

This passage makes it clear that following Jesus is the only way to go. However, it is not an easy way to go. As Christ had no easy victory over the forces that opposed him, neither will we who strive to follow in his steps especially in today’s climate.

As Satan did not want Christ to fulfill his mission and save mankind through his suffering and death, neither does he want any of us to life our life in the imitation of Christ.

The Christian life is not all about joy, peace, and love. It is about going His Way and not your way or my way. To go the way of Jesus is to walk the way of the cross; to live no longer for ourselves but to him who died and rose again. It means learning to live a life of sacrifice and service for the sake of the Love of God and the gospel.

However, before we can do that we must answer for ourselves the question Jesus posed to his disciples. “Who do you say that I am?” The answer to that question given by Peter in today’s gospel defines Christianity. The answer we give defines us not only in the eyes of the world, but more importantly in the eyes of God.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Father Riley's homily from September 2, 2018

Breaking News:  

...CHANGE::The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays:  September 16, 23  and 30th.   We will have Morning Prayer on Sunday September 9.  Services are 10am with fellowship time following our service.

...There will be a vestry meeting following our service and congregational fellowship on Sunday, Sept 16.  We will be finalizing plans for our Stewardship Campaign which will begin in late September.

15 PENTECOST, PROPER XVI - B -18   MARK 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Our gospel reading for today brings us back to Mark. For the past five weeks, we have been following Jesus in John’s gospel from the feeding of the 5000 to his confrontation with the Jews in the synagogue at Capernaum.
Here we are in the aftermath of Mark’s account of the feeding.

Many have been healed by simply touching the hem of Jesus’ garment as he passed by. His fame has spread from Galilee to Jerusalem causing some Pharisees and scribes to seek him out. They find him in the company of his disciples while they are eating.

They stand back and watch as his disciples eat taking notice that they do not observe the customs and traditions of the Jews, that is, they eat without washing their hands. They are surprised that Jesus’ disciples do not keep the “tradition of the elders.” If he, Jesus, were truly the Messiah, they must be thinking, surely, he would teach them to do so and lead by example.

The tradition of the elders is a body of the interpretation of the Mosaic Law, which for the Pharisees and scribes was as authoritative as the Law and often superseded it. The Jews of Jesus’ day were scrupulously careful to cleanse the hands before partaking food to avoid ritual uncleanness, and very definite regulations were laid down as to the manner in which they should be done.

It was necessary, for example, to pour a minimum quantity of water over the hands up to the wrists twice, care being taken that none of this water should flow beyond the wrist, lest it flow back and render unclean the hand again. If one’s hands are to be washed by another, the hand must be held with the fingers pointed upward.

“So the Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

The Jews were paying disproportionate attention to such external matters, you see, and rated them higher than the weightier matters of law, judgment, mercy and faith. Thus, Jesus counters their question with a rebuke, “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Ouch! That must have stung these religious leaders and teachers of the law where it hurts the most.

Today’s encounter with the Pharisees is the final stage of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, and the final breach between his conceptions and those of the Pharisees and scribes. While the earlier causes of friction had arisen because of his miracles and, so far as scripture and tradition went, mainly out of one healing on the Sabbath, we are now taken to face wider problems of ethics.

In his counter, Jesus shows very clearly that the things that defile the soul and poison the wellspring of life are moral and spiritual in character, such as mean motive, arrogance and self-righteousness, intolerance and envy, impurity and uncleanness. These are the insidious forces, which corrupt human life, not failure to wash the hands in a prescribed way.

Jesus is saying, much to the chagrin of the Pharisees, that a man cannot be “defiled” in the full sense of the word, he can only defile himself. “For it is from within, from the human heart,” Jesus said, “that evil intentions come.” The issue here is not the observation of Jewish customs and traditions, which Jesus certainly does not prohibit.

At issue is the setting of human traditions contrary to the commandments of God. The prophet Jeremiah was given God’s message centuries before the time of Jesus that God was going to do a new thing. He would write his laws on the hearts of men.

Anybody can do lip service to God. However, it is another thing altogether to live according to God’s laws and commandments. James speaks to that in today’s Epistle. “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves…for doers who act will be blessed in their doing.”

James is speaking of “religion that is pure and undefiled, that is true religion. Jesus is speaking of the same as well, whose motive is nothing less than the Love of God. If God does not live in our hearts, then our religion is in vain.

In addition, it is easy to fall into the trap of observing customs and traditions, without being truly religious, even going so far as to “preach human precepts as doctrines.” To do so is to deceive the human heart, as James puts it, and what goes for religion in this sense is worthless.

If God does not live in our hearts, evil intentions arise and manifest themselves in evil deeds. Look at the world around us. As we read and listen to the nightly news we are constantly being bombarded with evil intentions that have become manifest. We shake our heads in disbelief and ask ourselves who would do such a thing?

We deceive ourselves if we fail to admit that evil exists. Because it does exist is all the more reason for those of us who strive to live according to God’s laws and commandments to be “doers of the word” and not hearers only. We need the Love of God “grafted into our hearts” if we are to succeed in living the new life to which we have been called.

Otherwise, our efforts will be hollow. The world would be a dark place indeed if it were not for the light of “true religion” practiced and lived out by those who believe in the goodness and love of God, by those who have experienced God’s grace and love in their own lives, and who are willing to share the love of God with the world in which we live until the day when He who is Resurrection and Life comes again in power and great glory to judge.

The Church is built on scripture and tradition. However, in no way does tradition trump the Word of God but at its best is an expression of what we believe about God as manifested in our worship of Him - worship that begins with the Collect of Purity.

“Almighty God unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your Holy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” AMEN+