Monday, October 29, 2018

Father Riley's homily from October 28, 2018

Breaking News:
...Pledge letters for 2019 have been mailed out.  If you have already responded--THANK YOU.  Please turn in your pledge for 2019 in time for Thanksgiving Sunday service, Nov 18th.  If you did not receive a pledge letter and wish to, please contact Mrs. Brenda Funderburg at

...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist November: 4th, 11th; 18th.  We will have Morning Prayer Sunday, November 25th.

...Daylight Savings Time ends November 4th--remember to set your clocks back.

...We will celebrate All Saints Day at the 10am service Sunday, Nov. 4th.   Also, UTO offering will be accepted on Nov. 4th.

23 PENTECOST, PROPER XXV - B - 18       MARK 10. 46-52
In last week’s gospel, two of Jesus’ disciples came to him as they were on the road to Jerusalem and asked for a favor. Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” The brothers wanted to sit one at his right hand and the other his left when he came into his kingdom. However, what they asked was not in Jesus’ power to give as he said, but was for those for whom it had been prepared.
In today’s passage, Jesus is continuing his journey to the Holy City and is passing through Jericho. Jericho was some 15 miles from Jerusalem and was a busy commercial and religious center. However, Jesus and the 12 are not the only ones passing through the city. The roads are beginning to be crowded with pilgrims making their way to celebrate the feast of Passover.
Mark tells us there is a certain blind by the name of Bartimaeus who is sitting at the roadside begging for alms. He hears from those in the crowd that Jesus of Nazareth is among the ones who are passing by. Obviously, the blind man has heard that this Jesus has the power to heal and make whole. He begins to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” But he was told to be quiet.
Undeterred, the blind man shouts even louder, afraid that his opportunity to be healed is slipping away. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus hears his cry and stops. “Call him.” When he heard that Jesus was calling him, the blind man leaped up out of the dirt, and throwing off his cloak, he came to Jesus. Jesus then asks him the same question he had asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“I want to see.” This time the request was in Jesus’ power to grant. Because of your faith, Jesus told him, you can see. He was now free to go and do whatever he wanted to do for the very first time in his life. Instead, he chose to follow Jesus on the way to Jerusalem.
Bartimaeus wanted to see and what he saw as his eyes were opened for the first time was the face of Jesus standing before him. So many of us walk through life with our eyes wide open, yet we comprehend little of its meaning. Yet as followers of Jesus, we should want to see things as they really are, or as God intends for them to be, not as we would have them.
However, as I said in last week’s homily, we need to be careful what we ask for. God can handle our request for genuine spiritual insight but can we? With such a gift, we will be able to see all things clearly. That includes seeing ourselves as God sees us.
With such insight we would have to admit that we do not know all there is to know about God, about religion, about ourselves and one another. We may want to see with the eyes of faith but we must be prepared for the consequences. Yet we should all aspire to be like Bartimaeus and want to see.
To see, as Bartimaeus was able to see Jesus and make the choice to follow him is to see with insight or wisdom, where vision is not something in the eye of the beholder but a conviction in the heart of the believers. With conviction comes the gift of salvation.
Jesus performed two miracles for Bartimaeus. He restored sight to the eyes long physically blind and gave insight to a heart that longed to see. Together these two miracles were the gift of new life and light for one who had lived in total darkness.
With the miracle comes the grace to step forward to embark on the new life, which Bartimaeus was given by the grace, love, and mercy of God in the person of Jesus Christ.  As a sign of his new life, Bartimaeus left his cloak in the dirt. The words “followed him” imply discipleship, but Bartimaeus is otherwise unknown.
He could have been one of the 120 other disciples who were privileged to see the resurrected Jesus and from among whom the successor of Judas was chosen. Either way he stands as a stark contrast with the 12. Bartimaeus is a sign that Jesus is trying to open his follower’s eyes to see him, not just as God’s Messiah, but the one who would give his life to bring salvation to all.
As we discover again and again throughout the gospels, faith is the key to salvation. Faith consists not least in recognizing who Jesus is and trusting that he has the power to rescue, that is save all “those who approach God through him…” Faith means believing God will lead the “blind” back to clarity from the far corners of confusion, as the prophet Jeremiah foretold in today’s first lesson.
Faith means believing that Jesus as the Christ intercedes on our behalf at the right hand of the father as one of us, yet One beyond us, as our great high priest, “holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens,” as the author of Hebrews so eloquently writes.
As the faith of Bartimaeus gave rise to miracles so too our faith will work wonders for us. And with Faith comes the gifts of Hope and Love. Today’s gospel story calls for a faith strong enough to make miracles happen and for courage and determination to live with the miracle once it occurs.
Bartimaeus could have gone and done anything he wanted to do. One can only imagine the things he must have thought about doing and the places he dreamed about going as he sat in the dirt at the roadside day in and day out while the world passed him.
He only wanted to see. When he was granted the gift, what he saw was Jesus and in seeing Jesus, he received more than the eye could see. He saw in Jesus the one who gave him new life and he wasn’t about to let him go.
Everything he had ever thought about doing, and all the places he dreamed about seeing, no longer mattered. He made the choice right then and there to follow Jesus. For Bartimaeus it was nothing less than Amazing Grace. He was once blind. But now he could see.
If you asked Jesus today what he could do for you. What would you ask for? And if the Lord of Life granted your request` what would you do with the gift you received? AMEN+

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Christ Episcopal: News you can use

 News You Can Use: 

...Pledge letters for 2019 have been mailed out.  If you have already responded--THANK YOU.  Please turn in your pledge for 2019 in time for Thanksgiving Sunday service, Nov 18th.  If you do not receive a pledge letter and wish to, please contact Mrs. Brenda Funderburg at

 ...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays,  October 28th and in November: 4th, 11th; 18th.

...Daylight Savings Time ends November 4th--remember to your clocks back

...We will celebrate All Saints Day at the 10am service Nov 4th.   The form provided below will be in our bulletins this Sunday, Oct 28 so you can list the names of the loved ones to be remembered.  Please fill out the form and turn it in this Sunday, Oct 28th

...Ordination of seminarian Garrett Boyte (and others) to the transitional diaconate will be held at Saint James, Alexandria, Nov. 24th at 10am.
…ALSO:  The Fall Ingathering for the United Thank Offering will be Sunday, November 4, 2019.   The UTO offering is collected twice a year, in the fall and spring.  Funds marked for UTO are sent to the national UTO office to be used in worthy projects in the United States and abroad, such as schools, clinics, daycare centers, transportation needs, etc.  The UTO Board funded 34 grants, totaling $1,257,778.18for the year 2018.  “Kids Orchestra” an after school music program in Baton Rouge was awarded $48,000 in 2018.  Please make checks payable to DFMS (Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society).  Please place your checks made out to DFMS in our collection plate November 4th.  Thank you.

All Saints Day 
 Please submit the names of the loved ones you wish to be remembered this Sunday, Oct 28 and we will honor All Saints Day, Nov 4th.  The following form will be in our bulletins this Sunday for your use:

This revered feast lifts up prayer for the deceased.  We and they are one living family, united by faith.  We express thanks for their lives.  We pledge them our continuing love.  We voice our desire to be reunited with them.  We speak to God of our hopes for their eternal future.  We ask that the power of Jesus’ resurrection be fully realized in their lives.

Please print clearly the names of the loved ones to be remembered in the spaces below.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from October 21, 2018

22 PENTECOST, PROPER XXIV - B - 18                    MARK 10. 35-45
Just when you might think, the disciples have finally gotten the message about what it takes to be a disciple and to enter the kingdom of God, along comes James and John asking if they can have the right and left hand seats in the kingdom, thus promoting themselves above the other disciples.

Maybe they felt assured of their inheritance after Peter raised the question last week, “what about us?” and received the promise of Jesus of eternal life. However, Christ did not say that they had already obtained their reward, but only that those who had and will sacrifice all for his sake and the sake of the gospel would realize it now, and in the age to come.

No wonder the others became angry with them. Had James and John not heard what Jesus had said about the first being last and the last first? Obviously the answer is no. So, Christ puts it to them in another way “…whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be servant of all.”

What is simply amazing to me about this scene where James and John’s ambitious request comes forward is that it follows immediately after Jesus’ third prediction of his passion, which he gives in great detail. In each case, his disciples turn a deaf ear.

This time Jesus instructs them that the kingdom of God comes not through earthly power but through sacrificial love. Jesus sees himself as the central character in Isaiah’s prophecy contained in our first lesson. He is God’s anointed one, the messianic figure who suffers and dies for the sins of Israel and the world.

The disciples still don’t get it. They are having a hard time turning loose of their earthly ideas about God’s promised one and about what the coming kingdom of God will be like. James and John see Jesus’ messianic journey to Jerusalem as a march to glory - a glory in which they wish to sit on either side of him when he reigns as king.

But they don’t know what they are asking. The cross looms in the distance and Jesus knows his destiny as well as theirs. The cross is God’s way of standing worldly power and authority on its head. Isaiah would agree that the kingdom of God turns the world’s ideas of power and glory upside down and inside out.

There is no hint the disciples understand. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach all of them a lesson on humility and the on-going definition of discipleship. The meaning of which is not privilege but service. Jesus exemplifies service - giving his life as a ransom for many.

James and John’s quest for temporal power and glory are unbefitting a disciple and shows an earthly misunderstanding of the kingdom of God. Their quest also shows how slowly “the training of the twelve” had proceeded, or better yet, how slowly it was sinking in.

Contrast their request and Jesus’ response with last week’s gospel. You may recall a young man ran up to Jesus and wanted to know what he had to do to inherit the kingdom but was not prepared for the response Jesus gave. He considered the sacrifice too great, turned, and went his own way.

James and John want Jesus to do something for them and appear to be quite confident in their response to Jesus’ question. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They say “yes,” And Jesus tells them “you will.” But they don’t understand this either.

Jesus’ response shows the life of persecution and martyrdom they would lead after Pentecost. Christ calls his crucifixion a “cup” and his death a “baptism.” The cross is a cup because he drank it willingly (Heb. 12.2). His death is a baptism, for he was completely immersed in it, yet it cleansed the world (Rom. 6. 3-6).

Jesus shows clearly by his response that to obtain power and preeminence cups of bitterness must be drunk and baptisms must be undergone, and instead of lordship over men, there must be self-devotion to the service of others.

James and John may have said “yes” at the time, but we know that they were woefully unprepared to stand with Jesus in the garden when the time came for Christ to be arrested. They all ran everyman for himself. The reason James and John misunderstood Jesus is exactly the same reason why many subsequent thinkers down to our own day, are desperate to find a way of having Jesus without the cross as well; Easter without Good Friday.

History tells us that all of the disciples save one met a martyr’s death. For over three centuries following the Ascension of Jesus, those who called themselves Christians were persecuted by both Rome and the Jews. They drank the cup of bitterness and were baptized as He was baptized.

As modern day disciples, we may or may not be called on to witness to the death, but being a Christian is not an easy way. I fear there are more enemies of God than friends of God in the world we live in today. Neither is our own society Christian friendly. All of which makes it difficult to live the new life to which we have been called.

That is to say to follow Jesus means we will drink our own cups of bitterness and be immersed again and again in challenges to our faith. Life’s situations confront us, sometimes they are due to outside influences, other times because of personal decisions we make in response to them that test both our faith and our allegiance to Him who died and rose again.

James and John did not know what they were asking for. When Jesus sits in his glory, with one on his right hand and one on his left, it will be on the cross. The cross runs crosscurrent to the world and its values. The cross calls into question all human pride and glory. To follow Jesus is to walk in the way of the cross.

One of the underlying themes of Mark’s gospel is that of following Jesus. When we look at the picture he is drawing, we may, like the disciples, still misunderstand what God is up to. But the fact remains that Jesus went up to Jerusalem, turned the world’s values and power systems on their heads, and  gave his life as a ransom for many.

If we want to receive what he has to offer, we have no choice but to follow and be prepared to live and to give witness to His example of sacrificial love. AMEN+

Monday, October 15, 2018

Father Riley's sermon from October 14, 2018

21 PENTECOST, PROPER XXIII - B - 18      MARK 10. 17-31


For the past several weeks in our gospel readings Jesus has been teaching his chosen band what it means to be a disciple. He is teaching them by what he says and what he is doing that obviously has the effect of changing the lives of those who encounter him, who hear what he saying about God and his kingdom, and who open their hearts to receive his word.
The disciple’s “on the job training” continues as they travel with Jesus from Galilee to Judea and the surrounding area. As they prepare for yet another journey a young man, I say that because he ran up to Jesus, and knelt before him, asks the question we all should be asking but assume we already know the answer. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The young man was serious in his quest but was not prepared for the answer he received. There is a cost to discipleship. That cost is different for each of us in terms of what it is we have to give up that is preventing us from following Jesus.
For this individual it was what he valued most - his earthly possessions, which according to Mark he had plenty of. Sadly, he estimated the cost of following Jesus to be much too high and turned away disappointed. Jesus can see that the disciples are dumb-founded. They don’t get it. If a rich man is unable to enter the kingdom, then who is?
Jesus admits that it is not that easy to enter the kingdom. Not because God does not desire that we should all be there, but because we make it difficult to enter by holding tightly to the things of this world we value even more than the heavenly riches that await us. It has to do with choice.
It calls for a total divestment of any and all that would hinder one from doing so. To make his point, Jesus uses an old proverb. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
I never quite got the image of a camel trying to go through “the eye of the needle” until I was in Germany with Army several years ago. Among the various sights I visited were ancient medieval cities. They were built as fortresses for the most part with huge battlements and narrow entry gates.
On either side of the main gate were some small passageways that were made up of twists and turns and were short in height. They were intended to be defensive measures that would slow down an advancing enemy. Soldiers could only enter one at a time.
In order to do so they would have to drop whatever they were carrying, like shields, heavy armor, etc., anything that would prohibit their attempt to navigate the “eye of the needle,” as it is still called. In Jesus’ day, many of the cities in the region were also built with similar defensive measures.
The disciples get the message. It is impossible. They are well aware that a heavily laden camel cannot do it and now Jesus is saying that a rich man cannot do it. “Then who can be saved?” Jesus is not saying that Christians cannot hold property; the law of the kingdom is individual allegiance. What hinders that must be given up.
When it comes to the question of entering the kingdom, there are some of us who know we are not worthy to get into heaven. None of us is. Only by God’s grace will any of us obtain that goal. There are those, however, who like the rich young man who ran up to Jesus in today’s story and rattled off his religious report card, hope that is all they need to be guaranteed a seat at the heavenly banquet. Hope is the optimal word, for even he was not sure.
Obedience alone will not lead to salvation. The young man is a Jew, in whose heart riches are slowly dethroning God. In his case, the required cost of following Jesus was complete renunciation of all his worldly dependencies. In their place comes the acceptance of salvation as God’s gift in the form of Trust and Faith.
Alas, the value of his earthly possessions meant more to him than his spiritual aspirations. What Christ is trying to teach his followers is that to hold tightly to the things of this world which we deem valuable deadens one’s spiritual aspirations and desires and acts as a deterrent to discipleship.
Salvation is something that only the grace and power of God can accomplish. In this man’s case, the giving away of all his possessions is the least of Christ’ instructions to him - following Christ is a far greater challenge as it is to each of us.
After thinking about it for a moment, Peter speaks up and asks Jesus, “What about us? Lord, we have left everything and followed you.” Peter is claiming that he and the other disciples have done what the young man refused to do.
Jesus acknowledges their sacrifice with a promise. Those who have left everything for “my sake and the sake of the gospel” will receive their reward now and in the age to come will have eternal life. But remember, Jesus tells them, man’s values are not necessarily God’s.
Did the disciples finally understand? Do we? We can’t blame the disciples for being slow learners. They too, like all of us, were carrying lots of baggage as they traveled with Jesus. They learned as they continued to follow him what it meant to be a disciple.
Little by little, they began to give up their way of thinking about God and His kingdom and gradually began to see what Jesus was saying. In light of that revelation, they began to examine their own relationship to God. That is the way salvation comes to any of us.
Formal observation of the Commandments does not make one righteous before God. Think about it. If any of us were to run up to Jesus today and asked what we had to do in order to get into heaven would we be prepared for the answer?
Jesus saw in the young man great possibilities and gave to him the same call as he issued to Simon, Andrew, James and John and all the rest: “Come, follow me.” For he saw in each of them, as He sees in each of us, great possibilities.
However, if we hold tightly to earthly possessions we will not be able to open our hands to receive what God is offering. To be perfect one must be willing to sacrifice all to follow Jesus. In their place come the acceptance of salvation as God’s gift and with it the promise of Jesus of eternal life. AMEN+