The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you Peace. (Numbers 6: 24-26)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Return of the Redeemed to Zion

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; thy shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.  Isaiah 35: 10
The Old Testament scripture appointed for Christmas I is also from Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined. Isaiah 9: 2  
We, the children of the Adam, the people of The Fall, have walked in a darkness that prevented us from being with God the way He wants us to be.  Into that darkness, comes the hope of the world, and in this act of Grace the darkness is banished and His people rejoice.  We are the redeemed.  We are those who no longer walk in the dark but, through our Faith in Jesus Christ, we sing with joy and bask in His light.

Christmas is not about presents or parties or feeling good about ourselves or even about treating each other nicer because of some kind of "spirit" that makes this time of year special.  These things are secondary to the real reason we celebrate: the birth of our Savior!  It is all about HIM!
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.'  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'  Luke 2: 9-14
I'll see everyone in Church tonight for Carols and Midnight Mass.

Merry Christmas,
Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22 - Only a few days more!

The first stanza of a wonderful Christmas poem "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity":

          This is the month, and this the happy morn, 
          Wherein the Son of Heaven’s eternal King, 
          Of wedded maid and Virgin Mother born, 
          Our great redemption from above did bring; 
          For so the holy sages once did sing,
          That he our deadly forfeit should release, 
          And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.
                                                            John Milton (1608-1674)

          God bless us, every one.
                                  Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol, 1843)

Fr. Michael+

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kay's Christmas Present

Derrick is home!  He actually got into town early, the Army has it's own timetable.  Praise God for his safe return.

Fr. Michael+

The Nativity Pageant and Other Things

Yesterday evening, the youth of Christ Memorial rang in the last week of Advent with a wonderful Nativity Pageant.  Lessons were read, carols were sung and the wee little animals all stayed in their places and looked cute in their costumes.  My thanks go out to all the people who helped make the Pageant such a success, especially to my amazing wife, Samantha.  Good job, everyone!

The Parish Christmas Party following the Pageant was a resounding success and great fun was had by all.  To everyone who brought food: thank you.  To everyone who decorated and organized the food: thank you.  To Jolly Old St. Nick (you know who you are) who showed up to the surprise and glee of all the children: thank you.  And a special thanks go out to Bill and Karen Calvert for all the work and thought and love that went into making last night such a happy and joyous time.

Derrick Hunter is scheduled to arrive at Fort Humbug in Shreveport around Noon today.  Kay is understandably excited to have her son home from Iraq, as are we all.  If you would like to come by the Fort and meet the buses as they arrive, you are welcomed and encouraged to do so.  These men and women have been overseas for quite a long time, and it would be great to be able to welcome them home and give them our thanks for their service.

I hope that y'all are having a blessed Advent.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Derrick's Home!

Or at least he is in Mississippi.  Kay got a call this evening that he is safely in country and will be home on Monday.  His unit is expected to arrive at Fort Humbug in Shreveport sometime Monday afternoon.  I will post more information here as soon as I get it.

Praise God for his safe return and for all our troops serving in harm's way.

Fr. Michael+

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Polar Journey

About thirty intrepid souls braved the mild Texas winter in order to take a ride on The Polar Express last night.  We drank hot chocolate, sang carols and met the Jolly Old Elf.  My special thanks go out to Bill "Santa's Little Helper" and Karen "Elf First Class" Calvert for organizing and leading this excursion to the North Pole over Texas.  Big kudos go out to Miles Millard for his dancing and singing excellence.  Have a blessed Advent, y'all.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remember Pearl Harbor

We will celebrate a Mass for all those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor 69 years ago today at 11:55 AM in the Chapel of St. Anne.  We will never forget.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Feast of St. Nicholas

Almighty God, who in thy love didst give to thy servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea:  Grant, we pray thee, that thy CHurch may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, the template upon which our western characters Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Chris Kringle, etc are based.  For more information about Nicholas, try this link on New Advent.

Happy Advent!

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

" incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria virgine..."

Pax vobiscum:

Have you, Dear Reader, ever wondered about the significance of genuflection? Truthfully, most people do not give it much thought, and probably rightly so. Genuflecting, the practice of showing reverence to God by bowing on one knee before God, is not a required part of anyone’s personal piety, but many people consider it an important and tangible way to show deference and respect for our Creator. The same is accomplished with a profound bow (a deep bow made from the hips). The importance of this act of piety resides in its impact upon those who perform it as a means of furthering their relationship with Him who has created them.

You may have noticed, either at Christ Memorial or at another Church you have visited, that during our communal recitation of the Nicene Creed there are those who go down on one knee when we get to this part:

For us and for our salvation
          he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
          he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
          and was made man.
I have heard Christians called “an Easter people”, and that is true because our salvation lies in the death and resurrection of Christ, a sacrifice that He made so that the entirety of Creation might once again be in right relationship with God. But in order to be the Lamb of God whose blood washes us clean, He first had to be a babe, swaddled for warmth against the cool night air and held close to His mother’s breast so that He could feel the safety and comfort of her presence. In order to have Easter, we must first have Christmas. Just as every mother and father should look upon a new child as an extraordinary gift of life, we as a people should look upon this gift of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin so that He might live as one of us and die for our sins, as the greatest gift of all.

Therefore, it is appropriate to genuflect or make a slight bow of the head during the Nicene Creed as a small way of recognizing the significance of the gift of Jesus’ Incarnation to the world. More importantly, however, it reminds us how much God loves us. That He should choose to do this just so that we might gain entry into His Heavenly Kingdom is certainly worthy of acknowledgement not only during this special season of the year, but, indeed, all the year through.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas, Dear Reader. God bless you and keep you; God make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; God lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Doors of Hell

This morning, I picked up a book that I bought several years ago called A Year with C. S. Lewis.  The compiler of this book has selected a bit of Lewis' spiritual insight for each day of the calendar year.  I found the selection for 1 December to be very intriguing.  It is taken from his work The Problem of Pain, and it challenges the notion that the loss of even one soul diminishes the omnipotence of God.  Quite the opposite, Lewis proclaims, because God's willingness to create a being that has the capacity to resist and reject its creator is, "the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity."  God created us to be more that mindless slaves worshiping at His feet because we have no other choice in the matter.  Rather, He wants us to choose to worship Him because He is our Father and He is worthy of our praise.

The real money quote, however, is this:  "They [the damned] enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved: just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free."  His contention is that the gates of Hell are locked only on the inside, and that those who have rejected God out of some misguided desire to be free are merely imprisoning themselves inside their pride and self-worth which merely masquerades as freedom.  They are no longer capable setting aside their love of themselves and therefore abandoning their place in Hell even if they wanted to do so.

C. S. Lewis was a remarkable thinker and an amazing Christian apologist.  If you, Dear Reader, are looking for a book upon which to meditate as part of your spiritual discipline, I highly recommend Lewis' The Great Divorce.  It is a fascinating exploration of Heaven and Hell that is on par with Dante's Divine Comedy but is, in my humble opinion, much more approachable and edifying.

Good reading and God bless.

Fr. Michael+

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Joyful Goodbye.

Dr. Walter Platt was laid to rest today in Grand Cane following a beautiful Requiem Mass at Christ Memorial.  While we never bid farewell to a loved one without grief, we heard in the sermon given by the Rt. Rev'd Charles Jenkins, former Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, about the joy and hope that we all share with Walter as he takes his place in the nearer presence of our Lord and Savior.  Bishop Jenkins is not only a native of Mansfield and a long time parishioner of Christ Memorial, but he is a close personal friend of Walter and his entire family; so his presence as preacher and celebrant today was particularly meaningful to everyone.  I wish to thank him again for his kindness and willingness to be here for Walter and for us as well. 

As for me, I did not know Walter nearly long enough, but I enjoyed the time that I did have with him talking about his family, Christ Memorial, his stamp collection and the arrowheads that he found while he was a boy.  With the sure and certain hope of the resurrection before our eyes, we joyfully say goodbye to Walter, and we will see you soon.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Requiem Mass Set for Saturday

The Requiem Mass for Dr. Walter Platt will be Saturday at 10AM at Christ Memorial.  Visitation will be at Roseneath Funeral Home on Polk Street on Friday night from 5PM to 7PM.  Interment will be at the family plot in Grand Cane following the Mass on Saturday.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dr. Walter Platt, Rest In Peace

For those who have not yet heard, Dr. Platt passed away this morning.  I will post the plans for the visitation and funeral on this blog as soon as they are finalized.  The family appreciates your prayers for Walter and for them during this painful, yet glorious time.  I say painful because losing a loved one or close friend is not an easy thing; but it is a glorious time because our friend has realized the promise of eternal life that has been promised to him by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Put another way, we grieve for our loss while at the same time rejoicing in his gain.

May his soul and the souls of all the departed, by the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Acts of the Apostles Tonight

A reminder that we will be having Wednesday Night Dinner and Bible Study tonight.  We begin a study of the Acts of the Apostles this evening.  It all begins with choir practice at 5PM and Mass at 6PM.  I look forward to seeing you here.

Fr. Michael+

From the Book of the Prophet Malachi

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 1: 11
Just something to think about today.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bite Thy Tongue

And the tongue is a fire.  The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue - a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brethren, this ought not to be so.  James 3: 6-10
Dear Reader, I think this passage struck me this morning because I, just like many others, need to be constantly reminded just how powerful and how hurtful our tongues can be.  I have just enough Irish in me that, on occasion, my temper will be loosed and such things can fly forth from my mouth that might make a sailor blush.  By the Grace of God, this does not happen often anymore, but whenever it does, it reinforces to me just how important the words of St. James really are.

The words we say (and write) have meaning and carry the force of that meaning as they impact and those who hear (and / or read) them.  Our words can be supportive and constructive; yet, they can also be harmful and damaging to those to whom they are directed as well as to ourselves.  We give vent to what we believe and have inside of us when we open our mouths and loose our tongues, and what we say can be a blessing or a curse.

Like me, many of us loose our tempers on occasion and say something in the heat of the emotion that we later wish we could take back.  In such instances, we should always acknowledge that while we can't take it back, we can express our regret and make amends to the person or persons against whom we sinned.  We are all sinners, and we all make mistakes; but as Christians, we should be ready to apologize, and to forgive, for those times when we fail to control our lashing tongues.

What is more dangerous, however, are those who use their tongues to teach and preach a message that is contrary to that which we have received from Christ through His Church.  These do not lose control of their tongues in anger or in spite, rather they open their mouths to cast doubt and question upon some of the most fundamental doctrines of our faith.  In the last few decades, it has become the norm to debate and discount the miracles, nature, bodily resurrection and even the historicity of Jesus Christ.  There are leaders in the Church today who are more interested in focusing on making the Church a reflection of the culture rather than making the culture a reflection of the Kingdom of God.

James' warning about the power of the human tongue speaks to power of the gift that God has given to His people.  He has given us the freewill to choose to follow Him or not.  We can choose to abide by His Word or we may walk apart and fend for ourselves in this darkened world.  We can choose to speak the Truth as He has revealed it to us through the prophets, apostles and martyrs, or we can speak half-truths and lies that weaken our faith and cause people to lose their way. 
And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!  It would be better for him is a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin."  Luke 17: 1-2
Enough said.

Fr. Michael+

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Operation Christmas Child Drawing to a Close

At least our part of the operation, I should say, Dear Reader.  This past Wednesday, a goodly number of Christ Memorial parishioners spent the evening packing boxes for children to receive as Christmas presents all over the world.  This is a special and powerful ministry that not only provides a tangible bit of happiness and love for a child that may have precious little else; but, more importantly, does so while sharing with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is not just a way for us to feel good about giving a child a toy at Christmas.  This is about giving them Christ, and everything after that is pure joy indeed.

I hope that we have a good turn out at the 10AM Mass in the morning, because I will be blessing the boxes that are ready so that they can be delivered Monday morning.  I you have any more shoe boxes that you either have already packed or are planning to pack, please bring them tomorrow.  All the boxes must be delivered to First Baptist this coming week, so that they can be crated for shipping overseas.

Again, I cannot thank everyone who has participated in this blessed operation enough.  Please pray between now and Christmas that all these boxes will find their way into the hands of a child, and that through this gift, Christ may begin a good work in them.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day: Thank you to all who have served.

A Prayer for Memorial Days
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servant who have laid down their lives in the service of our country.  Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. AMEN.
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918, hostilities in Europe came to end with the signing of the Armisitce.  In Great Britain and throughout the Commonwealth, the end of the Great War has since been known as Remembrance Day or Poppy Day.  In the United States, Armistice Day became Veteran's Day following the Korean War so that the veterans of all U.S. wars could be honored and remembered.

On this day, we should take a moment and say thank you to those who have given of themselves to defend our nation.  We should also give thanks to God for the gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for which so many have fought and died to establish and maintain. 

A Prayer for Protection to Saint Michael
Holy Michael, Archangel,
defend us in the day of battle;
be our safeguard against the wickedness
and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God thrust down to hell Satan,
and all the wicked spirits who wander through the world
for the ruin of souls. AMEN.
A Prayer for the Army
O Lord God of Hosts, stretch forth, we pray thee, thine almighty arm to strengthen and protect the soldiers of our country.  Support them in the day of battle, and in the time of peace keep them safe from all evil; endue them with courage and loyalty; and grant that in all things they may serve without reproach; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
A Prayer for the Navy
O Eternal Lord God, who alone spredest out the heavens, and rulest the raging of the sea; Vouchsafe to take into thy almighty and most graciouos protection our country's Navy, and all who serve therein.  Preserve them from the dangers of the sea, and from the violence of the enemy; that they may be a safeguard unto the United States of America, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions; that the inhabitants of our land may in peace and quietness serve thee our God, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
A brief note: The prayers that I have selected above, with the exception of the prayer to St. Michael, come from the 1928 BCP.  Because that book predates the establishment of the U.S. Air Force, there is no direct mention of the all the brave men and women who have given their youth and their lives in the service of their country.  We in Northwest Louisiana cannot overlook the valiant service performed by the men of the 8th Air Force during World War II and thus rightly should honor those who carry on in their footsteps.

Semper Fi.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Marines!

I never made it past USMC JROTC in High School, but I will always have the utmost respect for the Marines. 235 years ago today, the Marines were chartered by the Continental Congress at Tunn Tavern in Philadelphia. The last stanza of the Marine Hymn says, "If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven's scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines." No offense to all my Army and Navy friends, but what's wrong with some good natured inter-service rivalry?

Semper Fi.

Fr. Michael+

United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon in FRANCE

The USMC Silent Drill Platoon exemplifies discipline, confidence and hard work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's About Time

Sorry, Dear Reader, for the long delay in posting to the blog.  Last week was a whirlwind of wonderful activity.  We had the Bazaar last Thursday, and it was a spectacular event.  I cannot say enough about the folks who spent almost an entire year planning, cooking, and preparing for this event.  I am also not even going to try to thank people by name because I will leave somebody out, but let me just give a huge THANK YOU - YOU ARE AWESOME to all of the ladies in the ECW, the men who helped move tables and cook the pasta and to everyone who donated items to the White Elephant Sale.  And, we must also thank all those people from the community who came and enjoyed what I think might be the best chicken spaghetti on the planet.  And that's not to mention the jellies and Jerry's amazing Sweet and Hot Pickles.  The good news is that we still have some jelly left, so if you want some, come by the church office.  They are $3.50 per jar.

I do also want to update everyone about the condition of one of our most dear parishioners, Dr. Walter Platt.  Dr. Platt was in the hospital in Mansfield for most of last week, but yesterday he had a bit of an issue with his heart.  He is stable and is now in the ICU at WK North in Shreveport.  The prognosis is good, but he is not out of the woods just yet.  His family is with him, and I know that they would appreciate your prayers for his healing and for their strength.  I will relay more information as it becomes available.

Thanksgiving is November 25, and we will be celebrating a Eucharist in thanksgiving to God for all the blessings which He has bestowed upon us.  The Mass will be at 10AM.  The Christ Memorial Outreach Committee will also be helping out some needy families in the area have a joyous Thanksgiving this year.  We are in the process of identifying families to whom we can provide a full Thanksgiving meal.  In this way, we trust that Christ's message of Hope and Love will be shared with all His children.

I would like to thank all of those who have contributed to the Minister's Fund and the Food Pantry.  Your contributions have made it possible to restock and reorganize the pantry; and we aren't finished buying the food yet.  This ministry is an important one for the community as well as for our parish. 

Finally, I want to thank God for the blessings that He has poured out upon my family, this parish and me.  It never ceases to amaze me how much God loves us, despite our sin and, at times, generally questionable behavior.  The blood of the Lamb washes us clean, and bathed in His Grace do we walk joyfully ever onward in His presence.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tomorrow is the Bazaar!

Christ Memorial Episcopal Church will once again host its annual Bazaar.  Gates open at 9AM in the morning, and we will be serving our world famous chicken spaghetti, selling jams and jellies and pies and cakes, auctioning a beautiful quilt and offering for sale some unique items at our equally unique White Elephant Sale.

For all the volunteers, there will be Morning Prayer and Mass in the morning at 7:30AM in St. Anne's Chapel. 

Tickets are $7 and are available at the door.

We look forward to seeing you here!

Fr. Michael+

For Our Country

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will.  Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way.  Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.  Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.  In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen(A prayer For Our Country from the 1928 BCP)
This is one of the best prayers for our nation that I have come across.  It reminds us that we are to pray for God's blessing upon our country; while also reminding our leaders that they are obliged to abide by a higher law than any ever passed by Congress.  We, too, should be reminded that we are all obliged to obey Him, honor Him and trust in Him.  Good words by which we should strive to live.

Fr. Michael+ 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From The November Newsletter

Dominus vobiscum:

Before I began to discern my calling to the priesthood, God introduced me to the most special lady that I had then chanced to meet, nor in the interim have I ever met her equal. God has blessed us with three beautiful, intelligent and wonderful children; all the while setting us on a path that has led us to the place where we are today.

Now, as a parish priest, I recognize that God has additionally called me to serve Him and His people in many wonderful and sometimes challenging ways. It does not mean that my commitment to the vows that I made to Samantha or the commitment that I have made to my children are any less, but it does mean that there is not nearly enough hours in the day to do everything that I would like to do.

Prioritization, therefore, becomes the operative word. On any given day, some of my priorities are going to change based on what may be expected of me or what is on the calendar. Wednesday, for example is a day that is largely consumed with preparation for that night’s Mass and Bible Study. Friday, barring a pastoral need, belongs to my family, and I try to devote that day as much as possible to helping around the house, helping with school, playing with the kids and spending time with my wife. Some days, the plan with which I start barely survives the light of day; that’s just the way life goes.

But as important as my wife, my children and my parish family are to me, there can only be one absolute priority that trumps all else; and by doing so gives everything else its meaning: GOD. By giving God our first attention, we open ourselves to His Grace which makes possible all the things that He has for us to do. He makes it possible to weather the storms of life and to delight in the simple pleasures that can too often pass us by if we are not paying attention.

When we awake in the morning and give thanks to Him for the night just passed and praise to Him for the promise of the day to come; when we seek Him out for strength in the face of a difficult problem or a dreaded task; when we ask for forgiveness and pray for his mercy; when we worship Him to the exclusion of all the distractions and temptations of this world; in these ways do we actively make God the priority in our lives.

To be a bit more specific, Dear Reader, may I suggest that we must commit to spend time with Him every day. In the Anglican tradition we do this in the Daily Office, prayers that are offered to God both morning and evening. To that end, we offer Morning Prayer at Christ Memorial every weekday at 7:30AM in St. Anne’s Chapel. We also spend time with God by reading and studying Holy Scripture, attending Bible study and Sunday School, and by following the examples of the Saints who have come before us.

We must give Him the worship that He has required of us. God set aside the Sabbath so that we would have time to worship Him, and so that we would have time to appreciate the gifts that he has given to us, like our families for example. There are many things that compete for our attention, but on Sunday, our attention should be fixed squarely on God.

We should give thanks to Him for His bounty by dedicating to Him the first fruits of our labor. The tradition and doctrine of the Church recognizes the tithe (10%) as the minimum that each of God’s people should give back to God through His Church. This is not a tax or dues that are owed so that we can be members; rather, it is a recognition that everything we have and everything we are is because of Him and Him alone.

Remember, Dear Reader, that God loved the world enough to send His only Son to die upon the cross for our sins so that we might live. Making Him the priority in our lives seems to be the least that we can do in return.

Fr. Michael+

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Sin of Pride

The beginning of man's pride is to depart from the Lord; his heart has forsaken his Maker.  For the beginning of pride is sin, and the man who clings to it pours out abominations.  Sirach 10: 12-13
Once again, we have words of inspiration from the Book of Sirach that were read at Morning Prayer just a few hours ago.  What did Adam and Eve do that was so wrong?  They disobeyed God and tried to make themselves equal to Him.  That is pride.  They departed from the Lord, and in their pride welcomed sin and death into the world. 

When we believe that we know better than God; when we believe that we are smarter than God; when we believe that we no longer need God; that is when our pride gets the better of us and will certainly destroy us.  In our world today, we think that we can control life at its most fundamental levels.  Modern science has given us the ability to look into the very genetic code of a person and determine whether or not that person will be healthy, disabled or susceptible to disease.  We are becoming so used to playing God that we can decide which child should be allowed to live, or should be aborted because it might not be healthy enough or might not meet the standards of the family or of society.

There are nations around the world, and states right here in the United States, which advocate and facilitate euthanasia for anyone who doesn't feel like living another day.  In our pride, we have forgotten that life is a gift from God, and it is wrong to try to rescind that gift whether the recipient is in the womb, in a hospital bed, depressed or in a nursing home.

And, Dear Reader, I will also go so far as to say that this gift of life extends to those who have by their own actions and their own lack of regard for life sit in a jail cell awaiting their end at the hand of the state.  Life is a gift of God that is given to all people.  Those convicted of heinous crimes may have sacrificed their freedom and their privilege to live in society, and they should pay accordingly for their crimes; but their ultimate punishment shall be meted out by God who is infinitely more up to the task than us.

We are not equal with God.  We cannot do God's job.  If God wanted to take a vacation and needed someone to cover his desk for him for a few days, He would not call one of us.  We live our lives one day at a time, completely dependent on His Love, Grace and Mercy whether we realize it or not.  How much better will our lives be if we acknowledge this, appreciate this, and strive to make ourselves into a people whose hearts are fixed on God, our Maker.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Article VI of the 39 Articles of Faith reads in part, “And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine…”. Among the Duetero-canonical books which make up the Apocrypha, we find the book which most Anglicans recognize as Ecclesiasticus, most Roman Catholics recognize as Sirach and which most Reform Churches won’t recognize at all.

Dear Reader, I begin this reflection in this way not to spark a discussion of the validity of the Apocrypha, but rather to introduce a short passage that was read during Morning Prayer this last Monday. It is a section of Scripture that we should all read, study and inwardly digest.

Do not refrain from speaking at the crucial time, and do not hide your wisdom. For wisdom is known through speech, and education through the words of the tongue. Never speak against the truth, but be mindful of your ignorance. Do not be ashamed to confess your sins, and do not try to stop the current of a river, nor show partiality to a ruler. Strive even to death for the truth and the Lord God will fight for you. Sirach 4: 23-28
God gave each and every one of us the gift of reason and intelligence, not so that we could merely decipher the secrets of His Creation (although he would not have shown us those secrets or given us the ability to think and the desire to explore if He had not wanted us to see and feel the magnificence of all that He created) but rather so that we could, through the majesty of His Creation, come to recognize that there is a God, and through the revelation of Himself to us by His presence among His people and through His Holy Word, come to know Him.

I believe that wisdom is reason built upon the unshakable foundation of Holy Writ. We are smart enough to figure out how to describe and even break open the atom; we are smart enough to send man into outer space; we are smart enough decode the very building blocks of human genetics; but are we wise enough to make proper use those discoveries; and, possibly more importantly, are we wise enough not to use them?

“Do not refrain from speaking at the crucial time, and do not hide your wisdom.” Sirach tells us that we will have those opportunities to use the gifts that God has given to us, and that we are to use them for His purposes. He also warns, “Never speak against the truth, but be mindful of your ignorance.” Someone once told me that the true measure of one’s intelligence is knowing when you know nothing and then being willing to admit it. We find the unvarnished, unmistakable and eternal Truth in the words of Holy Scripture. The Truth of God’s Love, His Grace, His Judgment and His Mercy are right there in black and white.

However, just as one must work to amass the knowledge that allows one to comprehend and appreciate Creation, one must also spend the time reading, studying and praying over Scripture in order to develop the wisdom that allows one to: “Strive even to death for the truth.”

To my original thesis: wisdom is reason built upon the unshakable foundation of Holy Writ, I supply but, one important addendum. For wisdom to take its full and proper place in the Truth, it must be guided by the tradition of the Church. For two thousand years and beyond, the Church through her bishops, priests, theologians and teachers have studied Scripture and have developed the traditions, the dogma and the doctrines of our Faith. We may not always agree with those interpretations and teachings, but we discard the wisdom of the Church at great cost to ourselves and to the generations who depend on us to teach them the Truth. The Truth being that , so that they can know the root of their salvation, Jesus Christ.

Dear Reader, we look to God’s Holy Word. We do so using the intelligence that God has given us. We rely on the traditional voice and teaching of the Church to direct us. What more can we do?

Fr. Michael+

Monday, October 18, 2010

Big News

Dominus vobiscum:

For those of you who were not at church on Sunday (tsk...tsk...tsk), I present to you a few items that you might find interesting:

1.  There will be an LSU / Auburn football party beginning at 1:30pm on Saturday, October 23 in the Parish House.  The church will provide the soft drinks, so all you need to bring is some form of snack, appetizer or finger food to share with the other hungry Tiger (purple and gold ones, of course) fans.  The kids can play on our new playground and a good time can be had by all.

2.  On October 30, which is the Saturday before Hallowe'en, we will have a party at the church to celebrate the Feast of All Hallows Eve.  There will be food, fun and, I am led to believe, entertainment in the form of an age appropriate scary movie.  Come one, come all; and bring a guest with you.  Invite a friend or a co-worker or a family member to come to the party and then to come to church on Sunday.  Let's show Mansfield what a great place Christ Memorial is for families and people of all ages.

3.  The Diocese of Western Louisiana held its annual Convention in Alexandria this past weekend, and there are a couple of interesting developments.  First, Christ Memorial will have two people going to Indianapolis in 2012 to represent the Diocese at General Convention.  Karen Nash was elected to serve as a Lay Deputy and I was elected to serve as a Deputy from the Clergy Order.  It is a great honor to serve, and also a lot of work, so both Karen and I will need and greatly appreciate your prayers.  Second, because of the great bounty that God as given to the Diocese through the oil and gas revenues produced from the Garland Scout Camp property right here in DeSoto Parish, the Bishop announced in his address to Convention that he was granting a waiver for every parish 4th quarter asking.  This means that we will not have to make our final contribution to the diocese this year.  This is a one time benefit, and by the Grace of God, we now have that money that we can use for the spread of the Gospel and the furthering of God's Kingdom right here in Mansfield.

4.  Another item from Convention deserves some attention as well.  The Bishop, again in his address to Convention, alluded several times to an upcoming period of change in the diocese.  He was referring to his impending retirement as our Diocesan Bishop due to the achievement of the 72nd anniversary of his birth.  This will happen in mid-summer of 2012.  Therefore, the Bishop announced that he would be calling for the election of the IV Bishop of the Diocese of Western Louisiana some time in the Spring of next year.  The process of electing a bishop is a long and complex one.  If it does indeed begin in the Spring of 2011, then, and I believe this is the Bishop's desire, our new Diocesan would be elected, consented and installed prior to General Convention (July 2012).  Bishop MacPherson is a gift of God to this diocese, and we should all give thanks to Him for that gift.  Bishop MacPherson has worked tirelessly to be a good steward for this diocese and to be a true Defender of the Faith in the face of sometimes daunting opposition.  He is a loyal man of God, a believer of the first order, and I will miss not having him safely ensconced at Diocesan House (or Hoose, depending on from what side of the border one comes).  I am asking everyone who reads this blog post to begin now to pray fervently for God's guidance and protection as we seek to follow His Will in selecting a new bishop.  This will be a decision of the utmost importance.

Fr.  Michael+

Monday, October 4, 2010

Morning Prayer Offered at CMEC

We kicked off the month of October with a prayer this morning.  At 7:30AM, the Angelus was rung on the Chapel bell, calling the faithful to the Daily Office of Morning Prayer.  Everyone is invited to stop by the Chapel each weekday morning at 7:30AM to participate in this most Anglican form of worshiping God.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From The October Newsletter

Dominus vobiscum:

Well, Dear Reader, October is upon us; and its arrival heralds cooler weather, the harvest of the crops, football and Hallowe’en. Yes, it’s time for ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night to hold sway over our imaginations. All Hallows’ Even is the Old English name for the holiday that marks the night before one of the holiest of feast days on the Christian calendar: All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ itself is a feast day with origins in the earliest days of the Church, but Hallowe’en finds its origins much closer to home for us Anglicans.

The Hallowe’en that we know comes to us mostly from the harvest / new year festivals of the Celts and the early Britons. These pagan festivals celebrated the harvest, sought the spirit’s protection of the people through the winter, and paid tribute to the dead at a time when the Celts believed that the barrier between this world and the next was at its thinnest. Costumes and Jack ‘O Lanterns carved from turnips were used by the revelers to scare away the evil spirits that threatened to cause mayhem for those who still lived. With the Christianization of Ireland and the British Isles, the festival became closely linked with the Western Church’s celebration of All Saints’ Day which fell on November 1; and it was not long before the Christian celebration of All Hallows’ Even found its way to the continent and spread throughout all of Europe.

Today, Hallowe’en (the ‘ replaces the “v” in the old Scottish use: Halloweven, meaning the night before All Hallows or All Saints’) has become almost completely secularized with little or no attention paid by the larger community to the holiday’s connection to the Feast of All Saints which follows it. Modern Americans, particularly, see Hallowe’en as a time of parties, trick or treating, scary movies, and celebration of the end of Summer; and as far as that goes, there is nothing wrong with that. I worry, however, that in losing sight of the reason for the holiday, we allow ourselves to become complacent with beliefs and forces that are in many ways incompatible with our Christian faith.
There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD; and because of these abominable practices the LORD your God is driving them out before you. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (RSV)

By definition, supernatural means anything that is above or beyond nature. As Christians, we believe in the supernatural out of necessity because we believe in God who created all things that are, and that He exists outside of His creation and is not subject to the natural laws that bind and govern us and the world around us.

Likewise, there are other spiritual forces that, while being subject to God at all times, are not necessarily subject to all the laws of nature around us. Angels and demons fall into this category, I believe. As our culture becomes more and more secularized, there has been a tendency among many to try to rekindle their spiritual lives, and this is a good thing. Unfortunately, many are trying to do so in ways that are decidedly not Christian and with some spirits that are markedly not with God.

As a parent, I have watched with some alarm the growth in the entertainment world of characters and subjects that while once being seen as wicked or ridiculous are now presented as mainstream, normal and cool. Today we have programming on children’s cable networks that center on witches, warlocks and the use of witchcraft. Countless television shows, in fact, beginning with Dark Shadows in the 1960’s and continuing through shows like the current BBC offering Being Human romanticize formerly frightening characters like vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Between Harry Potter and the Twilight Series, young people of many ages are introduced to magic and vampirism that is not only seen as normal but romantic and somehow virtuous. May I remind you, Dear Reader, that Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian nobleman who is most commonly identified as the original Count Dracula, became a vampire, the undead and therefore one bereft of any hope of resurrection and redemption, because he sold his soul to the Devil. Romantic, huh?

Hallowe’en can and should be a fun time for adults and children. It should be a time when we can laugh at ourselves and at our own fears and phobias (mine being an irrational fear of werewolves). It should be an opportunity for families to spend time together and to prepare for the celebration of All Saints’ which is to follow. Therefore, Christ Memorial will celebrate Hallowe’en on Saturday night, October 30 at the Church beginning at 6:00 PM. There will be food and games and trick or treating for the kids. Plans are also in the works to show a good old “scary” movie. If you are so inclined, please feel free to come in costume; but please no witches and, for the sake of my poor heart, let’s keep the number of werewolves to a minimum.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Shoebox Full of Joy

Several years ago, I was introduced to a marvelous program called Operation Christmas Child.  We at Christ Memorial are not strangers to this program, I know; nor are we ignorant of the joy and hope that is contained in each one of those small boxes destined for a child in need of experiencing the love of the Risen Christ.  Between now and the 15th of November, we should dedicate ourselves as a parish family to filling as many shoeboxes with school supplies, toys, toothbrushes, soap, hard candies, T-shirts, ball caps, hair clips, toy jewelry, and flashlights as we can. 

Starting soon, the Sunday School will begin collecting and filling boxes in preparation for the collection in November.  If you would like more information now, this is the link to Operation Christmas Child

We will begin accepting donations of empty shoeboxes (regular size only please) and items to fill them next week.  If you would like to bring a filled shoebox to the church, please do so.  All the information you need to fill the box may be found on the website or you may pick up a brochure about the project at the church.  Samaritan's Purse, the organizer of this project, does ask for a $7 donation to cover the cost of shipping the box overseas. 

Imagine the joy that a small boy or girl will experience when they open a box with a toy, shoes or a shirt given to them by a person they have never met and who has no reason for giving them anything save for the love of Jesus Christ. 

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"A Person's A Person No Matter How Small"

I don't know where Dr. Suess fell on the issue of abortion, but I believe that his stories, especially the one about the Whos who lived on that tiny dust speck, belied a deep respect for life.  As you, Dear Reader, might surmise from some of my posts to this blog, I, too, have a great respect for human life.  So that there can be no misunderstanding: I believe that all human life, from conception to our natural end, is sacred and is an unmitigated gift from God the Father, who is the Creator of all things.  I do not say this to be confrontational, although to some, it might certainly appear so.  I say this because I believe it to be the Truth.

Life is precious.  Life is sacred.  All life belongs to God.  We should give thanks every day for that gift which He has given to us, and ask Him for the strength to live according to His Will and His alone.
For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb. Ps 139: 13
Starting next Wednesday, September 22, there begins a worldwide vigil which focuses on protecting the weakest and most fragile among us.  40 Days for Life professes to be the largest and longest pro-life mobilization in history.  Here is a link to the Shreveport/Bossier City website: 40 Days for Life - Shreveport/Bossier City

The Church has a long history of vigils and periods of focused and purposeful prayer.  If nothing else comes of these words but a few extra prayers that help move a young mother away from a trip to an abortion clinic and toward a better choice like adoption, then our efforts will have been more than worth it. 

Pray to end abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty.  Pray for life.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pray for Victory

"O God, who makest wars to cease, and by thy mighty arm dost overthrow the adversaries of them that put their trust in thee: come to the help of thy servants who humbly call upon they mercy; that we, being delivered from the violence of the enemy, may evermore praise thee with thanksgiving.  Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord.  Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  Amen."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pray for our Troops

Derrick is on his way back to Iraq.  Please pray for his safe travel, safe completion of his tour of duty and his safe return home.  Also, please pray for all the men and women overseas who defend our nation every day.  Pray that God will protect them and return them to their families as soon as possible.  Pray for the families of all those serving overseas; that God will give them peace and confidence and strength.  Finally, pray for our nation.  Pray that we will once again be a nation which understands and respects the words of God.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Like the date on which Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japenese, September 11, 2001 is a moment in time which changed the world.  This Saturday is the ninth anniversary of that infamous day, and to mark the occasion, I will celebrate a Mass for those who died, those who survived, the families of those effected by the attack on our nation and for all the men and women of our military and police forces who are putting their lives on the line to defend this nation.

Mass will begin at 10AM in the Chapel.  If you cannot come, please take a moment Saturday morning and pray for those who have fallen and pray for the safety of our great nation.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming Events....

Don't forget that Confirmation Class begins on September 19 following the 10AM Mass.  Everyone is invited to attend, even if you have already been Confirmed.  If you would like to be Confirmed, or if you would like to be Received from another denomination, or if you would like to Reaffirm your commitment to Christ; then please contact Fr. Michael+.

Men:  The Men's Prayer Breakfast will resume on Thursday, September 16 in the Parish House at 7AM.  Food, coffee, fellowship and a short meditation on Scripture are great ways to begin the day.  See you there.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here's Another One to Read

In England during the mid 19th century, a high-church movement swept the Church largely influenced by the Tractarians at Oxford University.  Their architecture was Medieval Gothic.  Their theology was orthodox.  Their foundation was Scripture.  Their worship was lofty and steeped in the traditions of the Church begun during the earliest days of the Church in the West and the Apostles of Christ.  The Church, in their eyes was the Body of Christ, and as such they also believed that they had a responsibility for mission and social outreach.  It was the high-church, Anglo-Catholics who went into the slums of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester and ministered to the underclasses of the industrial revolution; Anglo-Catholics played a major role in bringing the Gospel and Anglicanism to Africa, India and Southeast Asia; and apparently the Anglo-Catholics are still at it in West Hollywood, CA.

Note this bastion of orthodoxy, high-church Anglicanism in a place that is certainly not known for such things: St. Thomas the Apostle.  Also note who is coming and is active in this parish which features incense and Latin and an eastward facing Altar:  they are those who have rejected the vacuous, anything goes attitude of the previous generation.  People are hungry for the truth; they are hungry for churches that say and do things differently than the society around them. 

That's what I think, anyway.

Fr. Michael+

Words That Make You Go....Wow!

"Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

"Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

"Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles."
I took the quotes above from a speech given by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput, in Slovakia just a few days ago.  The title of the speech is: Living Within the Truth: Religious Liberty and Catholic Mission in the New Order of the World.

Archbishop Chaput has been one of the most outspoken voices for Catholicism in the United States over the last few years and has written and spoken vehemently against the secularizing of our culture and the abandonment of our Western spiritual heritage.  This speech, which can be found here Text of the Archbishop's speech, is a bold indictment of the direction that the West is headed. 

Fr. Michael+

Monday, August 30, 2010

September Newsletter Article

Labor Day rapidly approaches; and as we prepare for the last gasp of summer frivolity, shall we consider for a moment just what it means to labor. Fundamentally, to labor is to work. Work is not always enjoyable, although it certainly can be, but work is necessary lest we fall into slothfulness, apathy, hunger and homelessness. Living takes work, and so does believing. Therefore, I offer to you, Dear Reader, three thoughts on how our labors might properly be turned to the better for us, for our children and for our children’s children.

1. Labor to learn and to demonstrate the Good News of Jesus Christ. My experience so far at Christ Memorial has taught me that this form of labor has been underway for some time and has already born much fruit. The level of Biblical literacy in this congregation is far higher than in most Episcopal Parishes, I dare say. That is a credit to the parishioners and to the clergy who have preceded me in this historic place.

Our labors spent delving into the pages of Holy Scripture return to us a hundred-fold. There is no better way to come to know the Will of God than to read His holy writ. There is no better way to conform our wills to His than to read, mark and inwardly digest His inspired word. This is not always an easy endeavor, and that is why the word “labor” is apt for this discussion. One cannot just take pieces of Scripture and conform it to our expectations and desires. In order to fully understand, one must read it thoroughly and be prepared to work through the questions that may arise. One must read with confidence that any confusion that comes from reading Scripture stems not from a lacking within God’s message to us, but from our own lack of understanding. It takes time, and it takes work, often in the form of Bible study groups, lectio divina (holy reading) and prayer; but rest assured that the effort is definitely worth it.

As we learn and grow in our faith, it is also important to teach and show what we have learned to our children and to our children’s children. Remember that it is our responsibility to teach them about God so that they can come to know and love Him. This may be the most important thing that any of us do in our lifetime. Nothing is more important than introducing and fostering the Word of God to our family, friends and, let’s face it, the rest of a confused and darkened world.

2. Labor to learn and to appreciate our traditional Anglican Faith and heritage. We are Anglicans, and, as such, we share in over 2,000 years of Christian tradition and heritage which finds its root in Jesus Christ, Himself. Through His Apostles and through His Church, we have inherited a liturgical, priestly and apostolic Faith based upon Holy Scripture, tradition and reason.

As Anglicans, we share in a worldwide Communion of faith that is uniquely English in character. It is through our Catechism that we learn first what it means to be Christian and then what it means to be Anglican. The Nicene Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Thirty-nine Articles of Faith, the Seven Sacraments and the History of the Church are but a small part of what we must learn about the Church. In the Early Church, the catechetical process which prepared a person for Baptism and Confirmation took at least three years. Today, we do it in somewhat less time, but the import of learning the fundamentals of our Faith cannot be understated.

As with Holy Scripture, we must also labor to learn our Faith so that we can impart that knowledge and experience to those who shall come after us. By word and example, we show our youth and our new-comers who we are. We want them to see and hear our Christianity lived out according to our Anglican heritage. (Warning: Shameless plug approaching.) If you are interested in learning or re-learning about our Faith, please plan on attending the Confirmation Class which begins on September 19. You might labor hard, but you will not be disappointed.

3. Labor to learn and to participate in our Anglican worship of God. We must instill in ourselves and in our children a desire to participate in the worship of God, not because it is some obligation that we make on Sunday morning (it is, but it shouldn’t be seen as a burden), but rather because it is the right thing to do. We must foster a sense of belonging and purpose that will in turn create a desire to seek, to serve and to worship God more and more. Part of that is through discipline and the prioritizing of choices. It is a sad fact that in our modern world Sunday is no longer a day reserved for worship. Sporting events, school and work often impinge on the Sabbath, and the choices we make and the priorities we set form us and our children and our children’s children for the good or for the ill.

On Wednesday evening, we at Christ Memorial come together and combine all of these things together. We worship God by celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist which Christ gave to His disciples at the Last Supper, and that the Church has preserved as the principle expression of His Love for us and of our devotion to Him. Then, we share a meal and fellowship with one another in a manner very reminiscent of the Early Church. Finally, we study the Word of God and explore what His Word means to us and how it affects us as followers of Christ.

To paraphrase our Savior, let us labor hard for God and lay up in Heaven the treasures which rust and moth cannot touch. Let us not labor for our own needs, but for the needs of those who shall come after us and for those who have not yet come to know Christ.

Fr. Michael+

You've Got To Be Kidding Me......Really??

I beg your forgiveness right at the start, for this post can best be described as an off-the-cuff rant.  I was just reading an article that reported the apparent befuddlement (good word, huh) of a clergyman in the Anglican Church in Canada regarding why so many young people are seeking spiritual fulfillment outside of his Church.  Well....not to put too fine a point on it....IT'S BECAUSE THEY AREN'T FINDING IT IN THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN CANADA!  For that matter, I dare say that a lot of people are not finding in it in ECUSA or the CofE either.

For the past 60+ years at least, Western Anglicanism has done everything it can to take the mystery and mysticism out of the Faith.  We have poo pooed Christ's miracles.  We have sought to deconstruct Holy Scripture in an effort to quantify and qualify every word and action in a fit of almost unimaginable hubris.  We have met in special seminars to an attempt to identify the "historical Jesus" and in the process rejected most of the Gospels.  We have bishops who have spent their lives spreading heresies and denouncing Christ's bodily resurrection, His very nature as the Son of God and the very existence of Heaven and Hell.

Mostly what we have done is abandon the Truth.  "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.'" John 14: 6  Western Anglicanism has become so polite and so politically correct that this simple assertion of Truth is nearly impossible.  The leadership of ECUSA routinely articulates a pluriform, universalist model which only confuses and alienates.  If the plan is to make the Church so non-judgemental and so open that everyone will come and join, then I proclaim that plan to be false and a recipe for disaster.

People today, in fact in any age, want to hear the Church speak boldly and with authority about God.  People, I believe, don't want to hear their priest offering platitudes from the pulpit, they want to hear the Truth.  We find the Truth in Holy Scripture.  We find the Truth represented in 2,000 years of tradition and history.  We do not find the Truth in whimsical forays of post-modernism, or in attempts to make the Church more suitable to the culture.  We must do exactly the opposite.  The Church must re-make the culture.

Western Anglicanism must return to the chief cornerstone: Jesus Christ.  Western Anglicanism must embrace a core doctrine of faith that resides in Holy Scripture and in the traditions of the Church.  We must not be afraid to speak the Truth, because that is how we will reach the nations of the world, and how Christ will change society, again.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Teach Your Children Well

Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children—how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children so. Dt 4: 9-10
With apologies to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young for the title of this reflection, this passage from Deuteronomy may be one of the most important lessons that we as parents and bearers of the Good News might hear. Moses speaks these words to the Hebrew People as a warning to a generation who has witnessed the presence and the power of God in their midst. God has heard the cries of His people, He has delivered them out of the hand of Pharaoh, He has led them on dry ground through the Red Sea, He has guided them through the desert as a pillar of fire and a column of smoke, He has dwelt upon the holy mountain and given to His people the Commandments by which they are to live, and He has been present with them in His Holy Tabernacle. Moses admonishes his people not to forget the mighty acts and the presence of God which they have witnessed with their own eyes.

More importantly, and in God’s words, Moses tells the people that they are to pass on what they have seen to their children and grandchildren so that future generations might know what God has done for them. The remembrance of God’s deliverance of His people from bondage in Egypt remains to this day an important part of Judaism, and of our Christian Faith as we read and remember the Exodus in Psalm and Scripture.

How is a generation once or twice removed from the awesome presence of God to appreciate and embrace Him? This was a problem for the Hebrews as they entered and conquered the land given to Abraham and his posterity by God. The people who arrived at the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership were already a people one generation removed from the slavery of their fathers. By the time the Twelve Tribes of Israel had entered, spread out and laid claim to the land, Joshua and all the elders were dead, and another generation had passed. Once in the land, God’s Chosen People were plagued by the presence of the people that had possessed the land and whom they had been instructed by God to displace and from whom they were to remain apart. Yet, the people chose not to heed God’s instruction, they made covenants with the peoples of the land and they intermarried with them. Worst of all, God’s People began to worship at the altars of the ba’als and turned away from the one, true God.

In the fullness of time, God provided the Savior for all mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. God once again made his presence felt among His people, only this time He was somewhat more subtle about it. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, so that all of creation might once again be in right relationship to Him. Jesus rose from the grave as a clear sign of the eternal life that is ours because of His sacrifice. Many witnessed the miracles, heard the teachings and even experienced the Risen Lord, and they took Christ’s words to heart when He sent them forth into the world to teach the Good News to new generations of Jews and Gentiles.

The question for us is this: how well do we take to heart the words of Moses and Jesus Christ? Are we cherishing in our hearts the mighty works that God has done in our lives? Are we teaching our children and our children’s children about God? Are we resolved to protect the future generations from the ba’als of this world; from the attractive and dangerous things of this world that threaten to draw young and old alike away from God and toward certain ruin?

It is very easy to connect with the sensual realities of the world around us. It is very easy to find satisfaction in the good feelings and cheap rewards of a world designed to entertain and enthrall. It is very easy to sit back in our relative comfort and luxury and lose sight of the source for all that we have. It is not evil to live a pleasant life amongst the goodness of God’s Creation. It is evil, however, to worship the pleasantries and the comforts rather than the One who provides them for us.

What then must we teach our children? First, that God loves us, unconditionally; and it is because of that love that He has delivered us from the bondage of sin and death. We have done nothing to deserve His Grace and Mercy, yet He has intervened for us and saved us. Second, God does expect something from us. He gave us His law by which we are to live our lives. Christ established the Church so that His Word might go forth to all the world and so that all God’s people may worship Him. We participate in God’s Grace and Love more fully the closer we are to Him; and we grow closer to Him by worshiping at His feet, studying His Holy Word and communicating with Him through prayer and quiet devotion.

Third, we must have faith and trust in Him who made us. Life is not always easy, and the decisions that we must make are often not fun to make. If we have faith in God, and allow Him to be our guide, then life becomes easier, and our decisions are not just our own to make when we make them with His guidance and counsel. Finally, we must teach our children that the greatest fallacy of modern life is that we are in control. We have split the atom, we have traveled to the Moon, we have developed medical science to a point where we can map the human genome and possibly even alter our own genetic code. Yet is it right to do these things? Are we really that much in control? Are we making ourselves gods? There can be only one God, and that position is filled. He is in control not us, but the good news is that He does not keep secrets. Read His Word to them, tell them how He has acted in the world and in our lives, make Him real to them by showing them how He is real to us.

Remember His mighty works, heed His glorious Word, and teach our children well.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wednesday Night Continues to Grow

We had a fantastic night at Christ Memorial last night, beginning with a celebration of the Mass for the Feast of St. Clare in the Chapel.  It was practically standing room only!  After Mass, the crowd swelled to almost 40 people, and we had a delicious meal provided my many generous members of the parish.  We ate ham, chicken casserole, corn casserole, salad, macaroni and cheese, roasted potatoes, and many other tasty items.  For dessert we had chocolate cake, brownies and the best banana pudding in the entire world (my wife's specialty). 

We finished up with an introduction to the Book of Judges.  In an effort to set the stage for the book and to provide a cultural and historical background for the people and events in Judges, I spent the hour tracing the wanderings of the Hebrew people from the Patriarchs through their slavery and redemption in Egypt to Joshua's leadership in the initial conquest of Canaan.  We discussed some of the underpinning theology of Judges and the pattern of disobedience, repentence and salvation so prominent throughout the book (and the lives of all God's people I might add).

"And the people did what was evil in the sight of the LORD..."  That is a phrase that will come up time and time again in the Book of Judges, and we begin that discussion next Wednesday starting, as always, with Mass at 6PM.  Please pass the word and encourage your friends, family and neighbors to come and hear and experience God's Word.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In whom do we put our Faith?

Have you ever, Dear Reader, stopped to consider the difference that a capital letter makes? As I began to compose this little reflection that was born out of the Scriptures for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, I typed Faith with a capital ‘F’. I stopped and looked at it, and wondered about what kind of faith was I writing?

To me, and maybe this is only me, there is a difference between the small ‘f’ and the big one. Lower case ‘f’ speaks to me of the faith enumerated by the writer of Hebrews when he says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This faith speaks of the trust that Abraham placed in God when He called him out of his homeland and set him on a path toward becoming the patriarch of a great nation. This is the faith of Abel, Enoch and Noah who believed and, “…became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.” They and all the others who believe in God are sojourners and exiles on the earth; each longing for the homeland promised to all believers by God from before time began.

Please do not somehow diminish lower case ‘faith’ or see it as somehow inferior or secondary, indeed it is not. This is the faith of our Fathers. This is our faith placed in the Living God, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Inspiration. Faith is the thing that binds us to God, allows us to participate in His Grace, and consequently connects us to each other. Most of us learn, sometimes through hard lessons, what and who we may place our trust. We know that we can always trust in Him, but when it comes to the things of this world, faith and trust are often hard to find; unless we learn to make God a part of our earthly relationships. It is our faith in God that strengthens the bonds between neighbors. For further study, I refer you to Mark 12: 28-31.

Now, Dear Reader, you may ask, “Then what is the big deal about a stinking capital ‘F’?!”

Consider, if you will, this familiar quote: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16: 18). Setting aside any discussion of the Papacy for the moment, these are the words that Jesus Christ is speaking to His apostles about His Church. Before His ascension, Christ charges Peter three times to feed and care for His sheep. In the Acts of the Apostles, Christ dispatches His apostles from Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria and even to the center of the world, Rome. And, as if we could, let us not forget a certain Pharisee blinded, convicted and recruited on his way to Damascus.

Upper case Faith, in my mind, refers the institution left by Christ upon this earth to continue His mission of bringing salvation to all mankind. In order for the Gospel to be heard by the multitudes, it had to be spoken by those entrusted with the message delivered to them by God, Himself. It is the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, which has recorded, collected, preserved and promulgated the Good News to every corner of the world; and she still has a way to go. It is the Church that is the protector of the doctrine and the traditions from the earliest days of the Apostles’ messianic ministries. It is the Church which should be the fountainhead of theological interpretation and knowledge.

For me, I cannot divorce the Church from my faith. I often have heard people say things like, “I don’t have to be in a particular building at a particular time to worship God. I can do it that just fine on my own.” While it is true that we do, and should, work on developing our relationship with God at all times during our busy week; it is a fallacy to think that we don’t owe something more to Him. God commands us to keep holy the Sabbath. That is not just an opportunity for us to prop up our feet and relax from a busy work week. It is an instruction to us to come together and worship Him.

The Church is more than an historic building with a staff and an annual budget. The Church is more than the ritual, the incense or the hymns. The Church is even more than the people who gather together in fellowship and worship. The Church is the catholic (universal) expression of Christ in the world.

My faith is in the Risen Lord, for it is only in his death and resurrection that all of creation is washed clean from the stain of sin and death. My Faith is unapologetically Anglican, rooted in Christ, delivered to His people by the Apostles and preserved through the bishops in whom rests the responsibility to defend that which was entrusted to them.

Finally, I think that it is important to make clear that while the Church was created by Jesus Christ in the person of His Apostles, the Church is populated with and governed by the children of The Fall. Those who administer the Church are not perfect; mistakes have been and are being made. We have rent asunder the Church so that now we divide and subdivide ourselves into denominations and affiliations which in some ways bear little resemblance to each other. But that is why we must have faith: small ‘f’. Even at times when the Faith in which we participate and grow seems to be following paths unfamiliar and treacherous, we must rely on the faith of Abraham, Abel, Enoch and Noah. We must rely above all in our faith in and love for Jesus Christ, and in that we will find unity.

Father Michael+

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Couple of Reminders

Next Wednesday, August 11, we begin our study of the Book of Judges.  Last Wednesday was the final installment of a study of Celtic Christianity which I think went rather well.  We ended up examining a late 6th century exegetical homily on Matthew 16: 24.  In a nutshell, the exegete talked about our taking up of the Cross of Christ as being our willful decision to regognize Christ as the true Son of God.  He went further by elaborating on God's place as the Creator of all things, rational and irrational, sensate and unsensate.  As Creator, God exists outside of His creation, although He participates in that Creation by the mere fact that He created it.  God is not subject to His creation, creation is subject to Him.....with one notable exception:  Jesus Christ.  In Christ, God chose to redeem all of creation by becoming a part of it Himself.  By becoming flesh of the Blessed Virgin, God stepped into creation and, for the appropriate was subject to the physical laws and ravages of time and temperment which effect us all.  God loved us so much that He stepped into our time (chronos) so that we could subsequently share in His Time (kairos).

We begin Sunday School for Youth and Adults on Sunday, August 15.  We will all meet in the Parish House to take stock and assign rooms and have some fun.  We have a great group of teachers lined up for this year, and I am confident that Sunday School will be fun and formative for everyone.

Confirmation Class will begin on September 19 following the 10AM Mass, so mark your calendars.  Please let me know if you are interested in taking the class for credit or if you are interested in coming for a refresher of what you already know.

Anyone interested in becoming an acolyte should be watching and listening for I will have a date for our first acolyte training class very soon.  Anyone over 8 years old can become a member of the Guild of Acolytes, and anyone 5 - 8 years can begin to train and serve God and this parish as a Jr. member.  I will have the date set by next week.

Pax vobiscum,
Fr. Michael+

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday Night at CMEC

We had a special service last night, because we celebrated our chapel's patronal feast in honor of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Along with her husband, St. Joachim, we remember them because of their faithfulness and the love and confidence in God the Father witnessed in their daughter.  Mary's response to the Archangel Gabriel was one rooted in her close, personal relationship with God, and tradition suggests that Joachim and Anne were key in Mary's knowledge and love of God.

We are also approaching a milestone in our Wednesday Night Class.  Next week, August 4th will be our final foray into Celtic Spirituality.  I think our study of the Early Christian church in Hibernia and Britannia have been interesting and hopefully enlightening for our own spiritual lives and practices, but it is now time for something new.

"But, Father," cries out Dear Reader, "whatever shall we study now?"

Fear not, Dear Reader, for the answer is at hand.  I have been praying about what direction our Wednesday Night Book Study should go for several weeks, and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we should return to that which is the foundation of all that we believe and practice: Holy Scripture.

Beginning August 11, Wednesday Night Bible Study will commence with a study of the Book of Judges.  Judges is the seventh book of the Old Testament and contains the account of God's Chosen People from the death of Joshua to the calling of Samuel and his subsequent annointing of Saul to be the first king of Israel.  In this book are contained the lives of Gideon, Deborah, Sampson and many others who were raised up by God to defend His people in times of great peril.  It also gives us a clear witness of the infinite faithfulness of God and the seemingly limitless unfaithfulness of His people.

We will begin with chapter 1, verse 1 of Judges and move through the book taking as much time as need to read, ponder and inwardly digest this inspired word of God.  All you need to do is bring a Bible and an appetite because we will still be having a wonderful potluck meal right after Mass.  I will be using the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, but I think it is great if we have multiple translations at our fingertips during the class.  My experience with this type of study has been that a lecture format works best because of the amount of material that we have to cover.  Therefore, I will teach using handouts and sometimes maps or presentations, but I will give plenty of time for questions and discussion at appropriate times. 

I love teaching and learning the Bible, and I hope that everyone in the parish will make the effort to come and check out Wednesday Night Bible Study.  Remember, it begins with choir practice at 5 PM, Mass at 6 PM with dinner following, and then Bible Study at 7:15 PM.  Y'all come, now!

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Thy Will Be Done...."

It seems, Dear Reader, that most of my attention in the last few days has been focused on Christian Formation. This is decidedly not a bad thing. Truth be told, a good bit of my attention is always focused on Christian Formation; and, I boldly say, so should yours.

“Oh, that’s just great, Father,” Dear Reader exclaims, “but what exactly is this Christian Formation of which you speak?”

Simply put, Christian Formation is the life-long exercise to conform our will to that of Our Heavenly Father. Usually, we begin our Christian walk at a very early age learning about God, Jesus, and the Church from our parents and family. As we grow, we add to that our experiences in Church and in Sunday School, a process that continues for the better part of our young lives. That is, for many people, the epitome of Christian Formation.

It goes much further than that, however. Serving as an acolyte on Sunday mornings is an important part of one’s Formation as a follower of Christ. So is serving as a Chalice Bearer or singing in the Choir or serving as an usher or lector. All of these things give us an opportunity to serve God and each other and exercise our ministries in His Church. Likewise, serving on Vestry or on any of the many committees of the church allow us opportunities to learn and grow in His Will.

Just because we are older, Dear Reader, does not mean that we can ever stop learning, and that is why I feel it is so important to offer different ways to learn and live the Faith that has been delivered to us from Christ. On Wednesday nights, we study different aspects of our Faith, spirituality, and our traditional Anglican heritage. Starting soon we will be offering a comprehensive Confirmation Course that will be open to everyone in the parish, not just those seeking the Sacrament of Confirmation. This class will cover the basics of our Faith, including the Sacraments, the Creeds, the Ten Commandments, prayer, spirituality and the doctrine and history of the Anglican Faith.

Everything we do, the study, the service, the prayer, and the worship, should serve to bring our human wills into closer proximity to the Divine Will of He who has created all things and, in turn, made all things new. By knowing God and then by showing God to our neighbors and to the world, we bring ourselves into a closer and closer relationship with Him. That is what He wants.

Over the coming months there will be more and more opportunities for us to learn, worship and grow together into the people that God wants us to be. Remember, that we are constantly being formed. What we must decide, each and every day, is what will do the forming: the world or the Will of God.

Fr. Michael+

Confirmation Class Set to Begin

In the rubrics which describe the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Book of Common Prayer we find the following instructions:

In the course of their Christian development, those baptized at an early age are expected, when they are ready and have been duly prepared, to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop. BCP pg. 412
In keeping with the rubrics, we will offer a Confirmation Class for any youth who is at least a freshman in High School, has a desire to make their public profession before the bishop and the parish, and is ready to be duly prepared. The classes will begin on Sunday, September 19 following the 10:00 AM Mass and will meet each Sunday, with the exception of certain Sundays and holidays, until the bishop’s visitation on February 13. There will be lunch provided each Sunday for those attending the class.

This class is more than just a training course for young people. I would like for it to be an opportunity for anyone in the parish to experience their faith and to learn about what it means to be a Christian first and an Anglican second. Bishop MacPherson will lay hands on those being Confirmed. He will also be laying hands and praying for anyone who wishes to be Received from another denomination or anyone wishing to be Reaffirmed in the faith.

This is a long course of study, I know, and to some it may seem excessive. In the first two or three centuries of the Church, it was common for those wishing to be Baptized and Confirmed as adults to study and pray under the tutelage of a bishop or priest for up to three years before receiving the Sacraments. I don’t think we need to invest quite that much time, but I believe that it is vital for everyone’s Christian Formation to be ready and duly prepared.

If you are interested in Confirmation, or would like to attend the classes then please contact Fr. Michael.

Fr. Michael+

Calling All Acolytes

We will soon begin acolyte training for any interested youth aged 8 years old or older. Serving as an acolyte offers the youth of the parish a great way to serve Christ in His Church and to be involved in the worship on Sundays and other special Festival occasions. We are also establishing this year a training program for junior acolytes ages 5-8 years old. This will give the younger members of the parish an opportunity to learn and serve in ways appropriate for to their age. Anyone interested in joining the Acolyte Guild should contact Fr. Michael or Br. Ken.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned..."

When was the last time you went to Confession? For most Anglicans, the answer will be, “the last time I went to church.” In our tradition, if you have been to Mass, you have probably also been to confession.

I broach this subject because of the topic of our discussion at Book Study last night, “The Penitential of Cummean”. For many, I imagine, this was an unusual foray into unfamiliar and slightly unsettled territory. In a nutshell, penitentials of the 7th and 8th centuries were attempts to express a “cure” for the disease of sin. The penitentials provided a guide for the priest as he assigned penance as part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the effect of the penitentials reached far beyond Ireland, Wales or England, influencing how the Church dispensed absolution and penance well into to Middle Ages.

“But, Fr. Michael,” I hear Dear Reader saying to the computer screen, “didn’t the Catholic Church go completely overboard with that whole Confession thing? I mean, what about the Indulgences?”

Good point, Dear Reader. Anglo-Catholic that I am, I recognize that the system of Indulgences which grew out of the honest attempt to reconcile oneself to God was erroneous and fraught with abuse. By the 16th century, Martin Luther called the Church to task and challenged the Church to examine her excesses so that she could be reformed; which ultimately she was at the Council of Trent.

Private Confession had been the way of the Church since 1215, but in 1549 the English Church embraced a new approach: corporate Confession. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who was most singularly responsible for the production of the first Book of Common Prayer, included in the Eucharist a new form of the sacrament that allowed those about to receive Holy Communion the opportunity to offer their sins to God and to receive absolution from the Celebrant in turn. This public form of Confession retained the importance of recognizing one’s faults before God and emphasized the merciful character of Christ who forgives all our sins when we humbly turn to Him and away from the things that separate us from Him.

“So, Father,” Dear Reader is now asking, “all we have to do is read a prayerfrom the book and we’re done. That’s great!”

On the surface, Dear Reader, that might seem to be the case. Absolution is indeed absolution, but in order for us to be absolved of our sins, we must first offer them up to God, and in order for us to truly offer them up to God we must bring them to mind and reflect upon the effects of those sins on our relationship with Him. In order to do that, we should spend time prior to the Mass in honest self-examination and reflection. Just because we are not climbing into a little booth and verbally expressing our sins to the priest does not mean that we shouldn’t take the time to consider our faults and offer them with due humility and contriteness of heart to Him that washes us clean.

“Okay, Father, I get the point,” continues Dear Reader, “but I was leafing through the BCP last Sunday during your sermon (no offense), and I found this thing called Reconciliation. It looks like private Confession. What gives?”

No offense taken; it is private Confession. Remember, the Anglican Reformation retained many of the fundamental doctrines of the Church following her break with Rome. We have bishops and priests who are ordained in the Apostolic line that stretches back through Peter to Jesus Christ, and we have the Sacrament of Confession, both corporate and private. Sometimes, we feel the acute burden of our sins in such a way that requires a more personal form of the contrition and absolution. Sometimes we need advice or spiritual counseling in order to help us turn away from that which weighs us down and separates us from God. Certainly, God gives us the strength to persevere when we seek it, and this is one of the ways that He provides through His Church for us to face our faults, find His guidance and receive His Love and Mercy.

Does everyone have to come to the priest for private Confession? No. Are there times when we should go to the priest for Confession? Yes. When and to whom one does this is strictly between them, God and their priest, and what is said stays between them, God and their priest.

If you want to talk some more about it, Dear Reader, my door is always open.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Light Perpetual....

I am saddened to announce the passing of Monika Christian this past Sunday following a long battle with cancer.  Jeanne is doing well and is appreciative of your prayers for Monika and for her.  There will be a Memorial Service in Houston and a graveside service here, but the details have not been settled.  I will put up another post as soon as we know anything more.

Please continue to pray for Monika and Jeanne.

May her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace; and may light perpetual shine upon her.

Fr. Michael+