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)

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+