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)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Alas, VBS is Over

Vacation Bible School has come, and it has gone.  We had a wonderful group of kids that came and sang and learned that God made them, God listens to them, God watches over them, God loves them no matter what, and God gives good gifts.  They sang, they danced, they played, they learned, and they even spent time in the belly of a whale!  Can you imagine what we'll do next year?!

To all our volunteers, teachers, helpers and leaders - Martha, Tabitha, Mary Vay, Gayle, Kay, Brenda, Jean, Bill, Karen, Karen, Miles, Grace Anne, Annie, Abby, Josey, Jake, Jeanne, Ken, Alan, and Sara - I give you a hearty, "WELL DONE AND THANKS!"  And to my wife, Samantha, I must give a special thank you for organizing and running a fantastic VBS week.  The decorations are still up in the Parish Hall, and I hope that everyone will come by and see the pandas, the posters and our new "Old Rugged Cross" which was lovingly hand crafted by Frank and Peggy Ragland from antique wood donated by Barry and Connie Rambin.  Also, a special thanks to Sims Brown for cleaning the carpet so quickly and so well.

To the parents and grandparents of our attendees, I say thank you for sharing your children and grandchildren with us over the past five days.  We have all be blessed by our time together, and we are all looking forward to doing it again next year.

Fr. Michael+

Monday, June 13, 2011

Friday Fish Fry

This Friday, the ECW will host a fish fry at Christ Memorial with the proceeds going to help fund our mission trip to Peru.  Lunch will be served from 11:00 AM until the fish runs out.  Lunches are $8 per plate.

Come early, eat often!

Fr. Michael+

VBS Approaches

Remember, Vacation Bible School starts next Tuesday, June 21.  There's still time to register kids, and there's still time to volunteer.

Call Fr. Michael or Samantha to get more details.

(318) 872-1144
(318) 840-9196

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Flowers to be Instituted

The Vestry and Parishioners of St. George's Episcopal Church cordially invite you to attend a Celebration of New Ministry and Institution of the Very Rev'd James Flowers (you might remember him) as Rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in Bossier City, Louisiana on June 23 at 7 PM.  A reception will follow.

St. George's is located at 1959 Airline Drive in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Jaime asked me to extend this invitation to all the folks at Christ Memorial, and I think it would be great if we could show up in force to support him in his new calling as Rector of St. George's.


Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6, D-Day

I cannot really comprehend the amount of courage that it took to land on a beach under heavy enemy fire.  This is just a clip from a movie, but if it helps us to remember the fortitude and the sacrifice of the members of "The Greatest Generation" then let us watch it again and again and again.

God bless America and all her ships at sea and her soldiers overseas!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Honoring One Of Our Own

DeSoto Parish Association of Principals
Invite you to a Retirement Reception
Nancy Middlebrooks
Thursday, June 2, 2011
5:15 - 6:00pm
DeSoto Parish School Board Media Center
523 Oxford Road - Mansfield, Louisiana

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Celebration of a New Ministry Invitation

The Wardens, Vestry and Parishioners of 

Christ Memorial Episcopal Church
401 Washington Avenue
Mansfield, LA  71052

Request your prayers and presence
for the 
Celebration of a New Ministry
and Institution of

The Reverend Michael Wayne Millard

as Rector of Christ Memorial
on Thursday, May 26, 2011
seven o'clock in the evening

The Right Reverend D. Bruce MacPherson
Bishop of Western Louisiana, presiding

Clergy: Cassock, surplice, white stole

Reception to follow

Fr. Michael+
318 872-1144 (Church)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Alabama Relief Effort

The following message was sent to me by Fr. Flowers this morning, and it is something that I think is worth doing.

Dear Colleagues,
I want to share with you some exciting news about a project that you may want to be a part of.  As it happens, my Sr. Warden, Lynn Togersen, is an over the road driver for UPS.  At the behest of our Outreach Committee, Lynn has been able to secure a truck at no charge to us for the purpose of taking relief supplies to Alabama.
I spoke with the folks at the Diocese of Alabama, and they put me in touch with Fr. Bill King, who is helping to coordinate relief efforts in the diocese.  Fr. King put me in touch with folks in Cullman, Alabama, which was badly hit by the storms, who run a relief warehouse on behalf of the diocese.  They receive and distribute needed items.
Here's the plan.  For the next three weeks, we will receive needed items here at St. George's on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 9-Noon, and by appointment.  On Saturday June 11 we will load the truck, which will then be locked and driven to UPS where it will stay until the following Saturday June 18 when Lynn will drive it to Cullman.
Here is the list of needed items that I received from the folks in Cullman
Non-perishable food, canned goods and other non-perishables
Personal hygiene items, soap, deodorant, toothpaste etc.
Cleaning supplies, Windex, Fantastic, sponges, mops etc.
Paper towels
t-shirts, all sizes
work gloves
What they don't need:  bottled water, second hand clothes
I hope that you will be as excited about this effort as are we here at St. George's, and that you will disseminate this list to your parishioners.  If you have any questions please give me a call.  Thanks so much!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Samantha Update

Sam is doing great.  Thank you for all your prayers.  I am trying to make sure that everyone knows about her status.  There have been e-mails, updates on FB, phone calls and texts.  Sam feels really good, and she thinks that this procedure might just and done the trick.  I will update more later.

God is very good!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PandaMania: Where God is Wild about You!

Dear Reader, please take note of the picture of the happy panda on the right of your screen.  He is the mascot for this year's VBS program at Christ Memorial, which will run from June 21 through June 25.  From Tuesday through Friday, the times are from 1:00 to 4:15 PM.  On Saturday, we will meet at 10:00, and then all the parents, children and helpers will celebrate with a picnic at Noon.

We are now accepting registrations for children from age 4 up through 5th grade.  If you are interested, please contact the church office at 318 872-1144 or click on the panda and fill out a registration at our VBS website.

We are also looking for adult and teenaged volunteers to help with setup, VBS activities and clean up.  If you would like more information about volunteering, please contact Samantha Millard at 318 872-1237.

There is no charge to attend VBS, so bring your children, grandchildren, neighbors and their children to a great week of learning, playing and singing about God's love.

Fr. Michael+

Friday, April 29, 2011

May Newsletter Article

No Other Name Under Heaven

Alleluia.  Christ has risen.

Sometimes writing these articles is hard, Dear Reader.  It is easy to get caught between the desire to write an amazingly poignant reflection on scripture and a deeply theological comment on the state of the Church, the world or on God, Himself.  Some may call it writer’s block, but I tend to think of it as gray-matter overload or the problem of over-thinking something and making it far more complicated that it really should be.  Therefore, the solution is usually to keep it simple.

With that in mind:  Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Jesus Christ was the son of a woman named Mary and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies; He was the Messiah.  Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins.  Jesus Christ walked out of the tomb, bodily resurrected as proof of the love and power of God.  Jesus Christ is the New Covenant through which we are made right with God, and thereafter live in the promise of everlasting life.

As Peter said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

We are Easter people.  This is our Eastertide, the Season when the resurrected Jesus walked, talked and ate with His people; live according to that notion. 
Rejoice in the presence of Christ with us; join with us in worshiping God and in participating in His sacrifice and resurrection through the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. 

Proclaim to friends and family the joy of knowing that Christ has broken the bonds of sin and death not only by word but in the happiness and peace that can come only from our relationship to God.

May the knowledge and love of Him who is our Savior and Redeemer reside always in our hearts.

The Lord has risen, indeed.  Alleluia.

Fr. Michael+

A Reflection

A Moment with C. S. Lewis

“Men are mirrors, or ‘carriers’ of Christ to other men.  Sometimes unconscious carriers.  This ‘good infection’ can be carried by those who have not got it themselves.  People who were not Christians themselves helped me to Christianity.  But usually it is those who know Him that bring him to others.  That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important.  You might say that when two Christians are following Christ together there is not twice as much Christianity as when they are apart, but sixteen times as much.”

-from Mere Christianity

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Where have you been?

Dear Reader, I did not intend to give up blogging for Lent, it just happened that way.  I prefer to think that God had other plans for my time and talents this last month, therefore, it has been a while since I have updated the blog.

There will be new posts arriving shortly, I promise.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not Because of Your Righteousness

Know therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. Dt 9: 6
This, Dear Reader, is a straight-forward admonition from God, through Moses, to the Hebrew people.  Do not think that I am giving you this land, the land which I promised to your forefather Abraham, because you have somehow earned it.  YOU HAVEN'T!  Don't think that you are somehow entitled to this land because of all the great things you have done or the excellent way that you have kept my laws.  YOU HAVEN'T!

God is saying to His People that despite the way they have acted; despite the things that they have done, and left undone; despite their failures to uphold God's commandments and laws; He is delivering them into the land which He had promised to them.  He is giving them a home.  He is providing for them.  He is saving them from the wilderness.

God continues to do that for us everyday of our lives, through Jesus Christ.  We did nothing to deserve Jesus' ministry and teaching.  We did nothing to rate His love.  We, in fact, did everything possible to earn His everlasting condemnation.  Yet, God is a just and loving God, and in Jesus He proves it to us in the most magnificent way.

Jesus Christ died on the cross because that was the sacrifice necessary to wash His stubborn people clean of their sin and wickedness.  By His death, we no longer fear the icy grip of the grave.  We no longer must labor under the weight of sin or be separated from Our Father by anything or anyone.  In Christ, God again tells us that we, stubborn as we are, are worth saving.

Fr. Michael+

Tomorrow is Wednesday!

Everyone remember that our Lenten routine on Wednesday night begins tomorrow.  We will have Mass (according to the 1928 BCP) at 6PM in the Church (not St. Anne's Chapel as we normally do), followed by the Stations of the Cross, and then our Lenten meal of soup and bread.  Then we will kick off our Bible Study of Exodus.

Remember the Anglican Axiom:  "All may; none must; some should!"

See you tomorrow night.

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent is Here!

The Mardi Gras party last night was awesome!  The food was great: Thank you, Jerry and all the folks who prepared and served the food.  I was particularly impressed by the stunning array of beads and even the headgear worn by at least one prominent member of the community.  We definitely let the Good Times Roll.

Now, we turn our attention to the observance of a holy Lent.  Mass with Imposition of Ashes will be offered today at Noon and at 7 PM.  If you cannot come to church today, please give me a call, and I will either bring the ashes to you, or come and visit tomorrow with Communion and a word about this Lenten season.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.  BCP pg. 265
Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras Party

Don't forget the Mardi Gras party at Christ Memorial tonight starting at 6 PM.  The food and the company will be great.

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow (and that is a traditional day of fasting), and we will have Mass with Imposition of Ashes at Noon and 7 PM.

Lent is a time of penitential preparation in anticipation of Easter.  Now is the time to decide on what you will give up and what you will take on during this season.  Many choose to give up a type of food or an activity during Lent, and that is a great way to refocus our attention on God.  But it is also very important to take on something that will bring us closer to Him.  Maybe that is a daily reading of Scripture.  Maybe it is reading a book by C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton or St. Augustine or N.T. Wright.  Personally, I am going to sit down with C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

Lent is also a time of reflection, examination and repentance.  We take this opportunity to consider and to confess all that which has separated us from the God and turn away from those things, setting ourselves, with God's unbounded Grace and Love, on a new path towards Him.

I am available to hear Confessions, by appointment.  Please call me at 318-840-9196.

Fr. Michael+

Friday, March 4, 2011

What Do I Do If I Need to Talk to the Priest?

Dear Reader, the simple answer is to pick up the phone and give me a call.  Part of my vocation, a large part of my vocation, is to be available to those who need me.  That is my desire, to be available and responsive to anyone who may have a simple question and to someone who may need help with a crisis.  If either of those, or any number of other issues, is the case, then please don't hesitate to call me.

My numbers are:  840-9196 (cell)
                            872-1144 (church office)
                            872-1237 (rectory)

My scheduled office hours during the week are:
                    Monday:  9-12
                    Tuesday:  10-12
                    Wednesday:  9-5
                    Thursday:  9-12
                    Friday:  By appointment

I am setting aside on my schedule Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to make scheduled pastoral visits to parishioners at home or in hospital.  Additionally, I am available on Friday by appointment.

If you, or someone you know needs a visit or to have Communion brought to them at home, please let me know so I can schedule a recurring visitation schedule with them.

Please also know that in the case of an emergency, I am available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  My door is always open and my cell phone is always on.

Fr. Michael+

Monday, February 28, 2011

March Newsletter

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.  BCP pg. 265

Lent provides us an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection on Easter.    We are called to repent of our sins and to amend our lives, asking God to give us the strength to avoid those things which serve to separate us from Him.

We do this through prayer, both as a part of the Body of Christ in our corporate worship and as part of our private prayers and devotions.  It is through prayer that we talk to God, and, through the contemplation of our words to Him and His Word to us, we listen for the small, still voice that moves our heart and shapes our will. 

We also deny ourselves some of things that have become ordinary features in our lives.  This fasting, in the form of denial of certain types of food or maybe an activity, re-focuses our
attention away from the things of this world and onto the things of the Kingdom of God.  This fasting is especially appropriate on Ash Wednesday, Fridays during Lent and on Good Friday.  It is also important to remember that Sundays during Lent are still considered feast days, so fasting is suspended on Sunday.

Finally, by reading and meditating on Holy Scripture and on other spiritual writings, we further educate and open ourselves to the working of God’s Will upon our own.  Set aside a portion of each day to read and contemplate and pray, and it won’t be long before a Lenten discipline becomes a life discipline.

Have a blessed Lent.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ash Wednesday Schedule at Christ Memorial

March 9, 2011 - Ash Wednesday
12:00 Noon in the Chapel of St. Anne
Mass according to Rite II including the Imposition of Ashes

7:00 PM in the Church
Imposition of Ashes and the Mass according to the '28 BCP

There will be no dinner served or Bible Study on Ash Wednesday.  Both will resume on March 16 with dinners of soup and bread and a study of Exodus.  The Stations of the Cross will also be observed beginning on March 16 following the 6 PM Mass.

Fr. Michael+

Anglicanism 101 and Beyond

For the past several weeks, out Wednesday Night Bible Study hour has been devoted to a study of our Anglican heritage, traditions and beliefs.  We have studied out liturgy, the seven Sacraments, the Book of Common Prayer and, next week, we will finish the series with a discussion of the history of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America and the Anglican Communion.

During the discussion of the BCP last week, the class requested if it would be possible to celebrate Holy Eucharist according to the 1928 Prayer Book, a liturgy which some in the group remembered fondly and which others had never experienced.  After obtaining permission from Bishop MacPherson, last night, I celebrated the Mass according the '28 "Order for The Administration of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion".  The chapel was nearly full, and during a discussion of the service during dinner, it was decided, again unanimously, that I would request permission from the Bishop to continue to use the '28 liturgy for our Wednesday night Eucharist.  Happily, the Bishop responded to me this morning granting me permission to do just that.

Therefore, beginning next Wednesday and for each Wednesday during Lent, we will worship according to the 1928 prayer book.  Because of the changes in the lectionary over the years, I will be using the readings from the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, but the service itself will be done according to the rubrics in the '28 book.

I also take this opportunity to remind and invite everyone to our Wednesday night program during Lent.  Amy will continue to provide our meals for us, but in keeping with the penitential nature of Lent, we will be scaling back slightly by serving a selection of soups and bread each Wednesday night.  We will also observe the Stations of the Cross each Wednesday following the Mass; therefore, the service will be held in the Church during Lent instead of in the Chapel.

For Bible Study during Lent, we will return to the Old Testament with a study of Exodus, the second book of the Pentateuch.  I hope that this will be a rich opportunity to reflect on God's redemption of His Chosen People from the bonds of slavery in Egypt in the light of His redemption of the whole world through His Son, Jesus Christ.
O Almighty Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that, through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Weather is Beautiful

After an uninvited hiatus caused by the inclement weather last week, Wednesday night activities resume at Christ Memorial.  We will once again offer Mass at 6PM, followed by dinner which is being provided by Amy Garsee from the Hospital Cafeteria.  The class will focus on the development and use of the Book of Common Prayer.  There is no need to bring any covered dishes tonight, but we do ask that the adults make a donation to help defray the cost of the meal.

I look forward to seeing y'all there.

Fr. Millard+

Monday, February 14, 2011

Practical Stuff

As you, Dear Reader, are undoubtedly aware, the ongoing water project being undertaken by the City of Mansfield has resulted in some temporary patches of gravel in the driveway to the church parking lot and in the parking spaces at the front of the church on Washington Avenue.  The good news is that crews have already patched the spaces in front of the church and are now in the process of doing the same to the parking lot.  The bad news is that the parking lot will be out of commission for a few days while the concrete cures.  The prep work is going on this afternoon (Monday), and the concrete is scheduled to be poured tomorrow (Tuesday).  That means that it should be ready for normal use by Sunday, but will probably not be ready by Wednesday night.  Therefore, please plan on parking in the Big Star parking lot on Wednesday night.

Now we just need to see if we can get grass to grow in front of the rectory again.

Fr. Michael+

The Bishop was Here!

We had a great Sunday with the Rt. Rev'd D. Bruce MacPherson present for the 10 AM Mass and a wonderful luncheon afterwards.  The church was full, as was the Parish Hall, which was no surprise since Jerry prepared the roast beef and a whole host of side dishes prepared by our talented parishioners filled three serving tables.  (Yes, I agree, Dear Reader, that the banana pudding was indeed the finest example of such dessert to be found anywhere on the planet!)

My thanks to Bishop MacPherson and to Susan for their visit.  May God continue to bless their ministries to the people of the Diocese of Western Louisiana.  

Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More Weather News - Update

The winter weather is apparently moving into the northern part of the state and will, according to the weather gurus, be upon us within the next few hours.  Therefore, after consulting with the Senior Warden, I have decided to cancel Wednesday Night Bible Study this week.  As previously reported, Gayle had canceled choir practice, so it makes sense to play it safe and keep everybody home and warm and dry this evening.

I will be celebrating the Mass at 6PM for anyone who wishes to attend, but there will be no dinner or Bible study tonight.  We will resume next week with a discussion of the origins and use of the Book of Common Prayer.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weather News

Because of the possibility of inclement weather tomorrow, Gayle has decided to cancel choir tomorrow, and I concur.  I will be watching the weather tonight and plan to make a decision about Wednesday Bible Study in the morning.  I will post any news here and on Facebook.

Fr. Michael+

Monday, February 7, 2011

Women's Bible Study

The women met for their first class in a ten week study of the Book of Esther tonight.  It was a good crowd, and an important decision was made by those gathered.  Starting next week, the class will meet on Thursday night from 6-8PM in the Parish Hall.  This change was made in the hope that more women would be able to come on Thursday rather than Monday.  Workbooks are still available at the church office.

Fr. Michael+

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nothing Quite Like A Baptism

This morning, I had the honor of baptizing Alison Camille LeBouef at Christ Memorial.  We all got to share in this joyous moment with her family from Mansfield, Lafayette and Houston.  We thank God for the improved weather and ask Him for safe travels for all those headed home. 

We thank God for this Sacrament and for all his Grace and Love.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's Going On in Egypt?

I've had a few people ask me lately about the turmoil in Egypt, and who was doing what and why.  I saw this article on another blog and thought it might be helpful to some who were wondering what is really happening over there.  Archbishop Mouneer Anis has made a reputation for himself in the last few years as a straight talking, sincere man of God.  I find it very refreshing to be able to get information about the protests in Egypt from him rather than through the filters of the media.


Fr. Michael+

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mission Trip to Peru

As I announced in Church last week, Christ Memorial will be sponsoring a mission trip to the Anglican Diocese of Peru this September.  The plan is to take 10-15 people for a 7 day trip to Lima and/or other areas in Peru to work with the women and children of the diocese as teachers and helpers.  While we don't know exactly what we will be doing yet, we will probably be teaching bible studies or maybe even a Vacation Bible School.  We will work with the Peruvian women's groups to provide instruction and support.  We may be assisting with after school care for young people or helping to teach skills to women in job training programs.  Whatever we end up doing, we will be sharing in the Love of Christ with them and they with us, and we will come home with a greater appreciation of how His Grace touches and moves people around the world.

We will be have our first team meeting on Tuesday, February 15 at 6:30PM in the Parlor.  Anyone who is interested should come to this meeting so that we can make our plans for raising the necessary funds and working toward our departure in September.

If you have any questions about the trip or would like to discuss it prior to the meeting on the 15th, please call me, and I'll be happy to help.

Fr. Michael+

God Gave Us These Commandments for a Reason

What do we do when we are faced with a difficult decision; a crossroads; a tragedy; or an opportunity?  We often time pride ourselves on our ability to reason out a suitable solution, or occasionally leave the resolution up to chance, but when we really need guidance, where do we find it?  When in doubt, go to the same place that Jesus went when the people pressed him to answer a question: Holy Scripture. 

A scribe came to Jesus and, seeing that he was answering his detractors with skill and wisdom, the scribe asked Jesus to tell him, “which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all our soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mk 13: 29-31

Jesus quotes the Shema, the fundamental creedal statement of the Hebrew people (Dt 6: 4), to the scribe.  Then he goes further by quoting a portion of this verse from Leviticus: “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”  (Lev 19:18)  We are called to abide by two overarching commandments one of which refers to our relationship with God and the other with our relationship with each other: the Ten Commandments.

Jesus reminds us that we are to “have no other gods” other than the One, True God; we are to make no graven images and worship them as if they were God; we are not to use God’s name as a curse or to treat it as a common or ordinary; and we are to worship God and give thanks to him who created us by focusing our attention on God rather than on the things of this world.

Jesus further tells us that we are to show respect and love by honoring our parents; we are not supposed to murder our neighbors; we are to avoid adultery which divides families and sunders relationships; we are not to steal from our neighbor; we are not to lie to or about our neighbor; we are not to covet that which belongs to our neighbor.

When we need direction or instruction about how to lead our lives or which path we should take or what decision is the right one to make, the answers, more often than not, can be found right where God left them for us to find.  It may take some effort, and our desires might not at first align with God’s Will, but Jesus never promised that the road would always be easily or pleasantly travelled.  He does, however, promise to be present with us as we make our journey.

Fr. Michael+

Monday, January 24, 2011

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand! (Mt 4: 17 RSV)

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mk 13: 24-27 RSV)
Jesus spoke of the time when every knee will bow before the Lamb and all the brokenness of creation will be set right.  This is the eschaton, the Second Coming.  Part of what Jesus preaches refers to that promise, the promise when God will rule the world with pure justice and pure mercy and pure grace; setting all things right and in their proper place.  We do not know the time of this conclusion of history; but we know that it is on the way.

When speaking of the "Kingdom of Heaven", however, Jesus tells us not only of a coming event that may or may not be distant in its arrival.  Jesus also speaks of a present reality; the presence of God in the midst of His people.  Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The new proximity of the Kingdom of which Jesus speaks - the distinguishing feature of his message - is to be found in Jesus himself.  Through Jesus' presence and action, God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way.  The reason why now is the fullness of time (Mk 1: 15), why now is in a unique sense the time of conversion and penance, as well as the time of joy, is that in Jesus it is God who draws near to us.  In Jesus, God is now the one who acts and who rules as Lord - rules in a divine way, without worldly power, rules through the love that reaches 'to the end' (Jn 13: 1), to the Cross.  John Cardinal Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth
We live in a history that has been touched irrevocably by the physical presence of God.  He chose to make himself one of us, fully man and fully God, so that we might not only look forward to the promise of life eternal with Him; but that we might share in a restored relationship with our Father right here and right now.  Jesus points to the future, but he is not only about prophesy and promises.  Through our faith in Christ, our actions guided by the Holy Ghost and our participation in the Body of Christ, the Church, we find that we are in the presence of the Kingdom even while we await its arrival at the end of time.

Fr. Michael+

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Great Wednesday Night at CMEC

How can you have anything but a great time when you have choir rehearsal, Mass, dinner and Bible Study?  We finished our study of the Book of Acts last night with a rousing discussion of Paul's last days, the ongoing mission of the Church and the words of the Prophet Isaiah which Paul spoke to the Jews in Rome (see Acts 28: 23ff).  These words from God which the prophet had spoken to the Hebrew people should resonate with us today, I think.  "You shall indeed hear but not understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive."

There are times when those words apply to us today just as much as they did when Isaiah first spoke them.  Can we honestly say that we hear what God speaks to us through Holy Scripture, or that we see Him in our neighbors as we should?  Do we read His Word as we should, or do we seek to live out His Commandments as we ought?  Do we turn to our Father every day when we rise and do we commit ourselves to conform ourselves to His Will?

The Book of Acts ends with Paul "preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered."  To be disciples of Jesus of Christ we must spend time learning and living the Word delivered to us through his Apostles to his Church.  We must spend time with Christ in Holy Scripture.  We must put into practice what we learn and make ours a Christian life well lived in love and service to God.  In this, we find that we may show the way to others and may support others as they strive to live a life dedicated to the Word of God.

In other business last night, we decided that beginning next week, January 26, we will begin a study of the Church which I am calling Anglicanism 101.  It is a refresher course in things Anglican and is meant to give folks on opportunity to learn or re-learn many basic principles and facts about our Church.  The syllabus for this class looks something like this:
          January 26:  Liturgy - A tour of the Church with discussion of our tradition and liturgy
          February 2:  Sacraments - The seven Sacraments of the Church
          February 9:  The Book of Common Prayer - Cranmer's Legacy
          February 16:  The Seasons, Fasts and Feasts of the Church - What do all those colors mean?
          February 23:  The Episcopal Church of the United States of America - Why we are who we are
          March 2:  Wrapping up loose ends and general discussion

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 9, so there will be no dinner or Bible Study that night.  There will be Mass with the Imposition of Ashes in the Church at 7:00PM.  Beginning on March 16, we will begin a study of Exodus which will run through the season of Lent.  We will continue to have choir practice, Mass, dinner and Bible Study according to our normal schedule during Lent, but the meals will be very simple, consisting of soup and bread.  Looking even further into the future, our study for the season of Easter will be "Jesus of Nazareth" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI).

I would like to encourage everyone to come and join us on Wednesday night.  Coming together to worship, to share a meal and to study the Word of God are important ways that we grow in our relationship with the Father and make ourselves disciples to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Everyone is welcome.  Please, bring a friend.

Fr. Michael+

Monday, January 17, 2011

Report on Operation Christmas Child

In November, the parishioners of Christ Memorial participated in a wonderful evangelism and outreach effort called Operation Christmas Child which is sponsored by Samaritan's Purse each year.  The idea of the project is to pack and deliver a shoe box full of fun and useful items to a needy child somewhere in world.  This is a gift, given in love and in the name of Jesus Christ, with no strings attached.  According to the literature, for every eight boxes delivered, a child comes to faith in Christ.  This year, the collection station at First Baptist, Mansfield collected 3,407 shoe boxes, an increase of almost 5% over last year.  In turn, the collection center in Bossier City took in over 21,000 boxes which were then trucked to the regional receiving center in Hurst, TX, which received 413,248 boxes from Texas and Louisiana (88,314).  Nationally, Operation Christmas Child was able to collect and deliver over 5.5 million boxes in 2010.  Praise God!

It is not too early to start thinking about OCC for next year.  One easy way to help is to keep a watchful eye when you go to the store.  If you see plastic shoe boxes on sale, pick up a few.  If you see toys or toiletries that we can put in the boxes, pick them up and stash them away.  Make it a habit to pick up a little something here and there; and then when box packing time rolls around again, we'll be ready to make it happen.

I would also ask your prayers for all those who do so much to bring the Light of Christ to the nations of the Earth.  Pray for those who have heard and received the Gift of Christ, that they may be strong and joyful in their faith.  Pray for those who have yet to hear the Word, that God will touch them with His infinite Goodness and Mercy.

Fr. Michael+

Friday, January 14, 2011

Miles on the road

I ask your prayers for my son, Miles, who is on a bus with the Youth Group from St. Paul's, Shreveport.  They are bound for Ashville, NC for Youthquake 2011.  Accordong to his last message, he did not sleep last night.  God help them all.

I also wanted to update you on my friends, Tom and Mathew, who are in Uganda right now.  They arrived safely on Wednesday, but their bags went to Uzbekistan or some such place and should get to them in Hoima today.  Please pray for those who are travelling and for those working in the mission field.

More to come.......

Fr. Michael+

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yes, Virginia, There is a Newsletter!

Sometimes, even the best laid plans of mice and men lead to nothing other than good intentions and missed deadlines.  While most of the pertinent information has been up on this blog, the newsletter has been delayed for a variety of reasons, some unavoidable and some not.  That having been said, I am publishing my letter to the congregation below, while the newsletters are printing in the other room to be mailed this afternoon.  I hope to see everyone at the Annual Meeting on Sunday.

Pax vobiscum:

I begin with a hearty apology for the lateness of this newsletter.  Between the holidays, illness and a general plethora of circumstances, we have been delayed, but not defeated.  This past year was full of changes and opportunities, departures and arrivals; and this new year promises to be filled with new and exciting experiences.  I would like to begin this year by considering a few of the things that we share together as believers in the Risen Christ.

Worship:  As Anglicans, we place a great value on our shared worship of God, specifically in our liturgy and our traditions.  Our liturgy has developed from centuries of study and practice that finds it roots as far back as Moses and preserved by the Early Church in their worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  We gather on Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the Communion which Christ gave to his Apostles on the evening of his arrest, and we do so out of obligation to his words to his people, for as Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11: 26)

We also gather together in prayer in a uniquely Anglican fashion every morning in St. Anne’s Chapel.  In the Daily Office of Morning Prayer, we participate with Anglicans all around the world and throughout history in praising God and asking him for all the things that we need to be faithful followers of his Son Jesus Christ.  This service, which dates to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer written by Thomas Cranmer, provides us with a daily remembrance of Christ’s love and mercy.  Additionally, we celebrate the Mass on Wednesday nights and at other special times throughout the year so that we may remain fed by “…his most precious body and blood…”

Study:  We are also fed by the Father’s everliving Word as delivered to us in Holy Scripture.  In addition to our own studies, it is certainly beneficial to come together read and study and inwardly digest that which is given to us for our learning and benefit.  At Christ Memorial, we offer several opportunities to study and discuss the Bible.  Brother Ken has been leading a spirited Study of Scripture (the Epistle of James, a Christian perspective on Islam, and currently Paul’s Epistle to the Romans) in the Adult Sunday School offering every Sunday morning at 9:05 AM.  Martha Yarbrough, Kimberly Harris and Tabitha Sparks have been doing a fantastic job of providing Biblical education for our young people on Sunday mornings as well.  On Wednesday nights, I lead an Adult Bible Study that has covered such topics as Celtic Spirituality, the Book of Judges and currently the Book of Acts.

Fellowship:  We do fellowship very well here at Christ Memorial.  We are a tightly knit and loving community who, I think, genuinely enjoys being together.  The Bazaar, the Hallowe’en Party, and the Christmas Party are
just a few examples of what my family and I have experienced in just the past few months and are proof of the dynamic nature and vibrant condition of this parish.  Wednesday night dinners are always festive and tasty because of the cooperation and dedication of those who cook and provide a fabulous meal for all who attend.

Outreach:  In the coming year, I expect that we will be hearing more and more about this important part of our Christian lives.  This parish has a long history of generous giving and support of each other and of the community as a whole.  At Christ Memorial, we provide food for the hungry and monetary assistance to those who have trouble paying utility bills throughout the year.  At Thanksgiving and at Christmas this year, we provided meals to those who were in need and at Christmas supported several families who were in real need for help with necessities as well as the things that make the holiday fun.  I hope that our outreach to the community will continue to grow and provide folks with something even more important: the sure and certain knowledge of their salvation in Jesus Christ.  I also hope that we can expand our outreach and mission to the world by going into the world to see, learn and live what it means to be a Christian today.

The new year is upon us, and it is my hope and prayer that each and every one of us shall know the blessings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, this year.  I for one, am looking forward in great anticipation.

Fr. Michael+

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mission of Hope 2011

Next Tuesday, a team of eleven people from Pennsylvania, Louisiana and New Mexico will be leaving for a 17 day mission trip to Hoima, Uganda.  They will spend the majority of their time ministering at the Mustard Seed Babies' Home and will provide medical services, Bible School and education, and anything else that they can do to help this Christian orphans home.  Two of my very close friends will be going on this trip, Tom and Matthew Dalton.  I have lost track of how many mission trips Tom has made since I have known him (he is the chairman of the Diocesan Missions Committee), and this will be the first time in the mission field for his son, Matthew.  I traveled with Tom to the Dominican Republic almost 5 years ago, and I am looking forward to going back with him this year in July.

I post this because I think it is important to remember the work that is being done by missionaries around the world.  In addition to these short term mission trips, there are folks who have dedicated their lives to teaching the Gospel and bringing the Love of Jesus Christ to all the people of the world, just as Christ instructed us to do.  I have been on two mission trips, one to the D.R. and one to Peru, and both experiences effected me deeply.

While this team is in Uganda, I would ask that everyone who reads this blog take a minute and say a prayer for their safety and for their success in bringing the Word of God to those in Uganda who need to hear it.  I also ask that you pray that their hearts and minds are open so that they can learn and grow from their experience with those who live the Christian life in Uganda.  One of the blessings of going on a mission trip like this is to experience life in a country where the Gospel is not just something that is read on Sunday; it is the Word that effects every aspect of their lives.  The people in Uganda may seem poor by our standards, but, believe me, they are richer beyond our wildest dreams when it comes to their faith in the Risen Christ.

Two Prayers for Missions
Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to thee through thy Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.
Almighty God, who hast given unto thy Son Jesus Christ the Name which is above every name, and hast taught us that there is salvation in none other: Mercifully grant that as thy faithful people have comfort and peace in his name, they may ever labor to publish it unto all nations; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Fr. Michael+

MEA CULPA:  My recollection was faulty.  This is not Matthew's first trip to Uganda; he went with his dad on last year's trip to Hoima.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Feast of the Epiphany

No, don't worry.  It's not Epiphany, yet.  Please mark your calendars, however, for Thursday, January 6 at 6PM for our celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany.  Epiphany marks the arrival of the Magi at the home of the Jesus and his family in Bethlehem.  The arrival of these gentiles from the East also reinforces the universality of God's plan for the salvation of His Creation.  The Messiah has not come just for the Hebrew people, but for all the people of the world, and since the Gospel is not yet ready to be carried to the world, the world will instead come to the Gospel.

Also on Thursday evening, we will observe an old tradition of the Church by blessing chalk.  This chalk is then used to inscribe a blessing on the door post of one's home as an acknowledgement of God's blessing upon us for the new year.  The chalk will be blessed prior to the conclusion of the Mass.

Finally, we plan on having a King Cake Thursday evening, so plan to hang around to enjoy is traditional treat of Epiphany (at least in Louisiana).

See you Thursday!

Fr. Michael+

Christmas Pageant Pictures

Hey!  It's still Christmas, right?

Happy New Year

As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding thy form.  Psalm 17: 15
This short quote from the Psalms seems to encapsulate an important concept that we should all strive to understand and make a part of our lives.  There will always be things and people to distract us; there will always be things that we want but don't necessarily need; there will always be those who have much more stuff that we do in this world: but, in Jesus Christ, we share in the promise of spending our eternal lives in the presence of God The Father, and all the rest of that stuff just doesn't matter that much.

Father Michael+