7th Sunday after Easter - May 17, 2015

7th Sunday after Easter

We are all looking forward to the lazy days of Summer.  One more week of school here and countless graduations have already been celebrated.  Even when we work hard all through the summer there is just something about summer and everything we think we will get to enjoy that makes it so appealing.  Vacations, naps, reading by the pool or at the beach. Peach cobblers.  Kite flying. Homemade ice cream.  Watermelon.  Lots of swimming, fishing and other water sports. Time for family, friends and fellowship or as I call it SABBATH Time.  And…above all… a less hectic schedule of activities. 

This past Thursday was Ascension Day.  The risen Christ has been taken up into the inner life of the Trinity.  Jesus left his disciples. Luke’s gospel said: “While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” 

In today’s reading the writer of the gospel of John, captures the closing days of Jesus’ life and ministry here on earth.  In this chapter, Jesus prays for himself and for his disciples.  Basically he prays for three things:  he prays for their protection, their preservation and their perseverance. 

Let’s begin with Christ’s prayer for his disciples’ protection.  After Christ’s resurrection and ascension his disciples lived in a world in which it was dangerous to be one of his followers.  You and I are so fortunate.  We face no such persecution. Jesus knew that, when he was no longer with them, the hostility which fell on him was going to fall on his disciples.  And it did.  Almost without exception they were imprisoned, tortured and killed in terrible ways.  

I want you to notice this.  When Jesus prays for their protection, he doesn’t pray for their safety.  When we pray for protection, we pray that nothing painful or harmful will happen to us.  Jesus knew better than that.  He knew that we live in a world of pain.  Some pain is unavoidable.  Christ’s disciples would experience pain because of their devotion to Him.  So rather than pray that they will avoid pain, he prays for their UNITY. 

There is strength in unity.  When you have friends and family and fellow church members to whom you can turn in times of trouble you can bear almost any pain, any turmoil in your life.  The church at it best provides that kind of support, that kind of oneness. 

Parker Palmer, in his book,  A Hidden Wholenes, reminds us that ‘the journey we are on is too tough to be made solo, the path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company, and the destination is too daunting to be achieved alone.”  He reminds us that all of us need places where we can be safe enough and courageous enough to face our brokenness and discover our wholeness.  He calls them “circles of trust.”  He says, “We need more and more circles so that we can return to the world less divided and more connected to or own souls.” 

This is the protection that the church has always provided for the threatened souls – the knowledge that we are not alone.  The knowledge that people are praying in our behalf.  

Because of the love and fellowship, because of the brokenness we encounter in this world----there is a definite obligation for us …as followers of Christ… to uphold, to pull-together, to encourage, to comfort, to be there for another member of the community with comfort, cheer and love as we bind ourselves together in this community of Christ, known as the church. This morning we are celebrating those senior members of the church who are 65 or older.  It is a tough time for the sandwich generation who are caught between the demands of raising their own children and taking care of their aging parents. 

Maybe this idea of unity, togetherness, caring, upholding will be made clearer by the following story entitled: "Who Flew the Kite??

"Who Flew the Kite?"......"I did," said the sticks, "I did," said the cloth. "I did," said the boy. "No, I did," said the wind. "

But they all flew the kite together. If the sticks had broken, the tail caught in a tree, the fabric torn or the wind had lulled, the kite would have come down. Each had a part to play. The application is inescapable, each have a work to do. If the work of the Lord is to be a success, then all parts must be played by every member of the church, every member of the community. We have to work as a community in visiting, giving, preaching and countless other jobs to make the church and its work successful. We must all work together and each do what he or she can to help. It is a matter of teamwork.
We need to synergize! 

Secondly, he prayed for our preservation.  That is, he prayed that none of us will be lost from the fellowship of believers.  He prayed that none of us would ever slip away from our faith in God.  The Psalmist put it this way:  “For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you I all your ways.  In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91) 

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus took care of the flock entrusted to him.  He allowed none to be lost (except Judas who had to be in fulfillment of scripture).   Shepherds know that sheep are prone to stray.  Good shepherds leave those sheep that are safe in the fold and go in search of the one that has gone astray.  He doesn’t let it perish.  God will always be there for us, no matter how far we may stray. 

Finally he prays for our perseverance.  He prays that we will be steadfast in the faith.  You can see why he prayed for those early believer’s perseverance – the whole world depended on them.  If they had not done their duty to witness to Christ and his resurrection, we would not have the faith we have today.  This would be an entirely different world. 

It is impossible to overstate the difference that the coming of Christ made in the world.   Look at the barbaric behavior in so much of the non-Christian world today.   Jesus taught us compassion and understanding and acceptance.  He taught us mercy and forgiveness.  He taught us to love our neighbor as he first loved us.

The future of the faith today depends on us just as surely as it depended on them.   

Kites were first invented for the Chinese army, and they were used to send messages.  The color of the kite – its shape, the patterns painted on the kite – were all secret coded messages.  Someone would paint a secret message on the kite and then fly the kite up in the air so that solders in faraway camps would be able to see it and read the messages.  This was how they sent out very important messages. NO RADIOS OR CELL PHONES BACK THEN. 

The Bible say that we have the most important message on earth.  It is the message that God loves us.  We don’t have to be afraid or sad.  He wants our joy to be complete.  How do we share this message with other people.  We don’t use kites.  Instead we all work in different ministries throughout the week and come together every Sunday to celebrate and worship together. We tell others about God and our God journey.  That is how we share the most important message in the world. 

In other words we are being taken up into the very life of God through Christ righ now.  Through baptism.  Through the Eucharist.  Through Confirmation and though our church activities.   Through Him everyone and everything is being made new by being brought into a radically new relationship with God.  

What will you do this week to spread God’s love?   

·        Perhaps join us for Senior Citizen Sunday for lunch after the service.

·        Perhaps work at or bring food for our Food Pantry.

·        Perhaps start a new tradition – Sabbath Time – spending time with family, friends or church members talking about your God Journey. 

Whatever it is we need to fly high and spread the gospel – even in an unusual way.  As for me, I am going to fly this kite.  Amen

Come on Sunday at 10:30 to get all the news that's fit to print!

We want everyone to get to know each other even better.  We want our kids to feel like equal partners in their faith journey with the adults.  We want to celebrate our accomplishments.  We want to publish a newsletter just for our St. Andrew's families and friends.  The first one will be handed out in church at 10:30 on Sunday.  If you get this email and cannot come please let me know by text or email that you want one mailed to you.  It will have two surveys.  One is for our upcoming directory and the other is just to see what everyone wants volunteer to be a part of as we deepen our faith this fall.  We need help with all types of ministries.  You might be best with paper, or people, or worship, or buildings and grounds.  Whatever your skills and passions, we have a place for you!

Have you ever been so excited that you forgot something important?

We had a great time at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church at our 10:30 service today.  Just as we were about to start the service more and more visitors came!  The regular attendance is approximately 32 people but today we had 18 visitors!  Imagine that!  I was so excited that I just forgot to read the gospel!  I lifted up the gospel in the lectionary and proclaimed it but then just started right in on my sermon which was about the Canaanite woman's story and her deep faith and courage.  Several thought that I intended to do it that way, but if truth be known, I was too excited to remember.  I am sure that everyone will forgive me just like Joseph did his family members.  Maybe even they will realize that I have only been a priest for under two months!  Come join the fun!  We had 15 children under 12 years old so your whole family is welcome.

Mother Boo's Journey

Mother Boo's Family

Mother Boo's Family

Frances “Boo” Kay, longtime principal at the Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School in Lake Charles, became “Mother Boo” when she was ordained as a priest on June 28 by The Rt. Rev. Jacob Owensby .  The ordination was held at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Charles.

            Bi-vocational priests are priests who have careers outside the church, and who will keep their “paying” job while serving as priests.  Bishop Owensby has raised this path up for our diocese as a way to augment the number of priests available to serve small or underserved churches that, for one reason or another, cannot pay the salary of a full time priest.

            “It's a new chapter in my life, and I'm excited,” she said. “I didn't expect it, and I wasn't looking for it. But you pray that God has a call for you, and when you accept God's call, he doesn't necessarily take you down the path you thought.”

            Mother Boo has worked 44 years at EDS. She began as a fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade teacher, and became head of the school in 1986 – and over the years has become an icon both at EDS, in the community of Lake Charles and in the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools.

            “She truly loves the children, every single child that attends here,” said EDS Director of Admissions and Marketing Lisa Leubner, who has worked alongside Kay for seven years.

            Kay was baptized into the Presbyterian church and grew up going to church with whomever she could find. Since her father was ill and couldn’t be exposed to large crowds, she had to search for ways to get to church on her own.

            “I'm not sure if it was the fact that I had to find my own way to go to church even when I was a child that kept me on this path or not, but I like to think so,” she said. “If it's something that you want to do, and it's a little harder to do, and you've accomplished it, you feel good about it instead of having someone saying you have to go or dragging you in the car.”

            Kay became a member of the Roman Catholic Church after her marriage, raised her three children in the Catholic church and later joined the Episcopal church. She taught CCD in the Catholic Church even as she taught Sunday school at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.

            “When you teach, you learn,” she said. “Having to teach the various aspects of the faith helps to deepen your own faith, and that's a process of volunteering. In that process, you just become immersed in the Bible and what it means, and you deepen your relationship with God even without realizing it.”

            Fourteen years ago she became an Episcopal deacon serving Good Shepherd and children in Episcopal Schools in the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools.  She is both an Executive Board member and on the Standards Committee. Mother Boo said she hadn't considered becoming a priest until recently, because of those roles. Two years ago, Bishop Owensby asked her to consider becoming a bi-vocational priest. “Her first reaction was, 'Who, ME?” he said.

            After the initial surprise, she decided it was a path she wanted to follow. Along with two other people, she enrolled in a pilot program at Sewanee's School of Theology in Tennessee. Much of the work over the past two years has been on-line, punctuated with intense visits to the campus.

            Mother Boo's life as a priest will be full. She will keep her job as Head of School at Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School while also serving as Priest-in-Charge over St Andrew's Episcopal Church of Moss Bluff. She will also serve one Sunday per month at Good Shepherd.

            She said she looks forward to working in a small, family church and plans to focus on serving the community without bringing along a drastic agenda for change.

            “Everyone in the church has a vital role,” she said. “It is truly like a family church of old, and I think that's a wonderful thing. I think we should all be more involved in our churches like that. I want to see what they want to do for their congregation and help them along that path.”

            The above story is based on an interview by Emily Fontenot, which was published in The American Press, Lake Charles, LA on June 28, 2014.

What is a Missional Church? We are! What does that mean?

What is a Missional Church?  WE ARE!!!  What does that mean?

By:  Bishop Jacob Owensby

Missional church is breaking out all over the Diocese of Western Louisiana. I’m thrilled. And I realize that I can’t take any credit for it. 

God is at work around here. And we have been rolling up our sleeves and joining him in his work. Just keep reading my blog (Pelican Anglican) and this newsletter, checking out our Facebook page, dropping by our website, and watching your inbox for the e-news.

For my part, I’ve been helping us to understand what we mean by “mission” and by “missional church.” Sometimes I’ve communicated effectively. Other times, not so much. In order to keep the missional ball rolling, come along with me as I say a few things about what it means to be missional. 

Let’s start by clearing up some common, understandable confusion. 

Some people hear “mission” and assume we’re referring to going to a place like Africa or Central America or Appalachia. They think of mission trips: episodic ministry events at a distance from where we live.

That’s not what we mean by “mission.”

Others hear “mission” as a synonym for outreach. In other words, they assume that being missional church means having outreach programs. Usually, outreach programs work on a benefactor-recipient model. We view ourselves as the privileged benefactors who will help those less fortunate than ourselves as one of the many things we do as a congregation.

That’s not what we mean by “mission.”

Missional churches will probably sponsor mission trips and outreach programs, but doing such things do not make a congregation missional. Being missional is not one thing that a congregation does. Being missional is the DNA—the living essence—that defines every dimension, every activity, of a missional congregation.

For starters, let’s define a missional congregation by contrasting it with an attractional congregation. Whether we realize it or not, most of us were raised with the attractional model of church. In the attractional church, the point is to get people inside. To make them members. 

Attractional churches measure their success with average Sunday attendance and pledge numbers. The motto of the attractional church is: get more people to come to church. Use catchy worship styles, kids’ programs, coffee shops, felt need groups, and a myriad of other programmatic offerings to attract spiritual consumers.

Do you see the logic? Attract-consume. The church has a mission, and that mission is to get more members. To increase market share. 

By contrast, missional church starts in an entirely different way and proceeds in the opposite direction. For the missional church, the starting place is that God has a mission. We do not say that the Church has a mission. God has a mission. And the sole purpose for any congregation is to engage God’s mission.

God’s mission is to heal the world: to reconcile the creation to himself and to reconcile all of us to each other. God is already at work doing this, and God has brought churches into existence to accomplish it.

Each congregation is where it is precisely because God has called that congregation into being in that location. Missional congregations understand that God’s mission is going on all around them and that their purpose is to participate in what God is doing out in the world.

As a first step, I encourage everyone in a congregation to walk the neighborhood of the congregation. Literally. Walk the neighborhood 20 minutes in each direction. Get to know the people, the businesses, the institutions, and the schools.

When you walk, walk with ears to hear. Do not assume that you have something to say or something to give that others don’t have. Assume that God is already at work. You are looking for partners. How do others perceive the needs of the neighborhood? How can you take part with them in healing your corner of the creation? 

Listen to the stories that people tell you, especially their stories of God at work. Be humble enough to learn what others already know and to join what others are already doing.

This is a brief, incomplete sketch. I’ve said nothing about the role of worship in nurturing and sending us as healers. Space does not allow me to talk about a community defined by belonging and mutual care as opposed to a collection of self-interested consumers. But then again, I’m going to be your bishop for a long time. Stay tuned. We’ll get around to that and much more.

This article will appear in the August Alive!.