Join the Deacon and senior members of the greater Sheridan community on February 4th at 10am in the Christ Church Parish Hall to gather a history of Christ Episcopal Church through stories, first hand accounts and available records. Our church has a fascinating, rich history and tradition of worship in the Ruby Valley. Come share, hear and enjoy. Open to all. Lunch will be served.
Christ Church will be having its annual meeting this Sunday January 26th after service in the Parish Hall (10am service, meeting beginning at roughly 11am). We will be serving lunch.There will be ham and members of the church will be bringing sides, salads and desserts.
Come take part as we talk about the past year, propose/discuss the new budget,speak of our ambitions and direction for 2014 and open the floor to all questions and concerns from the congregation.
With God's help, the leadership and members of Christ Church look forward to another great year!
By the Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz
Delivered to the congregation of Christ Church on January 12th, 2014 by Miss Sandra Baril
Downloadable pdf version available, scroll to the end.
Jesus joins the crowd at the river Jordan. His cousin John has been baptizing people with water – the water of repentance. Only a few weeks ago in Advent, we heard John tell those gathered at the river that one would come – whose sandals John was not worthy even to hold – who would baptize them with fire and with the Spirit. That day John hurled at the Pharisees and Saducees, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Even now the axe is at the root of the tree!” Back then in Advent, we could imagine the excited murmurs that might have rippled through the crowd. “Baptize with fire?”
“Someone so great John won’t hold his sandals?”
“Someone who will wield an ax to cut down – what? Maybe the curse of the Roman occupation?”
We wonder whom they thought they’d see. “Oh, let’s hope someone powerful and mighty – maybe on a horse.”
Then Jesus joins the crowd at the river Jordan. His cousin John is there and only he can pick Jesus out. Only John recognizes the greatness of the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” No flourish, no parade of horses, no axe, no fire, nothing different. Yet.
In Sunday school, many of us may have asked at one time, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized if he didn’t have any sin?” We learned that baptism is initiation. Forgiveness of sins is only one part of the grace of baptism; but more, baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, our catechism says.
So Jesus, by being baptized, was showing his solidarity with his community, his willingness to be counted among these people of God. The Word Incarnate was again showing that God was content to pitch a tent among the people and live with and like them. As the gospel tells us, by doing this, being baptized by John, Jesus was fulfilling all righteousness. So, the folks then might have wondered, where was the fire and Spirit? It’s not what they may have expected. This was just the beginning. There was, of course, a little excitement – the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and a voice declaring, “This is my Son which whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is baptized and anointed with power and the Spirit, more will come. For Matthew, this is the point at which Jesus’ mission and ministry begins.
After this, various scripture passages bring us back to baptism. In the reading from Acts today, Peter explains to new followers that the spreading of the message of peace preached by Jesus Christ began in Galilee after Christ’s baptism. We know other stories, such as the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Phillip and the baptism of the prison guard’s whole household by Paul, and of course, the baptism of more than 3,000 after Pentecost. Baptism is critically important to our understanding of who we are as a people of God.
For too long we understood baptism only as the sign that original sin was washed from our souls. For centuries people put off baptism until moments before their death, believing that with baptism their sins were washed away and they were guaranteed heaven regardless of what kind of life they led. Fortunately, the liturgical renewal of the 1950s onward restored our understanding of baptism as an initiation – a recognition of our status as children of God.
When we consider our baptism we might think more consciously about that beautiful verse in Genesis 1: “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” Yes, we believe baptism cleanses us from sin, but even more, it gives us power and grace to accept our own ministry and mission as offered to us by God.
It’s tempting to compare our baptism with Jesus’ baptism and for us to come up wanting. He was anointed with power and the Holy Spirit. He went on to preach, teach, heal, and collect a vast number of followers. He suffered, died, and rose again. He was, after all, both human and divine. And us? Our baptism surely must be less. We aren’t divine. We can accept baptism and then go on to live ordinary lives, forgetting perhaps even the day of our baptism. Or can we?
Absolutely not. The church reminds us every year at this time about Jesus’ baptism. That should be a clue that our own baptism is vitally important. We should remember the day. We should celebrate the fact that we too were baptized with power and the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit that descended on Jesus like a dove. We might not get the visual of the dove and the sky broken open, but we are equally graced, filled with the Spirit, adopted as God’s own, and given a ministry and mission for our lives. It is just that important.
Baptism should be life changing. Imagine what the church might look like if each baptized member grasped hold of and used the power that is freely given us by God in our baptism. In Isaiah today we heard these words of the Lord: “I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” We know these words were used in Isaiah’s time for his community, and we now use them to talk about the Messiah, but we must understand that they are meant for us too. Doesn’t Jesus constantly tell his followers, and us, that we must take up Jesus’ ministry and continue spreading the good news? Aren’t we supposed to care for the poor, build up the weak, and spread peace? Each baptized person makes five promises. Each of us promises to God five things that, if we take them seriously, could change the world. Can we recite those promises by memory? We should be able to. It’s just that important.
Could we change the world or have we given up in despair? The church gives us this celebration of Jesus’ baptism every year, maybe in the hope that it will make us think again about our own baptism. Maybe that memory will ignite the fire that smolders in our souls. That fire is there. Baptism gives it to us, and it never goes out. We often call the people who let that fire burn brightly “saints.” But again, imagine what our church would look like if we all let our fire burn. Remember the words to the hymn: “I sing a song of the saints of God ... and I mean to be one, too.”
We are created in the image of God. We are loved beyond measure – all God’s people are loved beyond measure. Imagine the church. Imagine it on fire with the power of the Spirit. Imagine the explosion of peace and joy that could be ours. God says, “See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”
This is our anointing.
-- The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is executive director of the Center for Ministry in Small Churches at the School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee, and assistant professor of Contextual Education. She is also publisher of “Tuesday Morning,” a quarterly journal of ministry and liturgical preaching.
An epiphany sermon from Father Bruce, some great pics from greening the church and all the latest from Christ Church in this month's newsletter. Click below for pdf.
Unsure why this never posted , apologies
*Please scroll to the end of this post for the downloadable pdf version of this sermon.
A sermon preached in Christ Episcopal Church, Sheridan, MT, by the Rev. Bruce McNab
4th Sunday in Advent Service of Lessons and Carols. December 22, 2013. (Using the gospel for Advent 4, Yr. C: Luke 1:29-55).
There is one great thing you women know intimately, which we mere males cannot know—except as engaged and—one hopes—empathetic observers. And that’s the experience of conceiving, carrying for nine months within your own body, and then giving birth to a child. Husbands, fathers, brothers—we can be companions to our wives, daughters, or sisters as they pass through the awesome experience of becoming a mother. But we can only imagine what it’s like, how it feels, and what it means to you . . . what it teaches you—and what, if we’re ready to learn, you can teach us.
Today is the last Sunday in Advent, the joyful end of this season of expectation. Very appropriately, today we ponder Mary, the Mother of our Lord, who carried within herself the very life of God. The Eastern Orthodox have a special title for Mary. They call her the Theotokos, “the Bearer of God.”
In the first month of her own pregnancy, Mary—who is probably no more than sixteen years old—leaves her home in Nazareth and walks a long road south to the hill country of Judea where her kinswoman Elizabeth lives with her husband, a priest named Zechariah. Most likely, Elizabeth is Mary’s aunt, her mother’s sister. And, like Mary, she is expecting a child. An elderly woman who had been childless through a long marriage, Elizabeth has been suddenly, miraculously given a new life to carry in her womb and bring to birth. It’s an exciting time for her, but scary too, because she is well beyond the usual age of child-bearing.
Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, and Mary comes to stay with her until the baby is born—to help her aunt with household chores and stay beside her through these last difficult months of expectation and hope. The two mothers—one older, one younger—will share the experience of carrying within their own bodies and then bringing forth into the world a precious, long-awaited new life. And in both cases, the child each bears is a gift from God, a promise of heaven, announced by an angel: John, who will be the last and greatest of all the prophets, and Jesus, who will be the Messiah, the Son of God. The two mothers will spend a season of waiting, hoping, wondering and praying together. It will be a kind of “Advent season” for them.
When Mary comes into the house and greets her aunt, the older woman is deeply moved, touched by the Spirit. She feels the child in her womb “leap for joy,” and says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? . . . And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Let me remind you of a few details of the whole story, because if we don’t “connect the dots” we’ll miss the point of all this. You recall how Mary answered Gabriel, don’t you, when the messenger of heaven told her that she would bear the Son of God? Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be with me as you have said.” She said “Yes” to God. —Keep that in mind.
Gabriel had also appeared to Zechariah six months earlier while the priest was offering incense in the Temple, telling him that God had heard their prayers and would give him and Elizabeth a son. But Zechariah’s response to the word of God was the opposite of what Mary’s would be a few months later. He had not believed the announcement, even from an angel. Zechariah said “No” to God. He said, “How can I trust in such a thing? We’ve been praying for years, and now we’re old people. And you say that now we’re going to have a son? This is incredible.” If he lived in our age old Zechariah might have said, “Prove to me that I’m not hallucinating!” Gabriel answered, “Because you did not trust my words, you will be unable to speak ‘til the baby comes—because this IS going to happen! The Lord has spoken.”
Today we contemplate the steadfast faith of Jesus’ young Mother, who—from the moment Gabriel spoke to her—trusted that his words would come to pass. She trusted that God had chosen her. She trusted that God would be with her. And she lived not only the next nine months but all the rest of her life trusting that her Child was the Son of God and Savior of his people. We can’t know for sure what role Mary played in helping Jesus understand his mission, but I believe it was crucial. I think Jesus built on his Mother’s trust in God’s divine “agenda”—to manifest his power by showing mercy to those who trust him, to humble the arrogant while lifting up the lowly, and to fill all who are hungry “with good things”—the Bread of Life.
Mary continued to believe in her Son even when the “religious experts” said she was wrong. She believed in him even when he was betrayed by Judas and arrested by his enemies. She believed in him even when he was crucified. When her Son rose from the tomb, that trust was vindicated.
Here’s what we want to take away from church today: Every single one of us has been given a promise from God: the promise that Christ Himself will be born in us if we—like Mary—are able to trust God’s promise, and are ready to wait as long as it takes for it to be fulfilled. If we do that, we—like her—will one day sing our own Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” We, like Mary, will become “God bearers.” …Even us men! All of us can “bring forth Christ” into the world.
When Gabriel gave God’s message to Mary, she responded “Let it be with me as you have said.” She said, “Yes” to God. She made herself available to God. She didn’t protest. She didn’t say “no,” the way Zechariah had done. She didn’t say “This is incredible. How can I trust in such a thing?”
We want to say “yes” to God, as Mary did. We want to say “Let your promise be fulfilled in me, whatever it requires of me. No matter how long it takes.” Trust has to be the core of our relationship with God. “Blessed is she who trusted that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
We move from trusting what God promises to understanding what God is doing in our life. That’s what Mary did. It’s what Elizabeth did. No mother knows in advance what the life of her child will ultimately be like, or how she is going to handle being a mother. Mothers go forward in faith, believing in the lives that have been entrusted to their care by God, and trusting God to guide them. All of us, mothers and fathers, women and men alike, start with trusting God’s promises and what God is doing in our lives—and then, if we’re patient, we ultimately come to understand what it all means.
The Advent season of hope, marked by preparation and patient waiting is ending. Christmas is this week—the happy reminder that God keeps his promise. We who are his disciples bear within ourselves the Son of God. If we keep trusting God’s promise, He will be born into the world through us.