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Sunday  Morning Worship
with Communion
10:30 AM
    


905 Church Street
Decatur, TX 76234
Sunday Morning Worship
with Communion
10:00 AM

 

 

 

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Joyful News Notes

Episcopal Church in Northern Deanery, Dioceses of Fort Worth

All Saints – Good Shepherd – St. Stephens – Wise County

Tuesday
Jan152019

January 13 Announcements

Announcements:

(1) Busy Sunday next Sunday 20 January 2019 – It’s potluck time and also we will be hosting the Northern Deanery meeting.  We will have guests so let’s make sure to bring enough for our friends from Decatur.  All of you invited to stay and attend.

(2) Schedule of upcoming Feast Day services is forthcoming.  We will do these like we did in the Twelve Days of Christmas on weeknights with fellowship that follows.

(3) Please pick up one our beautiful Poinsettias.

(4) Liturgical changes – cycle with the Season – today Prayer C – please give it a chance and a return to the traditional Lord’s Prayer.  The idea is to honor the church seasons and get us to think about what we are praying together.

(5) The annual meeting and elections will take place the last Sunday of January on the 20th immediately following service.   

Tuesday
Jan152019

Downtown dinner in December!

The Baptism of our Lord – Year C – 13 January 2019

Tuesday
Jan152019

Sermon on The Baptism of our Lord – Year C – 13 January 2019

The Rev. R. Christopher Rodgers

The Episcopal Church of Wichita Falls, Texas

The Baptism of our Lord – Year C – 13 January 2019

Isaiah 43:1-7

Psalm 29

Acts 8:14-17

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

 

 

“…When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

May I speak to you in the name of the One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

Today, we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord and the retelling of his Baptism as well as the Baptism of those in the Earliest Church intentionally connects us together across time.  The occasion invites recollection of our own Baptisms: What was it like?  What were we wearing?  How was it done?  Where was it?  When was it?  Who was there?

Mine took place my freshman year of college at First Christian Church in Houston, Texas.  Getting to that moment will take some explaining.  My family didn’t go to church on Sundays and I had dabbled in going to Floral Heights United Methodist Church here in Wichita Falls on my own.  The people were nice and welcoming and I liked them well enough but church just didn’t take.  Aside from some VBS and some Young Life, I was the definition of an unchurched teenager.  To be perfectly honest, I was pretty judgmental about the Christians I frequently encountered in high school.  My immature, adolescent perception was that Christians didn’t practice what they preached.  In my ignorance, the main message I heard was that Christians shouldn’t drink, smoke, cuss or have sex, yet there was plenty of all those things happening amongst those who had been saved at Old High.  On the other hand, I overheard that Christians should be nice, kind, and helpful, yet I found many of my believing peers to be rude, cliquish, and part of my teenage problems.

Clearly, the younger version of myself liked to paint with a broad brush and to put people into tidy boxes.

Then I started dating Tuck, who is now my wife, and several things happened.  She was very different from my other Christian classmates.  And she challenged my preconceived notions by inviting me to come and see.  So, I started going with her and her family to First Christian Church.  My future mother in law told me that it was okay to believe in God and believe in dinosaurs.  Rev. Dr. Muir’s sermons did not feature fire and brimstone or shouting or speaking in tongues.  Instead, they were learned expositions about Biblical texts that never dodged either the complications or the beauty of Holy Scripture.  FCC was the furthest thing from dogmatic.  In fact, it professed “no creed but Christ” and was open to my numerous questions.  Plus, I got to see Tuck every Sunday and her family was kind enough to treat me to lunch after service when I joined them.  So, when I went to Young Life camp the summer after my senior year, I finally found a place where I could say yes to Christ and could acknowledge that I am a beloved child of God.

When I matriculated at Rice that Fall, I was invited to the Wesley Foundation.  Again, I found the Methodists to be nice, friendly, and they also graciously fed me meals.  I enjoyed the small group, but something was missing.  So, on a whim, I started going to First Christian Church of Houston not too far from campus.  I was the only college student but not the only younger adult.  Like here in Wichita Falls, I found the same kind of hospitable atmosphere that welcomed my searching questions and did not try to guilt me into blind submission.  FCC Houston honored my intelligence and showed me their heart.  They shepherded and fed a homesick, financially strapped college freshman who frequently felt overwhelmed and emotionally confused.  Sometimes it was getting me to go to their informal jazz worship that was more of an evening jam session.  Sometimes it was explaining the connection between Communion and the Last Supper.  Often times it was studying the Bible in Sunday School together or them buying me lunch after church.  Sometimes it was simply a trip to Amy’s Ice Cream on a weekday.  The relatively newly minted and youngish senior minister took me under his wing and always had time for me.  So, in my freshman year at college I found a Christian community that I wanted to join as a fellow member.

Having come to this Epiphany, I probably sounded something like the Ethiopian eunuch that Stephen encounters in Acts chapter eight. 

Here is someone who can explain the Bible and the Good News of Jesus in a way that I can understand!

Here is some water, why can’t I be baptized!

Well, at least this where my heart was as I sat in the senior minister’s office and asked him to baptize me.  We talked for a long while and he asked that I come forward during a service, make a public profession of my belief in God, then he would schedule my baptism for another Sunday service.  There was not a lot of formal education but there was a lot of intention.

So, on Palm Sunday in 1994 I was baptized by John Cunyus at the age of 19.  I wore an old, white acolyte robe that was ill fitting and I was fully immersed in the bath tub sized font in the sanctuary chancel.  I was worried that I was taking too long to dry off because I was supposed to rejoin the congregation.  However, I was soaked to the bone and didn’t have enough towels.  None of my relatives or childhood or college friends were present.  Yet, I felt deeply found rather than stranded or lonely.  There was not a big party, but there was a nice lunch at a local restaurant with the usual group that picked up the tab.  I was elated and couldn’t wait to tell Tuck all about it on my dorm’s landline – some of you will recall that’s a phone connected via a cord to the wall.  I had chosen a church family centered around Christ and entered as a member of this spiritual community.

I suspect the particulars of all our Baptisms vary.  Most cradle Episcopalians were probably baptized as infants being held over a small font, wearing a long white gown even for boys, and had Godparents making responses and promises on their behalf.  Those baptized as infants probably don’t remember much of that happened and that’s fair.  Most new Episcopalians are converts from other Christian denominations.  So, they either had a Catholic or Orthodox or Lutheran experience much like cradle Episcopalians or a Baptist or a Non-Denominational experience like mine.  Some of us or our relatives may have been baptized in a river with moving water just like Jesus!  Some of us might not be Baptized or have a child that we would like to Baptize and wonder what’s that all about? 

Regardless, the general contours of Baptism for all Christian churches involve the same basic elements.  Here, I am grateful for the Book of Common Prayer’s (BCP) catechism.  The history, tradition, and liturgy gathered in the BCP and shared across centuries are one of the main reasons I am an Episcopalian.  The section on Baptism explains the ‘why’ for what we do.  If you want to follow, turn to page 858 in the red Book of Common Prayer.  Three things happen:

First, “…God adopts us as his children…”  My own Baptismal story speaks to this truth and contemplating your own story will affirm it.  As today’s Isaiah reading says, God “…called you by name, you are…” God’s sons and daughters that have been gathered from the ends of the earth.     

Second, God “…makes us members of Christ's Body, the Church…”  Again, our Baptismal stories underscore that an assembled group of people with Christ as its head adds to its members in the same way Jesus’ Movement started.  Jesus himself was Baptized and Luke’s Gospel tells us that he was revealed as the Father’s Beloved Son and this liturgical action pleased the Father.

Third, God makes us “…inheritors of the kingdom of God…”  That is both the privilege and responsibility of being the children of God.  We are promised new as well as resurrected life and must share it.  We are supposed to pray that it “…will be on earth as it is in heaven…” and then serve as God’s hands and feet in the world to bring that world into being.  We are to do what Jesus did and taught.

In sum, these three things God does for us in Baptism make us the people of God.

The ‘how’ is a Holy Mystery but not that complicated.  That’s because the Holy Spirit is at work in earthly material elements and natural human actions so that we may perceive God transforming us.  Baptism is a sacrament.  And a sacrament is an outward sign of an inward spiritual grace.  Those outward signs are two fold.  One, water is used to bathe the Baptized.  There are numerous water images in Holy Scriptures, and today’s Isaiah reading summarizes our Baptismal understanding:  God says “…when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…”  We are redeemed and we are rebirthed in the waters of Baptism…just like the Israelites were set free and emerged out of Egypt to journey towards God’s promises.  We rely on God’s grace to bring us out of the chaos of the deep, or, as Psalmist puts it “…The Lord sits above the flood…”  Indeed, God’s good will makes such water the womb of creation and the spring of regeneration.

Two, spoken words are used to reaffirm God’s nature.  Before time, God simultaneously spoke all of creation into being and breathed upon it.  When we Baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we honor the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  When we Baptize, we also invoke the power of the Holy Trinity’s dance of love; that is, the Father that begets while breathing, the Word made flesh in Jesus through whom all things were made, and the Holy Spirit that hovers over creation and indwells in all of us.  Basically, we say who God is and acknowledge what God has done before, what God is doing now, and what God will do for God’s people.  In Baptism, Holy water and Holy words provide a before and an after that cleanses as well as redeems us.

The A, B, C, and D inward graces of Baptism are the fertilizer we need to bear the spiritual fruit of God’s Kingdom in the world:

  1. “…union with Christ in his death and resurrection…” means a life of self giving on behalf of others and not just walking the way of the cross, but also living into the promise that all of us will one day be our better selves and can count on Christ to help us get out of whatever ditch we have fallen or jumped into right now…
  2. “…forgiveness of sins…” acknowledges that Jesus’ life, ministry, teaching, preaching, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension assure us that Christ has redeemed our good but fallen state…
  3. We just need to turn and to choose “…new life in the Holy Spirit…”

 

Friends, that begins at the Baptismal font, regularly continues as we assemble around the Lord’s Table, and never ends in the eternal procession of the saints before us.  The BCP’s Baptismal liturgy moves us through what we need to do in order to claim our inheritance and to enact the world as it should be:

  • ·       
  • ·       
  • ·        We must turn toward Jesus as the King of King and Lord Lords and the one without blemish, who set aside his life so that all of us might truly live…

These beliefs and behaviors asked of us are not easy.  After the sermon, we will renew our Baptismal vows and, if you pay close attention, each one gets a little bit harder.  Moreover, we are challenged to ask ourselves whether our Baptism matters to our everyday, workaday Christian lives.  The Baptismal Covenant tells us what it means to be the people of God.   And it is a high calling that we are invited to live into.  In other words, we cannot think or feel the Kingdom of God into fruition.  No…we have to pray, to do, and to be what we are about to say, into reality…with God’s help.  Because we desperately need that help and we need to understand that God works through us, and not at our behest; certainly not on our schedule, and…to paraphrase the Chronicles of Narnia…God…is not a tame lion…

Friends, the common reality we all live into is that no one comes to Christ alone or remains with Christ on their own.  All of our stories witness to this observation.  The BCP makes sure to explain why we baptize infants and little ones not out of superstition, but because they may also be citizens of the Kingdom and children of God.  In fact, if we are honest, then we have to admit that we are all growing up together and maturing into the full stature of Christ no matter how old or how young we are.  We are all on a journey to spiritual adulthood…     

“…When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Amen.

Monday
Oct222018

Power pack for Headstart students

Attached is photo of the items that the local food bank provided for the power pack program.  As you can see not much for a weekend so I think that as a church we could help and supplement with additional protein items. This past week we added some pretzels and for next session we will be adding granola bars. Any other items would be greatly appreciated to be added to this power packs.  Ann Lucas


Tuesday
Jul312018

August 5th: INTAKE OF FOOD AND SUPPLIES FOR INTERFAITH OUTREACH SERVICES (formerly IMI)

Dear Friends and Members of the ECWF,
When you do your grocery shopping this week, please remember to pick up extra items for Interfaith.  In July Interfaith distributed nearly three times its usual amount of food to hungry individuals and families due to the increased needs and number of its clients.  Food insecurity is escalating at a noticeable rate in Wichita Falls and the surrounding counties!
The wish list for this month is shampoo in small containers and rolls of toilet tissue.
If you wish to donate food, as well as/or instead of the above, the greatest need is for canned corn and canned green beans.

On behalf of Interfaith and its clients, THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!
Ann Coleman, BC Clerk