Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bishop Jake's Wednesday Message

Dear Brothers & Sisters:                       

Suffering is part of human life. Each of us will suffer at some point in our lives, and even when one of us experiences smooth sailing someone is undergoing some pain or sorrow, some loss or heartbreak. Whether we like it or not, one of life's challenges is learning what to do with suffering. The suffering in our own lives and the suffering of the world around us.

Our culture offers a limited, two-fold strategy for suffering: avoid it whenever possible and relieve it however possible when it cannot be avoided. In other words, our culture classifies suffering as bad. Suffering seems to us almost an intrusion in life as usual. So we look for ways to inoculate ourselves against it and to anesthetize ourselves to it.

We are right to avoid unnecessary suffering and to relieve it when we can. But if this is the sum total of our approach to suffering, then suffering has the power to crush the meaning out of life. From this perspective, suffering can only diminish life, and time spent in suffering is simply time lost.

Jesus teaches us something very different. He never says that suffering is good in and of itself. And yet he teaches us that following him involves suffering. He urges us to take up our cross and follow him.

Jesus redeems suffering. He assumed all of our suffering and sorrow on the cross. He took it upon himself. Jesus passed through suffering and death--our suffering and death--and overcame them once and for all. His loving sacrifice transformed suffering from a distortion of life into the soil from which new life springs. Life beyond all suffering, all sorrow, and even death itself.

The cross does not teach us to pursue suffering. Instead, walking the way of the cross means engaging suffering in a specific way.

As followers of Jesus, we engage our own suffering and the suffering of others with a hope-inspired boldness.

We can persevere through our own suffering with the assurance that Jesus is turning even our sharpest agony into the the birthing process of new life.

Because we are one in Christ, we can no longer be indifferent to the suffering of others. Compassion becomes our default setting, and we are no longer captive to the fear that our love for another will hurt us. In Jesus Christ, suffering love becomes the way of the cross.

Jesus wants to make our joy complete. When we follow him along the way of the cross, he redeems even our most grievous suffering. In Jesus Christ, the tomb itself is not a final destination to be a avoided, but a passageway to new life. Eternal life. Life forever free of tears and heartache.

When we follow Jesus, we begin to taste that life today. Not in spite of suffering. But even in the very midst of it.

In Christ's Love,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD
The Diocese of Western Louisiana

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lenten Series

This week's Lenten service:       

Grace Episcopal Church
405 Glenmar

Holy Eucharist 6 p.m.
Supper 7 p.m.

The Rev. Dale Farley of Messiah Lutheran will preach.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Yesterday our priests and deacons gathered with me for one of our regular Clergy Days. Among the things on our hearts and minds was the challenge of being the Church in 2013 and beyond.

Our place in history presents us with a radical challenge. We inhabit a transitional historical period, and the demands of our times are different from those faced by the inhabitants of a stable historical period. Let me explain this contrast between transitional and stable historical periods by way of analogy with the board game Monopoly.

As you may have heard, the makers of Monopoly have discarded one of the game's classic pieces. The iron is now in the historical ash bin and in its place we find a cat. For all the fuss, Monopoly remains Monopoly. The rules for moving around the board, purchasing property, and paying rent remain unchanged. The board, with minor artistic revision, looks the same.

Even some of the outlandish special edition Monopoly sets do nothing to change the real essence of the game. There is a Star Wars edition, a Scooby Doo edition, and even a Wizard of Oz edition. Players still move by rolling the dice, each space on the board is a property by another name but with the same relative value, and the rules governing play are the same. All the changes are window dressing on the same logic.

This is how a stable historical period looks. Particular people, arguments, events, and crises arise, but the available moves and the rules governing the movements are essentially set. We all know how to play the game, and any departure from the agreed upon way to play is cheating.

We all know that historical periods give way to succeeding historical periods: periods that have their own board and rules and pieces. Painting now with a very broad brush, think of the very different world people inhabited in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance. Assumptions about God, human destiny, and political legitimacy underwent significant shifts. (Okay, my apologies to every historian reading this.)

But what about the space in between? Let's return to the board game illustration. It's not as if someone simply swept away Monopoly and put in its place the game of Clue. We might gripe about this sudden shift and even demand a return to Monopoly, but at least we would be clear about a whole new set of rules, purpose of the game, and design of the board.

Transitional historical periods are more like playing Monopoly even while Hasbro is changing the rules and remaking the board without telling us. The rules are under revision and the board keeps shifting to some final version we cannot see yet. And the kicker is this. We don't get to stop playing. We have to figure it out as we go. One thing is for sure, if we keep playing the game the way we always have we will eventually lose touch with the game completely.

We live in a transitional historical period. Our society and our culture are changing in ways that are reshaping how we understand the meaning, value, and purpose of life. How to be Church is changing as a result. We don't get to go back to older ways to proclaim the Gospel, but quitting until thing settle down is not a viable option. The changes surrounding us call us into being Church in some new and exciting ways.
In the weeks and months ahead the clergy and I will be sharing some innovative ideas with you. Here is a a brief sketch: 
  • Instead of trying to get people to church, start bringing church to the people. 
  • The Gospel is something we do. 
  • We need deacons as leaders for doing the Gospel in the world.
  •  It's time to start mission stations. 
  •  We need a new model of cooperation between small congregations.
This list is meant to give you teasers for further thought. We will be talking much more about these and other ideas for the vitality of the our diocese.

We are in a time that calls for boldness and courage. We will try many things. Some will work right away, and many will prove to be shaky first drafts in shaping a final approach that goes like gangbusters. Don't be afraid! There is no failure in Christ, and we are doing all that we do in his name.

Blessings for a renewed relationship with our Lord and a greater love for your neighbor in this Lenten season.

In Christ's Love,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD
The Diocese of Western Louisiana

Monday, February 18, 2013

WATERLINE at Northminster

Archdeacon Bette's interactive photo exhibit is currently installed in the narthex of Northminster Baptist Church. It will remain there throughout Lent. Visitors are welcome.

Viewing Hours:
Monday - Thursday
8 a.m. - Noon
 (Ring the bell at the front door for access.)

Artist's Talk:
"WATERLINE: landscape with voices"
Sunday, March 3, 6:30 p.m.

At the artist's talk, Bette will discuss how the exhibit came about and the diverse responses that have been written on the panels over the past several years as the photographs have been exhibited around Louisiana and in Florida. All are welcome.


Lenten Series Begins

Just a reminder that the Wednesday evening Lenten series begins this week at St. Thomas' with our Bishop Jake Owensby preaching.

Holy Eucharist 6:00 p.m.
Supper Following

St. Alban's, St. Patrick's, Grace and Messiah Lutheran are all participating in the series this year.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Coat for Miss Emma!

Archdeacon Bette & Emma West

It happened at the Interfaith Collective Leaders Meeting at St. Thomas' Tuesday evening. Miss Emma West mentioned to Karen Hayward that she needed a coat. Karen and Archdeacon Bette put their heads together, but it was Karen who thought of asking Marilyn Mahan.

And the rest, as they say, is history! Marilyn had two coats she had not worn in awhile and gladly offered them. Archdeacon Bette took them to a meeting at New Light Baptist Church Thursday evening and, yes, they fit! Perfectly!

That's how it works in Interfaith and the Family of God. Thanks Karen and Marilyn! Miss West is deeply grateful.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Today's Sermon at St. Andrew's in Mer Rouge

Close Encounters of the Holy Kind

Each time I read or hear the account of the transfiguration in Luke’s Gospel (9:28-43a, NRSV), I wish I could ask the writer a question. “Well,” I would say, “which was it? Were the disciples awake or asleep when Jesus had his chat with Moses and Elijah?”

It sounds like the writer was not sure. He says they were awake, but immediately that they were heavy with sleep. But they do see Jesus blazing with light and conversing with the two most prominent prophets of the Hebrew tradition: Moses and Elijah.

By the way, I totally identify with the plight of the disciples in this story. There they are, so tired from trekking around after Jesus that they can hardly keep their eyes open for a most glorious event to transpire in front of them!

As one who falls asleep at her computer with some regularity, I am completely sympathetic! But I wonder: How often do we miss one of God’s very special moments because of weariness or everyday distractions?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Interfaith at St. Thomas'

Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith 
Collective Leaders Meeting
Monday, February 11, 7 - 8:30 p.m.
St. Thomas' Episcopal
3706 Bon Aire Dr.

Our focus is on actions in progress, including issues that surface in our October meeting at New Light Baptist Church. We will look at "next steps" for moving forward in those actions and how we can use those actions to strengthen member institutions and Interfaith.

Meeting will be chaired by Archdeacon Bette Kauffman and Deacon Verdine Williams of Little Flower of Jesus Catholic Church.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bishop Jake's Lenten Message

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,  

Lent is rapidly approaching. Ash Wednesday falls on February 13. Just one week away. Many of you have already made plans for the Lenten journey. Some will add a Bible study. A few will take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Giving alms and doing works of mercy will be a part of your Lenten devotion.

The early Christians prepared for Baptism at the Easter Vigil during Lent. In keeping with this ancient practice, I invite you to reflect on the Baptismal Vows that you have made and that you renew each time we baptize someone. Turn to page 292 in The Book of Common Prayer and spend time at some point during Lent contemplating the Covenant that guides your walk with Christ.

The Baptismal Covenant begins with the Apostles' Creed. Reflect on your relationship with God. Is it personal? Or does God seem like an idea or a philosophical principle? How does the Creed help to map out your experience of God? Where does it confuse you or confound you?

After the Creed, we make a series of commitments about how we will live our lives:

* Following Jesus is a group project, not a solo performance. We will participate fully in the devotional life of a Jesus-following community.  

* We never promise to be perfect. But we do say that we'll fight the good fight against evil and let our failures become the occasion for growing and stretching. In other words, we aspire to the spiritual courage to admit our failings and to accept the gracious do-overs that God gives us.

* Proclaiming the Gospel is what followers of Jesus do. Words are important, but they only really work as clarifications for what we are actually doing. We are committed to doing the Gospel.

* And speaking of doing the Gospel, we understand ourselves as servants. We serve Christ, and the way we serve him is to serve each other.

* Finally, following Jesus means that we are weavers. We weave relationships of respect and nurture and love between people. We don't promise to feel deep affection for everyone we meet. Instead, we strive to remember that Jesus loves them enough to die for them and to do our best to act like it.

Schedule some time this Lent to reflect on how God is helping you to fulfill these promises. Ask yourself how you might cooperate even more fully with the gracious work that Christ has already begun in you.

Several congregations and groups have invited me to speak at their Lenten series, and I will be at St. James, Alexandria, on Ash Wednesday. Whether I am present with you in body or absent in body but with you in spiritual devotion, I look forward to spending this holy season with my Western Louisiana family.

Blessings for a holy Lent.

In Christ's Love,
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD
The Diocese of Western Louisiana

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Presiding Bishop's Lenten Message

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013. Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presents a challenge in her Lent Message 2013 to pray, fast, study and give alms.

 “As you engage this Lent, I would encourage you to pray, to fast, to act in solidarity with those who go without,” she offers. “Learn more, give alms, share what you have.”

The Presiding Bishop’s video message, filmed at a park in New York City.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Isn't this Joseph's son?

Thought you might be interested in the sermon I preached today at St. Andrew's in Mer Rouge and Church of the Redeemer in Oak Ridge, La.

View from "The Precipice" at Nazareth

Today’s Gospel story (Luke 4:21-20) sounds to me like nothing so much as overheard gossip at a family reunion.. perhaps especially a family reunion here in the deep south, where family pedigree matters so much!

“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” the great aunts and uncles cluck. “I mean, the son of the carpenter? Who’d ever have thought he’d turn out like this!”

This lesson is a continuation of last Sunday’s lesson, so we know the context. Jesus has returned home to Nazareth from being baptized by John in the Jordan River and spending 40 days in the wilderness in a meet up with both the devil and God.

In Nazareth, he goes to the synagogue in keeping with custom, stands up to read from the prophet Isaiah—a passage we today categorize as one of “the servant passages”—then proceeds to claim for himself the identity of The Servant as laid out in Isaiah.

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” he says. And the hometown community beams with pride. Everyone is amazed that the carpenter’s son speaks so well.
But… how quickly the clucks of surprised approval from the small-town “family” turn into murderous rage! What in the world does Jesus say in those few intervening verses that his own people go from adoring family to angry mob?

Souper Bowl of Caring

Today, the youth of St.Thomas' collected $110.64 for the Refuge of Hope during our 2013 Souper Bowl of Caring fund drive. Congratulation to our young people and thank you all for your generosity!

Our collection will be reported to the national Souper Bowl of Caring website to be included in the 2013 total, but all the money will stay here for the Refuge of Hope.. For more information on the Souper Bowl, visit the website at

In 2013

2,301 participating groups collected

$3,198,315 in cash and food items

for charities in their area