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Sermons Presented at Christ the King

2015 May 23

Deacons at CTK April 2015Several ordained deacons in training for the priesthood in the Diocese of the Mid-South presented timed sermons during training held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA. The sermons were each critiqued by six experienced ministers and the deacons met one on one with one of the ministers for personal evaluation and advice.

From left to right on the front row in the photo were the sermon presenters:

Joseph Liptak, Fayetteville; James Gardner, Tyrone; Anthony McGee, Newnan; Justin Allen, Canton; Paul Dickinson, Sharpsburg; and Andy Ellis, Tyrone.

Those serving as advisors and evaluators were, left to right on the back row:

Rev. Kim Holman, Fayetteville; Father Dan Hale, Peachtree City; Dr. Robert Wills, Woodland; Father Charles Shores, Hogansville; Dr. James Taylor, Peachtree City.
Not pictured- Bishop David Epps, Sharpsburg

Milestone or Miracle?

2015 May 21

Bishop David EppsSome time ago, I was doing visitation in an area hospital and spotted an elderly woman sitting in the lobby in a wheelchair and covered with a blanket. She was by herself and I wondered if she had come to the hospital to be seen by someone or if she was waiting on someone. So, being a curious sort, I stopped to talk. She had indeed been seen and was waiting on the result of tests. Later in our conversation, she leaned in and said, “This weekend, my husband and I will have been married 65 years.”

“Wow,” I replied. “That’s quite a milestone.” “Son,” she said. “That’s not a milestone. It’s a miracle!” She was dead serious as she said, “Why, in fact, we have almost nothing but our children in common. We don’t like the same food, the same TV programs, or the same music. I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of person and he’s a ‘glass half empty’ guy. Nope, nothing in common. It’s not a milestone. It’s a genuine miracle, that’s what it is.” I smiled and offered my congratulations.

It could be, of course, that this couple has a deep love that has seen them through 65 years in spite of the lack of commonality. After all, they would have come through the Great Depression, World War II, and countless difficulties and struggles together. Even when she was going on about how they had nothing in common, she had a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face.

It could also be that they are both stubborn and persistent people, refusing to give up. I had to wonder, however, that, if they had been born in a later generation, would they have made it? Her husband (who was at a doctor’s appointment in another part of the building) was 91 and I would guess that she was about the same age. If I accurately looked up the correct statistics, the divorce rate in 1926 (about the year they would have married) was 7%, radically unlike today’s divorce rate of 50%. There was a stigma surrounding divorce in that era. People just didn’t get divorced back then.

If they had been married, say, in 1970, would they still be married? I have no idea, of course, but I do believe that there is something to just “gutting it out.” My wife and I have been married for over 43 years and I sometimes consider that a miracle as well. Like this couple, we don’t like the same music, often don’t like the same TV programs, and we are far apart on many issues. We do have more in common than they did but I was struck by the realization that a great many couples who married around the same time as my wife and I are no longer together. In truth, a great many of my high school classmates have been divorced at least once.

This couple, celebrating 65 years of marriage, would have weathered many storms through the decades. They would have experienced deprivation, low paying jobs, a lack of good medical care (even medicines, vaccinations, and antibiotics), and life would have been hard. Still, they were together. Milestone? Absolutely. Miracle? Perhaps. Or maybe they just never gave it much thought. Maybe they meant it when, so long ago, they said to each other, “for richer, for poorer…for better, for worse…in sickness and in health…until death we do part.”

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

The Blame Game

2015 May 19

Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Second Sunday of Easter
April 12, 2015

Sermon Link: The Blame Game

Grow Up, Step Up, Own Up

2015 May 17

Bishop David EppsFrom politicians to preachers, it seems that few are committed to accepting personal responsibility for their actions, particularly if those actions are wrong. When Republican President Richard Nixon boldly declared, “I am not a crook,” implying that he had done no wrong in the Watergate scandal, the end result was a shameful resignation from the presidency to avoid impeachment. Later, Democratic President Bill Clinton would parse words and look the nation in its collective eye and say, “I did not have sex with that woman…” He, too, would set in motion a process that would result in his national shame, although he was able to survive the firestorm. What these two have in common is that they tried unsuccessfully to evade personal responsibility for their actions.

In the Book of Genesis, in the creation account, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of a certain tree. A serpent came along and basically said that God was selfish and trying to withhold something good from the First Couple. When the two ate the forbidden fruit, they were filled with guilt and shame. When God asked Adam what he had done, he replied that “The woman that you gave to me gave me the fruit and I ate it.” So, in one sentence, Adam throws Eve under the bus and blames God for giving him such a deceitful creature. When God confronts Eve, her response is that it is the fault of the serpent (implied is the accusation that God made the serpent and if He hadn’t, things would be just groovy). Thus was the first game in human history first played and the “blame game” has been played ever since.

Trying to evade personal responsibility didn’t work back then and it doesn’t work today. Today, we have the option of blaming: our parents, society, the government, the majority, political parties, the environment, our heredity, our socioeconomic condition, where we were born and raised, who our friends were, opportunities we didn’t have, and…on and on. I have been attending court off and on for years and the excuses used for bad or illegal behavior are myriad. It all boils down to this: “It’s not my fault!”

But, yes, it is. If we made the choice, if we thought the thought, if we said the thing, if we did the deed, it IS our fault. We did it. Why don’t we just grow up, step up and, own up? In our denomination, we have what we call “confession.” There is a “general confession” which we pray each Sunday as a group. But, even though the prayer is a group prayer, the implication is that the sins we commit “in thought, word, and deed,” against “God and our neighbors,” are our own fault.

In a more ancient prayer, and in the Rite of Reconciliation, which some folks call Penance or Confession, which is an individual action, the prayer is more specific: “I have sinned by my own fault.” How refreshing! When my children were young, if they committed a wrong, they had the opportunity to come clean. If the owned up to what they did, the punishment, if any, was merciful. If they lied or tried to blame others, they got two spankings: one for the deed and the other for the lie. This gave rise to the phrase in our house, “You lie, you die.” Which is all very biblical and theological.

I have heard people say that “God forgives everybody everything.” Well, yes and no. There is a caveat: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us out sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Note the big, “IF.” If we grow up, if we step up, and if we own up, forgiveness is given freely (which doesn’t mean that we don’t reap what we sow). But, if we blame others, point fingers, lie, try to excuse our behavior, then forgiveness is not on the table. The truth is, we made the choice to do or say something wrong. What follows is the choice to “own our own stuff” and take responsibility for what we did or said. As history demonstrates, anything else just doesn’t work.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

Pray for Burundi

2015 May 16
Bishop Nester Misigaro & Patriarch Craig Bates

Bishop Nester Misigaro

Dear Brothers,

Pray for Burdundi.  I pray that those who want to cause division, hatred, and violence will be silenced by the voices of reason, reconciliation and peace.

Bishop Nitonde Dieudonne & Patriarch Craig Bates

Bishop Nitonde Dieudonne

Pray for peace in Burundi and for our Bishops Nitonde Dieudonne and Nestor Misigaro.

The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,
Patriarch

Does the Resurrection Matter?

2015 May 15

Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Easter Sunday
April 5, 2015

Sermon Link: Does the Resurrection Matter?

Ask Father Paul – Disappointed in God

2015 May 5

Paul MasseyDEAR FATHER PAUL:  I am a believer of many years. I have developed a debilitating health problem which causes me a lot of pain and greatly limits my activities. Doctor’s have been no help. I (and others) have prayed earnestly for my healing, but so far…nothing. I have been standing on Isaiah 53:5, but I am getting increasingly discouraged. Your thoughts please.  No Name.

DEAR NO NAME:  Over the years almost every pastor has heard this same heartfelt plea many, many times. “What’s going on pastor? I have trusted in God to provide, and he hasn’t. I have prayed and he hasn’t answered. My sick child died. I lost a great job and have been unemployed for two years,” and on, and on and on. Heartbreaking stories and disappointment in God are on a pastor’s plate day in and day out. “Where Are You God?”

People who study today’s Christian Church report that “disappointment in God” is (by far) the number one reason why Christians abandon the faith and leave the church.  Many reading this column will certainly relate to No Name. I myself have a deep personal connection to stories like his/hers.  In the mid-1990’s my wife Judy and I lost two grandsons to a rare and hellish birth defect in the short space of two years…even though we and hundreds of friends prayed in faith and pleaded with God to spare their lives and heal them.

Our hearts were broken, not to mention the children’s mom (our daughter) and her husband. Both grandfathers were preachers…both grandmothers were strong women of God. I can clearly remember my reaction. I was hurt and angry at God and wanted to just walk away from him and his church. “If this is how you treat people who serve you faithfully for over forty years God, who needs you,” I can remember crying out?

And then, somehow I remembered the powerful story in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John in the Bible.  Jesus had proclaimed a really, really tough teaching and the Bible says that “many” of his followers were offended and deserted him. In John 6:66 (New Living Translation) Jesus asked his twelve disciples, “Are you also going to leave?” To which Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You (alone) have the words that give eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God (the Messiah).”

It was a watershed moment of choice in my life. But somehow I found the guts to say out loud to God. “Lord, I’m not the smartest sheep in your flock, And I’m not the best looking or the most talented…and you know that there is a lot that I can’t do. BUT I CAN REMAIN FAITHFUL AND OBEDIENT AND CONTINUE TO FOLLOW YOU. I CAN AT LEAST DO THAT.” And I have faithfully followed him (yes, sometimes in blind faith) to this day at age 72.

The Apostle Paul faced a very similar situation to the one our questioner asks about. In II Corinthians 12 Paul lets us in on the story. I urge you to read this short but very powerful chapter. Paul relates that for some time he had endured a very painful malady in his flesh…a disease or illness. He says that he had prayed (“begged”) the Lord three times to heal him. But God said no. Instead God spoke these words to Paul, (New Living Translation ) “My grace (my unmerited favor) is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Paul goes on to say (paraphrased)… “now I brag about my weakness”. Wow!

To answer the question…”why am I still sick when I have prayed to be healed?” The answer is… sorry… I simply don’t know, I’m not God.

But this much I do know. Disappointment with God is neither wrong nor sinful. No, it is where many of us often find ourselves because we live on a sinful, fallen planet. And Jesus has not yet returned to fully restore his perfect Kingdom on our planet.

The key to avoiding disappointment with God, I think, is for us to lay aside our own plans and wills and line up totally with his plan and will, just as Peter and the disciples did and just as the Apostle Paul did in the examples above…knowing in faith that our God is a holy, righteous, perfect, merciful and loving heavenly father.

Do You Have A Question? Send it to me at paulmassey@earthlink.net and I will try to answer it in the paper.

Father Paul Massey is Pastor Emeritus of Church Of The Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia.