Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bishop’s Note: November 16, 2017 – Discipleship

Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of discipleship, last week’s gospel lesson gave us a great opportunity to examine what it means to be intentional about our relationship with Christ. You’ll remember that Jesus told the disciples a parable about 10 wise and 10 foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom. The wise maidens had enough oil to fill their lamps, plus extra if the lamps began to run low, but the foolish maidens only had enough to fill their lamps once. The bridegroom, upon his arrival, welcomed those who were wise and whose lamps kept burning, while the foolish were off looking - last minute - to find more oil.

One might ask: “How do we fill our lamps with oil? How can we be intentional about being disciples?” By taking seriously our Baptismal Vows! These vows are divided between: Orthodoxy – right belief and Orthopraxy – right action. Right belief leads to right action, but right action doesn’t always lead to right belief.

Under Orthodoxy, we have the three questions in the baptismal covenant regarding faith in God:

Q. Do you believe in God the Father?
A. I believe in God Almighty the creator of heaven and earth.  This is our affirmation that God is the creator of everything that exists and as creator He is over all and Lord of all.

Q. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
A. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.  He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  Not only does this answer affirm our belief in Jesus as the only Son of God, Redeemer and Judge of  all, but it also affirms the authority of Scripture since all that we know about the life of Jesus comes directly from scripture.

Q. Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
A. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Scripture and the doctrine of the church inform our beliefs that lead to action!

Under Orthopraxy, we have the questions that lead to right action:

Q. Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
A. I will with God’s help. This question comes from Acts 2:42 which lays out how the Church functioned in the early days after Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit. In other words – right action is active participation in the life and worship of your congregation.

Q. Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
A. I will with God’s help. With this answer we acknowledge the fact that we are sinners in need of a savior and the importance of all disciples of Jesus to repent and seek reconciliation with God and our neighbor

Q. Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
A. I will with God’s help.  Fulfilling the Great Commission is vital for all disciples of Jesus Christ. This requires us to tell everyone and anyone about the Grace, Love, Forgiveness and Peace that we’ve found in Jesus Christ. As St. Peter says – we must be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us! (1 Peter 3:15)

Q. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
A. I will with God’s help. This question echo’s the Great Commandment.  As we’ll hear in next week’s gospel in serving others we are serving Christ who said, “I was hungry and you gave me food. Thirsty and you gave me drink. Naked and you clothed me etc. When did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked? “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Mt. 25:40)

Q. Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
A. I will with God’s help. Genesis chapter one tells us: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he made them; male and female he made them.” (Gen. 1:27) Because all people are created in the image of God, all people are worthy of dignity and respect – from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

How do we fill our torches with oil? By being intentional about living out our baptismal vows!

I pray you all a very blessed week.


The Thirty-Nine Articles:

XXXIX. Of Christian Man's Oath.

As we confess that vain and rash Swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle, so we judge, that Christian Religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the Magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the Prophet's teaching in justice, judgment, and truth.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bishop’s Note: November 9, 2017 – Discipleship

Bishop Eric Menees

Last week, at our 58th Annual Convention, I announced that the ministry concentration for the year ahead would be “discipleship.” Beginning with this week’s Bishop’s Note, and throughout the year, I will be writing on the theme of discipleship.

This begs the question: what are the marks of a disciple of Jesus Christ?   Of course, the whole of scripture can be cited in response to this question. But in my prayers this week, St. Paul captured my attention when, in his letter to the church in Rome, he wrote this:  “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:12-13)

A Disciple of Jesus Christ Rejoices in Hope.

As Christians we have hope – no matter what - in Jesus Christ.

Three weeks ago I was called to the hospital to visit a young woman named America and her baby Moses. Moses was born two months early at 2.5 lbs. and suffering with hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). When I came into the hospital room, America was with another parishioner from Our Lady of Guadalupe and they were praying.  America was radiant and stated emphatically, “Bishop, I know that God is in charge and He will give us the strength to love and care for Moses not matter what!” Wow, what a beautiful demonstration of the hope we have in Christ. I came to minister to America, and she ministered to me!

A Disciple of Jesus Christ is Patient in Tribulation.

Some believe that if we accept Jesus Christ everything will be perfect – we’ll have health, wealth, and be handsome. Jesus never promises that all will be well. He does, however,  promise never to leave us or abandon us. (Matthew 28: 20) The fact is that we live in a fallen world full of sin and sadness – it is a consequence of the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and our continued willful disobedience. However, Jesus promises us blessings if we are persecuted on his account: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5:11-12)  If we are living a Christian life, we should expect tribulation!

A Disciple of Jesus Christ is Constant in Prayer.

We are called to follow Jesus’ example and pray, pray, pray.  Jesus would regularly get up early and go off to pray by himself. (Luke 4:42)

St. Paul teaches us to pray unceasingly: “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17) And you know what? God hears and answers every one of our prayers. Ultimately we want to join Jesus in the prayer, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done!”  (Luke 22:42)

A Disciple of Jesus Christ Contributes to the Needs of the Saints.

St. Paul quotes Jesus: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9.7) In the first century there was a horrible drought in Israel and Christians in Jerusalem were suffering. St. Paul organized the church in Macedonia to collect money and food to help them. This was the first time in recorded history that people were helping those based on a common faith and not culture or nationality. Helping others - sacrificing for others - is a foundational quality of Christians. As Christians, we help others not out of a desire to earn God’s love, but in response to it!

A Disciple of Jesus Christ Seeks to Show Hospitality.

The Greek term in the New Testament for hospitality is (philo-zenia – φιλο-ξενία) and is actually a compound of the words for “love” and “stranger.” Therefore, being hospitable is more than being nice and polite – it is literally “loving a stranger.” A disciple of Jesus Christ goes out of their way to assist the stranger – to help the dispossessed.  Again, this is a foundational quality of Christians. All people, races, creeds, nationalities and languages are invited to church to worship the Lord. 

This week my prayer for you, and my prayer for me, will be that God grants us the strength and courage to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. 

Bishop Menees


The Thirty Nine Articles:

XXXVIII. Of Christian Men's Goods, which are not common.
The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same; as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

All Saints Day message from Archbishop Okoh of Nigeria

The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh

To the Faithful of the Gafcon movement and friends from Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the Gafcon Primates Council.

My dear people of God,

I am writing on the 1st November, All Saints Day. It is an annual reminder of “the communion of the saints”, a biblical truth we affirm every time we say the Apostles Creed.

As Christians face rising persecution in many parts of the world and as we see the fabric of our own Anglican Communion torn by continuing theological and moral crisis, it is a great comfort to know that we are part of something much more glorious than we can see or even imagine.

The Collect for All Saints Day begins:

“Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord.”
This does not mean that we have to have a mystical experience to know that we are truly part of the Church, but that there is a wonderful spiritual reality of the Church which is visible to God, although not yet to us. This is the great Church Victorious, a communion of all the saints, living and departed, recognised and unrecognised. It includes all who have been born again into eternal life through faith in Jesus and it is in them that the prayer of Jesus in John 17:11, that the disciples should be one, is being truly fulfilled.

How does this vision of the invisible church help us now as members of what the Book of Common Prayer calls “Christ’s Church Militant here on earth”?

It reminds us what a wonderful privilege it is to belong to the Church of God and have a gospel of eternal life to proclaim to all nations. The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the Church Victorious at worship and it includes those from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9).

The Anglican Communion at its best gives us a foretaste of heaven as we gather from many different nations in Jesus’ name and our great five yearly Gafcon conferences, in Jerusalem in 2008 and Nairobi in 2013, have been a unique and unforgettable experience of what it really means to be Anglicans. As we come from our various cultures, with their strengths and weaknesses, we are able to encourage one another and learn from one another because there is a common mind to submit ourselves to the authority of Scripture.

Let us praise God that he is yet again calling us together in Jerusalem ten years after the Gafcon movement was born in that place. Our great theme will be “Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations”. Let us come “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) and ensure that leaders from as many nations as possible are included by generosity in providing bursaries for those unable to fully fund themselves.

The Collect for All Saints Day continues:

“Grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that we come at last to those inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you.”
This is a prayer for joyful holiness and keeps us humble. We must not fall into the trap of presumption, thinking that we in the twenty-first century have a better understanding of ‘godly living’ than the Scriptures and generations of saints over two millennia. This is the problem at the root of the crisis in the Anglican Communion today as we find that those who are separating themselves from the communion of saints are still allowed to enjoy the unhindered communion of Canterbury.

True communion is given through God’s Word and sustained by his Spirit. All Saints Day is a call to joyful proclamation as we remember our true identity and our eternal destiny. Let us be strong in the Lord and serve the cause of the gospel faithfully as we look forward to the day when the Church Militant will finally be taken up into the glory of the Great Church Victorious.

Finally, we must continue to pray for peace for the nation and Church of Kenya, and Anambra State in Nigeria whose governorship election comes up on 18th November, 2017.






Friday, November 3, 2017

All Saints Day Year A 2017


Fr. Dale Matson

The Passing Of Things Present And The Past Ever Present

My homily is based on the opening Collect from Pentecost 22 year A, a reading from Ecclesiasticus, The Proper Preface and the Gospel Lesson for All Saints Day.
Our opening Collect states, “Grant us Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
It seemed to me that our opening Collect for the Sunday closest to November 2nd fits well with our celebration of All Saints Day today. There are so many earthly things that are “passing away” that to keep hope alive we must “love those things heavenly”. Even my devotional reading for October 31st lodged in my mind so I could include it today. St. Paul stated, “For ye had compassion on me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing that you have in heaven a better and enduring substance.” (Hebrews 10:34) This passage has special meaning for us at St. James.    
Sharon and I returned Monday from Southern California. A week ago Sunday, we participated in a memorial service for Sharon’s brother Jim attended by over 500 individuals. Jim succumbed to Multiple Myeloma at age 68 after a valiant one-year struggle. I want to include his life in our celebration of the lives of the saints today. The caption on his memorial service bulletin read, “A life well lived, a man well loved.” I remember meeting Jim for the first time at Sharon’s house about 22 years ago. He was in the process of fixing a flat tire for Sharon’s bicycle. I thought to myself at the time, “He is a good brother”. Jim and his wife of 46 years, Melinda visited us not long before his last hospitalization. He was still filled with hope yet I thought at the time that this occasion might be our final goodbye. Sensing this, I told him, “Jim, I remember you fixing a flat on Sharon’s bike many years ago and thinking at the time that you were such a good brother. I still feel that way about you these many years later.” He thanked me and we hugged goodbye. Actually, my final words to him turned out to be the “Prayer for the dying” from the prayer book only a month or so later in home hospice. Jim’s life and death was a godly example to all of us who were honored to know him. Jim ran the good race.
As I was preparing the homily for this week, I came upon a reading from Ecclesiasticus. “Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations. The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning…. these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.”
After reading this passage from Ecclesiasticus. I read our Gospel lesson for today. The Beatitudes from Christ’s sermon on the mount took on an additional meaning for me. How even more fitting that we should hear on All Saints Day, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
The Beatitudes are not just a call for us to strive to lead righteous and holy lives. The Beatitudes are an ongoing and eternal benediction from our Lord Himself to those saints who have gone before us.
Hallowmas season is where the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church celebrates the eternal and mystical “Now” of God’s Kingdom. We are primarily looking back at brothers and sisters who came before. It is where we remember those who rest in Christ. It was they who handed us the pure and undefiled Gospel by which we too have been saved. They are partly responsible for the faith we hold and defend today. The church has always recognized the importance and celebrated the death of martyrs such as John The Baptist, Steven and Paul. There were so many Christian martyrs however that the church developed a specific day to honor all the saints in addition to those saints who had specific days set aside to honor them in the church year. The church calendar days that honor martyrs are marked in red.
We are the church militant looking back to those whose souls now reside in the church triumphant. When we separate ourselves from deceased ancestors in the modern church we are the poorer for it. When you think of old churchyards, you think of graves too. Relics of the saints are objects associated with the saints and often displayed in churches. St. Andrews Scotland is said to have the bones of St. Andrew buried in a monastery cemetery. The Shroud of Turin is reported to be the burial cloth of Christ and is located in the Cathedral of John the Baptist in Turin Italy. Sometimes the saintly relic is the body of the saint that resides in the church. For example, the remains of St. Francis are buried under the altar in the cathedral built in his honor in Assisi Italy. There is also what is called the “Incorruptibles”. The Incorruptibles are saints on full display in churches and remain as they were at the moment of death. Sharon and I saw the ring finger of St. Teresa of Avila on display at her convent with her ring on it. In the Cathedrals of Europe, the red miters of the past Cardinals are hung from the rotundas.   While we shy away from such veneration of relics today, it occurred to me that we should have a photograph of Bishop Schofield on display when we have our own location again.
All Souls Day is the final service in the Triduum of Hallowmas. In Anglicanism it is called Commemoration of All Faithful Departed and is an optional celebration; Anglicans view All Souls' Day as an extension of the observance of All Saints' Day and it serves to "remember those who have died", in connection with the theological doctrines of the resurrection of the body and the Communion of Saints. The prayers appointed for that day remind us that we are joined with the Communion of Saints, that great group of Christians who have finished their earthly life and with whom we share the hope of resurrection from the dead
            But Father Dale, when we remember those who have died, we don’t pray for them do we? The Protestant reformation focused on the prayer for the church militant and not the church triumphant. Archbishop Cranmer’s first prayer book (1549) contains the following prayer for the dead.  ‘Grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy and everlasting peace’.
            Yet the practice of prayer for the dead is practiced in the Anglican Church. It began to be practiced again as a result of the horrors of WWI. More recently, at the funeral of Princess Diana, Archbishop Carey prayed, “May she rest in peace where sorrow and pain are banished, and may the everlasting light of your merciful love shine upon her; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.” The Church of England under Archbishop Rowan Williams on the 10th anniversary of her death issued this same prayer.
            In the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, Rite I Prayers of the People, we pray, “And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service; and to grant us grace so to follow the good examples of all thy saints, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom. In Rite II we have six different versions of the Prayers of the People and all of them include prayers for the dead. In our Rite II funeral service we pray this prayer. “O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of your servant and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
            We are told that anything we ask in Christ’s name will be granted. We are told to come before the throne of grace boldly. We are told to be intercessors for others. I believe that in this case as Anglicans, we are guided by Tradition and the Church Universal has been praying for the dead for two millennia.  I read this comment regarding an article on prayer for the dead. “If someone has what seems to be a horrible death, I think most of us are moved to pray that God was with them and that their suffering may not have been too great, which is praying for the dead for sure, and even believing God can act in the past, which he can.” https://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/can-we-pray-for-the-dead/
            There is also reciprocity in us interceding for the dead and the Saints interceding for us. How many here remember our use of the Litany of the Saints at Easter Vigil and for All Saints Day when John David was Bishop? I can still see in my mind’s eye, Danny Farenbacher as crucifer, leading us around the courtyard in procession as the litany was sung.
The point of this is to offer hope to those of you who have a burden on your heart that God has placed there for an individual in your life. For example, I believe that God was involved in preparing Steve Conkle’s heart for Christ his whole life. This was also true of dear sister Collette Facio. St. James seems to be a kind of ‘finishing school’ for saints. Sometimes we are the last stop before entering a new life for many who have struggled their entire life.
There is no shelf life for prayers. Maybe your prayers for the salvation of one of your children will be answered after you have passed on. I would like you to think about someone in your life that God has put on your heart. The time to witness to them is now. Now is the acceptable time. For those who have been witnessing, don’t be discouraged…. persist.  For those you know who have passed, I don’t believe the opportunity is lost either. For those of you who have not reconciled I ask you pray for that person that you may also forgive them. It’s not too late. God’s Kingdom is the eternal now.
Our proper preface today is, “Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”




      



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bishop’s Note: October 19, 2017 – Sabbatical 2017

Bishop Eric Menees 

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

This week I have returned from my Sabbatical leave. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the Diocesan Council for granting me the privilege of taking a two-month sabbatical leave. After thirty years of ministry, it was overdue and much appreciated. Of course, with respects to taking a sabbatical in the past I was my own worst enemy. No one had forbad me from taking a sabbatical, I just convinced myself that I was too busy, would let too many people down, or when I returned the workload would be even greater. I recognize now that this was simply pride speaking – I should have taken a sabbatical leave every ten years or so, and I suspect I would have been even more productive in the long run.

The need to step away, pray, and reflect is steeped in the scriptures, as we see from St. Mark above. That is exactly what I did on my time away. I began with a personal retreat for two-weeks in Ronan, Montana, at the home of a parishioner in the Diocese of Western Anglicans. The Hicks have opened the separate granny flat within their home to clergy who are seeking beauty, silence, and time with the Lord. This was exactly what I experienced during my time in Ronan. What a joy to take long walks at the foot of the Swan Range Mountains!

Following my time in Montana, I returned to the valley for two weeks of chores around the house that had long been put off. From there I attended the College of Bishops meeting in British Columbia, and then off for nearly a month at the Anglican Leadership Institute (ALI), which was held at the FOCUS Study Center on Martha’s Vineyard.

During my time with ALI, I was honored to be with sixteen other leaders from around the world: Australia, Ireland, India, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The lectures and classes were terrific but the time spent with these others leaders was truly a blessing. To learn of their leadership challenges put in perspective the issues which I find vexing - lawsuits, etc. For example, the week before ALI began, gunmen ambushed Bishop Gabriel of South Sudan in his car. The car was hit seventeen times and, miraculously, only one person was hit and killed. In Northern Kenya, a horrific drought has been ravaging the area, killing livestock and people. In Northern Nigeria, Islamic Terrorists regularly attack and kill Christians, often specifically targeting Anglican Christians. And yet, in the midst of these challenges and countless others, these godly men continue to faithfully lead their dioceses with boldness and grace.

My sabbatical also gave me opportunity to reflect on the Diocese of San Joaquin and my ministry amongst all of you. I count myself immensely blessed to be, by God’s grace, your bishop. I have returned rested and excited about the many challenges ahead.

I very much look forward to our upcoming Diocesan Convention and being able to see so many of the leaders in the Diocese.

I pray you all a very blessed week.