Friday, September 4, 2015

Bishop’s Note: September 3, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Exhortation

Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we come to the one that has come most naturally to me - Exhortation. The word exhortation comes from the Greek word parakaleo (παρακαλέω), which St. Paul also includes as a gift in his letter to the Romans in chapter 12, verse 8. Parakaleo means to: appeal to, urge, exhort, or to encouragesomeone to take a certain action. If we try to motivate someone to be kind to another person, we are exhorting him or her to action.

A clear example of this comes from St. Paul's second letter to his apprentice Timothy, when he exhorts him to: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The one gifted with exhortation encourages people to live godly, loving lives that will be pleasing to the Lord. Equally important though, is that the one gifted with Exhortation also provides ways for people to live into the exhortation.

When I was a high school student, Fr. David Heaney exhorted me to pursue a calling to the priesthood. In doing so, he invited me to meet with him regularly, study the scriptures together, and to make pastoral visits with him. The summer of my Senior year of High School he encouraged me to volunteer at the local hospital as a lay pastoral visitor. There I discovered that I had a gift for being with people in difficult times and encouraging them to trust in the Lord and to work hard on their recovery. I would regularly meet with Fr. David after those visits to debrief and discover what God the Holy Spirit was doing in those visits, both with the patient and with me.

Ultimately, I pray that all of us in the Diocese of San Joaquin will ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of Exhortation, so that we may all live into the Mission of the Diocese:
"To equip, train, support and encourage clergy and lay leaders to bring people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ."  And to that I say AMEN!

I pray you all a blessed week!

Catechism Questions 149-152

149.    What is prayer?
Prayer is turning my heart toward God, to converse with him in worship. (Psalm 122, 123)

150.    What should you seek in prayer?
In prayer I should seek the joy of fellowship with God, who made me for fellowship with him. (1 Chronicles 16:28-30; Psalm 96; John 17; Revelation 22:17)

151.    What is fellowship with God?
Fellowship with God in prayer is relating to him as his children, as we approach the light and glory of his throne. (Revelation 7:9-17)

152.     How can you have fellowship with God?

Through the death of Jesus as both High Priest and sacrifice, and in his Holy Spirit, I have fellowship with God in Word, Sacrament, and prayer. (Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 1:1-4)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bishop’s Note: August 27, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Teaching

Bishop Eric Menees

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  (Colossians 3:16)

Dear Friends in Christ, I am pleased to be back in the diocese and back at my desk following my vacation. Because of my absence we’ve had a break in the Bishop’s Notes for the past two weeks, so I'll pick up where I left off in our study of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Today’s Note will focus on the gift of teaching.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this spiritual gift. St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians quoted above, exhorts the church to teach one another. Interestingly, he doesn’t say, “Once you've gained all wisdom, and passed all sorts of rigorous exams, and been credentialed, then teach.” He says in Romans: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching….” (Romans 12:6-7) In other words, exercise the gifts that you have!

When I graduated seminary and got into parish life, if asked, I would have told you that I do not have the gift of teaching. But, the life of a minister requires teaching and so I would spend hours and hours preparing for bible study or my sermons.  I would worry about every point and everything said. In short, I was very anxious about my teaching and relied solely upon myself. When I shared my anxiety with my spiritual director he challenged me a bit asking, “Eric are you worried that you won’t honor the Lord with your teaching, or are you worried that people won’t think you are very smart?” Sadly, while I wanted to say that it was the former, when I was honest with myself I had to admit the truth of the latter. My anxiety about teaching was that people might not think I’m as smart and prepared as I want them to think I am!  Father Bill gave me great advice: “Eric relax, prepare with prayer, and trust that the Holy Spirit will inspire you and teach through you.” Great advice! Once I stopped worrying about looking foolish I found two things: first, how much I enjoyed teaching and second, how much the Lord taught me by teaching others.

I want to encourage you, my brothers and sisters in the Diocese of San Joaquin, to make a point of being both a student of the faith and of teaching others the faith. Participate in small group bible studies; attend the classes in your congregation; join groups in the community. I promise you, if you seek to do both, you will be both a better student and a better teacher!  

I pray you all every blessing this week!  

Catechism Questions 145 -

145.    What do you know about the resurrected bodies of believers?
I know that they will match, express and serve our redeemed humanity, and be fully renewed in the image of Christ, being fully glorified in him. (2 Peter 1:4)

146.    How does the promise of bodily resurrection affect the way you live today?
Because my body was created good by God and is redeemed by him, I should honor it. I should refrain from any violence, disrespect or sin that would harm, demean or violate either my body or the bodies of others. (Romans 12)

147.    What do you know about the unending life of believers, following judgment day?
I know that it will be a life of joyful fellowship with our triune God and with resurrected believers, as we praise and serve God together in the new heaven and the new earth. (Revelation 21:1-4)

148.    How should you live in light of this promise of unending life?

I should live in joyful expectation of the fullness of my transformation, soul and body, into the likeness of Christ, as a part of the renewal of the whole creation. In the midst of life’s difficulty and suffering, and in the face of hostility and persecution for my faith, I am sustained by this hope and the knowledge of our triune God’s eternal love for me.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bishop’s Note: Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Service

Bishop Eric Menees

"And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!'" (Luke 9:35)

Today, August 6th, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration.  One of those feast days that all too often gets set aside or transferred.  And yet with it we recall a pinnacle of the faith, literally and metaphorically.

Immediately following St. Peter's confession of faith (Luke 9:20 "Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”)

Jesus invited Peter, James & John up the mountain to pray with him. There Jesus was transfigured before them - his clothes and countenance became a dazzling white.  At his  side appeared Moses and Elijah - representing the Law and the prophets along with Jesus' fulfillment of both.

Peter recognizes the importance of the moment but not its significance. “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”— not knowing what he said.” (Luke 9:33)

Scholars are uncertain about the meaning of Peter's statement - some argue that Peter wanted to serve and honor the three and others argue that Peter was telling the Lord, "Let's set up camp because I don't want to go down the mountain." My intuition tells me that it is the later.  Haven't you had that feeling?  You are on retreat or even simply in worship and have the desire to simply remain in the presence of the Lord?

Last week we held the High School Camp at Camp San Joaquin and the Anglican Fourth Day at ECCO and at the end of both the participants said, "I don't want to go home." But home we must go - or more accurately back out to the world.

You see Jesus reveals himself to us in Word and Sacrament, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of worship - whenever - not simply for our enjoyment and edification but for our empowerment to go back out and engage a broken and fallen world with the love of Christ.

Down the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples would go following Jesus to his crucifixion and ultimately to his resurrection!  The disciples would encounter the Risen Jesus and be sent into the world to share the Gospel - the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ!

Today, as we remember Jesus' Transfiguration - his demonstration of who he was and is - fully man and fully God - let us commit, once again, to go out into a world that is lost and alone with the Good News of Jesus Christ leading others up the mount and into the presence of God's only begotten son, Jesus Christ!

Let us pray: O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I pray you all a truly blessed week!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Bishop’s Note: Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Service

Bishop Eric Menees

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)

Jesus shared these words with the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount. Do you find yourself hungry to give to the needy? Do you find yourself hungry to care for others? And yet desire to do so without fanfare or acknowledgement? If so perhaps you have the Spiritual Gift of Service.

It was while I was in college that I first learned that I was blessed to have the gift of Service. A good friend of mine was a member of a sorority. I would visit Marsha and see these young women who seemed in need of care and attention that had no strings attached – no potential romance – no chance to be taken advantage of. And so, with Marsha’s help and encouragement I formed a group of men together to be the “Big Brothers” for the sorority.  We found ourselves helping where we could, having a listening ear and a non-judgmental presence. One Lent I was lead by the Lord to take on as my Lenten Discipline to anonymously write to each of the women sharing something that I’d seen them do, to complement them or otherwise give a “That a Girl” to each.  These notes were sent daily throughout the forty days of Lent.  What a joy to see the girls receive these notes and speculate who was writing them.  To my knowledge no one every guessed correctly.

Closely associated with the gift of Service is the service of hospitality.  I was blessed this past week to be the recipient of just such a gift. I was making my pastoral visit to St. John’s, Petaluma and found myself the guest of parishioners.  I didn’t arrive until 10:00 pm but they were awake and ready to greet me; immediately made me feel comfortable and engaged me in stimulating conversation - nothing showy, nothing flashy just an open door and a warm smile.  This was indeed a gift given in love without expectation of anything in return.

Without the Gift of Service the church of the first century could not have existed.  It was because of courageous and giving people like, Nympha (Col. 4:15), Gaius (Rom 16:23) and Prisca & Aquila (1 Cor. 16:19) who hosted house churches.  Opening their homes and their lives to new Christians knowing that their service was a gift to be received by the Holy Spirit and shared with the Body of Christ and was given freely and without expectation.

Giving without expectation is the hallmark of the Spiritual Gift of Service. Does this describe your calling and joy? If so rejoice because God the Holy Spirit has given you a very special gift to be shared with others… the love of service!  

I pray you all a truly blessed week!