Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bishop's Note: The Collect for Passion Sunday also known as Palm Sunday


 Bishop Eric Menees

This weeks collect opens up Holy Week for us in a powerful way.  Passion Sunday is full of just that - passion and suffering - in particular the suffering of Jesus.  I remember as a young man in high school, our youth group would often put the passion narrative into a play setting in which we would dramatically read the parts...I know, nothing new... but I've got to say that as I read the part of the narrator, or the guards, or Jesus the words came alive for me.  In preparation, the youth group would spend time studying the passion narrative in the gospels, and on more than one occasion I found myself weeping.  That seems to me an appropriate response when we not only think about Jesus’ suffering, but also about whom he suffered for - namely me and you!

Almighty and everliving God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

As we enter into Holy Week, this Collect asks God, who sent His son to suffer for us, to help us become more like him, and that He will give us patience to stay the course with Jesus as we are invited into the Living Word.

Thanks be to God for our liturgies over Holy Week.  If we will allow ourselves to be, we are invited to be with Jesus as he enters into Jerusalem and shout "Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord."  We are invited to be with Jesus at the Last Supper and hear those words as if spoken for the first time: "Take, eat, this is my body given for you!"  We are invited to have Jesus wash our feet and be reminded that the greatest among us are servants.  We are invited to wait with Jesus through the night as he prays.  We are invited to sit at the foot of the cross and hear those amazing words "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."  And finally, we are invited to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday.

To be truly present in these liturgies; to meditate upon the sacrificial love of God for us; to know that our sins - not only the sins of those in the past, but mine and yours as well - are what nailed Jesus to the Cross where he bore the wrath of God for us...well, to do all that we desperately need God's help.  So we pray: "Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection..." And to that I say...AMEN

I pray you all a very blessed Holy Week!

Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for Lent Five


 Bishop Eric Menees

On this, the last Sunday in Lent, the collect is a beautiful prayer that asks God to work in us to transform our character. 


O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


First, this collect acknowledges that we really have no power within ourselves, but that God, who is "Almighty," has the ability to "order" our "unruly wills and affections." Isn't it amazing that when we try by the power of our own might to change habits and character flaws, we fall short? Well, let me speak for myself: I find it impossible to change my habits and character flaws! However, I am not the same man today as I was three, or ten, or twenty years ago, because of the power of the Holy Spirit working within me. While not completely ordered, to be sure, God is transforming my will and affections, and I thank him for that!


Secondly, this collect asks God to change us to love what he commands and desire what he promises. When we can align our hearts and minds to that of God, we find ourselves truly blessed. King David speaks of this often in the psalms... 


“Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.”

(Psalm 1:1-2)        


I often experience the blessing that David speaks of because I truly desire to do God's will. The issue for me isn't in loving his commands or desiring his promises. Rather, it is in acting on that love and desire. The words of St. Paul in his epistle to the Church in Rome ring so true for me and, I suspect, for most of you as well: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) This collect asks God, in his mercy, not only to help us love and desire these things but to do them!


Lastly, this collect recognizes that we need God to work this way in our lives if we are going to be able to adapt and excel in a dynamic world that is constantly changing. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, watching the world change at a pace that is much faster than our own. But, by God's grace, we are able to “roll with the punches.” I think the key is to keep our eyes on God -  the one who is unchangeable, all powerful, all knowing, and all loving! And to that I say Amen!

Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent


Bishop Eric Menees

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect begins with the acknowledgement that God is our "Gracious Father." He is the very essence of fatherhood - we only know a good father or a wanting father due to the fact that we have a good and gracious Father in heaven.  

For many in other religions, this is a very offensive concept - that God could be referred to as our Father. Within Orthodox Judaism it is still considered near blasphemy to pronounce the name of God - God is known through His word and through His creation, but is not a personable being. Within Islam, God or Allah is impersonal and unknowable. Equally within eastern religions, God is a disembodied force that one seeks to align with but cannot be known nor know you.

For Christians the title of Father implies exactly what it means - that God desires both to be known and to know us as His adopted sons and daughters. How amazing it is to know that the God of the Universe - the God who spoke the stars and planets into existence - also chose to adopt us as His children! "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

As a human father desires the very best for his children, so too our Heavenly Father desires the very best for us, His adopted children. Jesus speaks directly to this when he taught the disciples: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

Even beyond our Heavenly Father’s desire to provide for us, He desires to be so deeply known to us that we abide in Him and He in us. Listen to this collect: "Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him…."  God sent his son to be the Bread of Life: “Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35) These images of bread and water are powerful ones - they are the very stuff of life. Jesus taught us to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread…," (Luke 11:3) - give us Jesus daily, that we may live, for nothing can satisfy or delight as much as the Bread of Life. 

How awesome it is for us, when we come to the altar on the Lord's day - or any day - and kneel down, make the sign of the cross, and place our hands out to receive the Bread of Life - the body of Christ. How thrilling it is to know, in the depth of our being, that Christ is present in some mystical way in that bread, and that when receiving Him we are being obedient to His command: "Take, eat, this is my body given for you…," (Matthew 26:26) and that His desire is to be with us.

As a priest and bishop, it remains my greatest honor to celebrate Holy Eucharist - to look into the  eyes of a believer and, while placing the consecrated bread into their hands or upon their tongue, say, "The body of Christ, the bread of Heaven" or "The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life." 

I pray that, as we approach the depth of Lent and the height of Easter, we will always desire: "Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him…."  And to that I say... AMEN!


Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Facing the Canon with Archbishop Justin Welby



I thought I would share this interview with those who are interested. It is a good opportunity to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. He has been Archbishop for more than a year now and this interview is a less formal opportunity to hear him speak and get a sense of the man we pray for in our prayers of the people.

My own sense is that he is personable, humorous and humble. There is the obvious British deportment. Canon J. Johns asks some good questions but for the most part avoids the elephant in the Anglican living room which is the break in fellowship within the Worldwide Anglican Communion. The majority of questions focus on Archbishop Justin's experience in the Church of England.

++Welby sees himself as a specialist in reconciliation but there is even disagreement among Anglicans about what constitutes reconciliation. ++Welby defines reconciliation as "Good disagreement." That may be a good business model of reconciliation but that is not what the church means. Reconciliation in the church is preceded by repentance.

He is every inch an Evangelical Anglican Christian. He argues that we are 1. To worship Christ and 2. Spread the Gospel.

Fr. Dale Matson 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent

Bishop Eric Menees

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

On Lent One, Fr. Tony Faint at St. Timothy's, Bishop, began his sermon by quoting step one of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: "We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable." Fr. Faint's point was that we must admit that, without the power of the Holy Spirit, we are powerless over sin in our lives.

The collect for the Third Sunday of Lent makes the same point - that we have no power within ourselves to help ourselves overcome sin in our lives. Of course, this is not a new thought - it dates back to the first century, with St. Paul admitting to God, himself, and the people of the Church in Rome: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Romans 7:15) Admitting that we have no power to help ourselves is absolutely necessary for our salvation. When we live with the illusion that we have the power to help ourselves, then we never need God! So the scriptures teach us that we have no power to help ourselves, and therefore we need to turn to God.

The service of Reconciliation begins with this very admittance:

Penitent

Bless me, for I have sinned.

The Priest says

The Lord be in your heart and upon your lips that you may truly and humbly confess your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Penitent

I confess to Almighty God, to his Church, and to you, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed, in things done and left undone; especially ______." (BCP pg. 447)

Precisely because we are powerless to help ourselves, we must seek Him who is all powerful - The Lord God Almighty - for our protection and for our forgiveness. Thanks be to God, we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations by Jesus Christ, who willingly suffered and died that the veil may be torn in two and the chasm between God and man may be bridged.

And so we pray to Him for protection - protection from the enemy and the father of all lies, and for protection against our own weakness to see through those lies; lies like, “You don't need God,” or “God doesn't make junk, so you are perfect just the way you are."


My prayer for you and for me this Third Sunday in Lent is that we will not rely upon ourselves, but upon Jesus Christ - and Him alone - for our salvation, forgiveness, and protection. And to that I say... AMEN


Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+