Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Week of Pentecost 19 - Proper 24

Bishop Eric Menees

Almighty and everlasting God, who in Christ hast revealed thy glory among the nations: Preserve the works of thy mercy, that thy Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of thy Name; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This week's collect begins by declaring Christ's Glory among the nations! How does that happen? It happens when the Church takes her rightful place among the people of all nations. How powerful it is to witness the people of God, as the Church of God, acting like the adopted children of God in the four corners of the earth.

I think of my experiences at Santa Maria Magdalena in Juliaca, Peru. Juliaca is a town that sits at 12,500 feet above sea level in the Andes. Bishop Godfrey, the Anglican Bishop of Peru, had a vision for a church on the mountaintop and sent different missionaries to meet with and love the people of Juliaca. When I arrived, a priest and deacon were stationed there - both were single and willing to live at poverty level in a place with few creature comforts. Fr. Ruben & Dcn. Luis went out into the community daily to talk with people, pray with them, to share food, clothing, and medicine with them, and, most importantly, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them. Slowly but surely the church grew, and the two of them began to be accompanied by more and more laypeople who were empowered to love and serve the Lord. The impact this little church had was, and is, far beyond the number of people or the size of their budget.

The story of Santa Magdalena has been, and will continue to be, retold hundreds of thousands of times, if not millions of times, around the world. Wherever the Church faithfully proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ and Christians act in love and charity, the Glory of Christ is made evident.

This Lord's Day, as we gather in our churches, homes, and storefronts to worship, I pray that we will seek God's grace and strength to go far and wide in order to make the Name of Jesus known by our words and deeds.

Catechism Questions 28 - 30

28.    What is in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament contains the record of God’s creation of all things, mankind’s original disobedience, God's calling of Israel to be his people, God’s law, God’s wisdom, God’s saving deeds, and the teaching of God’s prophets. The Old Testament points to Christ, revealing God's intention to redeem and reconcile the world through Christ.

29.    What is in the New Testament?

The New Testament contains the record of Jesus Christ's birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, the Church's early ministry, the teaching of the Apostles, and the revelation of Christ’s coming eternal Kingdom.

30.    How are the Old and New Testaments related to each other?

The Old Testament is to be read in the light of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, and the New Testament is to be read in light of God's revelation to Israel. As Saint Augustine says, “the New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.” (Hebrews 8:1-7; Augustine, Questions in the Heptateuch 2.73)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fr. Benedict Groeschel O.F.M. RIP

 Fr. Dale Matson

“The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a writer and preacher who became one of the country's best-known Catholic priests, long operating out of a tiny bedroom in Larchmont, died Friday at the age of 81 after a long illness.”

My mentor gave me a copy of Fr. Groeschel’s book “Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development” (1993) in 1994. Dr. Bob Wilson wrote, “To be read with faith, hope and love. Pax et Bonum.” Now both Bob and Father Groeschel have both passed into the greater life.

Fr. Groeschel and I have two things in common. We are both priests and psychologists. I appreciate his book and believe it is one of my most referred to texts on my bookshelf. I used it for a number of classes I taught on “Wellness” before retirement at Fresno Pacific University. His insights into the “doctrine of the three ways” and the “four voices of God” are useful and can be applied to the life of anyone caring to listen.

As someone who taught developmental psychology, I believe this is one of the best books I have read dealing with spiritual development. It is modeled after the lives of the saints of the church. It is a spiritual development parallel to Maslow’s secular developmental characteristics of fully actualized individuals in that Maslow also looked at specific positive examples like Abraham Lincoln.

While some of his statements have been criticized, it is difficult to imagine someone with so high profile not making mistakes over such a long span in the national spotlight. His writings were a blessing to me, my students and to the thousands who watched him on TV over the span of more than 20 years.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for Pentecost 18 - Proper 23

Bishop Eric Menees

“Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

One of the things I often get asked is whether or not I have any regrets about leaving San Diego - with perfect weather and no lawsuits directly affecting me - for Fresno and, well, imperfect weather and lawsuits? The answer is, both yes and no. I miss the weather, I will not lie; however I do not regret for a second coming to the Diocese of San Joaquin, even with less than desirable weather and the uncertainties of an apparently fickle legal system. Why? Because of God's Grace.

Grace is that unwarranted and unmerited love of God that fills in the gaps and supports us especially in the most difficult of days. In this week's collect, Archbishop Cranmer acknowledges the continual need we, as humans, have for God's Grace to go before and behind us.  

This coming Sunday I will have the honor of ordaining Dcn. Ryan Bradley to the Sacred Order of Priests. At the service, one of the hymns that Dcn. Bradley has chosen is St. Patrick's Breastplate, which speaks of this type of Grace. St. Patrick, the presumed author of the hymn, wrote about the need to have Christ all around us to guide, support, and lead us.  As you read these words - a portion of the hymn - allow them to flow across your lips as a prayer:

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of
all that love me,
Christ in mouth of
friend and stranger.

I would be willing to bet that Archbishop Cranmer was familiar with some version of this hymn, and in any case was familiar with this theology: We bind ourselves to Christ, but it is only by Christ's all encompassing love and support that we can do any ministry at all. And to that I say, Amen!

I pray you all a very blessed week!
Bishop Menees

Catechism Questions: 25-27

25.    What is the Apostles’ Creed?
     The Apostles’ Creed says:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and 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.
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. Amen.        
26.    What is Holy Scripture?
Holy Scripture is “God's Word written” (Articles of Religion, 20), given by the Holy Spirit through prophets and apostles as the revelation of God and his acts in human history, and is therefore the Church's final authority in all matters of faith and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16)

27.    What books are contained in Holy Scripture?

The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament form the whole of Holy Scripture, which is also called the Bible and the canon. (Articles of Religion, 6)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thank You ++Justin Welby

Fr. Dale Matson

In our liturgy yesterday we included the Archbishop of Canterbury in our “Prayers of the people” just as we have done for decades. As we did this, a recent article came to mind where ++Justin Welby stated that the ACNA is not in the Anglican Communion.

“The ACNA is a “fellow member of the church of Christ in the world,” but added the “ACNA is a separate church. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.” I am not certain any longer what the process would be for ACNA to become a member of the Anglican Communion since the instruments of unity no longer seems to be functioning. A bishop can no longer be not invited to the Lambeth Conference if Lambeth is no longer scheduled to occur. I don't question the Archbishop’s right to make the statement and his accuracy. He has provided candor and clarity. This was something lacking in his predecessor.

When ACNA was first formed in June of 2009, I believe most of us hoped that we would be recognized by Canterbury as being a member province of the Anglican Communion. The fact that the primates that represented the majority of the Anglican Communion already recognized the ACNA was comforting and reassuring.

Much has happened since that time including the decisions made at the TEC General Convention of 2012. I began to wonder if we really wanted to become a part of Canterbury. This was now a Canterbury that condoned provinces where the leadership advocated unscriptural sexual relationships, a different missiology and a diminished Christology. In fact the leadership of these provinces were advocating a different gospel. I saw the Church of England apparently heading in the same direction partly because it had additional pressure to conform to societal pressure as the Established Church.

As I reread the final statement from GAFCON 2008 it included the following: “While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship”.

When the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) was formed, it seems to me now that it became a reconstituted form of Anglicanism. The ACNA had not been formed yet but is now a member of the FCA. We are the first fruits of the realignment called the FCA.  So it seems to me that some FCA members have a dual citizenship (Canterbury and FCA) and some FCA members are not dual citizens, for example the ACNA.

This brings me back to this past Sunday and our “Prayers of the people”. As I listened to our prayers of the people, which included ++Justin Welby as ABC, I thought “Why are we including someone who does not see us as part of the Anglican Communion?” Since GAFCON formed the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in 2008 we have been a part of that. I am not saying we shouldn’t pray for ++Justin Welby but should we be including him as a part of our “chain of command” so to speak? In terms of prayers, shouldn't we be praying for the head of FCA Rev Eliud Wabukala.

The ACNA parishioners are members of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Our clergy orders are valid. ++Justin Welby’s statement confirms that we are formally separate from Canterbury Anglicanism (other than the historical roots). This is reconciliation for me. Being a member of FCA is a great place to be and it represents my understanding of orthodox Anglicanism. ++Justin Welby thank you for the clarification.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the week of Pentecost 17 - Proper 22

 Bishop Eric Menees
“Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than either we desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This week's collect calls to mind the story from the Gospel of Mark.  A father brings his son to Jesus. The son has suffered for some time from demons who would torment and harm him. The father said to Jesus, “‘But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.And Jesus said to him, If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, I believe; help my unbelief! (Mark 9:22-24)

The father approached Jesus seeking compassion on his son, only to discover that Jesus had already desired to heal him. The father exclaims, "I believe; help my unbelief!" When we pray this collect this week, we proclaim the reality that God is more ready to hear than we are to pray. How often have we said, "I don't want to bother God with something so small and insignificant," when in reality, the Lord wants to hear our prayers; He wants to receive our petitions? Perhaps our fear is that God is like us - that He gets tired and short tempered and doesn't want to be bothered. But that is NOT the character of God. God's character is not only ready to hear, but also ready to respond to our need.

Additionally, it is not only God's character to respond to our physical needs - food & clothing - but our spiritual and emotional needs as well. "...pour upon us the abundance of thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid…." The need for forgiveness is a deep need that we are often afraid of.  And yet the Lord's desire is to forgive us, in order to restore our relationship with Him.  Not that He needs reconciliation with us, but that we need reconciliation with Him.

Thanks be to God that we are loved beyond our wildest imagination, at our deepest core!  And to that I say...AMEN.
Confirmation Questions 22 - 24

22.     Which Creeds does the Church acknowledge?
The Church acknowledges the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. (Articles of Religion, 8)

23.    Why do you acknowledge these Creeds?
I acknowledge these Creeds with the Church because they are grounded in Holy Scripture and are faithful expressions of its teaching. (1 Corinthians 15:3-11; Philippians 2:6-11)

24.    Why should you know these Creeds?

I should know these Creeds because they state the essential beliefs of the Christian faith.

Monday, September 29, 2014

St. Francis And John Muir

Fr. Dale Matson

St. Francis Reclining Statue In Wooded Area Above Assisi

I will readily admit that I am not an expert on either John Muir or St. Francis. Because of my experiences in the Sierras, I am drawn to the writing of John Muir and because of my vocation; I am interested in St. Francis. Muir was essentially self-taught and did not graduate from college. St. Francis never aspired to the priesthood and remained a deacon until his early death at age 45. After a recent visit to Italy, I was struck by the common ground between these extraordinary men. John Muir could just as easily have written an excerpt from The Canticle Of Brother Sun.

“Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars Formed by you so bright precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Wind and the airy skies, so cloudy and serene; For every weather, be praised, for it is life-giving.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water So necessary yet so humble, precious and chaste.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire, Who lights up the night, He is beautiful and carefree, robust and fierce.

Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, Mother Earth, who nourishes and watches us while bringing forth abundant fruits with colored flowers and herbs.”

St. Francis could have written an excerpt from John Muir’s My First Summer In the Sierra.
“Here I could stay tethered forever with just bread and water, nor would I be lonely; loved friends and neighbors, as love for everything increased, would seem all the nearer however the many miles and mountains between us.”

“It would be delightful to be storm bound beneath one of these noble, hospitable, inviting trees, Its broad sheltering arms bent down like a tent, incense rising from the fire made from its dry fallen branches, and a hearty wind chanting overhead.”

Both of these men led reform movements aimed at restoring human souls and gaining the ear and respect of men over them. Pope Innocent III supported the mission of St. Francis and Theodore Roosevelt supported John Muir’s efforts.  Both were at home in the woods communing with nature. While some would say that Muir was spiritual not religious, I would note that much of the language used by Muir alluded to the unseen hands that created the beauty around him. Muir is most closely associated with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in general and Yosemite in particular.

Townsley Lake In Yosemite

St. Francis led a simple life of poverty but not one of severe asceticism. John Muir’s wilderness travels were outfitted with the bare necessities. Both men rejected the values of their fathers. They were primarily wandering evangelists wanting to reclaim what had been lost.

It is somewhat sad that a humble man like St. Francis who embraced poverty and resisted life in a monastery would be enshrined in an enormous basilica covered with Frescos. It is also sad that John Muir’s followers in the Sierra Club have forgotten their anthem, “Faithful Defender Of The People’s Playgrounds.” Do the people still matter?