Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 12

Bishop Eric Menees
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal; through 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 is one of those truly beautiful prayers that Archbishop Cranmer included in the Book of Common Prayer but probably dates back to perhaps as far as Pope Gregory and the seventh century and the Gregorian Sacramentary.  This prayer speaks to the heart and the mind and, I might add, raises some eyebrows.
I love the opening line which acknowledges the sovereignty and majesty of God who is the source of all strength and holiness.   The collect petitions God to have mercy upon us during this transitory and often difficult life. 
I've never understood those preachers who preach a "prosperity gospel" - which says "believe in Jesus and all will be well - you'll be wealthy and healthy all will be good."  I've never understood how they could preach that gospel and read Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." 
At the other end of the spectrum we live in a fallen and broken world that knows so much pain and sorrow - turn on the news or check out your computer newsfeed and see how Hamas militants are launching mortars into Israel killing innocent men, women and children then act completely surprised when Israel responds by bombing the back yard where the mortars were launched which also has "collateral damage" meaning that innocent men, women and children are killed.
This prayer asks God to have mercy on us in the midst of this "temporal" life that we may not fall into despair or cynicism or give into the Lie of Satan inviting us to worship the "creation rather than the creator" (Romans 1:25) - which is the very definition of paganism.
What raises the eyebrow is the conclusion of that petition - "Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal;" raises the fear in us that salvation may be lost.
Our salvation was established for us in Christ's sacrifice on the cross and our response to his love through our faith in Him.  St. Paul said it so succinctly in his letter to the Ephesians - "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8) But what happens if we abandon our faith in Christ and place our faith in ourselves or false gods?  What happens if we reject the gift of God?  What happens is hell, literally.  I suspect that little could break God's preverbal heart more than to have his adopted son or daughter reject him for themselves.  Because God is gracious He allows us to love Him and receive His love and He allows us to reject Him and disavow His love.  That rejection can have eternal consequences IF that rejection is not repented of.  Again God is gracious and we have until our last breath. 
That is why we need God's Mercy and Grace that we may keep our eyes on Him always aware of His Grace and Love...and to that I say AMEN!

Note: The Bishop's notes are written for the ADSJ and posted here with his permission for a wider audience. I included his Catechism question because To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism is a seminal document that I believe will help form our identity internally and give other churches an orthodox picture of Anglican Christianity in post Christian cultures. May God richly bless those who wrote it and those who read and inwardly digest it. The Catechism is available from the ACNA website as a PDF, Word or Kindle download. It is also available from Amazon as a leatherbound document.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Has The Church ‘Locally Adapted’ Become A Bridge Too Far?


Fr. Dale Matson

St. Gregory The Great sent the monk Augustine to the British Isles as a missionary in 597. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Gregory was eager but cautious in introducing the Gospel to England and thus he included the leeway allowing Augustine to ‘locally adapt” church customs in England.

“Gregory showed great wisdom and insight in his management of the mission. He and Augustine kept close contact with each other; they worked as a team. Through their correspondences, he exhorted Augustine to contextualize Catholic rituals, making the faith as relevant as possible to the nation of Angli. In this, he showed that he cared more for the heart of the religion than for its strict ritual, and removed as many barriers from the Gospel as he could.” http://cms.intervarsity.org/mx/item/4333/download/ (James Choung)

The concept of local adaption is an important component in Anglican DNA and was used in the Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888) as one of the distinguishing characteristics of Anglicanism.

"As inherent parts of this sacred deposit, and therefore as essential to the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom, we account the following, to wit:

*1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.

2. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.

3. The two Sacraments,--Baptism and the Supper of the Lord,--ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.

4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church."

*Note this is included in the new ACNA Catechism on Page 11.

Perhaps each Archbishop of Canterbury has seen himself as the steward of local adaptation. Once King Henry the Eighth declared the church in England to be the Church of England. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer helped locally adapt the structure and worship of the Church of England with his Book of Common Prayer (1549) in the vernacular in response to the king as the head of the church.
 
Archbishop Justin Welby said that the measure adopted Monday would mark “…the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases, disagreeing. The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds.”

Archbishop Welby, an advocate for female bishops inserted his customary boilerplate jargon into his response to the approval of women bishops in the Church of England. Mutual flourishing along with his other favorite “Human Flourishing” is the new gospel of the Archbishop. http://sanjoaquinsoundings.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-error-of-human-flourishing-as.html

There is no such thing as “good disagreement” which if possible, is even more of an oxymoron than “Jumbo Shrimp”. Notice how he also states, “The challenge will be for the church to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds” as if those who disagree on theological grounds were no longer a part of the church.

This is not really breaking new ground. Archbishop George Carey supported the ordination of women and helped shepherd in the first women priests in the Church of England. The women were ordained during his tenure in 1992.

Here is an excerpt from an immediate reaction to the ordination of women bishops from the Russian Orthodox Church. “The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.” Notice the fact that we are no longer recognized as being in Apostolic succession which pretty much makes the locally adapted part a moot point.


My question would be, “When is local adaptation simply acquiescence to contemporary culture?” The context for the church is the Kingdom of God and the spreading of the Gospel.  Local adaptation has transcended and usurped Scripture, Tradition and the church universal. The bell cannot be un-rung for the Church of England.  

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Sixth Sunday in Pentecost - Proper 11

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion, we beseech thee, upon our infirmities, and those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, mercifully give us for the worthiness of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

Last week I said that God hears and answers every prayer that we offer to Him. This week's collect first acknowledges God's omniscience, as He is the fountain of all wisdom, and that he knows what we need long before we even ask. One might be tempted with this acknowledgement to be a fatalist, to simply say: “God is in charge, why would I bother Him with my petty prayers and concerns?” The answer to that is simple: God wants us to communicate with Him, to acknowledge our dependence upon Him, and to declare our trust in Him. Look at the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive give those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Luke 11:2-4) Certainly Jesus is aware that God knows everything that there ever was or is to know, and yet Jesus teaches us to Praise God, acknowledge His sovereignty, ask for the needs of the community and our personal needs, and seek His guidance.

This week's collect also acknowledges God's sovereignty and begs His compassion and mercy upon our infirmity;  our blindness; our ignorance; not because we merit His compassion, but because of Jesus' merit and love. And to that I say, AMEN.

Catechetical Question #3

3. How does sin affect you?
Sin alienates me from God, my neighbor, Gods good creation, and myself. I am hopeless, guilty, lost, helpless, and walking in the way of death.

Note: The Bishop's notes are written for the ADSJ and posted here with his permission for a wider audience. I included his Catechism question because To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism is a seminal document that I believe will help form our identity internally and give other churches an orthodox picture of Anglican Christianity in post Christian cultures. May God richly bless those who wrote it and those who read and inwardly digest it. The Catechism is available from the ACNA website as a PDF, Word or Kindle download. It is also available from Amazon as a leatherbound document.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Pentecost - Proper 10

Bishop Eric Menees

“O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee, and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

In Part A of this week's collect, we ask the Lord: "...mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people…." Did you know that God hears and answers every prayer? The range of answers is generally the same. YES. NO. And NOT YET. Of course, when the answer is YES we are thrilled. When the answer is NO or NOT YET, we are less than happy. However, the Lord's answer to our prayers is ALWAYS the correct answer. Our responsibility is to ask the Lord, receive the answer and then to obey the answer of the Lord.

Part B of this week’s plea to the Lord is: "...who call upon thee, and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do…." The answer to this request will most assuredly be YES.  If we ask the Lord to show us how we should be following Him; how we should be serving Him; how we should be loving others; the answer will be YES. The question will be: are we open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? The ways He answers are numerous. For me, I often go to sleep asking the Lord for guidance, and I wake up in the morning just knowing what it is I'm supposed to do. This is most especially true with my preaching: “Lord what would you have me say this Sunday,” is often my prayer on Thursday night going to bed - I generally write my sermon on Friday. Now, this prayer also comes after having read the scriptures on Monday and having begun my study of the word - so things are already percolating in my spirit - but it is the Lord's prompting that directs my preaching.

If we are seeking to do God's will in our lives, then we'll be reading His Word, speaking with godly brothers and sisters, examining our dreams, and quietly listening to The Lord. The problem is that, too often, we come to Him out of stress and anxiety because we find out backs against the wall. But I promise you, if you pray for His guidance, God will offer it.

Part C is the most important part of the prayer, in my opinion: "...and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same…." This is the part of the prayer that we often leave out. We ask God for guidance, but then fail to ask Him for the grace and power to fulfill what He guides us to do.

I pray that this week's collect will open you up to the prompting of the Spirit along with the power and grace to fulfill God's desires for your life.

I pray you all a blessed week!

Bishop Menees

Catechetical  Question #2

2. What is the human condition?

The universal human condition is that, though made for fellowship with our Creator, we have been cut off from him by self-centered rebellion against him, leading to guilt, shame, and fear of death and judgment. This is the state of sin.

Note: The Bishop's notes are written for the ADSJ and posted here with his permission for a wider audience. I included his Catechism question because To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism is a seminal document that I believe will help form our identity internally and give other churches an orthodox picture of Anglican Christianity in post Christian cultures. May God richly bless those who wrote it and those who read and inwardly digest it. The Catechism is available from the ACNA website as a PDF, Word or Kindle download. It is also available from Amazon as a leatherbound document.