Saturday, December 3, 2016

Repentance And The Man In The Mirror

Advent Two Year A 2016

Fr. Dale Matson

This Sunday is the second Sunday in Advent. Today the Second Advent candle called the “candle of the way” is lit and represents Christ as the light of the world and the way out of sin and darkness. Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent and the first Sunday in the Church year A.

The season is a time of preparation for the Nativity of Christ and serves as a dual reminder of the original waiting by the Hebrews for the birth of the Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they anticipate the second coming of Jesus the Christ.

In our collect today we say that the prophets were sent to preach repentance and prepare the way of our salvation. There is a lot said about salvation in the church today but very little about repentance. People no longer seem to be ashamed or take responsibility for their actions. People no longer admit that they lied; they say they were taken out of context.

Where did this all begin? It began with the Fall of Adam and Eve. When they wanted to decide for themselves what was right. They disobeyed God and became estranged from God. They no longer knew themselves as God knew them. They were self-conscious. Because they were self conscious, they realized that they were naked. This was the birth of the self-focused self seeking Ego estranged from God.

From a developmental perspective, a child becomes self-conscious about the age of 18 months. Using the rouge test where a bit of rouge is put on the child’s nose and the child looks in the mirror. The child with self-awareness will touch his or her nose as he or she looks in the mirror realizing that he or she is that person is in the mirror looking back. Before this they do not realize that the person in the mirror is in fact them. The ego is both a blessing and a curse however. It is the ego that is so resistant to saying “I’m sorry”. It is the ego that is so often seeking self-justification.

Last week Sharon and I were on a walk with our grandsons and one of our Airedales. She was pushing Beau in a stroller and his older brother Miles was sitting on the front edge of the stroller while I walked Duke. At one point, Miles threw himself back and the back of his head (accidently/on purpose) struck Beau In the face making him cry. Sharon told Miles to tell his brother (even though he had accidently hurt his brother) to tell Beau he was sorry he hurt him. Miles refused so I said that he would have to walk until he said he was sorry. He was quite upset and said, “I don’t want to walk” several times as we headed for home. I said, “Just say you are sorry and you can ride again.” He said, “No and I don’t want to walk.” He walked all the way complaining that he wanted to ride even as we entered the garage. It is so hard to own our behavior; to say you are sorry; to repent even for a 3-year-old ego.

People are no longer drug addicts. They are victims who have become addicted to prescription medication. We no longer even have criminals. We have medicalized misbehavior and now we call criminal conduct “Behavior Disorders. In other words, our behavior is seen as “contingency based”. We are simply the product of our environment. We learn to do unacceptable things in response to our environment. We say that it is not our fault. In modern parlance, we refuse to “Own” our misdeeds.

We hear an example of this from the song “Officer Krupke” from the musical “West Side Story”. “Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, You gotta understand, It's just our bringin' up-ke that gets us out of hand. Our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks, Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks! Dear kindly Judge, your Honor, My parents treat me rough. With all their marijuana, they won't give me a puff. They didn't wanna have me, But somehow I was had. Leapin' lizards! That's why I'm so bad!”

It seems like it is never “MY Fault”. From the beginning, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.

Today even alcoholism is considered a medical problem although step six in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to alcoholism as a “defect of character”. In the original 12 steps of AA God is mentioned 4 times and God is referred to as Him 4 times. More recently The AA model has been used for other addictions like narcotics, gambling and overeating. In fact, the AA treatment model is for what is essentially a self-centered or egocentric problem. It is really a conversion experience. The 12 steps of AA are a form of repentance and owning one’s self-destructive nature.

In Michael Jackson’s song “Man In The Mirror” we hear the following: I’m starting with the man in the mirror I’m asking him to change his ways And no message could have been any clearer If you wanna make the world a better place. Take a look at yourself, and then make a change” And he is correct. Changing the world starts with allowing God to change you first.

We hear the following from portions of our Gospel reading today.
Matthew 3:1-12

“In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’" And “ "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” 

What does John the Baptist mean when he states, “I baptize you with water for repentance.”? He (Christ) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”. Are we to understand that there are two baptisms? Didn’t St. Paul say in Ephesians (4:5) “One Lord one faith, one Baptism”? 

I believe that there is only one Baptism but as Martin Luther once stated. “We should celebrate our baptism daily, drowning the old man that the new man would come forth.” The more we submit our lives to Christ, the more he empowers us with his spirit and becomes the Lord of our lives not just our savior. Christ’s Lordship does bring fire upon us and he requires us to do things that we could avoid in the past. We must confront those aspects of ourselves that resist His Lordship. Those things should be purged away by the refiner’s fire. We are also challenged by circumstances in our lives that tempt us to turn away from our Lord. Satan attempts to destroy our witness by attempting to discredit our reputation. Remember what it says in Revelation, “…. and they defeated him (Satan) by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” (Revelation Chapter 12

In Oscar Wilde’s novel “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” The handsome but narcissistic and hedonistic Dorian has his portrait painted in full length. He realizes that his beauty will fade over time and makes a deal with the Devil (Lord Henry) for the portrait of him to fade while he remains forever young. This allows him to pursue a shallow and sensuous life where those around him die unfortunate deaths. As time goes on his portrait becomes more and more hideous while Dorian remains youthful looking. Years later, Dorian allows Basil the artist to see the portrait he painted that has now become so hideous that he can only recognize his portrait he painted by his signature on the painting. He pleads with Dorian to pray for his salvation but to no avail. Dorian realizes that the painting is his true reflection of what he has become. The painting is the witness of his conscience. He then stabbed the artist Basil to death. Later Dorian decided to destroy the painting with the same knife. Servants hear Dorian cry from his locked room and discover the corpse of a withered old man who can only be identified by the rings on his fingers. His portrait is restored to the young and handsome Dorian. Even though Dorian remained beautiful for so long, those around him suffered horrible mishaps because Dorian had become the property of the devil. For Dorian, his portrait truly reflected who he was becoming. His portrait was his mirror.

St. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (NLT) Paul is saying here that we will again know who we are as God sees us. This is like Adam and Eve before the Fall of humans.

This baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire is both the power of God and the refining fire of God. We must be empowered but we must also be an Holy People. At the conclusion of Paul’s Ministry, before his death, Paul said that he had run the good race. He meant by this that He did not dishonor His Lord by conduct that would discredit the Gospel message that was entrusted to him. This baptism of Christ that we have been baptized with empowers us to witness to others; it allows us to understand scripture and gives us a desire to worship together in his body the church. This baptism of Christ provides both the fruit and the gifts of the spirit. It must not be forgotten however that it is also a baptism of ongoing repentance. It is a baptism of fire. To be a holy people we must realize that Christ who is our righteousness imparts our holiness. We fall short of being his holy priesthood every day and must confess that we cannot of ourselves even keep the basic two commandments of our Lord. We must confess that we have broken the two great commandments that sum all of the commandments. In Right One we say, “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee by thought word and deed, by what we have done, and what we have left undone. We have not loved thee with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.” (BCP p. 331)

This is both repentance and confession. Let us not look at the sin of our neighbor and look self-righteously to our self. May we repent of our sins, simply seek personal holiness and run the good race that our Lord and Savior has called us to run. May we not be a stumbling block in the lives of those who do not know Christ and may we never discredit the gospel message through scandalous lives ourselves. Take a look at yourself and then make a change Amen.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bishop’s Note: December 1, 2016 – Advent

 Bishop Eric Menees

A blessed Advent to you all! If ever there were a time when we Anglican Christians seem out of step with the world, it is the season of Advent. While the world around us is centered on consumerism and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, we are hearing about the end of the world and a call to repentance.

Advent is the recognition of Christ’s original Incarnation and preparation for his 2nd Coming. This past week I came across this writing from St. Cyril of Jerusalem who stated it much more eloquently that I can.

The Twofold Coming of Christ

We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.

In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.

At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.

We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgement he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.

His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity.

The prophet Malachi speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming.

Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.

These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Saviour has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386)

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

V. Of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

St Anthony Retreat Center Part II

The Grounds At St. Anthony Retreat Center 
Fr. Dale Matson
I was especially impressed with the beautiful grounds at The St. Anthony Retreat Center in Three Rivers CA. and took photos of some of the beautiful sights. I think one highlight that stands out is both the statuary and stations of the cross. However the landscaping and views of the foothills are also outstanding. The Grotto of St. Mary was also beautiful.

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

Anglican Diocese Of San Joaquin Fall 2016 Clergy Retreat

Anglican Diocese Of San Joaquin

Fall 2016 Clergy Retreat Part I
Fr. Dale Matson
The theme of our retreat was “Following Jesus In The Wilderness: Reflections On Mark 1:12-13”.
Our retreat leader was The Right Rev. David Hicks who has his doctorate in hermeneutics from Westminster Seminary. He is the Bishop of the Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (ACNA) and the president of the Reformed Episcopal Seminary. He is currently the chair of the ACNA task force on Holy Orders.
This was our first clergy retreat at St. Anthony Retreat Center in Three Rivers CA. The setting was in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills adjacent to the southern entrance to Sequoia Park.
Our retreat began on Monday afternoon with check in and registration. We gathered for conversation before dinner at 6pm. Our first Session led by Bishop Hicks followed and ended with Compline.
Tuesday began with Morning Prayer followed by breakfast and two additional sessions before Noon Day Prayers and lunch. We had an afternoon break with the Bishops Hicks and Eric Menees available for clergy or an opportunity for personal time Fr. Richard Menees and I chose to drive into Sequoia Park and up the “General’s Highway” to the Giant Sequoias for photographs. The fresh snow was lovely.
We reconvened for Evening Prayer, Dinner, Session 4 and Compline. Wednesday began again with Morning Prayer, Breakfast, Cleanup, Eucharist Service and Lunch. Before each of the Daily Offices we also had an opportunity to sing together.
Many of the clergy had left or were about to leave their property to TEC. I believe Bishop Eric was a good shepherd to his clergy by bringing Bishop Hicks to talk about this as a wilderness experience. In this time of transition we were offered comfort and hope through Scriptural examples of the Exodus of Moses and his people into the wilderness and the temptations of Jesus after being driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. This was a strengthening and refreshing experience for us and provided us with perspective in a time of difficult transition. Bishop Hicks offered the opportunity for clergy to say what was on their hearts and minds as he spoke to us.
I was personally blessed and had an opportunity to reacquaint myself with brothers and sisters in Christ. The new location was a welcome and fitting consolation for our loss of ECCO and the food was superb. Thanks to Bishop Menees, Bishop Hicks, to all the staff at the St. Anthony Retreat Center and Corey from the Bishop’s office for his work. The photos I took that follow give another portrait of our experience. Part II will consist of photos from the lovely grounds.
In His Service

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

 Bishop Menees
 Bishop Hicks

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bishop’s Note: November 24, 2016 – Thanksgiving

Bishop Eric Menees

Good Morning, and a very Happy Thanksgiving to you all! This is that day in American Culture where we are infamous for waking up, turning on the TV to watch the Macy's Day Parade, and then, when the Turkey's ready, stuffing ourselves to overflowing. Then, in a stupor fueled by tryptophan, we plop ourselves in front of the TV again to watch the football games. But is that what Thanksgiving Day is really about? No, of course not.

Well then, is it about the Pilgrims and Indians, and those school plays that we used to do until the budget cuts eliminated things like that? I seem to recall being an Indian in the 4th grade, and being very self-conscience - as I was dressed in gym shorts with a simulated leather cover and no shirt - as I came on stage to deliver my one line: "Here" as I handed over a basket of steamed corn on the cob ready to eat. I know, not very historically accurate – but very cute!

I think those school plays were closer to the truth of what Thanksgiving is about.

While books have been written on Thanksgiving, and thousands of sermons have been preached, when I read this morning's Psalm I was struck with these two verses: “[8] Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! [9] For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:8-9 ESV)

I believe that Thanksgiving is, indeed, about giving thanks to God for all of his wonderful gifts, poured out upon us. But the greatest gift is a fulfilled heart! The knowledge that we are loved beyond measure by a God who is not distant but ever present; a God who humbled himself to take on human form in order to redeem His adopted children; a God who died that we may have life and have it abundantly!

My prayer for you this Thanksgiving – and my prayer for me – is that our hearts and souls will have our longings satisfied when we understand that the only true source of that satisfaction is Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

I pray you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ.

Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to perfection of Man's nature; wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.