Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 28

Bishop Eric Menees

If you have followed along in the weekly Bishop's Note for all of this Church Year, you may notice that this week's collect was addressed in Advent 2. This is because I began this series of Notes by following the 1662 order of collects, rather than the 1979. Thus, I would refer you to my Advent 2 Bishop's Note for the collect you'll hear in church this Sunday.

This week, I would like to offer you a collect written by Archbishop Cranmer; one that I pray every morning and evening in the daily office.  


"Almighty and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels; Send down upon our Bishops, and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen"

I suspect that Archbishop Cranmer added this prayer in the daily office, along with the collects for mission, so that, not only would the faithful be looking ahead at the spread of the Gospel, but that they would also ask God to bless our congregations and our clergy, who form the local expression of the Body of Christ!

First, this collect acknowledges that it is God alone who works miracles (marvels). God is the source of all good, all health, and all grace. I sense that we know that with our heads, but I fear that we don't believe it with our hearts. We buy into the myth that if we just try hard enough we can do it, and if we just can't, well then it's OK to call on the Lord and His strength. We fail to recognize that anything and everything we have or accomplish is a gift from God.

Second, this collect calls upon God's grace and health to bless our Bishops and Curates (priests and deacons serving in congregations) as His instruments in the local congregation. I can't emphasize enough the need to pray for our clergy. I consider myself extremely blessed to have the Little Brothers and Sisters of Sacrifice, along with the Bishop's Chapter of the Daughters of the Holy Cross, praying for me daily. I can't imagine how I could face a single day of ministry in the diocese without those intercessors petitioning the Lord, on my behalf, to grant me strength, wisdom, and discernment.

Lastly, this collect acknowledges that God's answer to our prayers not only blesses us, but also brings honor and glory to Him. How amazing that is, that God uses His grace to bless us and to bring glory and honor to Himself.

My prayer every morning, as Florence and I sit in our comfy prayer chairs, is that God will richly bless each and every priest and deacon in the Diocese of San Joaquin, that they may be used as an instrument of the Lord to bless the congregations that they serve and bring honor and glory to the Lord!

Catechism Questions 40-42

40.        Who is God the Father?
God the Father is the first Person of the Holy Trinity, from whom the Son is eternally begotten and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds. (John 1:1, 14; 14:16-17, 26; 15:26, Nicene Creed)
41.    Why do you call the first of the three divine Persons “Father?”
Our Lord Jesus called God “Father” and taught his disciples to do the same, and St. Paul teaches that God adopts believers as his children and heirs in Christ, sending his Holy Spirit into our hearts crying “Abba, Father.” (Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-7).
42.    What do you mean when you call God “Father?”

When I call God “Father,” I acknowledge that I was created by God for relationship with him, that God made me in his image, that I trust in God as my Protector and Provider, and that I put my hope in God as his child and heir in Christ. (Genesis1:26, Matthew 6:25-33; Romans 8:16-17)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the 22nd Week of Pentecost - Proper 27

Bishop Eric Menees

"O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen."

This week's Collect is a powerful one that speaks to the character of God and the mission of His only begotten son - Jesus Christ.  God's character is revealed in His continuous desire to be reconciled with His primary creation - man.  The two primary obstacles to that reconciliation are Satan and man himself.  Jesus' mission, therefore, is to bind and destroy Satan and to adopt and reconcile man to the Father.

Jesus, of course, is first recorded as confronting Satan following Jesus' baptism and his preparation in the desert, when he faced the temptations of Satan.  Jesus is able to foil Satan and resist his temptations by reliance upon the Word of God.  Jesus demonstrated to us how to resist the devil's temptations.  Jesus, just a year or so later teaches his disciples that they also have power, in the Name of Jesus, over Satan.  What liberation - what joy - to know that despite what Hollywood says, Satan has no power over us if we but resist him in the mighty name of Jesus!  "17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!' 18 And he said to them, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.'" (Luke 10:17-19)

Even though Jesus has taught us to temporarily bind Satan and his demons with Jesus' own mighty name, the ultimate destruction of Satan and his demons will come with Jesus' return and the great apocalypse described in the Revelation of St. John.  Because God's Word announces Jesus' victory in advance, we need not worry about that aspect of the future. Instead we are too focus on the present and learning what it means to be God's adopted children.

This is the second part of this collect - that we who believe in the name of Jesus are adopted as Children of God.  This is a very important doctrine of the church, and a place where too many mainline denominations have gotten it wrong.  I came to Christ as a young man and just took as gospel what the Episcopal church was teaching; that "...all people are children of God."  I never challenged that teaching until one day, in reading the the first chapter of the gospel of John, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit.  What did I read?  11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13, emphasis added)  Scripture is clear that not all of us are children of God, but only those who receive Jesus and believe in his name!  

Why is this so important?  Because, if we buy the lie that ALL people are children of God, then there is no need to share the gospel with anyone; no need to invite people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  By not sharing the gospel and inviting people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ we are saying, in effect, "Go to hell; I don't really care about you."

This is not to say that we can neglect to treat every person with the utmost dignity, love, and charity.  Why?  Because scripture is clear that we are all created in the image of God and are therefore deserving of respect!

Ultimately, we can only bind Satan, treat all people with respect and dignity, and share the Gospel with others, because God answers our prayers!  Remember that this Lord's Day, as you gather together for worship.

Catechism Questions 37 - 39

37.    What other books does the Church acknowledge?
The canon of Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. The fourteen books of the Apocrypha may also be read “for example of life and instruction of manners,” but “not to establish any doctrine” (Articles of Religion, 6).
38.    Who is God?
God is one divine Being eternally existing in three divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the Holy Trinity. (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19)
39.    According to Holy Scripture, what is the nature and     character of God?

“God is love” (1 John 4:16). Sharing an eternal communion of love between the three Persons, God loves and mercifully redeems fallen creation. “God is holy” (Psalm 99; Isaiah 6:1-4). God is utterly transcendent, good, righteous, and opposed to all sin and evil. God’s love is holy, God’s holiness is loving, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of God’s whole character. (Hebrews 1:3; John 1:18; 17:21; Colossians 1:19)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Feast of All Saints & All Souls

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.”

Yesterday, on the feast of Saints Simon & Jude, I had the honor of leading a group of thirty evangelical pastors in the service of Morning Prayer. This was a very new and different service for my brothers, who are used to a more freewheeling type of prayer service. I was clear to point out that our worship has its roots in the first centuries of Christianity and the beginning of the monastic movement. At this service, eyebrows were raised as our prayers and canticles referenced the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saints Simon & Jude - not the normal fare for evangelical pastors!  

Why is it that we remember the saints? Well, because their lives reflect the Kingdom of God, as well as men and women's ability to connect with the Lord and serve Him in love and obedience. Our Lord Himself regularly pointed to the lives of saints - Abraham, Moses, and Elijah just to name a few. Those men, like the saints of the church, are witnesses to the Grace of God in the past, and proclaimers of the Grace of God for the present and future.

It is interesting how the lives of certain saints call out to us and connect with us individually. For me, St. Francis of Assisi has been a tremendous inspiration and example. His life is very well documented - both the good and the bad. Francis was a redeemed sinner seeking to be obedient to our Lord and His call upon his life. While no saint, I too am a redeemed sinner seeking to be obedient to our Lord and His call upon my life.

This Lord's Day, as you gather with fellow believers around the altar of the Lord to hear the Word faithfully preached and to receive the sacraments faithfully administered, I pray that you will call to mind and remember the Saints of the Lord - their lives and their examples of love, obedience, and grace.

May the Lord bless you and keep you as you journey toward living the life of a saint!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The U.S Is Missing Something In The Fight Against ISIS: Vision

Fr. Dale Matson

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

While no one would argue that the United States has more bombs, bullets and boots, the question is, “Why does the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue to gain territory and to recruit young people to their cause from the western world?”

The Jihadists see themselves in a struggle against evil and we are the face of their evil. We are attempting to win on the battlefield but we are losing the battle for hearts and minds.
Former Senator Birch Bayh referred to the Jihadist ideology as “empty” on Fox New Sunday (October 26th) If only. If only he was correct. We may kill their soldiers but their ideology, while evil, is robust, certain and virulent. The western world in general and the U.S. lack the courage of their convictions because they lack convictions. We have no vision and are lacking in moral authority. Do we honestly think that we could reinstate the draft to compel young men once again to fight this war?

This is because we have cast off the “Faith Of Our Fathers.” Faith of our fathers! Faith and prayer shall win all nations unto thee; and through the faith that comes from God; mankind shall then indeed be free. (Verse 2)

I am not saying that the U.S. is no longer a compassionate nation. We are the first to offer help to a nation in need. However compassion without truth can be misguided and counterproductive. We are the soup kitchen to the world. We have lost an important thread running through the fabric of our nation and this has led to spiritual poverty, moral uncertainty and the pursuit of self-interest. It is an ugly form of self-determination and individualism. President Obama proudly announced in Turkey (among other venues) that the U.S. was no longer a Christian nation [only].

I was born and grew up in the U.S. Since graduating from high school, I have witnessed a sea of change regarding the former synergistic interplay of faith and nation. Every school assembly I attended began with the Lord’s Prayer. Every school day began with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. “Under God” was included when I was in the fourth grade. My senior civics classroom had the Ten Commandments on the wall. I was a member of the choir that sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” for my graduation in 1962. Here is one stanza in particular.

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom
that transfigures you and me,
As He died to make men holy
let us live to make men free,
His truth is marching on.

How many people recognize the final verse of our national anthem? :

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The U.S. also had an ideology that was robust, certain and contagious. We had both a faith in our God and our country overseen by God. As I look at our Hymnal, much is devoted to this relationship including, “Christian Vocation” and “Pilgrimage and Christian life”, “Christian Responsibility” and a section on “National Songs”.

The fabric of our nation is unraveling because the spiritual thread is being removed. As Christians, we must not allow this to happen to our Country. People around the globe need to see us as the beacon of light in a stormy world. That is our most powerful weapon against the ideology of ISIS.

“For the nation or kingdom that will not serve You will perish; it will be utterly ruined.” (Isaiah 60:12, NIV).

From the watchtower, Dale+

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for Pentecost 20 - Proper 25

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

It's hard to pray this Collect and not immediately recognize that Archbishop Cranmer was referring to St. Paul and 1st Corinthians 13:13: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. This past Saturday, I witnessed a little slice of heaven as Fr. Derek Thomason, who is battling cancer, presided at the marriage service between his son, Matthew, and Matthew’s bride, Tirzah. The Epistle reading was, you guessed it, 1st Corinthians 13.

St. Paul lays out, in Chapter 12, a list of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in Chapter 13 he goes on to make clear that the greatest gift of God is the gift of LOVE. Love is the gift that sustains and supports all of the other gifts of the Spirit. As St. Paul says: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3) Therefore, if Love is the supporting Grace of God that allows for the fruitful exercise of the Spiritual Gifts, then we should pray earnestly for God to grant us the gift of Love. As I write this, I am convicted that I do not ask God to grant me the gift of love often enough. As a result, I have begun praying already that the Lord would grant me this gift in spades.

The second half of the Collect is equally as beautiful. It links receiving the promise of God with the desire to love God's commands. To put this in relational terms: As Florence and I began to date and my interest in her as a person turned into warm feelings for her, which proceeded to turn into a deep and profound love for her, my desire to please her grew greater and greater. In desiring to please her, I desired to do as she would like.

If we draw this very incomplete analogy to our relationship with our Heavenly Father, then the greater the love we have, the greater desire we have to please Him and, thus, to follow His commandments.

In short, this collect asks for God’s grace and assistance in fulfilling the Great Commandment: "You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  This is the first and great commandment and the next is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."   And to that I say...AMEN!

Catechism Questions 31 - 33

31.    What does it mean that Holy Scripture is inspired?

Holy Scripture is “God-breathed,” for the biblical authors wrote under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit to record God's Word. (2 Timothy 3:16)

32.    What does it mean that the Bible is the Word of God?

Because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is rightly called the Word of God written. God is revealed in his mighty works and in the incarnation of our Lord, but his works and his will are made known to us through the inspired words of Scripture. God “has spoken through the prophets” (Nicene Creed), and continues to speak through the Bible today. (Hebrews 1:1-2; 3:7-11; 10:15-17; 12:25-27)

33.    Why is Jesus Christ called the Word of God?

The fullness of God’s revelation is found in Jesus Christ, who not only fulfills the Scriptures, but is himself God's Word, the living expression of God’s mind. The Scriptures testify about him: “In the beginning was the Word” and “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Therefore, “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” (John 1:1, 14; Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, prologue)