Thursday, May 7, 2009

Comfort Ye My People

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. - Isaiah 40:1

Dcn Dale Matson 05-07-09

As I reflected on a portion of the Gospel lesson from Luke (Chapter 6) for the Daily office for Wednesday May 6th, it also occurred to me again that we are in the midst of a serious legal struggle in our Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin against The Episcopal Church (TEC). It is easy to be anxious and fearful about the possible outcome. It is also possible to adopt a self righteous anger too. However, our Gospel lesson is quite a contrast to what would be an expected human response. “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” This is a portion of Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” which is a kind of parallel to Mathew’s Sermon on the Mount.

There is a property dispute of course but hopefully both sides would say that ultimately, God owns the property not a Parish, Diocese or a Denomination. It also occurred to me that while property provides a place to gather for worship and fellowship, it can also be an occasion to misunderstand and be misdirected as to what is meant when we talk about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God has never been about bricks, stones, mortar, wood and steel.

I believe the Jews of the Old Testament confused God’s presence among them with the Temple in Jerusalem. Much of their pride and identity was centered on the temple rather than God Himself. Seeing the Dome of the Rock sitting on the very ruins of the Temple should be evidence enough that God has left an historical reminder that the Temple and the land of Israel are not as important as the God who gave both to Israel. While it is what they are fighting each other about, who owns the land and the buildings is really not the central issue for the Arabs and Israelis nor should it be the central issue for us either. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:20, 23).

With each crisis in our personal lives and in the life of our faith community, we are faced with understandable initial human responses of anxiety, fear, anger or self righteousness. I am reminded of the man who put his faith in his possessions. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20) My brothers and sisters, we are the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The property and the buildings belong to God and Him alone. Amen

17 comments:

Alan Rogers said...

While Dcn. Matson's article appears benign on the surface, it reveals some very disturbing trends in Anglicanism.

The first problem is, that this article refers to fellow Christians as "enemies", and uses the words of Jesus to substantiate that idea.

Both sides of these legal battles should be ashamed, because they ignore the entirity of New Testament teaching on the nature of the Body of Christ, and forgiveness.

Once again, we see an "us" versus "them" mentality at work. All of this proves that people believe whatever they want to believe, and don't hesitate to use scripture to prove it.

In the end, this proves to the world that there is no God, and that Jesus Christ makes no difference in people lives.

If you guys were really that concerned with saving the world instead of running a business, you would behave differently.

Dale Matson said...

Alan,
Thanks for the response. I believe that the article is more than benign and less than you believe it to be. Dcn Dale

Alan Rogers said...

So, Dale, you admit that, at least, some of what I said is true?

Does this not disturb you to peddle a religion that behaves differently than it teaches?

Do you not realize that your life and the collective life of your church is the only proof non-Christians have that the claims of Christianity are true? Why should they believe when you guys are acting like a secular corporate structure?

Dale Matson said...

Alan,
You refer to yourself on your blog as, "..a complete cynic about organized religion". I believe this is truth in advertising and that there is nothing that can be said or done to change your mind. Are you really asking questions or are they simply accusations disguised as questions?

Alan Rogers said...

By raising this question you avoid the ones I asked. How clever!

Speaking of being a "cynic", I became one under the ministry of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

samsa said...

I can appreciate what Dcn Dale has to say, I can assure you, there are many many people who stayed with the Episcopal Diocese in San Joaquin who have for over a year been in a "church" without walls so to speak.Senior Citizen Centers, Methodist Churches, Lutheran Churches,parks, living rooms, you name it, and their are faithful to Christ and His word. They still feed the hungry,gather clothing for the homeless, and continue to do God's work. Although they have been called many names, heretics, rump Diocese, etc, truly they are Christians. They never lost their faith, it grew stronger, they never lost hope, the Word became living.So for those who may be "transplanted" out of their buildings, it really will be okay, it will test your faith, your strength, and you will be stronger and more faithful and have a more deep relationship with Christ.
Alan, not sure you really asked a question, but if you were truly a cynic, you wouldn't care what was on a blog. Disenfranchised, maybe,disillusioned by lies, absolutely, find a parish that is staying within TEC and come feel the change, not perfect by any means, but a place where the word "Christian" is a verb, not a noun.
Blessings,
Samsa

David Katzakian said...

samsa:

None of those who chose to stay in TEC were turned out of their churches. Instead, they were given their properties and allowed to go on their own way.

It was TEC's leadership, whose mendacity knows no bounds, who set up a diocese in violation of its won constitution and canons. It was TEC's leadership who initiated the lawsuits against the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin to take property which does NOT belong to it. These lawsuits are costing both sides money which can better spent elsewhere (like feeding the hungry). We have been called bad names as well.

Why don't you encourage your leadership to drop the lawsuits so we can both get on with the Great Commission?

samsa said...

Mr. Katzakian, I suppose there are many ways to look at the meaning of being turned out. So, let me start with what is concrete.
The Priest at St Francis in Turlock was called by Mr. Schofield, when it came to the attention that he had be de-frocked, Mr. Schofield was notified by parishioners that they could not take Communion from a person who no longer held valid Holy Orders. He is still there and those parishioners left as they had no choice.
The Mission in Atwater had their doors bolted on Christmas Day by order of Mr. Schofield.
Several Churches were sold within the five years previous to the December vote. St Benedict's and St Dunstan's to name a few. Where were the parishioners to go after 50+ years? And then we have the current state of the Parishes, led by Priests who are vitrolic in their sermon and dialogue, where were the parishioners to go at that point? Yes, Mr Katzakian, many ways to look at how folks are turned out.
You are quite correct about lawsuits. If I personally could have done anything I would have, and would have been far more strategic. I would have lined up all these parishioners over the age of 65 and systematically would have brought Mr. Schofield up on charges for elder abuse.It wouldn't have been about buildings, it would have been how these folks were bilked and misled, and were vulnerable because of their age and out of respect for the Office of Bishop. TEC will undoubtly always bare the brunt of initiating them, right or wrong, but let's just see if when decisions come down in favor of TEC, will the Anglican Diocese accept that or will they then be the perpetuating entity? Very sad indeed.
The truth be told, most parshioners could care less about all this nonsense, they just want to sit in the same pew with the same parish family they have known and loved, sing the same hymns and give praise to the Almighty. Many, many of us who stayed or left still meet for lunch,socialize, gather food and clothing together for distribution to the needy, we honor each other in our journey of faith and laugh at the stupidity of all of this, Yes indeed, what a waste.

Fr Van McCalister said...

I am reluctantly posting Samsa's post because my desire to ensure that we have a reasonable exchange of dialogue outweighs the fact that there are some inaccurate statements in it. Also, I want to remind our readers/commentators that I have not knowingly allowed commentators who agree with Bishop Schofield to post comments referring to Presiding Bishop Schori as "Ms Schori" or Bp Lamb as "Mr Lamb" regardless of questions of canonical process or theological concerns. I expect the same respect for those who might prefer to call Bp Schofield, "Mr Schofield". Comments that appear to me to be disrespectful of a person's title or position will be deleted.

With respect to the statement about the priest at Turlock who had been inhibited in a previous diocese: that priest has not served in Turlock for quite awhile. Nor is that priest currently licensed to serve in any mission or parish in this diocese. St Francis, Turlock has an excellent priest there now, who was selected and hired by that parish.

Regarding the churches that were closed down: St Stephen's had been unoccupied for a few years. The other churches were closed down either because they were not growing or because attempts to solve disagreements between certain members and their priests had come to an impasse. For reasons of confidentiality, I can say no more than that. Those churches would have been closed down for those reasons, even if we had had no disagreement with TEC. The timing was coincidental. And, Bp Schofield offered alternative pastoral care to those members.

Regarding the priest who was "locked out" - he chose to stay with TEC while the majority of that mission church remained with Bp Schofield. He refused to turn in his keys and so the locks were changed.

Those are the facts. You may want to debate them but we will not do that here. I will not post any more comments on this topic. The only reason that I am writing this is to correct what was written above by Samsa.

The purpose for Dcn Matson's post, was not to call people that we may disagree with "enemies" but to remind us that we need to take a Christ-like attitude towards those we disagree with and to recognize that God is the real owner of all that we have. His exhortation was meant as much (if not more so) to those who have remained with Bp Schofield, than those who did not. It is unfortunate that Dcn Matson's reflections were taken as an attack, when they were not meant in that way at all.

Anonymous said...

Fr Van, Please accept my apology for not honoring decorum on your blog.I appreciate your gracious reminder. By no means was my intention to disparrage Dcn Dale's post. Quite the contrary. Yes, change is difficult and at times scary, but as Dcn Dale has said so well, it all belongs to the Lord.Again, so sorry.
Samsa

Fr Van McCalister said...

Thank you so much for such a gracious response! We really are trying to keep this blog informative and uplifting, with as little vitriol as possible. May God bless you.

Fred Schwartz said...

Do you really believe that God "owns" property? Would that not imply that somewhere there is property that God does not own? Ownership is a very strange characteristic for the person who created everything. Ownership is a human creation because of our acquisitiveness.
We fight over these things because we are human but do you really think God takes sides because he "owns" the property?

Here is a thought. "love thy neighbor as thyself." Why don't you all just come home? Look at the Plano (Provincial?) agenda. There is absolutely nothing there for anyone from San Joaquin? Look who is speaking? Look who is being crowned archbishop. What has that got to do with us in the Central Valley?
Come on home, bring the property and then we all own everything. We an work out our differences.

Fr Van McCalister said...

I meant that God "owns" everything in the sense that everything was created by him and exists under his sovereign rule. He has entrusted to us his creation and so we are merely stewards not "owners".

Therefore, our stewardship of what God has entrusted to us must be directed by our relationship with God and our submission to him. This means that we are first focused on the Great Commission and our use of property and possessions must be used for that purpose. That being the case, no matter who "wins" the property, the Lord's ministry continues, whether it is on the existing campus of St James' Cathedral, or it is out of a rented storefront at some nearby strip mall. Since the Lord is God Almighty, he will accomplish his purpose regardless of whose name is printed on a deed.

I am not suggesting that God takes sides - that is a human perspective (Consider Joshua 5.13-14). I am suggesting that God has given Christians a clear mandate to love our neighbors in spirit and truth; in word and deed and he will bless ministry that honors and glorifies him. If he intends for us to do that at our existing location, so be it. If he wants us to do that elsewhere, praise God for that as well.

We do not care about the property as much some people think we do - we do care very much about the ministries that take place at these locations. As the current stewards of these properties and ministries, we do not believe that we should uproot and dislocate these ministries until God gives us clear direction that it is time to do so.

Rev. 4:11 "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

2 Cor. 4:7 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."

Fred Schwartz said...

Father McCalister:

Exodus 20:15 You shall not steal.
Exodus 20:17 tou shall not covet your neighbor's house.

Matthew 10:9-9 You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourself with no gold or silver, nor even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.

So, we can play dueling bible verses OR you can pick up the phone and call 209-952-0006 and we can together get on with the work of the Lord.

Paula Velez said...

I find it very sad that a post which was clearly meant as a meditation on the passage in Luke was taken as an opportunity to debate the current situation in San Joaquin.

Thank you, Dcn Matson for the reminder that in the words of the liturgy: "All things belong to thee oh God, and of thine own have we given thee".

Dale Matson said...

Paula,
Thanks for your comment and for reminding us of the Liturgy as a reminder of all that God has done for us in Christ.

Fred Schwartz said...

Thank you, Dcn Matson for the reminder that in the words of the liturgy: "All things belong to thee oh God, and of thine own have we given thee". Paula Velez

That is just the point. It is not considered to be your own, it belongs to the Episcopal Church.