Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Letter From Noah Lawson New Seminarian



(Note) Seminarians are required to submit ember letters to our Bishop. Noah graciously agreed to allow me to post this letter on Soundings to inform others about the heart, rationale and adjustments a new seminarian experiences. He is young but mature in the faith. May God continue to richly bless him. Fr. Dale Matson 

September 28, 2011


Greetings Family, Friends, & Supporters in the Diocese of San Joaquin,

At the writing of this letter I have started my sixth week here at Nashotah House Theological Seminary. I hope that this note finds you well. You all are in my daily prayers for protection, wisdom, courage, and increasingly stronger manifestations of God-the Holy Spirit in your lives and ministries. You are God’s people.

I have been asked by many folks back home if I am feeling homesick. I have responded that I do in fact find myself missing my parents, sisters, and all of the other vital relationships in my life that I left back in California. While reflecting on those feelings I was reminded of God’s command to Abraham, "Take your son, your only son, whom you love--Isaac--and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you." (Gen 22:2 NIV). It was an unthinkable demand to make of Abraham, to give up his only son. However, Abraham responds in the affirmative by rising the next day setting out to the place of sacrifice with Isaac. When they arrive the boy is bound and laid on the altar for sacrifice and as the knife is raised,

11…the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. 12 ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” (Gen 22:11-13 NIV)

While God’s call on my life to be a priest is the not quite the same as demanding the sacrifice of my child, it did require significant sacrifice none the less. I know that God has recognized the significance of my sacrifice to him: leaving family, friends, status, a political future, money, security, and comfort. In the same way that God recognized Abraham’s faithfulness by providing the ram for sacrifice and giving Isaac back to him God has provided for me by making the relationships that I have left behind that much sweeter, dearer to me, and more vital than ever. He has surrounded me with a new community of believers who are fast becoming men and women whom I can count as friends and fellow disciples. They are people who are passionate about Jesus, the Church, living into the call on their lives, along with professors who are grounded in the Faith and exercise their gifts of teaching in such a way as to equip us for ministry. Each day He is revealing a little bit more of what this exciting and extraordinary new vocation will look like and what it means. As you may know, many times God will ask us to give something up so that he can restore it to us in such a way as to draw us closer to him. So my response to the question of being homesick is that the feelings are within the context of something new, something healthy, and something exciting. God has provided for me richly here at Nashotah House. I have gained more than I have “lost.”

Classes here at Nashotah House are robust. My schedule is as follows:

Monday Evening: Ascetical Theology 1
Monday/Wednesday/Friday:  Biblical Interpretation 1, Greek 1, and Historical Theology
Tuesday/Thursday: Patristic & Medieval Church History, and Church Music 1

As many shared with me, the assigned reading for all of these classes is massive. My organizational, study, and discipline skills are all being stretched in significant ways. Each class is enjoyable and the relevance for ministry is clear. Greek is proving to be the most challenging. I have enlisted the support of a senior tutor and we have started a study group for mutual support and encouragement! I am working on assigned papers and projects and due dates will be here before I know it. Your prayers are appreciated on this front.

The classes are in addition to a rigorous schedule of extra-curricular activities. The center piece of Nashotah House’s life is community prayer. We are in chapel twice a day Monday-Friday conducting the Daily Office (a scheduled rotation of readings from the Old & New Testaments, the Psalms, and the Gospels) with daily Eucharist. On Wednesday I attend the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. There are voluntary services conducted on Saturday and Sunday. I attend Morning Prayer on Saturday and Saint Michael’s Anglican Church on Sunday mornings. The seminary says that more important than what happens in the classroom is what happens in the chapel. The primary concern of the seminary is to keep us rooted in the scriptures and in worship. Additionally, we have weekly community choir practice, work crew (I am on the refectory cleaning crew), and I serve as Rev. Dr. Klukas’ teaching assistant (right now I mostly make copies). Each of these activities along with my academics is a part my formation.  

As I mentioned in the paragraph above, I have been attending Saint Michael’s Church. Saint Michael’s is a new church plant and meets on the campus of Nashotah House. I am excited about the possibility of being a part of a new church plant and learning from that experience. The church has an average Sunday attendance of a little over 100 and seems to be a healthy community of believers. The Rev. Thad Butcher is the vicar and has indicated a willingness to allow me to do my internship (two semesters of supervised ministry) with them.

At the time of this writing the seminary was engaged in a silent retreat. During that retreat I met with the Rev. Peter Floyd of Saint Anskar’s Episcopal Church in Heartland, WI for spiritual direction and confession. The seminary would like for us to secure a spiritual director.  I felt like Fr. Floyd was sensitive, direct, and will be discrete. He is about 10 minutes from the campus and comes highly recommended. I hope to meet with him at least once a month for direction and confession as necessary. Related to this, I am in the process of reevaluating my rule of life (the personal commitment that I make to stay connected to God through reading, prayer, and work) and hope to establish it in the very near future with his aid.

I recently met with my new chaplain recruiter along with Rev. Steve Schlossberg, who is the director of field education for the seminary, to discuss how the Navy Chaplain Candidate Program and the seminary's Clinical Pastoral Education/Teaching Parishes Program requirements might be complementary. I hope to fulfill CPE/TPP requirements at naval installations (hospital, substance abuse centers, Fleet & Family Services, chapels, etc. under the direction of Navy Chaplains/personnel) in addition to going to "fork and knife school." These experiences will, I hope, help me discern this specific call to the Navy Chaplaincy and provide me with meaningful pastoral experiences.

The Lord also continues to supply all of my needs through you. I am working through a rotation of 132 supporters by either calling, e-mailing, or writing on a weekly basis as I have “extra” time (If I haven’t made contact with you…I will in the near future). It is a blessing to grow these relationships with family, friends, and supporters back home. You all are in my prayers.

Blessings to you & Keep the Faith,


Noah Soares Lawson
noahslawson@gmail.com       














Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eric Menees Is Consecrated Bishop In Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin



Fr. Dale Matson

            Eric Vawter Menees was consecrated Bishop and Co-adjutor for the Anglican Diocese Of San Joaquin Saturday September 24th at Peoples Church in Fresno California. The Chief consecrator was Robert Duncan the Archbishop of the Anglican Church North America. Co-consecrators included Bishops Schofield, Murdock, Thompson and Atwood. St. James Anglican Cathedral Dean, Carlos Raines sang the Litany for Ordinations.  Fr. Antonio Castaneda was the Gospeller and read the lesson from John 20:19-23 in English and Spanish. Bishop Atwood was the Homilist. Bishop Menees will succeed Bishop Schofield when he is enthroned during the annual Diocesan Convention in October.





Prayer
            Dear Lord thank you for our Bishop John David Schofield and for his discernment, steadfastness, courage and leadership. We ask that you bestow upon Bishop Menees an equal measure of Your gifts and consolations. We ask that you protect him and his family from all harm and increase in him the fruits of Your Spirit. We also ask for continued blessing and renewal of our Anglican Diocese Of San Joaquin in the mighty name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Hymn
"I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three. Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, and Word: praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord." (from St. Patrick’s Breastplate)
             

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ultrarunning



"Therefore I do not run like a man running Aimlessly" (1 Corinthians 9:26a)

Ultrarunning is esoteric enough that even most marathoners don’t know about it. About twenty years ago, I happened to see an issue of Ultrarunning Magazine for sale in a running store and bought a copy along with my new Nike Air Max running shoes.
A whole new world was opened up as I read the magazine from cover to cover. How could people be discussing renal shutdown and bloody urine so casually in the letters to the editor? People I had never heard of were running distances I never thought about. What do you mean a 24 or 48 or 72 hour race? What do you mean a 50 mile, 100K or 100 mile run?
For people like me, who believe that everything worth doing is worth overdoing, this was a siren song that beckoned me into the woods near my home. The ice age trails were a part of the Kettle Moraine area of southeastern Wisconsin. There were crazy people like Tom and Lorraine Bunk, Kevin and Kris Setnes, Jim Lambert and Rod Condon among others. They screwed hex head sheet metal screws into their running shoe soles and ran the snow mobile trails in the winter in near subzero weather. They were friendly enough but I couldn’t keep up. I became an excellent tracker and eventually was able to follow their tracks back to the parking area on our Saturday runs. They were a strange subset of the Badgerland Striders running club.
The summer I moved to California they talked me into running the Voyager 50 miler in Minnesota before I left. They also told me that I was on the verge of being admitted to the Duke Ultrarunning Club (Gary Hauser president) named after John Wayne. That was it; I would have to do it. I finished with three others at the tail end having made a wrong turn with two miles to go. I went to bed that night thinking I would probably die during the night. I didn’t.
The Kettle Moraine area is known for two runs in particular. I helped at the Ice Age 50 mile run and got a Tee shirt. It immediately became my favorite shirt and I wore it until it became threadbare. The other run is the Kettle Moraine 100 mile run. I came back from California to finish it in 2000. It was good to see the running group but not the deer ticks again.
And that is kind of how you get the bug to run and run and run. I’ve participated in a few 24 hour track runs also and find them more challenging in some ways since you can step off the track whenever you wish and be done. And that is when the healthy voices speaking through your blisters tell you it’s time to pack it in.
Ultrarunners are just like any cross section of people you will meet. Some are kind of scary and seem to have no permanent address. They live out of the back of their trucks and haven’t shaved for quite some time. Some have quite an assortment of body art underneath their tie dyed shirts. Here is my final bit of advice to wannabe Ultrarunners, “No whining and the beatings will continue until the moral improves.
   

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Anglican Sanctifiication The Work We Were Given To Do



To theologians sanctification is the process of becoming holy. In the Orthodox Church it is the process of deification. To those psychologists who also understand the fallen nature of humans, it would be termed the process of becoming whole. Perhaps it is just as well to call it spiritual development. The Methodists have their methods and the Roman Catholics have The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

I am an Anglican who considers Anglican Christianity to be a form of reformed Catholicism. Anglican roots go back to the church fathers and the undivided church before Canterbury. Throughout the history of the church sanctification is that passage between saving relationships with her head Jesus the Christ and an earthly death.

Those who heed Christ’s call to follow him as both savior and Lord are transformed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). There are numerous variables that can be applied to spiritual development for Anglicans. I have attempted to speak of my own spiritual journey which is an eclectic combination of methods within Anglicanism. Those include immersion in Holy Scripture, being a part of Christ’s body the church, regular participation in worship, liturgy, prayer and fasting, performing good works for Christ in others and listening to God the Holy Spirit. Exercise, solitude, journaling, family, and friends are something that balances out the Benedictine active and contemplative life.

Finally, some may ask, “But what about the Book Of Common Prayer?" While Holy Scripture is preeminent, certainly the Prayer Book is a central feature and organizing force within Anglican Christian life. I have included portions of the Prayerbook in a number of the elements of this book and want to avoid the temptation to make this an Anglican Catechesis.

As someone who has been a seeker of God most of his seasoned life, I have found a home, a niche.  For those of you who remain thirsty for the living water of Jesus Christ, I believe all of God you seek in this life may be found in the traditional church. Although this has been the age of the non-denominational mega church for Protestants, I believe the traditional churches; Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic provide a deeper seedbed for spiritual growth and pray that someday they would again be the undivided church of Jesus Christ. [The book is currently at the publisher for file review]       

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Anger


“My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20)

When high carbon steel is treated for making tools, it is both hardened and tempered in a multistep process. The steel is hardened against wear, such as the tip of a screw driver, by heating and quick cooling. The problem is that while hard, the tip is brittle. The screwdriver tip is then reheated and allowed to cool at a slower rate to temper it so that it is not brittle.

When we become angry, it is called losing our temper. Like steel our temper is that quality which makes us strong but not brittle. For me, there is something about love which makes me see things so much differently and in a less threatening way. Love is the virtuous temper in temperament. Anger is that which distorts my thinking so much that rational thought or speech escapes me.  It is as if the pilot light is always lit on my anger too. It is one of my primary faults and even at a lower temperature, sarcasm and impatience flows. Being cut off in traffic is a quick source of anger for me but less likely if I have allowed plenty of time to get to my destination.

Is there righteous anger? Yes, Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple and there is no doubt he was angry when he did it. It was described as zeal for his father’s house. When we see an injustice, anger may motivate the righting of a wrong. We must be careful not to become angry on behalf of someone who does not see themselves threatened or angry. It would be a signal that we too easily look for opportunities to be angry.Are we putting ourselves in situations that lead to resentment simply because we refuse to construct personal boundaries? Are we trying to prove to ourselves that others are not trustworthy?

I honestly believe that anger is a symptom of a deeper problem of fear and fear is a response to an even more basic problem of mistrust. Jesus said we should be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Wisdom and innocence for me translate to trust with discernment. This is not being gullible and easily taken in. As I reflect on this, the roots of anger can be deep within the individual. Some have been deeply disappointed in a period of life when they were totally dependent on others. This is an emotional bruising and makes it difficult for some Christians to trust even God. It is the theological virtue of love that can mend this torn fabric of trust. A failure to trust is a failure to love.

“There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in punishment.” (1 John 4:18)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fasting


“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12)

Fasting is mentioned over twenty times in Scripture in both the Old and New Testament. It is often mentioned in conjunction with prayer and like prayer, one reason for fasting is intercession for others including a nation. Another reason for fasting is as part of personal repentance. The Psalmist said, “I humbled my soul with fasting” (35:13). Fasting seems to increase the efficacy of prayer. Jesus stated in Matthew, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (17:21). Fasting was noted twice in Acts before important decisions were made. Both Moses and our Lord fasted for forty days and nights.

The church has made a distinction between fasting and abstinence with fasting having to do with the quantity of food and abstinence having to do with the quality of the food. Thus Jesus could say, “My meat is to do the will of the one who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34). Fasting as abstinence is at the heart of fasting as an act.

Although I have fasted for as much as three days over the years, it has not been a regular practice for me. I have fasted on Ember days and at times during the season of Lent.  Today I am fasting prior to a medical procedure that requires me to go without food for twenty four hours. It is disappointing for me that my mind so often returns to food and the day has hardly begun. It is an empty hollow feeling. The next meal is far away in time and there is uneasiness about it.

I think it signals to me once again that often I use food for the wrong reasons. Eating chocolate until the mood passes is not the proper use of food. It is eating because I’m bored, Eating because it goes with the companionship or the ball game.

I think this is also born out in AA with what is called a distinction between being dry and being sober. Being dry is a state of not drinking but being sober is thinking like someone who is in recovery and not behaving like a drunk even though one has not been drinking. The latter is called a  dry drunk.

Lord, help me use food as fuel, as a means to restore my body. Help me to keep those foods out of my house that I have no control over. Help me to be abstinent. Amen

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).