Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bishop’s Note: July 07, 2016 – Responding to Tragedy

Bishop Eric Menees

This past Sunday, I had the honor to preach and celebrate at St. Peter’s, Kernville. Kernville is one of the small mountain communities recently devastated by the Erskine Fire, which burned thousands of acres, scores of homes, and took the lives of two of our own - Fr. Byron & Gladys McKaig.

I began my sermon a little differently than usual – I began with the words of Jesus on that first Easter Sunday in the Upper Room: “Peace be with you.”  I said that, because I recognized that over the past two weeks, so many at St. Peter’s, and throughout the entire community, had known so much chaos; not only with the deaths of Fr. Byron & Gladys, but with the devastating fire that swept through so many of the neighborhoods ringing Lake Isabella.

I wish there were a simple answer to why tragedies like this occur – or more precisely, why God allows tragedies like this to occur. Unfortunately, I do not have that simple answer. But, I look forward to that conversation with the Lord, when the time comes. Sadly, simply saying: “We live in a fallen world,” while theologically simple and true, is not very satisfying.

This does not mean that we, as Christians, do not have a response to this tragedy and others around the world. The response is: Jesus Christ – sharing his Love, Grace, and Peace!

So much of our ministry, as baptized Christians, is not found in our eloquent response to profound theological and philosophical questions. Instead, our ministry is found in our presence. To be present with a brother or sister who has lost a home to fire, as our brothers and sisters at St. Peter’s have done recently, speaks volumes about our Faith as Christians. To be present at the bedside of a brother or sister from church who is ill, in pain, and asking the question: “Why me?” speaks volumes about our Hope as Christians. To be present with a brother or sister who feels unlovable and unloved, speaks volumes about our Love as Christians.

This is not to say that we are to be present and silent. I often hear the quote attributed to - but very likely not from - St. Francis: “You are to preach the gospel at all times, and if you must, use words.” Our actions do speak very loudly about our faith, hope, and love, but our words of faith, hope, and love can make those Christian gifts and virtues come to life.

My prayer for you, and my prayer for me, is that we will have the grace and courage to respond to tragedy by being present with hurting brothers and sisters – not necessarily with the right answer, but by being physically present, as Jesus was in that upper room with these words of faith, hope, and love: PEACE BE WITH YOU!

I pray you all a very blessed week.

Catechism Questions: 309-311

309. What is the Seventh Commandment?
The Seventh Commandment is: “You shall not commit adultery.”

310. What does it mean not to commit adultery?
Marriage is holy. Married persons are to be faithful to their spouses as long as they both shall live. So I must not engage in sexual activity with anyone other than my spouse. (Deuteronomy 22-24:5; See Questions 128-130)

311. Why does God ordain marriage?
God ordains marriage for three important purposes: for the procreation of children to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; for a remedy against sin and to avoid fornication; and for mutual friendship, help, and comfort, both in prosperity and adversity. (Genesis 1:28; Deuteronomy 6:7; Proverbs 22:6; 31:10-12; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5; Book of Common Prayer)

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