Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bishop’s Note: February 22, 2018 – Temptation

Bishop Eric Menees

Lent is a season of Contrasts. First, we normally think of Lent as being gloomy and sad. However, the name actually comes from the Old English word: “Lecten,” which means, “Spring.” Second, while Lent is a time of self-examination, prayer, and fasting, it is through these spiritual disciplines that we find our way again.  When we take Lent seriously, we find that a part of us dies; however, we also discover that we come alive as our relationship with Christ, and one another, deepens. Third, we discover that age-old spiritual reality, that the temptations we face become stronger and more powerful the closer we get to God.

That’s exactly what happened to Jesus in last Sunday’s gospel of the baptism and temptation by Satan. Isn’t it odd that the moment Jesus is baptized he is led away into the desert to be tempted by the devil? Mark, unlike Matthew and Luke, doesn’t tell us what those temptations are, but he does say that the temptations were from Satan himself; that Jesus was out in the wilderness with the wild beasts; and that the angels waited on him. One commentator noted the irony that it was the angels who waited on Jesus: “Angels who know no hunger or thirst, Angels who need no protection from the elements, Angels who need no protection from the wild beasts.”

Why is it that the closer we get to God, the more powerful temptation seems to be? Perhaps it’s the spiritual form of Newton’s second law of physics: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The brighter the daylight, the darker the night appears.

I know that this is true in my life. I’ll go away on a retreat, have a wonderful time working on my relationship with the Lord, and when I return it seems that all “H. E. double hockey sticks” breaks out!  I’m tempted to throw away all the progress that I’ve just made.

Perhaps it’s the same with you; you start to recognize a special closeness with the Lord, and then your office-mates or friends will try to draw you into the gossip circle.

Perhaps the temptation isn’t actually more powerful, but because of the deepening relationship with Christ you can simply see it for more of what it is - the way a jeweler will place diamonds on a black velvet cloth in order to see the jewels more clearly.

I wonder if we should pray that our temptations will be all the stronger and more powerful this Lent, because that will mean that your relationship with God is equally strong. Humm… ok maybe I won’t pray that exact prayer; but I will pray that your relationship with God is strengthened. So tighten up your bootstraps - you’re in for a ride!

A blessed Lent to you all!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bishop’s Note: February 16, 2018 – Invitation to a Holy Lent

Bishop Eric Menees

Two days ago, Anglicans around the Diocese of San Joaquin gathered for worship on the day known as Ash Wednesday. This is a particularly poignant service where we are reminded of our sinful nature and of our own mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  I am always profoundly moved by this service, and count myself blessed to look into the faces of penitent men, women, boys, and girls as I dip my thumb in the bowl of ashes and make the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

I pray that this season of self-sacrifice, repentance, service, and grace will be a blessed one for all of you.  I leave you with the words that began Wednesday’s service:

“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.  This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.  It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. In this manner, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need that all Christians continually have to renew our repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and alms-giving; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

And to make a right beginning, let us now pray for grace, that we may faithfully keep this Lent.”  (ACNA BCP 2019 – Ash Wednesday Liturgy)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bishop’s Note: February 8, 2018 – An Attitude of Gratitude

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday’s gospel lesson, from the Gospel of Mark chapter 1 verses 29-39, are some of my favorite scriptures.  The story of Jesus’ healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law gives a wonderful snapshot into the life of Jesus and his disciples.

It’s Saturday afternoon; Sabbath services are just ending, and Simon Peter has invited his brother Andrew, Jesus, James, and John to supper at his house. Simon Peter has gone on ahead to make preparations, but he has discovered that his mother-in-law, whom he hoped would make dinner, is lying ill in bed with a fever. Simon Peter meets Jesus at the front door – apologetic about supper not being ready, and probably suggesting another alternative. But Jesus will have none of that; he asked to see the ill woman. Simon Peter leads Jesus back to his mother-in-law. Jesus leans down and takes the woman’s hand in his. Immediately, the fever leaves her, she rises, washes her hands, and begins to prepare the Sabbath supper.

Jesus’ compassion is without bounds! He demonstrates this compassion to Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and to Simon Peter and his wife. As Christians, we expect to see Jesus heal the sick, but what I love to see is the mother-in-law’s response. She rises and immediately begins to serve Jesus. Now, Jesus didn’t heal her in order to get supper cooked, and she didn’t serve out of social habit. She responded out of gratitude. Gratitude for her healing; gratitude for the visit of such a holy man coming to her home; and gratitude for Jesus’ special attention paid to her son-in-law.

This year we are examining the behaviors and attitudes of disciples of Jesus Christ. Gratitude is both an attitude and a fruit of the character of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

As we enter into the season of Lent, I invite you to ponder the sacrifice that Jesus made on your behalf, and the response that sacrifice has elicited with in you.

During the season of Lent we often practice the virtue of self-sacrifice, and I encourage you to do so this Lent as well. But in addition, I would like to invite you to consider acts of kindness and gratitude, as demonstrations of your attitude of gratitude.

I pray you all a very blessed Lent!