Thursday, March 15, 2018

Bishop’s Note: March 15, 2018 – the Great Commission

Bishop Eric Menees
On Sunday I had the honor of installing Fr. Ron Ryan as the new vicar for St. Peter’s, Kernville. For this occasion the Gospel lesson was from Matthew 28 – The Great Commission. There is no more iconic scripture that speaks to the heart of discipleship than the Great Commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19)

There are several key points to notice in this action packed sentence:

Go therefore… “Therefore” referrers to what happened just before… meaning when we go out to the nations – or the neighborhoods – or the workplaces, we do not go based on our own initiative and authority! Whose initiative and authority do we go out with? The resurrected Jesus’! Notice, also, that this going out is not a suggestion – this is an imperative!

Make disciples… This isn’t simply belief in Jesus – lots of people believe that Jesus was a great man; a great philosopher; a great religious leader. Rather, to be a disciple is to submit to Jesus as Lord and Master!

Baptizing… This is more than the sprinkling of water; it is entering into a believing community! Each of our congregations should be a place where disciples of Jesus are baptized and then supported as they, in turn, disciple others, lead them to baptism, and support them as they, in turn….the cycle repeating over and over again.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Jesus calls us to do this under his authority and in the name of the Triune God. In other words, it’s not simply “believe in whatever, or whomever,  you want;” what we believe does, indeed, matter!  Jesus makes this clear in the next clause:

“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)  This means that we must, all of us, be both Student and Teacher. We cannot teach people to observe all that Jesus commanded without knowing what Jesus commanded! And the best way to really learn is to teach. Never forget that you - each of you - are called to always be a student of the Word of God, as well as a teacher of the Word of God! So, teach your friends! Teach your family!

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Lastly -  and equally important to everything that has gone before - when we dare to be obedient to the call of Jesus, his promise is that he’ll never leave us. Therefore, we cannot fail! Whatever we give up to the Lord in service or devotion, he turns towards his glory! Oops, wait a moment - there is one way to fail: you can choose NOT to share the gospel; not to talk about Jesus; not to love others; not to be obedient to Jesus’ call on your life.

My prayer for each and every member of the Diocese is that we will all step out in faith as disciples of Jesus Christ, secure in the knowledge that, with Jesus at our side, we cannot fail!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Bishop’s Note: March 8, 2018 – Love the Law

Bishop Eric Menees

Beginning the first Sunday in Lent, I’ve been opening the liturgy with a recitation of the Ten Commandments – often referred to as the Decalogue. Last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in Lent, we also read the 10 Commandments in our Old Testament Lesson from Exodus chapter 20.

How sad that we, for the most part, only use these during the penitential season of Lent. It’s almost as if we are saying that we follow the Ten Commandments as a sign of penance. On the contrary – we do not follow the commandments out of penance; we follow the commandments out of LOVE!

God, our heavenly Father, loves us more than we can imagine. When he, through Moses, gave the 10 Commandments to the people of Israel - and by extension to us - he did so out of Love; the way a loving parent gives their child restrictions out of love. The Ten Commandments fulfill what Jesus sums up in the Great Commandment. Remember when the Pharisees tried to trip up Jesus by asking what the greatest commandment was? How did Jesus answer? “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.  39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Mt. 22:37-40)

The first four commandments are about how we are to love God. We are to love God exclusively (1st Commandment). We are to love God reverentially (2nd & 3rd Commandments). We are to love God by spending time with Him (4th Commandment).

The next six commandments are about how we are to love our others, beginning with the 5th Commandment – honoring our fathers and our mothers.  It begins with family, and then moves to our neighbor.  Loving others means that we would seek to see them, and treat them, the way that God does. So naturally, we would not murder, or steal, or commit adultery, or lie, or covet after a person or material possessions of our neighbor.

In the Ten Commandments, God gives us a means to respond to His love first given to us.  In the Old Testament, the Pharisees seemed to think that the Law was given to us as a means of getting closer to God, like climbing a ladder will bring you higher. What they forgot is that God had already come down from heaven in the form of pure love found in the person of Jesus. 

Next Sunday, as we are reading and responding to the Decalogue, let us do so in Love; picturing the Father with His arms outstretched, ready to embrace us!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bishop’s Note: March 1, 2018 – “Take Up Your Cross And Follow Me.”

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

What does that mean, to “take up your cross?” One common misconception places this in the area of the natural trials and tribulations of living in a fallen world. For example, people will say to someone with an illness or a disability, “Well, I guess that is your cross to bear.” However, I can tell you from first hand experience, that is not the case.  I have a bone disease called avascular osteonecrosis; it is somewhat like arthritis and has caused me to have my hips replaced… twice. I wish I didn’t have it – I certainly don’t’ want it.

Yet, while this is a trial that I have to live with, and it has made me a better minister, I did not choose to have this disease. Doctor’s are not 100% sure why I have it – generally you get it from either steroid use, trauma, or genetics. I don’t fit the first two categories, and I don’t think I fit the third category; but who knows. The point is, to be my “cross” I would have to intentionally choose to have it. 

Beyond that, to “take up your cross and follow Jesus” you need to choose it AND it needs to benefit another person and the Lord!

A better example of this would be Mother Teresa. In his book, The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne describes Mother Teresa Thus:
She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery, like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed. Each morning I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. One day a Sister explained, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbor as herself deformed her feet.

Mother Teresa had deformed feet because she chose loving the poor and suffering for them as her cross.

Closer to home, a few years back I witnessed my mom “take up her cross.” My grandmother was put on hospice care, and my mom quit her work in order to care for her mother for the last five months of her mom’s life. God powerfully used that time for healing and reconciliation. 

That is what God does with his disciples who “take up their cross.” God uses their voluntary suffering to ultimately bless them, bless others, and honor God! 

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Note: Sorry for the late posting. Dale+