Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bishop’s Note: May 17, 2018 – Forgive

Bishop Eric Menees
This week, one of my clergy asked me this question: “This week’s gospel from John 20 Jesus tells the apostles: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ And we’ll pray, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Do you think this means that if we don’t forgive TEC for what they have done to us, they will not be forgiven? And if we don’t forgive them their trespasses, ours will not be forgiven? This has been rattling around in my brain for some time and I decided to bring it to someone who might be able to help me understand it.”

When Jesus says to the Apostles: "If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them and if you retain the sins of any they are retained," he is speaking about the Church. Jesus has granted the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the privilege and responsibility to speak for God. When sin is committed by an individual against God, and that person - in the context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or in the General Confession during a church service - confesses his sin, then the Church - speaking for God - can release people from sin IF they are repentant and come with a contrite heart. How powerful and important it is for the priest to speak those words over the congregation: "Almighty God 
have mercy on you. Forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ. Strengthen you in all goodness and bring you to life everlasting through Jesus Christ our Lord."  

In the Lord's prayer, Jesus is speaking to the individual Christian who has been wronged. In that case, you should be willing and able to forgive, just as God is willing, able, and faithful to forgive us.

With regards to The Episcopal Church, it is the second form of forgiveness that comes into play: we must forgive TEC for the wrong they've done. That doesn't mean that we do not admit the hurt they have caused - or the fact that they are unrepentant. However, we must release them. To hold onto anger and bitterness only damages our soul and hardens our heart. 

I believe I can honestly say that I do not hold ill will against TEC. I pray for the conversion of their leadership, and that they will stop leading people astray. However, in dealing with TEC, I also remember Jesus' words: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."  (Mt. 10:16) We are sheep living amongst wolves.

I pray that the Lord may bless and keep you all!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Homily Easter Seven Year B 2018

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless: The In-Between Times
Fr. Dale Matson
I will be talking about the Ascension of Christ and because Sunday is also Mothers' Day I will be reflecting on mothers also.
In our collect today it states, “Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit”. We are at an important in-between place in the church year. We are waiting for empowerment. Christ ascended into heaven forty days after Easter. Ascension Day is one of the seven Principal Feast Days in the church year and was celebrated last Thursday. Next Sunday is another of the seven Principal Feast Days.  It is the Day of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and the Church is empowered to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Until this point, the Apostles were spending a good deal of time behind a locked door in the upper room. They were obediently waiting but while they waited, there was no boldness, only fear. They had seen their resurrected Lord for forty days and then He ascended to Heaven. Christ told the Apostles to wait a few days in Jerusalem for empowerment by the Holy Spirit. He said they would receive a “baptism”.  This period of waiting did amount to a matter of days and this Sunday would be day three of ten. The in between time from Christ’s Ascension to Pentecost was ten days. While they waited, they were still fearful that they too would be arrested and suffer the same fate.
There is a repeated cycle of joy and sadness for the Apostles with the in between waiting times. In the story of Lazarus, Christ’s friends were happy to see Him but sad that He had not come sooner. While they awaited His arrival, their brother Lazarus died. Sometimes the waiting times were relatively brief like the resurrections of Lazarus and Christ. For us it is a much longer period of waiting as we await His second coming in glory.
Christ’s friends were sad that he was crucified and died and was buried in the tomb but filled with wonder that he arose from the dead. In the tomb account two men dressed in dazzling white clothing suddenly appear beside them. They were afraid and could not look at them. These men are Angels. Angels are messengers that appear at important times to explain to us what is happening. It is interesting to me that they explain things not by making a statement but by asking a question. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
In our reading from Acts Jesus issues the great commission, tells the apostles that they will receive empowerment from the Holy Spirit and ascends into heaven on a cloud. Again, the Angels are there to jolt the Apostles back to reality. They stood there watching Him ascend probably very dazed by the experience and feeling deserted once again. They probably kept looking long after Christ had disappeared from sight. Once again, two men dressed in white ask a question. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” They are sad at His departure but given hope by the Angels. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” This statement by the Angel is somewhat of a puzzle but partially explained in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus prophesied about the future, “At that time the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky, and all of the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” This is a reference to the second coming of Christ as judge.
He’s dead! He’s alive! He’s with us. He’s gone! What a rollercoaster ride this must have been for His followers. What about the kingdom? I thought we were going to be made kings under your rule Lord. Before Christ ascended they actually asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” No, you are missing the point. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual state not a state in the material world. You are not going to be kings. You are going to be persecuted and die a similar death.
How much of your life has taken place in the “in between times”. How often has a situation seemed to drag on with no resolution and finding a resolution, how often does a new crisis bring with it a new in between time?
Paul was in an in between time too. He wanted to go to Heaven and be with Jesus but knew also that he was needed on this earth. He knew it would be better for him to go but better for us for him to stay. Aren’t we glad that he did stay long enough to write much of the New Testament?
We are not left comfortless during these in between times. Christ was born Christ died Christ will come again. The Holy Spirit is here to comfort us. He is here and even called the comforter and the counselor. He is the one called alongside as the advocate. He is that still small voice offering exhortation and encouragement. Listen to Him. Listen to Him in the silences between the background noises.
In addition to celebrating the ascension of Christ this is also Mother’s Day. Now certainly not everyone here is a mother but everyone here has or had a mother. Our Lord Jesus also had a mother, Mary. His human genetics were contributed by Mary alone. He was His mother’s son. While the man Jesus was shaped by the behaviors of both Mary and Joseph, He was also genetically predisposed to reflect some of her attributes and characteristics.
“Mary was submissive to God. She was a woman of faith. Part of Elizabeth’s prophetic response to Mary’s greeting was “blessed is she who has believed” (Luke 1:45). Mary was humble. She spoke of her “humble state” (Luke 1:48). Mary was spiritual. She was a devout worshipper. We see this in the profound and powerful words of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Mary was thoughtful. She kept the words of the shepherds and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). Twelve years later in Jerusalem Jesus made a pointed statement about His true Father that Mary kept also in her heart (Luke 2:51).
Unlike Eve who wanted to elevate herself, to be like God,  Mary is the most appropriate role model for women. As a motherly figure, Mary exemplifies strength of godliness, strength, and maternal instinct. Mary portrays traits of holiness, piety, and humbleness. As a teacher, Mary instructs women on the importance of trust and perseverance.
One of the most valuable strengths Mary possessed was her ability to persevere. She went through many trials in her life, but she never lost sight of the Lord. She used her complete trust in God and her strong will to overcome obstacles and setbacks.”
Moms are necessary. Sharon and I have been watching an eagle’s nest. It is the mother eagle that does almost all of the egg sitting. Consequently, it is the female that is most often the defender of the nest. Once hatched, young chicks are not able to thermoregulate for about two weeks and it is the mother that covers them to protect them from the rain, the cold and the heat. When the chicks are older the mother also brings food to the nest for the nestlings.
Click On Photograph To Enlarge 
Golden Eagle Chicks
My mother like Mary was also a woman of great perseverance. She suffered from a lifelong depression yet she always offered words of hope and encouragement. She would say to my disappointments, “Tomorrow will be a better day”. She was the spiritual head of our home and was always there to remind her husband and four children how God disapproved when we misbehaved. Because she was the moral authority in our home she could always appeal to the next level. How many of you folks still hear your mother’s voice in your thoughts when you get into mischief even as an older adult. It is mothers who shape the conscience of their children.
She could be a Holy terror when angered. It was the Highland Scot in her that made her such a warrior She was a Campbell. She was a fearful woman but taught us all that the only path is to face our fears. There was a neighborhood bully that frequently taunted and tormented my younger sister, me and our friends. Did my father do anything or my older brother? No. One day my mother ran down the steps of the back porch grabbed the winter cap off the bully’s head and beat him with it until he cried. No more bully for our neighborhood! Justice was physical and immediate in those days.
Sharon took hold of a child that was misbehaving in the boys’ grade school and the child said, “You can’t touch me.” Sharon said I’m not a school employee, I’m a mom and can do whatever I want.”
My mom was not a good cook and we thought it was normal for hamburgers to look and taste like charcoal briquettes. The upside to this was that we never got food poisoning from her cooking since the food was so thoroughly cooked.
She was full of “momisms” guaranteed to send mixed signals. When I went out on a date she would say, “Have a great time. I will be awake worrying until you are back home.” Another of her momisms was, “You better be careful or you’ll lose your happy home.” Well, mom it wasn’t always happy.
She was an independent woman who was unfortunately dependent on my father who was the sole breadwinner. When my younger sister and I were in high school, she got a job and earned her own money. I believe this was a very liberating experience for her. I believe she now felt less dependent on my father. She bought me my first suit when I graduated from high school. It was a Botany 500 that cost $75.00. In 1962, that was a lot of money. Today you couldn’t buy a tie for a suit for $75.00. My dad was surprised to hear from my mom that he would be attending my graduation since he wasn’t aware I was a senior.
My mom and many of your moms were like Mary. Their primary job is intercessor. They would plead your case to the unjust judge (who was sometimes my father). I would sometimes awaken in the middle of the night to hear my mother pleading my case to my father. God The Father said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” Some of us never heard this from our fathers but hearing it from our mothers was a salve for this wound on our souls.
When my mother passed, my siblings asked if there was anything I wanted. I asked for her Schofield Bible with notes she had written throughout her Bible during the many years she taught a women’s Bible class. Mom did not leave me comfortless either.
I hope that in recounting some of these things about my mom, one of the most beautiful women I have ever known, that you too can smile as you think about your mom on this Mother’s Day. Amen  


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bishop’s Note: May 10, 2018 – The Ascension

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven: May our hearts and minds also there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Today we celebrate one of the most important feasts in the year – the Feast of the Ascension. Like all of the feasts in the Church Year, the Feast of the Ascension is based on the Word of God:
It is based on an actual historical event.
It is the fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophetic words.
It is the fulfillment of his exaltation  - the redemption of his humility – that this man who had so horribly died on the cross for our sins now sits at the right hand of God.
What does the Ascension of Jesus teach us? First, it teaches us that Jesus is our constant Intercessor. St. Paul tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven and is very busy: “34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

There, he sits as our intermediary between God and man. Every prayer you pray, Jesus hears and brings to the Father; constantly advocating on our behalf.

The ascended Lord is also our Judge: Matthew chapter 25 tells us that Jesus will come to separate the sheep from the goats, and Second Timothy chapter 4 tells us that Jesus will judge the living and the dead. So there he waits, enthroned at the Right hand of the Father, waiting to be our judge. This same King Jesus, who intercedes on our behalf, also prepares to be our Judge.

The Feast of the Ascension, which is on a par with Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, is all about Jesus - our present Intercessor and future Judge!

The question for us, then, is how do we live in the in-between time? Are we redeeming the time until Jesus returns? Are we fulfilling the ministries he has given to the church? We have been placed where we are for a purpose.

In Acts 1:11, the two angles asked the disciples: "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?" It was the Earth, not the sky, which they should be occupied with; to be witnesses, not stargazers! Our calling is not upwards in nostalgia, but outwards in compassion to a lost world that needs Jesus. 

And to that I say AMEN!

I pray you all a very blessed Feast of the Ascension!