Saturday, August 17, 2019

Besetting Sins and Identity Theft

Pentecost 10 C 2019
 Besetting Sins and Identity Theft 
Fr. Dale Matson
My homily today is taken from our opening Collect and our Epistle lesson from Hebrews.
“Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life:  Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.”
In our opening Collect, we state that God sacrificed His only Son Jesus for our sins. In fact, it is only because of God’s mercy that we are not put in situations where we would sin. Because it is still in our nature to sin. In many situations, would you have behaved differently if your Christian friend or your spouse had not been around? In the same token, how often have you gotten excellent consultation from your spouse or even your own children. Yet we are to live a redeemed life after the pattern of our Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, we are called to lead a holy life but the old Adam still resides within us. Martin Luther once said that we should celebrate our baptism daily by drowning the old Adam.
From our Epistle lesson, we hear this. “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
Unfortunately, many Christians are crippled by what is referred to in Hebrews (12:1) as “Weights and Besetting Sins.”  In the King James Version or Epistle lesson states, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. What does St. Paul mean by weights and besetting sins? By “Weights” he means obsession with bodily concerns, fondness for and worries about this world. It was recently reported in the Los Angeles Times that one in five Californians say they need mental health care. Twenty-two military veterans commit suicide every day.
By “Besetting Sins” St. Paul means those sins that we have given a place in our lives to the extent that the sins now possess us. We are in captivity to them. They can be sins of addiction and in many cases, they are also hidden sins. Some of these sins are hidden from the sinner and others are known to the sinner. There are at a minimum three individuals who know about these sins. They are God, us and Satan the liar and thief. Eventually, more people may find out and at the last judgment you will have to account for these sins. King David lusted after Bathsheba which eventually led to him having her husband killed in battle so he could have her as his wife. Not everyone is fortunate enough as David to have a ‘Nathan’ to reveal his Besetting sin to him or her. In this case it was lust. The outcome from this sin was the death of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, David's son, a curse on the house of David and a warrior king turned into a cowardly fugitive from his own son Absalom.
I have had several besetting sins in my life. Perhaps the best way to describe them is that the sins can occupy and consume our thoughts. One of my sins is fear. My fear of flying was a specific problem that kept me from flying for twenty-five years.
Fear can control your life. Fear is a sin. In the book of Isaiah, God said, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
The phrase “fear not” is used at least 80 times in the Bible, most likely because God knows the enemy uses fear to decrease our hope and limit our victories. To the extent sin controls your life, it diminishes it. Christ said, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).
In today’s world, we attempt to protect our identity by shredding documents that contain our personal information. We also have software fire walls on our computers and unlisted phone numbers. Passwords can be pretty inconvenient, especially when you can’t remember the password you use to get into your computer. Why is it important to protect our identity? If our identity information is stolen by imposters, our credit and reputation could be destroyed. If this happens we can no longer buy or sell. We are powerless and penniless.
Here is the irony. If we have besetting sins, our identity is not secure. Our besetting sins provide an open portal in our firewall. Actually, our identity has already been stolen. What do I mean by this? Satan the liar, accuser and thief tells us we are imposters. We are not who we say we are. Even worse, Satan is able to convince us that we are not who God says we are. The effect of this is that we no longer see ourselves as God sees us. We see ourselves as Satan wants us to see ourselves. We see ourselves as powerless buying into the lies of the evil one. What does Scripture tell us about our true identity as Christians?  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-6). This is spoken of as something NOT in the future but as an accomplished fact. This is our true identity in Christ Jesus.    
How do we keep the accuser out? We are called to live a holy life. We are called to be a holy people. I already mentioned this in response to our opening Collect.  Our spiritual firewall is Virtue. In the King James Version of Holy Scripture, it states that when a woman with a bleeding problem touched Christ, she was healed and He felt a virtue leave Him. (Mark 5:30) Virtue is power. But you say to me, “I don’t have to be a holy person, Jesus paid the price of my sins”. That is true but he also told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
So, what are we to do with these besetting sins that give Satan an opportunity to steal our identity, blackmail us and short circuit our power as Christians? I believe the first step is with our will. We must ask God to give us the will to turn away. I prayed for two years for the desire to quit smoking. Even though I knew smoking was bad for me; I did not have the will to quit. I was a slave to this sin. Smoking was an addiction that owned me. The second step is what Psychologists call providing a replacement behavior. For example, in Alcoholics Anonymous the expression is, “Don’t pick up a drink. Pick up the phone.” In the case of the seven deadly sins, there are also seven corresponding virtues. The prescription is to practice virtues that work against the entrenched sins. I believe that is why St. Paul listed the Fruits of Spirit following the sins of the flesh in Galatians. For example, if you are someone afflicted with hoarding behavior, the most freeing thing you can do is to give things away. You are replacing greed with charity. I’m not saying you are a hoarder if you own a four-bedroom house and rent a storage shed but perhaps you could consider giving some of your things to a charity.
I would like to summarize thus far and offer an additional prescription. I believe many Christians see themselves as imposters and powerless. It may be because they have secret sins that Satan exploits. They have asked for forgiveness over and over yet remain captive of those sins. These are besetting sins that keep us from progressing as Christians. These secret sins keep us from being a holy people. We must ask God for the will to resist these sins and seek a virtuous replacement. Brothers and Sisters, the Kingdom of God is an upside-down Kingdom. The weak are strong, the last are first. The foolish are wise and the poor are rich. To rid ourselves of these sins, we must do the opposite.
Finally, here is the additional prescription. As Priests we are ordained to administer what we call the ABC’s. Consecrate the Bread and Wine. We are ordained to Bless things and people and we are ordained to offer Absolution. In our new ACNA Book of Common Prayer beginning on page 222 we have what are called the “Rites of Healing”. The first rite is “Reconciliation of Penitents”. It is an opportunity to personally confess and receive absolution from the priest, for those besetting sins which seem to hang on and never be resolved. These besetting sins allow the evil one to lie about our true identity. This is different than our group confession prior to the Liturgy of the Table. I hope that your will take advantage of the opportunity for private confession as a means to rid yourself of a besetting sin. Amen

Friday, August 16, 2019

Bishop’s Note – The Invitatory

Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of the 2019 BCP Service of Morning prayer we examine “The Invitatory.” The invitatory is composed of two parts – the call to worship and an invitatory psalm, either the Venite – Psalm 95 or the Jubilate – Psalm 100. The invitatory has been a part of the daily offices for centuries, and therefore endured the test of time.

Having cleansed our hearts by sincerely and contritely confessing our sins, and having received the cool balm of the words of absolution washing over us, we have sufficiently entered into the presence of the Lord.

In the call to worship we invite God Himself to open our lips that we may proclaim His praise. We invite the Lord to assist us because we need the Lord’s assistance with all things… up to and including praising His Holy Name!

Officiant O Lord, open our lips;
People And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Officiant O God, make speed to save us;
O Lord, make haste to help us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Officiant Praise the Lord.
People The Lord’s Name be praised.
Immediately following the invitatory, we pray Psalm 95 – The Venite – or Psalm 100 – the Jubilate. These psalms take their names from the first words of the psalm. O Come is derived from the Latin - Venite, exultemus Domino - “O come Let us sing unto the Lord.” King David in this psalm lifts his heart to the Lord and so too do we as we pray this psalm!

Psalm 100 – The Jubilate is also derived from the Latin - Jubilate Deo - “O Be joyful in the Lord.” Again, King David extols himself and all of us to “Be joyful in the Lord!” Indeed we can be joyful in the Lord because His Grace surrounds us and impels us forward in Him as we worship Him in the Morning Office!
O Come

O come, let us sing unto the Lord; *
     let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
     and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God *
     and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are all the depths of the earth *
     and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, *
     and his hands prepared the dry land.
O come, let us worship and fall down, *
     and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God, *
     and we are the people of his pasture,
     and the sheep of his hand.

The following verses may be omitted, except in Lent.

Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts *
     as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in
     the wilderness,
When your fathers tested me, *
     and put me to the proof, though they had seen my works.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said,
     “It is a people that err in their hearts,
     for they have not known my ways,”
Of whom I swore in my wrath *
     that they should not enter into my rest.
Psalm 95:1-7, 8-11
or this
Be Joyful

O be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
     serve the Lord with gladness,
     and come before his presence with a song.
Be assured that the Lord, he is God; *
     it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves;
     we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise; *
     be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name.
For the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting, *
     and his truth endures from generation to generation.
Psalm 100

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Bishop’s Note - Morning Prayer: Absolution

 Bishop Eric Menees

I write this Bishop’s Note while taking a class on the Ministry of Pastoral Care at Wheaton College. This is not an Anglican class but they are using the 2019 BCP for their worship and workshops. We just concluded a teaching on accepting forgiveness and the speaker used the absolution form the 2019 BCP. I find this significant because it is confirmation that Christians as a whole are discovering the beauty and power of this book.

Last week in our examination of the service of Morning Prayer in the BCP, we studied the confession of sin. This week as we continue our examination we look at the pronouncement of absolution. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that absolution is a noun and means, “(1) The formal release from guilt, obligation or punishment. (2) An ecclesiastical declaration of forgiveness of sin.”

You’ll remember from my previous Bishop’s Note that the service of Morning Prayer can be led by clergy or lay people and that it literally brought worship and scripture into the homes of lay men and woman in addition to the church. Thus, we have three forms for pronouncement of absolution:

The first form is drawn from the 1662 BCP and reminds us that the desire of God is that we as sinners may turn from our sin and live. It further speaks to the role of priest, speaking in “persona Christi” as Christ himself, pronouncing that forgiveness of sin to the truly repentant sinner. In addition, the priest exhorts God to grant us His Holy Spirit giving us the grace to live into the forgiveness provided which transforms lives and assists us in godly and holy living.

The second form is a more direct and straightforward pronouncement of absolution and remission of sin. This combination with “remission” is an important one. Too often, we associate this word with illness. “The cancer is in remission” is a phrase we hear. However, that gives the sense that it may come back. In the theological sense, remission is synonymous with exculpation. Again looking to the dictionary: “To exculpate means to find someone not guilty of criminal charges.” Exculpate comes from two Latin words: ex- meaning "from," and culpa meaning "blame." Exculpate is similar in meaning to exonerate. When you exonerate someone, you clear a person of an accusation and any suspicion that goes along with it. Not only are we forgiven, we are also released from blame and guilt!

The third form is meant for a deacon or layperson who bids God to grant repentant sinners “pardon and peace.” How beautiful to be reminded that God will indeed grant pardon and peace at the bidding of any one of his adopted children. Like “absolution and remission,” “pardon and peace” speaks to not only the forgiveness of the sin or crime of which we are guilty, but in addition, the peace that comes from the Holy Spirit which allows us to rest in Christ, free of guilt and shame.

The 2019 BCP reminds us not only of the importance of the confession of our sin but also of the promise of forgiveness that God offers. The two go together hand in hand.
The Priest alone stands and says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, desires not the death of sinners, but that they may turn from their wickedness and live. He has empowered and commanded his ministers to pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all who truly repent and genuinely believe his holy Gospel. For this reason, we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that our present deeds may please him, the rest of our lives may be pure and holy, and that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this

The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you absolution and remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Deacon or layperson remains kneeling and prays

Grant to your faithful people, merciful Lord, pardon and peace; that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I pray you all a very blessed day!