Thursday, May 6, 2021

Bishop’s Note: The Prayer of Committal

Bishop Eric Menees
Dear brothers and sisters,

I pray that this Bishop’s Note finds you safe and well this fifth week of Eastertide! This week we continue our discussion of the Burial Rite in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. As we did last week, today we will continue to look at the Committal, this time focusing on the prayer of committal itself.

Committal is the term for this section of the service, and what it means is entrusting or handing over. It’s not that a person is being committed to a grave, but committed to God, in a similar way that someone living may be entrusted or committed to a hospital or someone’s care. 

In a very lovely way, this can be seen as the extension of the committal in baptism. When a child or person of any age is baptized they are being placed into God’s loving hands to guide, guard, and care for during this life. The prayer of committal is extending that care into the next. 

This prayer is in a way the heart of this part of the service because it’s a prayer of committal, of entrusting. As we pray, “committing our brother N. to your gracious keeping.” This is a hugely important part of the service not just being able to pray for your loved one, but so those still alive on Earth can be reminded that their loved one is entrusted to God. As I heard a priest say before, “the souls of the dead are entrusted to God, and there’s nowhere better we can hope for them to be.”

I hope you all have a blessed Sixth Sunday of Easter and Feast of the Ascension!
Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of those who depart in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: We praise and magnify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course and kept the faith; and committing our brother N. to your gracious keeping, we pray that, together with him and with all those who are departed in the true faith of your holy Name, we may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Easter 5B 2021 St. James Anglican Church Service

Easter 5B 2021

Celebrant Fr. Anthony Velez

Preacher Fr. Dale Matson

Deacon Anna Hearn

Easter 5 Year B 2021

Fr. Dale Matson

A Still Small Voice, Miracles And The Struggles Of Daily Life

I want to begin by backing up a few weeks to comment on Beth Conkle’s homily for Maundy Thursday. She rightly noted that on Maundy Thursday, Christ instituted the Last Supper. It was the first Eucharist. As she was talking the Lord revealed to me that the Eucharist is also the greatest multiplication miracle. In the New Testament there are two separate multiplication miracles. The feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand. There are also three multiplication miracles in the Old Testament. Elisha fed 100 men with 20 loaves of bread and some corn. (2 Kings 4:42-44). Elisha also saved a women’s sons from slavery to a debtor by multiplying a little oil into vast amounts. (2 Kings 4:1-7) and Elijah asked a woman who had a little flour and some oil to make a cake. God said, “For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’” 1 Kings 17:8-17.

Now think about the Last Supper which is really the first Eucharist. Christ’s body and blood, the food of immortality, has been shared for over two thousand years and is still being shared today. That brothers and sisters is the greatest multiplication miracle by far. The bread of life is inexhaustible.  

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit who indwells all Christians not just His apostles. Think a second about the actions of the Holy Spirit. He is One who reminds, He is a Teacher and He is a Comforter and He is a Helper. 

He was a helper last Monday. I was on my way to visit with and commune Arlynne. I had an object in my left rear tire sidewall that caused a blowout. With God’s help, the instruction manual and 45 minutes, I was able to remove the spare tire from underneath my Yukon. It requires a key and the jack handle to lower the spare. As soon as I had the spare ready, the road service person arrived to replace my flat tire with the spare. Lifting a 275/55R/20 tire is not generally thought of as a normal requirement of our ADL’s (activities of daily living). I called Sharon and asked her to call the house where Arlynne stays and tell them I would not be able to make it. I did make it on Wednesday however. There is a 15-minute visitation rule, however.

And speaking of miracles, in our lesson from Acts, after the eunuch was baptized, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus. it is definitely an instance of miraculous teleportation. The Spirit transported Philip from a wilderness between Jerusalem and Gaza to a city about thirty miles away.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” How do we tune in to the Holy Spirit? How do we get on His wavelength? 

“And he said, ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.’ And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV).

In this passage the Prophet Elijah finally understood that God can be found in the “still small voice” (“gentle whisper” NIV). Certainly God communicates with us through Holy Scripture. He also communicates through His Sacraments, circumstances and through a word from our Christian brothers and sisters. And men, especially from our wives! In all these ways God leads us in our daily life. I once had a student who said about herself in all humility, “I have always been blessed to hear the voice of Jesus.” I understood her perfectly and hope you do too.

This voice is not the auditory persecutions experienced by psychotics. A clinically depressed person may believe that the voice telling them that they are no good is from God. Well, it is not from God.  The Holy Spirit’s voice is instructive. It is a Teaching voice. It is not the condemning conscience energized by the law written on our hearts. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). The voice is Comforting. The voice is not one of self-criticism. How many have you made a mistake and immediately say something like, “You jerk, what were you thinking?” That is not God. That is what I would call the voice of our critical parent. Has a parent ever talked that way to you?  The voice is a Counselor. The voice is not any louder than our own thoughts as God the Holy Spirit speaks to us. God is not in the earthquake. He is in scores of little things in our daily life. As the children’s song states, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.”

God so often puts a wife, a husband or friend around us as a helpmate. Like the Holy Spirit, we too often miss or dismiss what they have to say because of pride or stubbornness. Most people are offering a consultation not a criticism so don’t take it personally. It has been jokingly stated that a consultant is someone who borrows your watch and tells you what time it is. The Holy Spirit is a consultant Whose advice you ignore at your own peril. 

He is the voice of the teacher, the counselor and the comforter neatly woven into our thoughts yet we are able to distinguish His voice from our own thoughts. He also is the voice of a spouse, a brother or sister, a friend, a non-Christian or even an enemy. How many times did God use the enemies of the Israelites to bring them back to Him. With Elijah, God was not in the wind, earthquake and fire. Monks and Mystics seek silence and solitude to hear the voice of God yet ordinary Christians are blessed to hear God every day. Yes, God also speaks to us through others, even those who persecute us. The indwelling Holy Spirit is a sign and a seal.  “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is more than a lifetime warranty. He is an eternal warranty alleluia! As a 76-year-old, a lifetime warranty to me means less than it does to you. 

Don’t you do the same thing? Something happens with our health and we immediately think the worst. We “Awfulize”. Satan, the author of “Survivor Guilt”, immediately steps in and says, “Why should you live any longer” Aren’t you already older than half of those folks you read about in the obituaries? Never look for an encouraging word from the evil one, the accuser of the brethren.             

 How fitting is it then for St. Paul to say that those who are led by the Spirit are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18) Does this mean that we are no longer bound by the Law? No, it means that when we are led by the Spirit of God, we will also honor the Law. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14). The more the world becomes a confusing and crazy place to exist, the more I appreciate the Ten Commandments. There is certain clarity about them. The commandments are to behavior what sea level is to the surveyor.

St. Paul uses the Phrase, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. It is also a peace with God and our own conscience. The peace the world gives is transitory. We strive for peace in our lives. How do we do this? Much of what we do in life is intended to provide security isn’t it? We lock our doors. We work toward being debt free. We guard our health. We have insurance plans for our life, home and automobile. We have extra food on hand.

So much of our efforts are aimed at avoiding problems and in our human frailty, we often create more problems. We once pulled a dead tree down that was lying against another tree and a piece of the tree landed on our fence and smashed it to the ground. Needless to say that created an even bigger project to repair the fence. I’ll bet you have experienced this too.  And yet, and yet again, like clearing weeds, tree limbs and brush, there is no lasting peace that we can provide through increased security. Much of our perceived threat is out of our control. We cannot protect against things outside the security cocoon we build around ourselves. It makes us anxious much of the time. There are so many things that impact us that we have no control over like terrorism and Wall Street and Cancer and car crashes and aging. 

Changes in marriage, social isolation, and family roles will continue into the next generation. Folks had great expectations for how their lives would turn out but it hasn’t panned out. I also think there is a great deal of moral ambiguity and confusion. Never forget this. The church will always be counter culture. We are called haters and bigots and we are not. It is not a right to free speech that we claim. It is a prophetic voice we cannot and should not keep silent. A life led for Christ is an affront to those living licentious lives.

 As St. Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit has told us, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). We live in anxious times. So what is the release from this prison of anxiety for the Christian? It is the decision to die to self and live for Christ, for He is our authentic self. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. If I have failed over and over as a Christian it is disregarding the good council of the Holy Spirit. I too easily tune into my anxieties and fears and allow them to drown out the still small voice of God.

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit. He is our counselor and advocate. We have a conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ and forgiveness of our sins. We have hope. We are headed toward eternal life. We cannot convince the pagans around us to reform themselves because their minds are darkened by sin. We can however live a redeemed life, be a beacon of light to those who are perishing; to those who no longer have boundaries. “… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Amen.  

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Bishop’s Note: The Lord's Prayer

Bishop Eric Menees
Dear brothers and sisters,

I pray that this Bishop’s Note finds you safe and well this fourth week of Eastertide! This week we continue our discussion of the Burial Rite in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. As we did last week, today we will continue to look at the Committal, this time focusing on the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is unique in that it is the one prayer in scripture that Jesus himself instructs his disciples to pray. Of course, we do get examples of prayer elsewhere in scripture, primarily in the Book of Psalms, in the writings of Paul and the other apostles, and the beautiful “high priestly prayer” of Jesus in John chapter 17. However, because Jesus directly instructed his disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray it frequently and it’s seen as a sort of model or ideal for what prayer should look like.

It’s fascinating because the church prays it in so many different situations and circumstances, and it’s the perfect prayer in each of those circumstances because it casts them in the light of Christ. When we pray this prayer at a funeral the first thing that should strike us is that it’s OUR prayer, not each of us as individuals, but ours as one church. It’s us together joining our prayers to the Father with Christ as our mediator. It’s a reminder that even though our loved one has died they are still part of that Church, the body of Christ.

We then transition to asking God to spread his kingdom in the world. It’s a reminder for us as Christians that one day all of the dead will be raised and God will once again join heaven and earth and the righteous will dwell with him in the New Jerusalem. This should highlight the hope each of us have as Christians. Lastly, we get the section asking about our own personal needs, for sustenance, forgiveness, and guidance. This reminds us that in the struggles we may face as a result of this death we can turn to God with confidence that he will provide for us.

I pray you all have a blessed fifth Sunday of Easter!
Officiant  The Lord be with you.
People      And with your spirit.
Officiant  Let us pray.
Officiant and People
Our Father, who art in heaven,     
hallowed be thy Name,         
thy kingdom come,        
thy will be done,        
on earth as it is in heaven.         
Give us this day our daily bread.     
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those         
who trespass against us.        
And lead us not into temptation,     
but deliver us from evil.        
For thine is the kingdom,    
and the power, and the glory,        
for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Bishop’s Note: The Casting of Earth

Bishop Eric Menees
Dear brothers and sisters,

I pray that this Bishop’s Note finds you safe and well this third week of Eastertide! This week we continue our discussion of the Burial Rite in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. As we did last week, today we will continue to look at the Committal, this time focusing on the casting of earth on the coffin.

This is one of the parts of the service that is so simple, the casting of earth, but can be so meaningful. One funeral in particular I did at the start of my ministry involved this, and I still hear from the family how meaningful that part was to them.

This act and prayer present a fascinating juxtaposition of our identities as human beings. It begins with the casting and those words, “we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” We are part of creation. Adam was literally created from the earth, and it’s in death that we return to it. It should give us pause and make us reflect on our need for humility. We’re creatures of earth and nothing compared to God. We can never hope to earn a place near him.

But that’s immediately followed up by the beautiful blessing given by God to Moses for his brother Aaron who is the father of the priestly line known as the Levites from Numbers 6, “The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him, the Lord lift up his countenance upon him and give him peace.” We are created from the earth and we should be humble, but we’re created and called to something far greater than ourselves or what we could do on our own, intimacy with God. The same thing is echoed in the other prayer, “through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our perishable body, that it may be like his own glorious body.” Even in the midst of sorrow we as Christians have something glorious to hope for.

I hope you all have a blessed Fourth Sunday of Easter!
Then, while earth is cast upon the coffin, the Officiant says these words
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother N., and we commit his body to the ground [or the deep or its resting place]; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him, the Lord lift up his countenance upon him and give him peace. Amen.

Or this
Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother [or this beloved child], here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground [or the deep or its resting place]; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our perishable body, that it may be like his own glorious body, according to the mighty working of his Spirit, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself. Amen.