Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Elvis has left the Building

Fr. Dale Matson

In this week’s Gospel Passage (John 4:5-42) from the BCP lectionary, Jesus talks at length about the Spiritual realm. He talks about Himself as the water that quenches thirst permanently and brings eternal life. He also talks about doing the will of the Father as His food and the great harvest, not of crops but human souls. In the following passage however he talks about where and how God is to be worshiped.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24, NASB).

"Elvis has left the building!" is a phrase that was often used by public address announcers at the end of Elvis Presley concerts to signal that there would be no more Elvis that night. There would be no more encores, he was gone and finally the audience would leave. This phrase has come to mean in a more generic sense that the end has come or put another way, there is no point in staying. When God, Who is a Spirit, is not worshiped in spirit and truth and idolatry and immorality replace spiritual worship, God will not remain.

The prophet Ezekiel in Chapter eight is taken in the spirit to the temple in Jerusalem. There he is shown idolatry and sexual immorality that was being practiced. In spite of warnings and punishment of Judah by God, the once powerful Judah was reduced almost to the point of extinction and yet they continued to descend into immorality. Abominations were taking place in the temple of God. In Chapter 10:18, God’s Spirit left the temple. “Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.” (NASB).

There is a modern parallel to this. As in Ezekiel’s day there is immorality and idolatry being practiced by a church that is turning its back on tradition and Scripture. How do we know this? We look to see what is being brought into the church. What is unholy is being called holy and blessed. It is bringing things into God’s house as in the days of Ezekiel. His church is being desecrated. False doctrines and pagan living are said to be holy and blessed. And what has God done? He may dwell in His people but His spirit has left these churches. God’s Shekinah glory dwelled in the temple and left the temple, gave life to the church on Pentecost and is leaving these false churches. And what is being removed? The Cross of Christ is being metaphorically and even physically removed because it is an offense. If these things happen in your church, then it is a sign that Elvis has left the building and it is time for you to leave also. Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Works and Stewardship of Time

Fr. Dale Matson

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16, NASB).

I was born in 1944 and now am at the leading edge of the “Baby Boomers”. This is a huge population bump that, if not already, will soon be drawing Social Security. What I have noticed is a tendency for many of my contemporaries including my own relatives to focus primarily on themselves. I am reminded of the words of Jesus from a portion of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (6:19-21, NASB).

For this generational cohort, the time is slipping away at an ever faster pace. Many have reasonably good health, adequate finances and an uncomplicated life of leisure. They have a great deal of discretionary time every week. For me the question of what I am doing with this time is answered every morning as I journal the previous day’s activities. The question for me every morning is, “Was I a good steward of the time I was given?” I am not a works righteousness type individual but do believe that Christians are called to do good works in response to God’s grace and blessings. Good works are the actions that say to a loving and gracious God, “Thank you dear God; I will invest the talents you have given me. I will be a good steward of the time you have given me.”

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, NASB).

Man was put on the earth to dress and keep the garden. That was his good works assigned to him by God. Because this work fulfilled a purpose the Creator had for man, it gave man’s life meaning. There is no unemployment in the Kingdom of God and our original assignment has not changed. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10, NASB).

The good works done in faith on this earth have eternal value. More and more I understand that good works redeem the time I wasted in self-indulgent and self-destructive activities. I also fully understand the sacrificial, complete and atoning death of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus and am not saying that I need to add one more cup to His offering or His suffering. Mostly it is about awareness at this stage in my life that each day is a gift from God. It is also an impression that our good works are in giving ourselves to others in the form of a listening ear, an encouraging voice, a helping hand or an intercessory prayer.

“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11, NASB). Amen

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bill Gates: A Failed Philanthropy For The Planet

Fr. Dale Matson

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’." (Genesis 1:28)

“I'd like to share a revelation I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with their surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and you multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we … are the cure.
(Agent Smith speaking to Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix”)

“One of the world's wealthiest men and the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, has suggested vaccines as one method of reducing the world's population. Gates made his remarks to the invitation-only Technology, Entertainment and Design 2010 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. His February address was titled, "Innovating to Zero" http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=127346 He presented a speech on global warming, stating that CO2 emissions must be reduced to zero by 2050. Gates said every person on the planet puts out an average of about five tons of CO2 per year. "Somehow we have to make changes that will bring that down to zero," he said. "It's been constantly going up.” .

Bill Gates would probably see himself as a major contributor to humanitarian causes in third world countries. He is a man with enormous financial clout who is attempting to literally change the face of our planet. I am not prepared to argue whether increased CO2 increases temperature or the reverse. I am also not prepared to argue whether humans are major or only minor contributors to CO2 emissions. I am here to argue against what seems to be a counter-intuitive rationale that increased immunization will lead to less mortality and less population. In his 2009 annual letter, he wrote that a "surprising but critical fact [is] that reducing the number of [infant] deaths actually reduces population growth." “…parents choose to have enough kids to give them a high chance that several will survive to support them as they grow old. As the number of kids who survive to adulthood goes up, parents can achieve this goal without having as many children.”http://www.gatesfoundation.org/annual-letter/2009/Pages/2009-preventing-childhood-deaths.aspx.

This may be the understanding of Bill Gates as to why parents in third world countries have lots of children but the reason could also be economic. More children are more workers who can contribute to family subsistence. They are seen as an asset in the here and now, not an investment in the future comfort of the parents. In third world countries children are seen as making poor parents rich.

I believe that Bill Gates sees humans not a resource or holding a special place in creation. I believe he sees humans ultimately as a liability. He is a depopulationist whose father was head of Planned Parenthood. He has contributed tens of millions of dollars to groups that perform and proselytize for abortions.

If he is wrong about immunizations leading to lower populations, then his strategy of reducing infant and childhood mortality must lead to lower populations through other mechanisms resulting from overpopulation pressures. Starvation and war are other checks on overpopulation. It would be tragic indeed if his immunizations resulted in more people, more CO2 and more suffering. In any intervention the prime directive is to first do no harm. If human beings continue to be seen as a threat to the planet because they are a source of CO2 emissions, then the search for effective interventions will focus more on limiting human populations via inhumane measures such as sterilization and abortion.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ego and The Season of Lent

Fr. Dale Matson

In our readings for the first Sunday of Lent, Adam and Eve were in a state of innocence before their fall from grace. God had breathed His life into them after forming them from the earth. They did not have an identity apart from God. They knew themselves only as God knew them. The idea suggested by Satan followed by the act of disobedience led to their immediate loss of innocence and their sense of shame. They now had identities corrupted by sin that were estranged from God and a changed relationship with one another. Their shame was both an indication of a loss of innocence and the acquisition of self-awareness.

Self-awareness is an important developmental step in our fallen world but it is the result of sin. The rouge test can be used to demonstrate self-awareness at about eighteen months of age. If a child has rouge put on her face and is placed in front of a mirror, she will touch the rouge on her own face indicating that she recognizes herself as the person in the mirror. The cost of self-awareness however, is egocentricity. Children are egocentric to the point of narcissism. Their needs and wants are the only thing that matters. Our parents exchanged the rule of God in the garden for self-rule.

Hopefully, as we mature, we adopt a less egocentric lifestyle. Unfortunately, there are some who remain imprisoned in the narcissism of childhood. They are the folks diagnosed with organic or functional disorders. What the rest of us fail to realize is that even if we are not narcissistic, we are still self-centered and egocentric. We are still focused on and live in our own existential universe. We still see things subjectively through our own eyes and do what is right in our own mind.

What did our Lord Christ have to say about this? “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work’.” (John 4:34, NASB). “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner’.” (John 5:19, NASB). “"I and the Father are one." (John 10:30, NASB).

What is the point of these verses? I believe that they demonstrate that Christ who was fully human and divine was always conscious of His identity in relationship to the Father. Because He was without sin, he enjoyed the relationship with the Father that Adam and Eve lost for themselves and us. As Christians, Christ is revealed in us, is living in us and is being formed in us. As Christians, we are to live a crucified life. Lent is the time to put off the old self (Colossians 3:12), the egocentric self and to put on the new self (Ephesians 4:24). Our real and authentic self is hidden in Christ and “In Him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28a, NASB). As we are transformed into Christ through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, we shall again know ourselves as we are known. This is living the born again life with access to Christ who is the vine and the tree of life. Amen

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nominees for Bishop Announced.

The four nominees for the Fifth Bishop of San Joaquin have been announced on the Diocese of San Joaquin website.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Prayer For Those Involved With The Earthquake And Tsunami

Fr. Dale Matson

Dear Lord watch over those who perished in the earthquake and tsunami. Raise them and us to life at the end of time to be with you for eternity. Accept our prayers on their behalf and comfort and console their loved ones with the hope of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Ease the suffering of those who lost homes and property and speed relief to them. Open the eyes of those who witnessed those who weep and cause compassion to stir in their hearts. As the wave moved across the waters of the earth, let it connect all of us as brothers and sisters to share in mercy and understanding. Lord watch over those who are involved in rescue and relief and protect them from accident, disease, discouragement or other harm. Lord give to those who have suffered from this, the hope to rebuild and the courage to continue. May we all be joined as one in You. Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Physician

Fr. Dale Matson

“And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” (Luke 5:31, NASB).

I was attempting to remove a tire from a bicycle rim last summer and noticed a strange pain in my groin area. Initially I didn’t have the telltale bulge of a hernia but after about a week it was obvious that resting would not solve the problem. I had two existing hernias for more than ten years that were higher and asymptomatic. This however was not only uncomfortable at the site but there was a referred pain that was so intense I had to dismount my bicycle and walk home about a week later. There were other symptoms such as stomach cramps that I experienced for months but failed to connect to my hernia. I could still swim with little discomfort but I could no longer run or ride.

My prior surgeries were for a broken nose and a tonsillectomy. Both occasions were as a child and the ether experience was so traumatic that I believe I had Post Traumatic Stress disorder from it. Additionally I had severe hemorrhaging one week following the tonsillectomy. I also had general anesthesia for arthroscopic knee surgery with equivocal results. Thus, my attitude about surgery and surgeons was less than positive.

After months of struggle and pain, I met with a surgeon to discuss my options which at this point were limited to surgery. He seemed to me to be a confident young man which is a great quality for someone who is a surgeon to possess and it instilled hope in me also. We scheduled surgery for early January. I also knew that there would be a period of convalescence following the surgery even if the surgery were successful and there was no post-operative infection.

I requested and received an epidural anesthetic which eliminated the need for general anesthesia which remains an area of fear for me. As the surgeon began preparation for the surgery, I told him that his profession was probably second only to clergy for intercessory prayers. I don’t recall his response.

So, what is the point of this? I believe there are folks reading this that need surgery but have avoided it because of fears of one sort or another. God has provided physicians for us as an intervention that is sometimes the only answer for disease or injury. I cannot describe the sense of brokenness, physical pain and psychological discouragement I experienced prior to my surgery and the sense of confidence that has returned since my surgery. Sometimes it is an issue of trust or fear that keeps us from making a necessary decision to even go to a medical professional. Sometimes it is a matter of admitting that there is a problem. Simply know that God has placed many professionals around us for our care. He works through them to care for us. Amen

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Transfiguration

Fr. Dale Matson
“Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” (Matt. 17:1-2, NASB).

In my sermon preparation this week I struggled with the temptation to use the Epistle lesson from Philippians (3: 7-14). In this passage Paul described his trials in such personal and human terms. He used “I” statements thirteen times in describing his total abandonment of his prior life under the law. He now through faith sought the pearl of great price Jesus Christ, wanting to know Him only.

However, the Old Testament lesson was a parallel account to the Gospel lesson with Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:12-18), the Collect was about the Transfiguration and even the Psalm (99) talked about the glory of the Lord and His speaking from the pillar of cloud (v. 7). It is so much easier to understand, identify with and explain the struggles of Paul and even the human moments in the life of Jesus than it is to grasp the Glory and majesty of God in the person of Christ. It is in the moments where the miraculous happens to Christ that He seems so different and unapproachable and we seem so unable to respond or even comprehend. Unlike Moses, His glory was not a reflected radiance.

In the story of the road to Emmaus in Luke (24:13-35) Jesus walked with two of His followers, “but they were kept from recognizing Him” (v. 16). It is only later in the breaking of bread that “…their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (v.35). Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. Christ could make himself anonymous and once He allowed his true glory to manifest itself to three of his disciples. John and Peter both later wrote about the Transfiguration. John stated in his Gospel, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (1:14). Peter related the following, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"-- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy Mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

In the book of Revelation St. John described another encounter with the Glorified Christ. “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” (Rev. 14-18a).

He is not only the friend we have in Jesus whom we love. He is the eternal glorious God who is awful in His majesty and we fall on our faces in fear. He is so much more than we can ever imagine. Someday He will allow us also to see Him as He is in the fullness of His glory. May His holy name be forever praised. Amen

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chad: A Humble Man

Fr. Dale Matson
When people hear the name Chad, most folks think of either a Country in Africa south of Libya or an incompletely punched ballot in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. March 2nd however is the Feast Day of Chad Bishop of Lichfield, 672. The Venerable Bede recorded that Chad was “a holy man, modest in his ways, learned in the Scriptures and zealous in carrying out their teaching.” Bede also recorded that Chad kept the church in truth and purity, humility and temperance. The Collect perhaps best captures the essential nature of Chad. “Chad relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him.” When told that his ordination was irregular, he offered to resign saying, “I never believed myself worthy of it.”

In the Epistle lesson from Philippians for Chad, St. Paul states, “I have learned to be content with whatever the circumstances.” (Chapter 4:11b, NASB). I believe that Chad and St. Paul were submitted to the will of God. This is not acquiescence or mere compliance. It is an acceptance. It is the end of grasping. It is the end of the desire to acquire more things to yourself, to adorn your ego with vestments to impress others.

The Collect also speaks to Chad’s humility cautioning us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought which is from Paul’s letter to the Romans (12:3a). Thinking of yourself more highly than you ought is the opposite of humility. It is pride. Humility is a virtue and Pride is a sin. Paul states in Galatians (6:3) “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” The better we know our own hearts and ways, the less we will think in a condescending way toward others, and the more we will be disposed to help them with their infirmities and afflictions. No matter how insignificant men’s sins seem to them when committed, yet they will be found a heavy burden, when it is time for the final judgment (Paraphrase of Matthew Henry).

Thus we have two primary things that Chad demonstrates to us by his life and service that when they are combined make a powerful witness to others.They are humility and submission to the will of God which yields a learned contentment. It is not the “I don’t care” of those resigned to their fate. It is what God wills that matters and there can be a zeal in submission to His will. It is not about the resistance to giving the church more of our time, it is about a willingness to give God all of our life. When I was baptized, the thought came to me, “You are throwing away your life for this Jesus”. Yes, and each day that I am willing to do this once again, God can use me to accomplish his will on this earth. Unlike the Army that calls us to be all that we can be. Pride requires us to be more than we are and this is a performance treadmill that damages us and those around us. Christ died and rose again that we can be LESS than we are. We become less so that He may become more. Knowing who we are is a matter of knowing who we are in Christ Jesus. It is knowing about ourselves as we are known. Amen.