Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Fr. Dale Matson

What many people frequently forget about the Viet Nam war was, when it ended, the draft was abolished.

While not on academic probation in my senior year in college, my grades no longer qualified me for the 2S student deferment according to my local draft board.  I did not agree with the war and considered other equally unattractive alternatives. I did not consider fleeing to Canada. I was drafted into the U.S. Army in early 1967. My basic training was at Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri. My group was then sent to Fort Ord California for infantry training and unexpectedly, three weeks later, sent back to Leonard Wood for Combat Engineer Training. I had orders for Officer Candidate School but decided during AIT that I didn’t want to spend the additional time in the service. My request to transfer out of OCS changed my permanent duty station from Viet Nam to Ft. Wainwright Alaska. Most of my AIT company went to Viet Nam because the National Guard and Enlisted Reserve trainees were headed back home to their respective reserve units following their training. This was a time of tremendous buildup of forces in Viet Nam and most trainees that were volunteers or draftees were sent there to meet the quotas.

I am not about to tell the usual war stories but I can say that even traveling in uniform was not a good idea. There was great public hostility toward military personnel. College campuses were sights of continual unrest with riots, bombing and burning of buildings, student “sit ins” and demonstrations. These things went on at home for years and included the Kent State shooting where four students were shot to death by the National Guard troops. In short, our own military was seen by the public as the enemy. President Johnson was fighting a war on two fronts. He was fighting the war on poverty at home and the Viet Nam War.

The question I ask myself is, “What would have happened if there had been an all-volunteer army fighting in Viet Nam at that time like we have now fighting our wars.” With volunteers, the agony of war is compartmentalized and insulated. The public and news media can and do avoid thinking about and reporting on the full reality of war. During Viet Nam, TV news reported the casualties every night.  As much as I hated those young people for causing such a social disruption, I believe their involvement helped end a terrible conflict. Those who ran to Canada and celebrities like Jane Fonda going to North Viet Nam were despised. When Jimmy Carter granted those who ran to Canada immunity, I thought, “Who will fight your next war?”  I remember cheering in our barracks when LBJ announced that he would not seek a second full term.

And these are the questions I pose on this Memorial Day. “Should we reconsider the draft?  Would we be so quick to involve ourselves in the affairs of other countries if citizens needed to be called up and trained? Could those who objected be allowed alternative service opportunities? Would we be fighting so hard to preserve the second amendment if there were more citizen soldiers? Would our young people regain their respect for a country they served for two years of their life?" Cheap citizenship is no different than cheap grace.

May those who gave their lives to serve this great and God blessed country, both draftees and volunteers, rest in peace. Amen    

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ten Questions For Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop Of The Episcopal Church

Fr. Dale Matson
Dear Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori,
            You may remember my first and only other communication with you as a private email I sent you soon after your enthronement as Presiding Bishop in 2006. You were kind enough to respond at that time to my concern for those like myself, who held conservative views in the Episcopal Church. I was encouraged by your response.  I was a lay person at the time and a vestry member of a congregation of the Episcopal Church. My wife and I later left that congregation and followed our Bishop, John David Schofield. I was ordained a deacon, a process begun in the Episcopal Church, and then a priest. Since 2006 I have read several things you have written including your interview in Time Magazine.,9171,1211587,00.html It also consisted of 10 questions. I have also read your annual Christmas and Easter messages. With each passing communication from you I must confess that I have become more confused and sometimes discouraged regarding what seems to me to be your personal beliefs and to what extent those beliefs reflect the mind of the Episcopal Church. For example, your 2012 Easter Message did not mention Jesus Christ. This may seem presumptuous of me but I would like to ask you the following ten questions. If you feel uncomfortable with a public or even private response or that it is not my place to pose these questions of you, I would understand.       
1.      Do you believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin?
2.      Do you believe that Jesus Christ was both God and human?
3.      Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to God the Father?
4.      Do you believe that He rose bodily from the dead and ascended to Heaven?
5.      Do you believe there is eternal damnation for those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior?
6.      Do you believe in original sin as an inherited condition of everyone born into this world?
7.      Do you believe in the three Persons of the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?
8.      Do you believe there is eternal life in Heaven for those who are in Christ?
9.      Do you believe that Christ is truly present in the elements of bread and wine, that they are truly His body and blood?
10.  Do you believe that the commission of the Church of Christ is to proclaim the Gospel and the summation of all the commandments is to love God and love neighbor?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Baseline Data

Fr. Dale Matson

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, KJV)

While this posting may seem initially to have little to do with Christian life, having baseline data is the starting point for both self-knowledge and/or beginning an intervention for oneself or others. It is data based decision making.  When I taught a “Wellness” class for school psychology students, I would ask them what their resting heart rate was. Almost none of the students knew this number nor did they particularly care about physical activity in the midst of this rather cognitive experience called graduate school.
Over the span of the Wellness class, students were asked to determine their resting heart rate and use this as a baseline number to determine their level of fitness.  They were then assigned a daily aerobic exercise regimen of walking, running, swimming or biking based on Kenneth Cooper’s fitness plan for the duration of the ten week class. While the average resting heart rate is generally about 70 to 80 beats per minute, the figure varies from person to person. What is important to know is that, whatever the baseline heart rate is, it will be lowered by the initiation of regular exercise.  In this case, for the majority of these students, it meant an increase from zero exercise. Of course this was done with the knowledge and approval of the students’ physicians.

There was a twofold purpose in this assignment. It was a practical assignment in the use of data to quantify pre and post intervention change, with resting heart rate as the dependent variable and exercise as the independent variable. This is scientific methodology that can also be applied to behavioral interventions for students in schools. It was also an opportunity for the graduate students to improve their overall health, lower their resting heart rates and to see exercise as a proactive means to deal with the stressful conditions under which school psychologist’s work. Establishing baseline data can be a form of self-knowledge. I have nearly twenty years of heart rate performance data using Polar and Garmin heart monitors.
It was quite a novel experience for these students to have exercise as homework in addition to lighter reading and writing assignments. I used Covert Baily’s book, “The Ultimate Fit Or Fat” (1999). The book offers sophisticated fitness training in unsophisticated language and is still technologically current.

How did this affect the students? Over the years individual students went on to run their first marathon and many hikes to the top of Half Dome were organized by students. I even ran into one of the program graduates when I was hiking the north fifty miles of the John Muir Trail a few years ago.  Many have told me that exercise has been an important means of relieving stress in their work. For me, it is simply being a good steward of the body God has given us.

For me the bottom line in knowing our baseline physical self is in our own health care. A doctor is only a consultant. The person ultimately in charge of your health is you. Only you know what is normal for you. Being assertive about your health is more important than being assertive about other things you contract services for.

Early this year, I had been feeling poorly following surgery and had experienced considerable blood loss by the time of my six week follow-up appointment. I told the doctor about this and he asked me for symptoms. I said that the most troubling thing for me was that my resting heart rate was sixty beats per minute. His response was predictable. “Why does sixty beats per minute cause you concern?” I said, because my normal resting heart rate is 42 beats per minute. (Most doctors would consider this low rate a pathological sign called bradycardia). I said, that is my baseline resting heart rate and has been for the last twenty years. When I walk and jog, my heart rate is about twenty beats above normal too. The doctor ordered a blood test and the Hematocrit (HMT) level was 25 (low normal for a man is 41). When the doctor saw the results, he ordered an infusion for me the next day; two units of packed red blood cells.

Know what your baseline is. Know what is normal for you. Know yourself. Keep records on yourself and do not depend on your doctor to know you as well as you know yourself. Be assertive. Two weeks after the infusion I requested another blood test to determine if the HMT numbers were going up or down. I also added iron building food and supplements to my diet. I have scheduled another blood test to determine if I am back in the normal range. But….my resting pulse is now 46 and that suggests to me that things are improving before even knowing the results of the next blood test.

Do you know your resting heart rate? Take care of the temple God has given you.         

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Church

Fr. Dale Matson

“Through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” (Ephesians 3:10a, ESV)

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worked in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:14-21)

How fitting and proper that this epistle reading was selected for the Feast Day of Gregory of Nazianzus  since St. Paul’s prayer includes the three Persons of the Trinity that Gregory helped define and defend in the second ecumenical council (381). Note also that St. Paul claimed that while he was the minister of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the mysteries of God are revealed by God the Holy Spirit to the church. It is to the mystical body of Christ, the church, that God the Holy Spirit reveals the mystery of unity of fellowship and truth. These mysteries are spoken to the church by Apostles and Prophets BUT it is the church that tests, weighs, and confirms what has been revealed. St. Paul himself warned ” but though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”(Galatians, 1:8)

In the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, the Church is described as “The Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and of which all baptized persons are members.  It is called the People of God, the New Israel, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the pillar and ground of truth.”

In Article XX (39 Articles) we read the following concerning the church. "The church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the church is a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation".

Finally, this is written to the contemporary prophets and churches as a caution. New revelations do not set the Word of God against itself. “The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man” (Article VII) Although the Church is under the Word of God, it is the one Holy, catholic and apostolic church that is and remains the steward of the mysteries of God. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Garden, The Ark and The Church

Fr. Dale Matson

“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:15-18)
In our Epistle Lesson for Tuesday of Easter IV, we read the following from 1 Thessalonians chapter 1: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. The Thessalonians' Faith and Example We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. Not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” (1-8)
As each year passes, my love for the church, the mystical body of Christ grows stronger. These few verses from St. Paul are the work of the church in a nutshell. The church is the new garden and the new Israel. The church is also the new ark where God’s people are gathered in faith, hope and love. While Noah’s Ark preserved and conveyed the breath of life in animals (Genesis 7:15), the church is the ark of spiritual life. While Noah waited in hope for a sign from the dove that would return with an olive branch, we await in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the return of our Lord in power and glory. As the dove brought hope to those on the Ark, the Holy Spirit descended on the church. Once the waters had receded, God again commanded humans and animals to be fruitful and multiply and repopulate the earth. It is also the command He gave to Adam and Eve. God is a God of life and fruitfulness.
As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that the great commission is essentially an extension of this same command to be fruitful and multiply.  However, Paul was talking about Spiritual procreation. It is the work of the church to be fruitful and multiply spiritually by spreading the Gospel message. Paul’s praise of the Thessalonians was that they had received the Gospel message in faith. They were passing on this word of the Lord as a labor of love and they remained steadfast in hope, even though they were being persecuted.
      The church of Christ, like the garden and ark is a place of fecundity. The church is a necessary combination of missiology and ecclesiology. We are to dress and keep, protect and persevere and be fruitful and multiply. Our works do not save us but carried out in faith, they demonstrate Godly obedience and hope of spiritual offspring. If we lose sight of our commission and fail to pass on this spiritual life, then we lose sight of who we are as a church and why we were called into the body of Christ. In fact, if we lose sight of our God given mission, we are no longer even a church. We are simply a collection of dry bones in a whitewashed tomb. Be fruitful and multiply. Amen