Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Exultet

Fr. Dale Matson

It is early Easter Morning here as I reflect on this marvelous and ancient hymn of the church. Since we have no singing deacons as Fr. Carlos our dean would say, I elected to sing the Exultet (Easter Proclamation). again this year after a two year hiatus. There is something primordial and mystical about the experience. The The Pascal Candle is lit from a fire and processed by the deacon into a dark church. The congregation follows with candles lit from the Pascal Candle. The deacon is blessed by the bishop (Bishop Eric), and then the censer is handed to the deacon by the thurifer. The deacon censes the Pascal Candle. The deacon then stands before the Pascal Candle and sings the Exultet.

This hymn is a history telling of all of God’s people united by faith. It is also the Gospel message expressing the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Anglican Exultet is as follows:

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.
Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.
Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people.
All you who stand near this marvelous and holy flame,
pray with me to God the Almighty
for the grace to sing the worthy praise of this great light;
through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Lord be with you.
Answer And also with you.
Deacon Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
Answer It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is truly right and good, always and everywhere, with our
whole heart and mind and voice, to praise you, the invisible,
almighty, and eternal God, and your only-begotten Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who
at the feast of the Passover paid for us the debt of Adam’s sin,
and by his blood delivered your faithful people.
This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children
of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the
Red Sea on dry land.
This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered
from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness
of life.
This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell,
and rose victorious from the grave.
How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your
mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you
gave a Son.
How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and
sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy
to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings
peace and concord.
How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined
and man is reconciled to God.
Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this
candle in your honor. May it shine continually to drive away
all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no
setting, find it ever burning—he who gives his light to all
creation, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Here is a performance of the Exultet in China demonstrating the universality of this great hymn.
The Lord is Risen Alleluia.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thank God It’s Friday

Fr. Dale Matson

How many times have you said, “TGIF, Thank God it’s Friday?” What about today? Today is Friday too isn’t it.  Have you ever posed this question to yourself? “What is so good about Good Friday?” As you reflected at each station of the cross, was there anything but increasing sorrow as you passed each station?  I think the key to providing an answer lies in a simple statement in Genesis by Joseph to his brothers. His jealous brothers had sold him into slavery and told his father that Joseph had died. Years later, his brothers asked for forgiveness. Joseph stated, “What you intended for evil God intended for good.” (Genesis 15:20) In fact, the situation was similar to that of Jesus. Joseph’s brothers betrayed him simply because they were jealous of him. They were jealous because he enjoyed a special relationship with his father. They turned him over to the enemy.  This is the same jealousy we see toward Jesus. He had a special relationship to His father. In fact Jesus claimed to be God. In John Chapter 8 Jesus stated, “Before Abraham was I am.” (Verse 58) On hearing this, the crowd picked up stones to stone Him knowing that He was claiming to be God. This was the capital crime of blasphemy.

There is another issue that continually emerged. When Jesus healed people, the Pharisees thought He was using demonic power. Being evil, those were the lenses through which they could see. They projected their own evil on a perfect man. They of course, like unspiritual religious people of any age have no power and cannot do mighty works. They cannot even discern good from evil. As a matter of fact, people that are not led by the Holy Spirit are confused about most everything. Their minds are darkened. They asked for a perfect man to be crucified (Jesus) and a murderer to be released (Barabbas). People without Christ call evil good and good evil. They don’t know any better. That is why Jesus said from the cross, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” Darkened minds see the world upside down. Sinful behavior rewires the brain and people eventually adjust to distorted behavior and a distorted world view.

Research psychologists put special prism glasses on volunteers that caused them to see the world upside down. Do you know what eventually happened? The brains of those people adjusted and what was once perceived as an upside down world became right side up again. That is the affect that sinful behavior has on perception. Evil becomes good.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the word got back to the Pharisees and they decided to kill Him. Here the words of Jesus are confirmed. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead!”

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man dies for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” (John 11: 45-53)

How convinced were the Jews that Jesus must die? They were willing to use the courts of the hated Roman captors. They could provide witnesses to the statements that Jesus claimed to have the power to forgive sins that He was the son of God and He claimed to be God Himself. The problem was they had no authority over him. No one had authority over Him unless He allowed it. They were comfortable in their captivity. Their charges of blasphemy would not hold in a civilian trial so they charged that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews. This was heresy and a chargeable offensive in Roman law since there could be no King but Caesar. That is why Pilate had the sign on His cross inscribed with the phrase “King of the Jews”. Here Pilate, like the chief Pharisee Ananias was also prophetic. This cross is such an offense, such an outrage and such foolishness to those that are perishing yet to us, the cross is the icon of our faith, the symbol of our hope and the emblem of God’s Holy love for us.

The Pharisees were willing to see a fellow Israelite die for an offense that all of them were guilty of. They didn’t want Caesar as their king either but forced the hand of Pilate to accomplish their ends. In a sense, in pledging their allegiance to Caesar, they along with Judas, made a deal with the devil.

There are questions that come up in my mind every Lenten season. None of this makes sense to me and never has. How could a perfect man be betrayed by foe and friend alike? It is a tragedy of cosmic proportions. Why such suffering, humiliation and total loss of dignity? How was Jesus able to wash the feet of Judas, knowing that Judas would betray Him? This is an example of loving your enemy and makes our petty disputes pale by comparison. How could this perfect storm of tragedy happen? It could only happen if it were orchestrated by God. The plan of redemption following the fall of man was laid out in Genesis. Jesus Christ the Messiah of the Jews and savior of Mankind is embedded throughout Scripture and is the living incarnate Word of God.

I think of all those who had a hand in the betrayal of Jesus. There were the Pharisees like Caiaphas, Judas the disciple and Pontius Pilot the Roman. They were responsible for this betrayal, this injustice. If it weren’t for them, the devil’s agents, would Jesus have been crucified? Yes, actually, it really didn’t matter who the participants in the plot were. The issue was never His guilt. The issue was OUR guilt and we are the reason He went to the cross. Today is an anamnesis. Today is a remembering in sacred time of those events. Yes, this is a Good Friday!

The season of Lent is long and arduous. It is an annual cyclical emotional descent to the foot of the cross as we look on whom we have pierced.  This year I have come to a better understanding about my own seemingly inexplicable sadness that is not characteristic of me. It is a kind of survivor guilt. He died so that I could live.  It is not easy to entertain the idea that I feel so separate from Christ and so vulnerable during this time. Forgive us for we knew not what we were doing. Do you love Me son? Yes Lord, You know that I do. Then keep my commandments.

We live in a pagan, post Christian society. The door for evangelism is gradually closing. The freedom we once had to share our Christian faith is gradually being removed. Christians are being portrayed as judgmental, out of touch, haters and even terrorists. How long will it be before we are openly persecuted? The door of opportunity is closing. It will soon be night. Forget about social activism. You cannot reason with residents of the kingdom of this world.  If you read the news media we are the problem. How do Christians deal with this reality? What is the answer? Talk about Christ to others. Give them your testimony. Conduct yourself like a Christian so others can see the difference in your life. Be a living love letter to others. Pray often for the souls of the lost. Why is this so important? It is our calling as Christians. This is the mission of a living church. Doctrinal innovation is not a product of a lively church, innovation is a symptom of a dead church. The living church is under one Lord, birthed through one baptism into one holy catholic and apostolic faith.
What is good about Good Friday? What is good about the injustice of the crucifixion of a perfect and innocent man? Humans and Satan had intended it for evil but God had intended it for good. Christ took the sins of all humankind to the cross with Him. His death was the necessary atoning sacrifice for the redemption of all people. By His death, He has freed those who believe in Him from sin, death and the devil. By His death he has reconciled us to our Heavenly Father. He is the way, the truth and the life.

There is Good News in this. Our Epistle lesson from Hebrews states, “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) Christ’s death on the cross reconciled us to God and saved us from our sins. But there is even more Good News. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Verse 14) Even though we are at this very moment, working out our own Salvation with fear and trembling, we are also standing before the Father reconciled, saved and perfect. That is the mystery of Christ’s finished work. His work is accomplished, is being accomplished and will be accomplished. God’s time is the eternal now and the church is on His clock. God’s clock is always ‘Savings Time’.

Without Christ, there is no life, no hope and eternal death. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. May we as His disciples bring this Gospel light to a world descending further and further into darkness. The world will be destroyed again and we are secure in Christ. He is our Ark. Now is the appropriate time, starting with us. Christ is also in us. We are the bearers of the water of life to a world dying of thirst. May it flow forth from us as we tell others of our Lord and Savior  Jesus the Christ. Amen.  


Sunday, March 24, 2013

And How Can Men Preach Unless They Are Sent?

Homily Monday of Holy Week Year I 2013

Fr. Dale Matson

“But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!" (romans 10:14-15)

I would take St. Paul’s narrative back an additional step. And how can they be sent unless they are first called? St. Paul states, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!" He is quoting Isaiah. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7). I have to laugh to myself whenever I see this verse. There is nothing beautiful about my feet. One of my marathon running friends once said to me that most runners have sandals with enclosed toes. This is to hide the black toenails from running so many miles in training on the trails in the woods. There is nothing beautiful about the feet of this 68 year old man.

Being called to preach the gospel is only one part of being a preacher. We are called to carry the word within us. We are tenders of the Word of God. We are asked to swallow the scroll and take it to the church. (Ezekiel 3) We are God’s ‘mules’ carrying within us God’s saving message.  We are bearers of the Word of God. We are also protectors of the Word. We man the watchtowers against those who would steal the truth, confuse the gullible, and manipulate others for their own purposes.

If someone gave me a vocational blank check and said that I could do anything I wanted, I would be a preacher. It is not just what I do. It is who I am. It is always who I have been. And that is the difference between being in a profession, having a professional identity, and a profession being in me. I am no longer a plumber, a psychologist, a professor. My life has always been that of a seeker; seeker of the truth; seeker of God; an advocate for those who are lost. I know the trail. I know the Way.
What a joy it is to be a servant of the Word. What a joy it is to pray the Eucharistic Prayer which is pure Gospel. No wonder the AMEN is in all capital letters. Holy Week is the church season compressed into a single week. It begins with the triumphal entry of Christ the King followed by His sacrificial offering of Himself for our sake. Christ loved us to death. Holy Week is the inevitable march toward the cross on Friday. The feast of the Annunciation is also today. How ironic that Christ would be conceived and eventually die the same week. He was sent from the Father. We preachers are sent by Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our words have efficacy because they are from God. Our mortal bodies are an incarnational Ark. In us, we bear the Gospel that has been entrusted to us by God. May we ever remain faithful to our call and subject to His word. Amen


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Adam And Eve: Truth and Unity

Fr. Dale Matson

“And Adam said this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23-24, KJV)

In the Garden of Eden, before the fall of Adam and Eve, God declared all things that He had made as good. In creating Eve as a helpmate for Adam, God established a complimentary relationship between Adam and Eve. Even though they were different, they were unified. They were both distinct from one another but remained one flesh. There was a sacramental unity.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eat thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17) Here God established the law of the Garden. It was good and true.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” Here Eve is confused (deceived) by the serpent and exchanged a lie from the serpent for the truth of God.  

 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat,” (Genesis 3:6a) Eve disobeyed God and introduced sin with her innovation. Eve and Adam were no longer one flesh. There was no longer unity.

“And gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:6b)

Adam was not deceived and knew better. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1st Timothy 2:14) So why did Adam eat of the forbidden fruit if he was not deceived? He ate for the sake of unity. Eve was manipulated by the serpent through her senses and acquisitiveness. Adam intentionally sinned as he looked at a fallen Eve and wanted to reestablish unity with her. In so doing, they both fell into sin (error). He accepted her innovation for the sake of unity, and the truth of God that they rejected became a judgment from God.

We have the truth of Scripture, the creeds of the councils of the church, the traditions of the church and Reason informed by God. There is clarity. If some, through their vanity and arrogance become confused, they will be manipulated and beguiled to grasp for something more. They will go beyond what is necessary and embrace what is forbidden. In this confusion they will seek unity; unity at the expense of truth. The siren call to ‘reconciliation’ is for unity not truth. We must not make the choice of Adam to sin for the sake of unity. If we do, we will be no different than Adam.  

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1st Corinthians 13:6)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Underground Pewster responds to "Canterbury: Repentance And Reformation Before Reconciliation"

Fr. Dale Matson

From The Underground Pewster in response to “Canterbury: Repentance and Reformation before Reconciliation”

“Good points. Let me present a question. Unity in the Church as it now stands appears to mean being able to share the communion cup with those who you see supporting an ‘innovative’ (AKA heretical) Gospel. Is that theologically tenable? I don't think it is, but I will leave it to wiser minds such as yours to spell it out. The "innovator" will claim that his position is Spirit led, not heretical, etc., and therefore those who believe communion has been impaired by those innovations are labeled as the ones who are less than Christian.  A renewal is clearly needed, but Canterbury has not wanted to offend anybody except perhaps the "orthodox" recently. I think any honest attempt by the Church to create unity will have to come out of a search for the truth. I don't see that happening anytime soon. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected on his days at Union Theological Seminary.
" the conflict between determination for truth with all of its consequences and the will for community, the latter prevails. This is characteristic of all American thought, particularly as I have observed it in theology and the church, they do not see the radical claim of truth on the shaping of their lives. Community is therefore formed less on truth than on the spirit of 'fairness'." 
(This sounds like a potential canonical exam question)

If only purity of doctrine could save us. The Law itself couldn’t save us. Having said that however, heretical doctrine could surely damn us. Look at our Christian brethren in the Lutheran Church Missouri Syond and the Wisconsin Synod who are orthodox in their doctrine but don’t share altar and pulpit fellowship with one another. Do we sup with the Big Endians or the Small Endian Lilliputians? How much doctrinal agreement is necessary? What must we agree upon? I hear often that someone is a “Creedal Christian”.  Is it the “I believe” (rite I) or the “We believe” (Rite II) in the Nicene Creed? The Nicene Creed is more than a set of truth statements. It is a mystical document that is confessed with the mouth AND received in the heart by faith.
If God the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing in the Church of Christ, He will not contradict what has already been revealed in Scripture.  Even the Gospel was tested with Scripture by the Bereans. (Act 17:11) Scripture is like a proof set of Johansson gauge blocks where we measure truth, and Tradition is the working set of ‘Jo blocks’. As a journeyman plumber I knew plumb lines did not parse the truth. Reason is intellect informed by God through revelation. Even the contemporary Christian church is a measure of the truth. A province or denomination by itself does not speak for the one holy catholic and apostolic church and has no authority to innovate.

“I think any honest attempt by the Church to create unity will have to come out of a search for the truth.”

I think much of the church has been captured by the spirit of the age. The spirit of the age includes a mixture of individualism (a sense of personal entitlement), feminism, humanism, rationalism, science as religion, anomie, moral relativism, consumerism, and nihilism. These unclean things have crept into the church and were given lodging. They are the ‘legion’ of this age that possesses the church. The bishops did not man the watchtowers and the prophets were afraid to speak. The truth we seek is Jesus the Christ; The Way, The Truth and The Life. It is His church, He is the head, let us not be ashamed to proclaim this. Any organization that does not proclaim this is not a Christian church. 

And yet God’s people remained arrogant. There is no agreement because there is an endemic spirit of confusion. Pilate said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Wherever there is evil, there is confusion. There is especially confusion about truth.  And Satan is the author of confusion. Today we are reliving the tower of Babel. It is Babel 2.0. The spirit of the age, I would have to say, this is Satan celebrating the Fat Tuesday of an era before the real season of repentance begins.

I believe God is about to call his church out of captivity. He will gather the scattered denominations together. We are about to awaken from our slumber. I believe we are about to see a huge outpouring of His Spirit. Satan’s preemptive ascendance in our age is a good indicator that God is about to bust a move. God will not be fair. He will be Sovereign and true to His word.
Pax et bonum,

The Underground Pewster has his own blogsite called “Not Another Episcopal Church Blog”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Canterbury: Repentance and Reformation Before Reconciliation

Fr. Dale Matson

Canterbury never seems to have an over the cliff moment, only a possible downhill slide into oblivion. There has been a well-intended but mistaken sense for both +Rowan Williams and ++Justin Welby that agreement within the WWAC is simply a process issue whether it is called ‘Indaba’ or ‘Reconciliation’. Both men have failed to see the differences between the traditionalists and progressives for what those differences really are. It is heresy versus orthodoxy. I was greatly disappointed when +Rowan Williams referred to the differences as a matter of ‘styles’ as if it was simply differing local adaptations of the Gospel. They have identified and attempted to treat a symptom, disunity, as the problem when disunity is only a symptom of the problem.

Today, Canterbury Anglicanism is not a firewall. Canterbury is a fulcrum  used by the progressives to pry loose the preeminence of Scripture, Tradition and Reason and supplant it with subjective experience. The innovations are patches of new material on old cloth. Would Canterbury be recognizable by Thomas Cranmer today? The once reformed church is now itself in need of reformation.  The ‘locally adapted’ innovations of progressive churches are now becoming the tail wagging the dog of Anglicanism. We have taken the wrong road and ignored our brothers and sisters in the Roman and Orthodox Churches. It was a sin of pride to go another direction. The ordination of women propelled us down the wrong path. Some would even say our separate path began sooner with birth control that makes sexual pleasure the goal of human sexual intercourse. This has degenerated further into reproductive rights but it is still murder of the unborn child. It is an unconscionable outrage that some call this a blessing. Sex for pleasure has led to additional perverse forms of sexual relationships being added to the list daily. The church is called to be a restraint on evil not call that which is evil blessed.

One cannot separate Canterbury from the Church of England. The CoE views itself as both catholic and reformed. Reformation is not usually associated with innovation as much as a recapturing/remembering. That is the spirit of Thomas Cranmer.

“The religious settlement that eventually emerged in the reign of Elizabeth gave the Church of England the distinctive identity that it has retained to this day. It resulted in a Church that consciously retained a large amount of continuity with the Church of the Patristic and Medieval periods in terms of its use of the catholic creeds, its pattern of ministry, its buildings and aspects of its liturgy, but which also embodied Protestant insights in its theology and in the overall shape of its liturgical practice. The way that this is often expressed is by saying that the Church of England is both 'catholic and reformed.’”

Thomas Cranmer was both catholic and reformed. His vision was for a Benedictine spirituality available to the people in the vernacular via the Book of Common Prayer. Orthodox Anglicanism was preserved in missioned lands far from Canterbury.  What the progressives would term primitive binary thinking is God’s prophetic voice calling Canterbury back to her roots. Canterbury is no longer catholic or reformed. Canterbury has gone her own way, doing what is right in her own eyes. Canterbury has not sought the council of the Roman or Orthodox churches. Can Canterbury even say to what extent she remains a part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church? She still has a seat but no voice and vote. Does Canterbury even reflect the mind of the majority of Anglicans?

The ear of Canterbury has turned toward contemporary society for its prophetic voice and away from God's voice in Scripture.  Myopic eyes see only a contemporary human centered missiology. It is a material kingdom of this world. It is a human flourishing in this world mentality, not a preparation for the next world spirituality. God the Holy Spirit cannot and will not bring unity and reconciliation to those holding to Tradition, Scripture and Reason and those who have introduced another gospel. It is the gospel of distortion. It includes Eve rather than Mary feminism. It is the insistence on factional rights rather than God’s sovereignty. It is human focused not Christocentric.  It is finding new ways to introduce innovation through the back door in the dark of night one inch at a time.

This is not the time to attempt reconciliation without the urging and blessing of God the Holy Spirit Who created and unified the Church of Jesus the Christ. This is the time for repentance and reformation. It is a call to return to historic orthodox Anglicanism. It is a call to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Roman and Orthodox Churches. It is a call to return to the only name and hope we have, Jesus Christ.

“It is Classical orthodox Christianity that tells the profoundest truth about the One we call the Christ."  Very Rev. Robert Barron, S.T.D. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sexual Impurity: A Form Of Heart Disease

Fr. Dale Matson

“A life driven to sexual sin reflects thinking that has long been infected by sensual images and self-pleasure.” Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg.

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind; to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 12:28, NIV)

“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:13b-20, NIV)

The preceding passages from Scripture came to mind when I ran across this article on the internet. Sex Weekend examines sexual culture.

“Students often do not realize the difference between normative — being in the middle of the bell curve for certain behaviors — and normal, which is a judgment call, [Jill]McDevitt said, adding that what is common is not necessarily good just as what is deviant is not necessarily bad.” Actually, she is right in the sense that obesity is now normative but not good. The problem however is that morals do not change but mores do. Human behavior is now guided by relativistic social custom without reference to the criterion reference of Scriptural standards. The workshop at Yale dealt with masochism, incest, bestiality, prostitution and exhibitionism. One student concluded, “I think that’s what the point of the workshop was — to bring up things we thought were so taboo and desire or urges we criticize are just regular parts of sexual psychology.”

This workshop was not really an attempt to “sensitize” students to those engaging in sexual immorality as much as it was an attempt to desensitize students to the immoral behaviors. Sinful behaviors are symptoms of a heart predisposed to act them out. But the problem is cyclical because the more the behaviors are exhibited, the more likely the heart will be changed (darkened) by them and further predisposed to them. Christ’s admonition, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28, ESV) This was more prophesy than hyperbole.

How many Christians have been embarrassed and shamed by their own dreams where they act out recurrent daily fantasies. There may even be more guilt in the unconscious mind of the dreamer than in the awakened mind. It is God demonstrating to us where the lustful heart will take us. It is a forced honesty in the unconscious mind that is lacking in the conscious, rationalizing, self-deceiving and self-justified mind. Sometimes God allows our dreams to demonstrate to us the full extent of our depravity.

There are several explanations why sexual sins are worse than other sins. I believe St. Paul explained it quite well. Christians are the temple of God. Sexual impurity is a desecration of your body, a body that no longer belongs to you and a desecration of God’s temple. How is this any different, for example than the abomination of temple prostitutes in the Old Testament? We are told by St. Paul to honor God with our bodies, yet we dishonor God with sexual sin. It is also a boundary issue. Moral behavior is based on boundaries. Those with any addiction problem begin to dissolve moral boundaries over time. The line in the sand in moved time and time again until there is no longer a line in the sand. All things become permissible to the darkened mind.

As Christians, it is so easy to compare ourselves to the world and say, “Thank God I am not like him.” (Luke 18:11) Christians fall so often because we are different in our behaviors but similar in our hearts to those we rail against. Lord, give us the will toward a pure heart that our moral slip will not be inevitable.     

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Church: Manning Up Part II

Dr. Robert A. Wilson
December 30, 1927-November 7, 1999

Fr. Dale Matson

I have been reading a devotional this year called Voices Of The Saints: A Year Of Readings by Bert Ghezzi (2000). As I read it I am amazed at how well my mentor Dr. Bob Wilson would fit right in with so many of those blessed folks. I want to use him as an example of a Spirit filled, Christ like, complete man.

Bob became a Marine after high school graduation. While in the marines, he won the golden gloves heavyweight boxing title. After discharge he attended Fresno State University on a football scholarship. He met his wife Dede at Fresno State and they were married in 1952. He had them both kneel on the night of their wedding and dedicate their marriage to God. Together they raised six sons and one daughter.

Bob was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma about 1984. He wasn't given much chance for survival and even went to Lourdes seeking a cure. During this dark night of the soul Bob, already a deeply religious man, turned finally to Dede and said, “May God’s will be done.” Bob’s cancer went into remission and God gave him an additional 15 years of life.

He was a part of the Fresno Pacific University search committee that hired me to direct the School Psychology masters and credential program in 1992.  Bob had retired from the Fresno Unified School District as the Director of Psychological Services. He was hired by the graduate school at Fresno Pacific to create the Special Education credential program and later created the School Psychology and School Counselor programs.

It is not possible to discuss Bob’s professional life without discussing his Christian life also. He was a deeply committed and spiritual Roman Catholic. He was a lector and Eucharistic minister at his church. He would pray with his advisees and offer supportive counsel along with academic guidance. He was voted counselor of the year by the San Joaquin Counselors Association and received the highest honor in California counseling, the H.B. McDaniel award.  He was the first Roman Catholic (and a Veteran to boot) professor hired at Pacific, a Mennonite Brethren University (Pacifist). He won over the “Brethren” who previously had been unsure if Catholics were even Christians.

Bob rarely made it to meetings on time because someone would spot him headed to the administration building and have a pressing problem that needed attention. Bob would always make time for them. Bob had no malice toward anyone. He loved everyone and always attributed the best motives to the behavior of others. He had a pure heart and I never heard him say a negative thing about anyone. He brought out the absolute best in others. We simply called him, “Coach”. He was so skilled at leadership that even when you were given correction by Bob you would come away feeling good about yourself.

Bob and Dede lived a Spartan life in a simple house. He was continually giving away money to those in need. We were once at a stop light and he gave me a dollar to hand to a homeless man holding a sign at an intersection. I chided Bob that the man was probably running a scam. Bob simply looked at me and said, “ I've got it and he doesn't.” I never refused anyone after that.

When Bob retired from Fresno Pacific, we had a party in his honor and invited all the alumni we could still contact. There was an enormous response and attendance. For the first time Bob’s family was able to see all the people that they had shared their father with for so many years. Bob’s resume’ would have been dozens of pages of names of people that he had encouraged and helped over decades of service.

At Bob’s funeral I read the Old Testament lesson. One nephew told about Bob taking all the men Ling Cod fishing. Bob pushed the huge rubber raft into the surf and got wet to his waist. He was obviously cold the entire time out but just smiled at the opportunity to be with his sons and nephews. After the funeral, Dede said to me, “You know Dale he loved you.” I said, “Dede, Bob loved everyone.” She said, “Yes, but he loved you like a son.” That kind of love for seven years brought enormous healing to me. Soon thereafter, I sought Holy Orders and retired from Fresno Pacific too.

Bob was a real man. He was a gift from God to everyone who met him. I have never seen the tears of so many men (and women) as I saw at his funeral. We were happy for Bob but sad for ourselves. I look forward to seeing Bob again.