Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the 3rd Week of Pentecost - Proper 8

Bishop Eric Menees

O Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

This week I am deeply honored to be with my brother bishops of the Anglican Church in North America at the Monastery of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The College of Bishops met for two and half days of prayer and conversation seeking to discern God's will for us as a church and to determine whom He would have as our next Archbishop. We are a diverse group of 51 members, with both active and retired bishops present. We come from the four corners of the Anglican Communion and the four corners of North America. We speak different languages and have different skin colors. How precious it is, then, that we are so united in our faith and our goals. This is not to say that we do not have differences of thought and opinion that are very important.  However, we are united as a body because we share the same foundation as a church - the teaching of Jesus Christ, his apostles, and the prophets.

Because we share a common understanding of, and submission to, who Jesus Christ is - namely, the Only Begotten Son of God who, "...was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again, He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead….," - we are united as a Church and Province.

This year with the rolling out of the new catechism, To Be A Christian, we have demonstrated our belief and understanding that it is not enough to be united under a common liturgy or worship practice on Sunday Morning. We are not united on a common experience alone, but a common understanding of what that experience means in our lives.

I pray that this collect will resonate with each member of the Diocese of San Joaquin. I pray that we will seek God's grace and strength to open ourselves up to studying the doctrines of Holy Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church. I pray that each member of the diocese will seriously undertake a study of the catechism alone and with friends and then, most importantly, teach it to others.  

It is when we are actively making disciples that we are most authentically the church and are fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ: "Go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…."
(Matthew 28:19-20a)

Note: This is a note to the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin from Bishop Menees and is posted here with his permission for a broader readership. Dale+

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 7

Bishop Eric Menees
O Lord, we beseech thee, make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name, for thou never failest to help and govern those whom thou hast set upon the sure foundation of thy loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This week we begin "ordinary" time - having entered the Season of Pentecost and celebrated Trinity Sunday. The Season of Pentecost spans about half of the year, and during this time we focus on the life and teaching of Jesus as they are lived out in the Church. As such, most of the collects will focus on how we should be living our lives as individual Christians within the Body of Christ, which is the Church.  

This week's collect begins in a unique way, asking God to grant us "...perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name…."  What does it mean to have both fear and love? Those seem to be competing ideas - do we really want to fear and love God?  The answer for me is YES!

King David thought it fitting to fear the Lord when he wrote: "...the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether," (Psalm 19:9) and King Solomon wrote: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)

Seems to me that anyone who does not fear the Lord does not believe in God. To fear the Lord is to recognize who we are in relation to who God is. I grew up in Southern California.  Each year as storms brewed out in the Pacific Ocean they would spawn large waves, sometimes growing to 20 feet or higher. When these waves would rise up on the sand bar approaching the shore, they would crest with huge curls and, when they crashed down, they would send water spray up two to three times the height of the original waves. In high school I would, from time to time, play hooky and go to the beach to see these waves, and sometimes I was foolish enough to go body surfing or boogie boarding. Just seeing these waves would raise a deep fear within me - fear of the awesome power that they contained and the destruction that could be wrought by that power. To fear these waves is the appropriate response toward them. Fear was not the only thing that would capture me - I was captured by their beauty and depth, their colors, and their uniqueness as each wave was different.  I especially marveled at the porpoises that would, illuminated from the back by the sun, surf the translucent waves.

I fear The Lord because I know, or at least have some idea, who he is and - especially - who I am not. I fear The Lord and his awesome power, who not only created the waves but ALL things in heaven and on hearth. I fear The Lord because I know that sometime in the next 60 seconds to 60 years I will meet him face to face, who is both my redeemer and my judge.

The fear I have for The Lord is balanced by the love I have for him, and so I find myself living in a beautiful dance of Grace and Fear, Faith and Hope - all grounded in the knowledge that God is always faithful, always loving, and always overflowing in love. And to that I say...AMEN

I pray you all a blessed Lord's Day!

Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for Trinity Sunday

Bishop Eric Menees

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Last Sunday - Pentecost Sunday - we celebrated the fulfillment of Jesus' promise that God the Father would send the Holy Spirit, who would help God's people and lead them into all Truth. With the arrival of the Holy Spirit, who will be with us "forever" (John 14:16), God revealed himself in the third person of the Trinity. In a very real way this revelation of God began in creation, was embodied in the incarnation, and was fulfilled forever in the Holy Spirit.

Today's collect reflects the wonderful mystery and reality of our Triune God - One God in Three Persons - that Jesus himself refers to in his command to the disciples to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19)

Over and over again in the scriptures we see the doctrine of the Holy Trinity reflected. From Genesis through Revelation, God is consistently revealing himself as One God in Three Persons involved in a cosmic dance - a relationship that demonstrates divine love and harmony.

However, because this doctrine can only be understood partially by the human mind, false doctrines and heresies have arisen through the ages that mark sharp differences between denominations like the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons that deny the Trinity and thus separate themselves, I believe, from traditional orthodox Christianity.

In the fourth century, St. Athanasius confronted these false teachings, and I encourage you to take the time, especially this week, reading through and praying the Athanasian Creed (79 BCP pg. 864). In his Letters to Serapion, he wrote the following about the Holy Trinity, which I think, speaks clearly: "[The Trinity] is a Trinity not merely in name or in a figurative manner of speaking; rather, it is a Trinity in truth and in actual existence. Just as the Father is he that is, so also his Word is one that is and is God over all. And neither is the Holy Spirit nonexistent but actually exists and has true being. Less than these the Catholic Church does not hold, lest she sink to the level of the Jews of the present time, imitators of Caiaphas, or to the level of Sabellius" (Letters to Serapion 1:28 [A.D. 359]). Athanasius' reference to Sabellius was to the heresy of "Modalism." Sabellius was a priest who argued that there is One Person to the Godhead who acts in three ways. This denies all of the scriptures like, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)

Ultimately though, because our minds are human, a complete understanding of the Holy Trinity remains a mystery to us.  This Sunday we'll read about the Trinity in Holy Scripture, and you will hear eloquent sermons on the doctrine of the Trinity. However, when push comes to shove, it boils down to a choice to believe - a choice supported by scripture and the tradition of the Church Fathers. This belief, this practice of faith, comes in itself as a gift from God, and today’s Collect asks God for that assistance. “Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity….” It takes God's Grace for us to make a confession of true faith and, in doing so, our faith grows more and more, as does our experience of Grace. And to that I say...Amen!
God bless you all!

Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Renewing Your Mind And Changing Your Will

Fr. Dale Matson

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:7, KJV)

For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:18b-19)

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:25)

In Romans chapter seven, Paul describes what some have termed the “Carnal Christian”. This chapter could be describing the purgative stage of the Christian life. Unfortunately, it seems like certain behavior patterns that are self destructive and self-defeating continue to plague and torment us far into our earthly pilgrimage. Some of these behaviors we have asked forgiveness for time and time again, yet like a bad penny, they keep turning up.

Initially, behavior change is first learning what the proper behaviors should be. (Romans 7:7) A common phrase today is “The new normal”. My question would be, “Is it really new and is it really normal?” Whether one wants to call certain behaviors “normative”, “mores”, “morals” or “laws”, we are all ultimately more “free” with boundaries.

Paul makes it quite clear early on in chapter 7 that initially we are ignorant about what is right and what is wrong. I recently held confessions for 40 folks who were to be confirmed as Christians. Several asked me if what they were confessing were sinful activities (This reminds me of my first weight watchers meeting where I saw a normal portion size of meat for the first time).

Let me give an example of the process using my own life. When I first came back to Christ, I was addicted to cigarettes. For years, I went out between adult bible study and the church service to have a cigarette. It was a solitary experience. At that time, the evidence that cigarettes were harmful was established but knowing this and really inwardly digesting it are different. Eventually God laid it upon my heart that it was a poor witness to others and harmful to me. Even at this point, I did not have the will to change. I knew in my mind it was wrong and harmful yet continued smoking (Romans 7:18b-19). An alcoholic friend once said that when it came to quitting drinking that he had the willpower but not the won’t power.

I decided to pray for the “won’t power”, the will to change. My mind was there but my will lagged behind and kept the change from happening. I prayed to get the will to change for two years and finally I announced to others in bible class that I would be quitting smoking. I quit on January 10th 1983 and never picked up another cigarette.

I also used a behavioral program from the American Lung Association on quitting. It helped me to inwardly digest the “ashtray” ugliness of smoking and required me to record each cigarette I smoked daily. It was bringing the unconscious behaviors to consciousness. Another aspect was providing an aerobic replacement behavior such as walking when I felt the urge to smoke. I was also made aware of trigger behaviors that went with smoking such as a cup of coffee that often accompanied a cigarette. Announcing to the brethren was that I was quitting helped seal the commitment to quit. Behavior plans provide a plan for incremental change.

Entrenched behavior patterns are difficult to stop. There are lots of attendant rituals that surround and support those behaviors like coffee and smoking.  It seems like initially we want forgiveness but we really don't want to change. There is a progression in the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive us our trespasses. The next step is, deliver us from evil. Forgiveness involves the mind. Deliverance primarily involves the will.

For those who want to get off the seemingly endless sin and forgiveness cycle, try praying for a change of will. That involves empowerment from the Holy Spirit and Romans Chapter eight.  

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Don’t forget also that a fruit of the spirit is self-control. Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2a) May God bless you all. Dale+

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bishop’s Note: Collect for Pentecost Sunday

 Bishop Eric Menees

O God, who on this day didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Last week we celebrated the feast of the Ascension - the reality of Jesus’ bodily ascension into heaven to reign in Glory at the right hand of the Father and to intercede on our behalf, until His coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead! Jesus had told the disciples that he must leave - that the Holy Spirit could not come until he had ascended into heaven: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 ESV) When he did ascend into heaven, the believers were again - just as they were between Good Friday and Easter Sunday - left feeling alone, disoriented, confused, and grieving. However, Jesus had promised them that he would not leave them orphaned - (John 14:15) that he would send the Holy Spirit. 

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, which commemorates the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit, and, with that arrival, the Birth of the Church.

Often when we think of the Holy Spirit, we think of the gifts that He brings to us when we allow Him into lives. These gifts are outlined in Romans 12 and Corinthians 12, among other places. However, when Jesus spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit, he wanted to provide comfort for our lost souls, our grief’s, and our sorrows, and to illumine our hearts and minds to the will of God in both the macro and micro senses. When we read the Word of God, the Holy Spirit opens us up to understand God’s will for all people. Reading the books of the bible that deal with history shows us how God has acted in the past. The books of the prophets and Revelation show how God will act in history. The Gospels, Epistles, and Acts of the Apostles often direct us how to act as individuals in a specific historical context, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to God speaking to us through the Holy Spirit in His Word, he also speaks to us by direct communication - through reason & tradition - through inspiration and dreams - through clergy and friends. In other words, the work of the Holy Spirit is constant in opening our hearts and minds to the knowledge and love of God.

The question isn’t: “Is the Holy Spirit illuminating the Truth?” The question is: “Are we open to the Truth that the Holy Spirit illuminates?” For me, that is one aspect of this prayer, this collect, that speaks to me: “Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;” that God, through the Holy Spirit, would grant us right judgment in all things; the ability to discern wisdom from folly - demons from angels - truth from falsehood. The world around us is constantly trying to mislead and misdirect us, but the Holy Spirit brings us back home to the heart of the matter, which begins and ends with God: His Love, His Grace, and His Will in our lives.

The second aspect of this collect that speaks to me is its charge that we rest in the Comfort of the Holy Spirit:  “Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort….” The ability to rest in the Holy Spirit - to rejoice in His Holy Comfort - is so important, and so often ignored. God does not desire anxiety but peace, not worry but faith, not discord but unity. Those things all come through our rejoicing in His Holy Comfort! So, if you are experiencing anxiety, worry, and discord, I would especially appeal to you this Sunday to open your heart and mind to God the Holy Spirit to receive the Grace that He desires to give you but will never force upon you!

My prayer for you and me this Sunday as we celebrate the Coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birth of the Church, is that we will be open to the teaching and direction that God the Holy Spirit desires to give us.

May God bless and keep you all!