Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bishop's Note for Advent 1 Year B

Bishop Eric Menees

Happy New Year! I know that sounds a bit odd coming - as the Bishop's Note happens to this week - on Thanksgiving Day, but this Sunday is, in fact, the first Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday of the New Church Year. There is no other season in the Church calendar that stands out so starkly against the prevailing winds of the culture.

While our airwaves and internet are full of ads enticing us to buy this or that in preparation for Christmas, our Bible lessons are taken from the prophets, who call us to repent and prepare to meet the Lord. Advent is a season that calls upon the Church to wait, watch, and prepare our hearts and lives to meet the Lord Jesus - either at his Second Coming or upon our death. And since none of us knows the day or the hour of the Lord's return, nor of our falling asleep in the Lord, we'd better prepare now. There is no time to waste!

This Sunday's lesson from the Prophet Isaiah is an example of just such a call to prepare:   "But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever." (Isaiah 64:8-9a) The prophet Isaiah, writing some 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus, reminded the people of Israel that we are not in control - we are, indeed, clay in the potters hand. In other words:  WE ARE THE CREATURE, NOT THE CREATED. Losing sight of this reality is the source of such great sin and sorrow. In fact, St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, saying that Rome had become such a sinful place precisely because the people had worshiped the creature rather than the Creator: "24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Romans 1:24-25) To lose sight of who we are in comparison to God the Creator is to accept as true the LIE of the Devil.

Isaiah also reminds us, through his prophetic message to the people of Israel, that we need someone to plead to God on our behalf to show us mercy! Jesus is the person who not only bore the wrath of God on our behalf on the cross, but since his ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father he has constantly interceded on our behalf and will continue to do so. As we prepare for Christmas, let us remember that God loved His creation so much that He sent His only son to redeem and restore His fallen creatures.  And to that I say...Amen and Happy Thanksgiving!

Catechism Questions 46 - 48

46.    What does it mean that God made both heaven and earth?
It means that all things, whether visible or invisible, physical or spiritual, were brought into being out of nothing by the Word of the eternal God. (Genesis 1:1)
47.     If God made the world good, why do I sin?
Adam and Eve rebelled against God, thus bringing into the world pain, fruitless toil, alienation from God and each other, and death. I have inherited a fallen and corrupted human nature, and I too sin and fall short of God’s glory. (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23; 5:12)
48.    How does sin affect you?

The God-opposing, self-centered power of sin, which is present in all people, corrupts me and my relationship with God, with others and with creation. Because of sin and apart from Christ, I am spiritually dead, separated from God, under his righteous condemnation, and without hope. (Genesis 3; Ephesians 2:1-3; Galatians 5:19-21)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Last Sunday of Pentecost - Feast of Christ the King

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in thy well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

On the Feast of the Ascension we celebrated the fact that Jesus ascended into heaven, where He sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf and waiting - waiting for the Father's word that the time is right; right for restoration; right for redemption; right for His return.

As we enter into the Season of Advent, we focus on our need to prepare for Jesus' second advent, when He will complete the restoration that He began with His birth in that manger in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

While in His first advent He came as an helpless babe, His second advent will be as the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Revelation to St. John gives us a tremendous image in Chapter 19, beginning at the 11th verse: "15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." (Revelation 19:15-16) This is no helpless babe - this is an avenging King who comes in godly strength and power.

The purpose of His "...rule with a rod of iron..." is to free all believers - worldwide - from bondage to sin. How awesome and wonderful that day will be! We should not expect this day with fear and dread, but with joy and anticipation that God's Word will be fulfilled and that we will gather around the throne of God, glorifying Him exactly as the prophet Isaiah envisioned: "6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. (Isaiah 6:1-7)  

And to that I say AMEN!
Catechism Questions 43 - 45

43.     Why do you say that God the Father is “Almighty?”
I call the Father “Almighty” because he has power over everything and accomplishes everything he wills. Together with his Son and Holy Spirit, the Father is all-knowing and ever present in every place. (I Chronicles 29:10-13; Psalm 139)
44.    Why do you call God the Father “Creator?”
I call God the Father “Creator” because he is the sole designer and originator of everything that exists. He creates and sustains all things through his Word, and gives life to all creatures through his Spirit. (Genesis 1; 2:7; Job 33:4; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:3)
45.    How does recognizing God as Creator affect your understanding of his creation?

I acknowledge that God made for his own glory everything that exists. He created human beings in his image, male and female, to serve him as creation’s stewards, managers and caretakers. He entrusts his good creation to us as a gift to enjoy and a responsibility to fulfill. (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15; Revelation 4:11)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost - Proper 28

Bishop Eric Menees

If you have followed along in the weekly Bishop's Note for all of this Church Year, you may notice that this week's collect was addressed in Advent 2. This is because I began this series of Notes by following the 1662 order of collects, rather than the 1979. Thus, I would refer you to my Advent 2 Bishop's Note for the collect you'll hear in church this Sunday.

This week, I would like to offer you a collect written by Archbishop Cranmer; one that I pray every morning and evening in the daily office.  


"Almighty and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels; Send down upon our Bishops, and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen"

I suspect that Archbishop Cranmer added this prayer in the daily office, along with the collects for mission, so that, not only would the faithful be looking ahead at the spread of the Gospel, but that they would also ask God to bless our congregations and our clergy, who form the local expression of the Body of Christ!

First, this collect acknowledges that it is God alone who works miracles (marvels). God is the source of all good, all health, and all grace. I sense that we know that with our heads, but I fear that we don't believe it with our hearts. We buy into the myth that if we just try hard enough we can do it, and if we just can't, well then it's OK to call on the Lord and His strength. We fail to recognize that anything and everything we have or accomplish is a gift from God.

Second, this collect calls upon God's grace and health to bless our Bishops and Curates (priests and deacons serving in congregations) as His instruments in the local congregation. I can't emphasize enough the need to pray for our clergy. I consider myself extremely blessed to have the Little Brothers and Sisters of Sacrifice, along with the Bishop's Chapter of the Daughters of the Holy Cross, praying for me daily. I can't imagine how I could face a single day of ministry in the diocese without those intercessors petitioning the Lord, on my behalf, to grant me strength, wisdom, and discernment.

Lastly, this collect acknowledges that God's answer to our prayers not only blesses us, but also brings honor and glory to Him. How amazing that is, that God uses His grace to bless us and to bring glory and honor to Himself.

My prayer every morning, as Florence and I sit in our comfy prayer chairs, is that God will richly bless each and every priest and deacon in the Diocese of San Joaquin, that they may be used as an instrument of the Lord to bless the congregations that they serve and bring honor and glory to the Lord!

Catechism Questions 40-42

40.        Who is God the Father?
God the Father is the first Person of the Holy Trinity, from whom the Son is eternally begotten and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds. (John 1:1, 14; 14:16-17, 26; 15:26, Nicene Creed)
41.    Why do you call the first of the three divine Persons “Father?”
Our Lord Jesus called God “Father” and taught his disciples to do the same, and St. Paul teaches that God adopts believers as his children and heirs in Christ, sending his Holy Spirit into our hearts crying “Abba, Father.” (Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-7).
42.    What do you mean when you call God “Father?”

When I call God “Father,” I acknowledge that I was created by God for relationship with him, that God made me in his image, that I trust in God as my Protector and Provider, and that I put my hope in God as his child and heir in Christ. (Genesis1:26, Matthew 6:25-33; Romans 8:16-17)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the 22nd Week of Pentecost - Proper 27

Bishop Eric Menees

"O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen."

This week's Collect is a powerful one that speaks to the character of God and the mission of His only begotten son - Jesus Christ.  God's character is revealed in His continuous desire to be reconciled with His primary creation - man.  The two primary obstacles to that reconciliation are Satan and man himself.  Jesus' mission, therefore, is to bind and destroy Satan and to adopt and reconcile man to the Father.

Jesus, of course, is first recorded as confronting Satan following Jesus' baptism and his preparation in the desert, when he faced the temptations of Satan.  Jesus is able to foil Satan and resist his temptations by reliance upon the Word of God.  Jesus demonstrated to us how to resist the devil's temptations.  Jesus, just a year or so later teaches his disciples that they also have power, in the Name of Jesus, over Satan.  What liberation - what joy - to know that despite what Hollywood says, Satan has no power over us if we but resist him in the mighty name of Jesus!  "17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!' 18 And he said to them, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.'" (Luke 10:17-19)

Even though Jesus has taught us to temporarily bind Satan and his demons with Jesus' own mighty name, the ultimate destruction of Satan and his demons will come with Jesus' return and the great apocalypse described in the Revelation of St. John.  Because God's Word announces Jesus' victory in advance, we need not worry about that aspect of the future. Instead we are too focus on the present and learning what it means to be God's adopted children.

This is the second part of this collect - that we who believe in the name of Jesus are adopted as Children of God.  This is a very important doctrine of the church, and a place where too many mainline denominations have gotten it wrong.  I came to Christ as a young man and just took as gospel what the Episcopal church was teaching; that "...all people are children of God."  I never challenged that teaching until one day, in reading the the first chapter of the gospel of John, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit.  What did I read?  11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13, emphasis added)  Scripture is clear that not all of us are children of God, but only those who receive Jesus and believe in his name!  

Why is this so important?  Because, if we buy the lie that ALL people are children of God, then there is no need to share the gospel with anyone; no need to invite people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  By not sharing the gospel and inviting people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ we are saying, in effect, "Go to hell; I don't really care about you."

This is not to say that we can neglect to treat every person with the utmost dignity, love, and charity.  Why?  Because scripture is clear that we are all created in the image of God and are therefore deserving of respect!

Ultimately, we can only bind Satan, treat all people with respect and dignity, and share the Gospel with others, because God answers our prayers!  Remember that this Lord's Day, as you gather together for worship.

Catechism Questions 37 - 39

37.    What other books does the Church acknowledge?
The canon of Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. The fourteen books of the Apocrypha may also be read “for example of life and instruction of manners,” but “not to establish any doctrine” (Articles of Religion, 6).
38.    Who is God?
God is one divine Being eternally existing in three divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the Holy Trinity. (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19)
39.    According to Holy Scripture, what is the nature and     character of God?

“God is love” (1 John 4:16). Sharing an eternal communion of love between the three Persons, God loves and mercifully redeems fallen creation. “God is holy” (Psalm 99; Isaiah 6:1-4). God is utterly transcendent, good, righteous, and opposed to all sin and evil. God’s love is holy, God’s holiness is loving, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of God’s whole character. (Hebrews 1:3; John 1:18; 17:21; Colossians 1:19)