Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bishop's Note: May 21, 2015 - Feast of Pentecost

Bishop Eric Menees

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all  filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

This scripture lesson from the Book of Acts will be read in all of our congregations this Sunday. It describes the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to send, "another helper, a comforter and guide," to the believers.

It is impossible for me to truly grasp what that Pentecost must have been like - so full of power and emotion!  Dramatic, to be sure.  Over the years countless people have pursued that experience and been left wanting.  Not that the Holy Spirit isn't present - he is, and powerfully so.  The question is the motivation behind the desire for the Holy Spirit.  

The Father didn't send the Holy Spirit so that people could be on an emotional high, but that they might be filled with power and grace to minister to a fallen world: To minister to the world in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ through the gifts of teaching, preaching, prophecy, and tongues;  to minister to the sick through the gifts of healing and miracles; to minister to the church through the gifts of administration, exhortation, words of knowledge, and giving.  You get the picture.  The Holy Spirit is given, not for our own edification, but for the edification of the whole Church and the Glory of God.  

The question is not about whether or not the Holy Spirit came two thousand years ago to the disciples, or repeatedly ever since then at every baptism & confirmation and whenever a true believer has opened their heart and mind to receive him.  The question is: Are we open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and are we exercising those gifts to God's glory?

My prayer for each of us in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and throughout the Church, is that this Pentecost Sunday we will both receive and exercise the love and the power of the Holy Spirit, by stepping up for ministry in our congregations.

I pray you all a truly blessed Pentecost!

Catechism Questions 112 - 114

112.    What is the inward and spiritual thing signified?
The spiritual thing signified is the body and blood of Christ, which are truly taken and received in the Lord’s Supper by faith. (1 Corinthians 10:16-18; 11:27; John 6:52-56)

113.    What benefits do you receive through partaking of this sacrament?
As my body is nourished by the bread and wine, I receive the strengthening and refreshing of my soul by the body and blood of Christ; and I receive the strengthening and refreshing of the love and unity I share with fellow Christians, with whom I am united in the one Body of Christ. (1662 Catechism)

114.    What is required of you when you come to receive Holy Communion?

I am to examine myself as to whether I truly repent of my sins and intend to lead the new life in Christ; whether I have a living faith in God’s mercy through Christ and remember his atoning death with a thankful heart; and whether I have shown love and forgiveness to all people. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bishop's Note: May 14, 2015 - The Feast of the Ascension

Bishop Eric Menees

“[50] Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. [51] While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. [52] And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, [53] and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50-53 ESV)

Today, throughout the church, we celebrate one of the major feast days of the church – the Feast of the Ascension.  Whenever we gather for worship and confess our faith we proclaim: “He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” (Apostles Creed 1662)

How awesome it is to ponder that, on this day some two thousand years ago, our Lord, following his resurrection, was bodily ascended into heaven where he sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father.   

Jesus does not sit there aloof from the cares and concerns of his adopted brothers and sisters here on earth.  No, the Father, through the Son, sent His Holy Spirit as His eternal presence.  In addition, Jesus himself intercedes with the Father on our behalf.  Imagine that for a moment: Our Lord and Savior hears each and every prayer that we utter – from the trivial to the sublime – and then he turns to his Father and advocates for us.  What an awesome fact that is – our God hears and responds to every prayer we offer up! That answer is generally one of three: “Yes!” “No!” and “Not Yet.”  While we always enjoy the first answer, and never enjoy the second two answers, because God is God and we are not we have to have faith and trust that our Triune God desires the very best for His children – even when that means that He chooses not to save a life or stay the hand of a terrorist.  This does not mean that we are simply fatalists and sit back passively.  No, Jesus taught us to make prayers and supplications to the father the way that a poor widow entreated for Justice from a Judge in the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8).  And St. Paul gives the very best advice to the church in Thessalonica: “[16] Rejoice always, [17] pray without ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

In addition to interceding on our behalf, Jesus also prepares for his return to “Judge the living and the dead.”  The thought of being judged is always unsettling.  It should be terrifying to those who have denied Jesus.  But for those of us who have received him into our lives and submitted to him as Lord and Savior, we can absolutely rest secure in the fact that the Judge of our lives is the same one who died for us.  And so it is with confidence that we pray the Collect for Ascension: “Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.” AMEN!

I pray you all a truly blessed Ascensiontide!

Catechism Questions 109 - 111

109.    What signs of the Holy Spirit’s work do you hope and pray to see as a result of your baptism?
I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit who indwells me will help me to be an active member of my Christian community, participate in worship, continually repent and return to God, proclaim the faith, love and serve my neighbor, and strive for justice and peace. (Hebrews 10:25; 12:14; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 1:9; 2:1)

110.    Why did Christ institute the sacrament of Holy Communion?
He instituted it for the continued remembrance of the sacrifice of his atoning death, and to convey the benefits the faithful receive through that sacrifice. (Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

111.    What is the outward and visible sign in Holy Communion?

The visible sign is bread and wine, which Christ commands us to receive. (1 Corinthians 11:23)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How Are The World Religions Different Archbishop Welby?

Fr. Dale Matson

“It is disingenuous and ultimately dishonest because alongside all that we hold in common and all that we share there are profound differences between what we believe and the outworking of our faith.”

I would challenge Archbishop Welby to be more specific about the differences between say, Christianity and Islam. The bottom-line for the Christian Church in general and Anglicans in particular is her Trinitarian concept of God (three Persons one God, Father Son and Holy Spirit) and her Christology. For example, Christ is God (the Son); He is unique and singular as the sacrifice for Original Sin. His is the only name we are to call upon for our eternal Salvation. He is the Way The Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He was both fully God and fully human. He was without sin. He died on the cross for our sake, arose bodily from the grave, ascended to Heaven and sits at the right hand of the God the Father.

Here is what Islam says about Jesus Christ. I have excerpted and shortened versions of the comments but believe I have not distorted the teachings of Islam in doing so.
(a)                    The Trinity is totally rejected. Jesus is neither God, nor Son of God (in the literal sense). Jesus was a human prophet and not divine.
(b)                   The Quran says Jesus did not die on the cross, but God made it appear that way to people. Furthermore, the Quran also says that God ascended Jesus to Heaven.
(c)                    Christians believe in the concept of "Original Sin" which means that human beings are born as sinners, bearing the burden of the "Original Sin" of Adam and Eve. Muslims do not believe in the " Original Sin".
(d)                   Muslims regard the "real" Bible (that reflects God's actual message and the real teachings of Jesus and the prophets before him) as a holy scripture. We believe that the Bible has been corrupted due to many factors and reasons. The current Bible is corrupted, but not completely false. So, we can still find today in the Bible some traces of the truth, such as verses that contradict with the Trinity. That is why Muslims are willing to accept the "current" Bible only to the extent that it does not contradict with the Quran.
(e)                    Modern Christianity was not founded by Jesus, but rather by Paul and the Romans in the Council of Nicea in 325 AD (meaning about 325 years after Jesus), inspired by Satan.

Here is what Anglican Christians believe about Scripture.

Article VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

There is a final irony in the fact that while Islam rejects the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed, they accept specific elements of the Creed and/or Christian teaching. They accept that Jesus was a prophet, His virgin birth, the fact that He ascended to Heaven, that there is a heaven and hell. There is a Satan and he is evil. God’s created angels as messengers. There will be an Anti-Christ, and Christ will return to defeat the Anti Christ followed by the judgment. Why do I find this ironic? How many progressive/liberal folks who call themselves Christians even accept what Islam does about the Christian faith?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bishop's Note: May 7, 2015 - DSJ Strategic Goals Continued

Bishop Eric Menees

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)

This week’s “Bishop’s Note” concludes our examination of the Long Term Strategic Goals of your Bishop, Diocesan Council, and Standing Committee.  Over the past three weeks, we have examined the first three of these goals:

S1: To provide clergy and lay leaders a variety of tools to bring people to -- and
     disciple them in Jesus Christ.
S2: To continuously improve administration, communication, and ministries of
      this Diocese.
S3: To regularly offer training and development opportunities for clergy and lay

The fourth and final goal is clearly audacious, but it is also godly: S4: To fund Diocesan operations while allocating 50% of revenue to ministry and outreach.  To raise giving and cut bureaucracy so as to increase ministry is indeed a godly goal. This goal may seem outrageous on the surface, but the call to live a Christian life is outrageous too.  I began this “Bishop’s Note” with a quotation of Romans 1:7, where St. Paul reminds the people of Rome that first, they are loved by God, and second, they are called to be saints.  Being called to be saints sounds like an outrageous claim, but it is absolutely true.

So, too, the call to live as a diocese in such a way that we dedicate 50% of income to directly support active ministry and outreach - in order to fulfill the first three of the Long Term Strategic Goals - is an outrageous but attainable goal, with God’s help.  Imagine, for a moment, what the diocese would look like if each person began to tithe from what God had given him.  I can guarantee that, the day that happens, ministry and outreach will increase a hundredfold – Christ would be even more greatly glorified here in San Joaquin.

All outrageous goals start with small steps – our short-term goals are those small steps.

Short Term Goals for 2015:

S4[a]: Exceed budgeted revenue by 15% with part of the surplus allocated to
         2016 missions.
S4[b]: All churches in the diocese participate in an audit process in 2015.
S4[c]: Complete training of all church treasurers.
S4[d]: All churches in the diocese shall have met their tithe commitment for 2015.

I pray that you will search the scriptures, speak with the Lord, and talk to your clergy about assisting us in the execution of these outrageous and godly goals.

May the Lord bless and keep you all!

Catechism Questions 106 - 108

106.    What is the inward and spiritual grace set forth in Baptism?
The inward and spiritual grace set forth is a death to sin and a new birth to righteousness, through union with Christ in his death and resurrection. I am born a sinner by nature, separated from God, but in baptism, rightly received, I am made God’s child by grace through faith in Christ. (John 3:3-5; Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 2:12; Galatians 3:27-29)
107.    What is required of you when you come to be baptized?
Repentance, in which I turn away from sin; and faith, in which I turn to Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord and embrace the promises that God makes to me in this sacrament. (Acts 2:38)
108.    Why is it appropriate to baptize infants?

Because it is a sign of God’s promise that they are embraced in the covenant community of Christ’s Church. Those who in faith and repentance present infants to be baptized vow to raise them in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, with the expectation that they will one day profess full Christian faith as their own. (Acts 2:39)