Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bishop’s Note: June 25, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Godly Might

Bishop Eric Menees

In over 28 years of ordained ministry - and the several years prior, as a layman - I have never ceased to be amazed at the fortitude that some of our brothers and sisters have: strength to fight and strength to die gracefully; strength to love, serve, and stand by the side of a loved one in the midst of great sorrow and fear.

This strength comes not from within ourselves, but as a gift of the Holy Spirit that is sometimes referred to as Godly Might or Godly Fortitude. Again, this is referenced as one of the foundational gifts by the Prophet Isaiah when he wrote: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-3a)

In my ministry, throughout the years as a Hospice Chaplain, Hospice Board Member, and Fire Department Trauma Team founder and member, I've been both blessed and cursed to witness hundreds of people face traumatic injury or illness. When that happens, both the patient and their loved ones must come to a place of either resignation at their ill fate, or of recognizing that, even though we live in a fallen world that knows great pain and sorrow, we can, as Christians, face pain and suffering with the knowledge that even in suffering God can be glorified and others can be aided.

In my own family, I look to my brother as an example of one who has had Godly Might & Fortitude. Ken has juvenile diabetes and is now 58 years old. Ken's health has deteriorated over the years: he's had two heart attacks, several stints, his kidneys are not working well, he has no feeling in his feet, and his eyesight continues to weaken. In short, Ken has all of the problems that someone who has had diabetes for fifty years would have. In all that time, I've never heard him complain, nor ask for a break or to have things easier. Ken has gotten up every morning and gone to work to support his family, to be a productive citizen, and to help other people.  

I'm not sure Ken would say that he's gifted with Godly Might, but he'd be quick to say that he could not have done all that he has without God's help. Ken and his family are faithful Catholic Christians - he serves with the Knights of Columbus and, throughout the years, has held about every position a layman can have at his church; never complaining about his illness, never asking for a break, and never giving in.

Two weeks ago Ken got to see something he secretly feared that he might not - his only child's marriage to a wonderful man. I was so proud of my brother as he walked my niece down the aisle. I stood at the altar and saw the beam in my brothers face that radiated the love of a father for his daughter, and the Love of our Heavenly Father for his adopted son.

Let us pray for all the Kens of this world, and for all of the men and women who love them and care for them in good times and in bad. Thank God for the gift of Godly Might and Fortitude - it is too frightening to think what this world would be like without it!

Let us pray: "Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake." Amen.

I pray you all a blessed week as you seek and serve the Lord!

Catechism Questions 127 - 130

127.    What is the work of deacons?
The work of deacons, serving Christ under their bishops, is to assist priests in public worship, instruct both young and old in the catechism, and care for those in need. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13)

128.    What is marriage?
Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, binding both to self-giving love and exclusive fidelity. In the rite of Christian marriage, the couple exchange vows to uphold this covenant. They do this before God and in the presence of witnesses, who pray that God will bless their life together. (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19; Mark 10:2-9; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)

129.    What is signified in marriage?
The covenantal union of man and woman in marriage signifies the communion between Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, and the Church, his holy bride. Not all are called to marriage, but all Christians are wedded to Christ and blessed by the grace God gives in marriage. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

130.    What grace does God give in marriage?

In Christian marriage, God establishes and blesses the covenant between husband and wife, and joins them to live together in a communion of love, faithfulness and peace within the fellowship of Christ and his Church. God enables all married people to grow in love, wisdom and godliness through a common life patterned on the sacrificial love of Christ.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bishop’s Note: June 18, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Godly Counsel

Bishop Eric Menees

Have you ever had a situation where you might be speaking to a brother or sister who is going through a difficult time?  Perhaps they were trying to figure out a difficult relationship, or seeking to reconcile, or seeking to make a difficult decision, and sought out your counsel?

Did you find yourself, in that moment, offering clear counsel that resonated with your friend?  If so you probably experienced the gift of Godly Counsel that Isaiah spoke of when he wrote: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a)

The gift of Godly Counsel is present both in the giving and receiving of good advice in practical situations.  The fruit of this gift is more than just a sense of it being sound advice, but it is fruitful when applied to a situation that allows someone to mature in his or her walk with the Lord.  

In my ministry, I seem to recognize this most in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I see it when my Confessor speaks into my life and I just know: “Yes, this is truth and this is what I must do.”  This isn’t because my confessor is terrific, though he is; it is because I’m open in that moment to the Spirit of God speaking into my life and using Fr. Larry as His instrument.

In other times I am the confessor, and I just know in my heart that this is the counsel that I’m supposed to give, or this is the question I am supposed to ask that will allow the penitent to make the connection.  When this occurs, it is not because of my great counsel, but because the Holy Spirit leads us to discern right from wrong and good from evil.

Ultimately, the gift of Godly Counsel comes with humility – humbling ourselves to seek help from others and - most importantly - from the Lord when faced with difficult decisions, or aiding others in making the right decisions and taking right actions.

“Gracious and loving Lord we pray for the anointing of your Holy Spirit with the gift of Godly Counsel for the furtherance our ministry in your church, for the benefit of your children and for your honor and glory!  Open our hearts and minds to humbly receive you gift and then to willingly share it with others.  This we pray in the name of our one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Catechism Questions 124 - 126

124.    What are the three ordained ministries in the Anglican Church?
The three orders are bishops, priests, and deacons.

125.    What is the work of bishops?
The work of bishops is to represent and serve Christ and the Church as chief pastors, to lead in preaching and teaching the faith and in shepherding the faithful, to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church, and to bless, confirm and ordain, thus following in the tradition of the Apostles. (Titus 1:7-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:28)

126.    What is the work of priests?

The work of priests, serving Christ under their bishops, is to nurture congregations through the full ministry of the Word preached and Sacraments rightly administered, and to pronounce absolution and blessing in God’s name. (Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Bishop’s Note: June 11, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Understanding

Bishop Eric Menees

During this Season after Pentecost – often referred to as “Ordinary Time” – I am embarking on an examination of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are freely given to believers at baptism with the general graces of the Lord, and then boldly given at confirmation or the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

What might be referred to as “Foundational gifts,” are those that the Prophet Isaiah speaks of: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a ESV)  The seven foundational gifts are: Wisdom, Understanding, Might (fortitude), Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

These gifts are freely given by God the Holy Spirit and are provided to the believer so that we may fulfill the purpose of our lives, which is to Love and Serve the Lord.  

The second of these gifts is Understanding.  This gift of the Holy Spirit opens our minds to the understanding of Divine Truth as revealed in the Word of the Lord and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Take, for example, the way you can be reading the Word of God and then, all of a sudden, that passage which you’ve read a hundred times leaps off the page with a whole new meaningfulness to you.  This past Sunday while studying for my sermon, I read from the Gospel of Mark: “[21] And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21 ESV)  In the past, while reading this scripture, I always understood the second “they” as Jesus’ family. But this week, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me understanding to recognize the second “they” was the detractors of Jesus.  Thus, Jesus’ family went up to aid Jesus, to check on him and to protect him.

God gives us the gift of the Understanding so that God may be glorified! This is not understanding so that we may simply be enriched or somehow made better.  This is not the understanding that God gives where we have a deeper understanding about a math problem or a problem at work.  This is Understanding of, and a deeper perception of, God’s divine love for us – His love for YOU!

I pray that God may grant us this Understanding, so that we may better serve Him and better love our neighbor!

“God the Holy Spirit, we give you thanks and praise for the gift of wisdom and understanding.  Enlighten our hearts and minds to better love and know you for who you are as the almighty and glorious Lord and creator of all live and grace.” Amen!

I pray you all a blessed Lord’s Day!

Catechism Questions 121 - 123

121.    What grace does God give to you in absolution?
In absolution, God conveys to me his pardon through the cross, thus declaring to me reconciliation and peace with him, and bestowing upon me the assurance of his grace and salvation.

122.    What is ordination?
Through prayer and the laying on of the bishop’s hands, ordination consecrates, authorizes, and empowers persons called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. (1 Timothy 1:5; 5:22; Acts 6:6)

123.    What grace does God give in ordination?

In ordination, God confirms the gifts and calling of the candidates, conveys the gift of the Holy Spirit for the office and work of bishop, priest or deacon, and sets them apart to act on behalf of the Church and in the name of Christ.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Right Thinking And The The Spirit Of The Age

Pentecost 2B 2015

Fr. Dale Matson

Our opening Collect for Sunday states, “O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

If you are wondering why there seems to be such great confusion today about what is the right thing to do just look at our reading from Genesis. The serpent said to Eve, “for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The problem was Adam and Eve already knew what was good. By disobeying God and obeying the serpent, they knew evil. The serpent did not say that they would be able to discern between good and evil or that they would choose to do good over evil. Evil clouded their minds and destroyed their relationship with God their creator. The further we are from God, the further we are from reality, sanity and the more confused our thinking is. In Romans chapter one, St. Paul states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Verse 18). Further, Paul states, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also give approval to those who practice them.” (Verses 28-32).

In our Gospel lesson Sunday this confusion about good and evil was very evident when Jesus cast out demons. “The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And He called them to Him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.’” (Mark 3:22-26).

Can you see how humans in their fallen state confuse good with evil? The prophet Isaiah stated, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

We live in times where the spirit of the age has taken hold and become dominant in our society and our western culture. The mass media and social media has hastened this decline. There is great pressure on us and the church to give up the fight, to acquiesce and approve of what is evil in the eyes of God. It is an upside down world where holding fast to that which is right is difficult.

Often we see the “spirit of the age”. Defined as the “Zeitgeist” which is a German word for the customs of the people during a certain time but that is more like what is fashionable.

What I am talking about is more of a Biblical understanding of the spirit of the age. To understand it more clearly, it is better to say the spirit of the ages for this spirit of disobedience was present with Adam and Eve at the fall of the human race. St. Paul states in our Epistle lesson today, “Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with Scripture.” Our faith as Anglicans is based on the truth of Scripture. It is the written Word of God. We learn these words as children in Sunday school. “The B.I.B.L.E. yes that’s the book for me I stand on the Word and the Word alone, the B.I.B.L.E.”

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church stated "I understand salvation as being about the healing of the whole creation. Your part and my part in that is about holy living," she offered. "As Christians we understand [salvation] as relationship with God in Jesus, but that does not mean that we're expected to judge other people's own commitments." (Agape Press, Nov 2, 2006).

When we are discerning and challenge her inference that there can be salvation apart from Jesus Christ, we are called “Judgmental”. We are not being judgmental, we are being discerning and loving. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

There are other elements to the spirit of the ages, not just disobedience. The spirit of the ages is not spiritual but materialistic. That is why Nicodemus was confused when Jesus said that he must be born again. Nicodemus stated, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” No Nicodemus, being born again is a spiritual birth not a physical birth. People confuse the kingdom of this world for the Kingdom of God. There is a bumper sticker that reminds me of this. “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Really, I believe that he who dies with the most toys is the biggest loser. He is the one who can’t pass through the eye of a needle.

Another element in the spirit of the ages is individualism. There are positive aspects to individualism like someone who does not conform to the pressures of society like Rosa Parks. She refused to go to the back of the bus just because she was black. Individualism in its worst form however is narcissism. Narcissists are people that believe the rest of the world is there to make them happy and to adore them. I think we have helped this along with the self-esteem school program called “I am special”. As Christians we are individuals but members of the body of Christ, the church. We all have spiritual gifts unique to each of us intended for service to other members of the body. Individualism may be one of the most dangerous elements in the spirit of the ages because folks believe that being an individual means they have a right to do whatever they please. Once again, the church is pointed at as discriminating and bigoted because we don't condone behaviors legally engaged in by consenting adults. For example, just because Marijuana is legal does not mean that it is not harmful. As the electronic highway signs state, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

Another element in the spirit of the ages is the loss of Truth. Satan is the author of lies, Pontius Pilate said, “What is truth?” when Jesus said, I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Modern church leaders say that Christ is “our truth” but will not go so far as to say He is the truth for fear of offending others. What does this do for the main mission of the church? We are called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. We are not told to avoid offending others with this message.

Another element in the spirit of the ages is an uncoupling of God from our nation. Leaders say today that we are not a Christian nation but look at the lyrics of some of our national songs. The last verse in “My Country Tis Of Thee” states, “Our father's God to, Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light; Protect us by Thy might, Great God, our King!”

At sporting events we only sing the first verse of The Star Spangled Banner which became our National Anthem. This is the final verse of our national anthem. “O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand, between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation; Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause is just, and this be our motto: "In God is our trust “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

In the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” we hear this in the final verse, “In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the Sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on.”

The only true freedom is freedom under God. Apart from God we are slaves to sin, and Satan. Today it is fashionable for citizens to walk all over our flag that represents our county. You can see it done on YouTube. When I was in 6th grade, it was my job to hoist the flag at the beginning of the school day and bring it down at the end of the school day. We would fold it carefully into a triangle. The triangle represented the tricornered hats of the colonial soldiers who fought for our country's independence. We would then give the flag to our school principal. If it accidently touched the ground it was supposed to be burned. There was a reverence and respect for the flag that symbolized our country.

The final element in the spirit of the ages is militant feminism born in the disobedience of Eve. Feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton are listed in Holy Women/Holy Men in the Episcopal Church. She was not only a feminist that wrote a Bible for women, she did not believe in the bible and was an atheist.

This spirit of the ages is composed of many elements including a denial of truth, disobedience, narcissism, materialism and individualism and the uncoupling of God from our nation. The author of the spirit of the ages is Satan who is the ruler of this world and this age. As a church our marching orders remain the same against the spirit of this age. Preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Lord, with Your inspiration, may we think and do what is right. May we help others come into the light of Your Truth. “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Amen

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bishop’s Note: June 4, 2015 The Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Wisdom

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Thus, in our Church Calendar, this week marks “Ordinary Time,” until the First Sunday of Advent on November 29th. Depending on which prayer book you follow, we also refer to this as the Season of Pentecost for those following the 79 BCP, or the Season of Trinity for those following the 28 BCP. During Ordinary time the emphasis throughout the lectionary is on Mission and Ministry. It seems appropriate to me then that my Bishop’s Notes for this season focus on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are poured out upon us for furthering mission and ministry.

Determining exactly what the gifts of the Holy Spirit are is not as simple as one might imagine.  Scripture lists these gifts in several places – Isaiah, Acts, Romans, and Corinthians, just to name a few.  However, this series in the Bishop’s Note will focus on what I consider the foundational gifts and simply say that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, like the Holy Spirit Himself, are limitless.

What might be referred to as “Foundational gifts” are those that the Prophet Isaiah speaks of: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a ESV) The seven foundational gifts are: Wisdom, Understanding, Might (fortitude), Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

These gifts are freely given by God the Holy Spirit and are provided to the believer so that we may fulfill the purpose of our lives, which is to Love and Serve the Lord.  

The first of the gifts Isaiah speaks of is Wisdom.  Wisdom is the ability to understand, in our inner being, God’s desire for the world.  This often comes as a knowledge that we are unable to articulate but is often described as, “I know that I know that I know…” that God is the creator and author of all life, or that Jesus died for my sins.  It is this wisdom that allows us to step forward in Faith.

The gift of Wisdom empowers us for ministry in a world that too often considers itself “wise,” but whose wisdom is based on the self.  The Wisdom that comes from God is wisdom based on God Himself, and it goes beyond our own feeble minds and is used for God’s glory, not our own.

“O God, you are the author and source everything that ever was or is now and ever will be.  We pray you to pour down upon us, your servants, the gift of Wisdom.  Open our hearts and minds to view the world through the lens of your heart and mind that we may honor and glorify you. We ask this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen”

Catechism Questions 118 - 120

118.    What is confirmation?
After making a mature commitment to my baptismal covenant with God, I receive the laying on of the bishop’s hands with prayer. (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6)

119.    What grace does God give you in confirmation?
In confirmation, God strengthens the work of the Holy Spirit in me for his daily increase in my Christian life and ministry. (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6)

120.    What is absolution?

After repenting and confessing my sins to God in the presence of a priest, the priest declares God’s forgiveness to me with authority given by God. (John 20:22-23; James 5:15-16)