Friday, July 31, 2015

Bishop’s Note: Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Service

Bishop Eric Menees

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)

Jesus shared these words with the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount. Do you find yourself hungry to give to the needy? Do you find yourself hungry to care for others? And yet desire to do so without fanfare or acknowledgement? If so perhaps you have the Spiritual Gift of Service.

It was while I was in college that I first learned that I was blessed to have the gift of Service. A good friend of mine was a member of a sorority. I would visit Marsha and see these young women who seemed in need of care and attention that had no strings attached – no potential romance – no chance to be taken advantage of. And so, with Marsha’s help and encouragement I formed a group of men together to be the “Big Brothers” for the sorority.  We found ourselves helping where we could, having a listening ear and a non-judgmental presence. One Lent I was lead by the Lord to take on as my Lenten Discipline to anonymously write to each of the women sharing something that I’d seen them do, to complement them or otherwise give a “That a Girl” to each.  These notes were sent daily throughout the forty days of Lent.  What a joy to see the girls receive these notes and speculate who was writing them.  To my knowledge no one every guessed correctly.

Closely associated with the gift of Service is the service of hospitality.  I was blessed this past week to be the recipient of just such a gift. I was making my pastoral visit to St. John’s, Petaluma and found myself the guest of parishioners.  I didn’t arrive until 10:00 pm but they were awake and ready to greet me; immediately made me feel comfortable and engaged me in stimulating conversation - nothing showy, nothing flashy just an open door and a warm smile.  This was indeed a gift given in love without expectation of anything in return.

Without the Gift of Service the church of the first century could not have existed.  It was because of courageous and giving people like, Nympha (Col. 4:15), Gaius (Rom 16:23) and Prisca & Aquila (1 Cor. 16:19) who hosted house churches.  Opening their homes and their lives to new Christians knowing that their service was a gift to be received by the Holy Spirit and shared with the Body of Christ and was given freely and without expectation.

Giving without expectation is the hallmark of the Spiritual Gift of Service. Does this describe your calling and joy? If so rejoice because God the Holy Spirit has given you a very special gift to be shared with others… the love of service!  

I pray you all a truly blessed week!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Entropy And Christian Hope: Passing Through Things Temporal

Fr. Dale Matson

Click On Photograph To Enlarge
Temple Crag Above Second Lake In The John Muir Wilderness 

Entropy: lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
Synonyms: deterioration, degeneration, crumbling, decline, degradation, decomposition, breaking down, collapse.

As I age, my visual acuity continues to decline but even more remarkable is how easy it is to see with jaundiced eyes those things, which lie before me. The more serious cataracts form distorted templates through which I process the world around me.

It is all too easy to suffer a misstep and become discouraged about my balance. It is all too common to use the wrong word in a sentence and worry that my memory is fading.

A portion of Sundays Collect lodged in my thoughts and as I looked out over our congregation, I was reminded of the enormous collective burdens we share as pilgrims in this life. There is so much suffering and pain. As a priest, I am privy to the prayers of the Daughters of the Holy Cross who continually pray a firewall around our faith community. “Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal”

How easy it is to get caught up in the cares of this world, to become discouraged and lose hope. This is especially true as we age. If you look carefully at this beautiful photograph, even this great granite mountain has a mantle of rock rubble at the base hinting at its eventual demise. When sin entered this world, entropy crept closely behind.

St. Paul said it best. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but also we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25, ESV)

Lord I pray that we would never lose hope.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bishop’s Note: July 23, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Prophecy

Bishop Eric Menees

“[14] Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Let me ask you: What comes to mind when I say “prophecy?” Do you think of Isaiah speaking of the coming of the Christ? Do you think of John the Baptist coming out of the wilderness, calling people to repentance and dressed roughly in a camel hair shirt and leather belt – long hair and straggly beard?

Actually, I think of Archbishop Foley Beach and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. To look at them, you’d not recognize them as having the gift of prophecy but, in fact, they do have that anointing and exercise it regularly. This past week I was blessed to witness them exercise this gift at the International Catholic Congress of Anglicans. Through sermons and teaching, they built up the Body of Christ, which is the Church, inspiring all those listening to serve the Lord and glorify His Name.

Throughout history, God the Holy Spirit has selected men and women to “proclaim the Glory of God and edify man.” In the broadest terms, that is the definition of the Gift of Prophecy. Sometimes that gift is very specific, as we saw with Isaiah and the prophecies of the birth of the Messiah. Sometimes the prophecies are for building up the Bride of Christ – the Church – as we see in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12.

From the time of Jesus to the present, men and women have been given the gift of prophecy to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Haven’t you been in church and listened to a sermon that you just knew in your soul was anointed? Perhaps it stirred your heart and mind to seek a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ? Perhaps it stirred your soul to reach out and serve others? Perhaps it convicted you to examine your life and repent. Perhaps it was a strange and warm affirmation that you are loved beyond your wildest imaginations. Why do these sermons stir us? Perhaps 2 Peter states it best: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  (2 Peter 1:21)

It is my sincere prayer that everyone of my clergy will pray that God the Holy Spirit will grant them the gift of prophecy, that their sermons will be inspired and inspiring – glorifying God, and blessing and equipping the people of the church to actively bring people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ!

I pray you all a truly blessed Lord’s Day!

Catechism Questions 142 - 144

142.    How should you think of the human body?
My body is the good and God-given means of my experience, expression, enjoyment, love and service within God’s good creation. But sin and death now infect this world, and my body will degenerate and die. (Genesis 1:26-31; 3:19)

143.    Where do you go after you die?
When I die, my body will perish but, by the will of God, my soul will live on, awaiting resurrection and final judgment. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

144.    What is the resurrection of the body?

When Jesus appears on judgment day, he will bring all the dead back to bodily life, the wicked to judgment and the righteous to eternal life in the glory of God. (John 5:25-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bishop’s Note: July 16, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Holy Fear

Bishop Eric Menees

I remember as a young man reading this phrase  in the Psalms of David for the first time: "The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10), and thinking, "How can that be? How can wisdom and fear be used in the same sentence?”

I suspect that I was not alone in thinking, "God is a loving God; He doesn't want to frighten us." As I matured, I came to realize that the Fear spoken of in the Psalms and Proverbs isn't emotional fear, the way a child might fear an abusive parent or a criminal might fear his impending incarceration - worrying about being attacked by friend and stranger alike.

No, the Fear that Kings David and Solomon speak of is a Gift of God in the self-knowledge of who we are in comparison to who God is. Again, this self-knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and is one of the foundational gifts spoke of by the prophet Isaiah: “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)

How is this gift lived out? Well, primarily it is an attitude of awe and reverence in the presence of God. I think of our worship and the reverence that we both feel and offer to the Lord. The physical acts of kneeling, genuflecting, and raising our arms to heaven reflect and inspire reverence for our Lord. The humility of lifting our hands, cupped like a manger, to receive the body of Christ is an act of reverence and awe.  When we receive Christ's body and blood we are so aware of both our separateness and our unity - a unity based on Christ's will and desire more than ours.

This gift of fear, reverence, and awe calls us to follow the Apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2: “10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Holy Fear, the understanding of who we are in comparison to God, is indeed the beginning of wisdom. This reverence and awe is what leads us to open the door of our hearts and minds to the knock of our Lord Jesus on our hearts. The gift of Holy Fear leads us to open ourselves up to our triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is worldly fear which keeps the doors of our heart and mind closed to God for fear that He will make demands upon our lives; fear that we will have to change; fear that we will have to ultimately admit that we are NOT God - that the world does not turn on the axis of our lives.

Worldly Fear is a sign of our immaturity. Too often, no matter our physical age, spiritually we are like two years olds in our development, demanding that we be considered as the center of the universe. Holy Fear is the gift that leads to maturity, recognizing that we are not the center of the universe but that Jesus Christ is! And to that I say...AMEN!

Blessings and peace to you all!

Catechism Questions 138 - 141

138.    Does God give his grace only to Christians?
No. God graciously provides for all people; “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). However, he shows his saving grace by bringing to faith in Christ those who are far from him. (Romans 5:1-11).

139.    For what purpose does God give you grace?
God gives me grace in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins, the healing of sin's effects, growth in holiness, preservation through death and judgment, and my ultimate transformation into the image of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:2-10)

140.    Is God's grace only for your religious or spiritual life?
No. God cares about my whole life, and his grace in Christ is at work in every aspect of it. (1 Corinthians 10:13; Romans 8:28)

141.    Can you earn God's grace?

No. God gives his grace freely, and enables me to receive it. Everything I do should be in response to God's love and grace made known in Christ, for “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bishop’s Note: July 09, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Piety

Bishop Eric Menees

Let me ask you a question: When did you first realize you were in love with the Lord? The very realization that you are in love with the Lord is, in fact, a gift from the Holy Spirit! This is the gift of Piety – the desire to love and worship the Lord!

The Spiritual Gift of Piety is what St. Paul was referring to when he wrote about a “Spirit of adoption” in his letter to the Romans: “[15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)

For me, I recognized this gift soon after accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. The Church I was attending was St. Paul’s in Tustin. I was hungry to learn, and hungry to spend time with the Lord. So, in order to do both, I began attending the mid-week Eucharist on Wednesday nights. I wanted to arrive at church early and leave late – because I wanted to spend time with my Heavenly Father.  

Through the Gift of Piety we realize how loving and merciful our Father is, and how we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations. The Gift of Piety helps us to known deep down that the Father’s love is steadfast and everlasting. It begins by recognizing that we are the adopted sons and daughters of God. God the Father chose us to be His sons and daughters,  God the Son died for us to make us His sons and daughters, and God the Holy Spirit dwells eternally with His sons and daughters. As we accept this love, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond with the devotion of our hearts, minds, and bodies.

If all of this sounds foreign to you – if you find going to church or other spiritual disciplines to be a chore and a waste of time – I bid you to pray. Pray that God the Holy Spirit will fill you with a Spirit of Adoption and love!

“Heavenly Father instill in me the knowledge of your Grace and Love; the very character of a father’s love for his child.  Grant me, Lord, a desire to know you and to love you with my whole heart. Grant me the longing of a child to be with his father not only for a single moment in time but to enjoy for eternity.  This I ask through your only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Amen”

Catechism Questions 135 - 137

135.    How does God forgive your sins?
By virtue of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, God sets aside my sins, accepts me, and adopts me as his child and heir in Jesus Christ. Loving me as his child, he forgives my sins whenever I turn to him in repentance and faith. (2 Corinthians 5:16-18)

136.    How should you respond to God’s forgiveness?
As I live in the grace of God’s constant forgiveness, so I should live in constant thanks and praise to him; and as I have been loved and forgiven, so I should love and forgive without limit those who sin against me. (Matthew 6:12; 18:22)

137.    What is grace?
Grace is the gift of the triune God's love, mercy, and help, which he freely gives to us who, because of our sin, deserve only condemnation. (Acts 20:32; Romans 3:24; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 1:6-7)