Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bishop’s Note: September 24, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Compassion

Bishop Eric Menees

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

The Spiritual Gift of Compassion is a gift that truly characterizes Christians and distinguishes us from the world. We are, all of us, called to follow Jesus’ example of being compassionate, but there are those of us who are endued by the Holy Spirit with an extra dose of compassion and a zeal to love and serve those who suffer; who are outcasts; who are alone.

Mr. Webster tells us that the origin of the modern word “Compassion” comes to us through Middle English, by way of Old French and ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from Late Latin compati, meaning to ‘suffer with.’

The one with the gift of Compassion sees the suffering in the world around them and is given the desire and ability to speak hope and grace into that suffering.

When I think of the Spiritual Gift of Compassion, I think of the death of a former parishioner – Stasia Sterret. Stacia was a widow of about five years before I came to the church. When Stasia took ill, there was no one left in the family who could assist her, and for a week parishioners held a vigil with Stasia in the hospital - 24 hours a day - singing hymns, praying the psalms, and holding her hand. These people demonstrated the Spiritual Gift of Compassion. The thought of her dying alone was too much, and so they gave of their time, their hearts and their souls.  Stasia died peacefully with two sisters in Christ by her side. The impact of their compassion on the church and on the hospital staff was evident for years to come – not to mention the grace given to a dying sister in Christ.

Those who have the Gift of Compassion recognize those who are hurting and are moved to be with them – to assist in any way possible. Those with this gift cannot take the suffering away, but they are willing to suffer with them. These are the men and women who go into the trenches to lift the head and heart of a broken soul.

Thanks be to God for those who have this gift; for those who by vocation and profession are there day in and day out, loving and caring. The unofficial prayer for this ministry is captured in the service of Evening Prayer:

“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.”

May the Lord bless and keep you all!

Catechism Questions 159 - 161

159.    How does the Lord’s Prayer give you a pattern for prayer?
The Lord’s Prayer models the primary elements of fellowship with God: praise of God, acceptance of his rule and will, petition for his provision, confession of my sins (here called trespasses), forgiveness of others, avoidance of sin, and God’s protection from evil and Satan. I should pray regularly about these things in my own words. (Matthew 6:9)

160.    What are the parts of the Lord’s Prayer?
The Lord’s Prayer begins with an address, makes seven petitions, adds a doxology, and concludes with “Amen.”

161.    Describe the order of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer.

As in the Ten Commandments, God’s Glory, Name, and Kingdom precede any petitions for our personal well-being.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bishop’s Note: September 17, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Administration

Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we come to the gift of Administration. In my opinion, this is one of the most needed and least valued of the Spiritual Gifts.  Yes, St. Paul was clear to speak to this gift as he lists the spiritual gifts: “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)

The gift of administration is given to certain Christians in order to organize and implement plans for leading others in ministry.  The gift of administration is closely associated with leadership.  St. Paul tasks his apprentice Titus with organizing the church in Crete: “To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you….” (Titus 1:4-5)  Without the gift of administration, the church in Crete might not have raised up new priests and bishops, nor flourished as she did.

The gift of Administration is the gift of the Holy Spirit that binds the other gifts in the church together for their effective employment in Kingdom ministry. Those with the gift of administration love to see people in the church raised up and trained for ministry.  They organize training schedules to equip people for ministry and then schedule them to serve.  Without the gift of administration, we see people squander their gifts, and churches flounder with the small handful of people who are best at asserting their gifts leading everything.

In my ministry, I have been blessed to have people with the gift of Administration who have helped me immeasurably.  When planting a new congregation, I would argue that having someone with the gift of administration is most vital.  I think of Miss Lou in San Diego.  She is a woman who loves order and putting things in order.  She would make sure that the bulletins were done; the ministers trained and scheduled; the fellowship food prepared and displayed in an appealing manner.  However, it wasn’t until Miss Lou began to share this gift with others, rather than do it herself, that things began to blossom.  It is difficult for people with this gift to give over to others, but when they can things really begin to hum.  When Miss Lou trained others to do the bulletin, take over schedules, and organize the coffee hour, then the Spirit moved to empower others, and that is where the gift of administration really becomes useful in a church.  This was Titus’ secret – he put the Church in Crete in order and then released others for ministry to do the same.

Pray that God the Holy Spirit grant the gift of administration to many in our congregations, that they may grow and flourish.
I pray you all a blessed week!

Catechism Questions 156 - 158

156.    What is the prayer our Lord taught his disciples to pray?
The traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer is:
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

157.    Why should you pray the Lord’s Prayer?
I should pray the Lord’s Prayer because Christ in the gospels teaches it to his disciples, as both a practice and a pattern for fellowship with God the Father. (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4)

158.    How is the Lord’s Prayer a practice for all prayer?

When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is training me to pray according to his Father’s will; so I should employ the prayer constantly. (1 John 5:14-15; Luke 11:2)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bishop’s Note: September 10, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Giving

Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we look this week at the gift of Giving. St. Paul refers to this gift in his letter to the Romans:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)

“...the one who contributes, in generosity....” The Spiritual Gift of Giving is an essential gift to the life of the community. We are, all of us, called to follow the biblical standard of giving 10% of all that we have - our time, treasure, and talent - to the Lord through His Church. However, in every generation and in every community, the Lord moves the hearts and minds of individuals to give above and beyond the tithe. These men and women have contributed to building great cathedrals, hospitals, schools, and orphanages, and have made possible the defense of this diocese from the lawsuits levied against us.

The one with the Spiritual Gift of Giving loves to give of their time, treasurer, and talent as a way of blessing others and promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He or she is a person of faith who recognizes that God provides for every need and is willing to offer themselves and their material possessions as instruments for the Lord’s work!  

The person anointed with the gift of giving also gives without expectation of receiving anything in return - no fanfare, no attention, no special favors.  St. Paul said it perfectly in his Second Epistle to the Church in Corinth:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart,  not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send givers into the harvest to aid our church plants, missions, parishes, and the diocese in our mission: “To equip, train, support, and encourage the clergy and lay leaders of the diocese to bring people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ."

I pray you all to truly blessed and joyful week!

Catechism Questions 153 - 155

153.    Why should you pray?
I should pray, first, because God calls me so to do; second, because I desire to know God and be known by him; third, because I need the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit; and fourth, because God responds to the prayers of his people. (Luke 11:13)

154.    What should you pray?
In addition to my own prayers, I should pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, and the collected prayers of the Church.

155.     When should you pray?

I should pray morning, noon, and night, and whenever I am aware of my need for God’s special grace. And I should learn “to pray without ceasing” as I grow in knowledge of God’s nearness. (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10-13; Matthew 15:21-28; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Hebrews 4:16)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bishop’s Note: September 3, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Exhortation

Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we come to the one that has come most naturally to me - Exhortation. The word exhortation comes from the Greek word parakaleo (παρακαλέω), which St. Paul also includes as a gift in his letter to the Romans in chapter 12, verse 8. Parakaleo means to: appeal to, urge, exhort, or to encouragesomeone to take a certain action. If we try to motivate someone to be kind to another person, we are exhorting him or her to action.

A clear example of this comes from St. Paul's second letter to his apprentice Timothy, when he exhorts him to: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The one gifted with exhortation encourages people to live godly, loving lives that will be pleasing to the Lord. Equally important though, is that the one gifted with Exhortation also provides ways for people to live into the exhortation.

When I was a high school student, Fr. David Heaney exhorted me to pursue a calling to the priesthood. In doing so, he invited me to meet with him regularly, study the scriptures together, and to make pastoral visits with him. The summer of my Senior year of High School he encouraged me to volunteer at the local hospital as a lay pastoral visitor. There I discovered that I had a gift for being with people in difficult times and encouraging them to trust in the Lord and to work hard on their recovery. I would regularly meet with Fr. David after those visits to debrief and discover what God the Holy Spirit was doing in those visits, both with the patient and with me.

Ultimately, I pray that all of us in the Diocese of San Joaquin will ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of Exhortation, so that we may all live into the Mission of the Diocese:
"To equip, train, support and encourage clergy and lay leaders to bring people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ."  And to that I say AMEN!

I pray you all a blessed week!

Catechism Questions 149-152

149.    What is prayer?
Prayer is turning my heart toward God, to converse with him in worship. (Psalm 122, 123)

150.    What should you seek in prayer?
In prayer I should seek the joy of fellowship with God, who made me for fellowship with him. (1 Chronicles 16:28-30; Psalm 96; John 17; Revelation 22:17)

151.    What is fellowship with God?
Fellowship with God in prayer is relating to him as his children, as we approach the light and glory of his throne. (Revelation 7:9-17)

152.     How can you have fellowship with God?

Through the death of Jesus as both High Priest and sacrifice, and in his Holy Spirit, I have fellowship with God in Word, Sacrament, and prayer. (Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 1:1-4)