Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bishop's Note: February 25, 2016 Spiritual Disciplines - Self Denial & Simplicity

Bishop Eric Menees

This Lent, as we continue to examine the traditional Spiritual Disciplines, I'd like to look at two related disciplines - Self-Denial & Simplicity.
Neither of these disciplines are in sync with our modern culture. In fact, the whole concept of denying the self or living simply seems to set you aside as a little nutty at worst, and at best  simply too poor to live otherwise. Twenty nine years ago, when I began my ministry at the Church of the Epiphany in East Los Angeles, I consciously decided to go without a television.  I'd lived many years without one and wanted to spend my free time reading rather than zoning out in front of the TV. A couple of months after I moved in, there came a knock at my door one early evening. When I opened the door, there were all these parishioners standing on the porch and in the front yard and in the midst of them was a large TV. It seemed that my parishioners - all immigrants and all living on very small incomes - thought it just awful that their "padrecito" couldn't afford a TV, and they pitched in over several weeks in order to buy me a large, color TV with remote control. Needless to say, I was very touched and honored that they had sacrificed for me and were concerned about me. But the concept of wanting to live without was as strange for these brothers and sisters as it is for so many of us.

You see, the spiritual disciplines of self-denial and simplicity is not because it is forced through economic circumstances but that it is a choice to live more simply in order to place more emphasis and concentration upon the Lord.

King David wrote it so eloquently in Psalm 62 vs 5-7:
“5. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
6. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”

The spiritual disciplines of self-denial and simplicity help our soul to wait in silence for God, who is our hope, rock, salvation, fortress, and refuge!
As I write this Bishop's Note, I am at our mission in Henderson, Nevada. Jesus the Good Shepherd was able to move out of temporary space in a hotel ballroom to their own rented space in a light industrial park. The sanctuary is a large rectangular room that is beautifully appointed.  The ceiling has been painted black, so that it simply disappears. The walls, up to about fifteen feet, are a warm yellow; the carpet is a dark sandy brown. Along the walls leading to the altar are icons of the saints, and it is almost as if everyone of them is pointing to the altar and the simple wooden cross above it with grape leaves carved into the beams. This is a very simple and direct space, yet, at the same time, warm and inviting. I love it! This space invites us to sit with the Lord and wait upon Him.

This Lent I would encourage you to consider the spiritual disciplines of self-denial and simplicity. Not because you have no other economic choice, but to live simply because, in living simply, you want to live more closely with the Lord and less distracted by the sights, sounds, and cares of the world around us.
I pray you all a very Holy Lent!

Catechism Questions: 246 - 250
246. What is the liturgy of the Daily Office?
The Daily Office consists of Morning and Evening Prayer. These services are based on Israel’s Morning and Evening Prayer as adopted and adapted by the early Church. In them we confess our sins and receive absolution, hear God’s Word and praise him with Psalms, and offer the Church’s thanksgivings and prayers.

247. Who observes the Daily Office?
Many Christians observe the Daily Office—at church, in their homes, at the family table, or wherever they may find themselves.

248. Why do Anglicans pray Morning and Evening Prayer?
Anglicans pray the Daily Office believing it to be a sacrifice that pleases God, and because it keeps them aware that their time is sanctified to God.

249. What is a collect?
A collect is a form of petition that collects the people’s prayers. Over the centuries, the Church has gathered its most cherished prayers to mark times and seasons. They are embodied for Anglicans in the Book of Common Prayer.

250. Why use the Prayer Book when you have the Bible?

The Book of Common Prayer is saturated with the Bible, organizing and orchestrating the Scriptures for worship. It leads the Church to pray in one voice with order, beauty, deep devotion, and great dignity.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Bishop's Note: February 18, 2016 Spiritual Disciplines - Secret Service

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Wednesday, the faithful throughout the diocese gathered in our churches for the haunting and beautiful liturgy known as Ash Wednesday. In that service, the Gospel lesson was from Matthew chapter six and we read these words:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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 6:1-4)

One of the marks of a Christian is humility. The virtue of humility is not something that is valued much in our "Selfie" culture, where we are encouraged to document every aspect of our lives and share them with the the world through social media. Perhaps my age is showing, but I'm don't understand the need for the world to know what I'm having for lunch. This kind of narcissism, which is lauded in society, runs counter to the Kingdom values of humility and secret service.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter six, Jesus expressly warns us that we are not to make people aware of our works of charity and love: “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others."

This Lent we are looking at the Spiritual Disciplines in my Bishop's Note, and one of those disciplines is to serve others in secret. We are, indeed, to give to the needy and to love and care for others, but we are to do so quietly and in such a manner that we do not draw attention to ourselves. This may be as simple as sending an anonymous note to a brother or sister in church saying how much you admire them and appreciate their service in church. Or perhaps God is calling you to volunteer with the church or another organization for a couple of hours a week, but not to make a big deal out of it or draw attention to yourself.
I see this in the Cathedral where a group of people volunteer to work with the after school program of New Spirit Academy, which is a Charter School on the Cathedral campus. These brothers and sisters quietly share the Gospel with boys and girls who would not otherwise hear the Good News of Jesus Christ that week, and these volunteers do so quietly and humbly.
The real benefit of our service comes from the joy of serving and not from the accolades of others. St. Francis had it right in his prayer:

"Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."  Amen.
I pray you all a very blessed Lent!

Catechism Questions: 242 - 245

242. What is liturgy?
Liturgy is the public worship of God by God’s people according to an established pattern or form.

243. Why do Anglicans worship with a structured liturgy?
Anglicans worship with a structured liturgy because it is a biblical pattern displayed in both Testaments, and because it fosters in us a reverent fear of God.

244. Do form and structure inhibit freedom in worship?
No. Form and structure provide a setting for freedom of heart in worship.

245. How does the Book of Common Prayer organize the liturgy?
In the Church’s Prayer Book, Scripture is arranged for daily, weekly, and seasonal prayer and worship, and for special events of life. Most services include the Lord’s Prayer.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bishop’s Note: February 11, 2016 Spiritual Disciplines – Daily Office

Bishop Eric Menees

Yesterday we marked a special holy day in the church – Ash Wednesday. As we came forward, our clergy made the sign of the cross on our foreheads with the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” With these words, we were reminded of our mortality – a result of our fallen condition. However, we were also reminded that because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, his death and resurrection, we share with him in his victory over death, and we will enjoy him eternally in heaven.

As always, the question is: how should we live until we die or Christ comes again? This lent we will be exploring the spiritual disciplines as a means of preparing for our life with Jesus, both in this world and in the world to come.

This week I’d like to focus on the discipline of praying the Daily Office. Prior to the Reformation, praying the offices was the purview of disciplined clergy and of religious communities. Archbishop Cranmer desired to introduce this discipline to all people - lay and clergy alike - and in doing so, teach people both to pray and to read the Holy Scriptures. What a revolutionary idea, and what fruit this revolution has born!

The Daily Offices - known as Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline - are made up of Canticles, Psalms, Scripture lessons, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Intercessory Prayers, and Prayers for Mission. While this may sound daunting at first, it generally takes about 15 minutes when you first start doing it, and can lead to a half hour or so once you are prepared to really spend time with the Lord.

There are wonderful resources on the Internet that will lead you through the services. I recommend Mission Saint Clare at
If you are using your prayer book and need some guidance, I encourage you to sit down with your clergy and allow them to instruct you.

The benefits of praying the Daily Offices are manifold: spending time in prayer with the Lord, learning the scriptures, and regularly praying for others all help to mold and shape us, and lead us to greater maturity in the Lord! The discipline of praying the offices has been a part of my daily routine - and that of my family - for my entire adult life. If, for whatever reason, I am unable to pray the office, I feel something lacking in my day.  
A blessed Lent to you all!
Bishop Menees

Catechism Questions: 237 - 241
237. How should you pray?
I should pray with humility, love, and a ready openness to God’s will, in my heart hearing God say, “be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10-11; 2 Chronicles 7:14-15; Philippians 4:6)

238. Of what should you be certain in prayer?
I should be certain that God hears my prayers. I should also be certain that in response he will grant me all that I actually need, by his wisdom, in his time, and for his glory. (Deuteronomy 6:24; Esther 4:16; Proverbs 15:29; Ephesians 3:14-21)
239. What should you remember when prayers seem to be unanswered?
God always hears my prayers, and answers them in his wisdom and in his own time, sometimes withholding blessings for my discipline, and sometimes giving better than I ask. (Matthew 6:8)

240. How should you pray in times of suffering?
I should join my sufferings to those of Jesus Christ, trusting in the sufficiency of his grace, and joyfully assured that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” (Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 5:8-9)

241. What obstacles may hinder your prayers?
My prayers may be hindered by distractions, laziness, pride, selfishness, discouragement, sin, and lack of faith.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bishop's Note: February 04, 2016 Spiritual Disciplines - Fasting

Bishop Eric Menees

Perhaps it's because I'm halfway to 108, but time seems to speed up, rather than slow down, the older I get. This year Easter comes early, and so Lent comes very early - Ash Wednesday is in just one week away!

Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing on Spiritual Disciplines, both for the season of Lent, and for a lifetime with the Lord. 

Spiritual Disciplines are those exercises/actions/habits that do not necessarily come to us naturally, but are designed to intentionally develop our relationship with the Lord. Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Disciplines, says: “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.… They are God’s means of grace.”  (Pg. 6) 

As we enter into this Season of Lent - the forty days of preparation leading to Easter - won't you consider a new Spiritual Discipline?  These are not simply designed for a forty day trial - simply to be abandoned on Easter - but for a transformed life with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

While there are a number of disciplines, over the next few weeks I'd like to focus on Fasting, Prayer, Service, Simplicity, Spiritual Direction, Solitude, and Reconciliation. 

In the church there are traditional days of fasting, which include Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting can be defined in many ways including forgoing all food and drink for 24 hours, forgoing food but drinking water, or forgoing food during daylight hours and only having a very small and simple meal in the evening. You should be wise and discerning regarding your own physical requirements - for example, people with diabetes or hyperglycemia should not fast. For me personally, I like to fast with no food but drinking water on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and then on Fridays I'll fast during the daylight hours and have just a very simple meal in the evening. 

So why fast? Fasting has a unique way of turning our eyes on God. In his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard says: “Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in him a source of sustenance beyond food.” (Pg 166) This is why fasting can be very significant when combined with intense or extended periods of prayer. Jesus demonstrates this spiritual discipline with his forty days of fasting while battling Satan in the desert, immediately following his baptism (Luke chapter 4).

As you fast, be sure to spend the time you'd normally sit down to a meal to sit down with the Lord for prayer. 

I pray you all a Blessed Lent!

Catechism Questions: 231 - 236

231.     What is vocal prayer?
In vocal prayer I pray to God using spoken words.
232.    What is thanksgiving?
In thanksgiving I express my gratitude to God for his grace, favor, providential goodness, and answers to my prayers.
233.    What is petition?
         In petition I make requests to God on my own behalf.
234.    What is intercession?
         In intercession I make requests to God on the behalf of others.
235.    What is meditation?
In meditation I prayerfully read and reflect upon Holy Scripture according to its intended meaning, with openness to personal spiritual direction from God. 
236.    What is contemplation?

In contemplation I lift my heart in love to God without any deliberate flow of thoughts or words.