Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 30, 2016 - St. Peter’s Day

Bishop Eric Menees

“O almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandest him earnestly to feed thy flock; Make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same, that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The above collect, from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, commemorates the Feast of St. Peter (later changed to the Feast of Saints Peter & Paul), which was celebrated yesterday, June 29th. 

Of the apostles, Saint Peter is my favorite, in that he is so easy to identify with. How many times does Peter blurt out what is on his heart and mind, and end up by putting his foot in his mouth?! (“Let us build three booths! Mt. 17:4; “Lord I am prepared to go to prison with you and to death.” Lk. 22:33)  I can relate with that sort of thing, as I do so on a regular basis – just ask my staff!

At the same time, St. Peter speaks from his soul as well; and when he doe, we hear him echoing the Holy Spirit. Remember in the fifth chapter of Luke, when Jesus calls the first disciples? Peter, James, and John were fishing all night with some others, but caught nothing. Jesus comes to them and tells them to go out fishing again. For reasons that can only be attributed to divine prompting, they set out and cast their nets again, this time hauling in a catch so great, they can hardly lift it into the boat. Peter responds: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8) When we come into the presence of the Lord, we recognize in his brilliance our own dimness; or said another way, his righteousness and our sinfulness!

Likewise, as we were reminded a couple of weeks ago in the ninth chapter of Luke, when Jesus asks the disciples: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20) Peter hears and acknowledges the speculation of the crowds, but answers faithfully and truly – THE CHRIST OF GOD!

My prayer for the Diocese of San Joaquin and for all Christians, is that we will all follow the example of St. Peter and step out in faith, recognizing both our need for forgiveness, and the only one who is able to grant that forgiveness - the Christ of God!

My prayer for my brother bishops and fellow clergy is that we might be filled with the boldness of St. Peter, exhibiting a missionary zeal and an apostle's heart for seeking the lost and alone with the saving message of Jesus Christ that we call The Good News!

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Catechism Questions: 305-308

305. Is your anger always sinful, or can it be just?
Anger can be just if I am motivated not by fear, pride, or revenge, but purely by love for God’s honor and my neighbor’s well-being. More often than not, however, human anger is sinful. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

306. What other actions may be considered forms of murder?
Suicide, abortion, genocide, infanticide, and euthanasia are forms of murder. Related sins include abuse, abandonment, recklessness, and hatred or derision.

307. Is it always wrong to harm or kill another?
There are rare times when the claims of justice, mercy, and life itself may require doing harm or even bringing death to others. It is the particular task of government to do this in society. (Romans 13:1-4)

308. How else can you cause life to flourish?
As a witness to the Gospel, I can love God and my neighbor by refraining from selfish anger, insults, and cursing, by defending the helpless and unborn, by rescuing those who damage themselves, and by helping others to prosper. (Matthew 5:38-48; 9:35-38; Luke 23:34; Acts 10:34-42; Ephesians 4:25-32; 5:1-2)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 23, 2016 – Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This is the collect for tomorrow, when we will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. This is a feast day that often goes without much thought or fanfare, but I would like to encourage you to take the time and mark the day.

Two major themes are woven into this feast day: the end of barrenness, and the birth of a mighty prophet.

How incredibly powerful it must have been for Zechariah and Elizabeth, after so many years of hoping and praying for a child, to discover that their faithfulness was to be rewarded, even in their old age. You can imagine that all of this became clearer to Elizabeth with the visitation of her niece, Mary, when the baby in her womb leapt in the presence of the savior, even in utero.

However, this event also reminds us of the end of a sorrowful barrenness for the world. From the fall of our first parents - Adam and Eve - sorrow, illness, and death had no real answer. With the supernatural conception of John the Baptist, God spoke mightily into the world offering hope and grace: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

On this feast day we give thanks to almighty God for His immeasurable love and goodness, proclaiming an end to the power of death, and the return of that eternal life originally intended for creation prior to the fall.  

St. John the Baptist would grow into a mighty man of God, who would serve as an example to all of us. John called the people of Israel to repent and turn to the Lord. He reminded the people of Israel that God’s love was all-powerful, and that His redemption would overturn the reign of death for all of those who would turn to and accept the Messiah of God!

Let us take strength in the witness of St. John the Baptist, and proclaim to all who will listen the same message of the forgiveness of sin offered through Jesus the Messiah, and the eternal life found in his resurrection!

I pray you all a truly blessed Feast Day, and a wonderful week!

Catechism Questions: 301-304

301. What is the Sixth Commandment?
The Sixth Commandment is: “You shall not murder.”

302. What does it mean not to murder?
Since God declares human life sacred from conception to natural death, I may not take the life of neighbors unjustly, bear them malice in my heart, or harm them by word or deed; rather, I should seek to cause their lives to flourish. (Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 19:16; Deuteronomy 19:4-7)

303. How did Christ cause life to flourish?
Jesus sought the well-being of all who came to him: he made the blind see and the deaf hear, caused the lame to walk, cured the sick, fed the hungry, cast out demons, raised the dead, and preached good news to all. (Luke 4:17-21;Matthew 14:13-21, 34-36)

304. How did Jesus extend the law against murder?
Jesus equated unjust anger with murder. (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 16, 2016 – “Your sins are forgiven”

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday’s gospel reading (Luke 7:36-50), which the English Standard Version of the Bible entitled: “A Sinful Woman Forgiven,” tells the beautiful story of the woman in Simon the Pharisee’s home, who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed his feet with costly ointment. This scripture demonstrates the response of a grateful heart to the forgiving love of Jesus. The question from the gospel lesson is, what does this message mean for us?

Well, as Christians, we need to address sin and the consequences of sin, in our lives and in the lives of others, so that people can come to a place of understanding their need for, and the benefit of, Christ’s forgiveness. Admittedly this is very difficult, for several reasons:

We live in time and age that ignores sin and even celebrates sin.
We live in a world that brands us as being intolerant if we advance biblical morality.
We live in a climate that values false self-worth above all else.

However, precisely because it is difficult to speak about sin, this does not mean that we should not speak about sin:
In our own lives, we should be examining the ways in which we fall short of God’s glory, and then repent.
In our families, we should lift up for our children, and ourselves, a standard of behavior that is based on scripture, not on cultural mores.
In our communities, we should be proclaiming the Glory of God and His willingness to forgive our sins and wash us clean in His sacrifice!

What a great sadness that we live in a world ignorant of sin, but living under the terrible consequences of sin. What a great sadness that in ignoring sin, we deny people, and ourselves, the liberation found in forgiveness. What a great sadness that in denying sin and the forgiveness found in Jesus, we deny the Love and Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us, this day, resolve to turn that around. As we come to confession in church next Sunday, let us not white wash our sins but truly and courageously offer them to the Lord. Let us truly hear, and receive, the words of Absolution: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who in his great mercy has promised forgiveness of sins to all those who sincerely repent and with true faith turn to him, have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Let us come to this altar with clean hearts to receive the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. And let us go forward into the world, with grateful hearts full of love, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. And to that I say… AMEN!

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

Catechism Questions: 298-300

298. How else do you love God in light of the Fifth Commandment?
I keep the Fifth Commandment in love to God by showing respect for the aged; submitting to my teachers, pastors, and directors; respecting tradition and civil authority; and ordering myself in reverent humility, as is fitting for a servant and child of God. (Matthew 22:15-22; Romans 13; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Tim 6:1-2; Hebrews 13:7,17; Articles of Religion, 37)

299. Will such an attitude of honor come to you naturally?
No. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). From my earliest days, led and driven by sin, I persistently attempt to rule myself.

300. Does earthly authority have limits?
Yes. All authority comes from God, who is the King of kings and expects me to love, honor, and obey him rather than others if they command me to sin. (Exodus 1:17; Daniel 1:8-16; 3:16-18; Acts 5:29; Romans 13:1-5; Colossians 4:1; 1 Peter 2:14-15)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 09, 2016 – Ordinary Time

Bishop Eric Menees

According to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, we are in the second week after Trinity, or the third week after Pentecost using the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Whichever calendar you use, this time, lasting the next six months, is referred to “Ordinary Time.” Essentially this is the period between Pentecost and Advent where each Sunday we examine the life of Jesus.

This past week was a terrific example of “Ordinary” in the life of Jesus, which was and is anything but ordinary in our lives. In the Old Testament lesson from Kings, we heard of how Elijah petitioned God, who raised from the dead the son of the Widow of Zarephath. In the Epistle lesson from Galatians, St. Paul reminded the Church in Galatia that the Risen Lord had met him on the road to Damascus and then, over the next three years, revealed the good news to him. And finally, in the Gospel lesson we heard how Jesus had compassion on the Widow of Nain, whose son had died. Jesus stopped the funeral procession of the widow’s son and simply said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Luke 7:14) With those words, the young man sat up and was completely restored to life and health, to the fear and amazement of the people and the absolute joy of his mother.

Of course miracles are always astounding. With our limited minds we just cannot imagine how the laws of nature can be suspended for the benefit of man and the glory of God, and yet miracles happen day in and day out. Sometimes we are too myopic to see them, or we are quick to rationalize them away, but there is no doubt but that they occur daily. In my own ministry, I’ve seen healings where people on hospice care, with days to live, are completely healed, to the astonishment of the medical professionals and the joy of their families. I’ve seen people who were declared dead, suddenly and without medical explanation, come back to life. I’ve seen hundreds of people fed with a few bags of food that simply didn’t run out until the last person’s hunger was satisfied.

The question isn’t if miracles occur – they do! My prayer is that miracles will indeed become ordinary for us. That we will live our lives so in tune with the Lord and his loving power, that our eyes, minds, and hearts will be open to recognize and expect His miraculous hand acting in our lives!

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Catechism Questions: 295-297

295. What is the Fifth Commandment?
The Fifth Commandment is: “Honor your father and your mother.”

296. What does it mean to honor your father and mother?
While still a child, I should obey my parents; and I should honor, serve, respect, love, and care for them all their lives. (Proverbs 2:10; 23:22; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20-21)

297. How did Jesus keep the Fifth Commandment?
As a child Jesus submitted himself to Mary and Joseph, and honored his mother even as he suffered on the cross by entrusting her to his beloved disciple’s care. (Luke 2:39-52; John 19:25-27)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Contending For The Faith

Pentecost 3C 2016

Fr. Dale Matson

Click On Photograph To Enlarge
Window In Chapel Of The Innocents At Saint James Anglican Cathedral

Our opening Collect for today 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 Genesis where the confusion all began. 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.

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 have hastened this decline. There is great pressure on 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.

Again our opening Collect states, “Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them.”

Two weeks ago we began a week of prayer, fasting and discussion to help discern God’s Will for St. James. In fact we have asked for God’s leadership many times and I believe our crucial decision is not ahead of us but happened nine years ago in 2007. Every thing that has happened since that time flows from the decision to leave the Episcopal Church and be received as an Anglican diocese of the Southern Cone under Archbishop Gregory Venables. For those who may have forgotten or who may have never known why we left, we were contending for the faith. Some of the orthodox Christians who remained to fight inside the Episcopal Church referred to us as “quitters” and “leavers”. The voices of those who decided to stay in the Episcopal Church and contend for the faith over the years have been muted by a process called “reconciliation” or silenced by deposition. The Reformation called for by those who remained never came from within. It never came at all.

John David Schofield our bishop led the vast majority of our churches in our diocese out of bondage into the wilderness. Like the Israelites who left the bondage of Egypt, we had to learn obedience and relearn our identity.  The Episcopal Church called us schismatics who damaged the unity of the church but there can be no unity without truth. They also claimed that we left with property that rightly belonged to them. Since that time we have been defending ourselves in court. We have been asking for justice to be served.

I am retelling this story because the story of the people of Israel leaving the bondage of Egypt is a story often repeated by the Old Testament leaders to generations long after their departure to remind them of their unique relationship with God.

I am retelling our departure from the Episcopal Church and deliverance from bondage for the same reason. We too are a chosen people led by a heroic bishop. We were the first of several dioceses to leave the Episcopal Church and this original group became the nucleus of what is now the Anglican Church In North America (ACNA). We were the tip of the spear and have suffered much during this wilderness of litigation. Is it because when all's said and done, we were fighting the Episcopal Church for the property?

In fact, we have been contending for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people. (Jude 1:3) That is also what Father Carlos said last week. As I listened last week, I had to smile because I had already penned that same phrase from Jude as I begun preparing today’s homily. We have chosen God’s truth over a false unity in a house spiritually divided. We have been fighting for the uniqueness of Christ as Savior and redeemer. We have been fighting for the Gospel of Jesus Christ not some manifesto of human flourishing. We have been fighting for the truth, the necessity of repentance; forgiveness and sanctification, of becoming Holy, not calling things good and blessed those things that are evil.

Living into our true selves can only mean one thing for the Christian. Christ must become more and we must become less.          
We have been contending against the spirit of the age as Anglicans using Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Innovation requires abandoning all three.

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.
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.
What is God calling us to do? I believe that is the same question Christ’s disciples were asking as they sat fortified behind a locked door in the upper room. We have been called to action. How is God calling us to act? We have been called to good works. We need to discern those good works.

While we have been hoping for justice these past nine years, I think about how our Lord responded from the cross to the biggest injustice in history. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

I know there are many here who have spent much of their adult life attending services on this campus. Some have been married here. Some have buried their parents, spouses or even children here. Bishop Schofield ordained me as a deacon and priest here. There are many joys and sorrows shared here but if we must, we can take those memories with us. Memories can’t be taken from us. Many of us are older and change can be difficult. Pray for resilience in this time of transition.

When Sharon and I came to St. James, we had left Holy Family Church. The priest there at that time was one of the individuals who brought a lawsuit against his own bishop, John David. Bishop Schofield had peacefully released the few congregations who chose not to depart with him. Sharon and I met with the priest prior to the suit being brought and pleaded with him not to proceed. He told me that I was a poor follower and he could not support my ordination for deacon if I didn’t get on board. He said he was going ahead with the lawsuit and we placed a key to the front door of the church on his desk as we were leaving.

I called Fr. Carlos and told him what had happened and he immediately began praying about the situation. He then said, “We could sponsor your ordination”. God provided a new church and a new rector. Although we still miss some of the members there where we worshiped for eleven years God has provided many new sisters and brothers in Christ. We are spiritual survivors from that church. Some were not so fortunate.
The most important thing for us is not what happens but how we respond to what happens. If our legal case is not heard, do we respond with righteous indignation or like our Lord from the cross? Forgive them for they know not what they do. And if they get the property, what will come of it? I sometimes smile when I think about what happened when the Philistines captured the Ark Of The Covenant. The property has been a blessing to us like the Ark was a blessing to Israel. Like the Ark, the property could become a curse to those who may capture it.

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. “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”. Lord, with Your inspiration, may we help others come into the light of Your Truth.  Amen   


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bishop’s Note: June 02, 2016 – Corpus Christi

 Bishop Eric Menees

This past weekend I had the pleasure of making my pastoral visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe, where on Saturday I had the honor of confirming 36 men and women. On Sunday, we celebrated the ancient feast of Corpus Christi, also known as the Most Blessed Body and Blood of Jesus Christ - in other words, a celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Corpus Christi reminds us of Christ’s real presence in the Holy Eucharist. How he is present remains a mystery, save by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the instrument of the priest and the gathering of the faithful people. This is not a new teaching, but rather comes from the earliest days of the Church. St. Paul addressed the people of the church in Corinth saying:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV)

It is precisely because of Jesus’ presence in the sacrament that St. Paul gives this warning to those who would receive Holy Eucharist in an unworthy manner:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ESV)

For this reason, only those disciples of Jesus who are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, who have examined their lives, and who have repented of their sins are invited to receive Holy Eucharist. 

This does not mean that all are not welcome at the altar of the Lord. Just the opposite: we are all sinners in need of salvation, and so we invite all people to the altar for a blessing, whether or not they are not baptized believing Christians. 

In the second century, St. Justin Martyr wrote of Christ’s presence in the sacrament:

"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus." (First Apology of Justin Martyr, Ch. 66)

Catechism Questions: 292-294

292. What does it mean that a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God?
When the Church is perfected in Christ, all believers will be completely free from sin and its curse, and established in an eternity of love, adoration, and joy. This will be our unending Sabbath rest. (Isaiah 66: 22-23; Romans 8:18-30; 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 4)

293. How do you celebrate this Sabbath rest with the Church now?
I join in the Church’s weekly worship and participation in God’s heavenly rest, which brings order, meaning, and holiness to the other six days of the week. (Hebrews 4:9-10; Colossians 2:16-19)

294. Why does the Church worship on the first day of the week rather than the seventh? 
The Church worships on the first day of the week in remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on the first day of the week. (Matthew 28:1