Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bishop’s Note: January 26, 2017 - Walk for Life 2017

 Bishop Eric Menees

“God… from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace” (St. Paul to the Galatians 1:15)

Last Saturday, January 21st, I was honored to join tens of thousands of men and women in the grand Civic Center of San Francisco. We gathered to pray, listen to sound teaching, march, and to make our voices known for the countless children in the womb who have no voice and whose very lives are threatened by the Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade.

This was my fifth Walk for Life in San Francisco, and every year I find it so inspiring and humbling to be with so many people – young and old – believer and non-believer. (Yes, there is even a group known as “Secularists for Life” present.) These people are willing to give up a day, risk potentially ugly confrontations with pro-abortion supporters, and say that we care about the unborn AND their mothers and fathers. We care about a society that could treat the most vulnerable in our midst in such a cruel way. We care about our future and our children’s future, because all of our lives are inextricably bound one to another in the fabric that the Lord has woven.

The Walk began with the Silent No More Campaign, lead by Deacon Georgette Forney and Anglican’s For Life. This campaign is designed to give voice to the women who’ve had abortions and the men in their lives, regarding the harm that they had done and that had been done to them. How powerful it was to hear young women in their late teens and early twenties, and mature women in their sixties clearly stating, “I REGRET MY ABORTION.” They spoke of their fear and the belief that they had no other options. They spoke of the pressure that family members and friends put upon them to abort their child. They spoke of the physical pain of the abortion procedure and the lies that had been told to them, such as: “It won’t hurt – it’s just removing a cluster of tissues.” They spoke of the emotional pain and sorrow that they have experienced dealing with the guilt of participating in the murder of their unborn child. And they spoke of the healing and forgiveness brought by God in his grace and through his church.

What a pleasure to hear of the retreat, “Rachael’s Vineyard”, that is offered around the country - including here in the valley - for women and men dealing with their decisions to abort a child. What joy to hear women and men declare the love and peace they felt in our Lord’s embrace, finally dealing with the loss of their child.

Next year the Diocese of San Joaquin will host an Anglicans for Life Summit on the Friday evening prior to the walk, and you are all cordially invited. Put it on your calendars! Friday, January 19th, 2018 will be the Summit, and the 20th will be the Walk for Life West Coast! 

God bless you all!

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

XI. Of the Justification of Man

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Infused With The Blood Of Christ

Fr. Dale Matson

I was put on a blood thinner to avoid clots forming in my stents recently inserted to open arteries to my heart. I didn't know it at the time but I had three preexisting ulcers in my stomach that began bleeding. The next thing I knew, I was in the emergency room because of blood loss. The following day a Gastroenterologist cauterized my ulcers and stopped the bleeding.  During my GI bleeding, where I lost half my blood, there was a “Catch 22” situation. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Catch 22”. It is a difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. I was in danger of bleeding to death but if I was infused with blood, the infused blood could form a clot in my stents inserted to expand my narrowed arteries and I would have a heart attack. Additionally, there are other dangers from contaminants in some donated blood.
The ancients believed that the life was in the blood. “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.” (Leviticus 17:11) When Cain murdered his brother Abel, God said, ““What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) When the Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance, His blood mixed with water flowed onto the ground. (John 19:34)
When the wine and bread are consecrated, it then is His body and blood. Christ is truly present in the elements of bread and wine. Following my hospitalization, as I knelt at the rail to receive the body and blood of Christ, my eyes began to tear up because I had an Epiphany of sorts myself. I realized that while I couldn’t receive donated blood from a human I would be infused with the blood of Christ. His perfect blood sacrificed, substituted and replaced what was missing in me. His perfect life substituted for my sinful life. When the cup is offered, the Eucharistic minister states, “The blood of Christ; the cup of salvation.” “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54)
Martin Luther stated in his Large Catechism, “Those who are aware of their weakness, desire to be rid of it and long for help, should regard and use it only as a precious antidote against the poison they have in them. For here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ the forgiveness of sin, which contains and brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter and power against death, the devil and all misfortune.”
While St. Paul referred to our body as a temple, he also referred to it as an earthly tent. Perhaps it is better to think of our bodies as a tent, which is more fragile and less durable than a temple. St. Paul said in Romans, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) Yet we cling to our lives with such tenacity. Why can’t I see like John the Baptist who said, “He must become greater and I must become less.” (John 3:30) Why can’t we say, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:10)
Am I there yet? Am I completely submitted to the perfect will of God? No. It may be far better to depart and be with Christ as St. Paul stated but he stayed for the sake of his brothers and sisters. I would rather for the time being stay than depart.
This is a severe testing for me and I often think of the verse, “No trial has overtaken you that is not distinctively human; and God is faithful; He will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear, but with the trial will also provide the way through, so that you will be able to endure it.” (Mounce)
I am privy to the Daughters of the Holy Cross Prayer list and realize how many others in our faith community have been pushed to the very limits in their suffering. Yet prayer held them aloft when they reached those limits. How many times have God’s angels surrounded us and like Christ, the angels have ministered to us in our own wilderness of suffering? How many times has the Holy Spirit spoken to a health care provider and inspired them with treatment options they would not have considered or guided the hands of a surgeon?
This suffering is not just of a physical nature. Some suffer primarily from emotional brokenness where a torn shoelace in the morning means the beginning of another day of despair. I asked my cardiologist to take me off a blood pressure medication because I could feel myself slipping into a depression, which can be a side effect of a beta-blocker.
The popular “Prosperity gospel” would have us living the triumphant life. They would say we should be prosperous and live the abundant life but the Christian through suffering lives the transcendent life. Christ baptized us with the Spirit and Fire and our suffering is that fire. Christians are yoked to Christ and share in His suffering. Christians live mostly at the foot of the cross not the pinnacle of the temple.
As St. Paul stated, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” I am weak from anemia and it is only too easy to hyper reflect. Hyper reflect means to obsessively focus on myself, yet my love and compassion for others has increased. It is so much easier now to say to others, I love you and to end correspondence with "love". To have the mind of Christ is to have the heart of Christ.
Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I am absolutely certain that God’s highest priority for humans is the salvation of our souls. I believe that He would destroy my body to save my soul. At some point, there will be no more pride no more fear, no more anger, no more pain. As stated in Revelation, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
What has God been saying to me lately? What really counts? Not the latest national news. “Get in touch with your friends, your family, and members of your faith community. Listen to them. Get out of yourself. Tell them that you love them. Tell them you will pray for them.” This is my new action plan for the future. Maybe I will live another decade or die tomorrow but these exhortations from God need to be added to my activities of daily living (ADL). How about you? Amen. 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bishop’s Note: January 19, 2017 – Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel

Bishop Eric Menees

One of my great pleasures is to visit with all the congregations in the diocese to worship the Lord. Each congregation has its own nuances and flare. One church, St. David’s, San Rafael, has a unique finish – the congregation prays in unison the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel:

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, o prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander though the world for the ruin of souls. Amen”

I am struck by the acknowledgement that as we leave the altar and security of the Christian family – the church – we head into a world that is hostile to our Lord and hostile to us as his adopted children.

I am struck by the acknowledgement that we are, indeed, in a battle. Scripture uses this image often and we should find it instructive. St. Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Again St. Paul tells us in his second letter to the church in Corinth: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Cor. 10:4) And St. Peter tells us: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith." (1 Peter 5:8-9)

I am struck by the acknowledgement that we are in need of defenders in this spiritual battle that we are engaged in. It is becoming the spiritual practice in our family to conclude our Morning and Evening Prayers with the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel, and I commend it to you as well.

I pray you all a very blessed week.

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

X. Of Free Will

The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bishop’s Note: January 12, 2017 – Wise Men Still Seek Him

Bishop Eric Menees

In San Diego we had a lighted signboard in front of our church, on which we would put pithy sayings; sometimes from scripture, sometimes personal notes (following 9/11 for example), and sometimes just sayings that people would bring into the office. One that jumps out at me was what we’d put up for Epiphany: WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM. What a true statement. It is the wise who continue to seek the Christ, the foolish who abandon the quest, and the evil who oppose those who do seek him.

Of course, this sentiment is not new – we can look back from the beginning of the church and read about the quest for Jesus and the meaning of the Wise Men from the East. Recently I read this from Lancelot Andrews, written in the sixteenth century:

There Came Wise Men from the East

These that came from the East were Gentiles, and that matters to us, for so are we.  We may then look out and if we can see this star, it is ours.  It is the Gentiles' star.  We may set our course by it, to seek and find and worship him as well as they. So we come in, for God has also to the Gentiles set open a door of faith, and that he would do this and call us in, there was some small star-light from the beginning.  This he promised by the Patriarchs, shadowed forth in the figures of the Law, the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Prophets and the Psalms, and it is this day fulfilled.

  These wise men are come who not only in their own names but also in ours make here their entry.  They came and sought after and found and worshiped their Savior and ours, the Savior of the whole world.  A little wicket there was left open before, whereby various Gentiles did come in; now the great gate set wide opens this day for all -- for these here with their camels and dromedaries to enter with all they carry.  Christ is not only for russet cloaks, shepherds and such; but even grandees, those of great states such as these came, and when they came they were welcome to him -- for they were sent for and invited by this star, their star properly.

They came a long journey and they came an uneasy journey.  They came a dangerous journey and they came now, at the worst season of the year.  They delayed not their coming till the opening of the year, till they might have better weather and way and have longer days and so more seasonable and fit to travel in.  So desirous were they to come with the first, and to be there as soon as they possibly might, that they broke through all these difficulties, and behold, they did come.

  And we, what excuse shall we have if we come not? If so short and easy a way we come not, as from our chambers hither? And these wise men never were a whit less wise for so coming; nay, to come to Christ is one of the wisest parts that ever these wise men did.  And if they and we be wise in one Spirit, we will follow the same star, tread the same way, and so come at last whither they they are happily gone before us.

  And how shall we do that? In the old ritual of the Church we find that on the cover of the canister wherein was the sacrament of his Body, there was a star engraven, to show us that now the star leads us thither, to his Body there. So what shall I say now, but according as St John says, and the star and the wise men say Come.  And he whose star it is, and to whom the wise men came, says Come.  And let them that are disposed come and let whosoever desires take the Bread of life, which came down from heaven to Bethlehem, the house of bread. Of which Bread the Church is this day the house, the true Bethlehem, and all the Bethlehem we have now left to come to for the Bread of life -- of that life we hope for in heaven.  And this is our nearest coming that here we can come, till we shall by another coming Come unto him in his heavenly kingdom.  To which he grant we may come, he that came to us in earth that we thereby might come to him and remain with him forever, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, φρονημα σαρκος, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.