Saturday, August 26, 2017


Pentecost 12A 2017

Fr. Dale Matson


My homily is based on a portion of our Epistle lesson from Romans Chapter 11 and our Psalm.
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to Him
that He might be repaid?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (33-36)
This group of verses is referred to as a Doxology. A Doxology is a song of praise.
I am reminded of Martin Luther’s teaching regarding the first article of the Apostle’s Creed in his Small Catechism.

The First Article: Creation
'I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.'

"What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”
            Every Sunday we say or sing several Doxologies. At the beginning of our service we sing or say the Great Doxology, the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" which is Latin for Glory to God in the highest. In our bulletin we shorten the title to the “Gloria”. The hymn begins with the words that the angels sang when the birth of Christ was announced to shepherds in Luke 2:14.
            In our Psalm today we hear, “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; * before the gods I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and praise Your Name, * because of your love and faithfulness; For You have glorified Your Name *and Your word above all things. When I called, You answered me; *You increased my strength within me. All the kings of the earth will praise You, O LORD, * when they have heard the words of Your mouth."
At the end of our Psalm today and every Sunday we say another Doxology, the Gloria Patri. “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
We sing a Doxology every Sunday before the liturgy of the altar. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him all ye heavenly hosts praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
In the Great Thanksgiving portion of our liturgy we have another Doxology. We sing the Sanctus (latin for Holy) before the prayer of consecration. This “unending hymn” is perhaps one of the most enduring, ancient songs of praise and combines verses from Scripture.  (See Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8, Matthew 21:9, Psalm 118:26.)
There are doxologies throughout the New Testament. Here are more examples.
Eph. 3:20-21 – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Tim. 6:15b-16 – “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
Jude 24-25 – “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Rev. 5:12, 13 – “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
            To thank and praise God takes the focus off us. It means that we are giving God the credit for what we have done and who we are. God provides the motivation, the will and the strength for our good works done in faith.
            It is not just our selfish pride that causes us to place ourselves on the throne at the center of our universe. It can also be sickness, pain and depression. When our thoughts are ruled by our emotions, we no longer have the Mind of Christ.
            Steve Martin the comedian once said that you couldn’t play the banjo and be unhappy or angry at the same time. It is also true of praise and thanks to God. When we thank and praise God, we are only responding in obedience to God and demonstrating our love for God. We are not just God’s children. We are His subjects in His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
            So what is this praise and thanksgiving about in our church and in our province? I will state that God the Holy Spirit moved afresh on the mainline churches in the early 1960s. The late Dennis Bennett an Episcopal priest was one of the early leaders in the Neo-Pentecostal movement also better known as the Charismatic Movement. Today in our ACNA, we have a blend of Evangelical, Charismatic and Anglo-Catholic members. Our late Bishop, John David Schofield considered himself to be a mix of all three.
                Probably the last place one would expect a fresh infilling of God the Holy Spirit was the liturgical churches yet, the Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran and later, the Roman Catholic Churches were some of the first churches to experience a contemporary renewal. This Neo-Pentecostal renewal began in the early 1960’s and remains evident in those same churches today. The Charismatic renewal has had less impact on the reformed churches like the Baptists and I believe this is possibly related to their dispensational approach to Scripture. They believe that God acted differently and more powerfully in the early church.
            I was a Missouri Lutheran in the mid 1980’s and was struck with the wording of a lesser-known creed accepted by those churches. The Creed of St. Athanasius (Quicunque Vult) was recited only once a year in our congregation on Trinity Sunday. The following passage in particular resonated with me and I read it over several times. “And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.” I had been thinking a lot lately about God the Holy Spirit and why Jesus seemed to be the only focus of my brothers and sisters in our congregation. I believe most of my brothers and sisters in our congregation were mature Christians filled with the “Fruits of the Spirit” but they were into living out Luther’s second couplet in his explanation of the Creed. They focused on Serving and Obeying God but less so the Thanking and Praising part of Luther’s first couplet. Most would acknowledge the “Gifts of the Spirit” but none sought out those gifts. I believe they were afraid to let go and let God. Most thought of parishioners having “Talents” but not supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I heard that Pastor Erwin Prange from Minnesota would be preaching at Pastor Ferd Barr’s church near Milwaukee. Pastor Barr was the only Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor who boldly dared to be Charismatic in Milwaukee, the heart of the LCMS.  Reverend Prange spoke about Baptism of the Holy Spirit and his experiences as a Charismatic pastor and with a deliverance ministry as a consultant to a local psychiatric hospital. When psychiatrists would have a patient they were unable to treat, they would call in pastor Prange as an exorcist. I also read one of his books, A Time To Grow. I was seeking this experience within my faith tradition guided by Scripture and trustworthy leaders yet there was some apprehension.  Here is an irony about Charismatics. If you are a Charismatic, you are also an Evangelical. You believe in the truth and preeminence of Scripture. When Scripture advocates seeking the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in obedience you seek the Gifts. At the same time there was pressure from others not to seek the Gifts of the Spirit. A local Baptist pastor told me, “Speaking in tongues is of Satan.” Fr. Bennett was required to step down as rector of his church.  
I had a cautious yet irresistible desire for this “second blessing” and privately studied Scripture with many examples of both water and Holy Spirit baptism. I wanted a deeper relationship with God the Holy Spirit and knew in my heart that it would not be a false path. After all, the LCMS was not a dispensational church and didn’t God give good gifts to those that asked? (Luke 11:13, Matt. 7:11).
As a member of a home bible study mostly populated by Roman Catholics, I asked to be prayed over for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I trusted those around me and stepped out in faith that God would provide. Following the prayer, I simply said two words. I did not know what the words meant but repeated them in my head phonetically. I had a Young’s Analytical Concordance at home and looked them up. I had said “Zebina (acquired) Shekinah (God’s glorious presence). I had spoken in faith the words Zebina Shekinah and did not know at the time that they meant that I had experienced God’s glorious presence. It was the beginning of a private prayer tongue that I have used for over 25 years.
My friend and spiritual advisor Morton Kelsey once told me that ecumenism was the heart of the Charismatic experience. I think it rather ironic that Fr. Kelsey wrote a book on speaking in tongues but confessed to me that he had never been blessed with the gift of tongues himself in an hour interview I conducted with him.
The Charismatic movement was not just ecumenical. In short, the Charismatics invoked  (invited) the Holy Spirit back into the church. It was a fresh infilling with a contagious zeal. Praise and thanksgiving were a big part of the worship services with supplemental songbooks that included contemporary hymns. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were manifested. The Word of God was confirmed with signs following (Mark 16:20).
I believe the ACNA, in her outreach to other denominations is very much influenced by the Charismatic elements within our province.
I must end on a note that is an unfortunate reality for Charismatics. There was a great deal of misunderstanding and divisiveness associated with the Charismatic renewal. The Charismatic movement was ecumenical since the Holy Spirit is a God of Unity but the human side of it was at times divisive and literally split congregations in two. I primarily blame the Charismatics for giving the appearance that they were a special class of Christians. If only, the fruits of the Holy Spirit had also been manifested. We should have memorized 1 Cor. 13 before we preached 1 Cor. 12.
Luther’s exhortation to “Thank and Praise” and “Serve and Obey” are wonderful godly guidelines for all Christians. I believe it was the Charismatic movement empowered by God the Holy Spirit of the early 1960s that put the Thanks and Praise afresh into the contemporary church. However, spiritual renewal is often rediscovering what we already have. Our liturgy is full of thanks and praise.
As St. John states in Revelation (7:12) “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” And amen.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Adding The Fruit Of The Spirit To A Heart Healthy Diet: Adding Trust to That

Fr. Dale Matson

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
            I have been diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It has been less than a year now and after my cardiologist implanted two stents to help blood circulation to my heart, I live quite a different life. I am more anxious.
            I had a severe G.I. bleed the first day of this year because of 3 undiagnosed preexistent ulcers combined with dual antiplatelet therapy to thin my blood. Dual antiplatelet therapy is standard protocol for those with stents but I was more prone to bleeding. It has been a long road back since that time and I no longer am anemic. I had another bleed and the cardiologist took me off Plavix after 6 months. I am still on a daily dose of baby aspirin. Although the cardiologist has limited my maximum heart rate based on treadmill performance, I am still able to get into the mountains even for an overnight with a backpack. I use a heart monitor watch and keep an eye on my heart rate.
            I have been on two kinds of antacids to keep my ulcers from bleeding again. A recent endoscopy biopsy indicated that my ulcers were not the result of bacteria. The ulcers were probably the result of years of overuse of aspirin and ibuprofen.
            During the last 8 months, I have conducted a great deal of research on my CAD etiology and treatment. There is good universal treatment advice including change of diet, loss of weight and exercise. I have always had enough exercise even to excess. I have reduced the size of my meals and avoid foods with a high glycemic index that encourage insulin spikes. It is a low carbohydrate diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, adequate hydration and monounsaturated fats. I am at my high school weight with a BMI of 22. I take several supplements that include vitamins and minerals. I do not take statins to reduce my LDL cholesterol but I do take sterols and stanols. This is not just to discourage the build up of plaque in the arteries; it is also to lower blood viscosity so the heart does not have to work as hard. There is an optimum amount and mix of chemical interventions for each person. After that, the effort is counterproductive.
Eventually however one must ask, “To what extent is the solution only a chemical solution?” Every pill that has efficacy also has side effects. For example beta-blockers that lower blood pressure may also cause depression. Cardiac patients are often depressed? Is it any wonder why depressed cardiac patients who take beta-blockers are even more at risk?   
I also get adequate rest and don’t ‘overdose’ on what is going on in the world through excessively watching the news. In short, I don’t seek out things that stir me up and I do surround myself with things that calm me down like beauty, music and Scripture. There is no shortage of Scripture that points to hard heartedness, being stiff necked and needing a heart of flesh. In short Scripture tells us to repent of our ways and give our lives and hearts to Jesus.
There is another factor that I believe is downplayed by cardiologists but understood by psychologists. To what extent is CAD influenced by our thoughts and emotions. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that our emotions play a significant role in the development of CAD. To understand this we have to look at the root of the problem and that is inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s response to stress. Anxiety and anger are two emotions that have been demonstrated to be associated with inflammation.
            I am not an ‘Alpha’ male but I am a ‘Type A’ male. I am impatient, aggressive and ambitious. It was actually cardiologists that coined the term ‘Type A’ but cardiologists currently are more concerned about CRP than the significant contributing personality features. They acknowledge that lifestyle changes (behavioral) help but avoid emotional traits that create the lifestyles. Maybe they think this will be addressed in support groups.
            I must confess as a Christian pilgrim beyond the three score and ten years granted me that I still lack much real progress in spiritual development. I in no way am dismissive about what I have stated previously but the ultimate solution is spiritual since each of us is ultimately terminal. I have always been a late bloomer. Part of that is lack of progress is preoccupation with myself. I am what can be referred to as a “Carnal Christian”. I am living a life that St. Paul refers to in Romans Chapter seven not Chapter 8. In spiritual development, I am mostly in the “Purgative Stage”. I have given my life to Christ over and over and taken it back over and over. I too rarely trust my Savior who has guided and protected me from the world, the evil one and myself since day one. Why can’t I cast my anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7)? Why am I still afraid? (Isaiah 41:10) It is not so much a fear of death as a lack of trust that by every measure should have been in place long ago. I am not as prideful however.
            I believe my conclusion about trust betrays my personality. It is the impatience about trust. Trust is a process not just an event. I am left with this evidence. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Transfiguration, The Incarnation and Danny Farenbacher

Fr. Dale Matson

This Sunday is the Feast Day of the Transfiguration. Our opening Collect, Old Testament lesson, Psalm, Epistle Lesson and Gospel Lesson all contribute to our understanding of this event. The Transfiguration is the final revelation of the person of Christ prior to His crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension.

The Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36)

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.”

There are actually Four Gospel accounts of the transfiguration. We have accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke and we have John’s statement contained within his Prologue. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14, ESV). John’s statement, “And the Word became flesh.” One reason the Transfiguration is so important to us is that it is the final revelation of the incarnation. Jesus Christ is the incarnate word. The incarnation is both a mystery and an essential part of the Christology of the Christian Church. He is both human and God. We identify with the human part of Christ but His statements would not be trustworthy if He were not also God. Christ told Philip, “Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father. (John 14:9b, ESV). Would you believe a human who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.”? Could you Love or even approach a Sovereign Omnipotent God or would you, like Adam, hide from Him. The incarnation reveals to us the human qualities of God and the Glory and Majesty of His Son Jesus Christ.

But the Word becoming flesh in the Incarnation as fully revealed in the Transfiguration is also the key to understanding Christ’s presence in His body the church and in each believer. Christ asked Paul why Paul was persecuting Him when Paul was persecuting Christ’s followers in the early church (Acts 9:4). The incarnation encourages us to serve Christ when we minister to Christ in others. “And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 35-40).

Our Collect was about the Transfiguration and even the Psalm (99) talked about the glory of the Lord and His speaking from the pillar of cloud (v. 7). It is so much easier to understand, identify with and explain the struggles of Paul and even the human moments in the life of Jesus than it is to grasp the Glory and majesty of God in the person of Christ. It is in the moments where the miraculous happens to Christ that He seems so different and unapproachable and we seem so unable to respond or even comprehend. Unlike Moses, His glory was not a reflected radiance.

From our Epistle Lesson today, Peter related the following, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"-- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy Mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

In the book of Revelation St. John described a post ascension encounter with the Glorified Christ. “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” (Rev. 14-18a).

Last week, Fr. Carlos recognized and affirmed those in our faith community who have chosen to be intercessors. In our ‘Prayers of the people’, as a church, we publicly offer general prayers for our leaders, clergy, and others in general. We also have a specific list of those for whom we regularly pray. The list is mostly composed of members of our congregation. As intercessors we help bear the burden of their sufferings as St. Paul encouraged us to do. (Galatians 6:2) but rarely do we see how God blesses us as intercessors. St. James told us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a).

Many people know one individual on our list but few know his story. His name is Danny Fahrenbacher. I believe Jesus would say of Danny what he said of Nathanael. “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). A man in whom there is no guile is an honest plain-hearted man. I cannot begin to tell you how much interceding for and ministering to Danny has blessed this congregation in general and me in particular. He is God’s gift to us and my personal faith hero. As the Word became flesh I would like to put flesh on the name Danny for you. I have his enthusiastic permission to tell you more about him, his life and his challenges.
Danny recently celebrated his 50th birthday and has been a member of St. James for 16 years. He has so enjoyed serving St. James as a lector; crucifer, lay Eucharistic minister (LEM) and MC. Danny’s loving parents Jenny and Gary are also members at St. James. He has two sisters and a brother.

Danny joined the Army soon after graduating from high school. While in basic training he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. They were not able to find the proper medication for it in the Army and he was given an honorable discharge. He was treated here In Fresno and the proper medication allowed him to have a stable life with employment.

In 2009, Danny went to the emergency room with severe pain. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and a volleyball sized tumor was removed from his colon. The doctors believed they got it all and he was in remission for about three years. In 2010, he was still suffering the effects of his illness. He was not able to meet the productivity requirements of his jobs and was fired.

In 2012 he had severe pain and could barely walk. It was discovered that his colon cancer had metastasized to his liver. He endured a 14-hour operation that removed 2/3rd of his liver. There is still a tumor on his liver that has resisted chemo and radiation therapy. It is considered inoperable here in Fresno because the tumor is located next to a major artery. His bile ducts for his liver are plugged and he needs biliary tubes to drain his liver bile. They too become plugged or an infection occurs. He has had nine hospitalizations since this time last year for replacement of his tubes or to treat his infections. He has had X-rays, cat scans, and pet scans. His pain management has been ongoing and difficult. There is this update. Danny is going to be admitted to the hospital again (his 10th admission in a year's time). They are waiting for a bed. His temperature went up to 102+, it's now back to 101. He's had a CT scan, blood cultures & on his 2nd IV antibiotic. He had morphine for pain. They ran into the Dr. who assists Dr. Tower. The Drs. had had a second look at the CT scan and determined that one of the tubes is near or on a bone that is degenerating. This does not include several additional visits to the emergency room that did not lead to hospitalization.

Danny is no longer able to drive and sold his car to his parents to help with expenses. Many of his doctors that he has established a relationship with have retired and he has had to adjust to new treatment personnel. There is a doctor at Stanford who has seen Daniel and is a specialist surgeon who could possibly operate on his tumor. He wanted all the treatment data collected and sent to him. It was a great burden for Gary and Jenny who were responsible to collect years worth of data and photographs and transport it the to Stanford. Danny has another appointment with his Dr. there but there will still be no decision on surgery yet.

In all of this Danny has remained upbeat and hopeful. Danny is God’s reminder to me that I make too much out of the burdens I carry. I asked Danny how his faith was holding up. He said, “Tell the folks at St. James, “Never give up. Thanks to all of you for your prayers. I hope to go back to church and to serve as a lay Eucharistic minister again.”

Danny may not be aware of it but he has been serving us in his sickness. We have kept him before God in our prayers and as we pray for Danny and others in our faith community at St. James, we too are transformed from Glory to Glory. Amen