Friday, March 30, 2018

Bishop’s Note: March 29, 2018 – Maundy Thursday

Bishop Eric Menees

They Shall Look Upon Him Whom They Have Pierced

We truly may affirm, Christ, not in part, but wholly, was pierced. For we should do injury to the sufferings of our Saviour, if we should conceive by this piercing none other than that of the spear.

And may a soul then be pierced? Can any spear-point go through it? Truly does Simeon say to the blessed Virgin by way of prophecy, that the sword should go through her soul at the time of his Passion. And as the sword went through hers, so I do not question the spear also through his. And if through hers which was but the soul of compassion, much more through his, which was the soul of passion; since compassion is but passion at rebound. Howbeit, it is not a sword of steel, or a spear-head of iron, that enters the soul, but metal of another temper whose force gores and wounds the soul no less in proportion than those of iron do to the body. So that we extend this piercing of Christ further than the visible gash in His side, even to a piercing of another nature, whereby not his heart only was stabbed, but his very spirit wounded too.

The Scripture recounts two, and of them both expressly say, that they both pierce the soul. The apostle says it by sorrow: pierced themselves through with many sorrows. The Prophet speaks of reproach: There are whose words are like the pricking of a sword; and both sorrow and reproach prick the soul, for the body feels neither. With these, even with both these, was the soul of Christ Jesus wounded.

For sorrow--it is plain through all four Evangelists: My soul is encircled on every side with sorrow, even to the death; Jesus began to be distressed and in great anguish; being cast into an agony; now is My soul troubled.  Avowed by them all and confessed by himself. Yea, his strange and never else heard of sweat--drops of blood plenteously issuing from him all over his body, at a time when no manner of violence was offered to his body, no man then touching him, none being near Him; that blood came certainly from some great sorrow wherewith His soul was pierced.

His most dreadful cry, which at once moved all the powers of Heaven and earth, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, was the voice of some mighty anguish, wherewith his soul was smitten; and that in other sort, than with any material spear, for the body cannot feel it, or tell what it means. It is the soul's complaint, and therefore without any doubt his soul within him was pierced and suffered.

To this edge of sorrow, if the other of piercing scorn be added as a point, as added it was, it will strike deep into any heart; especially being wounded with so many sorrows before. But the more noble the heart, the deeper; who bears any grief more easily than this grief, the grief of humiliating and haughty reproach.To persecute a poor distressed soul, and seek to vex him that is already wounded at the heart -- why, it is the very thrust of all wickedness; the very extremity that malice can do, or affliction can suffer. And to this attack they came, when after all their wretched villainies and spittings, and all their savage indignities in reviling him most shamefully, he being in the depth of all his distress and for very anguish of soul crying, Eli, Eli, they stopped those that would have relieved him, and devoid of all humanity did scorn him saying, Stay, let alone, let us see if Elijah will now come and take Him down. This barbarous and brutish inhumanity of theirs, must needs pierce deeper into His soul, than ever did the iron into His side.

To all of which if we add, not only that horrible ingratitude of theirs seen by him there, but ours also, no less than theirs by him foreseen at the same time; who make so slender reckoning of these his piercings, and, as though they were a matter not worth the looking on, grant not so much as to spend an hour in the due regard and meditation of them; nay, not that only, but farther by our incessant sinning, and that without remorse, we most unkindly repay his bitter pains, and as much as in us lies, even crucify afresh the Son of God, making a mock of him and his piercings. These I say, for these all and every of them in that instant were before his eyes, these must of force enter into, and go through and through his soul and spirit; that with those former sorrows, and with these subsequent indignities, the Prophet might truly say of him, and he of himself, upon Me -- not whose body or whose soul, but whom entirely and wholly, both in body and soul, alive and dead -- they have pierced and put to passion this day on the cross.

Now, as it was sin that gave him these wounds, so it was love to us that made him receive them, being otherwise able enough to have avoided them all. So it was that he was pierced with love no less than with grief, and it was that wound of love which made him so constantly to endure all the other. This love we may read in the palms of his hands, as the Fathers express it out of Isaiah 49:16, for in the palms of His hands He hath graven us, that He might not forget us. And the print of the nails in them, are as capital letters to record His love towards us. For Christ pierced on the cross is the very book of love laid open before us. And again, this love of his we may read in the cleft of his heart as Saint Bernard says: the point of the spear serves us instead of a key, letting us through his wounds see his very heart, his heart of tender love and most kind compassion, that would for us endure to be so entreated. That if the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus' grave, See how much he loved him!  when he shed a few tears out of his eyes; much more truly may we say of him, See how much he loves us!, seeing him shed both water and blood, and that in great plenty, out of His heart.

This sight ought to pierce us with love too, no less than before it did with sorrow. With one or both, for both have power to pierce; but especially love, which unless it had entered first and pierced his heart, no nail or spear could ever have entered his body. Then let this be the third piercing: look and be pierced with love of him, who so loved thee, that he gave himself in this way to be pierced for you.

And forasmuch as it is Christ himself, who, likening his Passion on the cross to the bronze serpent lift up in the wilderness, makes a correspondence between their beholding and our believing -- for so it is John 3:14 -- we cannot avoid, but must needs make that an effect too; even behold and believe. And well may we believe and trust him, whom we have seen but a little before so constantly loving us. For the sight of that love makes credible unto us whatsoever in the whole Scripture is affirmed to us of Christ, or promised in his name; so that we believe it, and believe all. Neither is there any time wherein with such cheerfulness or fullness of faith we cry unto Him, My Lord and My God, as when our eye is fixed upon the print of the nails, and on the hole in the side of him who was pierced for us.

And shall we always receive grace, even streams of grace issuing from him that is pierced, and shall there not from us issue something back again, that he may look for and receive from us, who from him have and do daily, receive so many good things? No doubt there shall be, if the love which pierced him has pierced us aright; especially since we, by this day, both see and receive that which he and many others desired to see and receive, and could not. Or if we have nothing to render, let us ourselves return with the Samaritan, and falling down at His feet, with a loud voice, glorify his goodness; for he, finding us in the condition that other Samaritan found the forlorn and wounded man, healed us by being wounded himself, and by his own death restored us to life. For all his kindness -- if nothing will come from us -- we are certainly worthy that he should restrain the fountain of his benefits, which hitherto has flowed most plenteously, and neither let us see nor feel him any more.

But I hope for better things:  that love, and so great love, will pierce us, and cause both other fruits and especially thoughts of thankfulness to issue from us, who have looked upon him whom we have pierced.

Lancelot Andrewes, sermon preached on Good Friday (1597)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bishop’s Note: March 22, 2018: – Sir, We Wish To See Jesus

Bishop Eric Menees

This past Sunday we read from the 12th chapter of the Gospel of John, which contains my favorite scripture - verse 21b, in bold below:  

[20] Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. [21] So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” [22] Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. (John 12:20-22)

This is really an astonishing scene. Now, the fact that some foreigners were going to worship in the Temple is not so amazing – there were those who were Jewish converts, mostly through inter-marriage. Indeed, the Temple had the “Court of the Gentiles,” which was the outer court in the Temple compound. What is amazing here is first that these foreigners came to Philip and Andrew, second that they asked for Jesus: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Philip goes to Andrew, presumably to say, “So what should we do with these Greeks?” Andrew must have said something like, “Let’s go and ask Jesus if he wants to see them.” What to do when you don’t know what to do? Ask the boss!

I mentioned earlier that this scripture is an Anchor Scripture for me – the verse is John 12:21b: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” When I was first ordained, I was placed in charge of a congregation. Nervous and wet behind the ears, I was very anxious to impress the congregation with my wisdom and understanding. After about a six weeks of preaching and teaching – and getting absolutely no feedback – I asked the parish secretary, Virginia Ram, how she thought I was doing. (In retrospect, I was actually just insecure and fishing for a complement.)

Thankfully, Mrs. Ram was a very honest and kind woman; she said: “Dcn. Eric, we know that you are very smart and well educated – you don’t need to prove it to us. Think of it this way: we are like the Greeks – WE JUST WANT TO SEE JESUS. When you prepare your sermons, that’s what you should think – just point people to Jesus!”

Ever since that difficult and blessed meeting, every time I prepare a sermon I think to myself, “Does this point people to Jesus, or does it point people to me?” Brothers and sisters, disciples of Jesus Christ must always point people to Jesus. 

This Holy Season, let us constantly direct our own attention to Jesus!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Bishop’s Note: March 15, 2018 – the Great Commission

Bishop Eric Menees
On Sunday I had the honor of installing Fr. Ron Ryan as the new vicar for St. Peter’s, Kernville. For this occasion the Gospel lesson was from Matthew 28 – The Great Commission. There is no more iconic scripture that speaks to the heart of discipleship than the Great Commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19)

There are several key points to notice in this action packed sentence:

Go therefore… “Therefore” referrers to what happened just before… meaning when we go out to the nations – or the neighborhoods – or the workplaces, we do not go based on our own initiative and authority! Whose initiative and authority do we go out with? The resurrected Jesus’! Notice, also, that this going out is not a suggestion – this is an imperative!

Make disciples… This isn’t simply belief in Jesus – lots of people believe that Jesus was a great man; a great philosopher; a great religious leader. Rather, to be a disciple is to submit to Jesus as Lord and Master!

Baptizing… This is more than the sprinkling of water; it is entering into a believing community! Each of our congregations should be a place where disciples of Jesus are baptized and then supported as they, in turn, disciple others, lead them to baptism, and support them as they, in turn….the cycle repeating over and over again.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Jesus calls us to do this under his authority and in the name of the Triune God. In other words, it’s not simply “believe in whatever, or whomever,  you want;” what we believe does, indeed, matter!  Jesus makes this clear in the next clause:

“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)  This means that we must, all of us, be both Student and Teacher. We cannot teach people to observe all that Jesus commanded without knowing what Jesus commanded! And the best way to really learn is to teach. Never forget that you - each of you - are called to always be a student of the Word of God, as well as a teacher of the Word of God! So, teach your friends! Teach your family!

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Lastly -  and equally important to everything that has gone before - when we dare to be obedient to the call of Jesus, his promise is that he’ll never leave us. Therefore, we cannot fail! Whatever we give up to the Lord in service or devotion, he turns towards his glory! Oops, wait a moment - there is one way to fail: you can choose NOT to share the gospel; not to talk about Jesus; not to love others; not to be obedient to Jesus’ call on your life.

My prayer for each and every member of the Diocese is that we will all step out in faith as disciples of Jesus Christ, secure in the knowledge that, with Jesus at our side, we cannot fail!