Sunday, December 30, 2018

First Sunday after Christmas Year C 2018

 Fr. Dale Matson
Why did God Become a Man?

December 30th

By now you folks must be saying to each other here he is again. Father Dale, the Sin, Repentance and Confession specialist here to apply another coat of guilt before the last one has completely dried. Relax; you will not even need to buckle up your seat belts.

In each Gospel, we find that Jesus is portrayed in a particular way. In Matthew -- The prophesied Messiah of the Jews, in Mark -- Human Jesus, Obedient Servant, in Luke -- Savior of all mankind and in John – Jesus Christ is God Incarnate.

What does our Gospel Lesson, The Prologue of The Gospel of John mean?
Verses 1-3 tell of the Deity and Eternity of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel of John begins the same as the book of Genesis begins.
“In the beginning”
From the very beginning Jesus Christ the Word of God was with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ is the Word of God and is God.  He is not just a god. He is God.   He is the Word of God meaning; He is God’s expression of Himself.  To the Greeks He is the logos; the rational principle that governs all things in the universe.  To the Jews He is the logos that comes from God to fulfill his purpose in and for the world.  The logos was the word God used to create and govern the universe. God spoke the universe into existence.  (And God said…)
Although Christ is primarily seen as redeemer and savior of humankind, He also participated in the work of the Father as a co-creator.  Christ can offer life because He is life.  He is perfect life and He offered His life as a ransom for many including you and me.  For the Jews of the Old Testament the law of God, the Word of God and life are essentially the same thing.

Verses 4-13 tell us Jesus Christ is the light of the world.  He is the spiritual illumination for a world in darkness.  Darkness cannot overcome the light.  He reveals God’s plan of salvation, the meaning of human existence and the destiny of humankind. He reveals the truth and it makes us free.  He reveals our own heart to us so that we may know ourselves as we are known by Him.  He is the light at the end of the tunnel.  He is our hope.  We cling to his precious name for ultimately that is the only name and the only hope we have.
John the Baptist was sent ahead by God to prepare the way of Salvation.  He was a prophet and he was a light.  We were to believe in Jesus Christ through the witness of John but John was not the light of the world. He was a light in the world.  We too like John the Baptist can be a light in the world through our life and testimony. 
Christ came into the world that He had made and His creation did not recognize its own creator.  He came to His own people and they rejected Him.  He comes to us and like Peter, we also at times deny Him.  Forgive us Lord.
We who believe in His name are born both of water and from above.  We are given eternal life in Him.  To say that we believe in His name is to say that Jesus the Christ is Who He says He is.  He is the Son of man and the only begotten Son of God.  He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, and the Alpha and Omega.  He is the eternal “I AM” and we have given ourselves completely to Him.  He is all and in all. Praise God, we are His!
Verses 14-18 tell us He is the Incarnation.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  This verse expresses the mystery and the fact that Jesus Christ was both God and man.  He was God in the flesh.  We say in the Nicene Creed,
“For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.”

Much of the Christology that we confess in the creed came from John’s Gospel.
John the Baptist said that Christ ranked ahead of him because He existed before him.  Indeed Jesus Himself claimed he existed even before Abraham.  “The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple. (John 8:57-59). The Jews knew that Jesus was saying that He was God.

Christ was so full of Grace that we have received one blessing piled upon another; grace upon grace.  Although Moses gave us the Law, Christ the new Moses gave us grace and truth.  Here John is saying that the Law told us what we must do to measure up to God’s standards.  This was a task that was impossible for any and all humans.  Christ through grace by faith has satisfied the Law for us and put us right with God.
St. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, "God became man so that man might become god" This is the doctrine of Divinization and it is similar to our understanding of Sanctification. Both Divinization and Sanctification mean the process of being made holy. While Divinization is very much a part of Greek Orthodoxy, Martin Luther quoted Athanasius in his Christmas sermon of 1514. “God became man so that man may become God. Thus power becomes powerless so that weakness may become powerful.” I believe this union with God is stated exquisitely in the Great Thanksgiving, “…that he may dwell in us and we in him.” How many times have you heard someone say that he or she has accepted Christ? This literally means that they believe that Christ lives inside of him or her. St. Paul is telling us also that we live in Christ. As St. Paul stated in Acts, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Through our communion with Jesus Christ, God shares Himself with us, in order to conform us to all that He is in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. As God became human, in all ways except sin, He will also make us god (Holy or saintly), in all ways except His divine essence. St. Paul states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). In Ephesians Chapter 2, Paul tells us, “…it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. As God commissioned Adam and Eve before the fall to dress and keep the Garden of Eden, God has recommisioned us for good works in Christ. In Christ we have become eternal creatures. The Kingdom of God is both eternal and timeless. Paul is speaking to us from the past about things that are to take place in our future. He is speaking as if it was already an accomplished fact and through the eyes of faith it is. We are in the present but he is asking us to live a life in the here and now that reflects our heavenly existence in the future. 
How saved are we? We are VERY saved. We are rescued from sin and death and by the eyes of faith we dwell with God and the Saints in Heaven. You may ask me, “But Father Dale, “Isn’t becoming like God the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden that led to the fall of man”? The fact is, we were already like God. God created man in His image. This is where Satan offered man what God had already given him with an evil twist.  Satan’s offer was for man to become God. Sanctification or as the Greek Orthodox Church calls it Deification is not us taking on the essence of God but us taking on the qualities of God. As we live in Christ and He in us we manifest both the Gifts and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. How saved are we? We are VERY saved indeed!  
In Genesis (2:7) it states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. In John’s Gospel (20: 21-22) it states, “Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

St. John tells us later on in his gospel why he recorded the events.  “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life (Zoe) in his name.” ((20:31-32).
The nations shall see your righteousness,
And all the kings your glory;
And you shall be called by a new name
That the mouth of the LORD will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
And a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 61)
In the Book of Acts it states, “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12).  Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.  Amen

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Merry Christmas 2018 from the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Bishop’s Note: December 20, 2018 – 2019 BCP The Prayers of the People

 Bishop Eric Menees

In our examination of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer’s service of Holy Eucharist, last week we looked at the role of the Nicene Creed. This week I’d like to look at the Prayers of the People.

In the 2019 BCP we will have two basic forms of the Prayers of the People: one in the Standard Text Eucharist and one in the Renewed Ancient Text. Having only two options is unlike the 1979 BCP, which has several different options. The 2019 BCP does allow for prayers not found in the text, but they must include:

The universal Church, the clergy and people
The mission of the Church
The nation and all in authority
The peoples of the world
The local community
Those who suffer and those in any need or trouble
Thankful remembrances of the faithful departed and of all the blessings in our lives.

What jumps out to me is the role of the deacon and laypeople in leading this section of the service. The entire worship service follows a set form and practice that we refer to as “liturgy,” which means: “work of the people.” It is appropriate that laypeople read the passages of Holy Scripture (apart from the reading of the Gospel,) and lead the prayers of the people if a deacon is not present. The Rubrics (I mentioned rubrics last week) for the Prayers of the People state:

The Deacon or other person appointed says these prayers….

It is the traditional role of the Deacon both to make the needs of the world known to the People of God and to assist the People of God in meeting the needs of the world. Because of this, we begin with prayer; asking God to bless, provide, preserve, protect, and heal those in need.

The Prayers conclude by inviting the people to offer their own prayers, either silently or aloud, and then the celebrant wraps up the prayers with the following prayer:

Heavenly Father, grant these our prayers for the sake of Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I pray you all a very blessed fourth Sunday of Advent,. and a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Bishop’s Note: December 13, 2018 – 2019 BCP The Nicene Creed

Bishop Eric Menees

In our examination of the service of Holy Eucharist in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer last week, we looked at the role of the Sermon in the service.

This week we examine our response to the sermon – the Nicene Creed. This is how it is presented in the prayer book. Note the red lettering. These are “Rubrics” or directions to those leading the worship as well as the participants. According to the dictionary, a rubric is: “ru·bric … a heading on a document. 2. a direction in a liturgical book as to how a church service should be conducted. 3. a statement of purpose or function.”

The Nicene Creed
On Sundays, other Major Feast Days, and other times as appointed, all stand to recite the Nicene Creed, the Celebrant first saying
Let us confess our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed:
Celebrant And People
We believe in one God,
     the Father, the Almighty,
     maker of heaven and earth,
     of all that is, visible and invisible.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
     the only-begotten Son of God,
     eternally begotten of the Father,
     God from God, Light from Light,
     true God from true God,
     begotten, not made,
     of one Being with the Father;
     through him all things were made.
     For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
     was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
     and was made man.
     For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
     he suffered death and was buried.
     On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
     he ascended into heaven
     and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
     He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
     and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
     who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
     who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
     who has spoken through the prophets.
     We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
     We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
     We look for the resurrection of the dead,
     and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The phrase “and the Son” (Latin filioque) is not in the original Greek text. See the resolution of the College of Bishops concerning the filioque in Documentary Foundations.

We respond to the preaching of the Word of God with our confession of faith. Our confession of faith is a proclamation of our identity. At best, this is seen as an oddity by the world around us and, at worst, it is seen by the world as threatening. This is because the world is constantly encouraging the individual to define themselves based upon their own terms and not a common faith and understanding of who we are as creatures of God!

The Nicene Creed was established in the fourth century at the Council of Nicaea and built upon the Apostles Creed, which dated back one hundred years previous. The Creed bound the people of God together as the Church-catholic in a common understanding of who God is and who we are as His creatures. Prior to the Emperor Constantine’s conversion, this statement of faith was very threatening to the Roman Empire because it bound people of many different languages, tribes, and nations together in a way that the Roman Emperor was never able to accomplish.

The Nicene Creed is grounded in the biblical narrative and, for this reason, in some denominations the creed is becoming increasingly optional because they are unable to affirm the truth of the biblical story.
Thanks be to God for the gift of the Creed and the unity it brings to Christians across the denominational spectrum.

I pray that your worship on the third Sunday of Advent is especially blessed.