Saturday, September 21, 2019

Three Short Contemporary Essays On Christian Life


Fr. Dale Matson

Activities of Daily Living (2011)
“ADLs are defined as the things we normally do...such as feeding ourselves, bathing, dressing, grooming, work, homemaking, and leisure. The ability or inability to perform ADLs can be used as a very practical measure of ability/disability in many disorders.” (MedicineNet.com).
While the Christian life is one of liberty as led by the Holy Spirit, it is also one that is conducted decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:40, KJV). The passage is used most frequently when discussing the order of worship but it is primarily about the witness of worship. This can also be applied to life in general which is lived as worship. How do we offer witness to others by the way we conduct our lives? I am not just talking about the public witness of church attendance. Are we faithful in conducting our Christian ADL’s?
I do not believe that a Christian led by the Holy Spirit needs to live a hectic, undisciplined, underproductive life. It is contrary to the life that Christ has given us. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b, KJV).
The prayer closet part of the Christian’s life is conducted as the Christian ADL’s. Here are some ideas for the ADL’s. How do you begin your day?
I rise early before the other occupants of the house awaken and begin with a daily devotional.  It sets the tone for how the rest of the day is conducted and there are numerous devotionals available to choose from. Following this I journal the previous day’s highlights and this also reminds me of things left undone. I include my dreams because God speaks to us in our dreams. My wife and I walk our dog together and discuss our previous day and anticipated events of the current day. So much of remaining oriented requires a continual reorienting as we move through our day. I then exercise with various sport activities. As a part of my day, I make sure to connect with at least one friend and one relative. I don’t mind being the one who usually initiates the contact.  Meals are a great reason to get together. I am retired so volunteer work is helpful to others and necessary for me however these ADL’s were a part of my life while employed. My email and blogs are modern ways I also stay in touch with others and attempt to affirm or encourage them.  I also attempt to write on a topic that strikes me each day and reframe a complaint into a statement of the desired end result.
What about travel? I take the same routine on the road with me. I have a travel journal that I can remove pages from and put them in my home journal. I take swimming goggles, bike helmets, running shoes etc. with me.
These are my ADL’s that regularize, standardize and organize an ordinary life. These are not measures of an especially Holy life. They are the measures of an ordinary normal Christian life that continues to sustain me and those who God brings me into contact with including those He brings to my remembrance. I hope others never feel that I don’t have time for them and that when I am with them; I am not paying attention because I am frantic to be somewhere else. “Come unto me, all [ye] that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28, KJV).  
A Man Of Joy, Courage and Prayer: Bishop John David Schofield RIP (2013)
I left an autographed copy of my first book on his desk the previous morning and stood in Bishop Schofield’s office door the following day. Fishing for a compliment, I asked, “So Bishop, what did you think of my book?” “Find yourself a good editor”, he responded. This was followed with predictable gales of laughter.  Although an intellectual, his office was filled with humorous cartoons along with an impressive library. Most of the time his humor was self-deprecating. In exasperation, he said to me the last time we were together, “I’m busier in retirement than I was as a Bishop.” I responded, “That’s because June (his administrative assistant) is no longer here to save you from yourself.” He hated meetings and freely admitted that he did not have the gift of administration. +JDS had more stories than you can shake a stick at and mentioning her name ‘reminded’ him of a story about her. June had a habit of reading the ending of a book to determine whether she wanted to read the book. He once gave her a book with the last pages removed to get her to read the book. I will always remember his laughter. He was a man of joy.
Bishop Schofield was the first bishop to remove his Diocese from the Episcopal Church. It was a necessary step in the eventual formation of the Anglican Church North America (ACNA). For that he has made enemies who reviled him. A man is as well known for his enemies as he is for his friends. His friends loved him. He suffered more than we will ever know. He was tormented with physical ailments akin to Job. He once told me that Satan attacked him through his sister’s afflictions until she died and then Satan came after him. With failing health, his last two years as bishop were difficult but he stayed on at the request of Archbishop Duncan.
For 23 years, he led the Diocese of San Joaquin. As the bishop, he attracted and hired conservative clergy. It made our diocese different. The clergy were, for the most part, more conservative than their parishioners.  He had discernment about things and his wisdom was employed as an exhortation to people like me.  He ordained me as a vocational deacon. After two years, I went into his office and asked what he thought about me seeking the priesthood. “I was wondering when you would ask that question.” “I’m surprised you haven’t asked already.”
There is also a pastoral side to him that his clergy especially experienced. Before our ordination, he would spend two days with us on retreat at our conference center in Oakhurst. During that time, he handed down the faith once delivered and instructed us about self-care including nurturing our spirituals lives. As he talked about his mornings spent in intercessory prayer and showed me his book of prayers he recited daily, I became fully aware of the depth of his spiritual life.
A devotional given to me by my brother Fr. Van is called Voices of the Saints: A Year of Readings. (Bert Ghezzi) Bishop Schofield’s life compares favorably to many of the saintly stories. At 75, he lived longer than most. If he were to respond to my comparison, he would say, “Why, of course I compare!” “In fact, some of them were rascals.” He would then offer up one of his patented belly laughs. God bless you Bishop Schofield and thank you for your service.
Alcatraz and Anchorites (2013)
I had an opportunity to take a tour of Alcatraz and realized that confinement is mainly a state of mind. As I walked through the cell blocks it dawned on me that prison life is a form of monasticism. There are the prisoners who take temporary vows and ones that take on permanent vows based on their past life and the strength of their convictions.
Alcatraz was a kind of monastery situated high on a rocky island surrounded by the San Francisco Bay, which is connected to the Pacific Ocean. There is a barrenness and bleakness to the main structure from which it was reputed that there was no escape. The wind was constant and the cold sea surrounding it eternally formed a moat that discouraged the prisoners from escaping. Even with the prisoners no longer there, I could sense the hopelessness and desperate effort to cling to their humanity in this place. Their names had become numbers.
Sharon and I visited Mont Saint-Michel on the coast of France a few years ago and Alcatraz reminded me of it by its setting and structure. It too is an island fortress but intended to keep people out. There was a monastic community within these walls also and their warden was an abbot. They were a community of men who lived and died within the walls of Mont St. Michael. There was however a different sense about this place. As I walked around the drafty heights I could visualize monks occupied by the task of illuminating manuscripts, prayer and the daily office. Their life was routine, confined and dedicated to poverty chastity and obedience. Their life had purpose and meaning and their vocation sought after holiness. They took on new names in accord with their station.
In Alcatraz, the solitary confinement cells 9-14 in “D” Block were considered the harshest living conditions for those who refused to obey the rules of the order of prisoners. Their cells were carved out of the wall of the prison which forms the back of their cell. They were only allowed out of their cells for a weekly shower. Their vows were similar to the monks but imposed on them for a similar reason by the prison warden. The rules are for conversion of manners also. Those in solitary confinement lived the contemplative life with opportunity for visions. Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud was probably the most famous of the unrepentant residents of D Block.
Anchorites lived in a cell formed from part of a monastery wall. The door to the cell was permanently sealed with bricks and they lived in this cell until they died. Their bodily waste was removed by a chamber pot and they were brought food and fed though a small opening in a common wall. My wife and I visited a church in Ireland that had a cell in the sanctuary wall for an anchorite. St. Julian of Norwich was an anchoress in the medieval period that led a contemplative life and experienced visions. An anchorite was considered a source of spiritual advice and counsel to abbots.
Some monastics eventually leave the order because they find the life too limiting. Some prisoners return because they find freedom too confining. Each of us lives much of our daily life in a cell of similar dimensions without walls, sometimes with partitions. Are you in prison or are you free? “To know You is eternal life and to serve You is perfect freedom.” (Book of Common Prayer, from "A Collect for Peace” p. 99). Amen





Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Bishop’s Note – 2019 BCP – The Apostles Creed


Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of the 2019 BCP service of Morning Prayer having sung or said God’s praises with the Canticles.  Last week we examined the Te Deum Laudamus, but in addition to that canticle the other two recommended canticles are the Benedictus (The Song of Zechariah Luke 1:68-79) or the Benedictus Es, Domine which is especially recommended during the Season of Lent.  In addition, to these three canticles there are ten other canticles on pages 79-88 of the 2019 BCP.

Following the Canticles, we affirm our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.  This creed is, essentially, the first and foremost statement of faith that unified the Church catholic.   While we do not completely know its origin, the name suggests that the Church Fathers attributed it to the Apostles.  The earliest mention of this Trinitarian statement of faith in the Council of Milan in 390 AD.  One of the features of this creed is truly universal/catholic as noted by Dr. Mohler statement below… Dr. Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“The church needs to clearly define Christianity in biblical terms, which the Apostles’ Creed succinctly provides to us. The Apostles' Creed is the most historic and universal summary of the Christian faith in the entire history of the church. It instructs, guides, defends and enshrines the most important question of all: “What must I do to be saved?”  Dr. Albert R. Mohler
The Apostles’ Creed

Officiant and People together, all standing

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Bishop’s Note – The Te Deum Laudamus

Bishop Eric Menees
Last week in our examination of the 2019 BCP Morning Prayer service, we looked at the scripture lessons and the lectionary. Following each of the lessons we respond with a song of praise that is taken from the scriptures themselves; these songs are called canticles. The first canticle is the “Te Deum Laudamus.” The canticles have Latin names taken from their first line, in this case: “We praise you, O God.”

While the Te Deum Laudamus is generally attributed to fourth century bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose, no one is sure who the author is. We do know this canticle has been used in the church from the fourth century to the present day.

To say or sing this canticle places the worshiper in that timeless place of praising God for creation referencing Genesis 1, praising God at the consummation of the ages referencing Revelation 4, and everything in between. You will note the presence of the Sanctus - “Holy, Holy, Holy” which is, of course, part of the Eucharistic service as well.

I bid you to speak these words with reverence and I promise you’ll be blessed!

Blessings,

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Hem Of His Garment



Fr. Dale Matson

Matthew 9:20–22 (Also Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48)

20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. 22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
         In 2012 I had a medical procedure called a transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). It is a common surgery for older men to help them urinate. Post-surgical bleeding is expected but my bleeding went on for weeks. I eventually needed an infusion of two units of packed red blood cells because of anemia. Since that time, I have also had two G.I. bleeds which also led to additional bouts with anemia.
         Also, during the period from 2012 to present, I have had periodic episodes of blood in my urine caused by regrowth of prostate tissue. Most of the time it has been related to heavy exercise. I recently went to the emergency room because of heavy and prolonged bleeding following two day hikes I had done in the Sierra Nevada.
         Why do I mention the passage from Matthew? I think of this poor woman who not only had a bleeding problem for twelve years, she had spent all of her money on doctors who made matters worse (Mark). This woman was not only anemic, she was considered unclean by Jewish Law since she was continually menstruating. This means that to come into contact with others would make them unclean. She was essentially a leper, an outcast and probably had no social life or even friends. She could not enter the temple either.
         However, she also had a great desire to be well again and was willing to risk a public encounter with Jesus for the possibility of being healed. He was her last resort and the last resort for so many. She was led to approach from behind and only touch the fringe of His garment. In her humility, she was healed by her faith but also the power (virtue) that emanated from Jesus. He was aware that a power had left him and asked who had touched Him.  
         There is also the fact that Jesus was not made unclean but she was made clean by coming in contact with just the fringe of garment. He also called her “Daughter” which is probably a term of endearment rather than calling her “woman”.
         It makes both my issue with blood less significant and her faith worth emulating. Thank You Lord.