Saturday, July 27, 2019

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Pentecost 7C 2019

Fr. Dale Matson
My homily is based on our opening Collect and our Gospel Lesson (Luke 11:1-13).

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” Thomas Cranmer, included this Collect in his first Book of Common Prayer. I believe the Collect is a paraphrase of what St. Paul stated. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18)
As I age, my visual acuity continues to decline but even more remarkable is how easy it is to see with jaundiced eyes those things, which lie before me. The more serious cataracts form distorted templates through which I process the world around me.
It is all too easy to suffer a misstep and become discouraged about my balance. It is all too common to use the wrong word in a sentence and worry that my memory is fading.
A portion of Sundays Collect lodged in my thoughts. I was reminded of the enormous collective burdens we share as pilgrims in this life. There is so much suffering and pain. As a priest, I am privy to the prayers of the Daughters of the Holy Cross who continually pray a firewall around our faith community. They need prayer also. Rest assured that the prayer warriors in our congregation are under attack. I think the DHC should be included in our weekly “prayers of the people”. “Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal”
How easy it is to get caught up in the cares of this world, to become discouraged and lose hope. This is especially true as we age. When sin entered this world, entropy crept closely behind. All creation was subject to decay.
St. Paul said it best. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but also we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25, ESV)
Lord I pray that we would never lose hope.
         Now I would like to discuss our Gospel Lesson from St. Luke.
“Our Father Who art in heaven.” Our Lord’s Prayer begins with an acknowledgement of the Glory of God the Father. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” This is a submitting of our will to God. This is a submission to the Sovereignty of God. We are saying in modern terms, “You are the boss over me.” How willing are we for God’s kingdom to come? How willing are we for God’s will to be done? Do we really mean it when we pray these two sentences?
         Some of you young folks are saying, “Well, I’d like to get my driver’s license first.” Others are saying, “I’d like to get married first.” Don’t laugh you older folks. Some of you are saying, “How about a couple of years of retirement first.” In other words, when we say Your will be done, we may have a five or ten-year plan but are willing to cancel it if God intervenes.
         “Give us this day our daily bread” This may not have occurred to you but what does this phrase tell us about how often we should pray the Lord’s Prayer? Daily.
But what is our daily bread?
In Luther’s catechism speaking on our Lord’s Prayer, Luther defines it thus:
“What is meant by daily bread? --Answer. Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates’ good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
I believe it is here that Luther misunderstands what Jesus is teaching us in the Lord’s Prayer by understanding our daily bread as support for the body. That is the kingdom of this world. Luther is interpreting our daily bread in the sense of the Old Testament wilderness experience of the manna God provided daily for sustenance for the Israelites. That is not however what Christ is referring to.
In Matthew chapter 6, Christ provides both His prayer and the context for understanding our daily bread. Following his presentation of the prayer (6:9-13), He then discusses the unnecessary and material concerns of the world in verses 19-32. “So, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. These are the material concerns that Luther incorrectly refers to as our daily bread. In verse 6:33 Christ states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The daily bread Christ is referring to is the daily bread required for sustenance in the Kingdom of God. He is referring to Himself.
"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35, NASB).
“Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:49-51)
“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." (John 6:57-58).
My brothers and sisters, there is no purer gospel than this. Christ has brought us back into the Garden of Eden. We again may partake of the tree of life. He continues to feed His people the church with His body and blood and has done so for two thousand years. In the Eucharist, we are given the bread with these words spoken, “The body of Christ; the bread of heaven.” When we are given the chalice, we are told, “The blood of Christ; the cup of salvation.” In Him we have eternal life and in Him we are more than conquerors. Just as Yahweh provided daily manna in the wilderness to the Israelites, Christ offers himself as our bread daily in the Kingdom of God. Lord, give us this day our daily bread.
         Let us examine further teachings of our Lord on prayer in our continuing discussion of Luke Chapter 11. "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'” What does this example teach us about prayer? If this were a prayer, what kind of prayer would it be? This is an intercessory prayer. You are asking for God to help on behalf of your friend. What else can we learn by this narrative? “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” I like this better from the J.B. Phillips N.T. “Yet, I tell you, that even if he won’t get up and give him what he wants simply because he is his friend, yet if he persists, he will rouse himself and give him everything he needs.” I like the word persists better because it is what is being taught. Be persistent in prayer. It is the same concept as the parable of the woman and the unjust judge. (Luke 18:1-8)
       “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" I would say that this was one of the favorite verses of the Charismatic Movement. (Luke 11:13) For those of you who want to become more spiritual, this verse is like rocket fuel. Just remember, Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Ghost and fire. The fire is hot and spiritual progress involves repentance, sacrifice and self-denial. Count the cost, put your hand to the plow and don’t turn back. Amen 

Friday, July 26, 2019

My Struggle With Anxiety and Hypertension

Fr. Dale Matson
When I add all the anxious times in my life together they make up a large slice of my life. God only knows to what extent my genetics destined me to live life with the sympathetic nervous system in charge most of the time.
In terms of family, my dad was the emotionally cool pipe smoking fisherman type. My mother, on the other hand had the hot blood of the highlander Scots. She suffered from depression and alcoholism.
It seems I adopted a cognitive strategy early in life that awfulizing about a situation was the best policy until the situation was resolved. While I was a Christian from childhood, I’m not sure I trusted a loving God. I saw God as a righteous God who punished sinners. In a sense, I was always looking over my shoulder, waiting for the hammer to fall.
All of these factors, the genetic, familial, cognitive and spiritual, led to a life where I wanted no surprises and sought no adventures. My fears and anxieties controlled my life and my life was designed to minimize these issues. I did a great deal of negative futurizing and not living in the “now”.
When I was young and in robust physical health, I used alcohol every night to put out the fires of anxiety. My drunk self-became my calm, normal self. After years of this, I began to have anxiety attacks in the morning at work.
With God’s help, I was able to give up cigarettes and alcohol. I became a jogger, runner and then ultra-runner. Running was my new drug of choice and after a morning 10K run, I was calm and ready for the day. I am still active and bike, swim, hike and walk but no longer run.
Two more factors are now a part of my life situation. I (gradually) became elderly. I will be 75 in two months. Aging is a difficult life adjustment for active folks in denial. When one ages, the body is less resilient and the mind is less certain. The “senior moments” were probably always there but when you are a senior, it is a different matter. You tend to dwell on your chronic infirmities and pain is a continual reminder that you are dying in bits and pieces. The tendency is to withdraw, to hyper-reflect. The treatment, of course, is to think of others who are worse off, to help others who are isolated by their infirmities.
My mother had and my older sister has Alzheimer’s. This past week, I was driving in a familiar area of the city and made a wrong turn. I began to feel uncomfortable because my thoughts immediately considered my possible future fate of dementia. Was the wrong turn another piece of evidence of my own decline? Ten years ago, I would not have even considered the idea when I made a wrong turn.
When I got home, I sensed my blood pressure increasing and of course this is a problem that feeds on itself. Just putting on the blood pressure cuff probably raised my blood pressure. After being hospitalized for high blood pressure this year, life has not been the same. And that is the point at which these two problems intersect and plague me. My blood pressure is usually in the normal range but when my anxieties kick in, my blood pressure can raise to dangerous levels. For example, the morning of the wrong turn, my systolic blood pressure was 124. When I got back home suffering from anxiety, my blood pressure was 170.
I took a tranquilizer but immediately realized that this was another example of an anxiety driven high blood pressure reading. Only three minutes later my systolic pressure was down to 140. If only I hadn’t reflexively reached for the tranquilizer, my blood pressure would probably returned to normal on its own without the tranquilizer. If only I could internalize “Be anxious for nothing but by prayer and supplication lets your requests be known to God”.
Why do I discuss these personal struggles? Many older folks suffer from these same issues and more. I hope many of you who read or hear this will be encouraged to include your infirmities in your prayers of petition to God who knows before we ask.              

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Bishop’s Note - Morning Prayer: Confession of Sin

Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our examination of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer, we’ve transitioned into the Daily Offices and specifically Morning Prayer. Last week, we examined the beautiful invitation to approach the throne of God. We do that first and foremost by recognizing our sinfulness and our need for reconciliation with God and one another.

This beautiful confession harkens back to the Elizabethan language of the 1662 BCP but with slightly updated language. For example, “...we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts” accurately describes my daily journey and I suspect it does for most of us. Too often, I am like a lost sheep walking in error and straying from the path. My own desires and my deceiving of myself lie at the heart of my separation from Christ. I cannot deceive Christ, but I can deceive myself and others. Thus, we confess these things before the Lord and ask for his forgiveness.

But more than that I have indeed “offended” i.e. broken God’s holy law. I have knowingly and unknowingly done those things I should not have done and I have not done the things I should have done. This is reminiscent of St. Paul’s statement in his epistle to the Romans:
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:15-20
“And apart from your grace, there is no health in us.” Archbishop Robert Duncan tells us that this was added to underscore the importance of God's grace at work in all of our lives. As Christians, it is imperative that we recognize the depth of our own depravity that keeps us apart from God. However, with God and through his grace we have become adopted children of the King of Kings and thus princes and princesses. We seek reconciliation and God’s grace in order to help us live into our new identity in Christ Jesus!
And so we cry, “O Lord, have mercy upon us. Spare all those who confess their faults. Restore all those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to all people in Christ Jesus our Lord” in the certainty of God’s love and mercy. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Why do we do this? So that we may live “godly, righteous and sober lives” that glorify God. Which is the very point of a Christian life itself!

What a blessing each morning to come before the Throne of Grace to confess our sins so that we may live lives that glorify God!

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not
to have done;
and apart from your grace, there is no health in us.
O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Spare all those who confess their faults.
Restore all those who are penitent, according to your promises
declared to all people in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may now live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.

I pray you all a very blessed day!