Saturday, December 9, 2017

Advent 2B 2017

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD:
Get you up to a high mountain

Fr. Dale Matson

Mountains are frequently associated with God in the Holy Scriptures. Often it is a pivotal time in the history of God’s people. Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. Abraham took his son Isaac to Mount Moriah intending to sacrifice him. Mt Moriah is also the site of Solomon’s Temple.  Mt Sinai (Horeb) was where God revealed Himself to Moses and where the Ten Commandments were given. It was Mount Nebo where Moses struck the rock to provide water. It was Mount Zion where David built his palace and it was the Mount of Olives where Jesus delivered His sermon and where He was arrested. Mount Tabor is traditionally understood to be the place of His transfiguration. Even one of God’s names, El Shaddai can be translated “God of the Mountain” (NJB).

I was born and raised in Michigan where my family also visited the Porcupine Mountains near Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. As a child, they seemed imposing at about 1,600’ of elevation. In the mid 1960’s a friend of mine Dan McCosh and I drove to California from Michigan in June and I saw mountains, real mountains, for the first time. As we approached Loveland Colorado, The Rockies emerged immediately and abruptly from the plains.  My heart nearly stopped as we anticipated driving over Loveland Pass at nearly 12,000’, my hands immediately began to sweat. There was still considerable snow along the sides of the road as we crossed the Continental Divide. This view of the Rocky Mountains approaching Loveland made such an indelible impression on me that I knew someday I would live in an area where I could view and travel in God’s glorious mountains.
Now, in my twenty fifth year in Fresno CA, when the air is clear I can see much of the central Sierra Nevada Mountains. The mountains offer year-round recreation and I am there once a week. There is no way to describe how my spirit is elevated each time I drive east into the mountains to begin a new adventure with friends or in the company of my Airedales Susie and Duke who change from pets to companions who especially enjoy the winter snow. I also spent four of the best days of my life with my sons as we backpacked a portion of the John Muir Trail together. Hearing them talking together as men around a campfire as I fell asleep in my tent was as beautiful a sound as any waterfall or river.
These mountain places are where I fellowship with God too for it was He who made these things and us also.  It can at times be as intimate an occasion for me as when I proclaim the words of the Great Thanksgiving during the Holy Eucharist.

I am excited to take you with me as I travel to the mountains again in photographs I have taken that bring to mind the words of God.
Click On Slides To Enlarge

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bishop’s Note: December 7, 2017 – Repentance

Bishop Eric Menees

This Sunday is the second Sunday of Advent, and we see John the Baptist come on the scene with these words: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4)

As we look at the marks of a disciple this year, it is obvious to me that a disciple is one who repents!

What makes us Repent? Sometimes it’s because someone tells us that we’ve done wrong and we need to make it right. Sometimes it’s because we feel guilty – we know in our heart that we’ve done something wrong or that we’ve hurt someone. Sometimes we only know that we’ve done wrong – we may not feel guilty, but we know that what we did or said was wrong. But behind all of those things, it is the Holy Spirit convicting us. Some people argue that the feelings of guilt are not godly feelings, but rather negative tapes playing from our childhood. While that may be true to some extent, the Holy Spirit also convicts us and feelings of guilt are the result.  This is a good thing. Do we really want to treat people badly and not feel guilty? Of course not! So, thanks be to God that He calls us to repentance through those feelings of guilt, which can - with reconciliation - be washed away.

What is Repentance? The term “repent” is a mathematical term meaning to make a 180-degree turn. In other words, imagine you are walking away from the Lord. To repent is to STOP, turn around, and walk back. Therefore, if we are walking away from the Lord in thought, word, or deed, then to repent is to stop and turn around and head back to the Lord. Of course, this raises the question: is it enough to simply turn around? NO.  
Repentance requires asking for forgiveness! It is not enough to ignore the rift in a relationship, or even to change our behavior. To leave the hurt unspoken leaves a hole in the relationship. I love the prayer in the Wedding Service that goes: “Give them grace when they hurt each other to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.” Note that the petition does not say “If they hurt each other…” but rather “when.” A few years back, while working with a couple in marital counseling after 35 years of marriage, I heard one of the saddest comments in my life.  First the wife said, “I’ve never said ‘I’m sorry.” This was quickly followed by the husband echoing the comment. Both said it with a combination of anger and pride in their voices. I suspect that both were also scared to death that if they showed that kind of vulnerability, their spouse would use it as a weapon. And so, they live almost as strangers in the same home. Needless to say their children have learned this modeled behavior and also have a difficult time asking for forgiveness.

What does Jesus say about Repentance? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt. 4:17) We repent because, indeed, the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand; Jesus is close at hand. Repentance ultimately leads to reconciliation – but that is for next week’s Bishop’s Note.

I pray you all a blessed Advent!