Friday, February 16, 2018

Bishop’s Note: February 16, 2018 – Invitation to a Holy Lent

Bishop Eric Menees

Two days ago, Anglicans around the Diocese of San Joaquin gathered for worship on the day known as Ash Wednesday. This is a particularly poignant service where we are reminded of our sinful nature and of our own mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  I am always profoundly moved by this service, and count myself blessed to look into the faces of penitent men, women, boys, and girls as I dip my thumb in the bowl of ashes and make the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

I pray that this season of self-sacrifice, repentance, service, and grace will be a blessed one for all of you.  I leave you with the words that began Wednesday’s service:

“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.  This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.  It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. In this manner, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need that all Christians continually have to renew our repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and alms-giving; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

And to make a right beginning, let us now pray for grace, that we may faithfully keep this Lent.”  (ACNA BCP 2019 – Ash Wednesday Liturgy)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bishop’s Note: February 8, 2018 – An Attitude of Gratitude

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday’s gospel lesson, from the Gospel of Mark chapter 1 verses 29-39, are some of my favorite scriptures.  The story of Jesus’ healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law gives a wonderful snapshot into the life of Jesus and his disciples.

It’s Saturday afternoon; Sabbath services are just ending, and Simon Peter has invited his brother Andrew, Jesus, James, and John to supper at his house. Simon Peter has gone on ahead to make preparations, but he has discovered that his mother-in-law, whom he hoped would make dinner, is lying ill in bed with a fever. Simon Peter meets Jesus at the front door – apologetic about supper not being ready, and probably suggesting another alternative. But Jesus will have none of that; he asked to see the ill woman. Simon Peter leads Jesus back to his mother-in-law. Jesus leans down and takes the woman’s hand in his. Immediately, the fever leaves her, she rises, washes her hands, and begins to prepare the Sabbath supper.

Jesus’ compassion is without bounds! He demonstrates this compassion to Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and to Simon Peter and his wife. As Christians, we expect to see Jesus heal the sick, but what I love to see is the mother-in-law’s response. She rises and immediately begins to serve Jesus. Now, Jesus didn’t heal her in order to get supper cooked, and she didn’t serve out of social habit. She responded out of gratitude. Gratitude for her healing; gratitude for the visit of such a holy man coming to her home; and gratitude for Jesus’ special attention paid to her son-in-law.

This year we are examining the behaviors and attitudes of disciples of Jesus Christ. Gratitude is both an attitude and a fruit of the character of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

As we enter into the season of Lent, I invite you to ponder the sacrifice that Jesus made on your behalf, and the response that sacrifice has elicited with in you.

During the season of Lent we often practice the virtue of self-sacrifice, and I encourage you to do so this Lent as well. But in addition, I would like to invite you to consider acts of kindness and gratitude, as demonstrations of your attitude of gratitude.

I pray you all a very blessed Lent!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Bishop’s Note: February 01, 2018 – Remembering

Bishop Eric Menees

Tomorrow, February 2nd is an important date in the Christian calendar, but a date that often goes forgotten. Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord; though in all fairness this feast has many names: The Feast of Lights; Candle Mass; The Purification of St. Mary - all of which speak to light, and joy, and faithfulness.

The service will begin with the opening collect, which will go something like this: “Almighty and ever-loving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

With this feast we remember that Jesus is the light of the world, and so we bring our candles to be lights to ward off the darkness in every way conceivable. And this feast commemorates the faithfulness of the Holy Family. On the fortieth day after birth, the family is to present their first born male to the Lord: “As it is written in the law of the Lord; “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” (Luke 2:23) At this same ceremony, the mother of the child would go through a “mitzvah” bath – a cleansing that would allow her to enter the Temple again for worship and the offering of sacrifices.

On this day – forty days after Jesus’ birth – Mary and Joseph humbly and obediently went to the Temple to present their first born to God.  Little did they know that Simeon the prophet would be present in the Temple. Simeon, who had waited his entire life to see the savior, had his prayers answered as he laid his eyes upon Jesus. Simeon knew instinctively that this child was the promised savior of the world. Simeon responded in song: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

The prophetess Anna also took this opportunity to “give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

Why is this Feast of the Presentation so important? Because with the Feast of the Presentation, we are reminded that a disciple is faithful to the Word of God and the Traditions of the Church. The Holy Family were faithful to the Word of God in presenting their son to God and completing Mary’s ritual cleansing. St. Simeon was faithful in believing the promise of God to deliver His people by sending forth His light through His Anointed One, who is none other than Jesus Christ.

I pray that tomorrow you will take the time to remember the faithfulness of the Holy Family, Simeon, and Anna by saying a prayer, reading the Word, and lighting a candle.

A very blessed week to you all!

(Note: sorry for the late posting. I was out of town. Dale+)