Friday, January 13, 2017

Bishop’s Note: January 12, 2017 – Wise Men Still Seek Him

Bishop Eric Menees

In San Diego we had a lighted signboard in front of our church, on which we would put pithy sayings; sometimes from scripture, sometimes personal notes (following 9/11 for example), and sometimes just sayings that people would bring into the office. One that jumps out at me was what we’d put up for Epiphany: WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM. What a true statement. It is the wise who continue to seek the Christ, the foolish who abandon the quest, and the evil who oppose those who do seek him.

Of course, this sentiment is not new – we can look back from the beginning of the church and read about the quest for Jesus and the meaning of the Wise Men from the East. Recently I read this from Lancelot Andrews, written in the sixteenth century:

There Came Wise Men from the East

These that came from the East were Gentiles, and that matters to us, for so are we.  We may then look out and if we can see this star, it is ours.  It is the Gentiles' star.  We may set our course by it, to seek and find and worship him as well as they. So we come in, for God has also to the Gentiles set open a door of faith, and that he would do this and call us in, there was some small star-light from the beginning.  This he promised by the Patriarchs, shadowed forth in the figures of the Law, the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Prophets and the Psalms, and it is this day fulfilled.

  These wise men are come who not only in their own names but also in ours make here their entry.  They came and sought after and found and worshiped their Savior and ours, the Savior of the whole world.  A little wicket there was left open before, whereby various Gentiles did come in; now the great gate set wide opens this day for all -- for these here with their camels and dromedaries to enter with all they carry.  Christ is not only for russet cloaks, shepherds and such; but even grandees, those of great states such as these came, and when they came they were welcome to him -- for they were sent for and invited by this star, their star properly.

They came a long journey and they came an uneasy journey.  They came a dangerous journey and they came now, at the worst season of the year.  They delayed not their coming till the opening of the year, till they might have better weather and way and have longer days and so more seasonable and fit to travel in.  So desirous were they to come with the first, and to be there as soon as they possibly might, that they broke through all these difficulties, and behold, they did come.

  And we, what excuse shall we have if we come not? If so short and easy a way we come not, as from our chambers hither? And these wise men never were a whit less wise for so coming; nay, to come to Christ is one of the wisest parts that ever these wise men did.  And if they and we be wise in one Spirit, we will follow the same star, tread the same way, and so come at last whither they they are happily gone before us.

  And how shall we do that? In the old ritual of the Church we find that on the cover of the canister wherein was the sacrament of his Body, there was a star engraven, to show us that now the star leads us thither, to his Body there. So what shall I say now, but according as St John says, and the star and the wise men say Come.  And he whose star it is, and to whom the wise men came, says Come.  And let them that are disposed come and let whosoever desires take the Bread of life, which came down from heaven to Bethlehem, the house of bread. Of which Bread the Church is this day the house, the true Bethlehem, and all the Bethlehem we have now left to come to for the Bread of life -- of that life we hope for in heaven.  And this is our nearest coming that here we can come, till we shall by another coming Come unto him in his heavenly kingdom.  To which he grant we may come, he that came to us in earth that we thereby might come to him and remain with him forever, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, φρονημα σαρκος, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Binding The Strongman

Fr. Dale Matson

“No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will  first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” (Mark 3:27)
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.“ (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
At first glance, it would appear that the two verses are unrelated. In context it is often understood that the first verse is referring to Jesus binding demons that possess people and casting them out. In the second verse cited, however, Paul gloried in his weakness that the God’s power would manifest itself through Paul. In this case Paul was the strong man who was made weak (bound) by God that God’s power would come forth.
The contemporary evangelical preacher Paul Washer stated, “Dear God, If Your kingdom will advance and Your name will be glorified through me being ground to powder then so be it." St. Teresa of Calcutta once said that she wished to drink to the last drop, from the cup of Christ’s suffering.
What is it that these latter two individuals understand about their relationship to Christ? They are connected to Christ through suffering, through loss, through their death to themselves and new life in Him. They are His slaves yoked to Him in all things to advance His agenda and proclaim His Glory. As we say in our Morning Prayer Collect, “To know Him is eternal life, to serve Him is perfect freedom.
I still remember quite well when I walked down the aisle of the church to be baptized as an adult. Satan said to me quite distinctly, “You’re throwing your life away for this Jesus.” Satan is an ironic liar since this was both a lie and the truth. The life I had led was only worth throwing away. My weakness had brought me to baptism. I wanted to drown the old man.
Following that, one of my favorite verses was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But was I really putting on Christ and being transformed by the renewing of my mind or was I wrongly thinking of Christ as an enabler, a means of getting my goals accomplished and my reputation advanced. Who’s glory was I really seeking as I built a professional resume’? Was He just a performance-enhancing drug that one downs like a can of Red Bull?
I am an ordinary person, nothing more, and nothing less, merely adequate. While God helped me to stop killing myself on the installment plan I saw this approach as the road to sanctification. What was missing was the interior work. St. Paul would call this the “Rootedness.” For me it was all “Top Growth”. My interior life remained a mess with ruminations, lack of trust in others in general and God in particular. As I look back, I believe the best way to describe me was a hard ass, self-righteous SOB. My older son told me a few years ago that I had not really changed at all. It was difficult to hear and easy to deny.
And then came the heart issues for me. I recently discovered I had coronary artery disease (CAD). This was not a symptom of poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive weight or even heredity. I had hardening of the arteries because I had a hard heart. I was fearful, angry, impatient, prideful, controlling and condescending. My heart was not a victim of external stressors. My heart was merely reflecting its contents. Just as C.S. Lewis said that a grumbler becomes a grumble. We say in our collect for purity, “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts.” Was I following St. Paul’s godly advice? “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” No, I was not. (Philippians 4:8)
God has bound the strongman and that strongman is me.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bishop’s Note: January 5, 2017 - The 12th Day of Christmas

Bishop Eric Menees

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas and the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany.  Over this short season of Christmas we’ve pondered the meaning of Christmas and God’s awesome decision to take on human nature, in order to redeem human nature. Below is the reflection of St. Bernard of while abbot of Clairvaux.

The Kindness of God Made Manifest in Christ's Humanity

The kindness and humanity of God our Savior has appeared.  Thanks be to God, through whom our consolation overflows in this pilgrimage, in this exile, in this distress.

Before his humanity appeared, his kindness lay concealed.  The latter indeed existed first, because the mercy of the Lord is from eternity.  But how could men know it was so great? It was promised indeed, but not yet experienced: hence many did not believe in it.  The Lord spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets saying I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace and not of affliction.

But what reply did man make, man who felt the affliction and knew nothing of peace?  How long will you keep saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace? Therefore the angels of peace were weeping bitterly saying, Lord who has believed our report? But now let men believe at least their own sight, because the testimonies of God are becoming exceedingly credible. He has set his tabernacle in the sun, so that it cannot escape even an eye that is troubled.

Behold, peace no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed.  Behold, God the Father has sent down to earth as it were a bag filled with his mercy; a bag to be rent open in the passion so that our ransom which it concealed might be poured out; a small bag indeed, but full.  It is indeed a small child who is given to us, but a child in whom dwells ass the fullness of the Godhead.

After the fullness of time had come, there came too the fullness of the Godhead.  He came in the flesh, so that at least he might make himself manifest to our earthly minds, so that when this humanity of his appeared, his kindness might also be acknowledged.  Where the humanity of God appears his kindness can no longer be hidden. In what way indeed could he have better commended his kindness than by assuming my mortal flesh? My flesh, that is, not Adam's, as it was before the fall.

What greater proof could he have given of his mercy than by taking upon himself that which needed mercy?  Where is there such fullness of loving-kindness as in the fact that the Word of God became perishable like the grass for our sakes? Lord, what is man that you make much of him or pay him any heed?

Let man infer from this how much God cares for him.  Let him know from this what God thinks of him, what he feels about him.  Man, do not ask about your own sufferings, but about what he suffered. Learn from what he was made for you, how much he makes of you, so that his kindness may show itself to you from his humanity.

The lesser he has made himself in his humanity, the greater he has shown himself in kindness.  The more he humbles himself on my account, the more powerfully he engages my love.  The kindness and humanity of God our Savior appeared, says the Apostle.  The humanity of God shows the greatness of his kindness, and he who added humanity to the Name of God gave great proof of this kindness.

~Bernard of Clairvaux

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion
VIII. Of the Creeds

The Nicene Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

The original Article given Royal assent in 1571 and reaffirmed in 1662, was entitled "Of the Three Creeds; and began as follows, "The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius's Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed...”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What I Too Easily Took For Granted: ADLs

Dale Matson

One comes to reluctantly accept life’s personal limitations and physical limitations. As family and friends decline and even some, sadly pass on, there is a sense of survivor guilt. My best friend of over fifty years recently died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack.
Whether we admit it or not, we sometimes try and strike a deal with God to perform this or that meaningful deed before our life comes to an end. It reminds me of the actor in The Seventh Seal pleading with death that he still had a contract to perform.
My recent treadmill stress test led to a definitive angiogram, which led to stents in an artery blocked by plaque. The blood thinner (Plavix) “exposed” longstanding but undiagnosed ulcers in my stomach with resultant serious bleeding. This led to another hospitalization with the difficult choice of stopping the Plavix, which keeps blood from clotting in the stents or continuing the Plavix and needing a transfusion with all the risks that entailed. A Gastroenterologist was called in to cauterize the ulcers and I was released with the hope that things were stabilized.
The three days were filled with anxiety, lonely, enforced, seemingly endless and restrictive and that is the point of this account. It is only too easy to take the activities of daily living (ADL) for granted. These ADLs, the ordinary things of life are taken for granted until they are taken away. For example, the chores of brushing one’s teeth or showering at home, when performed in a hospital, become a privilege and can push aside the dehumanization of hospitalization. For convenience and efficiency you are not even processed as a number. Your wrist contains a band with a bar code that is frequently scanned, making you an ‘inventory’ item.
IV lines installed in your wrist and arm to infuse medication limit your movement. All too often a slight arm movement will trigger a loud beep on a machine that needs to be reset by a person not immediately available.
Procedures and protocols dictate treatment as staff moves by endlessly this way and then that way. Doctors of course, are the final arbiters of meds and treatment decisions. They also say when you can leave. Using the bathroom is an advanced stage of treatment along with walking unaccompanied down the hall. Sitting in a chair, standing up, walking make you feel human again. So and so will see you soon but waiting is more like waiting for Godot.
I understand this process and realize that what I experienced was minimal and of short duration. I don’t resent this experience or the well intended staff and treatment I underwent. What is shameful and difficult to express is the anxiety and uncertainty, which dominated my thinking during this time. I should have appreciated and trusted in the many caring brothers and sisters holding me aloft and their prayers for God’s guidance of the treatment efforts. This experience ‘rehumanizes’. It makes me pose the questions once again. “What have I done with this day?” “At the end of this day, if I am granted a tomorrow will I be a good steward of that time?” “Will I appreciate more fully the simple ADLs of daily life daily?
Thank You Lord,
Your unprofitable servant Dale+