Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity
I have a news flash for you. Jesus loves eBay! You know - the online garage sale where you can bid on and buy virtually anything you can think of? Yes, Jesus loves it. Now, to be clear, Jesus is not an avid collector of Star Wars memorabilia or a seller of knock-off Coach purses. No, Jesus loves eBay because Jesus loves a good deal. He's all about the joy that comes from discovering something valuable - possibly priceless - while perusing piles of seemingly ordinary items.

It's the joy that Morace Park, a British antiques dealer, felt after paying $5 for an old film container. Inside he found a never-released seven-minute movie featuring Charlie Chaplin. It was later valued at $60,000.

It's the feeling Philip Gura, an American literature professor, had after paying $481 for a photograph of poet Emily Dickinson. The snapshot is just the second photo of Dickinson known to exist, which makes Gura's discovery priceless.

Kent Devey paid $25 for a used BlackBerry. He later discovered the phone contained the numbers and e-mail addresses of 50 major celebrities, including some Academy Award winners. You can bet someone was willing to pay a pretty penny for that info to be erased or have the phone returned.

Lastly, can you put a price tag on love? Maria Ariz, a nurse from New Jersey, paid $16 on eBay for a pair of jeans. When she wrote the seller to ask about other items, the two fell in love, and have now been married for seven years. Now that's a good deal -- and Jesus loves it!

How do we know? Well, Matthew chapter 13, of course, with its parables about hidden treasures and pearls of great price! A man stumbles across a pile of treasure buried in a field. He's so taken with his discovery, so overwhelmed at its value, that he sells off every other item in his possession to purchase the land and make the treasure his own. You might call it overkill, but Jesus says, "Nope. Heck of a deal."

A merchant who makes his living pushing pearls spends his days scouring the markets for the best of the best. Upon finally finding it, the man mortgages his home and sells his cars on Craigslist all to purchase a single, sparkling pearl. You might think it a waste, but not at all in the eyes of Jesus. For Him, such sacrifice, for such treasure, is well worth the investment.

Jesus is all about the joy that comes from discovering something priceless while perusing the ordinary. In fact, for Jesus, the greatest of such joys, the most magnificent of flea market finds, and unexpected eBay treasures, is none other than the kingdom of heaven. In the parables of Matthew 13, Jesus tells us that the very reign and rule of God, the loving and life-changing activity of God in heaven, has broken into our world and is available now. It's here to be discovered and embraced. Yet, like a Honus Wagner baseball card sitting in a shoebox at some grandmother's garage sale, the kingdom of heaven is found in unassuming places and encountered in unlikely ways. And whatever it costs you to "get" it is well worth it.

So the big question then is this: In what unlikely places do we find God's power and presence? Some think the key to discovering God is in getting mystical and otherworldly. They might espouse some process of escaping the trappings of flesh and world and ascending to some higher plane where God abides. Although quite great in itself, but, that doesn't seem to jibe with Jesus' idea of the kingdom's being uncovered in the ordinary.

Others might argue that the key to connecting with the kingdom is being good enough to gain admittance. You know, help enough old ladies across the street, donate enough money to charity, make a lot of people smile, make very few people cry and when your days are done boom-you're in the kingdom. But that seems at odds with Jesus' own description of the kingdom as treasure being stumbled upon in a field as if it's something freely given. (But, my Facebook friends, don’t stop donating on our link, because there are still millions of souls who need our little ministry we can’t quite reach who could use a church like us!)

No, encountering God, experiencing God's power and being caught up in God's love must be things we can encounter in the ordinary, and access easily.

What about here? Is this the place where we encounter the kingdom? Think about it for a moment. Jesus' ultimate point in the parable is that He was the means by which the kingdom had come to Earth. It was in Him that the love of God, the power of God and a reconciled, right relationship with God could all be received. Christ and His work on the cross are the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. And this is the place where that very same Jesus is to be encountered today. Do you believe that?

Do you believe that when we gather here, in this unassuming place, that the greatest treasure in the history of God's universe is here for the taking? Do you believe that when God's Word is read here, preached here or sung here, that Jesus is speaking here? Do you believe that when you hear, "You are forgiven of that sin," "You're forever a member of God's family" or "Take and eat this bread that is body, take and drink this wine that is blood" that the power and promises of Christ are taking hold in you and doing something miraculous in you?

By sight and sound alone this seems like the last "field" in which you'd find something so special. This place is filled with imperfect people and we preach a message of forgiveness and hope that to an unbelieving world sounds like absolute insanity. We believe in a Christ that is full of mercy, not condemnation. The apostle Paul said as much himself. "...the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Here's another one to wrestle with: What if the work of the kingdom is not only found here but if it is also found in you? Have you thought about that one? If you're a baptized, believing follower of Jesus Christ, then the Scriptures tell us that you are now a living, breathing "field," filled with the priceless treasures of Jesus.

Yes, you with all of your past mistakes and present problems. You're filled with the truth of Christ that can change someone else's eternity. You're filled with the Holy Spirit who's given you the same compassion as Christ and a desire, like Christ, to bless others in need Yes, you're now part of a royal priesthood whose very presence has the power to "...proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

Yes, we as a community and each of us individually as believers are the unlikely, ordinary and easily accessible places where the greatest treasure in the world can be found and encountered. With that realization comes an incredible responsibility. We - you - are the field for the wandering to stumble upon salvation. We are the marketplace of pearls for the seeker to finally find what he's looking for. We are the online auction where a hurting world can bid on trash and receive untold treasure in the form of forgiveness, unlimited and life-unending.

Knowing such things, what is your attitude toward such things? Do you come to this place each week expecting to hear from God himself and have an encounter with the kingdom? Or have you been blinded by the ordinary facade of the same people in the same pews and the same persons standing up front? Are you inviting others to this field to find the treasure in this field? Are you offering others the undeserved compassion of Christ? Are you ready and willing to answer the seeking or bear witness to the wandering about the life-changing truth of Christ?

Maybe you're here as the seeker or the wanderer yourself? Maybe you’re afraid that our little community here is just like other churches that you either found unwelcoming or too condemning? Nope; not here – sorry – we’re different than the norm and proud of it. Christ wants you to bet your life on this – on Him!

One popular show on cable television some time back was A&E's Storage Wars. It follows a group of men and women who make their living bidding on the opportunity to take ownership of unopened, repossessed storage units, in the hopes of finding hidden treasure. Yes, this is a television show. They've discovered everything from coffins and artwork to the world's most valuable comic book collection, all while paying as little as $10 to take it all home.

If you're here as the seeker or the wanderer, then what you need to know is that you have a lot in common with such modern day treasure hunters. Today you're sitting in a place and among people that may not seem like much, but if you'll open yourself up, untold treasure awaits you. The kind of treasure that only God Himself can offer. Yes, it comes at a cost. Taking ownership of all that God has in store for you through Jesus Christ will come at the cost of confessing your brokenness and your need for a savior. It means saying goodbye to a life of wandering. It means living a life of worshiping Jesus. It will mean that your days of searching are done and finding peace in the fact that you've arrived in God's family.

That might sound to you like chump change. It may be asking the world. But what you'll one day realize is that such sacrifice for such treasure is well worth the investment. In fact, you'll learn that it's such a lop-sided steal that it can only be called a gift. It can only be described as grace.

Some years ago, Pastor Mike Ernst of Hales Corners, Wisconsin stumbled across an old Corvette. As a car aficionado he knew he'd found something unique in this early 1960s', rusted and worn-out Chevrolet. Buying it from the college student who was tooling around in it, Ernst took it to his barn and began the slow work of restoration. It soon became clear that this was no ordinary, old Corvette. Some searching on the Internet revealed that Pastor Mike's old clunker was in fact the world famous 1962 Gulf Oil Corvette - a car that won first place 12 times in races at Daytona, Sebring and beyond. When Ernst found the car, he paid $3,000 for it. It was later sold at auction for $1.5 million.

Jesus loves eBay. Our Lord loves a steal of a deal and the joy that comes from discovering something valuable - possibly priceless - while perusing piles of ordinary items. Why? Because He's offering the most incredible item around: Himself. Free of charge.

May this be a place where the treasure of a Christ is easily encountered. May the treasure of Christ be accessible for the world, in you. May you, wanderer and seeker, find this treasure. Use what you've learned. It's not to be found in expected places; and no matter what the price tag seems to be, it is definitely, undeniably worth the cost!
Let us pray.
That the Church throughout the world may act as mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, and civil rights. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
For an end to the culture of death so that the dignity of every human person will be revered. We pray to the Lord.
That God will bless and strengthen all families in faith, hope, and love. We pray to the Lord.
That our parish will be a vibrant community of prayer, evangelization, and charitable action. We pray to the Lord.
That the Lord will be close to the poor, the sick, the dying, the lonely, the marginalized, the unemployed, the addicted, and the homeless. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to devote ourselves to the Word of God in its richness and that we will seek the kingdom of heaven at whatever cost it may be to ourselves. We pray to the Lord.
We continue to ask that the Archangel Raphael, the healing angel, that he visit the family members of our parish who have been deeply ill for the past few weeks. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation. Give us the courage to seek You out no matter the cost. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Hey everyone, Bishop here…. Don’t forget to Like, Share and forward our page! There are so many out there that would benefit from our ministry, and some likes, shares and follows go a long way to help!!


Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity
(Abbot Gentzsch’s birthday!)
Have you ever shaken a bit of dry parmesan cheese from a can onto your spaghetti and meatballs and mused that it kind of looks like (and maybe even tastes like) sawdust, well, it turns out the parmesan cheese you're putting on your spaghetti might not be cheese -- or at least not all of it. Some cheese factories have been busted recently for marketing "100% real cheese" that, in addition to cheese, contains fillers like wood pulp. Yes, instead of parmesan cheese in your mouth, you have a mouthful of sawdust. It's sometimes hard to tell the real from the fake, and in an era of fake news, this is no surprise. 
Jesus reminds us that discerning the real from the phony is a problem when it's people we're talking about. It takes an expert! 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently busted a cheese manufacturer in Pennsylvania for marketing its product as "100% real parmesan" when it actually contained no parmesan at all. In reality, consumers were sprinkling a mixture of imitation cheese and trimmings of other cheaper cheeses like Swiss, white cheddar, Havarti, and mozzarella on their pasta. 

As if that weren't sneaky enough, however, the FDA discovered that Castle Cheese, Inc., was also adding filler material to the cheese, the bulk of which was cellulose -- better known as wood pulp.

To be fair, a lot of cheese manufacturers do use cellulose in their parmesan because it acts effectively to keep the cheese from clumping (and saves consumers from taking the time to grate their own cheese). The problem for Castle Cheese and other corner-cutting manufacturers is the percentage of cellulose they actually use. The cheese industry considers 2 to 4 percent cellulose as an acceptable and safe level, but some of the parmesan you might be buying off the shelf at your local grocery store may contain as much as 8 percent. That's way too much filler (though maybe not enough for discerning cheese experts to detect hints of maple and oak in their tasting). 

The whole business stinks like Limburger and has cheesed off a lot of consumers who only want the real thing.

Of course, this isn't the first time that we've seen potentially harmful or misleading ingredients mixed in with the real thing. "Extra virgin" olive oil is often mixed with not-so-virginal olive oil. Tea might contain lawn grass clippings, or chopped-up fern leaves. (Go online and see the report yourself! Avila, Jim and Serena Marshall. "Group finds more fake ingredients in popular foods." ABC News Website, January 22, 2013.) The FDA is constantly on the lookout for food manufacturers who cut corners. (At least one government agency is [sort-of] doing something productive!) It also does its best to make sure that foods actually contain what their labels say they do -- no more and no less. Sometimes it takes an expert to tell the difference between what's real and what's fake.
Cheese making was a big deal in Jesus' day, so much so that the Jewish historian Josephus named the ravine between Mount Moriah and Mount Zion in Jerusalem the "Valley of the Cheese Makers." But Jesus didn't tell any parables about cheese, probably because none of those cheese makers ever thought about adding wood to their Gouda

However, he did say in the Sermon on the Mount, according to Matthew, "Blessed are the cheesemakers." Oh sorry, that was Monty Python. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." 

The problem of contamination by alien ingredients could not be more serious than the threat it posed to a daily staple: their daily bread. And worse, wheat was one of the most susceptible of the staples of life, and to mess around with it was very serious business. 

When Jesus wanted to illustrate the difficulty of separating those who would be part of the kingdom of heaven from those who would not, he turned to the wheat fields where the difference between the real and the fake (and harmful) ingredients was very subtle and took an expert to discern at the harvest. 

Jesus sets the parable on a large commercial farm of the period, where wheat was the cash crop. It was common during that time for rival landowners to mess with each other's crops in hopes of increasing their own profits at the market -- a problem common enough that Roman law specifically forbade the sowing of poisonous plants in another's field. The poisonous plant in question here is "darnel," a kind of ryegrass that looked like wheat in its early stages and could only be distinguished from it when the heads appeared on the stalk. 

Slaves and field hands normally weeded the fields in the spring before the roots of the darnel became intertwined with the real wheat, but in the story that Jesus tells, a rival enemy snuck into the fields "while everybody was asleep" and intentionally sowed the weeds among the wheat. By the time anyone realized the treachery, the fake wheat had already become entangled with the good stuff, which could lead to disaster for the crop and damage the reputation of the landowner. 

So much of the fake crop was present that the slaves were amazed at its proliferation and wondered from whence it came. After all, the master had focused on sowing only the best seed. The landowner knew that this invasion of noxious weeds didn't happen by accident. "An enemy has done this," he told them. 

The landowner's staff volunteered to head out into the fields and pull up the counterfeit wheat by the root, thinking of themselves as kind of a primitive version of the FDA. But the farmer understood that this had the potential to do more harm than good. The real wheat could be damaged, given the intertwined nature of the roots. It would be better to wait until the harvest when the real experts, the reapers, could separate the real wheat from the fake. 

Actually, it would be fairly easy for the reapers to tell the difference at that point, because darnel doesn't grow as high as wheat when it matures. The harvesters could cut the wheat just below the head and leave the darnel to be cut separately. Even then, the darnel would serve a purpose. In a land where wood was scarce, the weeds would be bundled and used as fuel for actually baking the bread that the real wheat made possible! 

This parable, of course, comes in the midst of a rapid-fire series of stories that Jesus uses to illustrate the nature of the kingdom of heaven. It's interesting, however, that Jesus only gives an explanation to two of the parables: the parable of the sower; and this parable of the wheat and the weeds. In both cases, the explanation is given only to the disciples and only after they ask. 

In the case of the wheat and the weeds, they ask for a specific explanation and Jesus gives them one in private. We might imagine their confusion. Why wait to uproot evil from among us when we have the chance? Why would we not get rid of the harmful ingredients so that our daily ration of the real bread of life might be pure? 

It was tempting for many in Jesus' day to take one of two approaches to the problem of evil in their midst. On the one hand, there were those like the Essenes, who went out into the desert to separate themselves from the culture and set up a "pure" community of faithful people. In their case, the idea was that "the cheese stands alone." On the other hand, there were those like the Pharisees, who saw it as their job to pluck evil by the root by pointing out those individuals who were obviously violating God's law and assigning them to the fire of judgment. 

These approaches are still tempting to disciples of Jesus today. In a post-Christendom age, many want to separate themselves from a culture that is increasingly secular and even hostile to people of faith. They'd rather maintain a pure crop, so they'll wall off the field and watch for interlopers who might sow bad seeds among the faithful wheat. It would be better to create their own culture rather than be corrupted by the evil around them. 

On the other hand, some Christians have taken the role of judge and jury, pointing out the evil in others and rooting it out publicly. 

Both approaches are destructive, however. Communities that try to wall themselves off from the world eventually atrophy in their mission and are not sustainable. The weeds still infiltrate and the sinful nature of humanity is hard to hold at bay. The Essenes eventually died out, as have many other sects that have tried the isolationist approach. 

The Pharisaic approach is equally destructive because it can damage the good seed while rooting out the bad. Many are the people who have been harmed by well-meaning Christians on a moral crusade who have led with judgment rather than grace. What we might see as a deplorable orientation toward evil in another person might actually be an opportunity for God's grace to grow within them and change them. If we consign them to the fire before the harvest, we do more harm than good. It is one thing to point a “general error” among the population, but it is another entirely to point to a specific individual and place yourself as their judge!

The point of the parable seems to be that it takes an expert to know the difference between real and fake ingredients, and that difference is only revealed at the time of the harvest. The harvest is often used as an eschatological metaphor in the Scriptures, the time of final reaping of both good and bad. Jesus warns the disciples that it is only at the harvest that the truth will be revealed about each one of us. Until then, the weeds grow with the wheat and some could go either way. It's not up to us to start acting as a spiritual FDA, but rather to be faithful in our own growth, share grace with our neighbors with whom, for good or ill, our roots are intertwined, and trust in the expertise of the master and his reapers to sort it all out in the end. 

Jesus will actually demonstrate how this works. Notice that he spends much of his time with people whom the righteous might consider to be "weeds" while offering his critique of those who would go charging off into the fields on a moral crusade to uproot evil. Jesus understood that the harvest was "plentiful" but that the workers who would do the right thing and follow his example were "few". The wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest, but in the meantime it is up to the workers to maintain the field, nurture the wheat, and offer transforming grace to even the worst of the weeds. 

Castle Cheese filed for bankruptcy after it was found to be a manufacturer of fake cheese. Its factory stands empty and shuttered because what they claimed to be selling on the outside wasn't actually happening on the inside. 

It's a cautionary tale that Jesus would have certainly embraced. Do our lives reflect the authenticity of a relationship with Christ, or are we harboring our own weed-like tendencies? Are we full of Christ or do we harbor a lot of religious filler that looks and tastes good to the rest of the faithful, but is ultimately not nutritious or satisfying to a world hungry for the gospel?
I think we all could find some ingredients in ourselves that might need to be purged on the inside.
Let us pray.
That the church will be a place of mercy freely given where everyone can feel loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the life of the Gospel. We pray to the Lord. (R. Lord hear our prayer.)
That, in a world torn by strife, God’s people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord. We pray to the Lord.
For refugees and those exiled from their homeland; that they may receive a loving welcome wherever they may go. We pray to the Lord. 
For an increase of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. We pray to the Lord. 
For those burdened by poverty, hardship, oppression, and persecution; that God will rescue them and lift them up. We pray to the Lord.
For our friends and family members who are suffering from various illnesses; that the healing Archangel Raphael will visit them and comfort them. We pray to the Lord.
That those who feel unwelcome, outcast, and have been refused the sacraments in other churches; that they find our humble church and come to us where we strive to welcome all of mankind. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to live by the Spirit of God in every way. We pray to the Lord. 
Loving Father, make us faithful in following Your law of love, and bless us with Your peace and mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Boring sermon week ... :(

July 6, 2014
St. Junipero Serra (Transferred)
Independence Day
Feast – Patron – Diocese – Archdiocese - Veneration – Bishop – Archbishop – Apostle – Liturgical –Province
July 1st was the feast day of St. Junipero Serra. St. Junipero is our patron saint for our diocese – Diocese of the West. Today we celebrate this feast day transferred.
I've just rattled off a few terms some of you are familiar with and some of you may not be. So, today, I thought I would do another “lesson” day as opposed to a sermon. I know you all are just bursting with excitement! Suffice to say, that one might want to know why we have a patron saint over a diocese and how all these other titles seem to relate to one.
First, what is a “feast day” of a saint?
The Catholic Church assigns one date out of the year for each saint — known as the saint’s feast day, or “festival”. The saints are remembered on their individual feast days with special mention, prayers, a scripture reading, and sometimes great events, such animal blessings for St. Francis Day. The feast day is that day where we place special honor and veneration for a specific saint in thanksgiving for their holy lives and for their continued prayers and intercessions to our Lord.
Some saints’ feasts are only celebrated in the particular saint’s town or country. Others are internationally celebrated. Some saints have churches, missions, various forms of organizations, monasteries, convents or dioceses named after them in their honor. Some Bishops may ask a particular saint to watch over their ministry and even include that saint in the bishop’s coat of arms.
Now, what is a Diocese?
Originally the term diocese (Gr. dioikesis) signified management of a household, and later an administration or government in general. This term was used in Roman law to designate the territory dependent for its administration upon a city. During this time, because the Christian bishop generally resided in a city, the territory administered by him, being usually shared with the juridical territory of the city, came to be known by its usual civil term, diocese.
From roughly the Fourth century on, the Church has used a “diocese” as an official form of designating areas of governance by a bishop.
What is a Bishop? Why are they considered the Successors to the Apostles? What is Apostolic Succession?
Bishops generally hold all authority in their designated area or diocese. Most liturgical (Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Orthodox, etc.) churches have some form of hierarchy and hence bishops. They would equate, in comparison to civil jurisdictions, as something similar to mayors or governors. All bishops and archbishops have a formal salutation or “formal” address known as “His Excellency” or “Your Excellency” (Some use “His Grace” or “Your Grace” though less common).
An archdiocese is usually more significant than a diocese mainly due to its geographical size or population. An archdiocese may have or have had importance due to size or historical significance and is thus presided over by an archbishop. The archbishop may have metropolitan authority over other bishops and their dioceses within his ecclesiastical province. Such as Los Angeles or New York are both Archdioceses. An Archbishop’s formal address is the same as that of a bishop.
Or as in our denomination, Archbishop Bekken is our Presiding Bishop. As Presiding Bishop, he automatically ascends to the designation of Archbishop. Unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church, the Presiding Bishop is considered first among equals and has some limited powers to make decisions governing our denomination when required. He works in collegiality with all the bishops, carrying out what the majority of bishops have voted on and thus mandated. He can, and sometimes does, makes decisions as defined by canon when there is an urgent need and all the bishops cannot meet immediately to make the decision needed. Hence, his role would be similar to that of a president of sorts.
Additionally, the Presiding Bishop holds office for a term of four years and can be re-elected. The Presiding Bishop is elected by a majority vote by all the bishops of the denomination. The Presiding Bishop oversees any and all areas not otherwise governed by another bishop. Such as the Province of the United States would be part of his jurisdiction. Any area not governed by another bishop would fall under him and is called a Province. The Presiding Bishop is our Patriarch. His official address is, “Your Beatitude” or “His Beatitude”.
Since I have touched on it, what is Patriarch?
A Patriarch is very simply a bishop who is an Archbishop and holds authority over entire countries or of a specific “Rite” within the church. The Catholic and Orthodox churches all have patriarchs. In our case, the Presiding Bishop “rules” or governs over the entire United States and of a branch of the Liberal Rite churches, of which we belong. In many of these cases, these patriarchs are acknowledged by Rome, but do not submit to their governance.
Bishops are considered the direct successors of the original Apostles. As we know, the Apostles were specifically chosen by our Lord and told to continue to carry out the ministry He started while among them. As we have read in the Scriptures they were given various powers, “gifts” and graces by our Lord and the Holy Spirit came upon them to carry on this work – not all having necessarily the same Powers, “gifts” or graces. As such, they were to carry on in His stead.
As we also know from history and the Scriptures, many of the Apostles traveled to various countries and areas carrying out this continued ministry. They, in turn, to ensure this ministry continued and because the Holy Spirit directed them to so do, they laid hands upon men who were to follow in their path and also continue this same ministry. It was the intent of the Apostles to transfer some of their grace and call down the Holy Spirit upon these new successors to be empowered with the same authority and powers given to them by Jesus himself.
That said, Apostolic Succession is the method in which the ministry of the Catholic Church is held to be derived from the Apostles by a continuous succession through a series of bishops. This series of bishops, each consecrated by other bishops themselves consecrated similarly in a succession going back to the Apostles. One could suppose that every bishop could trace his ordination back to a specific Apostle if one were of the patience to trace it. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic (of which we are part of), Anglican, Moravian, and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this Apostolic succession."
Apostolic succession is also understood as continuity in doctrinal teaching from the time of the Apostles to the present, which in most Catholic churches, this is known as “Tradition” with a capital “T”. This means, we hold that there are matters of faith (beliefs or teachings) that were handed down by the Apostles orally that are not found in the Scriptures, but still support what we read in them.
St. Clement, who was Pope in the years 92 to 99 A.D., explicitly stated that the Apostles appointed bishops as successors and directed that these bishops should in turn appoint their own successors. So, it was the direct will of the Apostles to continue this succession that Jesus started.
Lastly, to simplify – Bishops, like the Apostles, are meant to be spiritual leaders, or spiritual fathers if you will. As we know from Scriptures, Moses was the leader of the Israelites. In a different way, the Prophet Elijah too was a Spiritual leader by virtue of his proclaiming God’s commands to the people of Israel. In essence, God has always chosen leaders of his people, and in a form, this would be the bishops today.
Earlier I said most liturgical churches have some form of hierarchy and hence bishops. Briefly, what is Liturgical?
Liturgical, simply put, is a church like ours. Liturgical churches are those that have a set tradition and set of practices for their form of worship. Meaning, as example, we have the Mass. The Mass is virtually the same year round. It, as you’ve all heard me say at some point, is derived from the ancient Judaic form of worship. If you were to attend a service at a Jewish Synagogue, you would find similarities to our service. As such, to some small degree, we still carry on the ritual as it was handed on to the Jewish peoples by God through Moses. So, we are in keeping with the earliest periods of human existence in some fashion. In comparison, the Rock Church here locally in San Diego, or some other independent churches, do not normally have a set pattern of worship or rituals, which is to say they are not a “Liturgical” church. Their service, in theory could vary from week to week, and ours stays relatively the same.
What is a Saint?
The Christian church as a whole, based on St. Paul’s letters, believes that all believers who are in heaven are “saints”. This was a generic term in Scriptures that St. Paul used to describe various believers, most especially those who have died and thought to be in heaven.
However, what is usually implied in our time when one says “saint” is that of one who it is believed to have led a very holy and devote life before God and His Church. They were those who were exemplary models, extraordinary teachers, wonder workers, sources of benevolent power, intercessors, lived a life often refusing material attachments or comforts and had possession of a special and revelatory relation to God, to name but just a few. They were people, who the church has declared, led a life of great holiness in some fashion and are thus in heaven with Jesus. As examples in more recent times, they would be people such as Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II and Junipero Serra.
The Church declares a person to be a Saint normally after a long and difficult process. Their life is thoroughly examined – anything they wrote, where they worked, any correspondence (if still available) they may have had – every possible facet of their life. The investigation looks to ensure there is nothing found that would be considered evil, scandalous or otherwise in contradiction to Christ’s teachings; and if they lived a heroic life of virtue and holiness; the Church will usually require two proven miracles attributed to their intercession and if these are found, the person is declared a Saint, and thus in heaven with God.  (This is a simplified understanding. We shall go into this deeper in future “Mini Catechisms” we do each Sunday.)
Why are saints important to us and why does the Catholic church hold those declared a Saint in such high esteem?
Saints act as our guides. They can act as our role models. Every saint is known for something. As examples: St. Jude Thaddeus is the Saint of Difficult causes. St. Matthew, the tax collector turned Apostle, is the Saint of bankers and tax collectors. St. Christopher, not only is still a saint, but he has always been the Saint for travelers. (No, the Catholic Church did not “un”saint him. He was simply removed from the calendar of regular feasts. Some dates have too many saints to appropriately honor, so a more current or prevalent saint may now be listed, but certainly older saints may be used and honored.)
What is a Patron?
Most usually, the saint is a patron of something related to their life. When we call a Saint a “patron,” we mean to say they are the protector or guide for something. They can be a patron simply by virtue of being honored for whatever it is they are named a saint of. As an example, as I mentioned a moment ago, St. Matthew was a tax collector who became an Apostle, and is therefore the Patron Saint of bankers and tax collectors.
Thus, because we believe the Saints are truly in heaven before us, we believe they have the “ear of God”, if you will. They are close to God – much closer than we – and are thus able to obtain favors and/or have been given special powers to minister in God’s place in matters on earth. They are not “mini gods” and are NOT worshipped ever. They are still mortal souls who worship God, but due to their proximity to God, are able ask God on our behalf of the needs we may present them. When we say we “pray to a Saint”, we mean to say we ask them to pray with us and obtain a favor for us from God. We believe that the soul of a holy person lives on in heaven; while their body be buried here, their soul lives on.
As you may have heard it explained before …. If as a child you wanted something and you went to one of your parents and he or she said, “No”, what did you do? You went to the other parent hoping they would say, “Yes”. Many times it worked. Sometimes not. However, the principal here is the same. Additionally, we remember Jesus saying in Matthew 18:20 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Hence, because the saints have led holy lives and are in heaven and thus closer to God, we believe that when we pray and ask the Saints to pray with us, thus we have two or three praying even if it is only you and a Saint or two.
Saints are also known as protectors, like the Angels. Due to their holiness and status in heaven, they have the ability to protect and guide those of us on earth. As such, we name a Saint as a patron over a church, or a monastery or even a diocese. The said Patron Saint is believed to look out for this ministry, protect and guide it – most especially in the manner in which the Saint may have done on earth during their life or as prescribed by the assignment dedicated to the Saint by the church.
Lastly, why do we say we “venerate” saints?
Simply put, only God is worthy of being truly worshipped. No person or other created being is worthy of being worshipped; only God deserves worship. However, God indeed wants us to honor the saints, because of their great holiness and faith, in a manner befitting another mortal being. Thus, we “venerate” them. By "venerate” we mean, we given them great honor. We offer up prayers and Masses for the desires of the saints. We light candles before them. We name schools, churches, etc. after them. We give them great honor, but never worship.
As example, we venerate St. Francis by naming him the Patron Saint of our church. We venerate him by having statues and icons of his likeness throughout the church so that others may honor him. Additionally, we use statues and icons so that our eyes can have a visual of who we are asking to pray with us. They act as a way to bring to mind this person, never to worship. These are mere images. We venerate them by trusting in their ability to intercede – to pray – for us and our needs as a church. Like with St. Francis, he will guide us in our ministry much like he carried on his own while still on earth. As a “thank you” for our honor toward him, and because we named our church after him, he looks out for us and intercedes with God on our behalf.
Okay, so now to St. Junipero Serra. Let me give you a brief biography.
He was a Spanish missionary. Born in 1713 on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain. He took the name Junipero when he joined the Franciscan order in 1730. He taught for more than a decade before going to Mexico in 1749.
After working as a missionary in Sierra Gorda and Mexico City, St. Junipero Serra was sent to California. He made the trip by foot despite having terrible sores on his legs. Once he reached California, he established his first mission, San Diego de Alcalá, in 1769. Yes, the one on Mission Gorge Rd here in San Diego. He built eight more missions over the next thirteen years: San Antonio de Padua; San Gabriel, Archangel; San Luis, Obispo de Tolosa; San Juan Capistrano; San Francis de Assisi; and San Buenaventura. He worked tirelessly to maintain the missions and is credited with helping the Spanish establish a presence in California.
The missions were primarily designed to convert the natives. (There has been some controversy to both sides of this, that we do not have time to go into here.) St. Junipero pushed for a system of laws to protect natives from some abuses by Spanish soldiers, whose practices were in conflict with his. Other aims were to integrate the neophytes into Spanish society, and to train them to take over ownership and management of the land. As head of the order in California, St. Junipero not only dealt with church officials, but also with Spanish officials in Mexico City and with the local military officers who commanded the nearby presidios (garrisons).
St. Junipero Serra died in 1784 at Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo located in present-day Carmel, California.
At the creation of this Diocese on the date of my consecration (ordination) as a Bishop, I formally recognized and established Junipero Serra as a Saint and worthy of veneration as the Patron Saint of our Diocese (he was not yet formally recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, so our Diocese would have been the first). The intent was to have St. Junipero intercede on our behalf to help spread the word of Jesus Christ to all. He will help us in our ministry endeavors, in imitation to his own missionary ministry over two centuries ago.
The reason for choosing him is simple. He is a Saint who formed the Missions of the Church here in California. Further, he followed the Church’s direction of ministering to the Native peoples of California and started parishes and thus brought the Church to California. He braved unknown territory and unknown peoples who were not exceptionally trusting of outsiders. He successfully established Mission Parishes in the midst of these unknowns. He willingly traveled from his home country to unknown territories and unselfishly gave his life to spreading the Gospel message. Therefore, if he was able to do this, he most certainly will act as our guide, protector and intercessor in our growth on the West Coast and help in guiding me as its Bishop.
It is especially momentous that the date set as his Feast day for both our Denomination and the Roman Catholics is July 1st, three days from the celebration of the founding of our nation in 1776. St. Junipero Serra, just seven years prior established his first Mission right here in San Diego in 1769. Divine providence? Could be!
May we always look to St. Junipero Serra to be our guide in helping the Diocese of the West grow as a church for all – welcoming all!
Let us pray.
For all those You have called to preach and teach Your Word; sustain them in courage and zeal. We pray to the Lord.
For all those You have called to labor through physical illness; sustain them in patience and hope. We pray to the Lord.
For all those struggling to forgive those who have harmed their loved ones; sustain them in love and humility. We pray to the Lord.
For the Diocese of the West and the Universal Catholic Church to whom You sent St. Junipero Serra; sustain them in holiness, justice and peace. We pray to the Lord.
That on this anniversary of America’s independence we will remain true to our nation’s founding principles and always work for the common good. We pray to the Lord.
That God bless and protect our nation’s armed forces, those serving now, those who have come home, and those who have given their lives in service. We pray to the Lord.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25, 2017
The Second Sunday after Trinity
Today, we are going to talk about sin! Isn’t it exciting? (That was a test to see how many of you would agree!)
Bill Gates took the stage at the 2010 TED Talk session and said that there is no tolerable level of environmentally harmful waste and emissions, and that the human community must "innovate to zero." There's a theological analogy here. Usually, believers think that sin is something that, while not acceptable, is nevertheless inevitable. He called the talk, "Innovating to Zero.” Maybe we need to innovate to zero sin.

In 2010, Bill Gates stood on the TED stage to give one of those famous talks. He spoke not as the co-founder of Microsoft, but as a philanthropist and an innovator. He wanted to motivate some of the best and brightest minds in the world to a particular task.

There are times when zero is a bad number. No one wants to get a zero on a test or performance review. We don't want to see a zero balance in our bank account. We don't want to be stuck in traffic going 0 miles per hour.

Sometimes, however, zero is a great number! Like zero messages in your inbox. Zero payments left on the car loan. Zero balance on a student loan or house mortgage. Zero cancer cells detected. Zero interceptions (if you're a quarterback). Zero mistakes on a quiz, a project or just about anything else.

When we talk about negative things in life, zero is a very attractive number.

On the TED stage that day, Gates shared his dream of finding a way to produce energy for the planet with zero emissions and to eliminate types of waste that is harmful to the environment. Reduction, he said, isn't enough. There are no acceptable, tolerable levels. The goal must be total elimination. We need to innovate to zero, he said.

Soon after his talk, others began to take up this clarion call. Companies are working toward eliminating emissions during production. Take the car industry and our nation's cities, for example. Not only has the auto industry tackled zero emissions; it is also taking on accident fatalities. To achieve zero, it's developing cars with automatic braking and self-driving features. (Just ask me – I have that technology in my car and it was quite unnerving at first!)

As for towns and cities, many are innovating to zero poverty and zero hunger by housing and feeding those in need, and doing it in new and creative ways.

Other such projects exists, such as, zero people without clean drinking water; zero children without access to education; zero cases of preventable illness; zero domestic violence; zero waste; zero crime and zero bullying.

The world would be such a different place if we could eliminate those things that cause harm to ourselves and others.

This includes sin. While the apostle Paul does not use the phrase "innovating to zero" when writing to the Romans, he does say we should be working to eliminate sin from our lives.

Many, however, think differently about sin today. We try to manage it, to control it. We pretend that there is some acceptable, tolerable level of sin allowed within our lives. "We can't be perfect," we tell ourselves. "We're only human." In fact, we don't even like to use the word "sin." Instead we use words like, mistake, misstep, blunder, gaffe, error and so on. Hence, my opening line asking if the topic was exciting.

Sin is a powerful force that sometimes can be difficult to control.  Sin is not just something we do; it's an active and controlling impulse that is deeply rooted in our hearts. In today's epistle text, Paul talks about "the flesh," our sinful selves, and argues that because of this disposition, we'll never be able fully and completely submit to the very high standards expressed in the law set forth from what we understand in the Scriptures.

This means that no matter how hard we try, we cannot control the sin in our lives. This is because our "sin actions" are generated by our "sin nature." To eliminate the former, we must eradicate the latter. Actually, the "sin nature" must be completely replaced with a new nature.

People in Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous know this very well. The first of the 12 steps is to admit to yourself that you are not in control of your addiction. "We admitted we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable," people in recovery say.
The same is true of our sin.
When sin is in our lives, it takes over and we are powerless. Our lives soon become unmanageable. Yet, even when, as children of God, we embrace our "new nature" as new creations in Christ, the old sin nature lurks. We all know this to be true. It's like malware on our hard drive.
The Bible tells us, all sin leads to death. That sounds dramatic, but it is true.

As Gates talked about the environment on the TED stage that day, he told his audience of the effects of harmful emissions on the world. Even when we do not immediately see them, they are still there, doing harm.

He pointed to the irony that those who produce the least amount of harmful emissions feel their effects dramatically, while those who produce the most feel them hardly at all. The environmental changes Gates attributed to carbon dioxide emissions make it difficult for the poorest in the world to grow their food.

"Crops won't grow," Gates says. "There will be too much rain, not enough rain. Things will change in ways that their fragile environment simply can't support."

Sin in our lives also has unintended and destructive consequences. While we are the ones who most often feel the pain of those consequences, sometimes others are deeply affected by our mess-ups. Like family relationships. Our professional life at the office. Our friends. Our life at school or in the classroom. What we do affects other people. Sin can be dangerous.

The conundrum is this: The Bible says that we're sinners, and that to maintain that we are without sin makes us liars (1 John 1:7). On the other hand, Jesus tells us to be perfect "as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

So, what other discipline, what other organization, what other religion ... would tell us that we should work hard to achieve a goal which it also admits is impossible to achieve? That's crazy, isn’t it?

Every year, some of us make New Year's resolutions. The conventional wisdom is that these resolutions should be achievable and measurable. Good advice.

Yet the Bible says that we should be perfect, even though the Bible also says that such perfection is impossible. Like I said, it sounds crazy.

Or is it ... crazy? Maybe not.

If we break down our daily lives into sections, events or relationship transactions, we then understand that if we're mindful and "in the moment," we can act in those moments in a sin-free manner. Imagine some situation. You have a choice in terms of how you're going to respond. In that moment, it is absolutely possible for you to be perfect and sin-free!

From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., let's say, it's possible to live sin-free. In some specific encounter with an employer, employee or co-worker, it's possible to be sin-free.

In truth then, it’s possible in a 16-hour day, therefore, to live sin-free ... i.e. without an unkind thought, or an unkind action. You lived your day one moment at a time, and succeeded every time! You innovated to zero!

Maybe yesterday was not so good. Maybe tomorrow, your sin nature will get the better of you. The miracle is that we have a new nature, and by "practicing," we will find that our "perfect" hours, our "perfect" days, become more frequent.

By honoring our "Spirit" nature rather than what Paul calls our "flesh" nature, we can indeed innovate to zero sin! So, the more we can fill ourselves with the Spirit, the less room there is for the flesh, the sin.
In today’s Gospel reading we read, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
But, before I connect this to the lesson I hope to convey to all of you, let’s look at a couple other passages. From Mark 3:1-6. “He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”
Matthew 22:35-40 “And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘you shall love thy lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ ‘This is the great and foremost commandment. ‘The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”
What is Jesus trying to tell us in these passages? He’s actually giving us the same type of message in each of them, even though some people at that time did not understand what he was saying in each instance.
Jesus continues to challenge the tendency toward legalism. Should we allow laws to inhibit our treating those with sin (or perceived sin) with love? Mercy should prevail at all times. Jesus tells us that those who are burdened by the laws as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees, need to place upon themselves His yoke - for His yoke is easy and the burden light. In place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation (and I say in the modern age - by those conservative interpreters also), Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to His word under which they will find rest. He was saying that few could live a sinless life even unto today, because of the manner of interpretation and implication of the laws as taught by the scribes and Pharisees. They have made them too difficult to follow.
As Liberal Catholics, we don’t look at some things the way some other more conservative churches would. The reason we don’t is because we believe we follow the true message of Christ. Our understanding of Jesus’s message is that the way we treat our fellow man and the way in which we put God first in our lives, is of far more importance than troubling ourselves with the interpretation of the 613 laws as listed in the original Torah. Jesus essentially says that if we love God with all our hearts and our souls with all our minds and if we love our neighbor as ourselves all of these laws are incorporated into those two commandments and we will be worthy as children of God.
To put it another way, each of us lives here in San Diego. Is there any one of us here present who could list every single law as put forth in the city? The state? How about by the United States Legislature? Very doubtful. Yet, each and every one of us is able to carry on with our lives and not be arrested by any of those authorities. How is that possible if we are not aware and following those thousands of laws that are in place from those three agencies? How is it we are not all thrown in jail for some infraction, fore surely we all have broken some law??!!
It is because, like the situations I have read from the Gospels, if we follow Jesus’ direction of the two most important commandments we cannot go wrong. It is the same in our earthly lives and our various government agencies; we know enough of the most important laws, and by following them, we are compliant with them all. Of course, I’ve simplified it, but I am sure you understand. Makes living a sinless life sound easier, doesn’t it?
All we need to help us live less sinful lives is we need to pray for more Jesus. For more of the Spirit.

As we listen to Jesus and walk in the Spirit, we will find that moment by moment, day by day, we can, indeed, be sin-free!

Zero is a great number!
Let us pray.
That all those who are set apart to preach, to teach, or to minister in the church will witness to Jesus Christ fearlessly and without compromise. We pray to the Lord.
That those who govern nations will protect human rights, further the work of justice, and advance the freedom of those in their charge. We pray to the Lord.
For refugees and exiles; that they may be given welcome and hope to find a new home. We pray to the Lord. (R. Lord, hear our prayer.)
For those who are trapped in lives of sin; that the gift of Jesus Christ will free them from their bonds. We pray to the Lord.
For those who struggle with depression, addictions, or mental illness; that the Lord in His kindness will be their constant help. We pray to the Lord.
For grace and wisdom as we begin and structure our new third order, the Knights of Christ and the Temple. We pray to the Lord.
For those members of our parish and for friends and family of our parish members who are ill in body or spirit; we ask that you give them and their caregivers peace, comfort and healing in this time of need. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, we offer You our prayers with ardent faith. Strengthen that faith and keep us true to You. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

June 18, 2017
We're spending less time in the kitchen than ever, certainly not the 30 hours a week that grandma spent toiling over a hot stove. But, we also are spending huge sums on kitchen gadgets that we seldom use. We’re bonkers! Which is also what many of Jesus' listeners said when he started talking about eating and drinking -- his flesh! At this point, they got out of the kitchen fast!

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Apparently, a lot of people are doing just that.

Journalist Megan McArdle, in her article, "The Joy of Not Cooking," reports that the average woman in the 1920s spent about 30 hours a week preparing food and cleaning up. By the 1950s, she was doing this just 20 hours a week. Now, women average about five hours a week in the kitchen. And that's not because men are stepping in to help -- guys give only about 15 minutes a day to kitchen work!

Oddly enough, gourmet kitchens are on the rise at the very same time that people are fleeing the heat. Men and women are spending a ton of money on kitchen equipment that they rarely use.

A Viking stove costs $10,000. A Breville toaster oven runs $250. A Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker retails for $349. And a Shun chef's knife, with its own wooden display stand? $199. This is expensive kitchen equipment, being purchased at a time when more than a quarter of all meals and snacks are being consumed outside the home. Better break out some of those Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons!!

So, what's going on here?

McArdle believes that each expensive kitchen gadget "comes with a vision of yourself doing something warm and inviting: baking bread, rolling your own pasta, slow-cooking a pot roast." Gourmet kitchen equipment promises a warm and wonderful feeling, even if you rarely touch it.

Cooking has become a leisure activity for many Americans, instead of a daily job. And Helen Rosner, the online editor for Saveur, speaks of "the dudification of cooking." Guys are getting into cooking as a leisure pursuit, and buying a lot of high-end equipment for the relatively small amount of time they spend in the kitchen. Dude cookery, says Rosner, is all "fire, blood and knives."
In the gospel of John, Jesus uses a number of kitchen-based images to describe Himself and His mission from God. "I am the living bread that came down from heaven," He says, offering a warm, inviting and nourishing image of himself as the bread of life. But then His language changes: "Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

In a flash, the pleasant image of enjoying fresh-baked bread takes a turn toward the eating of human flesh. We're suddenly in the world of fire, blood and knives.

John has already told us that Jesus is the Word of God in human form, having said that "the Word became flesh and lived among us.” And we know that this Word made flesh was not destined to live a long and happy earthly life, because "just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus is going to have to be lifted up on the cross, sacrificing his own flesh to bring us forgiveness and everlasting life, to which he alluded in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

Living bread. Word made flesh. Lifted on the bloody cross. Given for the life of the world.

In Jesus' kitchen we find God's recipe for everlasting life. But this kitchen gets hot. "The Jews" of our gospel reading begin to dispute among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" When Jesus spoke to them about "living bread," they had a sense of what He was talking about because they remembered the bread from God -- the manna -- that their ancestors had eaten in the wilderness. But his flesh? That didn't make any sense.

"Very truly, I tell you," says Jesus, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” His images have shifted from warm bread to something apparently more sinister. There is no longer any doubt that Jesus is going to have to give His flesh and shed His blood, and that His followers will need to eat and drink His sacrifice. Jesus is giving His whole self to us, and inviting us to eat Him up. Just reading or saying that can make one's skin crawl.
Obviously, and we should stress obviously, Jesus does not mean this in any literal sense of the language. There is no cannibalistic Jewish tradition His listeners would have understood. Thus their confusion. And they were not positioned spiritually to understand Jesus' word on any metaphorical level either. So many people, even some of those who were nominal disciples, left Jesus at this point thinking, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? This guy is nuts!" They left the kitchen.

Clearly, cooking with Jesus is not easy. This is understandable since kitchens have not always been pleasant places to be. In his book The Warmest Room in the House, Steven Gdula writes that kitchens used to be "as close an approximation to hell on Earth as one could find. They were hot, dirty, smelly, dangerous places, and the work done there seemed interminable."

Kitchens used to be hell on Earth. That's why Jesus entered the kitchen and baked the bread of life. Out of such a hell comes the promise of eternal life.
Consuming Jesus is not a leisure pursuit, one that can be done just a few minutes a day. Taking Jesus into ourselves is a full-time challenge, one that transforms us from the inside out. After all, "you are what you eat." "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life," promises Jesus, "and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.”

If we take Jesus into ourselves, we are given eternal life. Don't expect to understand it. Believe it and be grateful.
After so much talk of flesh and blood, Jesus returns to the image of bread. He says about Himself, "This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” In the kitchen of Jesus, the ingredients of bread, flesh and blood all mix together. They form an unexpected meal, one that nourishes us spiritually and fills us with everlasting life.

The challenge for us is to stay close to Jesus, receive His nourishment and do His work in the world. This is not a leisure pursuit, one that can be done off and on. Jesus wants us to remain in the kitchen with Him, even when it gets hot.

We can begin by feasting on the words of Jesus. When Jesus asks the 12 disciples if they wish to go away, Peter answers by saying, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” The words of Jesus remain a source of solid spiritual food for us, whether Jesus is describing Himself as "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), or commanding us to "love one another" (John 13:34).

Since Jesus is the Word of God in human form, we can always be strengthened by what He says to us in the gospels. His words are trustworthy and true, and He remains for us "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).

Next, we can be nourished by communion, the holy meal that includes the bread of life and the cup of salvation. On the night before His death, Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." After supper, he took a cup also, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

Jesus instructs us to eat and drink of the bread and the wine to remember Him, or to honor Him. Receiving communion is an important way of living in Christ, and allowing Him to live in us.

Finally, we can go out to be the body of Christ in the world. Christians who feast on the words of Jesus and nourish themselves with communion become nothing less than the flesh-and-blood presence of Jesus in the world today. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus, whether we are young or old, male or female, white or black, liberal or conservative.

None of this requires a gourmet kitchen, filled with expensive equipment and gadgets. All that we need to do is keep cooking with Jesus, even when things get hot.
(I am changing up the prayer section after the sermon. Some of you are familiar with responsorial prayer, as it is common in some other churches. I want to start using it here also. I am placing it her after the sermon, which does differ in its placement from other churches, however. I decided to do this for a couple of reasons.
First, I want to open up the prayer piece to include more needs than just a long prayer devoted to the topic of the sermon. So, these prayers may only have a small amount of relationship to the sermon.
Second, and I think most importantly, this new form will draw YOU the congregation in more to the prayers and make you active participants in our petitions of our Lord. The Mass is about our worship of the Lord, not solely about the priest’s. So, going forward, feel free to bring to myself or Dc. Koko or Ab. Gentzsch a specific prayer need you may want inserted here, or you may still keep it private and put the need or person in the offering plate for me to offer during the Eucharistic blessing. Your choice.
So, either myself or Deacon Koko will read the petitions one by one (we know how much Abbot Gentzsch likes to read, so we will give him a pass). After each stanza, Dcn. Koko or I will say the words, “We pray to the Lord.” And everyone will respond, “Lord, hear our prayer.” Simple enough, right? Here we go!)
Let us pray.
For the Church, the Body of Christ; that we will deepen our devotion to the Eucharistic sacrifice which gives life to the world. We pray to the Lord.
That the redemptive power of Christ’s Eucharistic sacrifice will extend to the hearts and minds of those who govern. We pray to the Lord.
That Christians will give Gospel witness to what they receive in the most Holy Eucharist. We pray to the Lord.
For a blessing on all fathers on this Father’s day. We pray to the Lord.
For those who live in want; that Jesus the Bread of Life will be their sustenance, and that we will bring the mercy of Christ to all those in need. We pray to the lord.
For the families and the missing people from London’s tower fire; that the Lord will send the Holy Spirit as comfort in this time anguish. We pray to the Lord.
Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 11, 2017
Trinity Sunday
Sometimes, we are exposed to various things and or have used them for years, but never really know why we do or what they really are. One lady had a collection of vintage kitchen utensils which included one whose purpose was always a mystery. It looks like a cross between a metal slotted spoon and a spatula, so she used it as both. When it was not in use, it was prominently displayed in a decorative utensil caddy in her kitchen. The mystery of the spoon/spatula was recently resolved for her when she went to a rummage sale and saw another one in its original packaging. It was a pooper-scooper. 
Today I thought I would focus on some biblical original packaging or “proofs” of the Trinity. Granted, the word “Trinity” is not in the bible, but neither is “Incarnation” and a few otherwords used to describe Catholic doctrine, but we believe those truths. Even though the word “Trinity” is not in the bible, I wantto show that the doctrine is. So, let’s explore a little. We use the Trinity frequently and even keep Him/Her prominently displayed, but we don’t know where the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity came from.
Some would say that Jesus Christ is not God and that the Holy Spirit is not a person. Other groups believe that Jesus is God, but they believe that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are different modes of the same person.
The Bible teaches that within the nature of the one true God, there exists three separate and distinct persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are co-equal in nature and co-eternal. The Trinity doctrine is NOT three gods in one. All through the Old Testament and many times in the New, we clearly see there is but one true God; but, nowhere in the Bible does it say that this God that we call the true God, that Christians worship and serve, is just the Father, or a single person known as the Father.
It is difficult to describe the Holy Trinity and no analogy is a perfect example, because the doctrine of the Trinity is a paradox – mystery of faith. However, is one many of you have probably heard – one reasonably good way to illustrate the Trinity doctrine that would be with H2O, which is common water-two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. You can freeze H2O and you would have water solid, or ice. You can turn on your faucet and you would have the liquid H2O. You can hear the whistle of H2O that comes out of the tea kettle spout which is steam, but it would still be H2O. H2O can and does exist in solid, liquid and gas. The solid is not the liquid; the liquid is not the gas; and yet all three are of one nature: H2O. And that is exactly how it is with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Father is not the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is not the Holy Spirit, yet all three persons are ONE God.
Genesis, chapter 1 verse 26:
   "Then [Elohim (Hebrew)God said, ‘Let us [notice that plural pronoun] make man in our [there's a plural word again] image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'" We see the plural pronoun us and also the plural word ourOur image and ourlikeness.
In the book of Daniel 7:13-14, a plurality in God is again shown.
   "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
The New International Version reads, "worshiped him." The King James Version of the Bible states that they served him.The word in the Hebrew is worshiped. They worshiped the one that's called Son of Man. And this is Jesus. So not only is the Ancient of Days worshiped, we see that there is someone else that's separate and distinct from the Ancient of Days, according to these two verses that is likewise worshiped.Therefore, there must be plurality in God. There has to be, because only the True and the Living God of the Bible can be worshiped. To worship anything or anyone else would be idolatry. We must remember that much of the bible was written by devote Jews, who only “worshipped” the One True God. 
Deut. 6:4 is a verse that some will bring up to you in their effort to disprove the doctrine of the Trinity, but you can turn the tables on them and show just the opposite. That verse reads:"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [there's that word Elohim again], the LORD is one." 
So, here we find out that Elohim is one. Now this is a very important thing to listen to, because this word one shows compound unity. Echod is the Hebrew word. This word one as used is compound unity. As an example, in Gen. 2:24 there is a verse that certainly most of us are acquainted with: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." 
There's the compound unity. The same exact thing that Elohimis, compound unity, husband and wife become - “one.
Are all three persons defined in the Trinity doctrine really a person? The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So, the next thing we need to do is to define exactly what is meant by a person. A person possesses intellectemotion and will. The Father possesses intellect, He possesses emotion and He possesses will. And so does the Son, and so do all of us. And the Holy Spirit, like it or not, is indeed a person as is the Father and the Son. 
The Holy Spirit has an intellect. Jn. 14:26 reads: "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." 
For someone to teach, they must possess intellect. So if the Holy Spirit teaches, He has an intellect. And it's also shown that the Holy Spirit does teach in other verses as well such as 1 Cor. 2:13 and Neh. 9:20.
The Holy Spirit has emotion. In Rom. 15:30 Paul is writing and he said to the church at Rome: "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me." 
So he referred to the love of the Spirit. Love is an emotion, and the Holy Spirit has love. Therefore, the Holy Spirit has an emotion. 
The third and final point that the Holy Spirit is a person is the fact that he has a will. And that's shown in 1 Cor. 12:11: "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
So the Holy Spirit has intellect, He has emotion, and He has will, just like the Father and just like the Son. And not only that, there are other indications that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person.
Let me cite a few other facts regarding the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides, He speaks and He hears (Jn. 16:13). The Holy Spirit intercedes (Rom. 8:26). The Holy Spirit forbids certain actions (Acts 16:6-7). The Holy Spirit sends into service (Acts 13:4). The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph. 4:30). The Holy Spirit may be blasphemed (Mt. 12:31). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3). The Holy Spirit can be insulted or outraged (Heb. 10:29). And the Holy Spirit can be resisted (Acts 7:51). These are all traits of a person. And again, we see from all these verses that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person as is the Father and the Son.
In Acts 13:1, 2: "In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" Here we see the personal pronoun I. So this again shows that the Holy Spirit is not merely an active force, but instead a person.
In Acts 5:3, 4 we read this: "Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.'" Verse 3 says he lied to the Holy Spirit. Verse 4 says he lied to God. Therefore the Holy Spirit must be God.
In Exodus 17:2, 7 we read: "So they quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.' Moses replied, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD [that is, Elohim] to the test?' " ... "And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD [that is, Elohim] saying, ‘Is the LORD [or is Elohimamong us or not?' "
In Hebrews 3:9 the Holy Spirit is speaking and says, "where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did." So the Holy Spirit is the one they tested, but Exodus 17 says it was Elohim. So the Holy Spirit must be Elohim.
A second comparison is found in Jeremiah chapter 31:31-34. This is an Old Testament prophecy about the New Covenant, or the New Testament: " ‘The time is coming,' declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,' declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the LORD," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.' "
This is a prophecy in the Old Testament regarding the covenant that we're now under. Hebrews chapter 10:15-17 is where we need to go now. The Holy Spirit is speaking again: "The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.' Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.' "
1 Corinthians 2:10-11 teach that the Holy Spirit is all-knowing. He knows everything: "but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."
So how do you go about showing that Jesus is God? In John 20:28, we find out where one of the Apostles called Jesus his Lord and his God. He did not just call Jesus his Lord, but also called Jesus his God. His name was Thomas, one of the original Twelve. Thomas called him God, and believed that Jesus was his God. Now he's a strict monotheistic Jew. He believed in only one God, and yet he thought that Jesus was his God.
Other verses show that Jesus is called God. If you compare Jn. 1:1 with verse 14 of the same chapter, you would find out that Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In Rev. 1:17-18 Jesus identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega. He said to John: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." 
In Rev. 22:13. There Jesus said: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
The only rational thing to conclude is that the Bible teaches the Trinity doctrine even though the word itself is not found in the Bible. 
The Bible teaches that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:15 and Acts 13:30 and Gal. 1:1). And would you believe that elsewhere in the New Testament, we read that it was the Son who raised himself from the dead (John 2:19-22; 10:17, 18). And finally, it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). So how could it say the Father raised him, the Son raised himself, and the Holy Spirit raised the Son, unless the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the one true God by nature?
Is there a point in time in the Bible when all three appear individually at once? At Jesus' baptism, Jesus was there. The Holy Spirit in dove form was there. And the Father was there when He spoke from heaven.
You can say, that if the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit all have the same attributes of each other, that if it says that God did it, then the three are the one GodFor example, in Isaiah 44:24, and also in Job 9:8, it says God alone created the universe. But yet we have Isaiah 64:8 that says the Father created. Jn. 1:3, Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2 and Rev. 3:14 says the Son created. It also says the Holy Spirit created (Job 26:13 and Job 33:4). So you have Father, Son and Holy Spirit all active and participating in the creation. 
There you have it; all the bible references you ever wanted to argue with your next door neighbor on. All from the monotheistic Hebrew and Christian Bible. 
Let us pray.
Father God, we ask that You help our finite minds to better comprehend Your blessed Trinity. We ask that the preaching and teaching of the Church will bless all with the desire to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity. 
Father, You have revealed Your innermost secret – the eternal exchange of Love found in Your three persons, and You have destined each of us to share in that love. We ask that You bless our parish with this love and in so doing, that we may be made a more perfect likeness of the Blessed Trinity. 
We further ask that people everywhere will have an unfailing respect for all persons, from conception to death, for we all were created in the image of the Trinity. For those, dear Lord, who do not have faith, we ask that the love of the Blessed Trinity will awaken their minds and give hope to their hearts. 
Lastly, grant us each Your grace this week to live each moment consciously united to God in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.