Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pentecost Sunday

My Friends,
Readings: Acts 2:1-11 , 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13,John 20:19-23

Today’s feast marks a beginning, the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of fiery tongues on our Lady and the apostles. The same Spirit who hovered over the waters of creation in the beginning now brings to birth a renewed humanity, a new creation, a new beginning.


But Pentecost is not only a fresh start for the human race – it is also an end, an end in the sense of completion, of bringing to completion the paschal mystery, the very goal of Christ’s saving death and resurrection. Pentecost is a unique event in a unique history, when the Spirit came down on the Church in a way he had never done before, and in a way that he has never done in quite the same way since. And the Spirit came down, once and for all, to bring Christ’s paschal mystery to completion and to begin the calling of a new humanity, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, into a single body, a single Church, in praise of a single God, the Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier of us all.


This Pentecost provides a solution to many puzzles. One of these is forgiveness, which we heard mentioned in today’s Gospel. Forgiveness can be a puzzle to us. Sometimes it seems so difficult, so impossible to remit sins, in the face of horrendous crimes. It can be difficult to see how we can have the right to forgive, in the face of evil. And yet we cannot put limits on the forgiveness of God, and it is our Christian experience that when forgiveness seems so difficult on our part, so impossible, we can nevertheless forgive through God’s power, through a share in his unlimited capacity for reconciliation. The solution lies in the mystery of Pentecost where the Spirit brings this power to us, makes this capacity real within us.


Another puzzle about forgiveness is why we need to receive it in the here and now, again and again, if God has already given it to us. If God has forgiven all our sins through the cross of Christ, and declared us just through raising him from the dead, why should we need to get baptised for the forgiveness of our sins? Why should we need to go to confession, to do penance, to seek God’s forgiveness in all the other ways that make up our Christian life? If God has already forgiven us through the Cross, why should anything else be necessary, especially anything done on our part?


Again, it is the mystery of Pentecost that provides the solution. Because it is through the gift of the Spirit that what Christ has done for us is made a reality within us. What Christ has done for us is now done in us, through the giving of the Spirit to us by Christ himself. His Spirit meets us deep within us to connect us to the reality of his saving death for the forgiveness of sins, to connect us to the reality of his resurrection that promises us new life.


This is why Pentecost is both an end and a beginning. It is an end because it is the completion of Christ’s saving work, because it brings the risen Christ into our hearts breathing his forgiveness throughout our whole being, making what Christ has done for us on the cross something now done within us. And that is why Pentecost is also a beginning. It brings to completion the work of Christ for us precisely by making it a new beginning in us. The end of the paschal mystery is the very fact that a new life is begun in the world, the life of the Church, the Christian life of forgiveness, of the sacraments, of our turning to God, of mutual reconciliation in Christ, unity for every tribe and tongue and people and nation.


For all of us, a new beginning is sometimes necessary, to be honest about the past and at the same time to draw a line behind it and move on. Because failure and struggle also mark our Christian lives. For none of us is the Christian life a smooth progression from baptism to heaven. All of us live in a world marked by sin, but also a world marked by grace –where sin abounds, the grace of the Holy Spirit abounds all the more. To some extent each of us needs to begin each day anew, as though it were the first day of our Christian lives.


But today’s feast celebrates a unique event. We, the Church, for all our failings, need no new Pentecost, and we do not need Christ to die all over again. The value of his saving death is unlimited, he lives forever, and the same Spirit of Pentecost can come into our hearts over again and over again as we make our way through this life. His forgiveness can be limited only from our side, if we refuse his generosity. But the gift he has given us at Pentecost is always sufficient for our renewal, if only we are ready to receive his gift again, and spread his forgiveness and message of reconciliation throughout the world. So let us pray that the Spirit of Christ will renew our hearts today, and continue to fill the whole world with the love and power of God.



Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province,
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia

Monday, May 25, 2020

Sunday after the Ascension 24 May 2020

My Friends,

The Epistle
1 St. Peter iv. 7.

THE end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

The Epistle from Blessed Saint Peter could not be more appropriate for the times we live then anything else. Global warming is making life on this planet in the years to come, that is we don't do anything about it, absolutely impossible. Here is in Australia we have had the most horrendous bushfires ever, from which the nation still not has recovered. Now we are surrounded by the COVID-19 Virus and the outlook for the world is not good. There is nowhere to run to anymore. Amongst many countries, which persecute followers of Jesus Christ, China and North Korea are the worst offenders and then there is the story of Hong Kong.

Some months ago we were observing Advent,  the birth of Jesus Christ, but also His coming again on the clouds of Heaven. In the Holy Gospel on the second Sunday of Advent from Saint Luke 21 beginning at verse 25 Jesus talks about signs in the stars and the moon and upon the earth distress of nations - and when these things come to pass then lift up your head as your redemption draws near.
I am and you no doubt  well aware that 100 years ago times were bad too, but when you look at all the signs we are experiencing now things are different.

The question on my mind now is how we can follow the advice of the Apostle Peter, that is to have fervent charity and to offer hospitality to one another and use our gifts
as being good stewards of the manifold Grace of God. In other words while most of mankind is having such a horrible time, how can we make the burden for them lighter and how can we preach Christ Crucified?

This Sunday's Gospel gives us a good answer, it comes from Saint John 15, beginning at the 26th verse. Jesus promises us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Through the power of this Holy Spirit we can continue the rest of our journey through this barren land, coming soon to the promised land of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ,
doing His Work on the way.  

Have a blessed week,

Fr Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia


Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Ascension of our Lord

My Friends,
Readings: Acts 1:1-11 ,  Eph 1:17-23 ,  Mt 28:16-20

It’s a commonplace of Ascension sermons to talk about the fact that artists have often stressed the physicality of the Ascension in their paintings and sculptures. Painters often painted the footprints left on the earth by the ascending Lord. My favourite work in this genre is the Ascension chapel in the Anglican Church in Walsingham, which has our Lord’s feet poking through the ceiling of the chapel!
I guess people stressed the reality, the physicality, of the Ascension partly because the story is so full of meaning that the temptation was to say, “This is too full of meaning, of symbolism, to be real – it’s just a story.” Or, in a related vein, to say, “Jesus had died. He was a spirit. It wasn’t a physical body which rose from the earth.” If that is what those artists wanted to deny, I am completely in agreement with them. Both of those temptations lead us away from the truth.

But Christians get to eat their cake and have it too. If God is Creator, if every detail of human history can be used by God to tell his story, then we can assert that the Ascension really happened and happened to a real human being, and yet it has a profound meaning. Of course, that still leaves us needing to explain that meaning.

 Herbert McCabe, in an Easter sermon, said that while priests talk in the Eucharistic Prayer about Christ’s “wonderous Resurrection [pause] and Ascension into Heaven” it might be instructive if occasionally they said instead “wonderous Resurrection and Ascension [pause] into Heaven”. His point is that the Resurrection, like the Ascension, is into Heaven, or if you like, part of the meaning of the Ascension is to show us that the Resurrection is into Heaven

 The idea is that the Resurrection is not just a return to the kind of life we have now, life in this world. It is the beginning of a new world, a human bodily life in the Kingdom of God. Christ rose from the dead into Heaven, into God, so that as representative of humankind, he might share in the life of God, and so that in him, we should share the life of God. The Ascension, in addition to being a real event in the life of Christ, underlines for us this way in which the Resurrection is into Heaven, and encourages us to hope that where Christ our head has gone, we, his body the Church, will also follow.

 There is a very interesting video on the internet by Russell Brand in which he discusses the fact that this pandemic has many people turning to prayer, some for the first time in their lives. He talks about our physical, sense-based experience which, “on some level we know is not enough.”

One particularly bad reply to this would be to say, “Yes, Russell. There is more than this. There is an afterlife.” Christians do not simply hope for an afterlife if by that you mean that some part of us (our soul perhaps) will go on after death. We aren’t souls. All the greatest parts of life involve our bodily presence to each other. That’s one of the reasons social distancing is so hard. Our full life is bodily life. Like those artists I talked about at the start, we want to insist that when we rise into Heaven, our feet will leave footprints on the earth. But also, we look forward, not to an “afterlife” but to real life, indeed a greater and more intense and more joyful life than we have ever lived here on earth.

 We hope to be resurrected into life, into Heaven, to join Jesus in his life with the Father. The risen life isn’t just a new kind of life, like this one, only without the misery and pain, without sickness and death. It is a new creation, a new beginning entirely, a new creation built upon the risen-and-ascended life of Christ with God. Even in this life, by Baptism, we die to sin and rise to this new and profound kind of life and one day, God willing, that life will flower perfectly into our life with Christ in God. That is the meaning, that is the hope, of the Ascension.

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province,
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia



Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Fifth Sunday after Easter - Sunday 17 May 2020

My Friends,
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17  .   1 Pt 3:15-18  . Jn 14:15-21

So, we are well into Eastertide; and what an Easter it has been. Severe restrictions on movement, no possibility to gather to receive the sacraments and all the while feeling the distress and anxiety the threat of pandemic causes. There are many of us too that in this time have suffered the darkness of sickness and death, in contrast to the message of life that Easter brings.
 Lent concluded in this desert experience. Yet the light of Easter did not bring an end to the Fast. It may, however, bring a new perspective of hope.

 In the second half of Eastertide we are encouraged to turn towards the season’s culmination in Pentecost by thinking of the Holy Spirit. But, just as this year we continue to feel the Lenten desert in Easter, as we reflect on the Spirit the lectionary offers us Jesus’s words before he goes to his death.

 So, we are to consider our risen lives in the Spirit through Jesus’s last teaching to the disciples before going to his crucifixion, from his address at the Last Supper. Placing these words in Eastertide invites us to see this teaching in the light of the resurrection. It is in the contrast between darkness and light that we learn what power the light truly has, which is an important theme in St John’s Gospel (Jn 1:6-9; 3:19-21).

 Just as light and darkness are motifs in John, so referring to the Spirit as Paraclete is unique to this Gospel. Paraclete is a rich term that at its root, means ‘called alongside’. Hence, Paraclete includes meanings such as Counsellor, Advocate, Mediator, Helper, or Comforter. In other words, a friend that we could all do with right now.

 Certainly a friend that the disciples, on the brink of seeing their Lord crucified, their hopes crushed and themselves scattered, will need if they are to experience and transmit the light of the resurrection to all humanity.

 Importantly, Jesus’s promised friend is like him: he is to be ‘another paraclete (counsellor, advocate, mediator, helper, comforter)’ and in fact John refers to Jesus as a paraclete in his first letter (1 Jn 2:1). This Spirit is to be another friend, just as Jesus has been.

‘You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father’ (Jn 15:14-15).

 This type of friendship, one of a dynamic of instruction and growth in knowledge of God, is also how Jesus characterizes the ‘Spirit of Truth’, because the presence of this friend ensures that we are not left as ‘orphans’ (14:18).

 This expression is how disciples that have no instructor are described: so, we are not to be left without a Master, without a Lord, for the Spirit ensures that we remember Christ’s teaching (14:25-26). The Spirit guarantees that the Lordship of Christ endures for all who respond to his salvation.

 So, the Spirit is a most needed friend and also one who allows the teaching and saving Lordship of Jesus to remain with his followers.

 But finally, the Spirit’s presence allows all of us to see and know Jesus and experience his love and friendship.
‘Those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ (14:21)


 This is the most intimate role of the Spirit: he enables Jesus to show himself to the believer, just as he appeared personally present to the disciples after his resurrection. This is how we can know what the empty tomb means in apparent contrast to the incomprehension of Peter and the beloved disciple, ‘for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead’ (20:9).

 The knowledge of God’s saving work by raising his Son is given to anyone who, across space and across time, loves Jesus. And, it is brought about by the Spirit, who ‘helps us in our weakness’ (Rom 8:26).

 In this moment, when we need a light in the darkness and a friend when we cannot reach out and hold our loved ones, remember that the Spirit who ‘remains with and in you’ (Jn 14:17) is comforter, counsellor, and friend.

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province,
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston on Tasmania
Australia

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Fourth Sunday after Easter

My Friends,
Saint John 16 v 16
“Because I go to the Father”
 
There is a lyrical and, indeed, a mystical quality to these last three Sundays of Eastertide.  It is captured in a recurring refrain: “Because I go to the Father”.  The understanding of the Resurrection is concentrated in the simple eloquence of this line.  Even more, the understanding of God himself in his self-revelation is concentrated for us in such a line. “Because I go to the Father”.
 
It is the recurring refrain in what is known as the farewell discourse of Jesus to the disciples in John’s Gospel. It portends the events of the crucifixion but as seen in the greater light of the Resurrection and Ascension; that is to say, the crucifixion as belonging to the glorification of Christ.  The phrase suggests, in short, something of the fundamental identity of Jesus Christ and something of his purpose for us. “Because I go to the Father” underscores with even greater intensity that the Word which was in the beginning with God is ever προς τον θεον, that is to say, ever in motion towards God who is now known as the Father, even as Jesus is the Son.
 
It expresses the dynamic relationship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit to which everything else is related. In other words, everything is to be understood in terms of the primacy of this spiritual relationship. And it is the condition of our spiritual freedom and spiritual identity that we enter into this understanding. “Because I go to the Father”, the Holy Spirit will come and teach you and lead you into all truth and, perhaps, most importantly, “will bring to your remembrance all the words which I have spoken to you”. It is the condition of his being with us through his going from us. “A little while and you shall see me no longer”.
 
And what does it mean for us?  It means transformation and joy.  We enter into the process of our transformation: to become what we behold in Christ Jesus.  There is at once the renewing of our minds in the holy things of God and the increasing attainment of a whole new outlook.
 
Perhaps, the simple point of this transformation is best illustrated from one of the lessons of the Resurrection itself: the story of Mary Magdalene.  She comes early and weeping to the tomb, looking for the dead body of her Lord.  She has come for the anointing.  Her deep attachment to Christ is focused on the body, on the tangible form of Christ.  What is not expected is not looked for and so is not immediately recognised; it is at first simply communicated and then comes the slow dawning of her understanding of what is revealed in the Risen Christ who calls her by name.  Her understanding means the transformation of her relationship with Christ.  It will no longer be tangible, immediate and sensual, as it were (by which I do not mean sexual!).  It will be primarily and profoundly spiritual.
 
Noli me tangere!  Jesus tells her.  Do not touch me.  Do not hold onto me in the sense of do not be clinging to me physically, sensually, as in “through the senses”.  Why?  Because of the profounder meaning of his identity as the Son of the Father which he has come to draw us into as well.  “For I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.  See - his Father is now our Father.  Such is the primary orientation of his whole being.  The Son is ever towards the Father.  And such is the condition of our spiritual fellowship with him and with one another.  Notice how Mary is sprung out of the early morning loneliness of her grief and set into motion towards the community of faith.  She is the original apostolic bearer of the good news of the Resurrection to the brethren, apostle apostolorum.
 
But does this mean the repudiation of the sensual, of the body?  By no means.  It is rather part and parcel of its redemption.  Through the sensuality of the body, Christ has made a way for us to the intimacy of the Father, my father and your father.  “Because I go to the Father” signals the intimacy of spiritual fellowship.
 
It is a matter of maturity - of Mary Magdalene’s maturing and ours.  It is not a matter of the rejection of the body and the flesh, or even of the forms of sensual knowing - of what is known through the senses.  It is rather the process of transformation into a deeper and profounder understanding where what is known is known as known and not just experienced, not just felt.
 
So much is this not a repudiation of the reality of the body is signified in the Resurrection appearances which go together with Jesus’ appearing to Mary, namely, his appearance to Thomas.  You see, to the one who clings to the flesh, he says, “touch me not”; to the one who doubts the flesh, he says, “touch me and see”.  He accommodates himself to each to effect in each a transformation of their understanding.  Such is the power of the resurrection in us.
 
It is all for the sake of the greater intimacy: the intimacy of our spiritual identity in Christ.  And that is our joy, the joy “no man taketh from you”,
 
“Because I go to the Father”
 

 Father Ed Bakker,
 Anglican Catholic Church/Original Province,
 Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
 Launceston
 Tasmania
 Australia