Sunday, October 18, 2020

Saint Luke, Apostle & Evangelist

My Friends

Meditation Saint Luke

The Kingdom of God is at hand for you. (Luke 10:9)

You might know that St. Luke was a physician and a “co-worker” of Paul (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24). But did you know that he was also a historian?

Luke, whose feast we celebrate today, was the author of both the Gospel bearing his name and the Acts of the Apostles. In the prologue to his Gospel, Luke tells us that although others had compiled a narration of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, “I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence” (1:3). He makes it clear right from the beginning that he isn’t just telling fanciful stories. He is telling us that God, in the person of Jesus, has actually come into the world as Savior and Redeemer.

And that’s the point: we don’t believe in a myth; we believe in a God who acts in and through history. First, God revealed himself to the people of Israel and made them his own special people. Then, in “the fullness of time,” he sent his Son to save not just Israel but all of humanity (Galatians 4:4). That means that we don’t have a God who stays in his own separate realm, making a supernatural visit here and there. No, we have a God who came in the flesh to inaugurate his kingdom here on earth.

Acts opens with Jesus’ ascension into heaven, but even though it might seem as if Jesus’ work is over and done with, he continues to act powerfully. His Holy Spirit descends on the disciples, and they become bold preachers and healers (chapter 2). Jesus appears to Paul on the road to Damascus and changes his life (chapter 9). Paul and his fellow missionaries are miraculously saved from harm on numerous occasions.

Luke ends his Book of Acts with chapter 28, with Paul awaiting trial in Rome. But there’s still “Acts 29.” That unwritten chapter is the story of the countless times God has acted over the centuries in the lives of his people. And the story isn’t over. God’s kingdom is here, the place where he dwells—and this kingdom is truly at hand!

Father Ed Bakker

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity 11 Oct 2020

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ, 
 St. Mark 12:28f

 “He had answered them well”
The context is controversy.  It almost always is when it is a matter of spiritual truth.  Truth which unites is frequently what divides; a deeper unity may sometimes be only found through the divisions of our hearts, when our hearts are broken and opened to view.  For then, and only then, perhaps, we discover what it is that we believe, what it is that we stand for, if anything at all.  Sometimes it takes controversy.There is a song by Mary Ann Dufour and it goes likes this :" you' have got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything, and everything. There are “the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil”.
But what does it mean to stand for something?  Is it simply a matter of assertion, an matter of self-definition which demands recognition upon no other basis than the subjective claim about our desires and interests?  Are we in fact defined simply by our sexual and material desires?  Is the truth just what we make it?  Or do we stand for something objective and received, truth that defines us even in our untruth?
Sometimes we learn through controversy.  Sometimes through controversy something of the truth of God is at once communicated and received.  What is to be looked for is some deeper understanding of truth, “tam antiquo, tam novo”,  “truth so ancient and so new”.  
Jesus is engaged in religious disputation.  “Which is the first commandment of all?”, he is asked by a member of the literary caste, the scribes, the writers of words which are like pictures into which we may step if we choose.  We shall never be the same for truth always confronts and convicts us.  This scribe, about whom Jesus will ultimately say, “thou art not far from the Kingdom of God” perceived that “[Jesus] had answered them well” and so is led to ask the overwhelming question, “which is the first commandment of all?” He is, we might say, compelled by the truth itself in the context of controversy and even intellectual animosity where power is more at issue than truth.  But “Jesus had answered them well”.  
And he continues to do so in his magisterial “Summary of the Law”.  The greatest commandment is the love of God and the love of neighbour, “there is none other commandment greater than these”.  Powerful stuff.  Irrefutable stuff.  “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.  And yet profoundly provocative and controversial.  Why?  Because of its clarity.  This clarity about charity puts everything into perspective.  It cuts through all the clutter and confusion of history and experience.  It crystallizes the whole of the Jewish Scriptures, what Christians call the Old Testament.  It is a kind of distillation of the teachings of the Old Testament, almost, we might say, a kind of Old Testament Creed, and certainly one which challenges many perspectives about that remarkable collection of books and stories and poems.  Is it really all about love?  How can law be love?  
Because the Law is nothing more than the expression of God’s will and truth for our humanity and if it convicts us of our own shortcomings, as it most surely does, especially from a Christian understanding, then it does so only to recall us to truth.  Such is repentance and prayer.  
There are two forms of turning back to God, the one is in thanksgiving, the other is in repentance.  Both are an acknowledgment of the truth of God which measures us and not the other way around.  But that measure is, ultimately, one which redeems and sanctifies our loves and our experiences.  How?  By bringing them to the truth of God without which “all loving [is] mere folly”.  
“The Summary of the Law”, as we have come to call it liturgically and theologically, is not a creed.  It is not, as some have wanted to suggest, the Jewish Creed to be incorporated into the Christian liturgy as equivalent to the Catholic Creeds.  The word ‘creed’ needs to be used most advisedly; it is really a Christian concept which should not be cavalierly read into other contexts and situations.  What makes the word ‘creed’ something peculiarly Christian comes out in the rest of this gospel story.  
Jesus, who had answered well and answered well again, also has responded to the scribe’s recognition of the truth of his words, saying that “thou art not far from the kingdom of God”.  “After that”, we are told, “no one dared to ask him any questions”.  But Jesus goes on to challenge certain ideas about the Messiah, saying in effect that the Messiah of Israel is more than just a son of David, that is to say of the royal Davidic lineage, and more than a political saviour, (like the sought-for leader of the Conservative Party!), because he has a more transcendent, indeed, eternal origin, namely, God; ultimately, as we say credally, He is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God”.  
Jesus is the Messiah who is God with us, true God and true Man.  In this lies the heart of the creeds.  The focus is on the utter uniqueness of Christ as one with the Lord God of the Old Testament to whom David, Shepherd and King, Poet and Warrior, is also subject.  “Jesus is Lord”, after all, is the earliest form of credal statement that we have in the New Testament; a statement which we can only say “by the Spirit”.  
Here the Old Testament is summed up by Jesus and, even more, the commandment of twofold love is signaled as realized in Jesus himself.  Something of the transcendent truth of God is being made known even in the midst of controversy and it is made known through scriptural interpretation; ultimately, through an interpretation which is, at least, proto-credal in shape and substance.  
In this, perhaps, we begin to find a way to think through our present difficulties.  We return to the Creeds and to the Scriptures credally understood, that is to say, understood through the primacy of the categories of creation, redemption and sanctification, and even more through the primacy of the love of God revealed as Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.  In the primacy of these categories and in the embrace of the Trinity, we find the objective determinants of our humanity, and not otherwise.  And in the creeds, too, we find the principle of approach to all questions of morality, namely, the doctrine of “the forgiveness of sins”.
There is no new truth that stands over and against the words of Jesus.  There can be, at best, a deepening of the understanding about our humanity, though at the same time, it has to be said, that there can equally be a loss of understanding.  With respect to the current controversy about human sexuality, there is no third sex - a homosex, as it were.  What we confront in this debate is really a feature of consumer culture which demands that we be defined by our appetites and desires, by the ambiguity of our so-called orientations which have no objective basis either biologically or biblically, instead there are only the ambiguities of the subjective determinations of psychology and the politics of identity.
This gospel would have us defined by the redemption of our desires, calling us into the love of God and the love of one another in honesty and truth.  Here we find the possibilities for the redemption of our friendships and our marriages, and not their confusion.  We are, all of us, whether we choose to define ourselves as gay or straight, implicated in the sexual confusions of our age.  We need the clarity of the gospel to discover again the charity of God without which we are nothing and nothing worth, especially in the folly of our self-assertions.   There is one who has answered well.  
“He had answered them well”

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

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

My Friends,

“Then shalt thou have glory in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.” 
(Luke 14.10)

In this week’s Gospel lesson we find Jesus’ advice to socially ambitious dinner guests: When you are invited to dine at high table, don’t rush headlong to the seat beside the President. He might have special guests, and ask you to move further along to make room for them, and think of the humiliation of that! Far better to go directly and conspicuously to the lowest seat. You might be asked to move up higher, and “then shalt thou have glory in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.” This is sound advice for glory-seekers, even if Jesus is making fun of them in giving it. But behind the fun of it, there is a serious meaning. The whole episode has rather the nature of a parable, and the point of it is summed up in the general conclusion:  
“Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” It’s a parable about glory-seeking, and the right way to go about that. The point is that we are seekers of eternal glory, and we need to know how to attain it.  
But just what is this glory? In Lewis Caroll’s admirable work, Alice Through the Looking Glass, one of the main characters, Ovalius Crassus, offers a definition of “glory.” He says it means “a nice knock-down argument.” He has just enjoyed an argument about the superiority of unbirthday gifts, on the grounds they are given far more often —364 days of the year — and he finds glory in his triumph. Alice is unconvinced by the definition. She claims that “that’s not what ‘glory’ means”; and we’d probably share her skepticism. At any rate, a nice knock-down argument is only one sort of glory, and a very academic sort at that. And it had better not be eternal because it would be a particularly nasty form of hell. 
The glory of the nice knock-down argument, like the glory of chief seats at dinner, does not amount to very much. These are just poor images of a higher glory, to which all desire of glory points, and short of which such desire never rests. Beyond all vain glories, there is a glory worth the seeking.  

In modern times, “glory” has become almost a bad word, especially if it is coupled with “seeking.” There is a prevalent superstition that glory-seeking is a mean, unworthy business. Good people, and especially Christians, are supposed to be committed to service without thought of reward. We’re not in it for the glory; we only want to serve. God’s love is disinterested, and so is ours.  

But that is very bad psychology, and even worse theology. It’s important to notice a difference between us and God. God has no need of glory, but we do; in fact it’s our most fundamental need. Our desire for glory, however stunted or distorted, however side-tracked into vanities, is at basis the desire for the vision of God, the knowledge of God as he is in himself. We desire to be “partakers of that glory”; “to perceive with open face the glory of the Lord, and to be transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” (2 Corinthians 3.18) As St. Augustine puts it, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”
That is the desire of the whole creation, and the meaning of its motion. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, knew that the final cause moves all things as the end of their desire, and as St. Paul explains, “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now awaiting its adoption,” (Romans 8.22-23) that is, its resurrection to glory. What is dumb longing in the lower creature is in rational beings the rational desire for the glory of God, informed and clarified by faith and hope and love.  

We are surely glory-seekers, and we must know how to do it. We have lots of devices for achieving vain glories, though there may be some question whether the game is worth the candle. Insofar as real glory is concerned, we hardly know how to go about it. “Sit down in the lowest seat,” says Jesus. The point is that the glory of God is not something we can put together, or seize for ourselves. We have only the desire; the glory must be given. The lowest seat is the position of humility — the humility of accepting what we cannot achieve. That is to say, the beginning of glory in us must be the free gift of God’s grace. “Friend, go up higher.” 
This gift of grace in us is the seed of future glory. As St. Thomas Aquinas puts it, in his incomparably clear way: “Grace has five effects in us: First, our soul is healed; second, we will the good; third, we work effectively for it; fourth, we persevere; fifth, we break through to glory.” 
Our part is the thankful acceptance of God’s grace, in word and sacrament, and in a thousand occasions of grace which surround us every day: in our work and leisure, in our associations with one another, in our troubles, and even in our sins. Through the manifold workings of his grace, “may the Lord of eternal glory make us partakers of his heavenly table.” “Then shalt thou have glory in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.”

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Saint Michael & All Angels

My Friends, 

Readings from Revelations 12 v 7 & St Matthew 18 v 1

What do angels really look like ? We read about angels interacting with human beings through the Scriptures. The word angel comes from the Greek word "angelos" = Messenger. Angels bring us messages from God. In the Book of Genesis they appear as three weary travellers who stop and have lunch with Abraham and Sarah. They bring them a message of hope.. God has heard them ... even in their old age they are going to have a baby. 

Isaiah writes about his wonderful vision of heaven, which we hope to experience for ourselves some day. He sees angels singing“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.” We sing that too.When Gabriel brought the news to Mary she was pregnant, he first had to tell her to calm
down and to not be afraid. The sudden appearance of angels must be startling...for Gabriel to have said that to Mary.Luke tells us when Jesus was born angels brought the message to shepherds and sang“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth,peace and goodwill to all people…” We sing that too.

And in Matthew, Jesus gives a stern warning to anyone who might do harm to a child, orthrough deliberate mean-spirited words or
actions cause someone to lose their Faith…or leave the Church.

On this Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels…Michaelmas…we celebrate God’s gift of angels who bring us messages of hope and who protect us. Many icons depict Michael the Archangel…in full battle gear…sword in hand…ready to fight on our behalf.And it is Michael’s name a priest invokes when he blesses a house.

What do angels look like? They can and do take any form God wishes for them to carryout the missions he assigns them. They might even look like the next person we meet. They might be the person who was especially kind or helpful to us. They might be the person who brought us a message that renewed our hope and trust in God and our love for others.

Fr Ed Bakker

We too are messengers of hope. That is something we should remind ourselves of…each time we look in the mirror.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

My Friend s

The Gospel and the Bible reveal that God wants us to repent, Not only to believe in Jesus verbally, but also to obey God's call and send with practical actions, in the weakness and difficulties, constantly awake, repent, and convert to God's eternal love. Pray for you and ask the Lord to give you the grace to obey the will of God, bless your family, physical and mental health, spiritual strength. Happy Sunday to you! 

Father Ed Bakker