Sunday, August 19, 2018

The twelfth Sunday after Trinity

My Friends,

Saint Mark 7:31

Ephphatha,...Be opened
 
Hearing and seeing are the biblical senses of understanding.  It might seem, at first, that they are simply about what is received, that they are, as it were, merely passive senses, the senses of reception.  Something seen is received by the eye; something heard is received by the ear.  But there is an activity as well, the activity of seeing and the activity of hearing.
 
What is seen and heard - the acting upon what is received - is there for the understanding.  There is something communicated, the meaning of which we enter into through the profounder activity of understanding.  For it is not just the words which are heard or the vision which is seen that is received.  What the words signify, what the vision reveals, is given to be understood.
 
Our understanding is our wrestling with the significance of things.  It is a profoundly spiritual activity.  It speaks to who we are in the sight of God - those to whom God would reveal himself and into whose presence he would have us come.  Hearing and seeing, as the senses of understanding, mean that there is an acting upon what is received.  There is a similar double-sidedness to our “being opened”.
 
In the Gospel for today, “they bring unto [Jesus] one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech”.  They beseech the healing touch of Jesus upon this one that is deaf and, if not altogether dumb, at least impeded in his speech to the point that others must speak for him.  There is, in response, the putting of his fingers into his ears, a spitting upon the ground, the touching of his tongue - all outward, tangible and physical acts - but, as well, there is Jesus’ “looking up to heaven”, his sighing and his saying unto him “Ephphatha, be opened”.  There is, in short, a healing: “and straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.”
 
As with all the healing miracles of the gospels, they signify the restoration of our natures.  What is wanted by God is not the deformity of our being but the perfection of our humanity.  What is wanted is our being made totally and completely adequate to the truth of God; in short, our being opened to God signals our willing what God wills for us.
 
We are opened in two senses.  There is our being opened to receive and there is our being opened to give.  We are not just opened to receive; we are opened to give of ourselves out of what we have received.  “Open your hearts”, St. Paul tells the Corinthians (2 Cor.7.2).  He means that they are to give of themselves.  They are to act upon what they have received.
 
What we are opened out to sets us in motion towards one another.  It opens us out to live sacrificial lives, to be giving of ourselves.  It is only then that we are truly opened for only then are we acting in the image of the one who has opened his heart totally and completely to us in the sacrifice of the cross.
 
In this healing miracle, Christ looks up to heaven.  There is, we may say, his openness to the Father out of which comes the healing grace in the form of the words “be opened”.  The word is spoken in Aramaic – “Ephphatha” - but its meaning, its significance, is also opened to us by the Evangelist, St. Mark.  He gives the word and he gives the interpretation, “be opened”.
 
On the cross, too, Christ looks up to heaven.  His last word is to commend everything in himself into the hands of the Father.  “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.  There is the total openness of the Son to the Father in prayer and praise.  There is a fundamental connection between the healing miracles of Christ and the death and resurrection of Christ, even more profoundly, with the give and take of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the mutual reciprocity of the Trinity itself.
 
We are opened out to the truth of God so that we can enter into that truth, give ourselves to it, and offer our prayers and praises for it.  For what do we give in the giving of ourselves?  We give our prayers and praises, our prayers and  praises to God, which must impel us towards one another in love.  For our prayers and praises are never solitary.  They always connect us to one another and to God, to a community in praise of God, a community of prayer and loving service.  And such is the Church - if ever we are to be the Church and not some sad parody of its wonderful mystery.  What will it take?  Only the giving of ourselves to what has been opened out to us.  What has been opened out to us?  Simply the great and grand things of God himself and for us - the Trinity, the Incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ.  “Our sufficiency is from God”, the epistle reminds us.  The gospel underlines the point: they “were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak”.  Will that be said of us?
 
To be opened then, means to give.  It is the strong counter to our contemporary “consumer” religion of pleasure and comfort which is all take and no give.  It is not open but closed to the truth of God revealed.  He would have us opened to himself and so to one another.  In these days of renewed beginnings and challenges as priest and people together, we need to be open to one another, to be sure, but only and first and foremost, by being open to the things of God.  Only then shall we behold the glory.
 
Ephphatha,...Be opened

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



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


 
Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

Luke 1:39-56
 
Did Mary die before she was assumed body and soul into heaven?
 We are free to believe either that she really died, or that she did not die before she became the "woman clothed with the sun." Tradition favours her really dying. But what we know for sure is that what will happen to all of us at the final resurrection, being "assumed" body and soul into heaven, or hell," happened to her out of the normal time frame, because God was so delighted with her that He couldn't wait!
 
 So history was "short-circuited!"
 
 Wonderful, and yet so very right and just! Her song, The Magnificat, says it all -- just as Mary, remembering Hannah's canticle in the first book of Samuel, and remembering all that the Hebrew Scriptures say about God lifting up the poor and the weak, composes a mystical prophecy of the final vindication of all the oppressed and the tortured and the poverty-stricken of all the ages.
 
 And, even though five more swords of sorrow would pierce Mary's heart, it would happen to her: this vindication, this justification, this crowning touch of the Divine Artist.
 
 And, oh! The dazzling background for a painter's brush, what with angels and saints, her parents, and her beloved Son, Jesus, to welcome her, the special throne for the Queen of heaven to occupy! And, oh! What music! How truly now she can sing forever:
 
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia
 
 
 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

My Friends,
THE EPISTLE.  1 Cor. 15. 1
“By the grace of God, I am what I am”
 
“I am the least of the Apostles”, St. Paul declares and then goes on to say that “by the grace of God, I am what I am”.  The phrase complements, it seems, the prayer of the humble publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner”.
 
What can it mean?  Is it by the grace of God that Paul is a sinner?  No.  But it is by the grace of God that Paul can in all honesty know that he is a sinner.  Why is he the least of the Apostles?  In his eyes and in his words, “because I persecuted the Church of God”.
 
But do you and I do much better or any less when in our pride and arrogance, in our folly and deceit, we deny the very truth of God upon whom we so utterly depend?  Are we not persecutors, too, when like the proud Pharisee, we do nothing more than pray with ourselves, giving mere lip service to the presence of God?
 
It is the quintessential picture of pride.  Jesus in the parable names it ever so clearly. “He prayed thus with himself”.  Not to God, it seems.  The consequences are wonderfully clear in the content of his prayer.  He claims to be better than everyone else.  “Thank God that I am not like them”.  But that is no prayer.
 
There can be no prayer when we are not open to the otherness of God and to one another.  There can be no prayer when we are closed in upon ourselves, standing upon the ground of our own self-righteousness.  There can be no prayer without the humility which alone is the counter to all pride.
 
The great poet Dante, in the Divine Comedy, prescribes as the antidote and corrective to pride the prayer which is at the heart of all Christian prayer, the Lord’s Prayer.  The prayer, he suggests, is to be prayed while bent down towards the dust of our common humanity, contemplating the great examples of humility, not the least of which is Mary herself who is defined by the grace of God; “Be it unto me according to thy word”, as if to say, what Jesus himself will say, “not my will, but thine be done”.  And in turn, is it not what we are given to pray, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? 
 
Prayer is precisely not about talking with ourselves.  “Our Father” is not a mere set of words to be rattled off indifferently and mindlessly.  Prayer is altogether about our engagement with God.  It is the pre-condition of our honest engagement with one another.
 
The publican in the parable is a public person, a public official engaged in the res publicae, the public things of our political and moral life in community, in our ordered life together with one another.  A publican is not just a keeper of taverns and pubs!
 
The publican in the parable is the picture of humility.  His humility is his honesty which leaves him open to the truth of God and so to every one else.  Without that we are simply closed in upon ourselves, wrapped up in our own worlds; in short, like the Pharisee.
 
There is the greatest danger in the pilgrimage of our spiritual lives.  It is to put ourselves in the place of God.  It is to be in the temple, the holy place of God, and to be completely unaware of his truth and presence, so full of ourselves are we.  We forget so easily that it is only by the grace of God that we walk, stand, run and move in the motions of God’s love.  It is most especially by the grace of God that we can face the remarkable follies and foolish wickednesses in our own hearts and in our lives.
 
Paul has found and named what he has done.  It belongs to our freedom to do nothing less.  The prayer of the publican reverberates throughout the whole of our liturgy: “Kyrie eleison” – “Lord, have mercy upon us”; “O Lamb of god, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us”.  Unlike the Pharisee, what is wanted is that we should “not presume to come to this thy table....trusting in our own righteousness”, Rather, like the publican, we should come trusting in “thy manifold and great mercies”.  Only so shall we find ourselves in the presence of God.  Only so may we be freed from the prison of our own selves.
 
This is not about grovelling in the dust and wallowing in self-pity and piteous self-recriminations.  Paradoxically, there is nothing so magnanimous, so great-souled, as the exemplar of humility, Mary, the virgin mother of our Lord.  No.  Humility belongs to our freedom and our ultimate dignity.  We are the dust which God has shaped and into which he has breathed his spirit.  It belongs to the dignified dust of our humanity to offer prayers and praises together to Almighty God.  We are raised up only because we can acknowledge what we are by the grace of God.  We acknowledge his mercy.  Sinners, yes, so we are, you and I, but in such an acknowledgement we are something more.  We are in the company of Christ and we are with one another in the purpose of his good will for us.  You see, “his grace was not bestowed in vain”.
 
In ourselves we are vain and empty - our prayers but the meaningless prattle of our own self-affirmations.  In Christ we are alive and fully ourselves.
 
“By the grace of God, I am what I am”

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


Monday, August 6, 2018

The Holy Name of Jesus - Tuesday 7 August 2018

My Friends,

From the sermons of St Bernardine of Siena

The name of Jesus is the splendour of preachers, because it causes his word to be proclaimed and heard with glowing splendour. Whence, do you think, came the great, sudden and shining light of faith that filled the world, if not from the preaching of Jesus? Was it not by the light and sweetness of this name that God called us into his wonderful light? It is to us, on whom the light has shone and who in that light see light, that the apostle addresses these apt words: ‘Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light.’


Hence this name must be proclaimed so that it may shine; it must not be hidden. But when it is preached, it must not be proclaimed by an impure heart or an unclean mouth, but it must be kept safe and handed on in a chosen vessel.

So the Lord says of the Apostle: he is my chosen vessel, chosen to carry my name to the Gentiles and kings and sons of Israel. Chosen vessel, he says – where the sweetest liquid is displayed for sale, to invite people to drink it as it glows and shines in chosen vessels – chosen vessels to carry my name.

When a field is burned and weeded, the dry and useless brambles and thorns are consumed. When the sun rises and its rays drive away the darkness, thieves, wanderers by night and burglars, hide themselves. Similarly when Paul preached to the people, it was like a great clap of thunder or a fire blazing up with greater force, or the sun rising more brilliantly than ever. Unfaithfulness was destroyed, falsity disappeared, truth shone forth as when wax liquefies before a blazing fire. For he carried the name of Jesus around by his words, his letters, his miracles and his example. He praised Jesus’ name without ceasing and gave glory to it with thanksgiving.

Moreover the Apostle carried this name like a light to kings and the Gentiles and the sons of Israel, and gave light to the nations, crying everywhere: Night has passed away and the day is here. Let us therefore cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honourably as in the daytime. He showed to all the light burning and shining on a candlestick, in every place proclaiming Jesus, and him crucified.

So the church, the bride of Christ, with confidence in his testimony, rejoices with the prophet: O God, you have taught me from my youth and even now I will proclaim your wonderful deeds’, that is – I will proclaim them always. The prophet also exhorts us to this: Sing to the Lord and bless his name, from day to day announce his salvation, that is – announce Jesus the Saviour.

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


Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Transfiguration of our Lord - Monday 6 August 2018

My Friends,

The Transfiguration of our Lord.

Epistle: 2 Timothy 1 8b-12
Gospel: Matthew 17 1-9


How do you wake up in the morning ? Is your sleep disturbed by an awful threshing noise from an old-fashioned alarm clock?
Or do you have a radio alarm clock, which wakes you up with all the misery of the world when you wake up ?


I do not put an alarm clock at all. I wake up when it becomes light. That's why I think it's wonderful that it's spring again now and it's becoming increasingly light in the morning. I'm even lucky that my bedroom is on the east so that the rising sun wakes me when the weather is clear.
In the winter, when it stays dark for a long time in the morning, I have a lot more trouble getting up. I resolved that this way: I put a timer on a couple of table lamps, so that it turns out to be light in time, so a kind of light alarm clock.

In the spring and summer I suffer much less from a morning mood. The sun makes life happier and gives everything colour and shine.
This is a beautiful picture of our spiritual and social life. The rising sun, the morning star for us is Jesus Christ. He gives us perspective, life force, solace in sadness, inspiration to commitment, perseverance, joy to the beautiful things in life. He brings light into the darkness of this life. He gives our lives colour and shine.

In today's Gospel  Jesus takes three apostles to the top of a mountain and His face starts to shine like the sun. A shining cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke: "This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to Him. "
The apostles threw themselves to the earth with fear, but Jesus said: "Stand up and do not be afraid". Those are words that allow us to wake up in the morning when we wake up. We are going to a new day. Sometimes we look forward to it, for example if there is something to celebrate; sometimes we see it because a heavy work load, an exam or a difficult interview awaits us. Jesus then says to us: "Get up and do not be afraid. I am with you".

Why did Jesus take Peter, James, and John with Him up the mountain to get that sign of His resurrection? That was because it was precisely these three apostles that to remain the closest to Jesus in His suffering.  Jesus took them into the Garden of Olives to continue to pray and watch with Him, waiting for Judas and the soldiers. John was still waiting beneath the cross of Jesus. John and Peter would visit the tomb on Easter morning when the women came to tell them that the tomb was empty. James would become the first leader of the Jerusalem Church and the first martyr among the apostles. The transformation and glorification of Jesus on Mount Tabor had to give these apostles the courage to endure suffering and to believe in the resurrection. The three of them would have also witness the moment  when Jesus awoke the little daughter of Jairus from the dead. Mark 5

At Easter we celebrated that the evil in the world , and unfortunately also in the Church of God and death,dont have the last word. Jesus suffered through this evil and died, but also rose from the dead. Then came Pentecost and the growth and florishing of the Church.

The Church in crises of today will recover and florish again, although I dont know when, as I dont know the future.


 
A former Old Catholic Bishop I used to know personally has this motto on his shield:" Take up your share in the suffering for the Gospel". That is very relevant in our times. If we are prepared to bear this suffering, if we remain faithful to Jesus, then the Church will experience a new spring. Light will conquer the darkness. Its Easter and Pentecost for the Church once more.

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