Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Second Sunday in Advent

My Friends,

"When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand." (Luke 21.31)

Advent is a season of hope and solemn expectations. Thus, St. Paul, in today's Epistle lesson, speaks to us of the promises of God, and recalls Isaiah's prophecy:



There shall be a root of Jesse, 
And he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,  
In him shall the Gentiles hope.


That is to say, there will rise from the house of David, Jesse's son, a Redeemer, in whose coming and whose kingdom all the peoples of the earth shall be blessed. St. Paul assures the Roman Christians, Gentiles as well as Jews, that they are heirs of those universal promises, "made unto the fathers," and confirmed in Jesus Christ, and he urges them to live together in the spirit of that common hope. "Now the God of hope," he says, "fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope in the power of the Holy Spirit." 
 
The message of Advent is a message of hope: the hope of salvation. This is hope for deliverance from all the chains that bind us: deliverance from the bondage of our sins and manifold perversities, deliverance from the blindness and deafness of heart and mind which keep us from the truth of God. It is a message of hope for a kingdom of righteousness and peace, hope for a new and better life for ourselves and for all mankind. All that hope is focused in the coming of the Child of Bethlehem, in whom and through whom God's kingdom comes. Advent speaks to us of a new and better world, of the hopes of countless ages coming to fulfillment. 

And lo, already on the hills 
The flags of dawn appear; 
Gird up your loins, ye prophet souls, 
Proclaim the day is near: 
The day in whose clear-shining light 
All wrong shall stand revealed, 
When justice shall be throned in might, 
And every hurt be healed. 

(From Hymn by F. L. Hosmer 1840-1929)

But the Gospel lesson immediately makes clear to us that this hope of ours is no matter of humanistic optimism or worldly expectation. This speech of Jesus from St. Luke's Gospel (also reported in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark) is not in fact very optimistic about worldly progress. It is, rather, a dramatic and frightening account of the ruination of the world - the end of the world as we know it: 

Jesus said unto his disciples, There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 
According to this Gospel lesson, it is in the devastation of the world, in the destruction of all worldly hopes and expectations, that our salvation appears to us: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." 

This speech of Jesus is generally interpreted as a prophecy about the end of time, and all down the centuries there have been preachers who have sought to discern the signs of the end in their own day. After all, "this generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." Well, it is, of course, a prophecy about the future, about the end of time; but I think it is a mistake to read it only in that way. It also has a reference to the present. It is a comment about the world in which we live, and about the way in which we live in it, here and now. It is in fact a supremely relevant and devastating criticism of our own worldliness, our worldly hopes and expectations. 
 
The point is this: For all of us, and for each one of us individually, this world, and the things of this world must pass away, not just in some vague, remote and unimaginable future, but right now. They are passing things; that is their very nature. They are passing things, and they are passing away even as we grasp them in our hands. No cleverness, no wishful thinking, no advanced technology can make them anything other than transitory things. What folly it is to focus our hopes and expectations upon such things! What foolishness to set our hearts upon them! 
 
I think we all know that; and yet, how seductive, and how subtle, are the claims of worldliness, and how easily, how thoughtlessly are we taken in. Worldliness confidently invades the very Church of God, urging us to conform to the methods, the ideals, the manners and the morals of the present age, lest we be irrelevant. The peril is that the worldly Church becomes irrelevant to heaven. 
 
Today's Gospel lesson is telling us that worldliness is folly, and that only when we can see the folly of it can we lift up our heads and see our redemption drawing nigh. 

Behold the fig-tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.  
The signs are everywhere around us every day, if we have the eyes to see them. 
 

The Advent hope is an other-worldly hope. It looks towards a Saviour who has no worldly power, no worldly recommendation of any sort. It finds in the poor and helpless Infant of Bethlehem the eternal Word of God. It is the contradiction of all worldly hopes and expectations. The heavens and the earth pass away, they are passing away at every moment, but the Word of God does not pass away, and, as today's Collect expresses it, in that Word we have the blessed hope of everlasting life.  Amen.

Father Ed Bakker,
Priest and Missioner
Anglican Catholic Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The First Sunday in Advent - 2 December 2018

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light" (Romans 13:11-12). 
 
Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the season of Advent and the starting point of the new ecclesiastical year. What makes today different from the secular New Year’s Day is that there is little of the typical "out with the old, in with the new" that attends that holiday. 

If anything, our Christian Advent is a promise of "more of the same." We plan to read the same lessons and to say the same prayers in this new year that we did in the year past, and for almost two thousand years before that. Even our "New Year’s resolutions," found in this morning’s excerpt from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, are the "same old" resolutions that Christians have made every year since that glorious year so long ago when our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. 

We are not in a rut, however. By the standards of the "secular world" (which means literally, "the world of this age"), we lack imagination and our religious observances are boring because we have no plans to change what we believe and what we hope for from year to year. But "the world of this age" functions on the basis of an unexamined fantasy—namely, that the material world and the human race have an infinite supply of years ahead of them. And if this world were "the world without end," the eternal reality from which all subordinate realities proceed, they would be right. 
Advent, however, tells us otherwise. The name itself is a play on words, since the Latin "Adventus" means simply "a coming," but the Church uses it to refer to two comings of the same Divine Person: our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. On Advent Sunday we look back to the climax of history, as far as the purposes of God are concerned, to the conception and birth of the Son of God, made man by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary. When Jesus Christ shed his Blood on the Cross and offered his life before his Father’s throne, all sins were redeemed—completely bought and paid for. The victory of God in Christ over the world, the flesh, and the devil was accomplished once and for all, and all anybody had to do, then, now, or a thousand years from now (if God gives the world that much time), to share in that victory, was to confess his sins and to submit to the merciful rule of the Lord God in Jesus Christ his Son. 

That was the First Coming of Jesus Christ. The fate of this world was fixed under God’s judgment, and the terms of the salvation of mankind were made as clear as they could possibly be. All the history that has followed that First Coming, however grand or terrible to us, is from the perspective of God much like the final chapter of a novel or the final five minutes of a movie that wrap up the loose ends after the main event has occurred. 

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ, then, when he comes in glory to judge the world, is the time when he declares in the Name of his Father what happened to all of the other "characters" in the human story. The Second Coming represents no change in plans on the part of God, no surprise ending, no "new thing" at all, except that Jesus Christ will announce "The End" of human struggles and the beginning of eternal blessedness for the resurrected and redeemed, who in God’s grace and mercy will do even better than living "happily ever after." This is the true "world without end"—the eternal reality of a changeless God whose mercy never fails and whose rule cannot be overturned. 

The tragedy of our times is that so many people have been duped into trusting this world’s fantasy of never-ending years, at the cost of their losing the real hope of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming to finish what he began at his First Advent. It is a pure waste of time and life to govern ourselves by dreams and vapours while ignoring the one consistent reality that can save us now and forever. 

Perhaps the best remedy for this error is to try to recover in our minds the mind of the first Christians, full of the Holy Ghost and the most realistic people who have ever lived. Let us begin with something Our Lord said about himself: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). 

We have to understand that the first Christians took this saying as more than a nice bit of poetry. They understood the difference between life with Jesus and life without Jesus as the difference between day and night, and they lived in a world without electric lights in which the night was dark indeed and a time of hidden crime and terror. Thus, St. Paul could write, as we heard earlier, "…now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we [first] believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." 

The coming of Jesus Christ is as the coming of the sun to bring a new day. He is the sunrise of the day of the Lord, in whose light all the decent things of human life have their proper place and opportunity. For this reason, St. Paul continued, "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying" (Romans 13:13). Some things belong in the darkness because they belong to the darkness: carousing, illicit affairs and wrong actions of all kinds, sitting around griping about others, or lying in our beds sleepless because of our envy of what other people have or because of our plotting against them. Christians, on the other hand, should live right now as if the light were completely come again on the final day. 

The first Christians saw the history of the whole world from the fall of man until the coming of Christ as one long night of death, danger, and temptation. But it was still a night of promise, since God had promised his Son. We know these things as facts, since they are stated in one of the first prayers of the New Testament, the prophecy that the Holy Ghost gave to Zacharias at the birth of his son John the Baptist. We still say this prayer as the Canticle Benedictus in the Morning Office: 
 
And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us; to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death (BCP 14). 


That old word "day-spring" means "the dawn," and the first coming of Jesus Christ was the dawn of salvation upon the world. The Second Coming, likewise, is no sunset, but the second dawn that puts an end to the night of waiting for the details to be sorted out and brings with it nothing but light forever. Those who love that light and wish to live in it will join in Christ’s light forever. Those who love the secret and deadly things of the darkness will have their own place, too, with the devil and his angels in that darkest of places, hell. 

The Coming of Christ was as real to the first Christians as the sunrise, and they looked for the day of the Lord on the final day as the best day of their lives, as the dawn of the eternal day of their life with God. Those Christians were so sure of this they even began the custom of aligning churches so that we face the East, where the altar and pulpit are, as the place where the sun will rise. 
 
We need to be as sure of the same sunrise of the Light of Christ, the Light of the world. That time will come as God wills, but in the meantime, God’s Church reminds us every year of the reality and trustworthiness of the promise of light in Advent. The Light has come. The Light will come again. And when that light comes, we must belong to it or endure an eternal darkness. We begin, then, with our new Church year, the lessons, prayers, and discipline that will prepare us for light eternal.

Advents blessings,

Father Ed Bakker 
Priest and Missioner 
Anglican Catholic Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia
 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Saint Andrew, Apostle & Martyr

Dear Friends,

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.  Matthew 4:18-20

What a wonderful feast we celebrate today as we prepare to begin our Advent season.  We honour St. Andrew the Apostle who gives us a perfect example of how to begin our coming Advent celebration.

This passage above reveals a lot for us to ponder.  Andrew, along with his brother Peter, was a fishermen.  Both of these fisherman were hard at work, when suddenly this stranger, Jesus, walked by them and called to them.  They immediately left their livelihood and followed after Jesus.

Don’t miss what happened here.  Specifically, there are two things that happened: 1) Jesus walked by these two fishermen and said, “Come after me.” 2) In response, these two men immediately “left their nets and followed Him.”
This story of the call of St. Andrew is quite appropriate for the beginning of Advent because Advent must be a time when Jesus calls us anew.  It must be a new beginning and a new conversion for us.  As Advent begins, we should hear Jesus call to us, “Come after Me!”  We should hear Him invite us with an invitation to give ourselves completely to His divine plan and purpose.  Listen to Him.  Do you hear Him calling?

Our response, at the beginning of Advent, must be the same as St. Andrew.  We must, without hesitation, leave everything to follow Him.  What exactly does that mean?  It means that we must let go of anything and everything that keeps us from responding to Christ.  It means we must be ready and willing to do whatever Jesus asks of us.  And we must be ready to do it the moment He asks.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that Advent is a time to start anew.  It’s a time to let yourself be called to Christ.  Listen to Him calling you and respond to Him with your whole heart. 

Lord, I love You above all things.  Help me to hear Your gentle yet firm voice calling me to follow You.  Give me the courage I need to respond to Your gentle invitation with complete abandonment.  May this Advent be a time of new beginnings and deeper resolve to follow You.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Father Ed Bakker,
Priest and Missioner
Anglican Catholic Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Sunday next before Advent



Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
“Come and see”   St. John 1. 35
 
Scripture sounds the notes of an ending and a beginning on this day, the Sunday Next before Advent.  This day both concludes the course of the Son’s life in us – “the Lord our Righteousness” - and returns us to the beginning of the course he runs for us – “Behold the Lamb of God”.   The righteousness of Christ, the right ordering of our loves and our lives, is what we have sought in the long course of the Trinity season.  But the course he runs for us is the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice.  It is the way that we travel with him in the pageant of faith from Advent to Trinity. 
 
Such times of transition signal occasions of renewal - a renewal of love, a re-awakening of the soul’s desire for holy things, a divine stirring up of our wills.  We come to the Advent of Christ. Advent is the season of God’s revelation, the motion of God’s Word and Son towards us for the sake of our knowing.  Our text sounds the measure of the season and beyond the season strikes the note of our soul’s salvation.  “Come and see”. 
 
In St. John’s Gospel, this is Jesus’ first statement.  It comes in response to the disciples’ answer to his very first gospel utterance, a question which he puts to them and to us, “What seek ye?” (What do we want?).  They answer with a question that has a twofold significance: “Rabbi (which means Teacher), where are you staying?”  Here is no question of idle curiosity, but one which is deep and profound.  It speaks about the yearning of our hearts and the desiring of our minds.  It speaks about the awakened desire of the soul for God.  But how is the question twofold?  By its address as well as its request.
 
"Rabbi – Teacher”.  They identify Jesus as a Teacher, one who can instruct them, teach them, enlighten them with an understanding which they seek but do not have.  They seek to know.  To know what?  Is it information?  Do they seek to know a host of busy details about a myriad of busy things?  “God is in the details”, it is commonly said.  To be sure, but he is not the details.  God cannot be reduced to a data sheet of statistics or to the memory bank of a computer.  “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T.S.  Eliot asks, the knowledge of God lost not found in the details, in the rush and crush of busy and disordered lives. 
 
For in such things there is no satisfaction; no true seeking where there is no desiring for a true finding .  No.  They seek more than information.  And so must we.  They seek the understanding upon which all our inquirings and all our doings depend.  They seek the reason and cause of all things, the knowledge of what is, what remains, and what ever shall be.  And so must we. 
 
They seek an understanding of God’s will and purpose.  They seek his abiding Word in the midst of the changing world.  Why?  Because nothing else is worth living for and they would live with the knowledge of that truth.  And so they ask, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  They would remain with him who would enlighten their minds to their heart’s desire.  They seek the Messiah, the promised anointed one of God, yet Christ will be more than the Messiah  they seek.  For God’s revelation of himself does not so much mean  the lowering of God to us, as the raising of us to God, hence “Come and see”.  He has come to us in order that we might come to him. 
 
But our seeking is not itself our seeing.  Jesus’s question seeks to draw out their proper intention, their true desire and what is truly to be desired.  They seek for what they do not have.  They seek for what is beyond them.  Such a seeking manifests an openness to God’s Word, to the possibilities of divine illumination.  As such it belongs to Revelation, to what comes from God to man, what we could in no wise invent.  Revelation, not our seeking, is the premiss of our seeing.  “In thy light, shall we see light”.  We cannot attain to God simply by our seeking.  Our seeking cannot make him in the image of our seeking.
 
No doubt our lives are lives of seeking, of the desiring to know, to have and to enjoy.  But according to our own lights, according to the light of our own experiences, we are but darkness.  To know that and not to yield to it, but instead to seek for the light which shines in the darkness, is to be open to God’s Revelation. 
 
“Show us the light of thy countenance and we shall be whole”, the Psalmist cries and behold, “Jesus turned and saw them”.  Our illumination depends upon God’s Revelation, his turning towards us, his seeing us in the light of his divine knowing.  His motion towards us manifests his divine light and makes us partakers of his eternity, now in the illumination by grace and then in the vision of glory.
 
We are light only in the light of Christ. We are bidden to “come and see” because that light who is Christ comes to us in the darkness of our uncertainties and fears.  It is no mere lightning bolt which comes and goes in a flash; it is more like the beacon of a lighthouse constant and secure, at once a warning and a guide.  Our faith shall deepen to understanding if we attend to his revelation and let the Teacher teach us about the truth of himself and the truth of ourselves in the light of his grace.  He comes to teach us.  And so let us indeed cry out, “Rabbi-Teacher”, but even more, let us “come and see”, this Advent and evermore.
 
“Come and see”

Father Ed Bakker,

Priest and Missioner,
Anglican Catholic Church/ Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston, Tasmania,
Australia

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Twentyfifth Sunday after Trinity

My Friends,

The Gospel 
St. Matthew xxiv. 23. 


 THEN if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

As within a few weeks we shall be entering into the Holy Season of Advent, it is a good thing to reflect on this Gospel message, which was chosen for Trinity XXXV ( are running out of Gospel messages of the Trinity season. )


I was born and baptized as an Old Catholic and became an Anglican when moving to New Zealand and later to Australia. Changed some 10 years ago from Anglican to Anglican Catholic / Original Province, because I could no longer accept the modern teachings of the Anglican Church of Australia and also New Zealand. Overal during the years of my life I have not been plagued by false Christ's arising,because I have been extremely faithful to the Churches I served in. There has been a short period years ago when the family was devided because members going to the Pentecostal Church and the goings on there I could not accept.
I need to remain alert as per Saint Matthew's Gospel message of today, using The Holy Bible and Catholic Teachings of the Church Fathers as my guide. Also I need to invoke the Holy Spirit that I remain faithful to the Holy Catholic Church.

Next to false Christ's and false signs and wonders there have been many false Prophets in the Church of England, that is why I am what I am and that is why our Continium will need to grow and grow. I know that if I endure, I shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13 King James Version (KJV)
Lets celebrate Christ's birth by all means, but lets be ready when Jesus reappears on the clouds of Heaven.

Amen

Father Ed Bakker,
Priest and Missioner
Anglican Catholic Mission of St Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia