Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Second Sunday in Lent

 
Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
 
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
 
On the past two Sundays, we saw how the Lenten Collects and the Scripture Lessons appointed by the Church are meant to be an organized course in Christian faith and practice, leading up to a renewal of our commitment to our crucified and resurrected Lord on Easter Day. In the first instalment of this course, we were reminded that the self-sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of the Christian religion. In the second, we were taught that our own self-sacrifice, in response to that of Jesus Christ, is the chief means by which we practice Christianity, demonstrating that our faith and trust in our Saviour  are real, rather than mere lip service. 
 
Today, on the Third Sunday in Lent, we can see just how ancient this Lenten course in Christianity truly is. In the early Church, except in emergencies, converts to Christianity spent three years preparing for Baptism, which was usually administered on Easter Even, as Lent gave way to Easter. Those getting ready for Baptism were called "catechumens," from a Greek word that means "to teach by repetition." What the catechumens studied was their "catechism," a constant repetition of certain Biblical truths. There is still a catechism in our Prayer Book, intended to perform the same function. 
 
On this Sunday before Easter, and through the following week, the candidates for Baptism would be tested on their knowledge of the Christian catechism in a process called "the scrutinies," from the Latin for "a careful and searching examination for flaws." Also, in recognition that knowledge without grace is useless, the baptismal candidates would be exorcised, so that cleansed of any influence of the devil, their hearts and minds would be free and open to the indwelling grace of God. 
 
Thus, if we look at today’s Gospel from St. Luke, we will find both a lesson from our Lord on the casting out of devils and an assertion that only those who "hear the word of God, and keep it" are truly blessed (Luke 11:14-28). Likewise, if we study today’s Epistle from St. Paul to the Ephesians, we will be taught how those who have been cleansed of darkness and made the children of light, and the adopted children of God by grace, must behave to remain in the light. These, and similar passages from Scripture, are the actual lessons that those ancient converts were taught before their Baptism. 
 
Today’s Collect is almost as ancient as the Scriptures themselves. It begins, "We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants." Those "hearty desires," meaning "desires of the heart," were simply called "vows" in the original Latin of this prayer. And those "vows" were the vows of Baptism, which you can still find in the baptismal service in our Prayer Book. 
 
These vows are both negative and positive. In our negative vows, we renounce the devil and all his works, along with the vain pomp and glory of the world and the sinful desires of the flesh. In our positive vows, we declare our belief in the Christian faith as summarized in the Apostles’ Creed; we swear that we truly desire to be baptized, holding nothing back; and we solemnly announce our intention to follow God alone, keeping his holy will and commandments, and walking in the same all the days of our lives (BCP 276-277). 
 
Our own experience of living in a fallen world ought to teach us, if nothing else, that these are hard vows to keep. That is why the candidates for Baptism were exorcised, and why we still pray to God in our Collect "stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord." These words connect us to those ancient converts, since we have the same spiritual enemies that they had, and because we still need, as much as they ever did, all of God’s help in maintaining our life in him. 
 
We still pray for that help, and we still receive that help, only through our Lord Jesus Christ. And so, although we may already be baptized, we can only maintain our faith and our new, God-given life in Jesus Christ by constantly remembering the truths of the Christian Faith; by daily renewing our efforts to keep the vows of our Baptism; by renouncing the devil and his works just as often; and by keeping a holy Easter as the memorial of our rescue from sin and death. 
 
The Church’s general message this morning, meant for all believers, is, first of all, that the constant study and repetition of the truths of the faith is an indispensable part of any Biblical life. The second part of her message is this: we each must be exorcised of the devil to live a godly life. This sort of true exorcism, however, is not just some sort of ceremony. It is to become so filled with the things that belong to God, to live a life so full of truth and so completely taken up with righteous behavior, that there is no room in our lives for the devil or his works. 
 
The Church did not invent these principles of good living. God did. We find the evidence in today’s Old Testament Lesson from Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (6:4-5). These words are the oldest written Creed of God’s true religion. They are still recited daily by Jews and tied to their bodies in little boxes call "phylacteries" so that they will never forget them. We say them, too, at the Holy Communion, because it was only natural that our Lord, when asked to summarize the Law of God, should have used these same words, adding to them the words of Leviticus 19:18, wherein we learn our God-given duty to love our neighbour as ourselves. 
 
Christ used these words because his Father had commanded them to be used. God told the chosen people through Moses: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). 
 
This commandment of God delivers to us the pattern by which Biblical Christians are meant to live today, and the pattern by which such faithful Christians have always lived. We say more than the words of Deuteronomy because God has given us more than Moses could deliver. God has given us his Son Jesus Christ to fulfil all the Law and prophecies of the Old Testament, and to be the centre of our belief and understanding of his Father’s will in the New Testament. 
 
God has not changed. He is still, and he will always be, One Lord. Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, has revealed to us that the One Lord of the Bible is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. More than this, Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to live in communion with the One Lord God by dying on the cross and by making us members of his own Body. If we belong to the Son, we necessarily belong to the Father and the Holy Ghost. 
 
The Church teaches us today what God has taught us through his Living Word. The Church teaches us how to belong to God and how to remain in the communion of God the Father, through God the Son, and by God the Holy Ghost. We must drive out the devil by the grace and power of God, made manifest and available through the Truth that God has revealed and the righteousness he has commanded. We must keep ever before us the Truth of God’s love and our salvation, repeating that Truth to ourselves, to each other, to our children, and to a needy world.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Second Sunday in Lent - 17 March 2019

Dear Friends,

Reading: Saint Luke 9, v28b-31

"While Peter was still talking, a cloud came, which covered them. They were frightened when they ended up in the cloud.  From inside the cloud a voice was sounding: This is my beloved Son: listen to Him. When the voice sounded , it appeared that Jesus was alone."

Sometimes we see someone turning red from shame, or turning white of anger, it can also happen that someone shows us a glowing face. If we can see that, then we can assume that something really wonderful has happened to that person. Something that touched him or her deep inside and is reflected on the face and on the person as a whole. Pious legends tell us about Holy people who appeared with a halo and about mystic persons, who could pray so intensely  that the power went right through their bodies and lifted them from the ground.

According to the Holy Gospels, three privileged followers of Jesus could establish also such particular happening with Him. According to Saint Luke, He had taken them up on to the mountain in order to pray. And whilst He was praying and they had fallen asleep the moment of the Transfiguration was at hand and it was the disciples turn to witness. When they woke up they saw His glorified appearance. 
Anyone who knows the Holy Bible well, will think about the story in the book of Exodus about Moses, who on the mount Sinai in the cloud, heard Jawhe speak to him. When he descended the mountain, there was this wonderful glow on his face, of which he did not know anything himself. The Israelites saw his face shine and did not dare to approach him. ( Exodus 34, v 29-30)

Also over Jesus and the three apostles a cloud appeared according to the Holy Gospel or really thee cloud. It was this cloud, which in Biblical pictorial language was the shrouded presence of God. The voice from the cloud - God's voice, revealed to Jesus's companions to what His real identity was. Jesus was fully aware of His own identity when He was baptized in the river Jordan.

It is remarkable that the three witnesses told nobody about their experiences. You would have thought that spontaneously they would have trumpeted the news out and about. But they kept silence about all this for a long time.  Was this because they could not believe their own eyes? Or did they feel that with this story they would be the laughing stock of everyone? We can assume that only until after Easter they finally talked about all this. Because in the Light of Easter they finally understood the full meaning of their experiences on the mount Tabor. In a sense the story in the Holy Gospel of today can be understood in the same manner as the stories of the appearance of the Glorified Christ after He had died as a man. The evangelists have written everything down to imprint into their readers how they should see Jesus and listen to His words: like the chosen son of God, Who by his passion and death shares the Glory of His Father.

In the Eucharist, the central point is that the Glorified Christ is present, through the power of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us as His Priests. But it is Holy Faith without seeing. Only the Host and the Wine are visible elements.

How strong then is our faith? My faith should really be so strong that if someone who sees me coming out of church says spontaneously " you are glowing", not to make me a compliment, but because it is noticeable . I would answer:" Yes that is how I feel. The joy of celebrating our Holy Faith together must stream from my face".

The faithful with glowing faces! Shining because of the joy which they experience  when they meet together to pray and celebrate. We can be sure that faithful brothers and sisters with shining faces can leave an impression with others.  Is this not a wonderful prayer intention, that we may succeed by means of our shiny face to bring our Holy Faith alive?

Amen


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



Sunday, March 10, 2019

The First Sunday in Lent.

My Friends,

Angels play an important part in the Gospel story from Matthew on this first Sunday in Lent.The gradual, taken from Psalm 90 tells us : " God hath given his angels charge over thee in all thy ways."And we respond to that saying :"in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

When celebrating Mass I read the very familiar story that Jesus was taken by the spirit to the desert to be tempted by the devil. This temptation was preceeded by forty days and forty nights of fasting.Weak as he was after this period of time our Lord Jesus Christ withstood all the temptations by the devil and at the end He dismissed the devil by saying " Begone Satan , for it is written : The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. The devil left then and the angels came and ministered to the Lord Jesus Christ.

My life and no doubt yours is like a private desert, where we are constantly tempted by the devil or matters upset us, which are the work of the devil. I can recite a whole list of present experiences ,which are happening in the private desert of my life. Yet only through constant prayer and living my life in God's ways of rightiousness and peace and through the help of the Holy Spirit I can overcome the temptations.
At this point in time things are a bit much and I need to pray that the angels would come and minister to me in my private desert.


This, offcourse, is also something to consider in your own lives. Do the same , if you, in your private desert cannot handle things anymore.



When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.


Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.


See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?


Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.


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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ashwednesday

Father Ed Bakker

Dear Friends,


Ashwednesday, beginning of Lent
of forty days of repentance and reflection,
to share with our brothers and sisters.
Let us be mindful that that we do not look back to the past in this Lent
back to our mistakes and how we could have done better.
Let us look forward.




What is then waiting for us ?
We are going towards Easter.
That is new life, that is be set free
from all of what makes us miserable human beings.
does it not fill us with hope to look forward to that ?
Forty days to prepare our future !
That is a time full of hope and inner desires.
Forty days we are on the move together
towards Easter,
towards a new world
will you come with me?




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







Monday, March 4, 2019

Lent begins with Ashwednesday - 6 March 2019



Dear Friends,

Mt 6, 1-6.16-18: Your Father will reward you!

Do good and let all the people know!

That is a sentence which we heard a lot in the time we live in:expressed by well-known and lesser-known benefactors,but also Catholic Christians, who volunteer and who do a lot for others.

One or the other could say , that through their exemple they have encouraged others to participate as well in order to make the world more just and the people happier. The Holy Gospel, Mt 6, 1-6 16-18 also talks about the giving of alms, about praying and fasting, but Jesus asks us to do all these things in secret without publicity.

God sees it all and He will reward us! Anyone who wants to jack up his reputation by showing off good works to the world is completely wrong and must accept that he or she can be called a hypocrate.
In the season of Lent, which begins on Ashwednesday, it is all about renewal.This renewal must be in the innner soul and spiritually. By going back and practise these inner basic attitudes we will be able to get closer to God on our paths in this life. 

Behind our fasting, there must be the humbleness of our God. Behind our prayers there must be our hope and our trust.Finally, behind the giving of our alms, there must be love. Completely apart from the outward realization of these values we ought to question ourselves and think about our attitude towards God. Is my fast a recognition of myself as creature of God and the recognition of the greatness of my Creator? Is my praying really a personal contact with the One ,who has given me all my senses?Are my efforts for the work of mercy towards my neighbours really a sign of empathy, a sign of the fact that I really care about the fate of others? In this season of Lent it is all about how we feel about Jesus and to be obedient to His Word. That is then our purpose and the chance to understand Him better. Now we can really say:" Our time of Grace has come!"

When we really focus our eyes on Jesus and His message, our actions are given a whole new social dimension. We feel connected to all people in this wide world. Especially with those people suffering from war, hunger and distress and have all their rights taken away.
All our actions during this season of Lent are not only a spiritual experience, but it is also about our solidarity with all the people who were created in God's image.

Let us seize this opportunity, let us use it, so that this Lent can really become a time of Grace for us.
Amen.

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