Monday, October 23, 2017

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, 22 October 2017

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
Ephesians 4:17f     St. Matthew 9:1f

 “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee”
 
The lessons focus on two intimately related themes: the forsaking of sins and the forgiveness of sins.  Both involve a re-ordering, a re-establishing of the interior life of the soul: the first as directed to the soul’s activity, to what we must do; the second, to the soul itself, to who and what we are. 
 
 Forgiveness means the actual putting away of the obstacles which hinder the soul’s true motion towards the good, towards God - it means the removal of sin.  Forsaking means the actual turning away from sin to the active loving of the true and absolute good, God - it means the pursuit of righteousness.  The forgiveness of sins enables the forsaking of sins, the following after righteousness through the restoration of righteousness in us.
 
The forsaking of sins and the forgiveness of sins involve a motion away from sin to righteousness.  That motion of the soul is repentance.  As Jeremy Taylor writes:

 Repentance, of all things in the world, makes the greatest change: it changes things in heaven and earth; for it changes the whole man from sin to grace, from vicious habits to holy customs, from unchaste bodies to angelical souls, from swine to philosophers, from drunkenness to sober counsels. 
                                                         
“Repentance makes the greatest change”.  It means just that - a change, a change in outlook, a metanoia, a conversion in the sense of a turning around, a turning around because of having been turned around.  Repentance means a change of heart and a conversion of mind.  “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind”, writes St.  Paul, exhorting the Ephesians to repentance, to the forsaking of sins, “put off the old manhood...put on the new manhood”, “put away....all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking...with all malice”, for “ye have not so learned Christ”.  Repentance means a radical re-ordering of the soul’s activity.  But how is this possible?  How are our vicious habits to be transformed into holy customs?
 
“Be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”.   God’s forgiveness must be active in our forgiveness.  The forsaking of sins depends radically upon the forgiveness of sins and the forgiveness of sins is a divine act - a divine activity accomplished in the flesh of our humanity, in the very manhood of Christ.  For lest we should think that this motion of the soul is wholly our own doing, the Collect recollects to us that the forsaking of sins and the forgiveness of sins is an essentially divine activity in us.

“O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee: Mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts”.
God alone can forgive sins, but it is man alone who must be forgiven.  The two sides meet in Jesus Christ.  Forgiveness belongs to God because the forgiveness of sins means the restoration of man into righteousness.  This cannot be accomplished by a mere forgetting of sin - the pretence that nothing happened when, in fact, something did - but by a making right of what was wrong, a transformation of sin into righteousness, of evil into good. 
 
The gospel story anticipates the forgiveness of sins for the whole world.  It anticipates the passion of Christ.  For Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sins.  In Him, there is perfect accord between the truth of our humanity and true divinity.  Christ forgives the sins of the man sick with palsy; Christ perceives the hidden thoughts of the Scribes; Christ heals the paralytic in order that “ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins”.  Forgiveness, omniscience, resuscitation anticipating resurrection - these are all divine activities wrought by Christ in the flesh of our humanity “that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins”.  Forgiveness on earth is through the Word made flesh.  Christ in the inmost being of his perfect human soul yields to the will of his heavenly Father, referring all things to the divine source of all things and all activity.  He intercedes, for when he dies, he has the whole of mankind in his heart. 
 
The forgiveness of sins is a divine act.  It means a restoration, a re-creation.  The God who creates out of nothing, restores man out of the nothingness of sins.  He re-establishes man in righteousness.  The vehicle of this restoration is the humanity of Christ.  The restoration is accomplished in the Passion and Death of Christ.

 Jesus is by his own death the forgiveness of sins; he is the resurrection and the life through his own resurrection.  We are thrown into the life-giving sepulchre of Christ, we touch the slain and living Christ, his body and his blood; our sins are forgiven us, and we live by him; we arise to walk in all those good works that he has prepared for us to walk in.  (Austin Farrer, The Crown of the Year, Trinity XIX)
It cost the heart-blood of the Son of God to obtain heaven for us.  Forgiveness ultimately means to will the true good, the good that is God himself and the goal of man.  Forgiveness is no superficial gesture.  It must come from the heart, from the heart of God into our hearts.  It concerns not simply the penalties or the consequences of sin but sin itself. 
 
But what is the act of forgiving in us?  If you say, “I forgive you, but I can’t forget”, then you haven’t forgiven the sin.  You have merely sent away or put away the penalty that you might have exacted, your pound of flesh, as it were.  But the original wrong isn’t made right between you.  It isn’t forgiven.  Forgiveness cannot be mere words, sounds signifying nothing.  Or if you despise the one who has offended you so that it is a matter of repugnance or a matter of indifference to have nothing further to do with him, then you haven’t forgiven him so much as tried to forget him, to erase him from your universe.  If you say, “I will forgive, because if I don’t, God won’t forgive me”, then you come a little closer to true  forgiveness, though standing yet a long way off.  At least the common basis of our sinful humanity is recognised - a common need, a ground of sympathy, is acknowledged.
 
The forgiveness of sins from the heart is a deeper and more profound reality.  It is an active love that seeks to restore and perfect.  It is a mirroring in us of the Divine Love that has created us and which restores us.  Divine forgiveness creates our forgiveness.  It takes away all our sins and offences by the transforming power of that active love which yielded itself to the hard wood of the Cross.  Christ is our forgiveness who at the moment of his dying, prays “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. 
 
“Forgiveness”, writes George MacDonald, “is not love merely, but love conveyed as love to the erring” - love to the unlovely – “so establishing peace with God, and forgiveness towards our neighbour”.  Forgiveness is one of the great distinctives of the Christian faith.  We cannot not speak of it.  What can it mean in the face of conflict and war, in the face of enmity and hatred?  It means everything.  It means an openness to the transcendent love of God without which our lives are the prisoners to our passions.  At the very least, we have to want that peace and reconciliation that ultimately comes from God and let it direct and rule our hearts.  It is to be recalled to the ultimate dignity of our humanity which is found in the love of God for us in Jesus Christ.  We come to him who has given himself for us.  We come to this eucharistic feast that we, too, might know that our sins are forgiven us. 
 
“Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee”

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

From the Missioner's desk 18 October 2017

 
Dear Friends,
 
 
Matthew 25 King James Version (KJV)
 
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
King James Version (KJV)
 
 
For the last six weeks, I spent each half day visiting my wife, after she had a knee replacement operation in Launceston General Hospital.
When you spend so much time in a hospital then you experience in many cases new things:

First of all , you realize that there is so much suffering about. Not only old people, but also young ones.
Then, when you observe the nursing staff in action, the doctors performing their duties and all the support staff such as house staff, physiotherapists with patience , love and care towards the patients. As a Missioner/Priest here in Launceston, I feel that I have been called to preach Christ Crucified, to heal the sick and comfort the broken hearted. I believe that all those I mentioned working at Launceston General Hospital have been called to their professions and jobs, because they want to care with love and patience for the sick and suffering.
 
Whilst first of all I give thanks to God for bringing my wife home safely tomorrow, I thank God too for all the staff, who looked after her so well during these six weeks. God bless you all.
 
Let it be known from Saint Matthew 25 , verses listed down below, if you care for those who are sick and suffering you have  done it unto Jesus.
I had the opportunity to sit with a number of people and pray for healing. This was indeed a joy.
 
Blessings,
 
Father Ed Bakker
Priest & Missioner
Anglican Catholic Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Saint Luke the Evangelist Wednesday 18 October 2017


Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

Today is the feast day of St. Luke. Most of us know him only as the author of the Gospel that bears his name. Some know that he was a medical doctor, and perhaps very few know that according to tradition, Luke was also the very first iconographer of our Lord. In other words, St. Luke drew the first portrait of our Lord that has become a model for artists right down to our own day. It’s also probably not widely known among Christians that St. Luke was martyred for preaching the Christian faith at the age of 84.

According to today’s Gospel text, written by the hand of Luke himself, the Lord commissioned 70 preachers to proclaim the Gospel in advance of the Lord’s coming. It is believed universally in the Church that Luke was one of these preachers.
And even though St. Luke was a highly educated man, a doctor, an artist, a researcher who could hold his own against any other ancient historian from the Greco-Roman world, and a magnificent writer, whose poetic pictures with words spellbind us to this day as his prose is read aloud, especially at Christmastime, note the humility with which he preaches.

He is sent as a lamb among wolves, carrying neither wallet nor shoes, walking along the road speaking to no-one, a man seemingly of no great importance treading along the filthy road like a beggar. He has no entourage, no celebrity status, no perks of being a member of the intelligentsia or of the medical profession. He is proclaiming the coming of one far greater than the greatest of the world’s wealthy and powerful men.

Some people greet these preachers in peace, in which case the Lord, speaking through the preacher, blesses that home with his peace. He is to heal the sick, and to make an announcement to those who welcome him, and those who welcome him not: “The kingdom of God has come near you.”

To those who receive the peace from the preacher, this announcement is good news, but to those who will be judged by the Word of God, the preacher’s words are ominous and frightful.

This is the ministry to which this doctor - this healer of the body, this historian, this artist, this writer of the Gospel narrative – has been called.

It is the same ministry to which St. Timothy is called by the same Apostle who takes Luke under his wing: St. Paul. Paul commissions Timothy to “Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Part of Timothy’s work is to preach on the holy Gospel that St. Luke has written, to proclaim this good news to those who gladly hear and learn it, as well as to those who mock and scoff.

This is the same commission given to every preacher from the time of the apostles.
And just as Paul’s life is “being poured out as a drink offering,” so too would St. Luke be beaten to death in the future by a mob of those who would reject the good news. And yet, Luke’s simple, but eloquent and thorough proclamation of the Gospel continues to this day, as his words are read from lecterns and pulpits in every Christian church in the world, in every language, and on every continent. Luke’s words (which are really God’s Word) ring out, and have rung out, every day around the globe for nearly two thousand years without interruption – though tyrants and dictators have tried to snuff them out. Our father in Christ St. Luke continues to join with us even here at Salem as we gather around our blessed Lord in his Gospel and in his Supper with all the angels, archangels, and every saint in heaven.

St. Luke began his work as a medical doctor with the calling of easing pain, of stopping issues of blood, of grasping life itself from the jaws of death – but even in that noble vocation, death always eventually claims the patient. However, the Lord Jesus transforms Luke into a new kind of doctor, who eases the pain of guilty consciences, who gives out the life-giving blood of the Lord, who rescues from death and the grave to give life that never ends. He is called to do the work of the Great Physician himself.

In the course of this work, the sainted doctor would find himself, like our Lord, being tortured with agonizing pain, with his own lifeblood being spilled as a drink offering, and the seeping out of his life in this fallen world as he was made a martyr for the faith. But in this dying, he is given life. And once more the iconographer of our Lord becomes an image of Christ in his own suffering and death.

Dear friends, St. Luke continues to preach and proclaim today. Even though the devil has temporarily silenced his tongue, his hand and pen still cry out: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Even though Satan has, for the time being, stopped the hands of the artist, his life and proclamation of Christ continue to be an icon of Jesus and his saving work. Though Luke’s blood was spilled, it was blood mingled by the blood of Jesus in holy communion, blood that has watered the earth only to nourish and cause new seeds of faith to sprout, blood which courses through the body of Christ, the Church, bringing eternal life to every little cell and member in that body to this very day.

And as much affection we have for our dear sainted father Luke, our brother in the faith, the doctor of souls, the painter of icons, the writer of the very Word of God – he is but a humble instrument. He stands today before the throne of God, with shoes removed (for that is holy ground), with no wallet (for he shares in eternal riches), eating and drinking of the glories set before him. But there is one important difference: St. Luke is no longer in the company of sinners in need of repentance. His work there is done, in the church triumphant. But here, in the church militant, this intellectual giant who was to become a humble preacher, continues to ease suffering, to offer the blood of the Lamb to patients in need of a spiritual transfusion, to spread life around to any and all who receive the prescription.

There is a good reason why the Church has always celebrated October 18 as the feast of St. Luke. He is not only an inspiration and holy example to every preacher, but also to every Christian. For Luke’s entire life was a humble offering to the Lord. One need not be a preacher to be a witness. In fact, the vast majority of Christian martyrs, whose witness of Jesus cost them their very lives, have been men and women who serve the church and give testimony of our Lord as members of the laity.
St. Luke has not only left us portraits of Jesus and poetic accounts of the narrative of his life, St. Luke was and is a tool through which our blessed Lord has redeemed, is redeeming, and will redeem the universe.

And that redemption is yours, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. It is all yours. Every inspired word in St. Luke’s Gospel is there for your healing, for your life, and for your salvation.

And as another preacher, St. Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome, preached on this very day some fourteen centuries ago, “Pray indeed the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. And pray for us that we may be able to serve you as you deserve, that our tongue may never grow tired of exhorting you, lest having undertaken this office of preaching, our silence condemn us in the sight of our just judge.”

With St. Luke and St. Gregory and every Christian preacher of every time, I proclaim this truth to you, dear saints of Salem: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Amen.

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

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.  As the song which Mary Ann Dufour sang once at a tv variety show puts it, “you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”, and everything, we might add.  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
Tasmania
Australia


Monday, October 9, 2017

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity - 8 October 2017

 
Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

 Luke 14:1-11

Jesus said, "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." 

My friends, a few minutes ago, as you listened to the Gospel reading, you heard about the man with dropsy. I really didn't know very much about dropsy. I know that we would say, when we can't hold onto something and we keep dropping it, "I must have dropsy." I guess that's a common use of the word. 


Actually, it is a rather antiquated word to describe something that medical people nowadays call edema, which means excessive fluid in the system. I don't pretend to be a doctor but what I did learn about edema is that it isn't a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of something else that is really wrong with a person. Frequently it involves the kidneys or congestive heart failure or some other radical disease that is within the system, such as cancer A person balloons up with all the fluid in his system. 

This is the afflicted individual who was standing in front of Jesus at a dinner to which He had been invited. It was obvious the man was very ill. Jesus would have to ask some questions of the people who were assembled there because they were watching Him closely, as Luke tells us. 

He asks them a very simple question, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" Immediately, He put them on the horns of dilemma. If they said what they should have said, "No, it is not right to heal on the Sabbath," for the practice of medicine was specifically forbidden by Jewish law, that would have been absurd. Cleverly, He poses the dilemma. They couldn't answer Jesus' question one way or the other; they very prudently kept their mouths shut. 

So Jesus simply healed the man. What a radical transformation must have come over this individual. He was completely changed, completely transformed. He no longer was so bloated. He looked normal. Whatever had caused these symptoms was gone as well. What a miraculous thing Jesus has done! 

Now He decides to give the people a little instruction. "Which of you have some beast of burden? If it were to fall into a cistern, wouldn't you pull it out on the Sabbath?" Oddly enough, to do so was allowed in Jewish law. But you couldn't heal or practice medicine on the Sabbath. How absurd! How absolutely crazy! 

Jesus continues this instruction for those people who were watching Him. Rather than embarrass His host, who had invited Him to this luncheon (probably after the Sabbath service at the synagogue), He proposes a little parable to them. "When you show up for a wedding, don’t go and grab the best seats at table. Somebody more important than you might have been invited and you would have to give up that place." In Jewish society the seating of guests at a banquet was incredibly complex. It had to do with age and rank and wealth and whatever else was part of the mix. The idea was that the person who ranked highest would sit closest to the host; the lowest, farthest away. 

Jesus had just watched them scramble for the best seats at this meal but he doesn't directly criticize them. Instead He says, When you go to a wedding, don't do that. Seek the lowest place and then the host can say, 'Friend, come up higher'." Now He wasn't instructing them on the niceties of etiquette in the Jewish community. Rather He was trying to teach them something else, about their relationship with God; that they should live their lives with honesty, simplicity, and humility. 
 
In order for us to understand, we read that final line in today's Gospel: "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." What does that mean? Very simply, you and I must understand the virtue of humility in such a way that we come to realize that before God we are what we are. What a beautiful teaching that comes fast upon the healing of the man with dropsy. He was all bloated. Now Jesus is dealing with people who were bloated with pride. He wants to heal them as well. 

He doesn't want us to fall prey to the illness of pride. He who humbled Himself in obedience to His Father, even to the point of death on the cross could give this lesson in humility. "Be honest," He is saying, "about who you are and what you are before God, first and foremost. It is your relationship with your God that is so important. If you exalt yourself, God will put you down. If you humble yourself, God will raise you up. 

That is the moral of the parable, if you will. It is a lesson that you and I must understand. Humility is honesty with oneself before God: to be honest about who and what we are; to acknowledge the fact that God has perhaps given us great talents. That is not pride to acknowledge those talents. That is honesty. And it is humility. False humility is to have the gifts and hide them under a bushel basket. False humility is to say, when you know you are able, "Oh, I'm not really good at this at all." You really think in your heart of hearts that you are able. That puffs you up. That gives you "spiritual dropsy". That we don't want . 

What we want to have is a simplicity before God that says, "I am what I am. I have these gifts. I have these failings. I acknowledge the fact that I am a sinner before God; that I fail many times a day; that I must seek the forgiveness of my God." If we do that, we are building the kind of humility that Christ our Lord wants us to have. 
In the first reading this morning from the fourth chapter of Saint Paul's letter to the Ephesians (That whole fourth chapter is such a beautiful teaching on the unity of the Mystical Body as well as the diversity of gifts within the Body) Paul says, 
"I plead with you then, as a prisoner for the Lord, to live a life worthy of the calling you have received with perfect humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another lovingly, making every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force." 

"This is the way you and I are to be," says Paul. Later on in that chapter, he says very simply, "You must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire." (Illusion is pride.) "Acquire a fresh spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God's image whose justice and holiness are born of truth" (Ephesians 4:22-24). 

That was quite a luncheon Jesus attended. It started out with the healing of the poor bloated man standing before Him. It ended by pricking the bloat of the people that were assembled, teaching them about true humility. Let this be the word for the week that we carry with us from church this morning. "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

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