Monday, September 14, 2020

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity 13 Sep 2020

My Friends, 

Gospel reading : Saint Luke 16, v 1-13

"We are all stewards"

When it comes to money, many people are keen. But that is not why money is mentioned quite often in the gospels. What the parables in which money is concerned want to make clear, among other things, is that the way people deal with money determines their relationship to God. Of course, money plays a central role in our dealings with other people. But it also plays a central role in our relationship to God. The gospel tells everyone: you cannot serve two masters, God and the Mammon, the money idol. If you are a slave to your possession, you cannot be free for God.

Today's parable is about a steward. Someone who has to manage the master's possessions and make them pay off. We also regularly encounter stewards in the gospels. Not surprising. Because we are all stewards! In many places throughout the Bible we find the thought that we are actually not the owners of everything we own. All we have, we actually received from the Creator, even though we may have worked hard for it ourselves. Ownership is very relative. We have what we have on loan. In a sense, we are officials of our own property. And we are accountable for the way we use it. What do we do with it?

What did the steward of the parable do with what had been entrusted to him? He has, to put it mildly, not been a model of good management. He has abused his office to exploit other people, and with that income he has made a good impression of himself. He is going to get the punch from his boss. And you see him calculate: "Oops, that doesn't look so good. After my discharge, I actually need all the people I have squeezed out for years. Because otherwise I am on my own. And who will then look after me? "That is why he is going to make them a friend, and see: the impossible suddenly becomes possible. Every debtor immediately receives a substantial debt,so far as to praise him, no doubt to the great annoyance of those who heard Jesus tell the story. What do we get now, they must have thought, an unscrupulous deceiver who receives applause! But Jesus said: "Take an example. If only the children of light were as smart and resourceful as the steward, a child of this world! "

So often money is used badly - say - unjustly. Christians are not allowed to participate. Money is for acquiring your good friends with it. The steward has done that. But the friends that really matter are good friends in heaven. They "will receive you in the eternal tents". In other words, it is important that we make God a friend by dealing with money. And it goes without saying that God is not our friend when we turn money into our idol.

It always strikes me again and I think you must also notice: money, the mud of the earth, is elevated to God. We no longer build churches; we convert them into museums. The impressive buildings that are now being erected are temples of money. Take a look around, wherever you live or come: in the inner cities, along the motorways. They are impressively displayed, the billion temples of money.

But don't get me wrong now. We need money. It is an indispensable means of exchange, it embodies our purchasing power, it is a necessary food. But idolatry starts as soon as we start to reverse the relationships, as soon as money is no longer a means for something else but everything else is made a means for money. The money contains the strongest and most terrible temptation for idolatry. Whoever serves the money as his lord can no longer serve God. He has betrayed God. He who betrays God betrays his fellow men. Were Christians, who must be children of the light, but just as clever and resourceful as the children of darkness! For example, clever and resourceful in sharing. The world would look very different if there was more and wise sharing. Less hatred, less violence and less needless sorrow would be sown and we would experience more friendship and respect ourselves.

Let me summarize it that way. Christians who understand the steward's parable well should excel through their creative imagination. Thinking of new ways and means and trying to touch the heart of their fellow men with the gospel message.

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

Monday, September 7, 2020

The Thirtheenth Sunday after Trinity 6 Sept 2020

My Friends, 

Galatians 5:16f     St. Luke 10:25f

“Go, and do thou likewise”


It seems so simple - just go and do it. But, of course, practical matters are never all that simple. The real question is about the animating principles which move in and through our practical lives. And that is the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan. It at once commands us and convicts us; commands us about what we must do, and convicts us that we cannot do this ourselves but only by the grace of God. 


The two questions, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “who is my neighbour?” are more than the accidental backdrop to the parable. They are altogether critical to its understanding. They remind us of the priority of the question “what is it good to be?” over the question “what is it right to do?” Christian practice follows upon Christian profession - what we do from what we believe. The radical meaning of the parable is that Christ is the Good Samaritan. “Go and do thou likewise” follows from our incorporation in him. 


The parable of the Good Samaritan, like so many of the parables, opens out to us the glorious and grand pageant of Redemption and focuses that pageant in the practical stuff of daily life. Here we have no detailed blueprint for political activity, whether imperial, totalitarian, revolutionary, socialist or democratic. Instead we are presented with the condition of our being in Christ and something of the nature of holy charity. We are given an example to follow and in the example we find our actual incorporation into the life of God through Jesus Christ.


The parable appears as an answer to the lawyer’s second question, “who is my neighbour?”, which question follows upon the great summary of the law given as the answer to the first question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”.  These are real questions in spite of the hostile intent of the lawyer.  They signal the critical point: eternal life and the commandment to love, in other words, the love of God and the love of neighbour,  are intimately related.  “This do and thou shalt live”. 


Christ upholds the righteousness of the law as establishing the condition of man’s relation with God.  But how is the law to be fulfilled?  The Priest and Levite in the parable attend to the strict letter of the law, as it were, with respect to ritual purity towards God, but in so doing fail to observe the spiritual intent of the law.  To put it another way, the righteousness which the law both seeks and requires cannot be accomplished through mere regulatory compliance. 


In the parable, Christ gives us an example.  The example he gives us is nothing less than a parable of his own incarnate life; in short, to love as he has loved.  The love of Christ is the fulfilling of the law.  There is in him alone that pure, total and absolute love for the goodness of God and all things for the sake of God.


The law is a commandment to love God “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength and with all our mind and our neighbour as ourself”.  We hear these words at the beginning of the Communion service.  They present the truth of our humanity - what is most wanted - and convict us of our untruth - what is far from us in ourselves.  There is not in us of ourselves that pure and spontaneous and total love of God for his own sake and the love of all other things for the sake of God.  It is what we most want but we constantly fall short of what we would be. 


In Christ the love of God and the love of neighbour meet.  The charity of the Good Samaritan is the charity of Christ in operation.  That charity must be before us as an example and it must be in us as the truth of our lives and our loves.  “All our doings without charity are nothing worth”. All charity is Christ. 


Would you see the glorious and grand pageant of our redemption in this parable?  Behold the themes of the Fall, the Incarnation and the Church.  Christ is the Good Samaritan who has come to where fallen humanity lies half-dead in the wounds of sin which make us strangers to all and everything.  The law in the letter of ritual intent passes by in the garb of Priest and Levite.  But Christ our great high priest has compassion and comes to where we are.  He sees the wounds of our unrighteousness and he binds them up.  He restores us by pouring in the anointing oil of his eternal messiahship for our comfort and the strengthening wine of his divinity for our joy.  He sets us upon the beast of his own body which freely bore the sins of the whole world.  He takes us to the inn of his church - not just a hotel for saints but a hospital for sinners, a veritable hotel de dieu.  There he continues to provide himself for us and for our salvation with the two denarii - the two coins - of the sacraments of holy Baptism and the holy Eucharist until he comes again.  In every way Christ is the love of God. 


Would you see the point of the parable for you in the stuff of daily life?  Let the charity of Christ move in your hearts.  Every day there are the opportunities for kindnesses towards others.  Our life and death are always with our neighbour.  The school of divine love is common charity.  It takes us out of ourselves and moves us towards one another.  It is the love of God in us.


What we are given to do are really “the works of corporal mercy” - works done out of a love for Christ in the body of Christ and for the body of Christ.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is the ultimate paradigm - model - for the works of corporal mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick, burying the dead, clothing the naked, ministering to prisoners, and harbouring the stranger.  They are “bodily” works, as it were.  They belong to our life in the body of Christ.  They are about the mercies of Christ in us and for one another. “Out of the love which Christ bore springs our love both him and to our neighbour.  We love him because he first loves us; and our love for others is the necessary fruit of our love for him”, as Augustine puts it.  


The point is wonderfully and finally captured in another phrase:

In Christ you have all.  Do you wish to love God?  You have him in Christ.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”.  Do you wish to love thy neighbour?  You have him in Christ.  “The Word was made flesh”.


Christ is the charity of God without whom all our doings are nothing worth.  It is Christ whom we serve when we are bidden: 


“Go, and do thou likewise” 

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

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

My Friends, 

Ephphatha,...Be opened
THE GOSPEL.  S. Mark 7. 31 
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 & Missionary, Saint Aidan's Anglican Catholic Mission, 
Launceston on Tasmania

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

My Friends 

In the blessing, Peter by God's revelation, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Later, Jesus received orders to share the mission of redemption. Many times in our journey, Jesus comes to us and asks us, "Who do you say I am?" Today, let us reflect on our relationship with Jesus and live out the mission God has given us. Pray for you at today's Mass. May the Lord grant you faith as firm as Peter, a living stone for the building of the Lord's house. May the Lord keep the faith of your whole family. Happy Sunday to you! 

Revd Fr Ed Bakker

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Missioner writes

My Friends,

TV and your IPhone remind you of the terrible times we live in at the moment. I also have my wife in the Accute Medical Unit.  Use the above shown prayer

Work at the Mission is hampered by the COVID-19 virus but I do what I possibly can.

God bless us all

Fr Ed Bakker