Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity


Dear Friends,

“He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy.” (James 2.13)
This parable of the unmerciful servant is wonderfully instructive, illustrating for us the superabundant mercy and forgiveness that we Christians must give to one another if we are to take advantage of the saving forgiveness which comes to us from God the Father through Jesus Christ. 

The telling of the parable is occasioned by St. Peter’s question: “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Peter, sensing that the new law of love which his master had been teaching extended beyond the regulations of the old Law, suggested seven times, rather than the three times laid down in Amos 1.3, and generally accepted by the Jews. No, says Jesus, your brother who offends you is to be forgiven an infinite number of times, seventy times seven, because the mercy and forgiveness extended to us by God is that deep. 

Jesus tells the story of a king who decides to call in some of the debts owed him by his subjects. He demands repayment of one who owes him 10,000 talents, which is a great deal of money. The man cannot pay him, and as a result, he threatens to sell him and his family into slavery, which in those days was allowed. (Leviticus 25.39) But the debtor falls down and begs for mercy so convincingly that the king wipes the debt out altogether. The same man, once he was forgiven for his debt, goes out to a fellow-subject of the king and demands of him the tiny sum of 100 pence. In turn the one owing 100 pence asks for time to pay, but the fellow has no mercy and has the debtor thrown into prison. The word gets back to the king, who, like his subjects, is appalled at the unmerciful servant’s behaviour. He throws him into prison, reinstating the original debt of 10,000 talents. 


The interpretation of this parable is clear. The king is God. We are his subjects and we are his debtors, because we have sinned against him. It is a large debt indeed that we have incurred, and if God were to call it in, there is no way that we would be able to pay it. But we know that when we in sincerity ask God our Father for forgiveness, we receive forgiveness, not because we deserve it, but because he is a merciful Father. We have no claim, no right to God’s consideration, but he hears us and has pity. 

Second, we must forgive our fellows the sins which they commit against us, which are minuscule compared with the sins we have committed against God and yet have been forgiven. In the Lord’s prayer, we pray: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive them who trespass against us.” Another translation which is sometimes used of this model prayer makes the message even more clear: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
 
If we are not willing to forgive one another, the forgiveness which we seek from God will be of no effect, no benefit whatsoever. Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans says: If we live according to the precepts of the old Law, we will be judged according to the old law. And Jesus himself said:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for any eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5.38-39) 
Forgive seventy times seven. Because we ourselves have been forgiven, we have no right whatsoever to demand our ‘pound of flesh’ from others.
 
Think: Whom have you refused forgiveness, either openly, or secretly in your heart? And conversely, whom should you ask for forgiveness that you have offended? With whom should you be reconciled today? This is serious business. Your refusal, your stiff-necked refusal to forgive and really forget may be the stumbling block which prevents you from entering the Kingdom of Heaven, and may rather be the reason for which you are delivered to the tormentors The American writer Henry Ward Beecher said: “I can forgive but I cannot forget is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note which is torn in two and burned up, so that it never can be shown again.” 


It is true that old hurts cut deep. Like a well-travelled road, the longer they are borne, the deeper the ruts become. It is even harder when those who have hurt and betrayed us are dear to us. Someone once said, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than a friend.” Those who are able to wound us most are those that we love. Yet, as George Herbert said, “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven.” 
Week by week, day by day, we pray that God will forgive us our sins. Let us make a special point today to ask God for the strength and courage to forgive others, and to ask for forgiveness, knowing that if we ask in faith, God will grant us grace to do both.




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


Monday, November 11, 2019

The Twentyfirst Sunday after Trinity - 10 November 2019

My Friends,

From the gospel according to saint John 4.50


Jesus saith unto him, go thy way, thy son liveth.  And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.
 
How is faith born?  And how does it grow?  And what does it look like, when it is mature?  These are questions every believer should be able to answer, and today’s gospel lesson is wonderfully instructive in this regard.  Let’s look at it carefully. 


The story begins in “Cana of Galilee”, the place where Jesus did his first miracle, changing the water into wine for the wedding feast.  No doubt the report or rumour of this and other miracles had circulated widely in Galilee; for the news of Jesus’ return from Judea to Cana drew out of Capernaum, a town some distance away, a certain nobleman, desperately afraid for his son, who was “at the point of death.”  He came to him, and begged him to “come down, and heal his son”. 
Now the nobleman it seems was a royal official in the court of Herod Antipas, son of King Herod, who ruled Galilee at that time.  You may savour the irony, that the important, and perhaps self-important servant of a proud and worldly king, humbles himself to seek the help of the prophet of the Kingdom of heaven.  But that is a necessary condition for faith’s birth: only when the barriers of pride are broken down, perhaps by some adversity or sorrow, can there be any opening to God.  Only then can the vague rumours of God’s mercy to men awaken a strange hope – a wild surmise –of his help.  


So in the nobleman we have the vague, rudimentary beginnings of faith, driven by desperate need, and ignorant of what it believes in.  For in asking him to “come down” to Capernaum, he was limiting Jesus’ power to do good to his physical presence, as if Jesus could not heal at a distance, in his absence.  He has not yet learned what it is to believe in Jesus.


And so we should not really be surprised that this initial appeal meets with a kind of harsh rebuff.  Jesus says, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe”.  There is something odd about this saying which no modern English translation can show us.  In Greek and older English, there are two ways of saying “you”.  You can use a word that indicates you are speaking to one other person, which in English is “thou”.  Or you can use a word that indicates you are speaking to more than one person, which in English is “ye” or “you”.  But in modern English, of course, there is only one way of addressing another person or persons, namely the word “you”, and you can’t tell whether one person is being spoken to or more than one, unless you are from the south, and can say “you all”.  Modern English translations of the Bible therefore are intrinsically less accurate than the King James Version – a point rarely if ever acknowledged by the scholars and publishers who profit from them.
The point of this digression is simply this:  when Jesus says “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe”, the word “ye” tells us that he is not singling out the nobleman for criticism.  If he were, he would have said “thou”.  His rebuke is addressed to a general tendency among the people who came to him – a greedy appetite for sensational signs and wonders together with an indifference to the teaching those miracles were meant to confirm.  And in this greed for miracles, there is an unwillingness to believe, an unwillingness to lift up hearts and minds in response to his teaching beyond the realm of things visible and tangible to the realm of things invisible and intangible.  There is a false faith that is blind to the greater goods of the Kingdom of heaven, obstinately materialistic, and lasting only as long as the supply of miracles.  And sustaining that kind of false faith is not the business that Jesus is in. 


 Despite this sharp rebuke, the nobleman persists in his plea.  “Sir, come down, ere my child die”. Here is a powerful man, used to having his own way, yet he does not burst out in a passion when he is crossed.  He does not stamp his feet or waste time in resentment.  Wounded pride is an indulgence he renounces when his son’s life is at stake.  Wounded pride is always an indulgence to be renounced, since our soul’s eternal life is at stake.  And though his faith is still rather vague and confused, yet his humble perseverance in prayer proves that it is real; and Jesus rewards his faith with a word of promise and command, “Go thy way, thy son liveth”.  By telling the man to leave, with the assurance that his son will live, he pushes the miraculous event, the wondrous sign, out of the spotlight, where it cannot be seen and cannot become a sensational crowd-pleaser.  The miracle is pushed ‘offstage’, and the challenge of faith and obedience in response to Jesus’ word are brought into the spotlight instead.  So the question for the royal official becomes not, will Jesus come down and heal my son, but, will I obey his command?  And that in turn depends upon the question, will I believe his promise?


 Those are the questions for us all, when we bring our hopes and fears to God in prayer.  Will we insist on his submitting to our demands?  Or will we subordinate our wishes to the purpose of his will?  When we rise from our knees, are we still trying to have our way with God, or have we decided to let God have his way with us?  Specifically are we ready to trust in his mercy, and obey his will, leaving the outcome to him?  Notice also that you can’t believe, but refuse to obey; or obey, without first believing:  Christ gives us something to believe, and something to obey, and our faith and obedience are the right and left hands by which the soul receives the blessing he gives. 


The first miracle of this story is this:  “And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.”  Without signs and wonders, without Jesus’ physical presence, he takes Jesus at his word, abandons his own condition, and accepts that of Christ, and goes his way, believing what he cannot see, trusting that Christ can work mightily by his word alone, though absent in his body.  Notice that it is at this point that his attitude to Jesus first deserves the name of faith; when he submits his mind and will to the word of Christ, in trust and obedience.  Before he had a vague and wishful hope that Christ would help his son; now in the word of Jesus he has a firm assurance in which he can rest his heart and mind.  Before, in the naivety of arrogance, he had a plan for Jesus to carry out, in order to help his son; now, in the wisdom of humility, he obeys the plan that Jesus has for him, in order to help his son. 


Such true faith and obedience does not go without vindication, even while he is still on the way home, before he has even seen his son.  “And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.”  By his faith and obedience, he has opened the door to the benefits promised by Jesus, which unbelief would have kept locked close.  Now notice what happens next.  “Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend.  And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.  So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth:  and himself believed, and his whole house.” Earlier, we were told that the man “believed the word that Jesus spake”; but now we are told, that after reflecting on the word of Jesus, and the recovery of his son, we are told that “himself believed”.  What is the difference?  In reflecting upon what Jesus has done for him in this particular case, he is moved to trust Jesus in all respects.  “He [had] believed that particular word of the Lord’s; but this is something more, the entering into the number of Christ’s disciples, his yielding himself to him as the promised Messiah” (Trench 131).  Out of thankful remembrance for all that Christ has done, he surrenders himself and his whole life to Christ.  And so it is for us all.  “The more carefully the divine works and benefits are considered, the more nourishment faith acquires” (Bengel quoted in Trench 130 n3).


This is the fullness of faith, the maturity of believing.  But that is not all.  His faith grows and matures in another way also.  Not only did he believe, also “his whole house”.  His faith did not remain buried in his heart, like an embarrassing personal habit.  It breaks out in joyful testimony, thanksgiving and praise, for what Jesus has done by his word to help his son.  And in response to testimony from such a trusted source, his entire household – family, staff, servants – also came to believe.  “For it is” says Martin Luther, “in the character and nature of faith that it attracts other people, breaks forth and becomes active in love”.  As Paul said to the Galatians, the only thing that avails in Jesus Christ is “faith which worketh by love” (5.6).  Faith does not remain silent, buried in one’s breast like a guilty secret; it cannot stay quiet, it must praise God and seek its neighbour’s good.  Such are the signs of a mature faith, and the fruit it bears in the lives of those it touches. 


Writing many centuries ago in a cold cell in a northern English monastery, the Venerable Bede summed up today’s gospel lesson with admirable conciseness.  “So we see that faith, like the other virtues, is formed gradually, and has its beginning, growth, and maturity.  His faith had its beginning, when he asked for his son’s recovery; its growth, when he believed our Lord’s words, Thy son liveth; its maturity, after the announcement of the fact by his servants”.  May it please Almighty God to grant us all the same beginning, increase, and maturity of faith in all humility and obedience; a faith that is founded upon his word to us in Jesus Christ, a faith that is active in love, fruitful in good works, vocal in praise, redounding to his glory, and effective to our salvation.


 Amen. 

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



Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity - 3 November 2019


Dear Fathers, Friends,
Gospel reading: Saint Matthew 22 beginning at verse 1
“Everything is ready”
 
“Everything is ready”, it seems but are we?  What does it mean to be ready for the banquet, for the wedding feast?  What, indeed, is the wedding garment without which, it seems, we are not ready; without which, it seems, we are out even when we think we are in; without which, it seems, we shall be “cast into outer darkness” where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. 
 
The times are never so bad that a good man cannot live in them.  The quality of the times in which we live cannot be the measure of virtue and character.  No.  It is rather the setting in which virtue is shown and character is proved.  The question for Christians “at all times and in all places” is whether we will be defined by circumstances or defined by grace.  By grace, we mean the highest perfection of human virtue which is God’s work in us and for us, come what may in the world around us. 
 
One thinks, for instance, of an Augustine, dying in his Episcopal see of Hippo Regius in 430AD, even as the armies of the Vandals were besieging the city, about to obliterate what had been the work of a life-time in the formation of Christian souls.  It was the first of a series of invasions that would virtually obliterate any trace of North African Christianity.  It was to survive principally in the writings of its theologians, chief of whom was Augustine. 
 
Or one thinks, perhaps, of a Dante, cast out of his beloved city of Florence and into the dark wood of exile.  And yet, in spite of his exile, or, it is, perhaps, not too much to say, because of his exile, he produced the greatest epic poem of Christian pilgrimage, The Divine Comedy, “to lead those”, as he says, “in a state of misery to the state of felicity”. 
 
The point, perhaps, is best summed up in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, where the Duke, exiled to the forests of Arden, poignantly, if not a little romantically, says:

Sweetare the uses of adversity;

Which,like the toad, ugly and venomous
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
How hard andyet how necessary to know the “good in everything” and even, that “sweet are the uses of adversity”.  And yet, it was in the dark wood,Dante tells us, the dark wood of the world’s adversity and the soul’sperplexity, that he learned a great good.
 
The alarms and the adversities of our day, politically and ecclesiastically, rightly arrest our attention.  The great biblical scholar Jerome, responsible for the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible (so formative for Western Christianity right up to and including The Book ofCommon Prayer, as, for instance, in the Latin titles that adorn the Psalms), contemplating the sack of Rome in 410 AD by Alaric the Ostrogoth, wrote that “the mind shudders at the thought of the ruin of our age”.  The mind shudders.  It is not simply shattered.  Rather it is shaken into thought upon the greater mystery and wonder of God’s Providence at work in and through the follies and foibles of our humanityhowever distraught and in disarray. 
 
To be defined by the circumstances of our day is to choose Fortuna, that ancient goddess of blind chance, Lady Luck.  She, of course, goes merrily and gaily on her way, favouring first one and then another, but leaving so many more in the ruin of her train.  You see, she doesn’t care.  She goes merrily on her way.  The wheel turns and we are either lifted up or crushed below.  If we choose to follow the revolving wheel of fortune and happen stance, going with the flow, as it is commonly said, then we shall be broken upon the wheel of her indifference, broken as much inwardly as outwardly. And yet, perhaps, that may be the awakening of the mind to the Providence ofGod. 
 
For God does care and, ultimately, even the adversities in our affairs belong to the lessons of his care, tough lessons though they may be.  They may be learned from the pageant of history, from the poets, and from the parade of our own experiences.  But surely they are best learned through the light of his Wordilluminating a way of understanding. 
 
We have spoken about Augustine, Jerome, Dante and Shakespeare.  But there are a host of others who also bear testimony to the Providence of God and the readying of the soul for the things of God in the face of crisis and adversities. William Nicholson, born in the late sixteenth century, was deprived of his living as an Anglican Priest during the interregnum – the English Civil Warperiod in the mid-seventeenth century – and survived by teaching school. The Prayer Book, too, was banned.  But at the restoration in 1660, what did a William Nicholson do?  It was not only that he was made Bishop of Gloucester but he undertook to write An Exposition on the Catechism. He recognized that after such a ruinous time what was needed was precisely are turn to foundational principles of our lives in Faith.  What could be more foundational than the Catechism which seeks to create a resonance in us of God’s Word and Son?  The Prayer Book catechism is almost unique for its liturgical character, its brevity and its strong insistence on the doctrinalbasics of the Faith and our identity in the Faith.  And such we may say is an illustration of the Providence of God for us readying our souls for the things of God in good times and bad. 
 
In Jesus Christ, the Providence of God is written out for us to read most clearly and most dramatically.  He is, we might say, the mind of God’s Providence, the Word and Son of the Father who “came unto his own and his own received him not”.  The parable in today’s gospel is a parable of the gospel itself.  Jesus shows us a picture of our indifference to his love, to his good for us, but only so as to shake us into readiness and preparation. 
 
What, then, is the wedding-garment?  It is nothing less than the charity of God in the sacrifice of Christ.  The wedding-garment is Christ Jesus, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Our preparation is our full yearning for his love. It includes and, indeed, demands our full-hearted repentance.
 
For what is this marriage-feast in the parable?  Surely, it is the marriage of heaven and earth, the union of God and man in Christ Jesus.  It signifies his whole incarnate life – the preparations for his coming and our refusings, his coming and our callous disregard.  But the parable is told to make us ready “both in body and soul”, to shake us into thought and action.  “Everything is ready” and he would have us ready too, ready and prepared to enter into everything which he, in his Providence, has prepared for us.  “Everything is ready” and God would make us ready, too.  He is, afterall, “the good in everything”. 
 
“Everything is ready”

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


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Christ the King

My Friends,


Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17
1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28
|Matthew 25:31-46


History tells of some very interesting, if not very moral, monarchs. Ivan the Terrible merited his nickname by torturing enemies and friends alike for sheer pleasure. Henry VIII altered the moral code to suit himself and married six times, murdering two of his wives to clear the way for others. Montezuma, great king of the Aztecs, waged war solely to obtain thousands of captives for human sacrifice. Almost every monarch you can think of has grown rich at the expense of their subjects. One of the characters in 'Huckleberry Finn' sardonically remarks that, All kings is mostly rapscallions.


The Gospels assert that Jesus was of royal blood, descended from the House of David, but do we really want to include him among all the rapscallions? What king was ever like Jesus, born in royal David's city, Bethlehem, but in a stable not a palace, with no place to lay his head, and buried in another man's tomb. His accession to the throne was his entry into Jerusalem, the royal capital, riding on a donkey rather than in a state coach. His royal robe was a spittle-covered purple rag, his crown was of thorns and his sceptre a reed. He made his royal progress weak and bleeding through the streets, to the jeers not the cheers of the populace. At Calvary he was enthroned on an executioner's gibbet. 


Christ the King has nothing in common with earthly rulers, so his kingdom can be nothing like an earthly kingdom. In his realm there are no masters because everyone is a servant. Even the King came to serve and not to be served. Those who would be greatest in the Kingdom are those who make themselves the least. The reward for service is not promotion and financial gain but to be given further opportunities for service. When his subjects become rich or gain promotion, they are impoverished and demoted, the mighty being cast from their thrones and the lowly exalted. The lowest are the highest and tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom before the hypocritical Pharisees, members of the religious and political establishment, who take the best seats in the synagogues, encourage salutations in the market places and create heavy burdens for other people to bear without lifting a finger to help them.


It is difficult for us Christians to live simultaneously in two kingdoms, that of this world and that of Christ. We are prone to amalgamate them, to make one look so much like the other that we can't tell the difference. Often it seems that the Church, and our lives within it, have been made to fit the image of an temporal earthly kingdom rather than making earthly kingdoms fit the image of Christ's eternal heavenly Kingdom. It is difficult for Christians to live in society because the structures of that society are not the same as those in the Kingdom of God.


The distinguishing feature of Christ's rule is that of justice, but not the kind of justice we're used to. We tend to think that justice is giving people what they deserve. But justice in Christ's kingdom is the opposite. There the ultimate in justice is forgiveness. If we all got what we deserved what a sorry place God's Kingdom would be. Most of us would be cast into that outer darkness Jesus talks about in today's Gospel. Throughout his life Jesus emphasised forgiveness and it is this that tempers justice.


You can recognise the people who feel at home in the Kingdom, they are the ones who are ready to forgive. They are the people who feed and give drink to the hungry and thirsty, who welcome outcasts back into society, who clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned. This difference between earthly kingdoms and that of Christ the King, between earthly subjects and gospel followers, is beautifully expressed in a verse written originally in Latin by John Chandler in the 19th Century:

Conquering kings their titles take from the foes they captive make:
Jesus, by a nobler deed, from the thousands he hath freed.  


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




Monday, October 21, 2019

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity - 20 October 2019

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.There is a song by Mary Ann Dufour and it goes likes this :" you' have got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything, and everything. 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 on Tasmania