Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity - 5 July 2020

My Friends

“In thy light we shall see light.” (Psalm 36.6

How frightening to our condition is today’s Gospel.  “Judge not,” Jesus commands.  Every statement we make is a judgement and every free act involves choice, which is judgement by another name.  Yet Jesus rightly forbids our judging, for we lack the necessary clarity of vision.  We are like the blind leading the blind or like a man with distorted sight who tries to correct the vision of his brother

A moment’s reflection on this deepens the despair.  Our disorder is so complete that we have good reason to fear our virtues as much as our vices; indeed they are profoundly connected.  Our vices are often the extensions and complements of our virtues.  The virtue of frankness runs on to become the viciousness of a gossiping, indiscreet and cruel tongue.  The man who is at home open handed, liberal, and generous demands harsh meanness of the government.  The steady conservative upon whom we rely to guard our treasure cannot discriminate between the precious and rubbish.  Reformers, so necessary to counterbalance these, throw out the baby with the bath water.  The obedient follow Hitler as easily as God.  The careful are mean, and the modest, cold.  The well-intentioned are busybodies and meddlers.  Liberators become dictators.  There is none good, no not one.  Jesus justly cries ‘Woe unto you hypocrites for ye are like unto whitened sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23.27)  We understand ourselves no better than we know our neighbours; we are better acquainted with our outward loveliness than with our inner rot. 

So, when we beg God to cleanse us of sins which are secret, we speak of the disorder hidden from our own sight by the fact that our vision is bound up with our personality, with our very identity.  And yet our whole salvation depends upon clarity: “This is the judgement,” Jesus declares, “that light is come into the world, but men chose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” (John 3.19)  We are caught in a horrifying vicious circle.  We cannot do the right and good because we choose darkness instead of light, and the blindness which prefers darkness is seeking to cover its evil deeds.  “If the light which is in you be darkness how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6.23) 

Today’s Gospel leaves us self-condemned, blind, endlessly falling and without any power of ourselves to help ourselves, but Paul’s epistle offers hope in our despair and light in our darkness.  Vanity, empty pride, self-love and self-deceit are not the end of the story. 

For the creation was not made subject to vanity of its own will but in accordance with the will of him who made it subject in hope.  (Romans 8.20)

God did not allow us to fall into this dreadful condition in order to destroy us, but so, in saving us, to unite us to himself.  God allows us our own way in order to adopt us as free children.  Our self-destructive freedom is the means to the glorious liberty of the children of God, the splendid inheritance of the saints in light.  We must experience the vanity of our purposes and the weakness of our power so that we are willing to be redeemed soul and body, to be made a new creation.  We must love that by which we are transformed.  We groan, oppressed and weighed down by our sins, but this is not sullen, silent suffering.  These groans are impatient waiting, full of expectation and hope.  God breaks into the closed circle of our self-deceit.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome.  Outside ourselves we find a light by which we can see ourselves.  The light shines in our hearts to give knowledge.  By his light, and none other, knowledge is increased. 


In this way we love and choose rightly, not because we first loved God, but because he loved us and gave himself for us.  The love is no more our own than the light was our own.  It is not just a matter of pooling our collective ignorance as if that would awake the spark of light.  We are all caught up in the great cosmic motion by which we are being carried out of ourselves.  This and this alone is our hope.  On this account I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed.  These groans of the whole creation are a desire to pass through temporal things so as to gain eternal things.


To bring about this change, which is far beyond our natural expectation and capacity, God must be our ruler and guide.  For in Christ, God is not just a light to show us the way, God is the way into himself as the end of our journey.  Jesus is the way which is both light and life: not only a light shining out of heaven, but also a life into which we can enter to carry us over.  And so he is the life-giving food of man wayfaring.  Here and now in this blessed sacrament he transforms the earthly bread we offer to make it his glorious body, the bread of angels, the food of heaven.  And therefore, earnestly hopeful and eagerly expectant, we offer to God the sacrifice which is his due and give to Father, Son, and Spirit, all praise, honour, glory and dominion, now and ever. 

Amen

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









Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Third Sunday after Trinity - 28 June 2020


Christ Church Anglican Church , Brunswick in the Nineties
My Friends,
Readings: 1 St Peter 5 v 5 , St Luke 15 v 1
 Be clothed with humility”

 
The humility of God’s charity calls us to humility over and against our pride.  Pride is that grand delusion whereby we think we are sufficient unto ourselves, whereby we think we stand in need of nothing but presume to be the center of everything.  The self-giving love of God stands altogether opposed to the self-centeredness of our pride.  It is our pride which stands utterly opposed to God and to God’s ways with us.  “For God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.”
 
In the Gospel for today, “all the publicans and sinners drew near to hear Jesus.” But “the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying ‘This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them’.”  In other words, the Pharisees and Scribes - the self-righteous in the pride of their religion - complain about the company which Jesus keeps - the company of publicans and sinners.  It is in relation to this division between publicans and sinners, on the one hand, and Pharisees and Scribes, on the other hand, that Jesus tells this parable.
 
Publicans are not the keeper of pubs, but the collectors of taxes - taxes which belong to the  res publicae, the public things in the order and rule of the state.  Now tax collectors can hardly ever be regarded in a favourable light, but much less so in the context of the Gospel.  For then, they were seen as traitors to Israel because they were co-operating with their foreign Roman overlords.  And beyond that, they were also seen as extortionists.  The business of tax collection was hired out by the Roman Government to local agents - Rome may have been the first government to outsource taxing!  They were given a quota which they had to meet; anything above that was for themselves.  Thus the publicans were out to get whatever they could from an unwilling population.  No-one could be more despised than a publican. 
 
Hardly respectable company for a teacher of religion, or a least so the Pharisees and the Scribes thought.  Their complaint was that they were the worthy ones, the respectable company with whom Jesus should be, not this rabble of unworthy “publicans and sinners”.  Their complaint reveals a feature of pride.  It cuts us off from others and from God.  As Hagar Shipley Currie, in Margaret Laurence’s classic novel The Stone Angel, puts it, “Pride was my wilderness”, a wilderness in which we are lost to ourselves, to others and to God.  There is nothing more empty and more isolating than pride - the pride that is so completely focused on oneself whether in boasting “how great I am” or in whining “how poor, sad, mad and miserable I am.”
 
Jesus’ response is to tell two stories - three actually - the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin, and the story which follows those two, the story of the lost or prodigal son.  The lesson is plain.  Salvation is for those who need salvation, for those who are lost.  “There shall be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance.”  To know oneself as a sinner is to stand in need of salvation, to be looking for it and to be where it is proclaimed.  To know oneself as such is itself an act of humility, an act of the grace of God in one.
 
Jesus tells this to the Pharisees and Scribes who, like the “publicans and sinners”, also need repentance and salvation.  But unlike the “publicans and sinners” they don’t think that they need anything whatsoever.  They stand and murmur against Jesus in the pride of their self-righteousness, claiming a worthiness on the basis of their observation of the law.  Keeping the law, however, is not their sin.  Their sin is in despising the “publicans and sinners”, in presuming their own self-sufficiency and in murmuring against the ways of God with men in Jesus Christ.
 
The gospel shows us that Jesus is the infinite charity of God towards us, reaching down to seek out the lost, from the greatest to the least, and to draw us back out of the wilderness to which our sins have exiled us, to bring us into the company which we have forsaken.  He is the humility of God’s charity.  But in this reaching down of God to us, there is also his reaching down in us.  Humility is God’s grace opening us out to the pattern of his love in us.  It is the inner clothing of the soul.
 
And it changes everything.  “Be subject to one another”, Peter tells us.  How different that is from the Pharisees and Scribes.  They would stand over everything else - lord it over us all.  But if it is not so with God, then how can it be so with one another?  “Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.”
 
But being subject to one another does not mean mindless submission.  Humility must also mean a confident openness to the truth which one has been given to see and a confident willingness to act upon what one knows.  Humility is not grovelling subservience.
 
The point theologically is the total primacy of God’s grace in the work of salvation.  It is not our worthiness but the infinite generosity of God that is at work for us and in us.  And this is something which we have to want if ever we will discover how it is all God’s work in us.  Pride can have no place with God for it stands opposed to God and murmurs against God for the company he keeps.  But the company he keeps is you and me - sinners all, whether publicans or not.  And if we think that we are not sinners, then we exclude ourselves from his company and presume to be better than one another.  Such is not of God.
 
The lesson Jesus teaches illustrates the gentle humility of God’s way with us even in the face of the hardness of our proud hearts.  He shows us the infinite extent of the humility of his love for us in his seeking out the lost.  And he shows us that the way of his love must be his way in us.
 
He has reached down to us in the lost wanderings of our ways, but he has reached down to us that he might redeem us, that his humility might be both his example and the workings of his grace in us, that he might be in our company - sinners all - and we in his company - gracious in the sight of God by virtue of God’s reaching down to us.  Such is God’s humility towards us.  Such is the humility with which we should want to be clothed. 
 
“Be clothed with humility”

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


 


  
  




Monday, June 22, 2020

The Second Sunday after Trinity - 21 June 2020

My Friends,
Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3.18)
 
The great power and the great question of our time are the same. Our great power, ability and skill which makes us superior to every other age of men who have dwelt on the face of the earth, a capacity which has built a civilization the most mighty in human history, is technology, the power of turning thought into practice, the power to apply knowledge to the transformation of reality. The great question and crushing problem, the unsolved dilemma, is equally a matter of bringing together thought and practice, knowledge and love. Our unsolved problem is to know the truth which will tell us what to do with our power to mold and transform our world.  We have knowledge which tells us how to do what we will, but to what ends are we to direct our power? What goals are true and good both?  What is the truth which will make us free?  That is the defeating question of our time.
 
Individuals as well as our social agencies are caught in the same problem.  What ideals are true and good, and provide a sure basis for directing my life? we ask.  The so called 'information explosion' has the effect that there are an almost endless number of so called styles of life conceivable: Which ideals are true? and once I know the truth, how do I make that ideal the reality of my life?  This is the expressed or unexpressed question constantly before every pastor. 
 
This great problem of knowing the truth which is our good and goal, and making that truth the practical reality of our lives, this is the great preoccupation of this season of the Church Year, and it is the great gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is sent to lead us into all truth, this truth is the source from which we have come out, and the goal to which we shall return.  For the truth the Spirit manifests is the Son and Word of God by which all things were made and the resurrection of the dead.  The Spirit makes us abide in the Father through the Son.
 
On Trinity Sunday we celebrated the knowledge of the good God, our beginning and end, to whom the Spirit raises us.
After this I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and a voice. . . which said, Come up hither and I will show you things which must be hereafter.  And immediately I was in the Spirit and behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat upon the throne.  (Revelation 4.1-2) 
The Spirit comes so that we may be born again, and raised to see the heavenly things which are our salvation; these heavenly things are "in this world, knowledge of thy truth, and, in the world to come, life everlasting. (BCP, p. 15)
 
The other side of the work of the Spirit in us is what we call the fruit of good works, putting the truth into practice, charity, love of God, his worthy worship which is always the work of the Spirit. The Spirit makes us cry 'Abba, Father' and our prayer, our reaching out to God, is the Spirit's movement in us.  But worship is not the only work to which the Spirit sets us, though it is the chief. There is the love of neighbour, and in this season we read the Epistles of James, Peter and John because they concern the unity of knowledge and virtuous love, of the invisible world and the visible.  "Be ye doers of the word, not hearers only" commands James.  "Faith without works is dead" he judges. (James 2.17)  How can a man say I love God and hate his neighbour? asks John.  "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3.17)  We have known in Jesus and believed, because we have seen and handled it in him, that God is love; and so we are certain that who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.  This Jesus loved us, gave his very flesh and blood for us, so we know by the Spirit who testifies of Jesus that "If a man say I love God and hateth his brother he is a liar." (1 John 4.20)
 
St. Peter exhorts: "And to godliness add brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make that ye shall neither be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1.7-8)
 
These epistles teach us something about practice, about love and about truth which is a most important guide.  The standards of truth and practice are the same ones they have always been.  The good God we know, and who commands, changes not.  As Jude has it: we are to hold fast to the truth "once delivered to the saints." (Jude 3)  Or John, "Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning." (1 John 2.7)  Always the same standard: "Who so hateth his brother is a murderer and we know that no murderer hath eternal life in him" because God commanded Moses "Thou shalt do no murder." (1 John 3.15)  "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this," teaches James; namely, charity and purity: "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keep yourself unspotted from the world." (James 1.27)  Or again: "Whoso seeth that his brother hath need and shutteth up his heart to him, How dwells the love of God in him?" asks John. (1 John 3.17)
 
The same eternal God is made known in "Jesus Christ the same yesterday today and forever" (Hebrews 13.8) and teaches us the same law ever new "Who loves God must love his brother also." (1 John 3.21)  The resurrected Jesus gives us power to fulfill the commandments but he takes nothing of them away.  "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be pursuaded though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16.31)  This wisdom, so ancient and so new, always makes us hated of the world, the world of change and decay, because the eternal law and unchangeable knowledge cannot belong to it.  "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you."
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15.18-19) 
Knowledge and love of God and, of our brothers and sisters in God, calls us from the world with the greatest urgency.

 A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, come for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse.
You now hear the truth, and see the things which angels long to gaze upon, which the just saints of old desired to look upon and did not see. Hear and obey. Lest the final word you hear be:

 For I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. (Luke 14.24)
Let us pray to hear rather "Come and dine"  "Come inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world." (Matthew 25.34)

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


Sunday, June 14, 2020

The First Sunday after Trinity

My Friends,

My text for this evening is from:
Ephesians 2:19 King James Version (KJV)

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;As a former Immigrant from the Netherlands to Australia via New Zealand I read this text fequently in the course of my life. The reason being is that I have always find it very difficult to settle somewhere as the pullback to the homeland has always been there. The course of it could have been that I left home for good at 17, had never been further then Germany and had to live with strangers overseas. As I said before changes are unsettling, but even if you stay your whole life in one country there are many changes in the world around you. Politically and socially and let me not forget technologically. Even in the Church of God , just when we thought we were settled in a spiritual home of our own , someone comes along and makes all sorts of uncesssary changes and quite often the word "heresies" comes on a our lips. Some of my Glory years when it comes to keeping the Catholic Faith were in the nineties in the sanctuary of Christ Church Anglican Brunswick, Melbourne. It was such a joy, but it is never coming back. Blessed Saint Paul tells us that our journey often through a valley of tears  in this world is only temporary.
If we keep the Faith inspite everything that goes against us then our future is mapped out as a citizen in Heaven. Blessed Church Father Saint Augustine, in his " confessions " tells us we are restless until we rest in Thee and so it is. On earth we shall never find that perfect peace, which Christ can only give us. There is one particularly prayer, which is often said during Evensong and I think that it is a good one to close this little blog for Sunday evening :

John Donne (1571 - 1631)


Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral

Our Last Awakening
Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity: in the habitations of thy majesty and glory, world without end.
Amen.

I pray that if you feel a bit restless like me this evening, that this prayer and also the text of my blog may bring you comfort and peace.
 Blessings for the new week.

Father Ed Bakker,

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

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Trinity Sunday

My Friends,
Revelations 4 verse 1
“Thou art worthy, O Lord”
 
We cannot not talk about God. But what shall we say? How shall we speak? “He, therefore that would be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity”, and speak thus, too, we might add, think and speak in this way is what the Athanasian Creed, so-called, demands.
 
But what is that way of thinking and speaking?  The way of affirmation and the way of negation, to be sure, ways which recognize God as the fundamental principle of the being of all things, on the one hand, and distinguish God absolutely from everything, on the other hand.  The interplay of these two ways, so wonderfully laid out in the Athanasian Creed, avoid the twin dangers of collapsing God into our discourse, into our ways of speaking, and denying the possibility of thinking the truth of God altogether.
 
Paradoxically, these twin dangers, which are the dangers of our culture both within and without the Christian Churches, belong to a despair of revelation, a despair of thinking God in the form of the witness of the Scriptures, on the one hand, and in the form of philosophical and theological discourse, on the other hand.  It is the interplay of these two sides – the witness of the Scriptures understood as the Revealed Word of God and the intellectual integrity of our philosophical and theological traditions of reason – that are at issue in our world and day.
 
And yet, it is precisely what we celebrate today.  Trinity Sunday is not about one doctrine – one teaching - among many others.  It is not a teaching for one time and not for another as if it were merely some matter from the dust-bin of history.  No.  It is the central and defining doctrine of the Christian Faith, the doctrine which brings coherence and order to the many, many ways of speaking about God in the Scriptures and in the great religions and philosophies of the world.  We cannot not think God as Trinity.  We cannot not speak of him as Trinity.
 
We behold a mystery but the mystery lies not in what is concealed but in what is revealed, the mystery which we can never hope nor want to exhaust and so reduce to ourselves, the mystery, however, about which we are obliged to speak and say something, to say, in fact, what God has given us to think and say, the things which raise us up into the Spirit.
 
For “behold, a door was opened in heaven” – not just a window through which we might peer as in a glass darkly – but a door through which we might enter humbly.  We have been drawn into the mystery of the life of God, the God who is declared to us unambiguously and without being collapsed into the world as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; the God who is Trinity.
 
The Trinity is not one image alongside of other images for our thinking and speaking about God.  It is the definite and comprehensive image which unites the whole pageant of revelation in the witness of the Scriptures, the motions of God for us, with the wonder and mystery of God in himself.
 
Scripture presents us with a great number of ways of thinking about God.  The traditions of philosophy and even individual human experience may suggest a great number of ways of thinking about God.  But this does not mean that the Scriptures or human experience present simply a smorgasbord of images about God from which we are each free to pile up our own salad plate of divinity.  For that would be merely a god for me and so no God at all.  We would empty the images of Scripture and experience of any content and meaning.  The doctrine of the Trinity, in fact, gives coherence and meaning to the various images of God in Scripture, tradition and reason, without which they fall into competing and mutually exclusive positions and ultimately result in a kind of atheism.
 
To distinguish God from everything else is to say that he is no thing, which is not to say that God is nothing.  It is to say that he is not one thing like any other thing, another being in the vast plethora of beings.  No.  God has to be utterly distinguished from being identified with the being of the things of the world precisely as the cause and principle of their being.  How God can be related to the world and radically other than the world is the real meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity.  We celebrate nothing less than the mystery of the divine relations – God’s own relation to himself which is the principle of his relation to all else.
 
This gives coherence and meaning to the images of Scripture because there is an order and a hierarchy of images.  The definite images are those of Father, Son and Holy Ghost which at once suggest an intimacy and a remove.  These are precisely not images which are the projections of social and political arrangements belonging to earlier cultures.  God as Father is not like a human father; nor is God as Son like a human son and, perhaps, it is that elusive and ambiguous third, the Holy Ghost who most helps us to realize the nature of the deep mysteries of God which cannot be reduced to the world but which cannot be in flight from the world either.  There is the redemption of all the images of God through the definite revelation of God as Trinity.
 
Our lessons make this clear.  It is all about worship, all about the worthiness of God.  It requires of us that we be born again, born anew, born from above, which is to say that our minds have to be exercised upon the high things of God which have been opened out to us through the witness of the Scriptures given cogency and understanding in the Trinity and through the exercise of our highest thinking, our thinking metaphysically.
 
“Thou art worthy, O Lord”

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