Sunday 28 December 2014

First Sunday after Christmas. Year B. - Br Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached at Warrimoo on Sunday 28th December 2014:
First Sunday after Christmas. Year B.

“3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:1, NRSV) 

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 ; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40

It is now 40 days since the birth of Christ and if Matthew drew our attention to Kings bringing portentous gifts to the King of kings it is Luke who now reveals to us a first born son, a human child, being brought to the Temple beginning his lifetime of obedience to the Ordinances of his God.
Saint Paul focuses our perspective to that end  in the second reading when he explains that only when the right time had come God sent his son into the world, “born of a woman”, he says and therefore born under the law. No one other than the perfect law abider could qualify to redeem those bound by the law.
Our Gospel today focuses on two of the three Ordinances required of the parents and their new born if they are to fulfil the obligations they owe to God and their Nation upon the birth of a child, the first having been his circumcision, mentioned in verse 21
The child was circumcised on the 8th day, according to the Law, and given the name Jesus, as the angel had foretold before his birth; circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:9-14). It marked Jesus as a member of that covenant community. It was a personal covenant. It was made between God and the family of Abraham. Outsiders were excluded.

Then –The family returned to the Temple where the two remaining Ordinances were fulfilled, firstly the Purification of Women which we read of in Leviticus 12.
In outward appearance Jesus was a perfectly normal human child, born of a Jewish mother subject to the Law, who now came into the Temple with her husband and child to be purified so that she might be permitted to resume worship in the Temple. The price of her purification was “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” one for a burnt offering the other for a sin offering. (For the wealthier the offerings were to be a yearling sheep or goat for the burnt offering and a dove or pigeon for the sin offering)

Mary’s turtle doves were sacrificed –one for a sin offering, another for a burnt offering for atonement, Mary was sprinkled with the blood of the dove sacrificed as a sin offering and declared clean from her Post-Partum bleeding, then the priest gave satisfaction to God on her behalf by offering the burnt offering of atonement,
Mary was cleansed and forgiven her sins. Notice the fact that the priest was the mediator between the woman and God, just as in the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Roman church today, he also took responsibility for atoning for Mary’s sins, something Jesus will only need to do once and not every time a penitent comes to the Temple.

Why were these offerings so important, especially since there cannot be anything remotely sinful in conceiving and birthing a baby, especially this baby? For those of the old Covenant they were to teach that sin must be dealt with. Any uncleanliness; and issues of blood were unclean and therefore sinful, demanded separation from God. The only way that fellowship with God could be restored was through the death of an innocent substitute. Hence, in Mary’s case the Turtle Doves. Remember Paul has said that Jesus was born of a woman under the Law and subject to the Ordinances of God.
Third and finally was the Ordinance of Redemption of the first-born: - the redemption of the first-born echoes the Exodus when the first-born of Israel where redeemed from the Angel of Death by the blood of innocent lambs and kids smeared on the lintels and doorposts of their houses.
The Lord said “For all the first-born among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself.” (Numbers 8:17 A Hebrew - English Bible, According to the Masoretic Text, and the JPS 1917 Edition)
The pre-figuring of that perfect Lamb of God who would take away our sins and redeem us from death. Again fellowship restored through the death of an innocent, this time ‘Son’.
“16 And their redemption-money--from a month old shalt thou redeem them--shall be, according to thy valuation, five shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary--the same is twenty gerahs.”(Numbers 18:16) Thus the child Jesus was held high above the altar, the ransom paid and then returned to his mother.
Note this practise continues to day and is referred to as pidyon haben, also called by some, "pig ina ben" - un-kosher as it may sound!

Who is this?

Simeon was a Prophet with the seal of the Holy Spirit resting upon him which Spirit had promised him that he would not see death until he had seen his Lord’s Messiah coming into the Temple.
Somewhere amid these proceedings, the holy Spirit drew, Simeon into the temple to announce the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Malachi who had said “3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:1, NRSV)
This baby with his family who had just fulfilled the first three Ordinances of the Lord, for his lifetime, now becomes the centre of an amazing prophecy. His parents are told that their baby is to be the salvation of the entire world, to grow up in plain sight, being prepared by God to shine the light of revelation on the Gentiles and to glorify  God’s people Israel.’ But Simeon doesn’t say how!
You have kept your promise, Lord I can die in peace.  
What Simeon then says to Mary and Joseph is enigmatic and puzzling, that despite being the glorious awaited one that he is, his ministry will be opposed, it will cause division and turn society upside down – and that a sword will pierce her own soul too.
This is the fate of the law abider!
The second witness, for there must always be more than one -Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher who at 84, hardly left the Temple spending her time in fasting and praying breaks in upon the scene and joyfully pronounces the child the Redeemer, he who had just been ransomed as Ransomer.
The family leave quietly after all is done to settle in Nazareth where we presume they continue to live quiet usual lives of people of their class in that time, coming and going to the Temple at the appointed times and rendering to God according to his sacred Ordinances. It is not until Jesus is just short of his 13th birthday that we meet him again in the Temple, presumably for what passed for Bar mitzvah in the first century CE.[( Celebration of Bar mitzvah goes back only to the middle ages at the earliest) Research informed me that we know Jesus was had just turned 13 since it was not possible for him to access conversation with the Scribes until the age of 13]

When we hear him say “did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

(Luke 2:39 NRSV) we must realize that he begins to know himself to be son of Mary and son of God, but continues the quiet preparation until he walks out of the desert and down to the Jordan.

Thursday 25 December 2014

The Feast of Christmas, Thursday 25th December 2014

“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10

The Feast of Christmas

For me the reality of Christ is best understood by artist, poets, musicians and children. So I offer a simple story that might just touch your heart. This story can help us by pass the sentimentality which so often seems to cloud the Christmas feast of the 'incarnation'.
Once upon a time ... there were some very poor people who lived in a forest village in old Rumania. Their poverty was most clearly reflected in the ramshackle Church which stood near the town centre. When visitors came, villagers often said apologetically, "Someday we're going to build a beautiful Cathedral like the one on the other side of the forest." Oh how they did admire the neighbouring Church. In fact, on special occasions, they often trekked through the forest to that big Cathedral. It just seemed that God was nearer to them in this majestic setting. When they made the trip through the dense forest, however, it was necessary to pass by a well which was supposed to be haunted. It was said that if you didn't throw a coin into the well, something would drag you down into it and you would never be seen again . . . (fear has a way of getting into all of our lives) ... One cold, dark Christmas Eve, a little boy named Raul passed by on his way to the Cathedral, carrying only a small candle to light his way. Back in the village, Raul's mother was terribly sick, perhaps dying. Raul hoped to place his candle on the altar of the big Cathedral and pray for her recovery. As he came near the well, he heard a moan. It was then he realized he had forgotten to bring a coin. Terrified, Raul started to run. But he tripped and fell by the well's edge. There he heard a child's voice. "Help me out. Give me your light so I can see my way." "This candle is for my mother," Raul said, trembling. "I must take it to the altar of the big Church so that she will get well." "Can you refuse me on the night of Christ's birth?" the voice from the well pleaded. Raul thought for a moment. Then he lowered the candle into the well and fell weeping on his knees in the darkness. Suddenly, the lighted candle returned. Looking up, Raul saw a child stepping out of the well holding the little candle in his hand. "Go back home," said the little child, "your mother will live." Raul ran home and found his mother waiting for him as though she had never been ill. Later that night, they went together to the shabby village Church to give thanks. When they entered, they were nearly blinded by the light which streamed from the altar. Bathed in such splendour, the old Church was every bit as beautiful as the neighbouring big Cathedral. "Why Raul," exclaimed his mother, "there is only one candle on the altar. How can one candle make such light?" Raul was too awed to speak, for as he knelt before the altar, he saw that it was his very own candle. The light he had given away had been given back a thousand-fold!

The profound truth of the Christmas Message is that the "Word became flesh" to show us in a once-and-for-all way what life is all about. The profound truth of the Christmas Message is that the 'Word became flesh' to show us what it means to be fully human. The profound truth of the Christmas Message is that the 'Word became flesh' to show us the Unlimited Love of a Gracious God, and to show us how to share it. The profound truth of the Christmas Message is, as the Apostle John has written, "The Word was made flesh and he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of trust and grace." (Jn. 1:14).

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent -Year B- Br Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached at Maroubra on  Sunday  21st December 2014:


Gospel:  Luke 1: 26-38

“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you . . . Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.  Behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

May I speak in the Name of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. In my reflection from the daily reading for the day which you can find on Facebook, I posed the reflection question of :As you light the Fourth Candle of Advent pray for someone who needs hope in their life.
You see we all at some point in our lives are afraid, feel depressed, feel hopeless. Christmas my friends for many people for many reasons is not a time of being jolly, or merry. Let us encourage those we know who are in this situation, 'Do not be afraid,
that we are there for them, to stand with them in their time of need.

Today’s Gospel on this Sunday before Christmas is Luke’s account of the angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary.  The Annunciation story is filled with First Testament imagery (e.g., the announcement by the angel parallels the announcements of the births of many key figures in salvation history, such as Isaac and Samuel; the “overshadowing” of Mary recalls the cloud of glory covering the tent of the ark and temple in Jerusalem).

 Mary's yes to Gabriel’s words set the stage for the greatest event in human history: God’s becoming human.

In today’s Gospel, God begins the “Christ event” with Mary, a simple Jewish girl who is at the very bottom of her people’s social ladder; the God who created all things makes the fulfilment of his promise dependent upon one of the most dispossessed and powerless of his creatures. Yet God exalts her humility, her simplicity, her trust in his love and mercy.  God’s “favour” belongs the poor, the rejected, the abandoned and the forgotten among us today.

In his becoming human in the Son of Mary, God enters human history shows us how to live God-like, grace-filled, holy lives of compassion, forgiveness and justice in our time and place in that history.

In the Advents of our lives, God calls us to bring his Christ into our own time and place; may we respond with the faith and trust of Mary, putting aside our own doubts and fears to say I am your servant, O God.  Be it done.

The mystery of the Incarnation is relived every time we echo Mary’s “yes” to God’s call to bring his Christ into our world, when we accept, as did Mary, God’s asking us
to make the Gospel Jesus alive in our own time and place.


Monday 15 December 2014

Third Sunday in Advent Year B - Br. Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

An ECCA Parish

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order
Homily preached at Warrimoo on  Sunday 14th December 2014:

Readings: Old Testament Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11; 
Psalm 126,
Epistle 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28; 
Gospel John 1:6-8,19-28

Why are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor the Prophet nor Elijah?

Although year B is the year in which we read through the Gospel of Mark, today our Gospel reading comes from John because we need to hear something about the other John, the Baptizer, that only this John wrote because he was one of two of Jesus’ disciples who were also disciples of John the Baptizer and had to be there at the time.

Writing here about 40 years after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, John the Evangelist introduces John son of Zachariah as a witness who came to testify to the Light to all who would believe in the Light. Most importantly this John tells us that the other John, the Baptizer, is not the Light. And this is the very first thing John the Baptizer himself tells those sent by the Pharisees when they came to ask him whether he was the Messiah.

The Gospel says “He confessed and did not deny that he was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Light”, there were those ready to proclaim him Messiah, St Luke tells us that people were full of expectation and nurtured the hope in their hearts than John was the Messiah – Luke 3:15, that is why John the Baptizer was so emphatic in his denial that he was the Messiah, the Light just mentioned by the Evangelist.

So who are the other two?

The Priests and Levites then ask John whether he is Elijah or the Prophet. “Neither” he says.
At their request he explains who he is and what he is doing, ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I, is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11)

 The Prophet Malachi (4:5,6) foretold that before, the time of the final destruction of the Jewish city, temple, and commonwealth, he would send Elijah back to preach repentance and reformation before the Lord sent His consuming fire. The fact that John’s preaching had been so much like Elijah’s is what had drawn them all out into the desert to confess their sins and to be baptized.

Was John the Baptizer really Elijah? St Luke tells us that John came in the Spirit and Power of Elijah, John was like Elijah, but not Elijah, in Luke I: 17 he says 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he (John) will go before him (Jesus), to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ This echoes the verses from Malachi chapter 4 that I paraphrased above concerning the end of the Jewish Commonwealth in 70 AD.

As for “the Prophet” he was the One “Like Moses”-(Deuteronomy18:15-18) Jesus combined the offices of prophet, priest, leader, and deliverer. Which none of those subsequent to Moses did; we can easily see that Jesus is like Moses, Moses who was the Archetypal prophet, the mould none others save Jesus could fill. The lives of Jesus and Moses shared many similarities. They were both delivered from death as infants, both were prophets. Both performed miracles. Both were leaders. And both were willing to die for the sins of others. Moses offered to die, if it became necessary, so that God would forgive the sins of the people that Moses was leading (see Exodus 32:30-33), although God did not accept his offer – Jesus did die for our sins so that people might enter the kingdom of heaven.

As though looking through a time tunnel, we now view the coming Saviour from the steps of Mount Horeb and the Lord said

“18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.”

Then move onward through the prophet Isaiah as he predicts the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon… Take a few seconds to re-read the first verse of the Old Testament Reading.

These very words are read by Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth as recorded in Luke 4:21 and afterwards as he rolled the Scroll up again he began to say to them, Today that very Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ I am He who will bring to you Good News, Healing, Freedom and Enlightenment, as is the summary of Isaiah 61:1

 If you listened carefully to the reading as Isaiah foretells the release of the Jews by Cyrus in order that they return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and restore the city to its former grandeur, it is exactly the opposite to what is to happen after both the likeness of Elijah and Moses have been among the Jews.

As we can’t help knowing, verse 9 of Isaiah 61 did not come to pass if the Jewish people had clung to the Lord in obedience once returning to Judah and then had accepted Jesus as saviour when he arrived they likely would not have had to flee from the destruction of their Commonwealth.

It is believed that Psalm 126 was written by Ezra after the return to Judah
It was so amazing that Cyrus should dismiss such a number of captives without money and without ransom, that he should issue a decree for them to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city and temple, and especially that he should send them home loaded with presents, Ezra 1:1-4; this was nothing other than the work of Yahweh, who could only in this way “turn the captivity of Zion”

Those who were returned at this time where the faithful few we could say somewhat akin to the Thessalonians now awaiting the second coming of our Saviour, notice the similarity in the final verses of the Old Testament Reading and the Psalm – they are in accord, gardens can be references to Paradise.

Paul speaks quietly and reassuringly to the Thessalonians, speaking to them of the various types of ministry and labour appropriate to Christian Mission, of the expected demeanour of subordinate to superior and or brother to brother. Not stifling the Spirit nor being heedless of the Prophets, to remain as Jesus had left the believers sanctified, sound in body, mind and spirit and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To make this Epistle known to others…

And so we are through the time tunnel and let us end our race with the promises with which we began. John 1:26b,27  "John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’"

 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Sermon Extra 13 - Second Sunday in Advent Year B

Jordan River, traditional site of Jesus' baptism.
The Second Sunday in Advent Year B, 7th December 2014

Gospel Mark1:1-8

Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
An Exposition, With Practical Observations, of The Gospel According to St. Mark
We have heard the evidence given in by the first witness to the doctrine and miracles of our Lord Jesus; and now here is another witness produced, who calls for our attention. The second living creature saith, Come, and see, Rev. 6:3. Now let us enquire a little,

I. Concerning this witness. His name is Mark. Marcus was a Roman name, and a very common one, and yet we have no reason to think, but that he was by birth a Jew; but as Saul, when he went among the nations, took the Roman name of Paul, so he of Mark, his Jewish name perhaps being Mardocai; so Grotius. We read of John whose surname was Mark, sister’s son to Barnabas, whom Paul was displeased with (Acts 15:37, 38), but afterward had a great kindness for, and not only ordered the churches to receive him (Col. 4:10), but sent for him to be his assistant, with this encomium, He is profitable to me for the ministry (2 Tim. 4:11); and he reckons him among his fellow-labourers, Philemon 24. We read of Marcus whom Peter calls his son, he having been an instrument of his conversion (1 Pt. 5:13); whether that was the same with the other, and, if not, which of them was the penman of this gospel, is altogether uncertain. It is a tradition very current among the ancients, that St. Mark wrote this gospel under the direction of St. Peter, and that it was confirmed by his authority; so Hieron. Catal. Script. Eccles. Marcus discipulus et interpres Petri, juxta quod Petrum referentem audierat, legatus Roma à fratribus, breve scripsit evangelium—Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, being sent from Rome by the brethren, wrote a concise gospel; and Tertullian saith (Adv. Marcion. lib. 4, cap. 5), Marcus quod edidit, Petri affirmetur, cujus interpres Marcus—Mark, the interpreter of Peter, delivered in writing the things which had been preached by Peter. But as Dr. Whitby very well suggests, Why should we have recourse to the authority of Peter for the support of this gospel, or say with St. Jerome that Peter approved of it and recommended it by his authority to the church to be read, when, though it is true Mark was no apostle, yet we have all the reason in the world to think that both he and Luke were of the number of the seventy disciples, who companied with the apostles all along (Acts 1:21), who had a commission like that of the apostles (Lu. 10:19, compared with Mk. 16:18), and who, it is highly probable, received the Holy Ghost when they did (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4), so that it is no diminution at all to the validity or value of this gospel, that Mark was not one of the twelve, as Matthew and John were? St. Jerome saith that, after the writing of this gospel, he went into Egypt, and was the first that preached the gospel at Alexandria, where he founded a church, to which he was a great example of holy living. Constituit ecclesiam tantâ doctrinâ et vitae continentiâ ut omnes sectatores Christi ad exemplum sui cogeret—He so adorned, by his doctrine and his life, the church which he founded, that his example influenced all the followers of Christ.

II. Concerning this testimony. Mark’s gospel, 1. Is but short, much shorter than Matthew’s, not giving so full an account of Christ’s sermons as that did, but insisting chiefly on his miracles. 2. It is very much a repetition of what we had in Matthew; many remarkable circumstances being added to the stories there related, but not many new matters. When many witnesses are called to prove the same fact, upon which a judgment is to be given, it is not thought tedious, but highly necessary, that they should each of them relate it in their own words, again and again, that by the agreement of the testimony the thing may be established; and therefore we must not think this book of scripture needless, for it is written not only to confirm our belief that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, but to put us in mind of things which we have read in the foregoing gospel, that we may give the more earnest heed to them, lest at any time we let them slip; and even pure minds have need to be thus stirred up by way of remembrance. It was fit that such great things as these should be spoken and written, once, yea twice, because man is so unapt to perceive them, and so apt to forget them. There is no ground for the tradition, that this gospel was written first in Latin, though it was written at Rome; it was written in Greek, as was St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, the Greek being the more universal language.

Chapter 1

Mark’s narrative does not take rise so early as those of Matthew and Luke do, from the birth of our Saviour, but from John’s baptism, from which he soon passes to Christ’s public ministry. Accordingly, in this chapter, we have, I. The office of John Baptist illustrated by the prophecy of him (v. 1-3), and by the history of him (v. 4-8). II. Christ’s baptism, and his being owned from heaven (v. 9–11). III. His temptation (v. 12, 13). IV. His preaching (v. 14, 15, 21, 22, 38, 39). V. His calling disciples (v. 16–20). VI. His praying (v. 35). VII. His working miracles. 1. His rebuking an unclean spirit (v. 23–28). 2. His curing Peter’s mother-in-law, who was ill of a fever (v. 29–31). 3. His healing all that came to him (v. 32, 34). 4. His cleansing a leper (v. 40–45).

Verses 1-8

We may observe here,

I. What the New Testament is—the divine testament, to which we adhere above all that is human; the new testament, which we advance above that which was old. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God, v. 1. 1. It is gospel; it is God’s word, and is faithful and true; see Rev. 19:9; 21:5; 22:6. It is a good word, and well worthy of all acceptation; it brings us glad tidings. 2. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the anointed Saviour, the Messiah promised and expected. The foregoing gospel began with the generation of Jesus Christ—that was but preliminary, this comes immediately to the business—the gospel of Christ. It is called his, not only because he is the Author of it, and it comes from him, but because he is the Subject of it, and it treats wholly concerning him. 3. This Jesus is the Son of God. That truth is the foundation on which the gospel is built, and which it is written to demonstrate; for is Jesus be not the Son of God, our faith is vain.

II. What the reference of the New Testament is to the Old, and its coherence with it. The gospel of Jesus Christ begins, and so we shall find it goes on, just as it is written in the prophets (v. 2); for it saith no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said should come (Acts 26:22), which was most proper and powerful for the conviction of the Jews, who believed the Old-Testament prophets to be sent of God and ought to have evidenced that they did so by welcoming the accomplishment of their prophecies in its season; but it is of use to us all, for the confirmation of our faith both in the Old Testament and in the New, for the exact harmony that there is between both shows that they both have the same divine original.

Quotations are here borrowed from two prophecies—that of Isaiah, which was the longest, and that of Malachi, which was the latest (and there were above three hundred years between them), both of whom spoke to the same purport concerning the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the ministry of John.

1. Malachi, in whom we had the Old-Testament farewell, spoke very plainly (ch. 3:1) concerning John Baptist, who was to give the New-Testament welcome. Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, v. 2. Christ himself had taken notice of this, and applied it to John (Mt. 11:10), who was God’s messenger, sent to prepare Christ’s way.

2. Isaiah, the most evangelical of all the prophets, begins the evangelical part of his prophecy with this, which points to the beginning of the gospel of Christ (Isa. 40:3); The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, v. 3. Matthew had taken notice of this, and applied it to John, ch. 3:3. But from these two put together here, we may observe, (1.) That Christ, in his gospel, comes among us, bringing with him a treasure of grace, and a sceptre of government. (2.) Such is the corruption of the world, that there is something to do to make room for him, and to remove that which gives not only obstruction, but opposition to his progress. (3.) When God sent his Son into the world, he took care, and when he sends him into the heart, he takes care, effectual care, to prepare his way before him; for the designs of his grace shall not be frustrated; nor may any expect the comforts of that grace, but such as, by conviction of sin and humiliation for it, are prepared for those comforts, and disposed to receive them. (4.) When the paths that were crooked, are made straight (the mistakes of the judgment rectified, and the crooked ways of the affections), then way is made for Christ’s comforts. (5.) It is in a wilderness, for such this world is, that Christ’s way is prepared, and theirs that follow him, like that which Israel passed through to Canaan. (6.) The messengers of conviction and terror, that come to prepare Christ’s way, are God’s messengers, whom he sends and will own, and must be received as such. (7.) They that are sent to prepare the way of the Lord, in such a vast howling wilderness as this is, have need to cry aloud, and not spare, and to lift up their voice like a trumpet.

III. What the beginning of the New Testament was. The gospel began in John Baptist; for the law and the prophets were, until John, the only divine revelation, but then the kingdom of God began to be preached, Lu. 16:16. Peter begins from the baptism of John, Acts 1:22. The gospel did not begin so soon as the birth of Christ, for he took time to increase in wisdom and stature, not so late as his entering upon his public ministry, but half a year before, when John began to preach the same doctrine that Christ afterward preached. His baptism was the dawning of the gospel day; for,

1. In John’s way of living there was the beginning of a gospel spirit; for it bespoke great self-denial, mortification of the flesh, a holy contempt of the world, and nonconformity to it, which may truly be called the beginning of the gospel of Christ in any soul, v. 6. He was clothed with camels’ hair, not with soft raiment; was girt, not with a golden, but with a leathern girdle; and, in contempt of dainties and delicate things, his meat was locusts and wild honey. Note, The more we sit loose to the body, and live above the world, the better we are prepared for Jesus Christ.

2. In John’s preaching and baptizing there was the beginning of the gospel doctrines and ordinances, and the first fruits of them. (1.) He preached the remission of sins, which is the great gospel privilege; showed people their need of it, that they were undone without it, and that it might be obtained. (2.) He preached repentance, in order to it; he told people that there must be a renovation of their hearts and a reformation of their lives, that they must forsake their sins and turn to God, and upon those terms and no other, their sins should be forgiven. Repentance for the remission of sins, was what the apostles were commissioned to preach to all nations, Lu. 24:27. (3.) He preached Christ, and directed his hearers to expect him speedily to appear, and to expect great things from him. The preaching of Christ is pure gospel, and that was John Baptist’s preaching, v. 7, 8. Like a true gospel minister, he preaches, [1.] The great pre-eminence Christ is advanced to; so high, so great, is Christ, that John, though one of the greatest that was born of women, thinks himself unworthy to be employed in the meanest office about him, even to stoop down, and untie his shoes. Thus industrious is he to give honour to him, and to bring others to do so too. [2.] The great power Christ is invested with; He comes after me in time, but he is mightier than I, mightier than the mighty ones of the earth, for he is able to baptize with the Holy Ghost; he can give the Spirit of God, and by him govern the spirits of men. [3.] The great promise Christ makes in his gospel to those who have repented, and have had their sins forgiven them; They shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, shall be purified by his graces, and refreshed by his comforts. And, lastly, All those who received his doctrine, and submitted to his institution, he baptized with water, as the manner of the Jews was to admit proselytes, in token of their cleansing themselves by repentance and reformation (which were the duties required), and of God’s cleansing them both by remission and by sanctification, which were the blessings promised. Now this was afterward to be advanced into a gospel ordinance, which John’s using it was a preface to.

3. In the success of John’s preaching, and the disciples he admitted by baptism, there was the beginning of a gospel church. He baptized in the wilderness, and declined going into the cities; but there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, inhabitants both of city and country, families of them, and were all baptized of him. They entered themselves his disciples, and bound themselves to his discipline; in token of which, they confessed their sins; he admitted them his disciples, in token of which, he baptized them. Here were the stamina of the gospel church, the dew of its youth from the womb of the morning, Ps. 110:3. Many of these afterward became followers of Christ, and preachers of his gospel, and this grain of mustard-seed became a tree.

Thursday 4 December 2014

First Sunday in Advent year B - Br Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br Andrew at Warrimoo on   Sunday 23rd November


When we pray

The genesis of prayer in the People of the Hebrews began with the Sacrifices of blood, grain etc. and oblations offered by the priests in the morning and evening and during the day.
We do not know precisely when these hours became occasions of prayer but surmise they were first introduced during the Babylonian Exile (587-521 BC), when the Temple did not exist.  Synagogue services of Torah readings and psalms and hymns developed as a substitute for the bloody sacrifices of the Temple, a sacrifice of praise. The inspiration to do this may have been fulfilment of David's words, "Seven times a day I praise you" (Ps. 119:164), as well as, "the just man meditates on the law day and night" (Ps. 1:2).
And Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice."  -Psalm 55:17 or "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he had done aforetime." -Daniel 6:10

What is Prayer

Tefilah (prayer) is an essential constituent of religion it is a Sacrifice of Praise, the Shema in the morning is obligatory as is the evening Oblation. -Prayer is for the soul what food is for the body. It is praise intercession, hearing and listening of the finite to the infinite. It is "To love G-d, your G-d, with all your heart" (Deuteronomy 11:13) the complete unreserved service of man to God.
To pray continuously with our lips heart, hands and minds moves us toward an inseparable union between ourselves and God such that the hours of prayer draw us gladly from our current tasks to those three allotted hours.

OUR Lord assured his, disciples that he had not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil, it therefore it is not surprising, to find the earliest Christians, notably the Apostles, conforming to the traditional customs of worship of the old Covenant: keeping the Passover, or going up to the Temple to pray at the appointed "Hours of Prayer,( it was Jewish practise to pray at morning, evening and three times a day “at the 3rd, 6th and 9th hours),or keeping those hours as times of private devotion.
In the Scriptures we discover significant events and miracles occur at the ‘Hours of Prayer’

Jesus was crucified at the sixth hour and died at the ninth hour.
The gift of tongues during the day of Pentecost occurred during the third hour at nine am -Acts 2:15
God chose the time of afternoon prayer (3 p.m.; the Jewish "Ninth Hour") to send an Angel to the Centurion Cornelius: 

"When Peter and John went up together into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer, and healed the man, lame from his birth in the name of Jesus    -Acts 3:1-6

Likewise, we find S. Paul, wherever he might be, seeking out the local synagogue on the Sabbath, taking part in its worship and availing himself of its opportunities for teaching. At the same time we find Christians keeping strictly Christian observances, notably the First Day of the Week, with its Eucharistic Breaking of Bread as the distinctive act of worship. Even when the Church had overflowed the bounds of Judaism and was overwhelmingly Gentile in its membership, there was a survival of devotional practices of Jewish origin. Chief among these was the observance of the "Hours of Prayer," as services supplemental to the central Eucharistic Rite.

Church today

Members’ of the Universal church – for that is what catholic means, come from almost every nation on earth, and the English Church was a very different entity from its Vatican counterpart. The English were a polyglot nation, a unique blend of many peoples, and the result of the many invasions and conquering over the centuries, speaking at least 4 main languages, it was the variety and separation from Continental Europe which made this corner of the Church Universal so different from that one built upon the ruins of Rome.
Here the Protestant Reformation began outwardly as an act of independence driven by the political necessities of Henry the eighth while on the Religious front those such as William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John of Gaunt not only began to question  the Doctrine of the roman Church but to establish various movements against it, Such as Wycliffe and the Lollards.

The Lay members of the church experienced poorly educated priests, poor pastoral care, and were less inclined to religious vocations hence the decline of the monasteries.
Despite this, many parishes remained vibrant and active places of worship even though while continuing to attend mass regularly they rarely received communion. During the Reformation, the weekday masses that had become the norm were eliminated and some German reformers sought to reincorporate the practice of Morning and Evening Prayer.

The Prayer Book

Under the reign of Edward VI, successor to Henry VIII, the primary language of public worship in England and other areas ruled by Edward was changed from Latin to English, a prayer book for the laity was composed and the first Book of Common Prayer came into use. It was first used on Pentecost Sunday, 9 June 1549, and the occasion is now commemorated "on the first convenient day following Pentecost." The Book was the work of a commission of scholars, but primarily of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was based primarily upon the Latin worship tradition of the Use of Sarum (similar to, but not identical with, the Roman rite used by most Roman Catholic between 1600 and 1950), with some elements taken from the Greek liturgies of the Eastern Church, from ancient Gallican (French) rites, from the new Lutheran order of service, and from the Latin rite of Cologne.
 Key components of this BCP grant us the reading of the psalter monthly across Morning and Evening Prayer and the reading of most of the Old Testament and Apocrypha across a year and the reading of the New Testament 3 times a year. Our prayer book continues this pattern with a two year office lectionary. This systematic course reading of the books of the Bible and the praying of the Psalter are an important part of the rhythm and continuity of the Daily Office.
One disadvantage was that in changing the language to English this left those in Ireland, Wales and Cornwall out in the cold and may have contributed to the schism between the Irish and the English.
Altogether there have been at least 3 editions and re-prints of the Book of Common Prayer not including a 2004 version produced in October 2004 for use in the Irish Church.
The official version for use online is that of 1549.
This English Prayer Book has had far reaching influence on the liturgies of the Prayer books in other Denominations from the Roman Church to the Southern Baptists.

Friday 28 November 2014

Sermon Extra 12- 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Last Sunday after Pentecost: The 'Reign' of Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace!

Last Sunday after Pentecost: The 'Reign' of Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace!

“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10

Well the meeting of the world leaders in Brisbane has ended. The pressing international issues seem to be somewhat unaddressed. We want these issues addressed, but it doesn't look like much is going to change it seems a case of “Same ole, same ole.” Some people claim the most efficient government is a benign dictatorship. Such a ruler, with people’s best interests at heart, can cut through indifference, selfishness and powerful interests to get things done. A benevolent dictator can act quickly to the benefit of needy people. We know such dictatorships do not exist. Even if such a leader did exit with the best of intentions, eventually power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Self-interest soon takes over and the people’s best interests are pushed aside. In this light we can say that only God is the “benign ruler” who really has our best interests at heart and will DO something about them.
This is the last Sunday of the church's liturgical year and it sounds a triumphant but not a triumphalist note. So we celebrate and remember that there is no power that can match the loving power of God. Our reading from Ezekiel (34: 11-17) is about God not as King, but as Shepherd. For Israel, God was envisioned as a Shepherd who would protect, lead and defend the people with gentle strength and compassion. Ezekiel was sent by God to condemn the kings of Israel who were the opposite of 'good shepherds'. They were more like 'selfish dictators' who would do anything to stay in power. As a result of their evil thirst for power the flock of Israel had been scattered and taken into Babylonian exile. God had Israel’s best interests at heart and promises to rescue the people from their exile. Not only will God bring them back, but will continue to help them. God rebukes Israel’s leaders and promises to take charge and tend to Israel’s future, promising to bring the flock back from exile. God’s help will not end there, but will continue to care for them by raising up a 'just shepherd'. God is guaranteeing to DO something to help them.
Matthew’s Gospel (25: 31-46) gives us the last of Jesus' parables, which describes the 'last judgement'. God has fulfilled the promise God made to Israel in Jesus - the long-anticipated Shepherd King. He (the Son of Man) takes his place on the throne of judgment surrounded by his court - a lot like the ancient Near Eastern courts. He now shares his glory with his loyal followers. This is not the typical distribution of treasures and bounty to people of rank. The loyal servants of this King are those whose deeds matched the deeds of the King; who acted with compassion towards the poor, sick, homeless, prisoners, and strangers - all those whom Jesus calls 'the least'. This scene should not come as a surprise to Jesus’ hearers who knew the prophetic tradition. The Shepherd of Israel, as described by Ezekiel, will be concerned about “the lost... the strayed… the injured… the sick.” It is striking that Jesus in the parable does not note how many times one has celebrated the liturgy. His primary concern are the deprived of the kingdom. If our liturgical celebration is authentic it should help us to see with compassion the needy and be strengthen to DO something for them. All the baptised, are called to this mission. If we fail to be these signs we cannot claim any special privilege or membership in the kingdom. It is clear from the parable that there are many who will have never heard of Christ who discover they have been part of God’s kingdom, because they acted mercifully towards God’s favourites - the poor.
Matthew has provided a vision of what Christ’s true Church looks like. This parable is stark and should rouse our attention. Are we living a gospel of convenience? Have we just defined our religious observance by what we do each Sunday in church? The parable makes it clear that worshiping Jesus in church and saying prayers at home must be accompanied by devotion to him in the world. This parables shows us the priorities of Jesus. We can tell how we are doing as individual Christians and as a Church by whom we love. God loves all people and we, who were created in God’s image, must be willing to share that love with all, especially those who are not able to return that love. In the parable, those who are welcomed into the kingdom did not recognise they were DOING anything for Christ or acting in his name. They shared what they had with those who had nothing. We all know people like that. They may not be in the pews with us on Sunday, but they are with us making sandwiches for street people on Monday. Still, it helps to be

What soever you do to the least of these my little ones

Monday 17 November 2014

23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached at Winmalee by Br Simeon on  Sunday 16th November 2014:


23rd Sunday after Pentecost year A.

In today’s gospel we heard the parable of the talents.  Which on the surface seems a little harsh.  We all know, if not worked for, people like the master.  I must admit I have some sympathy for the slave who simply hid the money and returned it.  Of course that slave is the one who did not use the talent he was given and so his reward is appropriate, albeit harsh.

What is Jesus trying to tell us here?  That we should go out and invest what money we have and make more?  That sounds like it might be wavering into the prosperity preaching.  No I don’t think Jesus is talking about money.  True the word talent in the biblical sense means a measure of weight.

Roughly the weight of the amount of liquid it took to fill an amphora.  And yes I suppose we could look at the parable in that sense.  But we can also move beyond such a literal use of the word into one where we understand the word in the sense of gift.  And if we use this sense, then the parable has a whole different purpose.

The master has given his slaves gifts that they are to use in the growing the masters domain.  We are not told what the gifts are, just that different slaves have different ones.  The master has an expectation that they will use those gifts to the best of their ability and create growth.  Two of the three do this, the third does not.

The master doesn’t expect anymore, than what he believes each slave is capable of, but he does expect some sort of return.  Which is why the slave who simply hid his gift, and did not use it, is treated with such disdain.  Now so far I’ve been careful not to draw us into the parable, but that’s about to change! And I strongly suspect you all knew it was coming.

We have all been given gifts.  We all have different abilities and strengths. Some of us are very good at things that others couldn’t even start to do.  The best example perhaps is an artist, some people have the gift of drawing, while others no matter how hard they might like to have the gift, simply don’t.

But having the gift is only the first part of the equation.  The gift has to be used in order to be developed and to be of benefit to the person and others.  If the artist doesn’t draw, then the art that they could create remains hidden, buried, and underutilised. Sound familiar?

So what is the gift you have?  Are you using it or is it hidden away were no one can see it.  of course some people have great difficulty in understanding what their gifts are.  They are so blinded by those of the others, or in their own fears that they lose sight of the precious thing they have been given.  Remember what the third slave said “I was afraid so I went had hid your talent in the ground”.  I suspect that slave had a severe lack of self-confidence.

Yes it is easy to give into the fear of: “No I can’t do that”, but this will not see the gift grow.  We need to be like the other 2 slaves.  Take our gifts, gird up our loins and use the gifts to the enrichment of the gospel and for ourselves.  And when we do this, who knows what we could and would achieve.

When God says to you, so tell me my child, what use did you make of the gifts I gave you?  I know what I’d like my reply to be.  Do you what yours would be?

Br. Luke

Monday 3 November 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost - Br. Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br. Simeon on Sunday 2nd November 2014:


“Do and observe whatever the scribes and Pharisees tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  All their works are performed to be seen . . .
“The greatest among you must be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.

A teacher asked the children in her Sunday School class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and give all the money to the church, would I get into heaven?” “No!” The children all answered.
“If I cleaned the church everyday, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I then get into heaven?” Again, the answer was “NO!”
“Well,” she continued, “then how can I get into heaven? In the back of the room, a five year-old boy shouted, “You gotta be dead!”

In  today's Gospel Reading, [Mt. 23:1-12] we heard how Jesus denounced the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus began by stating that the scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses' seat, this meaning that they had the authority to teach the Law. As such, the people were required to obey the Law. Jesus was not attacking the Law but the scribes and the Pharisees who's teachings were not in harmony with their practice. They did not practice what they were preaching to the others.
Jesus had two complaints, the harshness in which the scribes explained the Law to the people and the conceit and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. When they explained the Law, the scribes would ignore the humane interpretation of it. While they commanded others to obey the Law without any deviation from it, they themselves were not doing it. Everything they did, it was to be seen.
Jesus continued to condemn the scribes and Pharisees for seeking the places of honour at feasts and in the synagogues. They loved to be greeted in the marketplaces. In those days, politeness demanded that the length of one's greeting correspond to the dignity of the person. By dressing as one who maintained a great devotion, the individual would draw longer greetings.
Having said this, Jesus condemned them for using the titles of rabbi, father and instructor. They should not be called rabbi because they have one teacher, they being student.

No one should be called father for they have one Father in Heaven. And they are not to be called instructor for the one instructor is the Messiah.
Based on this passage, some have taken it out of context and said that no one is allowed to be called father, not even the priests. First of all, in context with Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, while they sought to be called father, their actions fell short of coming close to what is expected of a spiritual father to the people. They did not deserve such a title.
Jesus did not condemn others from calling some people fathers. In fact, in the First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul referred to himself as the spiritual father of the Corinthians. "For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." [1 Cor. 4:15] Had the word father been condemned for everybody, surely, Paul would never have used it.
Jesus finished His message by saying that the greatest is the one who is the servant. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who are humble will be exalted. In other words, one should wait until such time as God grants him a place of honour. He should not be creating his own place of honour.
As you can see, the scribes and the Pharisees were not committed to sharing the love of God. They applied self-love! What did self-love get them? It received criticism from Jesus who is the Word of God. For us Christians to be committed to sharing the love of God, we must do the opposite of what the scribes and the Pharisees were doing. We must be humble! We must serve others! We must not draw attention to our prayer lives in order to receive worldly praise.

Having said this, I ask you all to prayerfully reflect this week on how you have committed your lives to sharing the love of God. Is there room for improvement? Is there a lack of sharing the love of God? Is the sharing of God's love too public, too self-seeking? Ask yourself how Jesus would judge your commitment to share God's love if He was present before you. And while doing so, I ask you  to pray for all of us so that we may all grow in the grace of God to become as shining lights in the world.