Tuesday 28 January 2014

Australia Day 2014 - Br. Andrew EFO

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 26th January 2014 Australia Day
 Rev Br. Andrew EFO

Gospel  Matthew 5:1-12

Today, is Australia Day, we remember the arrival of the First fleet, of 11 ships, into its anchorage in Sydney Cove, 1373 passengers and crew, in all, including its cargo of 717 convicts.

This day has been known by other names, one such is “Invasion Day”.

Jessica and I never tire of visiting the Botanic Gardens in Sydney and often walk the Gadigal walk where the history of the Invasion is told in panoramic photographs; the history of European attempts to convert the Aboriginal People to Christianity is among them. “A miniature Farm Cove” has examples of garden beds explaining why initial attempts to grow European vegetable stock failed, and strange looking Scare crows keep vigil.

It depends upon, whether we are “arriving” or “greeting” as to whether we are receiving a Promise or the beginning of a nightmare.

·     God promises good things to people, to us, to Abraham, to Moses and the people of Israel.
·      Promises come with the responsibility of obedience
     When we keep our promises what we read in the Beatitudes is God’s reward to us.
For the majority of those first settlers there was the promise and hope of a brand new life of new opportunities, for the Aborigines who greeted them, it wasn’t an opportunity (irony) they expected to receive.

Abraham’s tremendous faith had led him and his wife Sarah away from their home land to travel towards another land which was to be their inheritance, God tested Abraham’s faith many times along the way and as the human being he was he eventually came to believe that God could keep all the promises he made.

Abraham’s true hope was for the Heavenly City not made with human hands for he knew that he was but a pilgrim on this earth.

Some 1500+ years later, about 1456 BC they believe, Moses and the Israelites are at Moab, the area where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea, waiting to conquer the Land promised to them in the Abrahamic Covenant. They will spend the duration of the book of Deuteronomy here, in this place learning the law and constantly being reminded of the “rest” to come, the root-less and homeless delivered from their bondage in Egypt into security and rest in Canaan.

Their charge upon entering the Land was to keep God’s Commandments in deed and in word and to live in Awe of God to bless God for what the land produced for them to eat and beware in case they forgot God!

Glossing right over - We know they got lost and misled themselves, to put it nicely. Lost their wonder for God, took his gifts for granted and were very extremely loose in their interpretation of his commandments. Eventually they would be led away by the workers of iniquity and never did live to receive the heavenly rewards promised to those who are faithful to God – because they attempted to instate apartheid in the Land

With regard for ourselves and the history of the conquest of this land of our adoption many kind and terrible things were done in its taking. Moving forward, because today is a new day and tomorrow has not yet come, we can live the right way, by keeping the two great commandments of the sum of the Law and the prophets, to "Love the Lord  God  with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and our neighbours as ourselves" and to do so by our deeds.
What we do or did is or was remembered far more easily than the things we may or may not have said.

Like Abraham, we also know that we are strangers and sojourners in a strange land because our true home is the kingdom of heaven and our true reward are the fulfilment of our various needs to complete our personhood as listed in the beatitudes. Each beatitude pairs a value with a promise.

Let’s read them antiphonally, I’ll read the value or trait while you read the promise.

Becoming the complete human being in the kingdom of heaven was available to those in the time of Moses even as today or tomorrow.

And when bad things happen to us in the course of our service trust and know that God always keeps his promises.

Here in the Community of the holy-Redeemer we have begun our journey to meet the living Christ in one another.. To set aside our human constructs and rules about religion and to worship God from our hearts and souls.

  • ·        Let us be obedient to the workings of the spirit within the community
  • ·        Fulfil our promises to that Spirit
  • ·        And so become more fully human in Jesus Christ our Lord


Wednesday 15 January 2014

Baptism of the Lord - 2nd sunday after Epiphany-Br Andrew

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 12th January 2014 First Sunday after Epiphany

The Baptism of the Lord Year A, Rev Br. Andrew EFO

 Matthew 3:13-17

Jessica, on more than one occasion has told me the story of her grandfather taking a shower. In his old age he was a wily old man and didn’t often do what he didn’t want to do.
They would send him into the shower and hear the water running and after a suitable interval he would reappear dressed in his PJ’s ready for bed. Yet not really as freshly clean as one would hope after showering.
So one day you know who peered through the key hole to see good old granddad running the shower and standing safely out of the way of the water.
Henceforth he had to be supervised!

Though we find the record of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan in each of the Gospels, each are recorded differently according to the congregation to which they were addressed.
Matthew’s Gospel was addressed to a Congregation caught in the confusion of post Jerusalem Judaism, a group of Jewish Christians, in Northern Galilee or Syria who were feeling the oppression of the new Judaism controlled by the Rabbinic Pharisees.
Mostly Greek speaking Jewish Christians (it has been noted that Matthew quotes the Septuagint) with perhaps a few Syrian Christians, Matthew is at pains to place his community squarely within its Jewish heritage, everything he writes is to that end. Matthew is determined to obliterate the confusion generated by the cruel and overbearing Pharisees and their manner of keeping Torah and replace it with the softer middle road of Jesus, who came not to do away with the Law and the Prophets but to fulfil them.
Matthew wanted to show them that Jesus is one of THEM!
In spite of what mainstream Church tells small communities like us; Jesus is one of US too!

This is the first time we meet the adult Jesus and he came, just as every penitent did, to the Jordan to be baptised by John for the remission of sins. Both Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus came down from Galilee to be baptised, we might assume then, that many would recognise him as Joseph and Mary’s son and think nothing other than that he was joining them in turning his life around in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
Some, or many, would know him as John’s cousin – Jesus wasn’t the total stranger he is sometimes made out to be. John certainly recognised Jesus as you would hope he would, he also knew who Jesus was and tried to change his mind.
“But John would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” (3:13, 14. WEB)
Listen to what Jesus says to John “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfil all righteousness.” V 15

So what does it mean to fulfil all righteousness and in the context of Matthew’s Community? In the context of our Community?
The Jewish Christians in Matthews Community were very familiar with the concept of the liturgical use of water as in Ezekiel 36:25 where God says “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.” In 2 Kings 5 we read of the use of total immersion in water to cure Naaman’s Leprosy so Matthew’s Jewish Christians understood the Baptism of John to bring both Spiritual and bodily healing.
Jesus, the Messiah of God began his ministry in the same manner as they began their lives as Christians through the waters of Baptism, in his case they were the waters of that change of heart which, for us, precedes the Baptism of Jesus that, for those early Christians, was yet to come.
Through the fulfilling of righteousness Jesus is acclaimed by his Father in Heaven and anointed by the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the beloved Son of God in whom God is most pleased.
In our context the fulfilling of Righteousness, is I believe to make Jesus known again as he really is someone who knew life as a human being, began life just as we did and lived his life for others, and ultimately died for them.
Unafraid of the injustices within society and the church we try to each of our ability to make Him alive and truly human once more, so that we might then show that he is also the beloved Son of God in whom God is well pleased.

One Body One Lord of All

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

An ECCA Parish

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 19th January 2014 Second Sunday after Epiphany

Br. Andrew EFO

John 1:29-42
Jesus returns to the Jordan

It was just last week that we heard in Matthew’s gospel how Jesus came to the river Jordan to be baptised; how reluctant John was to baptize him; how the heavens opened and John saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus and remain upon him.
Another visit to the river Jordan introduces us to three of Jesus’ early disciples, including the Author of this Gospel and from the Reading from Isaiah and Psalm 40 we understand who this Jesus is that is the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.

Who is this Jesus?

Isaiah 49-
  • He is one called from the womb, whose name was given in his mother’s womb.
  • · His mouth is like a sharp sword dividing the marrow from the bone-
  • · He is a sharpened arrow close in the quiver and is held safe in the palm of God’s hand.
  • ·In the Lord’s eyes He is honourable and is called to gather the remnant of Jacob and the preserved of Israel, to be a light to the nations, that he may be the Salvation of the Lord to the end of the earth.

Why did he come?

To die for the individual and all Nations

Psalm 40, written by king David is one of the Messianic Psalms we Christians associate with the both the triumph and the suffering of Jesus, St Francis makes use of it in the Psalm he wrote for Compline of Maunday Thursday.

And so let it speak:
11 b Don’t withhold your tender mercies from me, LORD. Let your loving kindness and your truth continually preserve me.
12 For innumerable evils have surrounded me. My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up. They are more than the hairs of my head. My heart has failed me.
13 Be pleased, LORD, to deliver me. Hurry to help me, LORD.
14 Let them be disappointed and confounded together who seek after my soul to destroy it. Let them be turned backward and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt. (Psalm 40:11b-14 WEB)

Where do you live? Come and see!

At this the two leave the Baptizer to follow Jesus, they want to know where he lives.
Andrew, however is not ready just to come and see until he has gone to fetch his brother Simon to tell him that they had found the Messiah. As soon as Jesus sets eyes on Simon he says your name is Simon son of Jonah and you shall be called Peter or Cephas which means Rock.
As we journey through the life of Jesus we will come to realise that Jesus changes the names of those whom he has destined to do great or special things. Andrew, Peter and the other disciple stayed with Jesus until the 10th hour, about 4.00pm. Then they left and the next day Jesus will go to find Phillip.

As we now know Peter was the rock upon which Jesus established the Church, so solidly that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. In these rocky times when so many of us have had to leave the mainstream Church to find succour in smaller Congregations  it is important to mark the experiences of the early church communities for now we are returned to be like them and.

Some twenty or so years after Jesus returned to heaven Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church who await Jesus return to earth, the subject is sectarianism, already the Church is beginning to fracture as groups rise up in favour of the human being who baptised them rather than to the one in whose name they were baptized.

In this new Community of Christ the Redeemer, a non-denominational Christian community seeking to have the courage to open the door to everyone and nurture the belief of everyone to seek the Jesus who was, whom we, too may come and see.

Br Andrew

Monday 6 January 2014

Epiphany 2104 - Br. Simeon

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 5th January 2014, Feast of the 
The Epiphany, delivered by Br Simeon EFO.

Gospel:    Mt 2:1-12

“The wise men's journey”

Over many years, I have tried to place myself in the shoes of the 3 wise men. I have each Christmas pondered on the scripture readings of these wise men, their journey, and have often wondered what their conversations must have been like, and a whole lot of other thoughts about them have crossed my mind. I wonder what they saw in the sky that first night. What was it that got them thinking? What was it that  motivated them to pack and begin a journey to who knew where? Something had been revealed to them. But what was it? Was it in the sky, in their mind, in their heart?
We don’t have much historical information about these wise men and their journey. St. Matthew says they came from the East. Some have speculated they were from Persia. We like to think that there were three of them but St. Matthew doesn't say that and the number has varied throughout the church’s history. We call them Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar but those names didn't come about until the seventh century. And what about “the star?” It has been viewed as a supernatural phenomenon, just a regular star, a comet, or sometimes as a conjunction or grouping of planets.
This anonymity and lack of historical information is a reminder that this story, this Epiphany journey, is not just the wise men’s journey; it is everyone’s journey. The truth of sacred scripture is never limited to or contained only in the past.
I don’t know what was in the sky, what they saw, that first night. I don’t know what was in their minds; what they thought, asked, or talked about. I don’t know what was in their hearts; what they felt, dreamed, or longed for. But I know that there have been times when we each have experienced Epiphany; times when our night sky has been lit brightly, times when our minds have been illumined, times when our hearts have been enlightened. Those times have revealed to us a life and world larger than before. They have been moments that gave us the courage to travel beyond the borders and boundaries that usually circumscribe our lives. Epiphanies are those times when something calls us, moves us, to a new place and we see the face of God in a new way; so human that it almost seems ordinary, maybe too ordinary to believe.
That’s what happened to the wise men. They began to see and hear the stories of their lives. Something stirred within them and they began to wonder, to imagine, that their lives were part of a much larger story. Could it be that the one who created life, who hung the stars in the sky, noticed them, knew them, lived within them, and was calling them? Could it be that the light they saw in the sky was a reflection of the divine light that burned within them, that burns within each one of us?

To seriously consider these questions is to begin the journey. That journey took the wise men to the house where they found the answer to their questions in the arms of his mother, Mary. We may travel a different route than the wise men did but the answer is the same.
Yes, Yes,  God notices us, knows us, lives within us, and calls us. God is continually revealing himself in and through humanity, in the flesh.
Maybe it was the day you bathed your first child and saw the beauty of creation and the love of the Creator. Or that day you said, “I love you” and knew that it was about more than just romance or physical attraction. Perhaps it was the moment you really believed your life was sacred, holy, and acceptable to God. Maybe it was the time you kept vigil at the beside of one who was dying and you experienced the joy that death is not the end.
The privilege of the wise men can be ours, and we don’t have to go on a long journey. We simply need to risk being changed and challenged by God. Christmas is over, but God is still with us. If the lesson of Christmas is that God is with us, then the lesson of Epiphany is that God continues to seek us out and watch after us.

These are the stories of our lives, epiphanies that forever change who we are, how we live, and the road we travel. They are moments of ordinary everyday life in which divinity is revealed in humanity and we see God’s glory face to face.


Friday 3 January 2014

Homily 4th in Advent by Br Simeon

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Holy Redeemer In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 29th December 2013, Fourth Sunday in Advent, delivered by Br Simeon EFO.

Gospel:  Mt 1: 18-24

" Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it"

Advent is running out of time and Christmas is almost upon us. The readings invite us to step aside for a while from the hustle and bustle of the world to reflect on the events leading up to that first night in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. Matthew views the story of the birth of Jesus through the eyes of Joseph and gives us a remarkable insight into his personality. The ideal that Jesus expressed when he said ‘Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it’ was deeply challenged when Joseph learned the news that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant. There was nothing straightforward about this situation since they had not been living together as husband and wife. It was traumatic news and Joseph wondered how this could be. Faced with such a real dilemma and a crisis of intimacy, he felt cheated, embarrassed, hurt, and left out. As he struggled with this extraordinary happening, his heart must have been heavy and his dreams shattered. However he did not act rashly but responded to the situation with a generous and open heart.

Afraid, confused and unsure he prepared his course of action and made a lonely decision. Being an honourable and upright man of God, he planned to act quietly and chose a way that would shield Mary from scorn and save her from public embarrassment. But before he put his plan into action Joseph was taken into confidence by the appearance of God’s messenger who came in a dream to explain Mary’s uprightness and the divine origin of the baby. Joseph listened to God’s word and through the angel’s message allowed his life to be influenced and directed to God’s will and acted accordingly. As head of the household Joseph had the specific role of naming the child. Moved by God’s inner prompting, he accepted Mary as his wife and adopted her child as his own.

There wasn't much that was comfortable and cosy about Joseph’s decision to hear and obey the word of God. He was what we would describe as an ordinary working class man called on to respond to God’s extraordinary plan. Like any parent he had to cope with the same fears, worries and bitter disappointments that come to every home. His relationship with God must have been close because in this time of crisis he trusted God’s word and co-operated with God in a decisive manner. Anguished he may have been and he may not have understood all that was happening, but he had come to realise that the hand of God was in everything, taking care of all things and he put his trust in this power. He was open to the Spirit at work in his soul and ready to turn his life upside down each time he heard God’s call.

We can learn from this aspect of his character how to respond to God who communicates with us in the challenging situations of life. Nowadays, the vast majority of people are unaware of the religious significance of Christmas. They view it as a break from work in the wilds of mid-winter. It is our destiny to live in a world of unbelief and confusion where difficulties arise at every turn. With God’s help Joseph got it right and so will we. Once we believe like Joseph and humbly surrender to God, there is no limit to what he can achieve in our own very ordinary lives. Christmas is a time for remembering and showing gratitude to those people who helped us out during the year. Let’s not forget to show them the recognition that they deserve.

The basis of our Christmas hope is that not only is there a God who made the heavens and the earth but he is here with us now in the flesh offering us peace and reconciliation. We all have something unresolved in our lives that quietly eats away at us, disturbing our peace and our ability to show true love for others. As we approach this great feast of Christmas can we say like Joseph that we are ready to rely on God’s help and guidance when we sorely need to be reconciled to another family member? Joseph’s silent presence in the gospel is a testimony of God’s great love for all the poor, humble and just people down through the ages, who are quietly faithful to trusting and relying on God in good times and in bad. As Jesus said ‘Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’

Homily Ist Sunday after Christmas by Br Simeon

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Holy Redeemer  In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order Homily, 

29th December 2013, First Sunday after Christmas, delivered by Br Simeon EFO.

 Gospel:  Matthew 2:13-23

 "Where is God Now? ” 

 The Gospel reading this day after Christmas strikes a new tone for the season by dramatically leading us away from anticipation of Advent and revelry of the holidays to the tenuous and dark days between promises and their fruition. Threats abound, but God carefully orchestrates Jesus' earliest days according to Matthew.

 Though as an infant Jesus cannot act in his own defence, God's steady protection and Joseph's faithful obedience combine to ensure his safety in a world of danger. Even as potential disaster threatens Jesus, ancient prophecies come to life and guarantee Jesus' ineluctable mission. 

 You have to hand it to Matthew in the way he balances a sense of wonder for the coming of Jesus with the grimmer bits. First we have the angels, the shepherds and even the wise men and a guiding star…a good story, filled with awe and wonder and even with a touch of magic. 

Then suddenly Matthew switches the mood of his story from pure wonder to pure horror. Herod is furious. Learning that he has been tricked by the wise men, who, despite their previous promise, evidently have no intention of coming back with information about a potential king being born in the area, Herod now in effect throws his toys.  He flies into a rage and sends his soldiers to kill all young male infants in the neighbourhood. Joseph and Mary are warned and flee with the baby Jesus to Egypt. 

 Eli Wiesel was a noble prize winning author and a survivor of the concentration camp Auschwitz. In the book Night, he tells of his experiences in the concentration camps. In one chapter of Night he tells of witnessing the hanging of three men. 

These men had been part of an underground resistance and had been captured. One of the three men was nothing but a boy. When they were hanged the two large men died instantly but the boy because of his light weight suffered terribly as he slowly choked to death. The prisoners in Auschwitz were made to watch the execution. And through it all a man behind Eli Wiesel asked out loud, "Where is God now?" And as the boy suffered he asked, "Where is God now. Where is he?" 

The man was not asking for God's geographical location. He was expressing an unutterable frustration and feeling that God had abandoned them. Here was a young man, a boy, who had risked his life to save other people. How could God let these Nazis torture him? They were God's chosen people, and yet this was happening. Had God forgotten them? Where was God anyway? 

 We are all familiar with the story of the Three Kings. Those three wise men who follow a star to Bethlehem to worship the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. But right on its heels is another story that is tragic and disturbing. King Herod in his evil love of power plots to kill this baby born King of the Jews. At first he plans to use the wise men to find Jesus and murder him. But the wise men are warned by God in a dream not to tell Herod but to go home another way. When Herod realised he has been tricked he ordered all the children killed who are two years old or under killed. 

He didn't conduct a house to house search to find the one baby he wanted dead. He didn't order all the boys killed. He ordered all the children killed. But God warned Joseph in a dream and Joseph fled to Egypt thus fulfilling other prophesies. Jesus was spared from this attempt on his life. Jesus was destined to die, but this was not the right time. So God intervened allowing Jesus to grow up and be revealed through his earthly ministry. The powers of evil tried to kill the Messiah before his time but God miraculously intervened. Isn't that just wonderful! God intervenes to save the Messiah while hundreds of other innocent children die. I don't know about you but there is a part of me that asks, "What about these children?" What about their parents and grandparents - their brothers and sisters? What about these suffering people? Its fine that God intervened to save one baby boy, but why didn't God intervene to save these hundreds of others. 

Where was God in this!? I am not the first to ask this question. Christians before have asked this same question and arrived at different answers. The ancient Christians gave special honour to these children. This event was called the "slaughter of the innocents." And because these children had died while Jesus escaped, they reasoned that these children were in a sense the first Christian martyrs and that they went straight to heaven and have a special place in God's kingdom. 

Where is God Now? Perhaps I have over looked a very important part of this story. This story is, after all, about Jesus, Emmanuel - "God with us." Jesus is at the centre of this story. So where is God in the slaughter of the innocents. 

Well, God was right there, in the middle of it. God was and is where ever people are suffering. Isn't that what the Christmas story is all about. God the Almighty came into the midst of our suffering and pain to bring comfort and salvation and to hang on a tree. Where is God now as thousands die in wars and or poverty. God is there with them. Where is God Now? 

We often look for God in the beautiful and pure. We look for God in decorated churches and fancy sanctuaries. And God is here because God is everywhere. In the Christmas season we look for God in fancy decorations, gold and silver objects, decorative candles. But today's Gospel reading tells us of another place to look. ``-If you want to find God, look for pain and suffering.

 If you really want to find out where God is go to the slums, he is there. Go to the AIDS wards and cancer wards; God is there. Go to the war torn parts of the world where children are being slaughtered. And you will find God there. Oh, you won't see God at first, but through Christ and the Holy Spirit, God is there. And while you are there looking for God, could you do me a favour? Why don't you lend a hand to bring some comfort and peace, then you will really see God. When you come face to face with the evil of this world and you ask yourself "Where is God Now." Remember that God is with us "Emmanuel." Amen.