Tuesday 25 February 2014

7th Sunday After Epiphany - Br Simeon EFO

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily preached at Winmalee:

 by Brother Simeon  Sunday 23rd February 2014

Gospel:  Mt 5:38-48

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is Perfect”

“O Lord, open our eyes To behold your presence. O Lord, open our ears to hear your voice. O Lord, open our hearts to receive your love.
O Lord, help us to behold, to hear and to receive you in Word and Sacrament
That our mouths may proclaim your praise.” Amen.

 “You be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect”. This sounds like an impossible command but should we understand it as a command at all? Would it not be more helpful to consider it as an invitation to share in the life of God? Jesus is not ordering us to be perfect like some policeman ordering us to cross the road. He is sharing with us the secret of His life.
Jesus declared the highest possible standard for His followers: they must be “perfect.” “You be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The righteousness that Jesus demanded is nothing less than complete conformity to God’s perfect law in everything a person is and does. Jesus is concerned, not only with our behaviour, but with the righteousness of the heart, also. The scribes and Pharisees considered only the outward compliance. With Jesus’ standard who would ever claim to have reached it?
The very nature of the kingdom of God as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount drives us to despair of ourselves in living this kind of life so that we will turn in faith to Jesus Christ and find new life in Him to live as He lived.
The Holy Spirit produces this kind of life in the believer as we make ourselves available to His indwelling presence. God produces in us by His power what we cannot do ourselves. It is the product of the new life of Christ in us (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13). This way only God can possibly get the glory because we can live it only by His power.
This righteousness is God given. But Jesus also went a step further and declared; “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The statement is in the form of a command; “You shall therefore be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

You may be asking, “Then why even try to become perfect?”
The main reason is because that is what God commands of us, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
To be perfect is to reach the goal for which a person was designed. Jesus calls His disciples to become mature, reaching the high standard God has for them. We are to be constantly pressing on toward attaining that goal.
Another reason is because with the new life of Christ in us we want to become like Christ. We are a new creation, and all things have been made   new. We have received as a gift from God an imputed righteousness that was purchased for us by Jesus on the cross. It is impossible for us to be saved without this righteousness that God alone provides for the believing sinner.
The only way we can be completely conformed to the law this side of eternity is by this imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). No human being can earn this righteous standing before God. There is nothing we can possibly do that will atone for our sins . There is no human detergent that can cleanse the guilty conscience and make a person right with God. Nothing can wash away our sin but the blood of Jesus. Jesus poured out His blood on our behalf.
Do we become sinlessly perfect so that we never sin again in this life? No. We will sin and God has provided a cleansing that works and restores our fellowship with God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” will be satisfied one day when we enter into glory with Christ Jesus in heaven. It will be realised in us when we see Jesus face to face in glory. It will be perfectly fulfilled when we see Jesus and not before then.
Jesus demanded the sincere devotion of the heart to God. We must love Him with all our mind, heart and personal being. If we truly love Him we will keep His commandments.
In the Christian life we always have before us something for which to strive. No matter how far we have progressed in our spiritual life there is still more to conquer. We must bring every thought, every attitude and every behaviour into subjection to Christ.
Though we will never be perfect in this life, we are to aim and strive at Christ-like character. By God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit we are to move toward that goal every day of our life.
Our goal in ministry whether we are clergy or laity, or even just the ordinary Christian,  is that “we may present every man complete (perfect) in Christ”.


Sunday 16 February 2014

6th Sunday after Epiphany - Br Andrew efo

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily preached at Winmalee: 

by  Br. Andrew e.f.o. 16th February 2014

Gospel Matthew 5:21-27

Both Simeon and I have spoken about self-individuation, the development of the individual Christian as a mature Self/ adult in Christ.
Today’s readings continue the theme of relationship, our relationship within us, between God and us and each other.

Real life – at least recognizably so

Corinth has been described as a sort of Greek Kings Cross because of the presence of the cult of the goddess Aphrodite with her 1000 prostitute all descending on the city at night to ply their trade, capturing the Sailor’s coinage.
In Paul’s time, Corinth was home to roughly 200 Christians, out of a population of some 14,000 people, 5,000 of whom were slaves. Worship took place in established home Churches. Since Corinth was a Roman Colony these homes were built in the Roman style and were home to extended families, servants and slaves. Christians came together to worship in the larger of the complexes the head of the house hold being the leader of the Church, some of these leaders were women.
Paul refers to these fledging Churches as babies in Christ whom he had to feed with milk since they were not ready for the meat of the maturity of the kingdom – indeed, he says, you are still not. They were no different than the average Corinthian resident, more concerned with which prominent Christian worker to follow than with being a Christian, Again we speak of Sectarianism.
The lack of right relationship within the Corinthian churches on the three planes I mentioned in the beginning prevented Christians living out their lives as Jesus had desired. God seemed to be missing from their equation and at the other levels there was a game of tug of war happening that must have hindered proper communication with their Lord.

Perfect Relationship for Israel in Canaan 1400 BC

Experts tell us that Moses in 120 years old, at this point in Deuteronomy and that it is Roughly 30 days his death, the Israelites have been within grasp of the Promised Land for 38 years yet too afraid to enter there, by now most of those with him have been born in the desert. This Book, the Second Law was written over a period of two months, including the 30 day mourning period for Moses.

Deuteronomy is believed to have been written by Moses and Joshua and teaches that the relationship between GOD and His people goes beyond the Law. Without obedience and loyalty to God we cannot maintain our relationship with GOD. Loyalty to GOD is the foundation of true reverence and holiness. Success, victory, prosperity and happiness, all of it depends on our obedience to Our Lord.  (Deut.10: 12, 13)

The Psalm, the longest in the Book of Psalms was not written by David but in the 6th century BCE after the exile to Babylon, the time of Ezra/Nehemiah. . It begins with Beatitude, echoing the messages given to the Corinthians and Israelites as a church and a Nation

 It provides an insight into the personal space of one seeking right relationship with God.
Psalm 119:5-8

5 Oh that my ways were steadfast to obey your statutes!

6 Then I wouldn’t be disappointed, when I consider all of your commandments.

7 I will give thanks to you with uprightness of heart, when I learn your righteous judgments.

8 I will observe your statutes. Don’t utterly forsake me.

In obeying the words given to Israel in Deuteronomy and walking according to the Lord’s Law we are blameless, the Christians in Corinth needed to be quiet and become acquainted with the Law of the Lord that they might keep it. Taking the Psalm verse by verse seems to offer a simple and peaceful manner by which to attain the maturity of obedience and advancement in Spirituality and obedience to God.

Beyond the Law –Perfect interpersonal relationships

Jesus explains what Moses ment to go beyond the Law.

Jesus is speaking now of our interpersonal relationships and if we are not to remain at the level of Christian maturity of the Corinthians it is a life-giving thing to understand how to live more than the Law requires. To know what is true awe and obedience.
To hold another Christian so dear to us that to show uncaused for anger towards them or to harbor it in our heart is tantamount to murder and merits the same penalties. Notice the seriousness of belittling another – an appearance before the Supreme Court (Sanhedrin)

As we always do as part of our liturgy we give each other a sign of Peace and reconciliation – living beyond the law calls demands that our worship is honest, we cannot in hypocrisy bring a gift to the table if there is enmity between us and another. We must all come to Jesus as cleanly and as honestly as our Christian maturity allows.

The readings today have shown us what God desires of us: Holistic selves, Holistic Relationships and Holiness before the Lord our God; moving from Spiritual Self-individuation to a Community of Believers who know we are together in Christ, to serve.


Monday 10 February 2014

5th Sunday after the Epiphany -Br luke EFO

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily preached at Winmalee: 

9th February 2014,   by Br Luke efo

 Matthew 5:1-12.

Sometime the lectionary compiler’s linkages between the readings is hard to grasp, but today it is very easy. The common theme is the idea that our actions, understanding and will reveal that which God has graced us with, and how we live.

Isaiah tells the people: 7 Isn't it to distribute your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light will break out as the morning, and your healing will appear quickly; then your righteousness shall go before you; and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.”

The psalmist says in verse 4 of today’s Psalm “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright, gracious, merciful, and righteous.”

St Paul perhaps being a little mystical tells the Corinthians: “9 But as it is written, “Things which an eye didn't see, and an ear didn't hear, which didn't enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him.”

This brings us to Jesus who, Matthew tells said “14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. 16 Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

I will return to this, but firstly I want to digress for just a minute.

Jesus also talks about salt.  Why salt?  In the ancient times salt was a valuable commodity, it was also used as a weapon and as a preservative for food.  We humans cannot live without salt, but too much salt will kill us.  As Jesus mentions we use it for bringing out the flavor of our meals, but again too much will spoil the meal.  There is a fine balance then between what is good and useful and that which is bad and ruinous.  Why is this important? Because it points us to the reality of the world and life that we live and witness to.

If we are to bring flavor to the world, to add joy and love to the lives of people around us, we need to make sure that the light of God’s kingdom is clearly seen.  How do we do this? By living, witnessing, practicing, the two great commandments.  Which as we all know are, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself”.  These are hard to do, and I don’t know about you, but there are times I have some sympathy with the people complaining to Isaiah. Of course the answer he gives is what we expect, but it still human to gripe – perhaps not much has changed in the past few thousand years.

When we look at our lives, do we see instances of where we have been living in such a way that the glory of God can shine like a light on hill?  Are we willing to do this so the healing will appear?  I suspect the answer is no.

Now I know that we will tell ourselves that there is more we have to do to show the light of the Kingdom.  And while this is probably true, we also need to remember that it is important to keep a balance - a perspective on what we can personally achieve. Like the balance with salt, we need to know how, where and how our light shines.  It’s OK to get others to help us light and show the beacon, to take the basket off the light, rather than trying to do it all by ourselves.  We are a community and it’s through our joint lives, our witness together that we show the light of the Kingdom of God.

So in the next few weeks, give some thought to how you as an individual, and we as community can help others to see the light and grace of God’s kingdom.


Sunday 2 February 2014

4th Sunday after Epiphany - Br Simeon EFO

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 2nd February

 Br. Simeon  EFO

Gospel:  Matthew 5:1-12

 “Road Map to Happiness”

“Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through them;
Take our minds and think through them;
Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Yourself, Lord Jesus.  Amen.”

“Happiness is that which all [men] seek.” So says the great philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle also observes that everything people do twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is what they believe will bring them happiness in one form or another. But the problem is that what people think will bring them happiness does not in fact always bring them true and lasting happiness. Think of the drunkard who believes that happiness is found in the beer bottle. One bottle too much and he is driving home, runs a red light, hits a car and wakes up the following morning in a hospital with plaster and stiches all over his body. Then it begins to dawn on him that the happiness promised by alcohol may be too short-lived. Or take the man who frequents the casino to deal excitement. By the end of the month he finds that his account is in the red and that he can no longer pay his house rent. Creditors go after him until he loses his house and his car. Then it dawns on him that the happiness promised by the casino is fake. So Aristotle says that the ethical person is the person who knows and does what can truly bring them not just excitement or pleasure but true and lasting happiness.

Another word for true and lasting happiness is “blessedness” or “beatitude.” In today’s gospel, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount shows that he really wants his followers to have true and lasting happiness, the happiness that the world and everything in it cannot give. This state of blessedness is what Jesus calls being in the “kingdom of God/heaven”. The eight beatitudes we have in today’s gospel constitute a road map for anyone who seeks to attain this happiness of the kingdom.

Why does Jesus deem it necessary to establish these guideposts to the kingdom right from the very first teaching that he gives to the disciples? It is because of the importance of this teaching. Everybody seeks happiness. But often we look for it in the wrong places. Ask people around you what makes people happy and compare the answers you get with the answers Jesus gives. The world has its own idea of happiness. If a committee were set up to draw up the beatitudes, we would most probably end up with a list very different from that which Jesus gives us today.

Where Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” they would say “Blessed are the rich.” Where Jesus says “Blessed are those who mourn” they would say “Blessed
are those having fun.” Where Jesus says “Blessed are the meek” they would say “Blessed are the smart.” Where Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” they would say “Blessed are those who wine and dine.” Where Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful” they would say “Blessed are the powerful.” Where Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart” they would say “Blessed are the slim in body.” Where Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” they would say “Blessed are the news makers.” And where Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” they would say “Blessed are those who can afford the best lawyers.”

We see that the values prescribed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are in fact counter-cultural. We cannot accept these teachings of Jesus and at the same time accept all the values of the society in which we live. Of course, Jesus does not demand that we abandon the word. But he does demand that we put God first in our lives because only God can guarantee the true happiness and peace that our hearts long for. Nothing in the world can give this peace, and nothing in the world can take it away.

The Eight Beatitudes do not describe eight different people such that we need to ask which of the eight suits us personally. No, they are eight different snapshots taken from different angles of the same godly person. The question for us today, therefore, is this: “Do we live our lives following the values of the world as a way of attaining happiness or do we live by the teachings of Jesus. If you live by the teachings of Jesus, then rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.