Monday, 29 September 2014

16th Sunday after Pentecost-Br Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

An ECCA Parish

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily preached at Winmalee 
 Br Andrew on  Sunday 28th September 2014

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Authority is a wonderful thing to have when differences are to be settled and people are to be put in their place, yes authority can be useful. As a citizen of Judah both Civil and Ecclesiastical Bodies held authority over Jesus, just as they did every other citizen. Shortly in (Matthew 22:21) we will learn that Jesus even acknowledged the right of the Roman overlords to exact their taxes. Remember also the time that the collectors of the Temple Tax approached Peter to discover whether Jesus paid that tax, a four drachma coin was found in a fish’s mouth and the tax was paid for both Peter and Jesus – whether the Son of God had to pay it or not. (Matt.17:24-27) Today the Roman Church calls this payment Peter’s pence.
The record in today’s Gospel gives us another incident illustrating one of those situation in which a citizen was required to comply with both Civil – the Elders of the People and Ecclesiastical – the Pharisees; Courts These two Bodies of Law had come out in force to arrest this imposter who recently had disrupted a very lucrative money spinner when he threw the money Changers out of the Temple.
They wanted his piece of Paper – that authorized him to preach and teach.

The Son of Man had no piece of Paper! AND they knew this!

Every Rabbi had his right to practise as an Instructor presented  to him by the scribes, or their chief representative, after they had finished their studies at the feet of some great teacher and been solemnly admitted (the delivery of a key, as the symbol of the right to interpret, being the outward token) to that office.
The second question made sense of the first. Could He name the Rabbi who had trained Him, or authorised Him to teach?

As a human being Jesus had not gone through the usual educational and study process to obtain the necessary qualifications, his knowledge and Authority came from his heavenly Father. The Authorities knew he was a paperless Rabbi because they did not have his name in their records, they knew he could not name the Rabbi who had trained him, because there wasn’t one and therefore could arrest him at the very least as an imposter.

Jesus responds to their question “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”(21:24,25)

All in a tizz they deliberated that, although they had investigated John the Baptist and found him, let us say satisfactory as a Prophet. To say that John received his authority from God would mean that they must also acknowledge that Jesus’ Authority also came from God. To deny the former would cause the people to riot, because the people believed John was a prophet, this would be disastrous so they lied and said that they didn’t know. So they made fools of themselves implying that experts as they were supposed to be they could not determine the Authenticity of any prophet.

27…. Then (Jesus) said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things”

To the ears of the people of his time his parables were easier to understand and probably held greater depths of meaning as well as any word play that doesn’t come through to translation. For instance – as well as this being a parable it is also a metaphor.
What then did the parable of the two sons say to them? Let’s look at these Old Testament Metaphors:

·         Firstly for the Israelites the “Vine” is a symbol of (Israel's) Spiritual privileges.
·         Secondly the vineyard was a symbol of (Israel) and its promised prosperity.

Jesus, however is speaking of the Vineyard of the Kingdom of Heaven wherein he is the Vine, (John 15: ) in this Parable I am going to use the symbolism to represent both the Mission field and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Firstly the Parable itself intends the Vineyard to be the Kingdom of Heaven, the place wherein we shall finally attain our perfect spiritual relationship with Jesus. AKA the promised prosperity of Israel

The Sons represent two classes of people, the first: those who erstwhile were tax collectors and sinners but who received the Baptism of John and were converted, his/ their “NO” represents their former lives of sin and their Going to work the Vineyard their conversion and entering first into the kingdom.

The second son represents the second class of people, who were full of self-righteousness; who even after hearing John’s call to repentance had ignored it because they didn’t believe him, or that his call applied to them, the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. Yet after seeing this, they did not repent and believe him. Hence prostitutes and sinners shall enter Heaven before they do.

Later we will read that after the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. And in public too!

Now let us  compare the vineyard to the Mission field of the world we inhabit, we live in it, we work in it to bring others to know the love of Christ and the reality of the Kingdom and as we do so we grow in spiritual intimacy with him. Jesus is never far away because we are developing an intimate relationship with him that spurs us to do his will gladly.
If we were one of those who, like the Pharisees, only pretend conversion, who have not yet believed in the call to repentance we would soon discover that the Vineyard was too uncomfortable a place to be until we could face up to the darkness within us and believe, until then we try to conceal ourselves with our new clothes and good deeds.

It is not chic to be a Christian, not even a fashion statement, and small communities such as ours must explain our raison d’etre to some of the more innocent members of the Body of Christ that do not realise the necessity for safe havens. Ours, then is a double Mission - not only to seek out the lost but perhaps to make known to the greater Church Community that there is a safe haven for those who do not pass muster, even to show others that they may need to be here too.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

15th Sunday after Pentecost - Br Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached at Winmalee by Br. Simeon Sunday 21st September 2014:

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel:  Matthew 20:1-16

The parable of the generous vineyard owner:  “Are you envious because I am generous?  Thus the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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

Be honest. When you heard the reading of the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard just a few minutes ago, did your heart leap for joy? Were you thrilled when you heard that the workers who'd toiled and slaved all day long in the hot sun were going to get the same day's wages as those who'd worked only one hour? I think not!
The first part of the 20th chapter of Matthew records another story that Jesus told, this time about the wages paid to the workers in the vineyard. It clearly is about serving the Master, or working in the kingdom, but the twist here is that many of those who worked in the vineyard did not think that the wages were fairly paid.
The story follows logically the ideas of the last chapter concerning wealth and the kingdom of heaven, that is, following the Lord and the cost of that discipleship. The theme of the last being first and the first being last ended that chapter, and this one as well. God’s economy of grace is not the same as the natural order people expect.
The parable of the generous vineyard owner (which appears only in Matthew’s Gospel) is the first of several parables and exhortations challenging the Pharisees and scribes and those who criticised Jesus for preaching to tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus makes two points in this parable:
First, the parable speaks of the primacy of compassion and mercy in the kingdom of God.  The employer (God) responds to those who have worked all day that he has been just in paying them the agreed-upon wage; they have no grievance if he chooses to be generous to others.
God's goodness and mercy transcends the narrow and limited laws and logic of human justice; it is not the amount of service given but the attitude of love and generosity behind that service.
The parable also illustrates the universality of the new Church. The contracted workers, Israel, will be joined by the new “migrant workers,” the Gentiles, who will share equally in the joy of the kingdom of God.
Today’s Gospel strikes at our tendency to judge everything and everyone in terms of how it affects me.  How someone else benefits or is lifted up doesn’t matter — my hurt feelings trump their joy.  Christ calls us to embrace the vision of the generous vineyard owner: to rejoice in the good fortune of others and their being enabled to realise their dreams, instead of lamenting our own losses and slights.

We have our scales, time clocks and computer printouts to measure what is just and what is not; but God is generous, loving and forgiving with an extravagance that sometimes offends our sense of justice and fair play.
Christ calls us to look beyond labels like “tax collector” and “prostitute” and seek out and lift up the holiness and goodness that reside in every person who is, like each one of us, a child of God.  The parable of the generous vineyard owner invites us to embrace the vision of God that enables us to welcome everyone to the work of the harvest, to rejoice in God’s blessings to all, to help one another reap the bounty of God’s vineyard.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Preach at Winmalee by Br. Luke on 14th September 2014

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Homily 14th September 2014

Ok I want to just touch briefly on the Psalm, because there is wonderful imagery in that Psalm. “When Israel went out of Egypt the mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. The seas parted” and the psalmist says, and notice that he speaks directly to the creation, “why you behaving like this”. And then he says “tremble you earth in the presence of the Lord”. At the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool of water, and the flint into a spring of water. The psalmist is reminding us that God can do anything and his creation is so tightly tied to him that when he is excited, the creation follow suit.

Can you just imagine if we saw the mountains skipping like rams?  We’d, either be incarcerated in the mental ward of a hospital, or convinced that there was a huge natural disaster like some earthquake or other, or we’d all be convinced the end of the world had come and we would all be out getting drunk or something. But the imagery is there and just remember that it’s about the presence of the Lord.

And if you look at all of this, and look again at the reading from Exodus which really is the parting of the red sea. Biblical scholars will tell us that this is a mistranslation that it is not the parting of the Red Sea but the parting of the Reed Sea. There is a particular part of the sea in Egypt which is like a lake of Reeds. So what happened was that the reeds were parted and the people went through. Rather than the actual red sea itself.

I like the red Sea story better because I like that imagery in the animated film the Prince of Egypt, when you see the walls of water with the whales and fish on the other side. I like that imagery of the Israelites walking on the dry land. Remember what this is about: creation responding to God. God wanted to save his people, so like in the Psalm, so is said to Moses stretch out your hand, and the creation responded by the sea being parted. And then you get the imagery of the seas crashing back and in Egyptians dead on the sand.  They drowned because there were not free. Pharaoh was pursuing the Israelites to bring them back to Egypt and make them slaves again. That’s the imagery from Exodus and is carried through into the reading from the Psalm.

This brings us to the parable in the gospel about the servant who does not give. Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be any sense in the way we humans have treated debtors in the past. A man owes you 10,000 talents which is a lot of money, or even just a few denarii which is not as much as a talent and you put them in prison.  How are they possibly going to pay you if they are locked up?  Remember though it says earlier in the gospel, that they were sold. There was slavery in those days. And if you owe me 10,000 denarii, I’ll go and sell you, your family and all your possessions. And I’ll get my money and you will have repaid what you owe. And that’s what they talking about. They’re talking about, the selling of the people to recoup the debt. And in Rome you could even sell yourself into slavery to get rid of your debt. Why you would want to do that is beyond me.

In the story of the servant who is forgiven by his maser, the Lord, but doesn’t forgive his fellow servant, Jesus is illustrating clearly for us one of the problems you can have when you don’t give and you have received. If you’ve been forgiven but you in turn don’t forgive, then you haven’t really understood the purpose or the meaning of forgiveness. You really have not made much of the message at all.

Now in this case Peter it is not putting his foot in it. He is asking for clarification. Peter is actually saying to Jesus well how often do we forgive? Then Jesus tells the parable of the talents.  What Jesus is doing, is that he is saying: this is how it works, in a practical sense. And this parable is not a mystery.  There really is no mystery in here. Sometimes the parables have to be explained, like the parable of the sower. One can interpret the parable of the sower in whole variety of ways. But this one, you don’t have to interpret, it is very clear. If you don’t forgive then God is not going to forgive you! And why should he? If you are not prepared to extend the same mercy that has been shown to you, then why would you expect to receive it at all?

If we look quickly at Paul. In the last couple of verses, he is reinforcing that idea of forgiveness. Therefore let’s not judge one another anymore, but judge this rather that no man put a stumbling block in his brothers or sisters way for an occasion of falling. So in other words let’s make sure that we don’t put something in their way that will make them sin. So rather than condemning them, let’s make sure that they don’t get into the situation where they are condemned.  He’s also talking about mercy. Not forgiveness in the pure sense that Jesus was talking about in the gospel, it’s about making sure that we don’t do anything that will cause another to sin.

He then goes on to talk about things that are clean and unclean. When you talking about things that are clean and unclean, you’re talking about the Mosaic Law. The Jewish law about what you can and can’t eat. Which is why in the beginning he is talking about food. Now remember the other thing about Paul is that he is a very scholarly man.  He was a Pharisee, he was well trained in the Jewish Scriptures. He could probably quote from them with his eyes shut. So he knows and he understands the law, and is teasing out the Scriptures and then applying it to life. He links them together all the time. He’s saying: this is the law, this is how Christ filled the law, and this is how you live as a Christian. In this sense his very practical although on occasions he can be convoluted and to our ears, difficult to comprehend.

So forgiveness, mercy and the presence of the Lord are all linked in ways that we sometimes lose sight of. But tied together they are, and we would do well to recall this, as we go about living our lives and in our interactions with others.  Amen.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

13th Sunday after Pentecost - Br. Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br Simeon at Winmalee


Sunday 7th September 2014:  


Gospel: Mt 18: 15-20

 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone . . . If he does not listen, take two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church . . .   “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

May the words I speak be those You want spoken, may the words we hear be those You want heard, may we live to Your glory.  Amen.

What's the best way to repair a damaged relationship? Jesus offers his disciples spiritual freedom and power for restoring broken or injured relationships. Jesus makes clear that his followers should not tolerate a breach in relationships among themselves. Sin must be confronted and help must be offered to restore a damaged relationship. When relationships between brothers and sisters in the Lord are damaged, then we must spare no effort to help the brother or sister at fault to see their error and to get things right again.

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on Jesus' instruction:
If someone has done you injury and you have suffered, what should be done? You have heard the answer already in today’s scripture: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” If you fail to do so, you are worse than he is. He has done someone harm, and by doing harm he has stricken himself with a grievous wound. Will you then completely disregard your brother’s wound? Will you simply watch him stumble and fall down? Will you disregard his predicament? If so, you are worse in your silence than he in his abuse. Therefore, when any one sins against us, let us take great care, but not merely for ourselves. For it is a glorious thing to forget injuries. Just set aside your own injury, but do not neglect your brother’s wound. Therefore “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone,” intent upon his amendment but sparing his sense of shame. For it might happen that through defensiveness he will begin to justify his sin, and so you will have inadvertently nudged him still closer toward the very behaviour you desire to amend. Therefore “tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother,” because he might have been lost, had you not spoken with him.

What can we learn from this passage about how to mend a damaged relationship? If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus says the first step is to speak directly but privately to the individual who has done the harm. One of the worst things we can do is brood over our grievance. This can poison the mind and heart and make it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage. If we truly want to settle a difference between someone, we need to do it face to face. If this fails in its purpose, then the second step is to bring another person or persons, someone who is wise and gracious rather than someone who is hot-tempered or judgemental.

The goal is not so much to put the offender on trial, but to persuade the offender to see the wrong and to be reconciled. And if this fails, then we must still not give up, but seek the help of the Christian community. Note the emphasis here is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Christians who hopefully will pray and seek a solution for reconciliation based on Christian love and wisdom, rather than relying on force or threat of legal action, such as a lawsuit.

Lastly, if even the Christian community fails to bring about reconciliation, what must we do? Jesus seems to say that we have the right to abandon stubborn and obdurate offenders and treat them like social outcasts. The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as "unclean" by the religious-minded Jews.  However we know from the gospel accounts that Jesus often had fellowship with tax-collectors, ate with them, and even praised them at times!

Jesus refuses no one who is ready to receive pardon, healing, and restoration. The call to accountability is inevitable and we can't escape it, both in this life and at the day of judgement when the Lord Jesus will return. But while we have the opportunity, we must not give up on stubborn offenders, but, instead make every effort to win them with the grace and power of God's healing love and wisdom.

As we leave this place today, I leave this with you to ponder; “do you tolerate broken relationships or do you seek to repair them as God gives you the opportunity to mend and restore what is broken”?


Monday, 1 September 2014

12th Sunday after Pentecost - Sermon extra no 8

12th Sunday after Pentecost


Sermon - Christ: Who Defines Christ? (Matthew 16:21-28) |

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