Monday 26 January 2015

Third Sunday after Epiphany - Br Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br Andrew at Blaxland on Sunday 25th January 2015 

11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,
12   and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.

The readings tie together rather well together this week, they all share the common element of expectancy standing tiptoe on the boards of judgement drawn nigh.

Hold that thought: today is our inaugural service here in Blaxland, like a mendicant friar our little community has been wandering down the mountainside and now we stand tiptoe upon the boards of excitement awaiting what the Lord has install for our Community here.

How do we see ourselves? As a rather disgruntled Jonah erstwhile of Whale city, a reluctant prophet who believed he knew the Lord would have mercy on Nineveh whether he prophesied against it or not? Well if we do why bother being here anyway?

God has no hands nor feet but ours nor a mouth with which to express himself and that is why down through the ages he has often called ordinary people such as Amos who was a sheep herder and a sycamore fig farmer to be his prophets; we might, for the sake of it go as far as to call them his ‘forerunners’, because Jonah was a forerunner. We are Forerunners, we go before.

Do we understand what Paul means by “I mean?” I have never been quite sure myself and sometimes, between you and me, neither does he. However we may understand Paul if we read him as that in knowing that in God’s time the end is but a hairs breadth away we must put all our effort into getting out the message of God’s impending judgement and the amazing and priceless gift of Salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection available to all who will accept it.

Those who speak of Judgement are not generally favoured since we often wish to focus only on the mighty Love and mercy of God rather than the why. Why did Jesus have to die if not to save us from something?
The LORD said ‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’

The wickedness of Israel and the world continued to rise up to God until in the latter days, the end times God sent His son  our Saviour Jesus into our World to die and to become the final atonement for sin the great fountain of God’s mercy welling up and overflowing, enough for everyone to drink of. We are his chosen ones called to carry his good news to those around us, and at home wherever we live.

The disciples Jesus called to help him were people similar to us, they had businesses or worked as fishermen in other’s businesses, they did not have the equivalent of a Jerusalem University B.Th., and we know they came when they were called rather than dithering about as often happens when we receive the call from God and don’t immediately like the idea of it.

This Calling came for them just after John the Baptist, the one called the Forerunner had been arrested and Jesus said that the  ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee where he knew he would find Simon, Andrew, James and John at their work, Simon and Andrew left their boats sitting there while James and John, who were mending nets left their father Zebedee with the hired men and they all followed him. Jesus invited them to come with him and he would make them fish for people.

Perhaps it was precisely because they were fishermen that Jesus called them since they had some idea of the wisdom of fishing, Piscine Psychology perhaps?

Gathering others to Christ just doesn’t happen, as we know, and we need to apply everyone’s skills and expertise. Jesus spent three years training his disciples to do with people what they had done with fish their whole working life.

How shall we begin?

This board we are standing on, is it a Diving board or a Board walk is evangelising more akin to swooping into town like a Mission, a Billy Graham visit such as the one in April-May 1978 which I attended with my family at the Randwick race Course. Many people gave their lives to Christ then and were introduced to local churches in their areas.
Jonah walked through the city of Nineveh as Jesus walked by Lake Galilee though it is Paul who was both the circuit preacher and the Missionary.
There is a role for both the hands on and the distance ministry, the full front on one off and the slow and steady presence.
We pray to God.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Second Sunday after Epiphany - Br Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Homily preached at Maroubra on Sunday 18th January 2015 smatterings of Br. Luke as gleaned by Br. Andrew: 


Second Sunday after Epiphany - year B

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”

What do we know from the reading from samuel?

·                     The Lord's Word was 'rare' in those days or dear as Rashi puts it in the Hebrew Commentary, it was not falling to earth very often and neither were visions received often.
·                     "The Lamp of God had not yet gone out" was this the lamp in the Temple to indicate the hour the Lord began to speak to Samuel?

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Ere the lamp of God went out; before the lights of the golden candlestick were put out, i.e. in the night season, or before the morning, when they were put out, as they were lighted in the evening, Exodus 27:21 Leviticus 24:3 2 Chronicles 13:11

Or did it indicate that though the Word of the Lord was rare in those days that the Lord had not yet abandoned Israel.

We decided that both were applicable.

Samuels bed was near the Ark of God and Eli slept in a room opposite the Holy of Holies to tend to it when needed, Samuel was his guide and ministered for him.

4Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ 5and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down (1 Sam. 3:4-5) 

As we have read, this happens three times before Eli realizes that it is the Lord calling Samuel and sends him to lie down and to speak the words written at the beginning of this Sermon. "Speak, Lord, your Servant is Listening"

Note that Samuel does not yet know the Lord which is why he can sleep in the Most Holy Place without coming to grief, why he does not recognize the voice of the Lord when he hears it, but now he is bid to listen and how different is listening from hearing?

Remember this child was given into Eli's care to serve God in the Temple as Hannah's bargain with the Lord for allowing her to conceive a son.
see 1 Samuel 1:11"And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”"

Right from conception  Samuel was destined to be a servant of God - and the awesome things God spoke to Samuel once he came and stood where the boy slept and spoke to him of the coming extinction of the house of Eli for the wickedness of the sons of Eli, 
Hophni and Phinehas, in their blasphemy and of their father for not rebuking them or removing them from the office of  priest.

“ In the deep silence of that early morning, before the sun had risen, when the sacred light was still burning, came through the mouth of the innocent child the doom of the house of Ithamar.”—Stanley, Lectures on the Jewish Church, Part I.

The seeming threat that Eli makes to elicit the truth concerning the fate of the House of Ithamar...

What else can Eli say except  Let the Lord do what seems good to Him.

Josephus tells us that Samuel was 12 when he began to prophesy , the Lord was with him and the Scriptures tell us that not a word of his ever fell to the ground.

The Calling of Nathanael

The story of Jesus calling Nathanael, better known as Bartholomew, sticks in our memory, mine especially under the wording of the KJV
"An Israelite in whom there is no guile."

Jesus calls Philip who recognizes him as the one promised by Moses in the Law and the Prophets - Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth and the response " Can anything good come out of Nazareth"

Nathanael's excited exclamation ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’upon hearing that Jesus "knows" him as an Israelite in which  there is no deceit, his innocent goodness in recognizing this description of himself, perceived by Jesus while he was as yet under the peppercorn tree.

The mysterious prophecy of Jesus that Nathanael will see angels ascending and descending upon the son of Man is reminiscent of Jacobs Ladder.

Sunday 18 January 2015

First Sunday after the Epiphany – The Baptism of the Lord-Br Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached at Warrimoo on Sunday 11th January 2015 smatterings of Br. Luke as gleaned by Br. Andrew: 

First Sunday after the Epiphany – The Baptism of the Lord

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Genesis is a story of Beginnings that is what the word ‘genesis’ means, it is not a history of the beginning of the universe, it is a story about the first Beginning, it is Theology this time of the first Jordan:

Our world was once a ball of water with the Holy Spirit, the ruach hakodesh hovering over it, waiting to draw living beings from beneath its dark depths. 
Very much like the river Jordan, the new born earth was a source of cleansing and reconciliation, passing from within itself all manner of life forms, baptising them into life. A life which began perfectly. God said everything was ‘good’.
Even from before that first day when God created light before ever the sun set or rose, what God created was good.
From the beginning of that first day as evening became morning everything associated with that new born earth was declared ‘good’.

But then came ‘History’

“I don’t usually preach on Paul” or words to that effect Luke said last week when he proceeded to do just that.

“We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” 

Paul has arrived in Ephesus to find disciples of John the Baptist.

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, ritual bathing was common to Judaism therefore when John had baptised  it was not by any name or into any name that he baptised them, nor into any creed; they remained Jews yet cleansed of their sins awaiting  the coming of Jesus. 

Though their reply to Paul was that they had been baptised into John’s Baptism, John himself would be the first to say that his baptism was not his own but God’s for as Paul reminded them, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ Subsequently they have been converted to the Lord Jesus, since, as per above it says that Paul arrived in Ephesus to find 12 disciples. So it is Paul’s words about the Lord Jesus, in whom they believed, who had come after John that must have inspired them to immediate baptism and to receive the Holy Spirit.

Notice, though, that Paul baptises them into the name of “Jesus”, not into the name of the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. Having done this the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they begin prophesying and speaking in other languages. Almost as a tag Paul adds that altogether there were about 12 of them – 12 new disciples of Jesus.

Jesus had come to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him, Jesus himself received the baptism of John, and from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 3:14) we know that John demurred about the situation and said that it ought to have been the other way around. The Evangelist Mark uses it so that the Father can rend the heavens by the Spirit with the affirmation that Jesus is His own beloved Son – this same spirit which filled those disciples once they were baptised in the name of Jesus.

For those of us baptised by Trinitarian baptism we may have never experienced the ecstasy of speaking in tongues or prophesying but Scripture tells us that these experiences would not always occur (I Corinthians 13:8) and will cease altogether. We know by Faith that through baptism we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and hence become part of the Body of Christ and one with the Holy Trinity and one another as they are One.(John 17:11,22)

That Sunday we also heard about the differing sacramental traditions of the Roman and Protestant Churches, whether there are 7 or 2…

We believe there are 2, those in which Jesus participated in himself Baptism and Communion.

We also debated the differences between ‘Believers baptism’ and ‘Infant baptism’ that the former defines Church membership or is a Rite of Initiation and the latter marks a Rite of Passage. One depends for its upkeep – so to speak, on the child’s parents or family until they reach a conversion experience of their own and the other begins with that conversion experience.

It is almost but not quite like the Baptism of John and the Baptism of Jesus??

Sunday 4 January 2015

Second Sunday after Christmas - the Epiphany of Our lord - Br. Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

An ECCA Parish

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order
Homily preached at Warrimoo on Sunday 4th January 2015:


Gospel:  Matthew 2:1-12

“Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem; “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

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.

Welcome, friends, to 2015 and to what is in all truth my favourite celebration of the ecclesiastical year – namely, the feast of the Epiphany!

Surely one of the great stories of Christmas is the story of the visit of the Wise Men from the East. Wherever the story of the birth of Jesus is told, so too is told this delightful tale of strange men from some faraway land who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

The story of the astrologers and the star of Bethlehem are unique to Matthew’s Gospel.  I noted in my preparing my sermon,  that Matthew does not call them kings nor does he give their names nor reports where they came from -- in fact, Matthew never even specifies the number of magi (because three gifts are presented to the Child, it has been a tradition since the fifth century to picture “three wise men”). In stripping away the romantic layers that have been added to the story, Matthew’s point can be better understood.

A great many First Testament ideas and images are presented in this story.  The star, for example, is reminiscent of Balaam’s prophecy that “a star shall advance from Jacob” (Numbers 24: 17).   Many of the details in Matthew’s story about the child Jesus parallel the story of the child Moses and the Exodus.

Matthew’s story also provides a preview of what is to come.  First, the reactions of the various parties to the birth of Jesus parallel the effects Jesus’ teaching will have on those who hear it.

 Herod reacts with anger and hostility to the Jesus of the poor who comes to overturn the powerful and rich.  The chief priests and scribes greet the news with haughty indifference toward the Jesus who comes to give new life and meaning to the rituals and laws of the scribes.  But the magi -- non-believers in the eyes of Israel -- possess the humility of faith and the openness of mind and heart to seek and welcome the Jesus who will institute the Second Covenant between God and the New Israel.

Secondly, the gifts of the astrologers indicate the principal dimensions of Jesus’ mission:
gold - is a gift fitting for a king, a ruler, one with power and authority;
frankincense - is a gift fitting for a priest, one who offers sacrifice (frankincense was an aromatic perfume sprinkled on the animals sacrificed in the Temple);
myrrh - is a fitting “gift” for someone who is to die (myrrh was used in ancient times for embalming the bodies of the dead before burial).

Epiphany calls is to a new vision of the world that sees beyond the walls and borders we have created and to walk by the light which has dawned for all of humankind, a light by which we are able to recognise all men and women as our brothers and sisters under the loving providence of God, the Father of all.
The magi’s following of the star is a journey of faith, a constant search for meaning, for purpose, for the things of God that each one of us experiences in the course of our own lives.

What we read and watch and listen to in search of wealth, fame and power are the “stars” we follow.  The journey of the magi in Matthew's Gospel puts our own "stargazing" in perspective, calling us to fix our search on the “star” of God’s justice, peace and compassion.