Thursday 26 February 2015

The Three Peaks of Spiritual Challenge

“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

Lent 2B: The Three Peaks Spiritual Challenge

A mountain climber once shared with me, that 'mountain climbing' for him was a transcendent experience. He went on to say that the experience helped him to transcend the limitation of his fears, and discover his strength and endurance. The New Zealand mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary said, 'It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.' In scripture, mountains have a long tradition of religious significance, being regarded as places where God could be encountered. It seems that from mountaintops, God reveals to humans the divine will and human limitations. The mountain can also be a place where an individual can discover the divine heights to which the human spirit can soar.

What every human heart longs for is to see God, but no one can see God's face and live (Ex 33:20). So the closest the patriarchs like Abraham, Moses or Elijah could come, was to transcend their human limitations, by climbing a mountain, where God could allow them a glimpse of divine glory. Our scripture readings for this week, call us and show us how to be mountain climbers. With God's grace, we are enabled to conquer something in ourselves as we climb each peak, so that, from each mountaintop, we can see something of God's glory.

The first peak challenge is Mt Moriah, which Abraham climbs (Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18) at God's request. Those who have done this climb say Mt Moriah is an arduous, agonizing climb. Abraham takes with him his only son, whom God had promised and whom has asked Abraham to offer back in sacrifice. In climbing, Abraham conquers his fears and doubts, and discovers the depths of his faith, which transcends his human resistance to trusting God. On this mountain, he learns to trust in God, whom he knows by deep faith to be all goodness. On this mountain, Abraham has to trust that God is faithful to his word, and worthy of trust. As a result, Abraham's experience on Mt Moriah stands for the virtue of faith which is given, so that one can see God's faithful providence. In our Mt Moriah experiences we learn that God never abandons us even in our greatest agony and deepest sorrow. We learn what St Pauls writes; "With God on our side who can be against us." (Romans 8:31-34) or as the psalmist prays; "I trusted (GOD) even when I said: 'I am sorely afflicted" (Psalm115:10). Such a capacity for trust is the result of cultivated deep faith.

The second peak challenge is Mt Tabor, which Jesus climbs with his closest friends, Peter, James, and John. There, they are allowed a peek of Christ's divine glory. Occasionally in our Christian walk we experience moments of such grace and joy, in the company of our friends, that we wish it did not end. I have found many occasions during celebrations of the Eucharist to be like this, when God's presence and glory seems tangible. For a moment, one transcends present anxiety and stress, and enjoys a foretaste of heaven. Such experiences help us see in the distance the destination of life's journey, which is to be raised to new life with Christ, and to ever enjoy his friendship in the glory of heaven. Mt Tabor stands for the virtue of hope which helps us to keep God's glory and our final end in sight. We need hope in those times when we are plunged into difficult and challenging circumstances. In the darkness we may not be able to see Christ, but, with hope, we can hear God's voice penetrating our fear saying - 'listen to Jesus, my beloved child' (Mark 9:2-10), who is 'a lamp for your feet and a light for your path' (Ps 119:105).

The third peak challenge is Mt Calvary which is hinted at in today's Gospel when Jesus says; "... tell no one what you have seen, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead." It is on Calvary that Jesus mounts the Cross alone. As Christ's disciples we are called by his grace to follow after him. This journey, involves sacrifice and wounds, and it leaves us vulnerable. On Calvary, God's love is revealed to us in the flesh. This ultimate climb stands for the virtue of love, which enables us to conquer our prideful-selfishness and fears. When we reach the summit of Calvary we are finally fulfill our hearts desire to see God. It is at the cross that we see God, face-to-face in the Crucified One. Such a vision enables us to become transfigured though our loving selfless service in union with Him who gave his all. On Calvary, we learn that 'God is Love', and that in union with Christ who became our suffering servant, we can transcend the limitations of our human nature. Mounts Moriah, Tabor, and Calvary are our 'The Three Peaks Spiritual Challenge' not just for lent but for the whole of our lives. Our Christian spiritual mountain adventure will exceed what any other mountaineering challenge this world has to offer, simply because, its reward is out of this world!

Friday 20 February 2015

Words, Water and Wilderness!

Torah Scroll
“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

Lent 1B 2015: Words, Water and Wilderness! 

This week we begin the season of Lent which can help us to celebrate the very heart of our faith - the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a time for penance and of hope. It is a time when we reflect upon the profound meaning of the word "covenant". The word covenant is an ancient word that speaks to the power of a promise spoken and made between two persons. In the Christian scriptures, God is the one who always takes the 'initiative' to make covenant with humans. We take up the Noah story in Genesis (9:8-17) after the Flood and read the words; "See, I establish my Covenant with you, and your descendents after you; and also with every living creature ..." and of Jesus taken by "The Spirit" into "the wilderness" (Mark 1:9-15) where he experienced temptation.
As in the time of Noah, the sights and sounds of evil are present in our society, seen in our exposure to the wilful abuse of one human being by another; the night time TV dramas that celebrate and act out violence against persons. The emphasis on sexual images does violence to the fully human nature potential in people. The documentaries on the events of war and atrocities, political corruption and commercial greed, can lead us feeling numb and down hearted. What about God's tolerance for the evil of human kind? God saved eight people from the evil generation around them by means of water. God saves us from the evil generation around us by means of water and Spirit through Baptism.
I have often wondered what thoughts ran through Noah’s mind after the flood, as he surveyed the scene before him. Did the destruction, loneliness and isolation terrify him? What did he think of the God whose divine power seemed to have caused such destruction? The Genesis text gives us only the basic details. What about Jesus, alone in the wilderness, with only "wild beasts" for company, was he to lonely, and frightened by his isolation? Mark’s account doesn’t give us any of the details. There is no reported conversation with Satan. We are left to fill in the blanks for ourselves about Jesus’ self-encounter. This type of self-encounter encounter can happen during Lent as we enter our lonely interior landscape. "The Spirit" can 'drive' us if we are willing into the wilderness through our practices of fasting, self-denial, and prayer. In our "secret" prayerful quiet times, we will find all that we tend to avoid through our busy frenetic routine days, that can hide our deep anxiety, insecurity, and fearfulness. Our authentic prayer can reveal our deep helplessness in the face of our sin and the chaos of the world in which we live. It is no easy work to make sense of the past or to face the claim that God has put on our lives through our baptismal covenant.
The good news of scriptures is that this is not the end of the story. The message of the Noah and Jesus story is not centered on either the chaotic devastation of the world or of the Satan (accuser) who threatens to undo us. It is centered on the promise and power of the One who not only created this world and called "it good", but the One who promises to protect, sustain, and restore the world and ALL who live in it. We can feel at times despair and doubt as we face our weakness, with temptations within and fears without. However, God remains loyal to the disloyal; faithful to the faithless. The "rainbow" sign says, that God’s intention for his creation is to end the cycle of violence and retribution with love and compassion. God is with us in our wilderness and like Jesus we are given strength beyond our own and "the angels" to care for us. Lent challenges us to come to terms with the fact that though devastation and the isolation of wilderness are far from God’s original intention for creation, it is through these terrible, harsh realities that God brings forth new life. The "rainbow" represents an unconditional promise, of God’s willingness to limit God’s power and freedom for the sake of the life of the world that God so loves. It is in the self-denial of the wilderness that Jesus confirms before God, his identity and the mission of life through death that flows from it.
The scripture readings of lent will remind us that being drawn through death for the sake of new life. They will lead us to a greater understanding of God’s compassionate presence, promise keeping, and self-denying love for a broken world proclaimed on the cross. When we enter into our personal lenten wilderness, we too can experience the power

Monday 16 February 2015

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - The Transfiguration - Br Andrew

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br. Andrew at Maroubra on Sunday 15th February 2015:

The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - the Transfiguration


2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalms 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-12; Mark 9:2-9

Today, is the last Sunday after the Epiphany, and as the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent is also the Sunday of the Transfiguration of the Lord. 

The word Transfigure is derived from Latin “transfigurare” or “across figure” and this word came into the English via the Old French between 1100 and 1250. Its common meaning is ‘to transform into something more beautiful or elevated.’ To change the form of something or someone into something more beautiful or elevated

Spiritually speaking, when we find ourselves on this mountain top each year with Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah and Jesus it is not only outward experiences that concern us, because, you see for those of us who walk in the footsteps of Christ we are ever learning new things of  him.

This is His final Epiphany experience, or rather ours before He begins the Journey to Death and Resurrection in Jerusalem. Epiphanies are Manifestations, revelations of certain information to certain individuals.

THE primary or official EPIPHANY, occurred when Jesus was made manifest, revealed to the Nations in the three Magi, who came to worship him, as King of the Jews witnessed by his parents.
The second time was at his baptism in the Jordan when God made it known in person that Jesus was his own beloved son. Andrew and John were present at that time.
Here we are once more atop what must have been Mount Hermes, (we can talk about this on Thursday), with Peter and James and of course John who was present at Jesus baptism.

It says “And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one* on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2b, 3) I guess the easiest way Peter could describe the event to Mark must have been that Jesus’ clothes became so white that he had never seen the like before because we don’t have any description of Jesus here just his unearthly laundromat.

Retrospectively, in Peter’s realization that he was in the presence of the True and living God he later refrains from giving the description to Mark or any of us for that matter because he saw the face of God and lived – just a thought?

We notice that as soon as Christ is transfigured that Elijah with Moses can be seen speaking with Jesus, were they there all along and did the Transfigurement then allow the disciples to see and to hear them? What might we SEE if we were to place ourselves in this diorama with the group and encounter the living God in Jesus; would we be open to learning or would we like Peter want to pitch tents, because it would be too much for us, I guess it had better be too much for us else what are we doing here?

Elijah represents the epitome of Prophet hood and was to return before the Messiah arrived, we know that one with a spirit like his walked and talked in John the Baptist and was executed and now Elijah appears with Jesus before Jesus, in his turn is about to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world, past present and to come.

Our reading from the second book of the Kings is about the Ascension of Elijah who was taken to heaven in a whirlwind by God. The reading takes us through what was the last walk in his life and also through the brief and final stages of the apprenticeship of the prophet Elisha.

“2. Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal”( 2Kings 2:1) And they walk from Gilgal to bethel and from Bethel to Jericho and from Jericho to the Jordan, each time Elijah telling Elisha to remain behind and each time Elisha saying “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you”  Notice the Company of Prophets telling Elisha that today the Lord will take your master  away from you and he tells them to be quiet because he knows.

Unlike Peter, Elisha is absolutely aware of what is going on and ready to take up the challenge to walk with his master to his master’s death.

Moses – the representative of the Torah the living Law, also died in special circumstances somewhere nearby the place where Elijah crossed over the Jordan on dry ground. He was led up to the top of mount Nebo from where he surveyed the Promised Land, he was never to enter because of his disobedience. It is questioned that depending upon which mountain was the mount of Transfiguration and from which part of the mountain range Moses viewed the Promised Land that he may have been able to have seen the mount of Transfiguration… What we do have here are some interesting ponders – that Moses who sinned and did not cross over the Jordan died on Mount Nebo and was hidden by God in a valley somewhere.
That Elijah crossed over the Jordan by striking the water with his furled cloak and crossed over on dry land before Ascending into heaven in a whirlwind. AND effectively speaking the Jordan was where Jesus’ earthly Ministry began.

That these three in manners of speaking have all met before in sin and in death and now the Law and the prophets have come to bear witness with the Apostles in the sound of the voice of God, a theophany, “This is my Son, the Beloved;* listen to him!’”(Mark9:7b)
 Using a cloud to protect the Apostles from the terrible presence of God assists the disappearance of Moses and Elijah. Arriving in dazzling light and departing in cloud.
If we have managed to place ourselves alongside the party in this diorama have we listened?
Will we now listen to Jesus?

Just a little about Paul because it really needs much more time, perhaps Thursday. We really do need to listen with dictionaries and thesauruses in hand when we read Paul. 

Briefly what he says is that the Ministry of the New Covenant, more glorious than that of Moses is like the very first creation of God, Light and yet it has been entrusted to frail human beings who were fashioned from clay. Paul himself alludes to the struggles he has had and to his feelings of inadequacy, we know the struggles of Peter just from our Gospel readings yet God has entrusted us to take the light of the Gospel to the world.

This light is so bright and regenerative that it can withstand all our weaknesses even after all the evil that has been done in its name it is still the reflection of God’s divine glory and has the capacity to transfigure the soul.

If ever we become inflated with our own solo capacity to preach the word we need to climb our own private Nebo’s and recall our weakness and sin and Christ’s ultimate act of self-sacrifice that had enabled us to follow Elijah over the Jordan – dry shod.

And take up our frail urns which only the Spirit of God can strengthen and let the Gospel light shine.

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany year B- Br. Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

  Homily preached by Br. Simeon at Blaxland on Sunday 15th February 2015: 


Gospel: Mark 1:40-45

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

What comes to mind when you think of the word “clean”?
Clean house; clean up;
clean water; cleanliness is next to godliness; clean sweep; come clean; Mr. Clean; clean burning; clean oven; clean title; and so we can all think of many other examples of “clean”.

Well, today we’re talking about a different kind of clean. Today we’re talking about what it means to be clean inside and outside; clean not because we’ve rubbed and scrubbed but because God acting in Christ has chosen to make us so.

Our gospel lesson contains the short but powerful story of a leper coming to Jesus and making an unusual statement. The leper says to Jesus, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Now what’s so unusual about this statement is that, for starters, it’s not really a request. The leper doesn’t “ask” Jesus to be “healed.” Instead, he announces what he believes — that, if Jesus chooses, Jesus can make him “clean.”

The cleansing of the leper is a climactic moment in Mark’s Gospel. By just touching the leper Jesus challenges one of the strictest proscriptions in Jewish society (today’s first reading provides the context for understanding the social and religious revulsion of lepers).

The leper is one of the heroic characters of Mark’s Gospel (along with such figures as the poor widow who gives her only penny to the temple and the blind Bartimaeus). The leper places his entire trust in Jesus. For him, there is no doubt: this Jesus is the Messiah of hope, the Lord of life. His request for healing is more than a cry for help -- it is a profession of faith: “You can make me clean.”

Jesus’ curing of the leper shocked those who witnessed it. Jesus did not drive the leper away, as would be the norm (the leper, according to the Mosaic Law, had no right to even address Jesus); instead, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. Jesus did not see an unclean leper but a human soul in desperate need.

Consider what Jesus does after healing the leper. He sends the cleansed leper to show himself to the priest “and offer for your cure what Moses prescribed.” This leper’s healing is a message for the Jewish establishment, represented by the priest: that the Messiah has come and is present among you.

We often reduce others to “lepers”—those we fear, those who don’t “fit” our image of sophistication and culture, those whose religion or race or class or culture threaten our own. We exile these lepers to the margins of society outside our gates; we reduce these lepers to simple stereotypes and demeaning labels; we reject these lepers as too “unclean” to be part of our lives and our world. The Christ who healed lepers comes to perform a much greater miracle – to heal us of our debilitating sense of self that fails to realise the sacred dignity of those we demean as “lepers.”

In today’s Gospel, the leper approaches Jesus with the words, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” The leper’s challenge is addressed to all of us, who seek to imitate Jesus. We possess the means and abilities to transform our lives and world — what is required are the desire, the will, the determination to do so: to heal the broken, to restore lepers to wholeness, to reconcile with those from whom we are estranged.

Jesus works his wonders not to solicit acclaim for himself but to awaken faith in God’s providence, to restore God’s vision of a world where humanity is united as brothers and sisters in the love of God. Jesus calls us who would be his disciples to let our own “miracles” of charity and mercy, of forgiveness and justice, be “proof” of our committed discipleship to the Gospel and our trust in the God who is the real worker of wonders in our midst.


Wednesday 11 February 2015

Do We Know Who Jesus Is For Us? Demons Do!

 “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

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B:
4th Sunday after Epiphany Year B

Do We Know Who Jesus Is For Us? 

Demons Do!

 Gospel Mark 1:21-28

This week, the Lectionary calls us to the Book of Deuteronomy (18:15-20), the last book of the Torah.

We read; "Moses said to the people: 'Your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves ... to him you must listen." As Christians we see these words fulfilled in Christ who came to serve and liberate others from whatever weakness, struggle or bondage they may find themselves in. In the gospel today (Mark 1:21-28) we discover that Jesus is not just a prophet like Moses, but far more than that. Mark tells us that Jesus had an authority in his teaching that went beyond that of the religious leaders, and even beyond Moses. In his power to heal and liberate the demonised man, Jesus reveals his divine authority. It can be tempting to take our experience of Christ and use it for our own ego glory, as if we are somehow better than others because we know Christ. The glory of God that is revealed in Christ is authoritative and powerful, but it is the power to serve, and, an authority to liberate.

Modern people tend not to like this type of story and dismiss it as fabrication or try to psychologise it away. Some will try to defend it and the sceptical reject it. We need to distinguish between the phenomenon and our interpretation of it. Often, I have felt the fear of something mysterious outside my ability to understand. It is not that these things like Jesus exorcising a demon do not happen, they do, but how do we interpreted with our western frame of reference. We have our conditioned prejudices,   that close us to certain truths and open us to others. All this changes the nature of how we read the story. We may not want to admit that our culture defines us, and what we can see. Still, we are able to say something about the events in the synagogue of Capernaum.
There is no question whether this happened. The witness of Mark is that it did happen. Now and then some people believe this, and some people do not. We are called to believe, to trust the report. It is not a question of what or how it happened. within our 20th century bio-medical healing model it is often unclear how healing occurs. In this paradigm we treat symptoms, but the healing is something else. The question we need to ask is; what does it mean? In the social setting of Capernaum and Galilee people are powerless, held in place by culture and convention with little or no opportunity to change. In the synagogue evil sits in the midst of holiness. The scribes have no authority.

Jesus comes with something new. Our experience of catharsis is that it is so often temporary or a violence against others and not real freeing or cleansing. In Jesus we see a real cleansing power that drives out the uncleanness that invades even our holy places. If we are honest all of us, are somehow powerless and enmeshed in the context of our existence. As we worship we have luxury that most of the world cannot afford. We are destroying ourselves environmentally. We often feel powerless, caught in the structure of where we are. Any attempt at change can cause deep pain and fear to arise and excuses to be made as we flee from the truth of the prophet. We need Christ with his new teaching and new authority, to break the bonds which hold us fast. His true healing brings together our many parts into a beautiful wholeness.

Jesus' new teaching is a truth which breaks into the pain and powerlessness of our personal conditioning and cultural structures. It heals our cultural structures and our separation from God and offers to make our social structures a supporting place to be, a place to be at home, rather than a prison of delusion and deception. One kind of "evil spirit" which we discern more easily today is the cry that can burst out of us or others when we are mentally unwell. It alienates us because of the separation and fear it causes us and others. In our culture, we tend to think of mental illness only in bio-medical terms− brain drug levels out of balance. However, much of what is experienced is a rupturing of relationships, a wounding of soul. Often this rupturing (dis-ease) is the key issue for healing. Drugs can sometimes restore the balance very quickly. However, the recovery of self-esteem, the trust of self and others, and the regaining of trust from others, is a much slower and more difficult task; and communal integrity is not so easily restored.

The healing Jesus gave to the demonised man was the weakening of the forces of his isolation. Something has to break into the void between and in us. In Mark, it is Jesus' resurrection. When our sickness is terrifying, and there is deep psychological pain, we need to let go of our security and reach out to an unpredictable other to find resurrection freedom. If we long for God’s reign to be seen in us, and happen through us we will have to let go of having things done “our” way. Yet, when we embody Christ’s liberating grace, by choosing to serve and live Christ's gospel values, the authority of Jesus can be most clearly seen in us.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, year B-Br Luke

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br. Luke at Blaxland on Sunday 8th February 2015: 

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, year B


" As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them."(Mark 1:29-31 NRSV)

And then they came from everywhere to be healed by him

Jesus cured many people of various diseases and cast out many daemons, and remember what we said at Bible Study last Thursday about Jesus silencing the daemons, he silenced them and cast them out. Mark says again “He would not permit the daemons to speak” and every time he cast a daemon out, he said to the daemon “be quiet, and go! He always said that, when the daemons spoke, he would not let them say who he was, people might think – well, why won't he let them speak? Was he frightened of them, no of course not, what he doesn't want is for them to start telling people who he is because at this point in time he is beginning his ministry and later on he doesn't want the events that unfold to be brought forth more quickly, which is obviously what Satan wants, so they cannot interfere and disrupt his plans, his mission, so he said ‘be silent’! And when God says ‘be silent!’ what do you do? Be Silent.

I won’t speak about Isaiah, this morning because we will do that along with the Psalm at our Parish Bible Study on Thursday.

(Holy Redeemer Christian Community does Bible Study by Skype at 7.30pm AEST each Thursday)

I am going to go to someone many people don't like very much– our friend Paul

“If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel!
What is he saying? It’s no good me going look at me aren't I wonderful I’m proclaiming the gospel! No! Just because he does it doesn’t mean he can boast about it, and say how good I am. You can't puff yourself up and make yourself important:
‘I am such a good Christian for preaching the gospel’- because you have an obligation to do that as a Christian- so you can't run around saying ‘I’m such a good Christian, look at me I'm preaching the gospel’. No, being a Christian is about doing.

We have the obligation to preach the gospel, St Francis of Assisi said how do you proclaim the gospel, you can do it in the way you live, you don’t necessarily have to use words, he didn't actually say it in those words, did he Andrew?
The intention behind whatever the words he did say was– “Preach everywhere, if necessary use words” In other words what Paul said is that ‘I have an obligation on me to proclaim the gospel’ so I am doing it. If I do it for my own will I have a reward, but it is not for his own will because he had been subject to the commission. He is following the command given to him by Christ. 

Later in the gospel, in what comes to be known as the Great Commission Jesus says to the disciples go out and make converts of the whole world In other words go out there and spread the Message, spread the Good News, and we all know what the Good News is, the message of the gospel in its fundamental form, God is Love, as John said in his Gospel, he couldn't have made it any plainer, God is Love! 

The whole message of the Christian Gospel is Love and Reconciliation to God.
We are reconciled back to God through the action of Christ.

Paul then says this really complicated thing:
“To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.” [1 Corinthians 9:20b NRSV]
He is not under the Law! What is he talking about? He has these lovely convoluted arguments, he does that all the time, what he is simply saying is that he is not under the Law, but what law is he referring to here? He is referring to the Mosaic Law, he is referring to the Jewish Law, he is not under the Jewish Law anymore he is not under the Mosaic Law, why not?  Because he is under the Law of Christ and we know that the church in Jerusalem decided that Christians were not bound to follow the Mosaic Law, which is why many Christians are not circumcised.
If we had to follow the Law of Moses every Christian male would be have to be circumcised; because we do not follow the Jewish Law there is no obligation on us to be circumcised which is one of the things discussed by the church in Jerusalem where it was decided that Christians were not bound by the Mosaic Law.
I am not under the Law but for those Jews who are under the Law I will act as though I am under the Law  so that I don’t frighten them, don’t scare them away and I can convert them to the Message of Christ by them understanding that I understand the message of the Law. Which is why he said “To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some 
(1 Corinthians 9:22 NRSV)
In other words Paul is saying he will do anything that is required for him to preach the gospel to convert people to the Faith; what is conversion to the Faith? Bringing them the knowledge of God’s love and the gift of Reconciliation… So it is not really that complicated when you start to unpick him; and you don’t worry about he argues this and then he argues that etc. that is his rhetorician style, the way he was taught to argue.

I want to go back briefly to Mark and then we will stop.
All night Jesus had been healing and casting out daemons so he must have been somewhat tired, I know I would be very tired, wouldn't you?  
”In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NRSV)
Now that is the other pattern that Jesus followed, you remember that on many, many, occasions after Jesus had preached, after he had done a lot of work like this he retreated to a cave, to a mountain top, a deserted place to a boat to wherever and he prayed. Going to reconnect himself with the Divine, to recharge his batteries, as it were… not that he needs to from the divine perspective but in his humanity, his human body he did. That’s why we find that in the early church the earliest monks went to the desert, we now call them the Desert Mothers and Fathers, they went and they lived, literally, in the desert but they didn't live in Monasteries’ as we know them they lived very much like the Carthusians do, they each had their own cell and came together for meetings. 

That is the pattern of the Desert Mothers and Fathers:-the very earliest type of religious communities would go to the desert, mimicking what Jesus did, he had gone into the desert, stayed in the desert prayed in the desert, where it is different is that the monks and the nuns don’t come back, once they had gone into the monastery in the desert they didn’t come back out again. We Franciscans do come back.

And then Simon Peter says we’ve been looking for you, where have you been, everyone’s gone, what have you been doing? 

Jesus says come on let’s go to the next town, he doesn't even answer them, he doesn't say, “Well this is what I have been doing” …My job is to preach the gospel, proclaim the message, to visit the Synagogues and cast out daemons, come on, let’s go, and off he goes and on to the next town.

Paul is mimicking Jesus, isn't he? Preach Convert, next town. Preach Convert, next town.

I am often asked what is the difference between a friar and a monk. It is Very simple a monk takes a vow of stability and obedience to a Community, the same for a nun, and goes to the Community and lives there and doesn't leave. They go to that Monastery, wherever that might be and that is where they spend the rest of their life. They may move occasionally from monastery to monastery or from place to place but by and large it is to the one Community and one Monastery and that is where they stay.

Dominicans and Franciscans are called Friars and that is because they are mendicants and what we mean by mendicants is that the vows we take are to the Order and so we can be sent anywhere in order to do the Work of the Order, so in some ways a friar is more like Paul who goes from town to town and place to place preaching, converting, next town and so on and so forth and that’s what Francis wanted brothers, who were out and about.(Sisters couldn't go out in those days, for their own protection they had to remain in the monastery otherwise they would be raped and all sorts of things, so they remained inside and are Enclosed Orders.) The Brothers were out and about because that was what Francis wanted.
Francis was following Paul, who Paul was following? Jesus, who was Francis Following? Jesus.

Recorded and transcribed by Br Andrew

Sunday 1 February 2015

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany year B - Br Simeon

Homily preached by Br Simeon at Blaxland on  Sunday 1st February 2015:  4th SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY. Yr B
Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Gospel:  Mark 1:21-28

The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes:  “What is this? A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A kindergarten teacher gave her class a “show and tell” assignment of bringing something to represent their religion.
The first child got in front of the class and said, “My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is the Star of David.”
The second child got in front of her class and said, “My name is Mary, I am Catholic and this is the Crucifix.”
The third child got up in front of his class and said, “My name is Tommy and I am Baptist and this is a casserole.”
Today’s gospel reading tells us that on the Sabbath Jesus and His disciples attended the seaside synagogue at Capernaum. There Jesus began to teach and “the people were amazed at His teaching, because He taught them as One who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1: 22) The Jewish rabbis (teachers of the law) claimed authority by quoting famous rabbis of the past. Jesus’ teaching was different because He didn’t need to claim the authority of others. He was (is) the authority HIMSELF!  He is equal with His Heavenly Father in every way. He was with the Father from before the beginning of creation. He, Himself, is the Creator of the world. All scripture (Old and New testaments) point to Him. He is the author of Life. As He said of Himself, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Matthew 28:18)
For the poor Jews of Jesus’ time, the scribes were the voices of authority, the final arbiters of the Law in which God had revealed himself. Their interpretation of the Law was considered absolute.
While Jesus was teaching with this “divine authoritative power,” a man “possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1: 23-24)
 Jesus refused to let the evil spirit speak further because it was not yet time for Jesus to be revealed as the Messiah. Jesus refused to let the people of the synagogue be confused by the deceptive mixture of truth and lies which were being uttered by this evil spirit. By His, almighty, divine authority, Jesus commanded the spirit to be silent and to come out of the man! Immediately, it happened – just as Jesus had commanded!

“Demons” are encountered several times in Mark’s Gospel. Anything that the people of Jesus’ time could not understand or explain, such as disease, mental illness or bizarre or criminal behaviour, were considered the physical manifestations of the evil one -- “demons” or “unclean spirits.”

Both demons and scribes are silenced in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ casting out the unclean spirit from the man possessed, silences the voices of the demons that plague humanity.  In his compassionate outreach to the poor and sick, Jesus “silences” the scribes by redefining the community’s understanding of authority:  whereas the “authority” of the scribes’ words is based solely on their perceived status and learnedness, the authority of Jesus is born of compassion, peace and justice.  The casting out of the demons and his curing of the sick who come to him are but manifestations of the power and grace of his words.
Note that the people of the Bible viewed miracles differently than we do. While we, in our high technology, scientific approach to the world, dismiss miracles as some kind of disruption or “overriding” of the laws of nature, the contemporaries of Jesus saw miracles as signs of God's immediate activity in his creation.  While we ask, How could this happen?, they asked, Who is responsible?  Their answer was always the same: the God of all creation.

Those who witnessed Jesus' healings, then, saw them as God directly touching their lives.
True authority is propelled by persuasion, not by force; effective leadership is a matter of articulating a shared goal rather than warning of the consequences of failure.
Jesus’ “authority” inspires rather than enforces, lifts up rather than controls; he sees his call to “lead” as a trust, as a responsibility to serve others by revealing the God who calls us to compassion and mercy for the sake of his kingdom of peace, instead of a God of judgement and vengeance.
Authority comes not from power to enforce but from the ability to inspire.
The ‘unclean spirit’ that Jesus casts out of the poor man in today’s Gospel serves as a symbol of the voice of evil that sometimes speaks within us -- the voice of revenge, self- centredness, self-righteousness, greed, anger.
We can be “possessed” by “demons” who discourage us and trouble us with fear when we consider the unpopular position that we know is right and just; or the “demon” of rationalisation that falsely justifies actions -- or inactions -- we know in our heart of hearts is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. The compassionate Jesus of  today’s Gospel speaks to those "unclean spirits" as well, offering us the grace and courage to cast them out of our minds and hearts forever.