Monday 29 June 2015

Waking Up! Live Well, Live Blessed!

“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

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: 

Waking Up! Live Well, Live Blessed!

 In Marks gospel (5:21-43) this week we meet two desperate people who took a risk on Jesus. One is Jairus "a synagogue official" whose 12 year old daughter had died and the other "a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for 12 years" poor and ostracised because of her condition. Both these people took a risk on the healing power of Jesus. The young girl's father, an important synagogue official, puts aside the possible official prejudices against Jesus and goes to him, even falling down on his knees before Jesus, to beg for his daughters life. Sickness and death have a way of cutting through the veneer of our self-importance and social standings. They touch us at our most vulnerable place, stripping away our illusions and reminding us that, no matter how important we are in our own or others' eyes, we are still limited and temporary here on earth. On the way to Jairus' an 'unnamed woman' in the crowd reaches out and touches Jesus' cloak and is healed. She had a need (possibly endometriosis), she saw a solution, she believed, she reached out, deed done. Jesus recognises that and asks "Who touched me?" The woman comes forward "frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth." Jesus recognised that she had risked possible stoning by even being in the crowd of men. I am sure he turned to her, and far from wanting to confront or condemn her, I think, he simply wanted to look into her eyes to affirm that she had indeed been healed through her faith. Her faith had conquered her fear of social consequences. Jesus says (and I para-phrase); "My Daughter, you took a risk in faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, lived blessed! Free of your complaint." "Live well, live blessed," were his words of praise and encouragement. Where are you or I in this story?
Now we turn to the raising to life of the 12 year old girl. Mark sandwiches the healing of the 'unnamed woman' inside that of Jairus' need to shine a light on the miracle to come. The Christian community saved this story and passed seeing more than a resuscitation in what Jesus did for the young girl because it is important and relevant for us whose lives are often touched by the death of loved ones. Can what Jesus did for the girl have meaning for us today? Our ancestors in the faith believed so. They point to the resurrection in telling this story. Jairus simply asks that his daughter be made "well" (make her better) and "live" (save her life). Both words had special meaning for the early church as they were used to indicate "salvation" and "eternal life." Our faith ancestors believed that in performing this miracle, Jesus shows that he gives "salvation" and "eternal life" to the dead. We need this faith story in a world of stories not about salvation and life but of loss and destruction through violence and addiction. Recently, I spoke with parents of an ice drug addict. They want to help their son get him off drugs, to find spiritual meaning for his life and the love and support that they have found in their faith-community. Like Jairus they want Jesus to take their sons hand and raise him from his "sleep" so that he can be "well" and "live." What Jesus says to Jairus, he says to the parents of the ice addict and to all of us "Do not fear, only believe." To have faith - which is the opposite of fear - is to have life.
There is a spiritual phenomenon described by the mystics as "waking up" or experiencing a deeper conversion. It may go like this. We get very busy with activity or we sedate ourselves too much television or social media. We give no time to cultivate an inner life until something usually something painful interrupts this deadening routine of dissatisfaction. The possibilities are many: maybe it's a moment of deep insight or perhaps someone close dies or gets very sick. Until an event like this happens we seem to be 'sleep walking.' We want "interesting," "exciting," "relevant" and "important" to make our live relevant, but we wake usually through pain from our deadly sleep. Someone has reaches out a healings hand and raises us up. Resurrection can happen, for the ice addict and for us. The crisis we experience proves to be a 'wake-up' call. To Jesus, death is as sleep to him and what he does for the girl he will awake us from our sleepiness. With faith in him, we can face our own death with courage. We live in a culture of death dealing and yet it denies death as it worships youth, health, success, and power. Death unveils these idols and exposes their false promises. It looked like it had the last word over Jesus as well but His resurrection reminders us that Jesus has the final word. We can look at life differently now that we believe our death is really a "sleep" from which Jesus will wake us.
Jesus says, "give her something to eat" as a convincing proof that the girl has returned to life? Her eating is not just a sign she has her bodily functions back. In their culture, eating in the family gave a strong sense of belonging and having life. We have life, not just as individuals, but as part of a community. The girl is given food by her family, and so she has been restored to full life. Who knows how long she had been sick and away from the family meal. When we have been "asleep" or "dead" to God because of sin, the living Christ "wakes us up" by forgiving our sins. We then restored as a living member of the faith- family the church. We can again come to the table for the faith-family meal, to take the life-giving body and blood of Christ. At this meal we put aside our superficial differences as we gather together and reach out for him. But he reaches back, takes our hand saying once more, "Time to get up, sleepy head."

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost YB - Br Andrew


Homily preached by Br. Andrew e.f.o. at Springwood on Sunday 28th June 2015

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Some Scriptural Commentators have entitled this passage A Tale of Two Daughters  owing to Jesus’ wonderful acknowledgement that the woman is his daughter.
The stories of these two daughters are inextricable intertwined like a vine on a trellis. It is the Tale of two wondrous healings, of the living dead and of the newly dead.

Before we step into their stories let me first remind you of their context.

Gospel Mark 5:21-43

In Mark’s Gospel we have been engaging in the retelling of the Jesus story in such a way as to make records of Signs or Miracles, which demonstrated Jesus’ divine power and His awareness of higher laws that govern our world.
There are four such categories and these are:-
·         cures
·         Exorcisms
·         Raising the dead
·         Controlling Nature
Jesus has just returned from the other side of the Lake where previously he had calmed the storm, then exorcized the Demoniac who was possessed of 6000 demons, there were 6000 soldiers in a Legion,  by making pigs fly.
Jesus is now about to cure the woman of the issue of blood and raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Fulfilling all four criteria, remember what the demoniac said?
"What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?

Now, imagine- you are a woman probably no younger than 26 and for the past 12 years you have been afflicted with an issue of blood.

For the entire life of Jairus’ daughter, remember she is 12 years old, you have been haemorrhaging.

You are outcasts from your people because you are unclean until the evening of the day the blood flow ceases. Or in this woman’s case the evening she is cured. You live alone at the edge of the village. Everything you touch becomes unclean.
Anyone you touch becomes unclean and must go and wash their clothes and themselves and be unclean until the evening.
You cannot go to the Temple or Synagogue to worship because you are unclean. You beg for your bread from a distance in case you inflict the one who gives alms.
If you were ever married, by now your husband has divorced you and if there were any children you will not have held them or seen them close up and now they might be fully grown. You are weak and in penury from unsuccessful medicine and Jesus is your final hope for Physical, Spiritual and Social wholeness because you are literally one of the walking dead.
The only company you have in your deathlike world is the company of other women who share your isolation as the phases of their Moon pass by.

Jairus, on the other hand is quite the important gentleman, one of the leaders of the Synagogue and also one of the first to greet Jesus at the waterside. He says “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” That is just what Jesus sets out to do.
If only that crowd had known who else was among them struggling to reach Jesus that day they would all have had to run home for a shower and change of clothing. In that crush the haemorrhaging woman had a faith strong enough to hold that if she merely touched Jesus’ garment she would be healed.  As soon as she did touch the hem of his garment she knew herself to be whole “straight away Jesus knows that power has left him and turns to the crowd saying, ‘Who touched my clothes? “ Silly question? That’s what his disciples thought, yet Jesus looked about until the woman declared herself, and she was scared, she had committed a colossal breach of the Mosaic Law  just being out so close to everyone and to touch the Rabbi’s clothing!
Jesus is compassionate, he calls her “Daughter” telling her that her faith has healed her. Think of it!  The Mosaic Law is turned upside down:  Jesus did not become unclean, and she is healed and purified by the power that resides in him!  This is who Jesus is, he is the Holy One: the Healer
The Son of Man has sisters, God has Daughters

Again a subtle inference by the Evangelist that see, this is Jesus who heals in his Divinity.

In his divinity Jesus was aware in advance of the events of that day and so knew that Jairus’ daughter would die before he and her father arrived yet he took his time to minister to the woman, he did not push her away.
At that moment of course the bad news arrives in the form of someone from Jairus Household. ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ Mark reinforcing perhaps that Jesus was primarily known to be a wandering Rabbi and setting the stage for the completion of the most important test of the presence of Divinity – the triumph over death.

As with another strategic episodes in Jesus Ministry, the Transfiguration, Jesus takes only Peter, James and John with him into Jairus’ home. They were intended to mark, learn and inwardly digest the momentous events to come. The traditional Jewish Wake had begun, Jesus dismisses the commotion because he tells them that the girl is “sleeping”, at which they laugh only the parents and Peter James and John remain.
But if the little girl is only sleeping, why does Jesus need the special witness of Peter James and John to wake her up?

Sleep is a euphemism for “temporal” death. Remember at the beginning I spoke of a Tale of the living dead and of the newly dead, that the woman in her uncleanliness was as good as spiritually and socially dead and in the case of this little girl we have one who is experiencing physical death. Note I say experiencing.

The author of Mark is a good story teller and we can imagine ourselves in that room and almost see and hear Jesus as he takes her by the hand and says ‘Talitha cum’ in Aramaic – ‘get up’. After she has got up and walked about, Jesus very strictly tells both the girl’s parents and the three disciples not to tell anything about what has just happened; then he tells her parents to feed their daughter because Spirits do not need sustenance but little girls do and after that adventure she must have been hungry.

Jesus has raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, because his Father, the Creator of Life has given Jesus power over death. This miracle answers the third class of the Signs of divinity – Raising the dead.

But until the appointed time arrives this is a secret.

As Mark continues to build on the evidence of Jesus Divinity let us take hold of its fruits in our lives and know that Jesus is Lord of the Waves and the storms, master of the evil that captures our sanity and warps our spirit, of the illnesses that wrack our bodies and has delivered us from death itself through his own most precious Blood.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Questions in Times Of Crisis

“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

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B: 

Questions in Times Of Crisis

Jesus' invitation in the gospel of Mark (4:35-41) for this Sunday is for us to "cross over to the other side." This invitation could mean different things for each of us. As a church, "the other side" might mean, a challenge us to give more attention to those not part of our faith-community: the less respectable; the newly arrived immigrant; the homeless, elderly, divorced, gay, infirmed and dying; those displaced by war and living in refugee camps. At a personal level, "to the other side" mean, those whom have we kept at a distance in our lives? or what is it that brings fear into my lives? We may not literally know what a storm at sea is like, but, we know what a storm in our lives is like. Maybe our storm has been; the breakup of a long relationship; or a lost dream; or the loss of a job and family security; or a marriage in crisis; or the loss of spiritual meaning and direction. Such experiences can lead us to feel overwhelmed and at the same time help us to know what the disciples in the gospel story knew about "waves breaking over the boat." The strong waves of fear can leave us feeling; helpless and terrified and calling out for help. Maybe we have felt that and despite all our prayerful crying out Jesus it seemed he was asleep. It is easy to feel this way when we feel he is absent just when we need him the most; how he doesn't seem to show up and do something right away; how we have to struggled on our own to keep from going under and panic moves in to make a home in us. We cry out and question from the storm of life, as the disciples did in the boat, "Master, do you not care? We are going down!" I'm sure we can identify with this part of the story.
As we read on we find the grace of the story: even though we have turned to him only because we are up to our necks in trouble. Helplessness has led us to our knees, yet he is there with us 'asking the same questions' he asked those in the boat, "Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?" These questions are not so much a rebuke but a reminder that our little faith has not turned him away and he does do something for us. Granted, he does not always act as miraculously as he did for the terrified disciples, by turning the stormy seas into a calm lake. At times, it does seem Jesus is asleep and we are on our own. Still, we find ourselves able to battle through the chaos of the days, one day at a time. When we look back on that dangerous, faith-challenging time we say, as so many others have said, "I know that he was with me, how else could I have gotten through that storm?" Even when the seas are not calmed and, for some reason, change or improvement doesn't come quickly, still we are strengthened and our faith is built up in the struggle. Certainly not by our own efforts, but because of the One who seemed asleep, was right there by our side in the storm whether we felt him there or not. The insightful poem 'footprints' reminds us that; "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you." The Jesus who 'sleeps or speaks' is the One always with us.
At present I have the privilege of journeying with a elderly man who has life threatening cancer. He is a person who has over many years nurtured his faith over many years through prayerful reading and study of scripture and I want to honour his struggle and not make it sound trite, or an easy victory. I am sure when the cancer first appeared it threw his life into chaos, robbed him of sleep, and took a terrible toll on his physical and emotional life and the life of his family. He has been through the 'breaking waves' of chemo and radiation therapy. He does not know what the immediate future holds, but his strong faith keeps him anchored in the present with Christ. In his daily prayer he is able to trust that what is needed for today will be given to him in the face of any new storm. I would say that this is the type of faith that Jesus was looking for in his disciples. The Lord want to build up our faith through his word in scripture and through the gift of the Eucharist, especially when we are experiencing rough passages in our lives. Christ gives us himself this day, and can speaks as creations master, into the stormy waves of our life saying "peace be still". The reading from Job (38:1-4, 8-11) describes God speaking to Job "out of the storm" which is a manifestation of God's power and presence. This manifestation happens in the gospel as well. At this point in the story of Job, each of his so called "comforters" have spoken and Job has answered them. But the problem raised by Job's afflictions remains: why do humans suffer? It is now God's turn to speak, "out of the storm." God's answer simply states God's transcendence over humans and power over nature. God is sovereign over everything and that includes the waters of the sea. So we can hear or read the gospel through the instruction that Job received, when Jesus 'through whom all things we made' manifests his authority over the storm by saying "peace be still." Remember, God is near

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost YB- Br. Luke

Homily preached by Br. Luke efo at Springwood on Sunday 21st June 2015

Andre-Rublev's Saviour


Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Gospel: Mark4:35-41

The English composer Margaret Rizza has set to music these words of David Adam:

Calm me, Lord, as you calmed the storm; still me, Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease, enfold me, Lord, in your peace.
Calm me, Lord, as you calmed the storm; still me, Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease, Lord, enfold me in your peace.

Words which resonate with today's Gospel reading.  The hauntingly beautiful piece of music personalises for us the essence of wonder and turmoil we can sense in Jesus’ action in the calming of the storm. The disciples were in fear of their lives, and here was Jesus peacefully sleeping in the back of the boat. Now I don’t know about you, but as one who gets horribly seasick, I studiously try to avoid the sea, and even the Manly ferries when the Sydney Harbour looks rough, so the disciples have my sympathy and support in their fear.

When they woke him, Jesus dealt with the storm and then with them.  Mark says the disciples were afraid and we can read the verse as though they were afraid of Jesus. But I think this is too strong. They thought they were going to die and then with simple words Jesus ensures calm, peace and their survival. Of course we are not shocked by this, after all it was with words, his voice, that God created and Jesus is also known to us as the Word Incarnate.

So words are, and have always had, an integral part of our experiences and understanding of our faith and of our God. Yet here is a dramatic depiction of the interaction the creator has with his creation, both nature and human.

In our lives we experience all sorts of storms, tempests and fears. We can feel alone and adrift, while a storm rages around and batters us into some sort of submission. In the midst of this turmoil, we seek a haven, a place where we will be safe and calm. So we can certainly identify with the disciples fears and I think it is this yearning that we recognise in the lyrics I quoted earlier.

Now I have no doubt that we do seek, well maybe when we remember or are really desperate, the calm that Jesus can bring to our storms. But we have to have the very things that Jesus queried in his disciples – trust and faith. Not just platitudes, saying that we have them, but really having them. Knowing with certainty, with an unshakable conviction that Christ will bring calm into our lives. This is something we have to have in our hearts and not in our heads.

We have to know, not think, this knowledge. Now if we are honest with ourselves, we’d have to say we don’t do this all the time. We do it when we remember or are desperate. So our challenge, our task, if you like, is to move this knowledge from our heads into our hearts. I suspect that you are all now saying to yourselves, that’s all very nice brother, but how do we do this? How do we move knowledge from our head to our heart? After all isn’t knowledge a head thing?

My reply is, yes it is, if you think in two dimensions, something we all like doing. However, we have to think outside these dimensions. We have to think in three or even more dimensions. We have to see a depth in knowledge that takes our thoughts from our minds and places them into our hearts. Perhaps the most surprising thing is, that if you pause for a moment, you may realise that this is something we do every time we believe in something that is intangible.

It is not enough to just think that Jesus will calm the storm, we need to know it without thought. We have to have it as an inherent, an integral part of our life and being. Now I agree with you, it is not easy, it is very, very difficult.   To achieve it, we will have to abandon some, if not all of our natural instincts, to deny ourselves, ah now isn't that something we've heard elsewhere in the Gospel? Yet when we achieve this move, and yes we can do it, then we are expressing, we are living, our faith.

Here then is the essence of faith – an inherent, integral, yes an almost innate, heart based knowledge. We commence, continue and develop this movement of knowledge by something we do every day. By communicating both verbally and silently – with words. Yes I'm talking about prayer. It is not, or rather it should not be, any surprise to us that we read again and again that Jesus went off to pray. Or that the multitude of saints and holy people throughout the ages have all had an experience and the discipline of prayer at the centre of their lives.

Maybe then, it will not be as difficult or nearly as impossible as you may have thought.  We can achieve the head to heart knowledge movement. But we have to be diligent, to be committed to the practice of prayer. This is why, that though the centuries religious communities of friars, monks and nuns have had a daily regime of regular, frequent prayers built into the pattern of their lives. They knew, and they still know, that without this practice, we become distracted and that our heart knowledge will slowly start to reverse its movement. It will revert to once again residing in our heads. When that happens our faith weakens and in time it will dissipate.

So dear ones, be of good cheer and have great joy. Be assured that with, or rather through, prayer we can achieve the heart knowledge that Jesus will calm our storms.  Do not doubt that when, as David Adam so eloquently phrased it, we say: “Lord, enfold me in your peace”, Jesus – God, will do so.


Monday 15 June 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow?

“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

Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: 

How Does Your Garden Grow? 

This Sunday Jesus introduces parables (Mark 4:26-34) by saying, "This is what the kingdom of God is like ..." Notice that Jesus is not speaking about actions when he describes the kingdom of God. It is not about a territory or a place or the afterlife in heaven. It is about God acting in the here and now and the parables are clues to how and where to look. In describing "what the kingdom of God is like" Jesus does not give a formula or definition. If he had, he would have restricted or confined "what the kingdom of God is like." By using parables, he taps into our amazing imaginations to help us discover the ways our God acts. If we had a definition we would want to say, "God only works in this way, in this place, in this institution." Just as there are no limits to our imaginings, so there are no limits to "what the kingdom of God is like" for it is a mystery to be live not solved. So, we ask, "What is the kingdom of God like?" In response Jesus tells us two parables. These parables are just two of the thirteen parables to be found in Mark's gospel. There are no limits to the possible and surprising ways God acts in our lives and in the lives of others.

Both parables begin in seeming insignificant and inconsequential ways: seed is scattered; a tiny mustard seed is planted. In the first parable the farmer does not know how the seed grows to harvest on its own accord. How much work did the farmer have to do? In this parable, seemingly, not very much. Jesus was a carpenter not a farmer and I know from my very limited experience that after planting, there is weeding, watering, fertilizing, etc. But Jesus is using an example from the lives of his listeners and plays with the details for his own purpose, telling them to, "Imagine this!" The parable speaks to our own experience and invites us to open our eyes to see God acting and present in our lives. It is reassuring to know how wonderfully God acts, using us disciples to plant life seeds which eventually will yield a harvest? We have lots of work to do in God's kingdom/reign. But this parable is a reminder that God is not limited or uninvolved in the necessary work that must be done for the kingdom to come. We are reminded by this parable that it is not all up to us. The seed itself grows on its own. God alone causes the growth and brings about a harvest! In his public speech, Jesus uses metaphor and story, while, in private, Mark says that Jesus was more direct. Was this to avoid saying something in public for which he could be charged with treasonous speech? The ultimate victory of the "kingdom of God" is sure, proceeding "automatically," and inexorably, without any effort from us, or any endorsement by us. In the meantime, those who follow do so by joining Jesus on the way by living out the "reign of God" in the beloved community. The beloved community is not to be organised hierarchically, but is, rather, a radical reversal of hierarchy. It is a community which is on a spiritual journey exemplified by respecting the human dignity of all people, especially the poor and downtrodden. It walks the way of the cross and not the way of glory.

No one example, illustration, or parable can sum up totally how our God is present and active in our midst. So, after presenting one parable, Mark places another before us. Often when the Bible speaks of God, it's in terms of God's awesome power and holiness. For the defeated people of Israel it was reassuring to believe and put their trust in the power of God, ready to act on their behalf. They would have expected that Jesus would present some powerful image for God's influence in the world. Instead, how startled his hearers must have been to hear his parable of the mustard seed. Jesus' parable is contrasted in the 'first testament' reading from Ezekiel (17:22-24) to the 'Lebanon cedar', and the presumption of human power. The mustard seed was a common weed and Jesus was saying that the reign of God is not far off like the mighty Lebanon cedar, but as close as every backyard and it is spreading like a weed. Ordinary people like us spread God's reign and that reign has the power to effect good in the world in surprising ways. If you have ever tried to get rid of weeds you know what a persistent they are. Just when you think you have conquered them they pop again! That's how persistent God's reign is, like a weed. If the kingdom of God is like a spreading weed, where do I look for it? Am I looking among the powerful and influential, inside or outside the church? We need our vision cleared, our expectations re-ordered if we want to uncover God's reign in our world. The two parables tell us we can miss God's actions in our midst, for we may be looking in the wrong places or clinging to our own expectations of who our God is and how God acts. The two parables suggest that in our search for God we had better be ready for a surprise and, if we are attuned through the parables, we will come to know, "What the kingdom of God is like

Third Sunday After Pentecost. Yr B. - Br. Simeon

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached by Br. Simeon EFO at Springwood on Sunday 14th June 2015: 


Third Sunday After Pentecost. Yr B.

“What the kingdom of God is like”

Gospel:  Mark 4:26-34

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

In preparing this sermon, a question formed in my mind which was;What can mustard seeds teach us about the kingdom of God?

The tiny mustard seed literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they loved the little black mustard seed it produced. God's kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God's word. And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Just as a seed has no power to change itself until it is planted in the ground, so we cannot change our lives to be like God until God gives us the power of his Holy Spirit.

The Lord of the Universe is ever ready to transform us by the power of his Spirit.  The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield to the Lord Jesus and allow his word to take root in us, our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Paul the Apostle says, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Peter Chrysologous (400-450 AD), an early church father, explained how the “tree of the cross" spreads its branches throughout the world and grew into a worldwide community of faith offering its fruit to the whole world:

It is up to us to sow this mustard seed in our minds and let it grow within us into a great tree of understanding reaching up to heaven and elevating all our faculties; then it will spread out branches of knowledge, the pungent savour of its fruit will make our mouths burn, its fiery kernel will kindle a blaze within us inflaming our hearts, and the taste of it will dispel our unenlightened repugnance.

Yes, it is true: a mustard seed is indeed an image of the kingdom of God. Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the virgin’s womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world.

Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavouring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact.

As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed….

Christ became all things in order to restore all of us in himself. The man Christ received the mustard seed which represents the kingdom of God; as man he received it, though as God he had always possessed it. He sowed it in his garden that is in his bride, the Church. The Church is a garden extending over the whole world, tilled by the plough of the gospel, fenced in by stakes of doctrine and discipline, cleared of every harmful weed by the labour of the apostles, fragrant and lovely with perennial flowers: virgins’ lilies and martyrs’ roses set amid the pleasant verdure of all who bear witness to Christ and the tender plants of all who have faith in him.

Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the patriarchs, the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up; with the apostles it grew tall; in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts.

And now we too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter.

In ending this sermon, I found myself once again with a question that grew in my mind, which I now leave with you to ponder....

Do you allow the seed of God's word to take deep root in your life and transform you into a fruit-bearing disciple of Jesus Christ?


Monday 8 June 2015

Holy Trinity Year B- Many Persons in one God

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Homily preached On Trinity Sunday  by Br. Andrew 5th June 2012

Many Persons in one God

Today is Trinity Sunday and in the readings today Father Son and Spirit have been revealed to us, the Trinitarian blessing pronounced for the first time. God is three and God is one!
I have had difficulty in committing this homily to paper, not because the subject is necessarily impossible but too many pathways’ bring us to this point of Revelation of Trinity and just as many proceed from it.
I have chosen, wisely, I think not to delve into the quagmire of the dogma of the Trinity rather to speak of God and how it makes itself known to us..
God is not the name of our Creator; we worship God, with a capital “G” to differentiate our God from other gods which we consider false, none existent and their representations Idols. The Deity has revealed to us its name and in doing so has entered into Covenant with humanity. In ancient times to know someone’s name was to know the source of their secret strengths or life, to reveal your name to another was a huge step towards being in relationship with that person.
Our Creator, through a burning bush that would not burn revealed The Name on mount Horeb to Moses, a lonely shepherd, revealing something of Divine mystery: –
 “ I Am that I Am” – Yahweh, Y’hw’h without its now unknown vowels the  Hebrew consonant’s when spoken together Yoh- hey, vah, hey—almost sounds like we are  breathing. The Name is the very breath we take to sustain life. Moses was alive because he breathed the breath of Yahweh.
I Am forever fully present I AM the One who makes all others things be.
In the reading from Deuteronomy Moses extolls the WORD, and reminds them that the LORD has created them; redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, breathed into them his breath of life and makes them whole and in return asks only that they love him. To be responsible!
Yahweh is forever fully Triune; yet at that point in time humanity’s capacity to believe, even in a single faceted deity, was impeded by recent history, the pollution of belief by their Slavers,  with the forgetting of their religious roots and Practices.
 Yahweh reveals only enough about the One who Is as the current paradigm will allow us to have the wisdom and courage to believe.
We could say of an Anthropomorphic God that in choosing to enter into a relationship with us Yahweh became vulnerable.
The Jews of old knew Yahweh as a Father (Ex.4:22), a Shepherd (Psalm 22/23:1), a Husband, (Is.54:5-8), Potter (Jer.18:6), and Vineyard owner, (Ps.80:8-13) they did not as yet know him as a brother; nor would they believe, in a hurry that their Father, would take a wife or sire a human child.
In his humanity Yahweh God was vulnerable because as soon as he entered into intimate relationship with us he knew that one day, when the time was right he, the Word would be born into the world to die for us; to save us from sin and death.
Moses said to the Israelites “Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything like it ever heard…” (Deut.4:32) When we remove the veil from our Eucharistic elements we say – In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. Through the Word all things were made. The Word was made flesh and lived among us. (John 1:1-4 NJB) This Majestic Word is Jesus, the second divine personality in Yahweh who became one of us.
While Jesus the Christ was with us he taught us more about Yahweh than was ever yet revealed because He is Yahweh, standing in the flesh beside the people of his time and yet seated in heaven taking care of the world.
There are too many verses to cite the love that Jesus has in his heart for us or to truly understand the terror of execution and the darkness of the grave.
St. Francis of Assisi places the following words on Christ’s lips in the time between the time in the grave and his assumption into heaven – curious that Francis uses the term Assumption as if Christ were being received back into heaven rather than leaving his disciples.
8.    But I have slept, and I have arisen, and my Most Holy Father has taken me up to glory.
9.    Holy Father, You have held me by the hand, you have willed to lead me out, and You have assumed me into glory.
10. For what have I in Heaven, and what have I on earth apart from You? (Psalm 6:8-10)

Before the most Holy Father assumed Jesus into heaven  , Jesus said to his Apostles  'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.' (Matt 28: 17b-20 NJB)
This Holy Spirit, the ruach-hakodesh is the third personality in Yahweh, like the Father and the Word it has always been there brooding over the earth during creation, given to the 72 elders,(Num.11 : 14-17,24-29 NJB) reserved for anointed kings, given to Prophets but not always permanently, the Holy Spirit left King Saul ( I Sam 16:14 NJB) who went mad. After sinning with Bathsheba king David prayed. “Do not thrust me away from your presence; do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. (Psalm 51:11 NJB)
In our time  the Holy Spirit is given to all who believe in Jesus - after Pentecost when the disciples were thought to be drunk Peter says “On the contrary, (they are not drunk)this is what the prophet (Joel) was saying: “ In the last days -- the Lord declares -- I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young people shall see visions, your old people dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16,17:cf Joel 3 NJB)
We alive because we breathe the Spirit of Yahweh
When the Holy Spirit comes upon us it melds with our own Spirit to testify that we are now sons and daughters of Yahweh, inheritors of all good things, brothers and sisters of Christ, one with Yahweh in a multiplicity of Personalities, thousands and thousands of Personalities but one God. Unity in multiplicity.

And the self-revelation of Yahweh to his people goes on!

Second Sunday after pentecost.year B.-Br Simeon

Homily preached by Br. Simeon at Springwood: Sunday 7th June 2015: 

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Gospel:   Mark 3:20-35

When Jesus’ family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

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

A chauvinistic husband and his godly wife were preparing to have breakfast when the wife asked, “why do I always have to make the coffee?”
The husband answered, “because you’re the wife, that’s your job.”
The wife replied, “well, the Bible doesn’t say it’s the woman’s job to make the coffee, it’s the man’s!”
Taken back by this, the husband demands to see where in the Bible it states that he should be the one to make the coffee.
“Well, here it is”, the godly woman replied, “Hebrews!”

A central theme of Mark’s Gospel is how Jesus’ hearers (especially the Twelve) fail to comprehend the deeper meaning of his words and actions. The wild charges made by the scribes and the apologies offered by his family in today’s Gospel indicate just how misunderstood Jesus was by those closest to him.

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus’ family thinks he is mad and the religious leaders think Jesus is possessed by demons.  The kingdom of God has come near but those who have watched Jesus grow up and those who have religiously guarded the commandments of God to the Jewish people, are now accusing Jesus of either being deranged or in the grip of Satan.  What began as good news, has now, very quickly in the gospel of Mark, turned into bad news.

First, the Jesus who calls his disciples to be a united “house” and community is dismissed by his own “house” as “out of his mind.” Apologising for his exorbitant claims about himself and his challenging their most cherished traditions and revered institutions, his family attempts to bring Jesus home.

Second, the Jesus who cast out demons and cured the sick is charged with being possessed himself.  The scribes cannot grasp the single-minded dedication of Jesus to the will of God without the “filters” of their interpretations and direction; hence, he must be an agent of Satan, the prince of demons.  (Remember that whatever the people of Gospel Palestine could not understand or explain was considered the work of “demons.”)

Third, the Jesus who comes to be a vehicle of unity among God’s people calls on his hearers to be united in faith and spirit in him in seeking God’s will in all things. The Gospel Jesus destroys the barriers created by race, culture, wealth and social status.  He speaks of a new, united human family: the family of God.

Jesus the “lunatic” comes to heal us of what is, in fact, our own “lunacy” -- the lunacy of allowing pettiness, pride, anger, prejudice, and self-centeredness to alienate us from one another, the lunacy” of exalting “me” at the expense of others’ basic necessities, the lunacy of constantly grabbing as much as we can as fast as we can while many on this planet have nothing.

Sometimes we act out of a self-centeredness that is of “Satan” and not out of the compassionate spirit of the Gospel Jesus — and, without fail, the “house” we have built on a foundation of self-centeredness collapses in anger and hurt.

If a house that is a real home is to stand, it must be constructed out of forgiveness, humility, and generosity; to build it of “cheaper” materials, to compromise the integrity of the structure by placing one’s own interest over that of the family is to invite disaster.

Jesus’ life is testimony to the reality that the “power” of “Beelzebub” cannot heal or restore or re-create — only the Spirit of God can bring about such transformation.

Jesus comes as the means of unity among God’s people, to reconcile humanity to God and to one another, to instill a deeper understanding and appreciation of our sacred dignity as being made in God’s image. We are called, as the Church of the new covenant, to seek in every person the humanity we all share that comes from God, the Father of all and the Giver of everything that is good.


Sunday 7 June 2015

The Feast of the BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST, Year B- a Roman view

The Body and Blood of Christ

“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

 "All of you together are Christ's body" - 1Cor 12:27

Today Catholics celebrate Christ's presence in the “Bread Broken and Wine Shared". The minister of communion or we ourselves say in faith the affirmation and so declare; "The Body of Christ/The Blood of Christ." Saint Augustine says "become what you receive." Each action of selfless service then becomes our Amen. In receiving the real presence of Christ sacramentally, we are strengthened to be Christ's real presence in our world. We gather as a community to be through the one bread and one cup the Body of Christ. This wondrous gift is like a two way mirror in which Christ sees himself in us and we see what we are in Christ. Saint John Chrysostom (5th century), the Archbishop of Constantinople in one of his sermons reminds his people of the consequences of celebrating the Eucharist. He said: "People in all places are yearning for the healing touch and reconciling mercy of God in Christ. Our call is to be Christ’s presence, bringing the reign of God to the world today. Do you wish to honour the Body of Christ? Do not despise him when he is naked. Do not honour him here in the church building with silks, only to neglect him outside, when he is suffering from cold and nakedness. For he who said 'This is my Body' is the same who said 'You saw me, a hungry man, and you did not give me to eat.' Feed the hungry and then come and decorate the table. The Temple of your afflicted brother's body is more precious than this Temple (the church). The Body of Christ becomes for you an altar. It is more holy than the altar of stone on which you celebrate the holy sacrifice. You are able to contemplate this altar everywhere, in the street and in the open squares."
Our participation in the body and blood has profound implications. The Eucharist is not a thing but an action. In saying, ’This is my body’... ‘this is my blood’, Jesus was saying, ‘this is my life!’ He wanted us to repeat this action "Do this in memory of me." Let's not suffer from short term memory loss when it comes to being Jesus-Eucharist in the world. As in doing what Christ commanded, we need to distinguish between memory and nostalgia. Nostalgia reflects the desire to go back to a former time to recover past feelings associated with how the celebration used to be done, rather than the meaning of what is done and what it really is. Through our 'Liturgical Memory' we are called to remember and make the reality of a past event really present. Nostalgia reminds us of what Jesus did then. Memory reminds us of what he is doing now. To remember his death directly involves us in his life that brought him to the death we proclaim until he comes again. The Mass is about the broken and bloody body of Jesus, which was sacrificed for us. Jesus consistently gave himself, especially to the needy and least in society. His sacrifice was not just about his death on the cross but his whole life. His self-gift to us implies that we are to share what we receive with others. As we receive the body and blood of Christ sacramentally, we commit ourselves to Jesus' way of life.

Our 'Eucharistic Amnesia' can leads us to ‘forget’ the victims of this world. In our forgetting who we are because of the Eucharist proclaimed and received, enemies can be dehumanised in culture. Celebrating the Mass leads us to have a ‘Dangerous Memory’ because we recall that Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection was for the salvation of the whole of creation - people and environment. The world wants to forget the oppressed and exploited. However, having prayed in the celebration "your kingdom come, your will be done' in the Lord's Prayer we are empowered through our communion to make this a reality through our lives of sacrificial unconditional love. A prayer which is attributed to the 16th century reformer of the Spanish Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila, reflects the practical spiritual implications of the Eucharist celebrated and received. "Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours." How often do we celebrate Eucharist and not make connections with the suffering world beyond the doors of the Church. How can we eat the 'bread of life' and drink the 'cup of salvation' forgetting those who have no 'daily bread' or 'clean water' who need us to act with compassion. In communion with Jesus we can become by grace more compassionate towards other’s needs. May our time at the altar-table help us become what we celebrate and receive

Monday 1 June 2015

Trinity Sunday Year B: Celebrating Mystery and Majesty and Mercy

In an interview, Paul describes the shack as "the place we build to hide all our crap." Who are we hiding from - God or self?

“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

Trinity Sunday Year B: Celebrating Mystery and Majesty and Mercy.

This weekend we honour and celebrate the triune nature of the one true God. It would be easy to get into all sorts of theological abstractions. All catholic and many mainline protestant churches will probably say or sing the 6th century Athanasian Creed. In praying the creed we as Christians affirm the unity and co-equality of the Godhead. We also deny both tritheism (that we worship three gods) and subordinationism (that the Son or the Spirit is subordinate to the Father). Although the Western Church affirms the Athanasian Creed, in the Eastern Orthodox church it has never had widespread use. This is strange, because Eastern "Cappadocian fathers" of the fourth-century: Basil the Great of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend and bishop of Constantinople Gregory Nazianzus, contributed much to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. When Eastern Orthodox believers celebrate the Trinity, they start in a different place. Western Christians tends to start from intellectual abstraction while the eastern approach emphasises adoration of the mystery. It has always been wary of the limitations of human mind and language, when approaching the reality of an infinite God. And it's a good place to start when we worship God.

Evagrius of Pontus (345–399), who spent the last sixteen years of his life among unlettered Coptic Christian peasants in the harsh Egyptian desert, once observed: "God cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped he would not be God." The Syrian monk and bishop John of Damascus (676–749) wrote in his 'Exposition of the Christian Faith' (I.4): "It is plain, then, that there is a God. But what he is in his essence and nature is absolutely incomprehensible and unknowable. God then is infinite and incomprehensible; and all that is comprehensible about him is his incomprehensibility." I just love this inscrutable eastern approach to the mystery of God.

The Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 4:32-40) this week speaks of the transcendent God as creator and liberator. The psalmist (Psalm 32) speaks of the 'word' of the Lord which can be applied to Jesus the 'Word made flesh'. Paul in his letter to the Romans (8:14-17) teaches about the Holy Spirit's role of helping us to know our true selves in Christ by grace. Paul says, we should not relate to God from fear, but as a child who feels safe with their father: "Abba, Father" (see also Mark 14:36 & Galatians 4:6). The Aramaic word "Abba" used by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane could be translated as "Papa." a word that Jesus and children of his time first learned to speak for their father. This word is used only three times in the New Testament, and conveys a shocking sense of human intimacy with the divine infinite. In Matthew's gospel (28:16-20 which is used this weekend in Catholic churches) Jesus shares his authority with his disciples urging them to baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. The assurance that Jesus will always be with us is a comfort to us who now live the 'experience called Spirit' or the Church.
God's radical transcendence is only part of what we celebrate on Trinity Sunday. God is infinite, but in the Romans reading we are remind that God is also intimate and immanent. Many of us would have seen a reproduction of Rembrandt’s painting (pictured below) the "Prodigal Son" (1666) now housed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia or have read Henry Nouwen's classic reflection of the painting titled 'The Return of The Prodigal Son' (19192). The painting is full of deep, dark reds and browns. In it, the stooping father embraces his kneeling son with compassion, with tenderness, and without any questions about his many failings. The painting illustrates Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus says this is what God is LIKE (a welcoming father).
For me God is also like a nurturing mother. This feminine side of God is beautifully developed by the American writer Paul Young in his novel "The Shack" (2007). I read this book as we all do with the lens of my background and conditioning, and found it at first challenging. The book was rejected by 26 publishers, and so at first Young self-published it. It was vilified by many self-appointed and self-important theological gatekeepers from both protestant and catholic conservative backgrounds as 'new age' theological nonsense. Today there are over 10 million copies of "The Shack" in print which is a sure sign that the book speaks very powerfully to many readers. The "shack" is a metaphor for our place of shame (the icon of our deepest pain or the place of our deepest nightmares). In an interview, Paul describes the shack as "the place we build to hide all our crap." Who are we hiding from - God or self?

I don't want to spoil the novel, but it begins with a mysterious note (invitation) from God, who invites Mack, the main character, back to the shack he has in the wilderness. And so the shack becomes a place of healing, for our intimate and tender God always meets us in "the middle of our mess" or as scripture of put it - the desert or lonely place. "The Shack" is really a doctrine of the Triune-God in the form of a story (a safe way to do theological speculation). It is not the abstract dogmatic Athanasian-Nicean Creed. The author pictures the Trinitarian God who welcomes us back to the shack as: El-ousia, "a large beaming African-American woman" (Father), a Middle Eastern man dressed like a labourer (Jesus) and "small, distinctively Asian woman" named Sarayu who collects tears (the Spirit).
Mack the very emotionally wounded hero in the novel, discovers that God isn't like what he thought. God's not the product of his projections or the neat formulas of academic theology. God's perfectly good who seeks to heal and not humiliate, to free and not to limit us. Mack learns to trust the God not of his conditioning but the God of 'mystery and mercy' fully and to believe that God is near (See Psalm 139). That for me is the good news for this Trinity Sunday.

Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch the first among all orthodox bishops of the Easter Orthodox churches (he's like the pope of the east) and profound spiritual writer, captures both God's transcendence and immanence in his book 'Encountering the Mystery' (2008). He writes: "God as unknowable and yet as profoundly known; God as invisible and yet as personally accessible; God as distant and yet as intensely present. The infinite God thus becomes truly intimate in relating to the world” (p186). So as one in the world I see signs or footprints of the holy-other and the holy-close and I am grateful. So our liturgies begin with the signing of ourselves with the cross and naming the holy three. Now we are at the deep end of the pool of mystery straight away and we have to swim with the help of others past and present to the holy altar-table where we through the elements of the earth we consume God and are consumed by God. By continually developing the art of negotiating this mystery we can learn ways to sink, float, swim and so ready ourselves to be like Christ in desiring and saying "into your hands God, I commend my life".
All theologians and men and women of prayer would agree that our thoughts about God and our prayers to God live with limits. A poem by British Anglican apologist and theologian C. S. Lewis captures the practical implications of God's transcendence. It's called 'Footnote to All Prayers'.

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow 
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou, 
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart 
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art. 
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme 
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream, 
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address 
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless 
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert Our arrows, 
aimed unskilfully, beyond desert; 
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard 
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word. 
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. 
Lord, in thy great Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

As usual on the feast of the Trinity, I am tempted to try and say something really new and novel about the mystery in which "we live and move and have our being" but I am a person who recognises their limitations. So as I come before or stand or knee within the reality of that which is "mystery and majesty and mercy" - I stammer. Please forgive