Saturday, February 17, 2018

The First Sunday in Lent - 17 February 2018



My Friends,


It is Saturday night here in Australia and I just got into my office to write a short reflection for tomorrow, the First Sunday in Lent. As you know this Sunday is the beginning of the 40 days and 40 nights our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ spent in the desert where he was temped a number of times by the devil. You can read this Gospel story in Saint Matthew, chapter 4 beginning at verse 1.


In spite of the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, it was still a very distressing time for him being isolated in the desert without too much to eat. Why was it difficult? Because although Jesus was the Son of God , He became fully human when He came to us a child in order to save us . So He would have been vulnerable being temped by the devil, but every time He quoted the word of God and resisted the temptation. When it was all over, He was exhausted and God sent His Holy angels to administer to Him.

In many ways the world that we live in is like a wilderness , lets say a desert.
It is a place of darkness, misery and pain. A world of war and cruelty committed by humans of this earth against other humans. Our daily lives are full of sadness and full of temptations, just like Jesus had to face in His desert. Because we are weak and also because we are sinners we find it extremely difficult to cope and often are lead into temptation because we are not equipped to resist them . Also we are longing in the season of Lent to have a quiet time somewhere and contemplate Christ's suffering on the Cross for our redemption. We need some quiet time to pray and ask that God will help us to live life as His followers, who love Him and serve Him and resist all the earthly temptations.

Let us therefore make time and retreat to our private desert to pray and meditate.
At the end you will see that God will sent us His Holy Angels to administer to us.

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church/ Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia






Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ashwednesday 14 February 2018

My Friends,


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. On this day, the Church gathers to remember its humanness and mortality. We are called to the observance of a Holy Lent through the teaching of Isaiah and Jesus regarding fasting. And for this reason, Ash Wednesday is really a family gathering because the people of God are reminded that our fasting is to be done not for the praise of men, but for God's sake.
One way we remember our mortality is the imposition of ashes. The clergy take ashes and make the sign of the cross on our foreheads with these words, "Remember, from dust you came and to dust you shall return." To some this action can seem morbid, but in this simple statement is the kernel of the Gospel. We are all children of Adam, made from dust, and thus also children of sin. Yet, we who are dead are made alive in Christ, and at the resurrection the perishable will be clothed with the imperishable. Ash Wednesday reminds we are fallen, but not without hope.


The Season of Lent has its origins as a season of baptismal preparation. After the peace of Constantine where Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman empire, many people began to enter the Church converting to Christianity. In those days the natural time for baptisms was on Easter, the day of resurrection. To facilitate the large number of converts, the Church developed a very thorough system of teaching called catechesis.


Each convert was required to undergo this before he or she was baptized and thus admitted into the fellowship of the saints. This intense discipleship and formation took place in the weeks before Easter and became what we observe today as Lent. It is only fitting, then, that this season of preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and remembering our lost-ness without him should begin with a reminder that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return. Let us observe a holy Lent, listening for God's voice, walking in his ways, and following our Lord and Saviour to the cross.

Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church/Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia.




Sunday, February 11, 2018

Quinquagesima Sunday


My Friends,
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem”
 
We go up.  There is a journey.  The idea of life as a journey is a compelling and common metaphor.  It signifies a sense of purpose and indicates a sense of direction.  But not all journeys are the same.  The differences lie in the conception of the end which conditions the means.  Lent would remind us of the character of the Christian journey.
 
The journey is the pilgrimage of the soul to God and it is a pilgrimage with God.  The end is union with God and God makes our way to him with us.  We are apt to forget how remarkable this really is.  There is our human desiring, on the one hand, our quest for God, the odyssey of the human soul, as it were, but there is, on the other hand, the divine desiring, that is to say, God’s will for us.
 
The biblical sense of journey sets our human desiring upon a divine foundation.  God calls Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you”.   God sets us upon our way.  But what is that way?  Is it the way of denial, the way of forsaking all that we hold dear?  Yes, but only so as to find everything in the will of God.  Again, that first biblical pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of Abram sets the course for all the rest: “I will bless you, and make your name great....by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves”.  The biblical journey is itself a blessing.
 
The journey is the way of sacrifice, to be sure, but it portends the greater accomplishment, the building up of the household of God in which none of the parts is lost but each finds their place in the whole.  Such is the body of Christ, as St. Paul would teach us.  What has to be forsaken is our continual tendency to mistake the part for the whole or to deny everything else in reality except our own self-will.  Such are the disorders of sin which result in suffering and death.  The biblical journey does not deny the realities of sin and suffering but makes the way of pilgrimage through them. The point is made in this morning’s psalm.

Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, / in whose heart are the pilgrim ways;
Who going through the Vale of Misery use it for a well; / yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength, / and unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Sion. (Ps. 84. vv.5-7)
The pilgrim ways mean going “through the Vale of Misery” and finding it a well of blessings. The journey is the way of suffering and sacrifice in which something good is learned and everything is redeemed.
 
But why is the journey the way of suffering?  Because our way to God must pass through the ways of our rejection of God, because our way to God is the way of redemptive suffering in which the disorders of our souls - our disordered loves - are set in order.  The disciplines of Lent are altogether about this.  They don’t involve a flight from the world and the extinguishing of our desires so much as they intend “the setting of love in order”.  They embrace the three essential characteristics of the Christian pilgrimage: the way of purgation; the way of illumination; and the way of union.
 
The way of purgation intends the removal of all that stands between us and God, the removal of sin and wickedness.  God’s will to be reconciled with his sinful creation is indicated, for instance, in the Old Testament story of Noah and the Flood.  God’s will is not to destroy but to restore and begin again.  And so, too, with Christian baptism.  It sets us upon our way with God.  The way of purgation is a fundamental part of that way.  God’s will to be reconciled with us has to be realised in our lives, in the pattern of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the baptismal pattern. “Baptism represents unto us our Christian profession” (BCP).  There has to be the constant recalling of that divine will for us, the continual renewal of our souls in love, and, of course, our perseverance in this pattern of life.  The season of Lent was traditionally the time when persons were prepared for baptism.  It remains for us as the time when we are especially reminded of our baptismal profession, when we are especially reminded of our covenant with God and of the blessing of our journey with God.
 
The way of illumination intends our greater understanding of the will of God, the opening of our eyes to see the workings of God’s will.  Lent reminds us of the importance of the reading and study of God’s Word, for “thy word is a light unto my path”.
 
The way of union reminds us that our end is with God and that God is with us in the way of our journeying.  The perfecting of our wills is accomplished in the union of our wills with God’s will.  He goes the way of suffering for us and with us.
 
The great gospel for this day sets us upon the path of our journeying.  It focuses our attention upon the cross of Christ.  It is there that the ways of purgation, illumination and union meet.  It is the condition of our journeying.  As Bonaventure puts it, “There is no path but through that most burning love for the crucified” (The Journey of the Mind to God).
 
“All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished”, Jesus says.  What are all those things?  They are the things of sin and salvation.  Jesus tells us what these things are in very graphic and concrete terms; he speaks of his passion, his death and resurrection.  And yet, it seems that though he tells us, we don’t get it.  We don’t understand at first; these things are hidden from our eyes in just his telling us of them.  What will it take?  Somehow we have to go through them; somehow we have to see them in the form of the crucified Christ.  Yet it is wanted that we should come to understand and that our love should be set afire by what we are given to understand through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He goes this way for us.  But he goes this way so that we might understand and love all the more.
 
“Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three”, St. Paul tells us in the epistle which follows directly upon this morning’s second lesson.  Faith as a form of knowing - seeing but as in a glass darkly - speaks to our minds.  Hope as longing and desiring speaks to our wills.  But charity is the greatest of these.  Why?  Because it is the union and the perfection of faith and hope and all the other virtues.  Charity is the knowing love of God in our souls by which we are joined to God.
 
In the gospel, Jesus heals the blind man who wouldn’t shut up, that is to say, he called out incessantly to Jesus for mercy.  He receives his sight and went about glorifying God.  Jesus is the one in whom the love of God restores us to the vision of glory.  Such is the purpose of Lent.  The journey is the pilgrimage of love.  It is that “still more excellent way”.  It is the journey with God.
 
Jesus says, “we go up”, not I go up, or you go up, but “we go up”.  It is not just himself, but we with him.  Jesus wants us to go with him in the way of his sacrifice for us, the way at once of purgation and  illumination and union.  Lent would remind us of the essential elements of our Christian pilgrimage.  It is the way to God but only “through the burning love of the Crucified”, the love which purges, illumines and unites.
 
“Behold we go up to Jerusalem”
 

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province,
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sexagesima Sunday

My Friends,


“But that on the good ground are they which
in an honest and good heart,
 having heard the word, keep it and
 bring forth fruit with patience.”
 
The gospel which orders our understanding on this day is the parable of the sower and the seed. It focuses our thoughts on the quality of the ground upon which the Word of God is sown. The cultivation of the ground, however, immediately recalls us to the story of the Fall in this mornings first lesson. The ground is cursed. Adam, who at once signifies our humanity collectively and as an individual, is told  “cursed is the ground because of you, in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” The ground is cursed because Adam and Eve succumbed to the beguiling wisdom of the serpent and thus lost the ground of their standing with God. The ground of creation becomes the place of alienation from God.
 
In a delightful image, the Lord God is said to have “walked in the garden in the cool of the day”, but where were we? We had hidden ourselves from his presence in the fearful beginnings of an awareness of our self-willed separation from him. It is important to understand something of what this means.
 
The story of the Fall seeks to explain the origin of sin and evil, of suffering and death. It locates the problem not in the material universe but in the disobedience of man. As disobedience, it is an act of the will against what is known as good. Creation as a whole and in its individual parts is emphatically and unambiguously declared to be “good”; in fact, “very good.” The commandment given to man - it is only to man that a commandment can be given - is also by definition good. It is implicitly known as good.
 
Alone of all creation, mankind, that is to say, the Adam, is said to be made in the image of God. Less abstractly but in a complementary image, man is said to be “formed from the dust” and to have had God’s spirit “breathed into him”. He is a spiritual creature with a relation to every other created being and with a special relation to the Creator.
 
The Fall is about the disorder of that relationship. As made in the image of God, man is capable of knowing God. Hence he is given to name the things of creation, which is to say, he is capable of knowing God’s knowing of the things he has made. And he is given a commandment.
 
In the form of the story, the serpent is the occasion for the disobedience through the raising of questions. As such the serpent signifies the agency of man’s reason. The problem, however, is not with the raising of questions per se but with the direction or the intent of the questions. For the questions of the serpent do not seek an understanding, rather, to the contrary, they seek to undermine what is known as good, though not known as known. They insinuate doubt and instigate revolt. Adam and Eve prefer the lie of their wills to the truth of God’s will. The rest, as they say, is history, “of man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree.”
 
And it is our history. Children have a way of asking profound theological questions such as “Why did God make blackflies?” How do you answer that one? ‘So that we would be reminded that this isn’t heaven’. Indeed, but neither is this world paradise. And it isn’t paradise because of the Fall. But, then you may say, ‘It just doesn’t seem fair that we should have to suffer things like colds, flues, aches and pains because of what Adam and Eve did so long ago’. Right. It doesn’t seem fair until the lesson is learned that they are we. This is our story. This is what we do. And what we do and what others do have consequences for all of us. We turn towards the ground of our self-will and away from God.
 
And yet the ground is God’s good ground. He made it. The question is what will we make of it. The story of the Fall mercifully contains the promise of redemption as well. The toil of Adam and the pain of Eve are not external punishments but just consequences which have in them redemptive lessons. “Remember, O man, that dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return.”
 
The remembrance of the dust is equally the remembrance that we are God-shaped, the dust into which God has breathed his spirit. The ground is to be the place of our being recalled to God. The labours of our lives are to be the occasions of our learning the lessons of God’s will for us. The lessons are to be learned through the fact of hardship and toil and in the face of suffering and death. The ground holds the promise of redemption.
 
The ground of our lives becomes more than simply the place of our opposition and separation from God. By God’s grace the ground may be the place of the making manifest of the works of God. For however much suffering and death are inescapably connected to our sins and the sins of others, there can be no simple equation between the particular sins in our lives and the particular forms of our suffering. The Fall which shows our reason turned towards the dust – “a creeping wisdom”, as John Donne calls it - means that our understanding is dust-covered as well. We cannot be sure that we truly know ourselves let alone to presume to judge others. The mercy is that we are given to know the God who knows us and knows us in his love for us. The works of God are made manifest even in the ground of our opposition to God. God’s works a greater good out of human folly. “Then shall the fall further the flight in me”, as the poet George Herbert puts it, not our flight from God when we were hiding in the garden, but the flight of our return to God.
 
For the Lord God who walked in the garden in the cool of the day also walked in the wilderness in the heat of the day. Jesus Christ works the ground of our lives to restore us to fellowship with the Father and with one another in the bond of their unity with the Holy Spirit. That he does so in the midst of great opposition shows us the deep problem of human sin and wickedness, the continuing reality of the Fall in us.
 
The gospels are full of the wonderful stories of God’s redemptive work in the mercies of Christ Jesus. Jesus waters the stony ground of our self-righteous condemnations of others with the gospel of forgiveness in the story of the woman taken in adultery, “Go and sin no more”. Jesus makes out of the ground of our accusations the ointment of salvation in the story of the healing of the eyes of the man blind from birth “that the works of God might be made manifest in him”. Jesus is the stricken rock - the ground that is struck - out of which pours forth the life-giving water, the sacraments of the Church to which Paul refers in this morning’s second lesson.
 
The cursed ground of our disobedience becomes the place of our participation in the life of God. But only if we will be that good ground – “they that in an honest and good heart, having heard the word , keep it and bring forth good fruit with patience.” It is the challenge of our lives in Christ, the challenge which is wonderfully concentrated for us in the season of Lent for which these ‘gesima’ Sundays wonderfully prepare us.




Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Sain Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia




Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Candlemas 2 February 2018

My Friends,


Welcome to my blog on the feast of Candlemass , Friday 2 February 2018. We know that the Jewish people were accustomed to circumcise a child after eight days and then to dedicate it to the Lord on the 40th day. It is now 40 days since Christmas. Mary and Joseph bring their child Jesus to the temple. But Jesus came also in this way amongst the people. And amongst the people there turned out to be men and women, who were open to God, without the angels coming down from heaven and without a star leading them, they were able to recognize the Son of God in this little child. It was the Holy Spirit, who gave them an insight in something special they had been longing for for years: Who is this Saviour?We have come to Mass to meet God. May we also be enlightened Let us light our candles, a symbol of Jesus, who says that He is the Light of the world, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When we process through the Church, we do want to ask God that the Light of the Holy Spirit may spread over all the earth, so that all darkness disappears.

 My friends, we may thank our heavenly Father for the fact that there are believers such as Simeon and Hanna. Their life of prayer and good works should encourage us to ask God, if we may live like that. That our hearts may be steadfastly focussed on God. Then many good things will come about, if we we - without losing our family and fellow human beings out of sight, continue to be focussed on God. We need to grow into this, but first we must desire to be like this.

God , our Father, was an instrument in the growth of a solid hope for the ransom of Israel for Simeon and Hanna. They were driven by that hope in the course of their lives. Althouh they and their people were prosecuted  by the Romans they had never ceased to believe, that they were to come face to face with their Redeemer. Let us ask God for a heart full of hope, not only for ourselves but for others. We do know that our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ has in principle overcome the darkness of this world. Our heavenly Father has the last word.  How then will our life really change and become filled with joy, if we can manage to wait with prayers and works for the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ, because then there shall be no more tears.

It was really the same Holy Spirit, which filled Simeon and Hanna, as the One we receive through Baptism and Confirmation. Because Simeon was willing to listen, the Holy Spirit trusted him to see great things, that he would not die before he had met the Redeemer. You and I have been anointed with the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation.  Simeon and Hanna met God in the temple.
We may also meet our God in Church this morning. But in our case God looks at how strong our desire really is. If our desire is big and fiery , we will receive a lot.  Every day baby's were brought into the temple in order to be dedicated to God. Through the work of the Holy Spirit Simeon and Hanna recognized Jesus as being the Son of God. Fortunately Simeon and Hanna did not rely on their own expectations to how the Messiah was going to look like, because it was through this  that they could recognize the child of two humble parents as the Son of God.We too have to learn to see the hand of God in all people and in all situations of our lives. If we see things the same way as the Holy Spirit does, then we can recognize the Son of God in the bread of the Eucharist. 

The Lord God gave Simeon and Hanna the gift of prophesy. Hanny spoke to all about the Child, to all who lived in expectation of the redemption of Jerusalem. Their words will be remembered eternally. Would it not be wonderful if we could speak in a prophetic voice?We are able to speak about the love of God in a clear and concise manner. Jesus is and was a Light for many people. We can take over this light and we may let it shine over all people. May we ask God to helps us, so that this little candle light in our heart may increase to be a big fire. The world needs people who can show forth love in a strong manner. Are you and I called to let our light shine in the darkness of this world?


Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston
Tasmania
Australia