Saturday, May 19, 2018

Vigil of Pentecost


My Friends,

Reading I: Genesis 11:1-9
Responsorial Psalm 104
Reading II: Romans 8:22-27
Gospel: John 7:37-3

THE VARIETY OF READINGS for this Pentecost lay out God’s plan for a better world. We’re not talking about personal salvation here. Rather we’re talking about disciples of Christ interacting with the world around them. In other words, the way we communicate our convictions of the truth is what will bring about justice and peace.

Communication, then, is the focus of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit gives those who receive that person of the Trinity not only the words to speak and the actions to perform, but eloquence and powerful deeds.
The first reading from the vigil of Pentecost is a revealing choice of readings. A parable of God’s interaction with humanity and humanity’s failure to reciprocate properly, the Tower of Babel represents humanity’s arrogance and pride in its achievements. Confusion of tongues results and divides the world. With the New Testament—the era of the Holy Spirit—that division begins to be resolved. The resolution comes about as each new creature is reborn through baptism. With Babel God takes the wind out of our sails, so to speak. With Pentecost and the infilling with the Holy Spirit we are given the power to forgive sins. The world is reconciled to God through Jesus whose Spirit restores relationships. We are restored to God and to one another.

The Spirit of God is communicated to us by Jesus directly through the Apostles. He breathes His Spirit into them. After Jesus is ascended, the Spirit shows up anew in a more public setting so that the new power would be immediately effective for proclaiming the gospel. It is for the purpose of winning the world for Christ that the Spirit is given—the communication of the gospel. The Tower of Babel is no longer hanging over humanity; God’s Spirit in people bridges the communication gap. Ultimately all strife and contention will be overcome by the love of Christ as proclaimed and lived by His followers.

Once again, as the Gospel of John emphasizes, forgiving and reconciling are the dominant results of the Spirit’s indwelling. Paul points out that there are many gifts, all for building up the Body of Christ, but the preeminent gift we receive is the power to forgive and retain sins.
All Anglican Catholics by their baptism have a priestly character. Although only the ordained priest can forgive sins in the name of Christ’s church, all who are baptized can forgive and promote an atmosphere of reconciliation. What divides even followers of Christ is the holding of grudges. But if we stir up the spiritual gives within us, we will know how to forgive and be agents of reconciliation at home, at work, in church. But first we must shake off the way of the world. We must reflect and examine our consciences. We must make ourselves aware of where there is unforgiveness, dissention and division so that Jesus’ peace can take over our lives.

We are resurrection people—a time honoured way of referring to Christ’s disciples. Pentecost, however is what makes resurrection people effective.

Questions to ponder
•If I am a disciple of Christ who communicates with the day-to-day world around me, how does the Spirit of Christ in me affect the way I communicate?
•What role, if any, does a disciple of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit have to play in the world at large?
•Forgiveness and reconciliation are the principle works of Spirit-filled people. What are some examples of such works in my own experience?

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


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday after the Ascension

My Friends,
“He sitteth on the right hand of the Father”
 
There is the religion of Jesus in the heart, the religion of sentiment and feeling.  There is, too, the religion of Jesus the moral policeman, the religion of outward conformity to the shifting demands of social and political correctness.  Neither of them is the religion of the risen and ascended Christ who “sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty”, which is what the Creeds say out of the Scriptures.  And without the risen and ascended Christ of the Scriptures creedally understood, they are altogether empty and destructive, the religion of empty hearts and whitened sepulchres.
 
It is what happens when we try to reduce God to where we are rather than to be lifted up to where he is.  Our lives are to be found in the comings and goings of God, not God in our comings and goings.  There is all the difference in the world between these two perspectives: the one would make God subject to us; the other would place us with God in the revelation of his truth and love.
 
Our beginnings and our endings find their place in the comings and goings of God.  Today is the Sunday after the Ascension.  We celebrate the Ascension and the Session of Jesus Christ to “sit at the right hand of the Father”.  There is in this a kind of ending, a sense of accomplishment and fullfilment.  All that pertains to our salvation has been accomplished.  “It is finished” and “Into thy hands I commend my spirit”.  These are the last two words of Christ from the cross.
 
In the Session, the risen and ascended Christ enters into the Father’s glory and so into the eternal rest of God.  “The end of all things is at hand”, says St. Paul, all rather calmly and not at all sensationally, I think.  The ending of all things is indeed celebrated in the Ascension and the Session of Christ.  From there we await a new beginning, the descent of the Holy Spirit to keep us in the love and knowledge of what has been accomplished by Christ Jesus for us and which remains to be realised in us.
 
The Son enters into his rest having accomplished “the will of him who sent him”.  He returns to glory and enters into glory.  What does it signify for us?  Only the meaning of our lives in prayer and praise; our lives in faith, hope and charity.
 
For Christ ascends and enters into the rest of God in the fullness of our humanity which he has assumed, restored and redeemed.  He bears the marks of the crucifixion.  They are now the prints of love.  Nothing of the past is lost or ignored.  All is gathered into glory.  Our humanity has a place with God.  We have an end in God.  The new beginning that we celebrate at Pentecost belongs to the accomplishment of the Son’s salvation for us. T he promised gift of the Holy Spirit would keep us in the knowledge and the love of God, come what may in the circumstances and accidents of our lives.  It is what has been communicated to us through the comings and goings of the Father’s Son and Word.
 
We have at once an orientation and a destination.  We have at once a direction and a place.  In prayer and praise, in Word and Sacrament, in sacrifice and service, we participate in the comings and goings of God for us and enter into the promise of his rest in glory.
 
Our lives are lived to God and with God.  The Ascension and the Session of Christ would remind us of this.  The Creeds say and the Scriptures say that Christ “sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”.  It is the place, as one theologian once put it, that is “much to be preferred” and without which he cannot be in our hearts and certainly cannot be the ordering principle of our lives morally, socially and politically.  Only if we honour Christ in his Ascension and Session can we possibly know him, love him and serve him in our hearts and in our lives.
 
The Session – Christ’s sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty - recalls the sabbath rest of God after his six-day wonder in the work of creation.  In both the sabbath and the session, what is meant is the enjoyment, the taking delight, in what has been accomplished: in the one, taking delight in creation itself, for “behold, it was very good”; and in the other, taking delight in the restoration of the whole creation through the redemption of our humanity in the risen and ascended Christ.
 
There is this difference, however.  In the first, God takes delight in what he has made.  In the second, there is the greater delight in the mutual love of the Son for the Father in the Holy Spirit into which love everything else finds its perfection and end.  In the exaltation of the Son, there is the exaltation of our humanity.  We have a direction.  It is to God.  We have a home.  It is with God.
 
In the comings and goings of God, we find our purpose and our place - for our hearts and for all that our hearts contain.  We have only to live it, in prayer and praise.  In the lifting up of our hearts through him who has lifted up all things to the Father, we find our peace, our purpose and our place.  It is “at all times and in all places” that we offer our prayers and praises to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.  We live for God, with God and in God.
 
Such is the grace of Christ’s Ascension and his grace is unto glory where Christ “sitteth on the right hand of the Father”.

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




Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Ascension of our Lord - 10 May 2018

My Friends,


'At God's Right Hand'
The Ascension of the Lord



So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.
Mark 16:19



The apostles did more than preach about Jesus, they shared the personal stories of their own development of a love relationship with Christ... Love became a golden thread that bound them to their listeners and captivated their hearts. That is why they became such astonishing convert makers. They used the most irresistible force ever invented to change people's minds--by changing people's hearts first. This is why Easter time always seems as close to paradise as we get to on earth. This puts the fire and enthusiasm into evangelization. When Jesus felt absolutely certain the apostles were ready to go on their own, he ascended to heaven and sat down at God's right hand.

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




Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Rogation Days, Mon, Tues & Wed 7,8,9 May 2018

My Friends,


The Rogation  Days were, in origin, the adaption of pagan custom to a Christian use. The pagan Romans used to hold a solemn procession of prayer for the safe growth of the corn crop each year. The greater Rogation or Litany on April the 25th is a survival of this. Later the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the fifth Sunday after Easter were set aside as the lesser Rogation days. Formerly these were all fast days and public processions were held during which the Litany of the Saints was chanted. Although they are no longer fast days, the liturgy still retains penitential aspect and stresses the need  we have to avert God's anger by humble prayer and sacrifice.


The Rogation Mass lacks the festive tone of Easter and emphasizes the efficacy of prayer in adverting God's anger and securing His blessings.


In the Epistle for the Rogation Mass from Saint James 5, the verses 16-20 we read all about the power of prayer. We, as Catholic Christians, we need to have a disciplined prayer life and if we do so then we will be blessed. A particular prayer , ie. for someone who has strayed from the truth and if our prayer brings that person back to the Lord, then it means that a soul has been saved from death.
If we pray for friends on Facebook, it is just so easy to type " praying", but don we actually set the time aside to do so?
We go to Confession and confess our sins to our Priest, but have we thought about confessing our sings to one another and pray for one another for the healing of our souls.


On this night, let us ask God to grant us constancy and/or perseverance in prayer ( Saint Luke 11, verses 5-13)


Amen.


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





Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Fifth Sunday after Easter - 6 May 2018

My Friends,


"Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only." (James 1.22) 
The lessons for this fifth and final Sunday of the Easter season lead our Easter meditations on new life in Christ to a very practical conclusion. Last Sunday's lesson from the Epistle of St. James reminded us that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," and comes down from God. (James 1.1 7) And his best gift is the gift of our new life in him. "Of his own will he brought us to birth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of all his creation." (James 1.1 8) That is to say, we have new life, because we know "the word of truth," the immeasurable good will of God, revealed to us i n the Passion and Resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. And we know that the unshakable, eternal good will of God, "with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," (James 1. 1 7) is the fundamental law of human life, and indeed of all creation. To know that "word of truth," that word eternally true, and now revealed to us in Christ our Lord, to know the love of God as the basis of all existence, is to be born again, to see ourselves and all creation with new and different eyes. "The former things have passed away: behold, all things are new," (Isaiah 42.9) for we have seen the truth of God in Christ. That word of God, implanted in our hearts, is our salvation, life, and resurrection. 


 But now, today's Epistle lesson, also from St. James, adds a further, necessary note: "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only"; for if we are hearers only, we deceive ourselves. "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." The word of God, the "Perfect law of liberty," is not just words, but something to be remembered, and something to be done, and something to be lived. Our religion must be our living of the word. 


 "If any man among you seem to be religious," says St. James, "and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." The word of God is like a mirror. It is the reflection of God's charity. We are to see ourselves in that, and to frame our speech and all our deeds accordingly. By the word of God implanted in our minds and hearts, we are to be mirrors of the charity of God, mirrors unspotted by the ways of worldliness. 


 This is a very practical conclusion: "Be ye doers of the word." And yet, its practicality is perhaps not very obvious to us. Bridling the tongue, for instance; how practical is that? "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths," says St. James, and later in his Epistle, 


Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm .... Even so is the tongue a small member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is afire, a world of iniquity. . . it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. (James 3.3-6) By malicious words, or even just by careless, thoughtless words, we sin against the charity of God. But that is only an example. In countless ways, in thoughts, and words, and deeds, we sin against the charity of God. We look into the mirror, and forget. How can we be doers of the word of God? How can that be practical? 
 "Jesus said unto his disciples, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you ... ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." The practicality of new life in Christ, the new life of charity, is only possible by prayer. Therefore this final Sunday of the Easter season is the Sunday of "Rogation," which means "prayer." And it is crucial that we understand just what this prayer is all about. For many, I suppose, prayer is just a matter of asking God for this or that, according to particular occasions, or particular emergencies. But really, prayer is something much more basic than this or that particular request. It is a much more radical sort of asking. It is the habit of relating, the habit of referring all our thoughts and words and deeds, and all our circumstances to God through Jesus Christ. It is not just particular petitions; it is thanksgiving, it is adoration, it is penitence and intercession. Prayer is not some magic charm employed to change the will of God. Prayer is looking into the mirror of the charity of God, and remembering, and being changed by what we see. 



 The practicality of Christian life is not the practicality of rules and standards, good as those might be. The practicality of Christian life depends upon the practicality of prayer. And I don't mean just "saying prayers," though that is a beginning, a sort of method of prayer. By prayer, I mean habitual, continual awareness of our life as being plainly in the presence of the Father, in every instant and in every circumstance, and a steadfast willing of the will of God. The perfect pattern of such prayer is the prayer our Saviour taught us. We place ourselves in the presence of our Father, and adore his name: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." We place our wills and every earthly circumstance within his will: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." We recognize our immediate dependence upon the charity of God: "Give us this day our daily bread." We relate our life of charity to the charity of God: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." We ask that all of us may be delivered from temptation and the evil one: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." And finally, we refer it all to the all-sustaining, all-encompassing will of God: "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever." 


 That is the pattern of Christian prayer, not just as a form of words, but as a state of life. But for most of us, I think - for me at least, and perhaps for you as well - that state of prayer, that union of the soul with God, is not easily attained. It requires a thousand disciplines of discouragement and disillusionment to wean us from our worldliness. It requires a thousand repetitions of the lessons of the Gospel and the grace of sacraments, a thousand tribulations of the world, until we come to believe the word of God in Christ and to wait upon his Spirit. 


 The disciples, in the Gospel for today, are confident that they have grasped the word of God. 


Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no parable. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. And in the providence of God, that tribulation has its place, for only in that tribulation would they come to understand his word, and learn to share his overcoming of the world. Only then could they be truly doers of the word; and so it is with us. 


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