Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

“Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren,

I would not have you ignorant”

Saint Luke 19:41

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and cleanses the temple of “those who bought and sold therein”. St. Paul instructs the Corinthians of the spiritual gifts with which they have been blessed. The Collect prays that God’s merciful ears may “be open to the prayers of thy humble servant and that they may obtain their petition make them to ask such things as shall please thee”. Such are the bare elements of today’s propers. They are profoundly connected.
Because Jesus wept, Paul must instruct and the Collect must pray. The Jerusalem over which Jesus wept is the fallen Jerusalem of our souls, the Corinthian brethren are ourselves under instruction and “thy humble servants”, the “they” of the Collect are equally “we”; the “them” is “us”.
Christ approaches Jerusalem, the city of peace. His approach is a royal progress; the disciples exalt with joy. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”. And not only themselves but the whole creation is understood to exalt with joy at the coming of her king to his royal city, the city of God.
And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples’. Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent the very stones would cry out’.
Sometimes it seems that the only voices of witness and testimony to the glory of God are the temples, our churches, the very buildings in the eloquence of their being. And so the gospel continues in this morning’s reading: “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it”. Christ enters Jerusalem weeping.
Why does Christ weep? Jerusalem is the city of peace, yes, but it is also the city of his passion. Ultimately, we must learn that, because of our ignorance, wilful and wicked, there can be no peace without the passion. No passion. No peace. Jerusalem is the city of his passion because Jerusalem has failed to recognise the things that belong to her peace. Jerusalem has failed to acknowledge the good things of her life as the gifts of God.. She has failed to recognise even the gift of God’s own presence. “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes”.
Concerning the gifts of God and the gift of God himself in Jesus Christ, Jerusalem is ignorant. Such ignorance is, really, a wilful ignorance. For not to acknowledge a gift as a gift is a refusal to recognise that the goodness of something comes from the source of all goodness, God. It perverts and twists to other ends and purpose what has been given to us. The gospel account provides a concrete instance of this ignorance of the gift and the perversion of it in the story of the cleansing of the temple.
Why the temple? Because the temple was the gift of God’s presence in the midst of Jerusalem. The temple was given in the time of peace, during the reign of Solomon, not during the reign of David, a time of war. The temple was given that the people of Israel might worship God, finding in him their peace and unity, acknowledging him as the source of all good things.
The temple was given to be a house of prayer. Prayer acknowledges God as our highest good. Prayer seeks the union of our wills with God’s will, the conforming of our wills to the will of God revealed and declared in his Word. The prophet Isaiah proclaims that God’s “house shall be called the house of prayer for all peoples”, signifying something of the greater vocation of Israel, to be the instrument of God for the redemption of all humanity.
The perversion of this purpose is seen in the perversion of the temple itself as lamented by the prophet Jeremiah. The temple, he says, has been made “a den of thieves”. Christ recalls both these passages: the one from Isaiah, “my house is the house of prayer”; and the one from Jeremiah, “but ye have made it a den of thieves”. He acknowledges both its proper use and its misuse.
The misuse is twofold: first, and most simply, the temple is not a market-place. Its purpose is not the exchange of material goods, the buying and selling of goods and services. It does not exist for the pursuit of worldly ends. Secondly, the temple in its misuse is called “a den of thieves”. Just as thieves pervert, twist and confuse the relation of “mine and thine”, the distinctions of property, and by extension, the distinction between gift and giver, so there is a misuse of prayer when we seek to conform God’s will to our wills, to buy and sell the good gifts of God for our own ends and purposes rather than employ them in his service. In short there is a misuse of prayer and the house of prayer whenever we seek to make God the servant of our desires rather than seeking to be the servants of his will.
Christ weeps because Jerusalem has neglected the gifts of God. That willful neglect is the cause of his passion. Our sins are always about the misuse of the good things of God.
The account of the cleansing of the temple in three of the gospels coincides with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. The event concerns the fulfillment of the mission of Christ - the redemption of humanity. It coincides, in other words, with the establishment of the new and greater temple, one not built of human hands, the resurrected body of Christ.  St. John connects the cleansing and destruction of the temple with Christ’s anticipation of his own death and resurrection.
Jesus said, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up’. The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he spoke of the temple of his body.
By Christ’s passion and through our baptism into his death and resurrection, we are made members of the Body of Christ. We become ourselves temples of his Holy Spirit. Thus, St. Paul would not have us ignorant concerning the spiritual gifts that have been given to us through the temple of Christ’s body. They are the gifts of our recreation, the gifts of our restoration through the passion of Christ. The instruction is threefold.
First, he teaches that diverse abilities and skills are all gifts that have been given by the same hand, namely, God the Holy Spirit. “Now there are diversities of gifts..., diversities of ministrations..., and diversities of operations..., but it is the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God, who worketh all in all”, the same Spirit, too, by which we acknowledge “Jesus as Lord”. We are not our own. We are God’s through Christ. Our abilities, our talents, are gifts given to us at the hand of God the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, he teaches that these gifts are bestowed for a purpose. These gifts “are the manifestations of the Spirit given to every one”. They are intended for the benefit of the whole body mystical. “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every one for the common good” - the good of the whole body of Christ.
Thirdly, he teaches that there is a great diversity of gifts which in their diversity offer a marvellous reflection of the unity and the majesty of God just as the rich diversity of the colours of the spectrum are but the manifestation of a single beam of pure light passing through a glass prism.
We have different talents, different abilities, but they are all gifts of the self-same Spirit of the Father and the Son. Our task is always to seek the discerning of the gifts that in our use of them the Spirit may be manifest in us through the building up of the common good, the building up of the body of Christ. Prayer has the greatest significance in all of this because it is through prayer that we seek God’s will and seek the proper use of God’s gifts in us. Our lives are to be lives of prayer in the good use of the gifts which God has given us. Our churches are the temples in which we learn about how we are temples of the Holy Spirit with gifts and talents to be used to the praise and glory of God.
About such things, Paul would not have us ignorant even as Jesus would not have us ignorant about the time of his visitation in us. Then there might be peace in our souls, in our churches, in our communities and in our world. Then Jesus would not weep but rejoice in us, in our recognition of the spiritual realities of our world and day as seen in him, in his word and in his life in us. For the recognition of the spiritual gifts in our lives is the recognition of Christ in our lives and our lives in him.
“Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren,
I would not have you ignorant”

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity - 13 August 2017

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; and when it fails you, they will receive you into everlasting habitations. (Luke 16.9)

Those who enjoy working out solutions to complicated puzzles will be attracted by the Collect, Epistle and Gospel set for today. They are connected by a single leading idea, and once this is discovered the apparent complexity dissolves along simple lines. The key to the puzzle is supplied by St. Augustine, whose theology strongly influenced those who put together our liturgy. St. Augustine said that all Scripture had as its goal the correction of our love. Our love, our charity, is the spiritual gift which endures forever and is that by which we are joined to God now and in heaven. Our love is made right only when we learn to love God first and foremost, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, as the good to be loved and enjoyed entirely for his own sake. We then come to love all else as the means to the true love and complete enjoyment of God. Correcting our love is a matter of learning how much to love each good thing. The key is to love God as the perfect goal and end, and then to love all else as means. The result is that we love God first and then our neighbour in God. According to St. Augustine, this is the interpretive formula which will unlock the complexity of Scripture. Indeed when it is used, today’s Gospel becomes plain.
The Gospel story does surprise us. Jesus seems to be commending the actions of an unjust steward, or in plain contemporary language, a crooked manager. The fellow had been a bad manager: he was wasting” his master’s goods and so the master, the owner, resolved to fire him. The steward is distressed because he was used to his exalted position and his soft life: “I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed.” So he determines on a plan which would secure his future. He calls each of his master’s debtors, all the people who owe him money, and he discounts a portion of their bill:
How much owest thou to my master? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill and Sit down quickly and write fifty.

So he makes himself friends by giving away the owner’s money. After the steward was fired, the grateful debtors took him in. They received him unto their houses and he was saved both from beggary and from work.

Jesus gives praise to this wicked man for his prudence. That is to say, for his knowledge of how to use means to get what he wanted in the end.

And his master praised the unrighteous steward, because he had acted with prudence: for the children of this age are in their generation more prudent than the children of light.

That is to say, those who are successful in this present world, in respect to the things of this world, are successful because they know how to use the means at their disposal to gain their ends. They are good at shaping the means to their ends. Now St. Augustine tells us this prudence is what Scripture teaches through and through, from start to finish. Indeed, Jesus concludes his parable by recommending that we learn prudence from the successful of this world. The only qualification is that we must completely change the terms, for we do not seek to be received into homes here on earth, but into heavenly habitations. The treasure that we have to spend to such an end is that of our heavenly father, the creator of all, of whose earthly goods we are the stewards. Jesus concludes that we must shape every least action to the great final end, that all we do here must be treated as a means:

Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness (the goods of this world): and when it fails you they will receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unrighteous in that which is least is unrighteous also in much.

So our parable confirms that St. Augustine has given us the right key. Interpreting Scripture is a matter of learning what is the true final end and learning what are only means, so as to love each in true proportion.

The Epistle for today may be unlocked by the same key. It concerns the relation of material things and spiritual things, means and ends, especially in respect to the sacraments. First, St. Paul tells us that the people of the old Israel were in a spiritual circumstance like our own:

they lived in the presence of God. Their passage through the Red Sea, when the waters stood on either side of them, was like Baptism. Thus they were received as God’s people. They “were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud in the sea.” Moreover, the rock, struck by the rod of Moses to yield water for drinking in the desert, and the manna, which fell by night so that they might eat in the wilderness, were both signs. Both were signs that they were God’s people, “the people of his pasture,” “the sheep of his hand,” whom God would feed and for whom he would always care. But the people of Israel did not discern this nor treat them as means of their life with God. Rather they treated them as things to be enjoyed for their own sakes and forgot God. “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” The people saw nothing but the outer reality and behaved as if it were the final reality. They tried to gather and save the manna, as if they could have security in this world’s goods. God had commanded them to save only enough for each day, promising that he would provide daily bread,” but they demanded more. After bread they wanted meat, and so on. Because they mistook the means as the end and sought the means instead of God, their lusts made them idolaters. With respect to this matter, St. Paul warns:
Now these things were our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as some of them were.
And St. Paul goes on to tell us how to treat this blessed sacrament which we are celebrating here this morning. It is of no use to us unless we here discern the presence of the body and blood of Christ. The offering on our altar of bread and wine makes present Christ’s heavenly intercession for us and his sacrifice on the cross. Eating bread and drinking wine, we feed upon the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

The bread and the wine are but means for us to be joined into and to enjoy the love of God. The key is knowing what are the means and what is the end we seek. God alone will finally satisfy and we must stop nowhere else. God alone is the ruler and governor. Only by fixing our heart and mind, our soul and strength, altogether upon him, only by loving him above all and letting him as our end govern all that is between, shall we finally arrive at our true enjoyment and perfect bliss. He must govern us all the way in great things as well as in things small, and so we pray:

Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee, may be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

The The Transfiguration of our Lord - 6 August 2017

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
The top of a mountain is a natural place for encountering God. It is small wonder then that in the Bible God often chooses a mountain top to reveal Himself and His plans. It was on Mount Sinai that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Jesus gave his first teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. He often retired to the mountain at night to pray. He was crucified on Mount Calvary and ascended to heaven from Mount Olivet.
In today’s Gospel he is Transfigured before his apostles on Mount Tabor. Peter, James and John are with him. And they will be with him in the agony of the garden. This will be a preparation for that ordeal. Moses and Elijah are also present speaking with Jesus about his approaching death. Moses is the great law giver and Elijah the great prophet. In the presence of these two, representing the law and the prophets the voice of the Father is heard, “This is my beloved son listen to him.” Slowly, the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant is taking place.
Jesus came not to destroy the law and the prophets but to bring them to completion. Christianity is not to be an abstract creed or code but a Person. Jesus Christ, true God and true man is to be “the way, the truth and the life.” We are to listen to Him and follow Him. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that “In times past God spoke to us through the prophets...but in these last days through his Son.”
For Jesus the Transfiguration was the turning point in his life. Until now all was onward and upward. He was captivating the people with his preaching and miracles. Now he must descend to the valley, to the road to Gethsemane and Calvary. The Transfiguration gave Jesus a foretaste of his glory, and in the strength of that joy he could endure the cross and despise the shame. But most of all the Transfiguration gave Jesus another affirmation of his Father’s love. At His baptism in the Jordan his Father had affirmed him, “This is my beloved Son on whom my favour rests.” Now he says, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.”
For the apostles it was an awe-inspiring experience. They had never seen their master like this before. Peter, filled with consolation says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us erect three booths here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But it is not to be. This is only a preparation for things to come. With Jesus they must descend the mountain to the valley below and on to the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary. On Mount Tabor they didn’t want to leave. In the Garden of Gethsemane they didn’t want to stay. When Jesus was arrested they all fled.
We can all identify with the apostles because in our mountain-top experiences of joy and consolation we also want to stay. We want them to go on forever. And then in the moments of trial we want to flee. We forget that our Lord did not promise us a rose garden, but a garden of olives and a crown of thorns. “If anyone will come after me let him pick up his cross daily and follow me.”
The Transfiguration was the mountain-top experience of the apostles which prepared them for their future trials. The Mass is our mountain-top experience which prepares us for the trials of our day. The Mass is not a transfiguration but a transubstantiation, in which bread and wine are transformed into the glorious Risen Jesus. And in the joy and consolation of Communion we say with Peter, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And we do not want to leave. But it is not to be. Soon we will hear the words, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” So we pick up our cross and leave to face the trials of the day. But having been to the top of the mountain we know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston Tasmania


Monday, July 31, 2017

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity - 30 July 2017

Dear Fathers , Friends in Christ,

“How can anyone satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” (Mark 8.4)

The readings for today are once again concerned with life: the Collect draws its language from that of a farmer, the vine dresser. “Graft, increase, nourish” recall to us the words of Jesus when he said “I am the vine, Ye are the branches, My Father is the vine dresser: every good tree he purges that it may bring forth more fruit, but every evil tree he cuts down and casts into the fire.” (John 15.1-2, 5-6)

The Epistle takes up this theme. The issue is one of life and death. “What fruit had you in those things where of you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” It concludes: “For the wages of sin is death: but the free gift of God is eternal life.” The Gospel is concerned with where this abundant, free life is to be found. The centre of this story is the question of Jesus’ disciples: “How can anyone satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?”

Now they think this is only a problem because of the place in which they happen to find themselves. If they were not in this wilderness but in the city, or near farmer’s fields, the problem might be solved. But Jesus knows that the problem is the same no matter where on earth you find yourself. For the Prophet Isaiah asked “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” (Isaiah 55.2) Jesus commanded, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” (John 6.27) There is literally nothing in this world to eat and drink which will give man life. Everything he eats is food only for a moment; then again he is hungry. The world is never enough. It never satisfies. “The poor ye have with you always.” (Matthew 26.11)

For the true life or joy of man consists not in abundance of worldly things, for the possession and having of them maketh no man blessed or happy; neither shall the lack of them be the cause of his final misery; but the very life of man consisteth in God and in his promises unto the which whoso cleaveth and sticketh shall live the life everlasting. (St. Augustine)

This is why the doctrine of the modern world is so destructive and disheartening. For if our Lord commands “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,” (Matthew 6.33), the present teaching is rather: feed men’s bodies first and then care for their souls. This new doctrine takes the promises out of heaven and brings them down to earth; seek first the kingdom of Mammon and his abundance and only then shall the spiritual multiply, then peace, happiness, joy will arrive.

Now the problem with this modern doctrine is not just that it is wrong if you look at things as the Gospel commands, but also that it turns out to be false on its own terms. First, abundance of goods does not bring peace and happiness, as the experience of the United States or contemporary Europe will show. Second, the abundance of worldly things is not possible for all men. Is there any prospect that the problem of poverty in New York will be solved, that the countries of Africa and South America will achieve wealth? that the poverty in our own country will be finally overcome? When Jesus said “The poor ye have with you always” men might fail to believe him because no one had ever tried to feed them. Now we have endeavoured nothing else except prosperity for 100 years and we know by experience that what he said is true. Indeed, the prospect now is that we shall all get poorer, since we have exhausted the wealth of nature. If then we seek the kingdom of this world, Mammon’s kingdom first, we shall never get to the Kingdom of Heaven, for the work of this world is never done, the demands of Mammon are endless. The whole world is a wilder-ness. It can never satisfy. The gospel must always be preached to men with empty stomachs, men who know the nothingness of the world and have turned from it. This then must be the true sense of the question, How can anyone satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?”

There is only one bread that can feed: the ‘bread of eternal life,” and one cup that can satisfy: “the cup of everlasting salvation.” And Jesus said unto them “I am the bread of life, he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.” (John 6.35)

And so now the gospel is clear: the feeding is only for those who seek Jesus, God and His kingdom first. As St. Mark’s gospel reports, the multitude had been listening to Jesus for three days and were left with nothing to eat. Only the hungry can be fed. This bread is only to be found in the wilderness. Those who love the world and its pleasures will never find it. The bread is Christ himself. His actions in the wilderness are the same as at his Last Supper.

“He took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it.” And this food satisfied: “So they ate and were filled.” Indeed, it turns out to be more than enough: “and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.”

We note, finally, that the food is distributed by his disciples. This is the same food which is distributed to us by his Church. For our situation is the same: “He commanded them to set it before them.” We, like the multitude, cannot live except we eat this food and drink this cup. Unless he be our vine and we his branches, we wither and die. He alone satisfies. The bread which he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. Come and live, Come and eat. Come, eat that which is good and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Come, receive the priceless treasure free. Come, for unless ye live in him and he in you, you have no life in you. Come, for the body broken and the blood out poured is the bread of eternal life and the cup of everlasting salvation.

Let us therefore render the thanks and praise which is due unto the giver of this perfect gift: all might, majesty, dominion, praise and power now and forever. Amen.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity - 23 July 2017

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

The Gospel 
St. Matthew v. 20. 

 JESUS said unto his disciples, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

The days of the hyprocitic scribes and Phrarisees is not over and hypocricy is still well and truly amongst us.

It is particularly sad, that it is a phenonomen in Church circles around us. In Roman Catholic cirles for instance: the shocking news of gay clergy parties right under the eyes of the pope in the Vatican, those concerned on the outside living a Christian life and when the darkness comes it is a different story alltogether.
Then there is the constant sweeping under the table of sex crimes by the clergy by their Bishops.No one takes any proper action. In every Parish or congregation of a Church there are Christians, who are only Christian on Sunday and on weekdays they lead different lives, they judge people, they are angry with other people and so it goes on.

Jesus is very clear to his disciples about this particular issue and it is my duty as a Priest to pass it on to you and to take heed myself, so that I might not fall into this trap. It is now time to look at ourselves and see whether we need to change our ways leading our lives as a Christian , so that we may still be with our Lord at the end of our pilgrimage here on earth.

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