St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church Service Times

You are invited to join us for Anglican Catholic Holy Communion / Mass on:
Every Sunday, Maitland NSW Australia. Venue: St Marys School Chapel in Victoria St. Mass at 11am.
Fr Matthew Kirby for further details.
Check here for any additions or cancelations of services.

Friday 31 January 2014

Prayer for individual trust and healing

Almighty God, giver of health and healing; Grant to thy servants in need the sense of thy presence that they may have perfect trust in thee. In all their suffering may they cast their cares upon thee, so that, enfolded in thy love and power, they may receive from thee health and salvation according to thy gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.    Amen

This image created in the 4th Century AD, depicts "Jesus heeling a bleeding women" (Rome, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter).

Monday 27 January 2014

Epiphany I 2014: Jepthah's Vow

This image is "Jephtha's Rash Vow", by James Gundee & M. Jones, London. Published January 20, 1807. 

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. (Judges 11:30-40)
"I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it"

Difficult passage. Does God want human sacrifice? 
If not, does God demand sinful vows be fulfilled anyway? 
No and no. Law of Moses forbade human sacrifice. While the Old Testament warns against rash vows, Jesus seems to condemn all vows  Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew. 5:33-37). While this was probably not literal (e.g., St Paul performs a vow in Acts and uses oaths in his Epistles), it shows that vows can be worse than rash, they can be wholly evil. The Church teaches that vows to sin are to be broken, though it might mean the vower is punished. (Tolkien and Feanor's Vow: "lesser evil in the breaking" argues one of his sons.)

Indeed, this passage may not imply he sacrificed her in this way. Wording allows for a consecration away from ordinary use, so she could never marry or bear children. "Burnt sacrifice" = olah = "ascending" literally, and can be metaphorical. But "and" in 11:31
could be "or" anyway in the Hebrew. 
Thus:      "shall surely be the Lord’s, AND I will offer it up as a burnt-offering".  
could be "shall surely be the Lord's OR I will offer it up as a burnt-offering".
In either case, what are the lessons?
1. Biblical interpretation is not always straightforward. Often to understand a passage it needs the rest of the Scripture, as well as the Church's wisdom, including scholarship.

2. Simple practical advice: Shut up.
"He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction." Proverbs. 13:3 etc. Many words can result in much error and pain. Pause and reflect, do not mistake a degree of passion for a degree of certainty. 

Note, Epiphany celebrates God revealing truth about Jesus with signs but few words: Star leading Magi and Christ's Baptism. Even God can be terse: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased".

Yes, God loves words too, hence the Bible. But much of our desire to comment and criticise is not about appropriately quoting Scripture. There is a time to speak and a time to keep silent as Ecclesiastes teaches. The latter is meant to be much longer.

3. Make the words you do say have impact by letting the rest of your life be an epiphany, a showing forth, of the light of Christ.

Join St Hilda's Parish of the Anglican Catholic Church for Mass / Communion at St Marys Campus in Victoria Street Maitland NSW Australia on Sunday 2nd February at 11am.

Sunday 26 January 2014

The Three Crowns (published 1886)

This is a page from a book titled "Sunday. Reading for the young", published in London in 1886 containing stories and poems for young children, along with exquisite black and white engravings.

The page reads:

BLESSED is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive A CROWN OF LIFE, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him,' (James i.12.) "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me A CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them that love His appearing. (2 Tim. iv. 7,8.) "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive A CROWN OF GLORY, that fadeth not away.' (1 pet. v. 4.)

Childhood is a time of life overflowing with temptations. So many new tastes and so many new experiences and curiosities, with very limited sense of danger. It is a wonder that some of us survived, but we learn and we grow from experience. 

As an adult temptation is still very real and dangerous although it's form can differ. Sometimes we make a choice not to address our weaknesses, these are our temptations that we indulge behind closed doors. If we choose to do this them our temptations can get a strong hold and have the potential to become quite destructive to ourselves and our relationships (the obvious examples are addictions such as alcohol, gambling and eating disorders). Our temptations and Sins are not always that obvious and can come in many forms, but we seldom want to acknowledge them. Perhaps we like to rule situations and people rather than serve others, or inflate our own egos by laying judgement or indulging in gossip. Perhaps our temptation is toward laziness and we simply don't fulfill our potentials.

We are not children anymore and can't rely on the parental slap on the wrist to indicate we were naughty, but a higher authority is still watching. Not only is He watching our actions but also our hearts, and He can see behind and beyond the thickest and strongest closed door. 

Ask yourself:
Do I keep and show my love for Him continually and endure temptation so I will receive A CROWN OF LIFE? Am I fighting a good fight, aiming to finish my course in faith and to have love toward His appearing so that I will receive A CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS? Have I focused my heart and hope on receiving A CROWN OF GLORY, that does not fade away?

Lord help me to identify my temptations, so that I can learn and grow. When I can acknowledge them, give me the strength and direction I need to fight and overcome them. Lord, guide me in my choices toward pleasing you, that I might one day receive a crown of glory.   Amen


Saturday 25 January 2014

Circumcision (Sermon Summary) 2014

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  Luke 2:15-21(KJV)

“And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” 

 Why were the shepherds chosen?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1.
God is a shepherd. We are his sheep. 

You could say he had a soft spot for shepherds. 
More to the point, he is happy to identify himself with them by this privilege granted to them.

JFB Commentary:
if the simplicity of their rustic minds, their quiet occupation, the stillness of the midnight hours, and the amplitude of the deep blue vault above them for the heavenly music which was to fill their ear, pointed them out as fit recipients for the first tidings of an Infant Saviour, the congenial meditations and conversations by which, we may suppose, they would beguile the tedious hours would perfect their preparation for the unexpected visit. ... But if the shepherds in His immediate neighborhood had the first, the sages from afar had the next sight of the new-born King. Even so still, simplicity first, science next, finds its way to Christ, whom
In quiet ever and in shade
Shepherds and Sage may find—
They, who have bowed untaught to Nature's sway,
And they, who follow Truth along her star-pav'd way.

Cf. CSL? He was informed sailors not generally atheists. Why not? “They have time to think.” Not talking about mere reasoning. Apprehension, reflection on reality. Mystery of existence inescapable in the quiet, above the abyss.

E.Scalia ( expands on this story with some creative licence. And makes a point of emphasising the need for the shepherds not to be too full. Some hunger leads to less sleepiness, and quicker reactions and running when predators threaten.

So, why the shepherds? 
They were the most awake and aware in the late hours of the night and early hours of the morning! Most others were probably asleep. But they also reflected God in his gentleness and condescension. And they were ideal recipients among the people of God in their close contact with Nature (its beauties and dangers), their quietness, their simple faith.

Note that while the Magi received relatively subtle astronomical signs that they had to decipher, and  do not appear to have “spread the word” afterwards, the shepherds saw and heard great glory, a clear message, and then proclaimed it.

What does this have to teach us? God is more likely to reveal himself to us in quiet trust than in difficult cogitations and calculations, though he can do either. And it is often the ordinary folk rather than the intellectuals, the scholars, that God entrusts with the Gospel-message. And that is because God wants the hearers to place their trust in the message more than the messengers, and because he chooses to make the truth known through powerful experiences more than clever reasonings. For the former reveal God's omnipotence, while the latter risk catering to human pride. But whether we are more like humble shepherds or honoured wise men, all our knowledge and experience of God would be of little use unless we came to Christ. What good is revelation or reason if we refuse their call to go to him? Neither the shepherds nor the wise men refused this call. Nor should we.

If you want to know more of God, 
seek him in the stillness, 
and pray for his inspiration, focussing on Jesus. 

If you want others to know God, 
do what I have just said, 
then tell them of your experience of God in Christ.

 Sunday 26th January - Anglican Catholic Mass / Communion will be held in Taree.
Email Fr Matthew for times and venue.

Monday 20 January 2014

Christmass 2013 - “Word became flesh”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:1-14 (KJV)

“[T]he Word became flesh and dwelt among us+

·         What's so special about Christmas? Oh, it's easy enough to answer that from the cultural and emotional perspective. It's a time of celebration and gift-giving, and a time most people catch up with family. And, speaking of family, Christmas tugs at the heartstrings with the tender image of Mother and Child, even if many don't really understand who they are.

·         But theologically, it seems strange that it has become the 2nd greatest Feast for the Church after Easter. At first one might reply: “Well of course it is. After all Christmas remembers the Incarnation, God becoming Man, and tells us who Jesus is. Good Friday and Easter remind us the essence of what he has done for us, in saving from our sins and giving us new life. No mystery there!” However, the “Word became flesh”, as I quoted from the Gospel at the beginning, not at Christ's birth, but at his conception, which we celebrate March 25 (that's right, 9 months earlier). It's called the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary because the Angel “announced to Mary” that she was to be the Mother of the Christ.

·         So, the Church has two Feasts of the Incarnation, and the one at the birth is emphasised. Why? Well, let's go back to that verse I quoted: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The original Greek word for “dwelt” used here is not the normal one, but one associated with dwelling in tents or tabernacles, eske(e)'nosen. It would have reminded the first Jewish readers of  God's dwelling with them in the Tabernacle/tent of meeting, as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. In other words, God walks with us on the journey, visibly present. And then the verse goes on to say that “we … beheld his glory”. It was not until the birth that Immanuel, “God with us”, was revealed to humanity as God among us. Until then he was hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.

·         Sometimes our Christian life can be like that. We may believe that our light is hidden under a bushel even when we are doing good, that we are not making an impact, that our deeds are too small, our life too quiet. While we should do all we do for God and not for the praise of men, we might, without egotistical reasons, still be concerned that we are not letting our light shine as Jesus told us to Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16. Don't worry. If you are obedient to God, if you are faithful in things small and great, he will take care of your “witness”, your reflection of Him to others. There is nothing covered that will not be revealed. Mark 4:22. Live by faith, with consistency and integrity, and the light that is Christ will be seen through you.
   Christmas, then, is about who Christ is as God, but also how he identified himself fully and visibly, touchably, audibly with the human condition. He humbled himself to be a vulnerable Baby, in order that he might humiliate Himself entirely by subjecting Himself to the consequences of our evil. In other words, he came to undergo yet overcome darkness and death, at the Cross, for us. To save us. But he was able to do this because of who he was, so in the same way that the tenderness of Christmas has its fulfillment in the confrontation of Easter, so Holy Week and Easter always point us back to the beginning. 

·        Jesus is God taking on our human nature, and our human struggles and physical weaknesses. He did not put on humanity as an ill-fitting mask, to be thrown away once we “got the message” from some object lesson. No, He remains fully and truly divine, fully and really human. And it is in His now eternal manhood that we become eternally united to God. It is the bridge, the link, between Divinity and Humanity. By faith and baptism we become part of the Body of Christ, the Church, receiving new life. By the Eucharist, received in faith we feed this life, to be ever “flesh of his flesh” Gen. 2:23. As we look back to the beauties of Christmas, let us recall with wonder that His inclusion in human history has not only saved us from sin, it has included us in the loving intercommunion/fellowship that is the Holy Trinity. 

He came down, not to just lift us out of a pit, but to lift us up to God: 
in Him, by the power of the Spirit, unto the Father.  +

BEHOLD a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel, Isaiah 7.14

Unto us a child is born, / unto us a son is given. Isaiah 9.6

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, 
because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, 
that we might live through him. 1John 4:9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings 
in heavenly places in Christ: Ephesians 1.3

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; 
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, 
world without end. Amen
St Hilda's Australian Anglican Catholic Church - Maitland and Taree  Australia- Christmas 2013

Sunday 19 January 2014

A few Intercessory prayer

For Someone Particular:   Most merciful God, thy will be done, which will have all men to come to a knowledge of the truth: save and help the servant N. Take this desire of mine as a cry of love, which thou hast commanded.

For The Church:  Forsake not thy flock, O Eternal Shepherd; but through thy blessed Apostles guard it ever with thy continual protection.

For Peace:  Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, may peace, the fruit of justice and charity, reign upon earth.

For The Dying:   Heart of Jesus, that hast known the agony of death, have pity on the dying.

Whom have I in heaven but thee; 
and what desire I upon earth in comparison of thee? 
Thou art the God of my heart, and my portion for ever.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Advent Sunday II 2013 - joy and peace in believing

Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, 
      For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, 
      And sing unto thy name. 
And again he saith, 
      Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 
And again, 
      Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; 
      And laud him, all ye people. 
And again, Isaiah saith, 
      There shall be a root of Jesse, 
      And he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; 
       In him shall the Gentiles hope. 
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit. 
Romans 15:4-13 

"[T]he God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing" + 

Last week I spoke of the Four Last Things, and why our Lord's uncomfortable words about two of them, Judgement and Hell, were words of love. Truth, precisely when it is dangerous truth, is said to us in love when it is said to protect us from that danger. 

But the danger is that Advent sermons can become mere moralism: all about warning us to avoid evil or else, or to do good and get goodies. But this is to miss the distinctiveness of Christ's Gospel, of the Apostles' preaching. Yes, there is Judgement, yes, evil is punished and good rewarded. But there is no set of scales between the two. 

Click on image to enlarge: This is "Last Judgment" painted by Giotto di Bondone in 1306
"Joe Bloggs, you have a record of 432,000 minor sins, 5,987 major ones and 63 ridiculously bad ones. This gives a weighted total of 102,483 medium mortal sins. On the other hand you did 300,005 minor good deeds, 509 major ones and 75 excellent ones, giving you a weighted total of 101,892 quite virtuous deeds. Your sin outweighs your virtue by 591 points. Sorry ... you lose. See ya." No, no, no. 

The predicament of Fallen humanity is deeper than sins, individual or counted. Our sins are the symptom of a primal rebellion, a radical self-assertion and selfishness that poisons everything we do insofar as it is without God's grace. This is the Sin, capital S, that makes sins and, if left unchecked, prevents a real turning toward God and acceptance of forgiveness: what the Bible calls "repentance". Whatever springs from this, whether outwardly good or evil, cannot acknowledge the true source of Good, and so remains cut off from it. 

 Good works independent of God can never outweigh sin. 

Yet, wherever grace enters and is acknowledged, both forgiveness and inner healing work their way in us, and through us. In other words, our good works do not save us, they reveal the presence of Him who has saved us, and is transforming us. And the salvation and consequent good works require that grace comes first, and that it is acknowledged by trust. To put it simply, we are saved by grace, through faith, for good works. The salvation of Fallen humanity is deeper than any of our good works.

Good works that are dependent on God can not but do not need to outweigh sin, because by then sin has already been cleansed by grace. 

So, Judgement is not about counting or weighing. We are judged guilty irrevocably and already, in our Sin. We are forgiven and renewed now and eternally, in our faith in Christ, God's Vessel of Grace. And that means as Chrisitians we are not meant to look to the Four Last Things like frightened accountants, wondering whether we are in the red or the black (or white?). 

No, as St Paul teaches us, it is hope with which we look forward to "the promises", "in believing". It is joy and peace, not terror and distress that should be our attitude. Penitent faith in Christ is the path to this joy and peace. If the terrors of Death, Judgement and Hell repel us from impenitent distrust in God, they have done their job. For the rest, it is love that will guide us to the Heavenly hope, sowing the promise of reward along the way. 

Then Judgment will be but mercy and rejoicing and reaping the reward. +

Friday 17 January 2014

And the earth brought forth...

Join our Sunday's St. Hilda's Anglican Catholic Communion / Mass  at 11am.
St Marys campus of the All Saints College in Victoria Street Maitland NSW Australia.
This Photograph was taken at a park in Historic Morpeth, 
a mere stones throw from Maitland.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Advent Sunday 2013 - Final Judgement

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.  (Romans 13:8-14)

"[T]he day is at hand" +

"The day" usually refers to the Last Day, the day of Christ's Return and of Final Judgement in St Paul's letters. In today's Epistle he warns Christians they must live in holy love, since the completion of their salvation is getting closer. For the whole of Advent we meditate upon the Four Last Things: Death and Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

Some in the Church are ashamed of at least half of these. They are often happy to talk of Heaven, and may even be willing to remind people of the inevitability of Death, though more as a somewhat sad departure than as a danger. For Death can only be feared as well as a grieved if Judgement and Hell are also part of the equation.

(NOTE: click image to enlarge)

But the dark shadow of coming Justice has been fundamental to the Gospel, the Good News, from the beginning. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” Luke 24:47, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". Acts 2:37-38. "And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins". Acts 10:42-43. "And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee". Acts 24:24-25. This does not mean that early preaching was mostly focused on threatening themes of God's wrath. As we just heard, repentance goes with remission, justice with mercy.  [Compare with "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light". Matthew 11:25-30 and "And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him".Acts 10:30-38 (e.g., Christ "preaching peace").] Judgement is not portrayed as an angry threat, but an undeniable inevitability, but one which could be emptied of its terrors through Christ.

But today, partly due to our excuse-making age, and partly due to the fact that the Church has influenced society well beyond its boundaries, people cannot take Judgement very seriously. They are more likely to see themselves as victims than sinners, or take comfort in their inoffensiveness (or even relative "niceness") as decent citizens. Only in the light of the holy love that St Paul demanded of us today, and in the light of Christ himself, can those in this state see more clearly. That is why it is so important for us to reflect Him in our deeds and reveal him in our words.

Also, it is difficult for people to believe that "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" could preach Judgement or be the fearful Judge. But He is, and He did. How can we make sense of this aspect of Christ? In Revelation 3:19 He says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." That puts all those seemingly harsh words of Jesus to both his enemies and his friends into perspective. He loves us: enough to tell us the truth, that we may turn from darkness to light and then avoid falling back into darkness.

Consider this analogy. A man walks along train tracks facing the wrong way, just beyond a curve in the tracks, out of sight, mistakenly sure he knows the timetable means he is safe. A woman sees a train coming around the bend. She gestures to him. He ignores her. She yells at him. He ignores her. She screams out, "Get off the track you idiot, or I'll shove you off." One would have to be pretty dense to complain about her harshness of speech. Even if she was responsible for the trains running, as head of the railway's network.

Similarly, there is nothing unloving about Jesus rebuking us sharply in order to save us, even if the salvation is from his Judgement. After all, human beings can be remarkably hard-hearted and block-headed, stubborn and uncaring. Most people need a "sharp jab" to take serious things seriously. In other words, the idiot on the tracks is not that unusual.

So, there is no point trying to turn the Gospel into a mere therapy or analgesic/pain-killer. It is a rescue from self-destruction, and can only be understood when it is realised that the darkness of self-obsession and selfishness cannot coexist with the light of God's love. The choice between eternally holding onto sin and letting go of it to grasp hold of the Cross cannot finally be avoided. But Jesus wants us all to know his peace and hope, even when he speaks words hard to hear. +

The painting used is titled "The Great Last Judgement". It is an oil on canvas altarpiece, painted by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens between 1614 and 1617. This painting shows the Last Judgement, with Jesus at the top centre. To Jesus' right is his mother the Virgin Mary and to his left is Moses, holding the tablets showing the Ten Commandments. Rising up the left hand side of the painting (at Jesus' right hand) are the blessed, whilst the damned fall into hell on the right hand side. At the base of the painting are the dead, dying and those just resurrected.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Sing Praise unto the Lord in 2014

You may have noticed St Hilda's blog had a little break over Christmas and new year. 
We hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday period.

A quick little update: 
To those who are doing prayer for Lisa (a young local heart transplant patient), keep up the good work. Her recovery is hard both emotionally and physically, there have been some complications along the way but her health is improving, thank you for keeping her in your prayers.

Please keep Dave and Kay in your prayers, both are dealing with cancer at the moment. Pray that God will grant them the spiritual, emotional and physical strength they need, and that during this time, they and their friends and family will find comfort in the Lord.

To those who held Brother John Charles in their prayers, he seems to be recovering well. Thank you.

To the rest of our parishioners and friends of our parish, welcome back to our blog for 2014. If you wish to contribute to the blog, or if you have a prayer request or an announcement to make, feel free to email us.

Join us for prayer and worship during our Anglican Catholic Communion /Mass 11am Sunday at St Mary's Campus of the All Saints College in Maitland NSW Australia (Victoria Street entrance)