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 27 February 2015

Our measure of greatness

Sermon Summary for Epiphany II 2015
presented by Fr Matthew Kirby
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." Romans 12:6-21 (KJV)

"Mind not high things"

This means do not follow after fame or be ambitious for greatness and great deeds to feed pride.

Next clause refers either to associating with the common folk and poor OR being content with humble tasks. Either way, it is opposed to vainglory: the desire merely to impress people, often based on empty achievements, often aimed at those with status.

Does this mean we are not to aim for greatness at all.
Is the ancient virtue of magnanimity closed to Christians?
Previous verses in today's Epistle demand fervency, hard work, and the full use of the spiritual gifts God has given us. In other places St Paul commends those who aspire to be bishops "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." (1 Timothy 3:1) and tells Christians to earnestly desire the greater gifts "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:31), but to excel most of all in love. And Jesus taught that much is expected of those given much in the Parable of the Talents (Link to: Matthew 25), and that we are not to hide our light under a bushel "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:15-16).
So, we are called to greatness.
We are to aim to be great in love and good works. And we should even aim to be all we can be in using our gifts: to be the best pastor, prophet, server, musician, artist, administrator, or whatever, that we can be. So, when we are told not to mind high things, it cannot mean "be content with mediocrity". No, it means that we are to be the best we can be, achieve as much as we can with what God has given us, but we are:
1) Not to have an unrealistic, dishonest perception of what we are and can do.
2) Not to have as our primary goal the pleasing of man, the praise of an audience.
3) Not to value the appearance over the substance, the response to the work done more than the successful doing of the work.

Let us aim for greatness in goodness and in the quality of our service, our ministry, whether the job be big or small, glorious or unknown; and care less about the look of it to others.

Monday 23 February 2015

not conformed but transformed - by faith

Sermon Summary for Epiphany 1 - 2015 presented by Fr Matthew Kirby

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:1-5)

"be not conformed to this world"
World = the systems and culture of man, insofar as they are founded and formed in disobedience to God. Not everything in culture or institutions is included in this, it is not referring to that which is morally neutral or virtuous for E.g., styles of cooking (if they do not directly cause gluttony) or clothing (if they do not encourage impurity) these may usually be conformed to, and laws forbidding murder must be.
But we must not follow the pack when it comes to customs and practices that are sinful. It is primarily the responsibility of the individual adult Christian to identify and avoid immoral actions even if they are common and to self-censor when it comes to reading, listening and watching, according to their (divinely assisted) conscience. (No Index of Prohibited Books for Anglican, or even for Roman Catholic now!) But sometimes the Scripture or the Church will explicitly forbid certain culturally accepted practices. E.g., abortion in our society, polygamy in some others.
"but be transformed by the renewing of your mind"
As I have said before, we do this primarily by reading and meditating on Scripture (or other edifying literature) and by prayer, but also by the practice of obedience. So there is both the negative (avoiding worldiness) and the positive (fostering godliness). Both are necessary. The positive attempted with the negative allows too much muddying of the mental waters. The negative without the positive makes for ineffectual, miserable Christians who only know "don'ts". Also, the ability of our conscience to filter out the bad is enhanced by the positive.
"according to the measure of faith"
If we want to not only transform ourselves but build up others, we must use our gifts of the Spirit to minister in the Church. But we do this to the extent we trust in the Giver of the gift and the gift itself that he gives. To play our part in the Church, to activate our gift, requires faith. It requires the confidence or courage to act, trusting that God will then act through us and around us, and asking for that very thing.  

Monday 16 February 2015

Invitation to Ash Wednesday Service

Ash Wednesday Service
St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Parish
Wednesday 18th February 2015, at noon.
Venue - St Marys School Chapel in 
Victoria St Maitland NSW
All Welcome.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Dealing with a miracle of God

Christmas II Sermon Summary 2015 presented by Fr Matthew Kirby
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 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. (Luke 2:7-20)
"the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God"
They returned. Went back to their lives, their work, their shepherding. Did not become apostles, rabbis or prophets.
But they were not shy about telling others of the wonderful things they had experienced of God, as we are told in today's Gospel. And they carried the joy of those wonders (angelic visitation followed by the sight of the new born Christ-child) with them in grateful memory, back into their normality.
They did not abandon their flocks or try to hang around the Holy Family, clinging to the experience, trying to prolong it or repeat it.
Nor did they forget it or dismiss it. Luke knew and wrote of what happened to them and what they afterwards did, and he did so decades later. He may well have heard it from them or those to whom they spoke. The joy remained, the impact was permanent.
There is a lesson for us here. Even Christians who experience amazing things in God, spend most of their lives experiencing normality, not miracles. We are not meant to try to prolong artificially those times of the extraordinary in our spiritual walk. Nor are we to seek repetition, or a perpetual series of new excitements. This would be ungrateful and immature.
Instead, we must use our memory of the high points to inspire us to praise in the present and joyful witness to God's goodness. That is how we can make the wonderful times food for the journey and perpetual in benefit. God normally works normally. But he also performs signs and specially touches our lives at times. Never forget these, and use them to strengthen yourself in the midst of the hard slog, whether they be your own experiences, or those testified to you by others.
Finally, let others know what God has done for you.

Be My Valentine...

Saints are recognised as having fulfilled the highest aspirations of religious teaching, surrendering to God's love so generously that the Church recognises them as heroes and heroines worthy to be held up for our inspiration.  They are role models of holiness to be imitated, strengthening and encouraging the believer within us, during the times of weakness in our spiritual journey. They remind us of the level of dedication and success achievable through the mercy and grace of God.
If we are to use Saints as role models to imitate then it is necessary  to look at why a particular person became recognised by the Church.
So, what is Valentines Day other than chocolate, roses and a romantic suggestion? 
What does that have to do with my relationship with God?
The feast of St. Valentine (of February 14) dates back to 496 when Pope Gelasius 1 included Valentine among all those "... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." So we are a bit lacking in the factual recordings of this particular Saint. However a lot of the early Saints do have legends that develop.
There are many legends behind Saint Valentine. Story has it that while under house arrest, because he defied the order of the emperor Claudius and secretly married couples so that the husbands wouldn't have to go to war. Soldiers were sparse at this time so this was a big inconvenience to the emperor. To remind Soldiers and persecuted Christians of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have given them hearts cut from parchment. Saint Valentine (who was a former Bishop) was challenged during a discussion about faith by Judge Asterius while under arrest. The judge insisted that Valentine prove his faith and the validity of Christ by restoring the eye sight of the Judges adopted blind daughter. If successful Asterius would do anything Valentine asked. Valentine laid his hands on her eyes and the child's vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentine what he should do. Valentine replied that all of the idols around the judge's house should be broken, the judge should fast for three days, and then undergo baptism. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) were baptized. Valentine was later arrested again and had to face the emperor Claudius. Valentine tried to convert Claudius to Christianity, but Claudius refused and condemned him to death, commanding that Valentine either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentine refused and Claudius' command was executed February 14, 269. Legend has it that on the day of his execution he left the girl a note that was signed “Your Valentine" as a farewell.
It is interesting that the celebration of Saint Valentine did not have any romantic connotations until 1381 when Chaucer wrote:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.


For this was on St. Valentine's Day,
when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.
The verse Roses are red is traceable as far back as 1590:
She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowers, that in the forrest grew.


And this version dates 1784:
The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.

So this Valentines Day when you are feeling all romantic and loving, step back from the commercial card rack and give a thought to the purpose of recognising Saints. Valentines Day wasn't invented to romance the opposite sex. Its purpose was to honour a Saint and to learn by his example. In the legends that developed about Saint Valentine he wasn't trying to win the heart of a young maiden, but rather he puts his dedication to his faith and love of God, followed by his love for and serving of others, above everything including his own safety.

O'Saint Valentine,

 the lover of Christ and of the church,
we ask for your intercession
so that we may learn to love God above all things,
and to selfishly love one another.
O'Glorious Saint Valentine pray for us,
that we too may have the steadfast faith of the martyrs.

Almighty God, strengthen my faith.
Give me the courage to always place you first.
Fill my soul with the love of God
so that it may shine forth into the world.
Fill my heart with your love for man
so that I may serve them well according to your will.

Lord Jesus Christ... be my Valentine.

Saturday 7 February 2015

To Judge, Or Not To Judge

Sermon Summary for Advent III 2014 presented by Fr Matthew Kirby

"judge nothing before the time"  (1 Corinthians 4:5) But compare this with "For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed ... do not ye judge them that are within?" "Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?" [1 Corinthians 5:3,12b and 6:3]. From the same letter! And, of course, (Matthew 7:1), "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

Can't God make up his mind? Or St Paul?
The very fact these apparently contradictory verses are so close to each other warns us to pay careful attention. St Paul knows exactly what he is saying, and is doing this deliberately.

Where we are told by the Apostle to "judge nothing", the context is presuming to Judge as God does, knowing the very heart, knowing everything, and thus being able to condemn or justify the person themselves definitively: "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." Jesus actually warns us not to judge others with a different standard to ourselves: "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." [Matthew 7:2-5]. This is so easy for us to do thoughtlessly.

Where we are told we should judge, we must begin with ourselves, as our Lord just reminded us about the plank. St Paul says, in reference to preparing for Communion, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." [1 Corinthians 11:28-29].
Then we must approach the situations of others with honesty and courage. We cannot judge as God does, but we can judge to be truly sinful the manifest, outward sins of others. And, if we have the authority, we may even have to pronounce sentence, for example, excluding the obstinate sinner from the Church. St Paul harshly criticises the Corinthians for failing in these duties. Why? Because if we do not honestly pronounce as evil what certainly is so, we actually harm the sinner by suppressing the truth. They are unlikely to repent if unchallenged, if their wickedness is ignored. He tells the Corinthians to "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." [1 Corinthians 5:5.]

However, whenever we merely correct others for what we have discerned as sins, we must do so gently and humbly, remembering our own weakness and acting for the good of their soul. "And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." [Jude 22, 23]

So, what is the overall balance?
* We are to judge ourselves first, other second, with consistency.
* We are permitted to judge mentally, and to speak forth that judgement when and how it can be done charitably.
* We are generally to judge sins, not to condemn sinners.
* If in the appropriate position of authority (whether in the family, church or world), we are to judge honestly and apply consequences fairly.
* And we are always to remember the limited and fallible nature of our judgements in everything we do and say.