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.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Our Advent Wreath

What is Advent?

Most of us know that Advent represents the time before Christmas, and to many children it is a count down of how many sleeps until Santa arrives and presents appear under the Christmas tree. Did you realise though that Advent is actually the beginning of the Christian year, a time of waiting and preparation or the coming (Adventus) of Christ. 

The Advent wreath dates back to ancient celebrations of the winter solstice - that time in the year when the sun reaches its southern-most point in the heavens and the days are the darkest and most gloomy. Because they longed for the return of the suns light and life, the ancients stopped all usual activity, sacrificed the use of their wagon wheels and hung them up, festooned with lights and greens in their celebration halls. There they awaited the return of their sun-god, thinking of the warmth and life he brought. Celebrations culminated in the "nativity" of the sun -  the turning point of the year.

As Christians, we use the same meaningful custom to anticipate the feast of light and life: the nativity of the Savior. We add one light on the wreath for each Sunday in Advent, We think of the darkness after Adam's sin and watch the growing hope and light as the prophets and Virgin help us prepare for His saving birth.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who art the true light that lightest every man that cometh into the world: Bless we pray thee, our wreath and its candles which we shall light in preparation for thy coming, and so enkindle our hearts with the fire of thy love that we may receive thee with joy and gladness, and evermore stand fast in the faith. For thou livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Each Sunday in Advent marked by lighting of a new candle on the Advent wreath of five candles. The three purple candles are coloured for the season. A pink candle is traditionally lit on the third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminding us of the joy of the coming of Christ. The white candle, symbolises the presence of Christ and is joyfully lit on Christmas Day.

Symbols of Advent
  • The colour of our Advent altar -  purple, the colour of royalty welcoming the coming of Christ the King. Purple is also the colour of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week suggesting connection between Jesus' birth and death. The nativity and the Incarnation, are linked with His crucifixion. Jesus came into the world as the "Word made flesh" and lived among us to reveal God and His grace. He did this through his life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.
  • The Circle Of Wreath - represents the eternity and endless mercy, of God, without beginning, nor end.
  • The Green of the Wreath - Our hope of newness, renewal and eternal life.
  • Light of the Candles - The Light of God that came into the world through Christ to bring newness, life and hope
  • Lighting the Candles - The progressive departure of darkness from the world as the more and more light is shed through the candles.
  • Four Outer Candles -  The four weeks of Advent, representing the four centuries between the time of the Prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.
  • Three Purple Candles -  A period of waiting, expectation and preparation.
  • Advent Sunday - The First Candle: The Candle of Promise. A time of expectation and hope.
  • Advent II - The Second Candle: The candle of Light. The peace that is to come.
  • Advent III - The Pink Candle. The candle of Love. It symbolizes joy for the promise is almost fulfilled.
  • Advent IV - The Fourth Candle:The candle of Hope. The love of God for humanity.
  • Christmas Day - The white center candle: The Candle displaying the light of Christ. It is lit on Christmas Eve or Day to display that the light of Christ has come into the world in fulfillment of the prophecies.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Christ the King

Christ the King 2016

The following is a sermon summary.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” [Introit : Revelation 5:12] +

Confusing verse: 
How can the Lord receive wisdom when he is omniscient ?
How can he receive power when he is the omnipotent Creator? 
What does the one for the Earth is his footstool need with wealth? 
What does this act of worship mean?

There are two levels at which this can be taken. 
First, it is can be interpreted as saying that He is worthy of having all this ascribed to Him, so that it is short for “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive acknowledgement of his infinite power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Cf. Revelation 4:11.) 
A second way to understand this is to remember that it follows on from earlier statements in the chapter that the Lamb has conquered, established a Kingdom for his people, and earned the right the unroll the scroll of human history and destiny. Thus, the seven glories, which, unusually, are here introduced in the Greek with only one article – “THE power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing”all represent one gift to the King, which is the sum of all creaturely achievements or possessions. In other words, all the good of human kingdoms and cultures and thought find their true place under his sovereignty, and thus all honour is duly given to Him. Then the words can be interpreted as “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive the power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing of all mankind and his works!”

The connection between these interpretations is the recognition that all the beauty has come from Him, and so it all belongs to Him and finds its fulfillment in Him. That is who we follow and who we worship. And He truly is worthy: worthy as God and worthy as the Second Adam, the Man who has redeemed and restored humanity.

But, as I noted before, Christ's Kingship is not merely over us but, in the end, with us in partnership. This astonishing truth is made clearer as we look further into the chapter and what came before it. Who spoke this praise? The angels, but also the “Elders”. Who are they? Allow me to read from more of the chapter, and then quote from a Biblical Commentary.

[English Standard Version: Revelation of John Chapter 5] 
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! And the four living creatures said, Amen! and the elders fell down and worshiped. 

[Excerpt from the Navarre Bible Commentary]: 
God's sovereignty over the world--as symbolized by the throne--is shared in by others whom the vision also portrays as seated on thrones. They are symbolically described as twenty-four elders who act as a kind of heavenly council or senate. These elders appear frequently in the course of the book, always positioned beside God, rendering him tribute of glory and worship (cf. 4:10) "the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing," (cf. 5:9) “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation," (cf. 19:4) "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”, offering him the prayers of the faithful (cf. 5:8) "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; or explaining events to the seer" (cf. 5:5) "Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”(cf. 7:13) "Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?”. It is not clear whether they stand for angels or saints; the Fathers and recent commentators offer both interpretations.

The symbolic number (twenty-four) and the way they are described suggest that they stand for saints in the glory of heaven. They are twenty-four--twelve plus twelve, that is, the number of the tribes of Israel plus that of the Apostles. Our Lord in fact promised the latter that they would sit on thrones (cf. Mt 19:28) "Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel". The twenty-four elders, then, would represent the heavenly Church, which includes the old and the new Israel and which, in heaven, renders God the tribute of perfect praise and intercedes for the Church on earth. The number twenty-four has also been seen as reflecting the twenty-four priestly classes of Judaism, thereby emphasizing the liturgical dimension of heaven (cf. 1 Chron 24:7-18) "The first lot fell to Jehoi′arib, the second to Jedai′ah, the third to Harim, the fourth to Se-o′rim, the fifth to Malchi′jah, the sixth to Mi′jamin, the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abi′jah, the ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecani′ah, the eleventh to Eli′ashib, the twelfth to Jakim, the thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jesheb′e-ab, the fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, the seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Hap′pizzez, the nineteenth to Pethahi′ah, the twentieth to Jehez′kel, the twenty-first to Jachin, the twenty-second to Gamul, the twenty-third to Delai′ah, the twenty-fourth to Ma-azi′ah". (cf. 25:1) "David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service certain of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jedu′thun, who should prophesy with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was:" (cf. 9-13) "besides their kinsmen, heads of their fathers’ houses, one thousand seven hundred and sixty, very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.". Whichever is the case, the white garments indicate that they have achieved everlasting salvation (cf. 3:5) "He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels". and the goldencrowns stand for the reward they have earned (cf. 2:10) "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.", or the prominence among Christians, who have been promised that, if they come out victorious, they will sit on Christ's throne (cf. 3:21) "He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne". [NB: these vv just before first mention of 24]

So, these Elders represent the same 12 plus 12 that we see described at the end of Revelation when the New Jerusalem is described with 12 foundations named after the Apostles and 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel. 

In other words, the Elders do probably represent glorified human Saints of the whole people of God. The fact that we see them offering the prayers of the saints (that word here referring to Christians generally, as is normal in the New Testament) is one of the reasons that Catholics ask for the prayers of the Saints in heaven. Thus we discover that the kingly priesthood, the reign of believers, begins even now, is intensified after death, and is fulfilled in eternity.

And in the same way Christ makes a gift to us of Himself and His kingdom, we find here that we give all of ourselves to Him in return for He is worthy, and yet lose nothing and gain everything in the final analysis. Thus the circle is complete, the interchange of love and blessing being perfected in the union of Christ with his Bride, the Church. +

Monday 10 October 2016

Where are you ACC ?

If you are part of our parish here at St Hilda's at Maitland you already realise the ACC isnt one of the biggest churches in Australia. Remember though, that it is world wide and not just restricted to our own backdoor. Many of the members of the larger ACC community can be found online, offering the friendship and spiritual support just as if they attended the same little church building as yourself. I think this is one of the wonderful things about finding Christ is that you also start to find his followers, even over long distances. 

This week i had the privilege of sharing this fun image found online. This gentleman (for anyone who may not know him) is Bishop Damien Mead from Rochester church (UK) Don't worry he is not immoblised, this image was just taken after blessing a mobility scooter. I mean, how could you resist taking it for a spin with that number plate. Such a great image that captured the mans fun-loving personality (shared with his blessings). 

Don't be afraid to make yourself seen and to also seek out online, the ACC is very active and welcoming out there. 

text supplied By Di Mathews (Church warden and blog admin).

Monday 3 October 2016

Astonishing Arrogance or Personal Challenge?

"He that is not with me is against me".
In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.

The following is a transcript from an oral serman 
presented by Father Matthew Kirby to his parish.

It is often said that the Gospel of John makes the most of Jesus' divinity and presents his teaching in the most abstract way. All that talk of Jesus being The Light, The Bread, The Life, Glory, Truth and The Word. Whereas, on the other hand, it is said that the "Synoptic Gospels", the other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), present Jesus in a more human way and emphasise his moral teaching more than his teachings about himself.

While there is an element of truth in this, there are many exceptions. Many places where the Gospel Of John emphasises Jesus humanity and the other Gospels show of His divinity and there are parts of the Gospels which could be found in any of the Gospels. So, for example if we look at Matthew chapter 11 we have a very famous passage which is quoted at Mass, (Matthew 11:27) Jesus says: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father: and no man knows the Son, except the Father; no one knows the Father, except the Son, and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then he goes on to say, "All you who labour and are heavy laden, i will give you rest..." and so on. This verse "All things have been delivered to me by my Father: and no man knows the Son, except the Father; no one knows the Father, except the Son." is very much reminiscent of John's style of writing and yet there it is in Matthew's Gospel. It is also found (i think) in Mark. That kind of categorisation where we say "oh, John emphasises the divinity and the others emphasise the humanity" is a bit of an over simplification. 

There are other exceptions to this general rule. In the Gospel from Luke, Jesus says "He that is not with me is against me". This implies that in judging what men are, the main issue is their attitude to Jesus. That, if you think about it, is an astonishing claim. If it is true it means that something about Jesus makes Him the ultimate standard. It is like saying the world can be divided into two groups, those who are with me and those who are against me and there is no neutral ground. As if that is the one great moral reference point. Everything is measured in terms of how it conforms to Jesus' character and will. Now, if that claim by Jesus is untrue then it is astonishingly arrogant. it stands therefore as a fundamental personal challenge of Jesus to every human being. Like the one he gave to St Peter when he said to him "Who do you say that I am?" St Paul says the written word of God is a sharp sword but so is the one we call "The Word" Jesus himself. He is like a sharp sword. St Paul said the word of God divides, and similarly Jesus himself divides us into the "for" and "against", the good and the evil. He compels us to make a choice. He says here, "He that is not with me is against me". In another place He reverses it and says "He who is not against us, is for us", so there is this great division based on Christ himself, of humanity.

So, Christianity is all about Jesus. That is the case through all the Gospels where we see Jesus presents himself as the central character in history and the one who decides good and evil amongst men. The one who is the standard. We can understand this better if we look at the parallel passages in the other Gospels. This was from Luke earlier but I will read from Matthew (Matthew 12:30-32) "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Therefore I say to you, all kinds of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age, or the age to come." now let us compare this to John (John 8:48-59) "The Jews answered Him, “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"”. There you go, again the same accusation. In all three passages, we start with the accusation that Jesus does what he does through demons. Jesus answers "I dont have a demon but I honour my father and you dishonour me. yet I do not seek my own glory. There is one who seeks it, He will be the judge. Truely truely I say to you if anyone keeps my word he will never taste death". The Jews said to him, now we know you have a demon. Abraham and the prophets died, and You say, ‘If a man keeps My word, he shall never taste death.’ “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets are dead! Who do You make Yourself out to be?”Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. If I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you. But I know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day. He saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old. Have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”" and then they tried to stone Him. 

Why does he say that? Why doesn't he say "before Abraham was, I was" to say that he existed before then? Well, the phrase "I AM" is the name of God in the old Testament. It translates as Yahew or Jehovah. So, he is claiming divinity here in that very parallel passage. So, this is John's presentation of a similar event, maybe not identical confrontation but it is one of those confrontations where Jesus is accused of doing what he does through the devil. In Matthews Gospel we see he talks about the blasphemy against the spirit. In this Gospel we see that he again makes this great vision. He is saying "I am speeking the truth, I am not trying to glorify myself, it is God that glorifies me because of who I am and before Abraham was, I AM.". Indeed the miracles He performs are confirming who He is and this is the very thing that they refuse to accept. So, all three passages are quoting the Lord's response to an accusation that He is demon possessed. That is the context in all three cases. All three cases show that rejecting Jesus is the ultimate sin because to reject Him is to reject God. This is what He says in all these passages. "You are not just rejecting Me, you are rejecting God, The Father, whose glory Jesus reflects. God The Son, who Jesus is. By rejecting Jesus you are rejecting also God The Holy Spirit, who inhabits and empowers Jesus the man". Of cause Jesus was saying "I'm not doing this by the devil, Im doing it by the Holy Spirit, so when you say Im doing it by the devil, you are not just insulting me, you are insulting the Holy Spirit", that is what He says in Matthews Gospel. So, in each case, in each Gospel it is the same basic message. They accuse Him of doing this by the devil and He says "NO, and by saying that you are opposing yourself to God. It is God who is doing this". 

Remember: He said "If Im casting out devils by the finger of God then no doubt the kingdom of God has come apon you". That is a very suggestive way of putting it. The kingdom of God has come apon you, not the kingdom of God has come TO you. It is a bit more violent than that, the kingdom of God has fallen on you, it is there, it is in your face, and you are rejecting it. 

So, there is this fundamental unity between all the Gospels and they present Jesus as making the same basic response in each case to these accusations. To reject Him is evil because it is not just rejecting him as a man, it is rejecting him as God. Notice in Matthews Gospels he says "Whoever says a word against The Son Of Man will be forgiven" so, looking at Jesus' humanity is one thing but because that is not all there is to him then our response to Christ is a fundamental aspect of who we are. This helps us undersatand what Jesus means by saying "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable but blasphamy against the Son Of Man is not". He is not deminishing his own importance or merely saying a certain insulting form of words about the Holy Spirit is some infinite sin, He is talking about those who can see that Jesus realy is, and have enough reason to know he is, more than a man but still reject him. They would prefer to call the light darkness, and darkness light, to call good evil and to call evil good, than to trust in Him. They saw what Jesus was doing , he wasn't doing bad things, he wasn't killing people, he was helping people, and because they would not accept him they would reject that light, reject the good, the obvious good in what he was doing and therefore their rejection is all the more significant. 

So, we must not be ashamed of the name JESUS. 
Christianity is not just a wise philosophy 
or a radical ethical system. 
It is LIFE. Life from the Lord Of Life himself.

If a church encourages and does good deeds, 
speaks out against injustice, and rebukes moral foolishness 
but does not lead people to Jesus, 
it FAILS. 

For without Him, all our works are dead,
All our words are powerless to transform sinful hearts within.
But with Him, there is truth and righteousness 
and the power of the resurrection.

In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday 1 October 2016

The Splendor Of Truth

"Neither was guile found in His mouth". 
In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.

The following is a transcript of an oral serman presented by Father Matthew to his parish.

"Neither was guile found in His mouth". This is St Peter speaking of Christ. "He did no sin", he says, "neither was guile found in His mouth, when He was reviled, reviled not again". So in the midst of talking about the sufferings of Christ he notes His sinlessness and especially His honesty. No Guile in His mouth means no dishonesty, no deceipt, no trying to lead people astray. 

He is the Shephard, The Devine Shephard of our souls. Jesus said "I am the Good Shephard". The Good Shephard gives his life for the sheep. Part of that shepharding is to lead us to truth. The Shephard who looks after litteral sheep takes care of them and part of taking care of them is leading them to good pastures. Now, Jesus and the clergy underneath him are meant to be shephards of the flock and of cause their job is not to primarily lead Christian people to litteral food, but to Spiritual food. In other words to lead them to The Truth. So that truth, that ministry of truth is the essential part of what Jesus as The Good Shephard, and where He leads his people. 

Today we will focus on Jesus as the truth.

In these days, St Francis has been a rather contraversial figure. He hasn't been the only contraversial pope recently. John Paul 11 was considered a mixed blessing by many in his time because although he opposed and underminded totalitarianism and stood up for peace and justice for the poor, he also taught the catholic faith and morals without compromise. His critics see his comittments as inconsistant, they don't mind the bit about helping the poor and speaking up for the poor and opposing totalitarian regimes like communism but they weren't so happy about hin defending catholic morals. They saw that as reactionary, as they call it. They couldn't see the consistancy between the two. By such criticisms they showed how little they knew the man or the faith. This is true unfortunately for many within the church. You see, that pope did not set out to be either progressive nor regressive because he neither believed that (as they say) "old is mold and new is true". Nor did he believe the mythical "good old days". Whether it was "in" or "out" of fashion what he wanted to teach was "The Truth". Right or wrong was what mattered, not political right or left. He knew the truth challenges every human culture, ever since the fall, that the truth challenges every stage of our development. 

I will quote from his famous "Veritatis Splendor". The splendor of truth.

"The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God. Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6).
Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22)." There he is quoting three different parts of the Bible, in that one sentance. 

He goes on to say "This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself." Here what John Paul is talking about was the belief in the modern age that freedom has nothing to do with truth. Freedom is about doing whatever you want as long as nobody else gets their freedom inpinged upon. So he speaks about relativism and scepticism. There is a reference to scepticism in this document to John 18:38. So we see that scepticism even at the cricifixion. When Jesus says His kingdom is the kingdom of the truth and Piolet says "What is truth" and walks away without waiting for an answer. 

He goes on to say "But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man's tireless search for knowledge in all fields. It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.

No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: "There are many who say: 'O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord' " (Ps 4:6).

The light of God's face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, who is as St John says "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15), the "reflection of God's glory" (Heb 1:3), "full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). Christ is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man's questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself", and then he quotes from the Second Vatican Council "In fact, it is only in the mystery of the Word incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord. It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father's love"."

For that is the truth that Jesus reveals "Gods love". 

The Pope went on to say: "Jesus Christ, the "light of the nations", shines upon the face of his Church, which he sends forth to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15). Hence the Church, as the People of God among the nations, while attentive to the new challenges of history and to mankind's efforts to discover the meaning of life, offers to everyone the answer which comes from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Gospel." So we as the people of God have this responsibility to shine forth the light of the truth, the splendor of the truth, the glory of the truth. And that is what Jesus leads us to, but he leads His sheep to the truth and that is a primary part of His shephardship. Not just so we can have the truth and forsake ourselves and be content with that, He wants to bring others into His fold as He tells us in the Gospel, He wants to bring all of the sheep in and so, we, when we have found the truth in Jesus and seen the light of Gods love in His face, we are to shine forth that light ourselves in our words and our actions so that we help the shephard to bring in all the sheep. Because Jesus is not only the shephard but "He is The Way, The Truth and The Life" and we ought to want the blessing of The Truth for all mankind. 

In the name of the Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Save thy self

"Save thy self", they said.

The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon
- presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish.

Three times this challenge is made to Jesus during the crucifixion. "Save yourself". 

The Jewish rulers justifying themselves to those around "Let him save himself if he be the Christ". For them this was the proof that he wasn't who he said he was, after all if he were the messiah how could he possibly be subject to crucifixion and so this was their self justification. The Roman soldiers heard what the Jews were saying and jumped on it "If you're the king of Jews, save yourself". The angry criminal on one of the crosses beside him, "If you're the Christ, save yourself and us." The catch cry of the Jewish leaders who had arranged for Jesus execution is thus taken up by others. This may well have seemed a propaganda coop for them, they had made their point. They are publicly making the argument that the victims failure to save himself proves he is not the power he claims to be. So, they were justified in their own minds in condemning him in that claim. 

What is the reason all these men have rejected Christs claim to be The Christ? The very claim he made at his trial before the crucifixion, "You shall see the son of man sitting on the right hand of Power (That's God's right hand) and coming in the clouds of heaven". One of the few times when asked that direct question "are you the messiah?" he answered in a very direct way. 

So, why don't they believe him? Not because they have no evidence of his identity or his abilities. These same people who wanted him dead, wanted him dead because they knew he was convincing the people by virtue of the miracles and teaching. They knew about the miracles which had become very well known. His behaviour and teaching was unique, it was bracing, it cut people to the heart. Even many of the Romans were in some way aware of that teaching to some degree in the immediate vicinity, some of them had heard Jesus. But with all that evidence they had, it was not the sort they wanted and that is the key. The Jews wanted either a quiet or unthreatening Rabbi or a mighty political leader who would cause trouble for the Romans and win freedom for the nation of Israel. What they didn't want was a Messiah who would cause trouble for Israel and allow the Romans to keep them under repression. The Romans also expected outward strength, an invulnerability from someone who claimed to be a divine king. From their perspective if you were a god you had power and you could do what you liked and nobody could hurt you. So, from their perspective this Jesus, if he were really a divine king, should have been crushing others rather than being crushed. That was how they saw it. The criminal next to Jesus who abuses him (the abuser of our Lord) felt that such power, if Jesus had this power, MUST include and end to HIS personal pain. That is why he says "Save yourself and us" in otherwords "save me as well, if you are the Messiah" 

Now, little has changed since that day. People still justify unbelief in just the same way. The evidence is there. They ignore the evidence that they do have, whether it is historical evidence for Christ's resurrection and miracles, whether it is intuitive or experiential evidence of changed lives and spiritual insight, or whether it is other kinds of arguments from philosophy. Whatever the evidence is, it is there but they are not interested in that. Instead they demand evidence on their own terms. As if God were a vending machine or the subject of an experiment that they could manipulate. As if they are saying this "you want me to believe in you God, meet my expectations, show your supposed power more openly on demand and while you are at it, take away our pain." Still God answers the same way "I AM God, You are not. Your thoughts are not my thoughts. I have shown and continue to show power in the everyday glory of creation, through occasional miracles and through the weakness of the cross which has a life changing power of mercy and purpose and I WILL take away your pain AFTER I have taken away your sin, if you will be patient and trust that the eternal joys that I have in store for you far outway the pain of this mortal existence". 

The Jews and the Romans wanted a power that could not be conquered and in fact such a power was present at the cross but they could not recognise it. It was the power of Love and the power that was going to be giving new life at the resurrection. What Jesus did, His miracles, especially his resurrection, was indication of who he was but so was the cross, in a strange way. What the people of Israel and the Romans refused to realise was that God had predicted in the old testament that the Christ would suffer. That he would suffer for others, indeed for all, but that wasn't the bit that interested them. God does supply us with what we need to know the truth, but it may not always be what we want (to know the truth). We can not demand evidence on our own terms but God has already given us what we need. 

As we celebrate the Mass of the last supper, we recognise that the power of God in nature, in miracles and in the cross is concentrated here in the sacrament. Common but nourishing bread and wine made from the fruit of the earth are supernaturally transformed into heavenly food and they show forth the salvation of the cross. St Paul tells us that every time we celebrate this communion we proclaim the Lords death until he comes. So, creation, the cross, and even the supernatural are shown forth in the Eucharist. 

Let us give thanks. 
In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen

Monday 15 August 2016

Feast of the holy name of Jesus

And His name shall be called 
Wonderful Councillor, 
The Mighty God, 
The Everlasting Father, 
The Prince Of Peace.

*The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon - presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish*
(Sunday 7th August 2016) Today is the feast of the holy name of Jesus.
The church has this feast which focuses in on the name of Jesus and the power of that name. The power of salvation. It may seem strange that there is a focus on the name specifically, but particularly in the hebrew and ancient cultures they understood that the name stood-in for the person or the thing represented and that there was power in the name that was attached to the person. The name really did stand in for the person.

The name of Jesus is an interesting one in that it is the same as the name Joshua from the Old Testament and it means "Yahweh saves". We say Joshua, the ancient Hebrews would probably have said Yeshua or Yehoshua depending on how much they shortened it. It became Isus in the Greek and Jesus for us. It is the same name. This is not unique as there are a number of names that have many different forms and we recognise and use them. In our culture it is not considered fitting to call some young boy Jesus when he is born but it is actually quite acceptable in various South American cultures for example (Heyzuis) is Jesus. Names are funny things, I know of one family who loved the name John so much that they gave 3 of their sons the name John, just all in a different form. So there was John, Sean, and Ian. They are in fact all John. Just a Scottish, an Irish and an English version. I suppose it is a good thing that they didn't have a daughter they were going to call Joan.

The power of the name is a very important concept in scripture. It is not just a Hebrew culture thing because the scriptures tell us that God The Son can also be considered to be God The Word. So Yes words have power. The Word Of God which created the Universe. So, Jesus is not just a word, it is a name that has with it the power of the one that it represents.

We heard today in Acts one of those very early sermons of St Peter about the power of that name. It says he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he spoke to those leaders and this interestingly enough was a fulfilment of prophesy because Jesus had told them in the Gospels that they would stand before governers, kings and rulers and not to worry about what they were going to say when they were in that situation when they were (if you like) up-against-it before the rulers because the Holy Spirit would put into their mouths what they needed to say and that is exactly what happened for St Peter. That is how we start that passage off  "Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit said to them "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerninging a good deed done to a criple (they just healed one) and by what means this man has been healed be it known to you all that all the people of israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well"" So that was probably something that if the Holy Spirit hadn't put it into his mouth as it is something he wouldn't have said. Do you want to know who healed this guy? Jesus! the one you just killed! (not making a point or anything). And then he goes on to say "this is the stone that was rejected by you builders" and he is refering to again an ancient Hebrew prophosy, that is a text from the Old Testament. The stone rejected by the builders, He says "That which has become the head of the corner", again quoting from the Old Testament. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven to men by which we must be saved. So, obviously faith in Jesus is faith in the person, not of the word jesus, and yet words do have power especially in prayer and in faith.

The name Jesus means "Yahweh saves" and yet the scriptures tell us over and over again that Jesus saves, so it is telling us that this is not just a man. Although it is a man, His name is "Yahweh saves" and He saves. So that makes sence of the Old Testament lesson we began with of the three readings "His name shall be called wonderful councillor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince Of Peace." Now obviously that is not to be taken litterally as if somebody was litterally called in an everyday sence The Wonderful Councillor The Mighty God The Everlasting Father The Prince Of Peace, that's a bit long for an actual everyday name. But it is the significance of His name.

If He is Yahweh then He is The Wonderful Councilor, The Mighty God; the one that gives some people trouble is The Everlasting Father but in fact Jesus tells us in the Gospels That He carries the representation of The Father, He says to the apostles if you have seen me you have seen the Father. Not because He simply is identical to the Father (He prays to the Father and it would be a bit silly to pray to himself) but he represents the Father. So, when we talk about the heart of Christ, The Sacred Heart of Jesus and we refer to the love that pores forth from that heart, when we talk about the pierced heart of Christ we have to remember that the heart of Jesus is also the heart of The Father. The love of the Father is also the love of Jesus, They are one. Yes, they are distinct. But Jesus represents the fatherhood of God to us. He brings us into the family of God. Indeed He brings us into the family which IS God through the power of that name because He saves us from ourselves, from our sins and thus He becomes as it says in that passage The Prince Of Peace, and what is the peace primarily spoken of there? It is peace between us and God, and between us and the bretheren. We become people of Peace because we are reconciled to God and therefore at peace.

So, the name of Jesus is powerful and it is powerful in prayer, which is why we have prayers like the Jesus prayer. It comes in various forms and the simpliest one is the repetition of meditation on that one word "Jesus" and all that it represents. So, today as we have this feast which commemorates and glorifies the name yahwah saves (Jesus) let us let that name be precious to us and make it a thing beautiful in our lives, as was meditate on the name, as we use it reverentially in prayer and indeed you may have noticed at times (when I remember to do it) I bow my head at the name Jesus during sermons and during readings and even at the altar. That is an ancient Catholic tradition specifically carried on in the Anglican tradition, you don't see it as much in the rest of the western church but we do carry it on. It is something we do at each liturgy to remind ourselves of the glory of the name of Christ, the name of Jesus. Let us hold that name sacred and remember it is not just a word but it has power and as we hold onto the name of Jesus in faith and call upon Jesus we are saved by Yahweh.

In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday 30 July 2016

God most pleased

"And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)
"While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matthew 17:5)
"For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Peter 1:...17)
"And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17)
As an adopted child of God,
I pray that I may be worthy of my Lord,
and that I too may be pleasing
to my God Almighty.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Synod Time

Regarding Sunday 22nd May 2016,
our Anglican Catholic service in Maitland will be CANCELLED.
The reason being that Father Matthew will be in Queensland for the Synod.
We pray that he travels relaxed and returns safely.
What is a "Synod"?
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word "synod" comes from the Greek "σύνοδος" (synodos) meaning "assembly" or "meeting", and it is synonymous with the Latin word "concilium" meaning "council".

Prayer for the Synod: -  
Almighty and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through the Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world; We beseech thee to be present with the 2015 Synod about to be assembled in thy Name, Save its members from all error, ignorance, pride and prejudice: and of thy great mercy vouchsafe so to direct, govern and sanctify them in their deliberations by thy Holy Spirit, that through thy blessing the Gospel of Christ may be faithfully preached and obeyed, the order and discipline of thy Church maintained, and the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour enlarged and extended. Grant this, we beseech thee, through the merits and mediation of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen

Friday 8 April 2016

Enter Into His Wounds

“Peace be with you”, when He had said this he showed them his hands and his side.

*The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon - presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish*
What is the connection between the blessing of peace
and the showing of the wounds? (The wounds in His hands and in His side). Jesus a few days before that had been crucified and nailed through the wrists and a spear had been thrust through his side, probably into his heart, to confirm that he was dead. He shows his apostles these wounds, in this room where they were hidden away because they were afraid. In their fear he says “Peace be with you” and immediately shows them the wounds.

So, is there a connection?
Yes there is.

The first thing, perhaps the more obvious thing, is that Jesus is confirming that it is really him because it would have been difficult for them to believe it. Even after every thing that's happened there's still this doubt. We know on a number of occasions after the resurrection, even with him right in front of them, sometimes they could hardly believe it. It was just too good to be true. So, as St Thomas famously said “I wont believe it until I see the wounds”. Even seeing Jesus in front of him he would not believe until Jesus had shown him his hands and side. For here Jesus is saying I really have risen, I am not a ghost.

But there is a second level, much deeper than the first. It is not merely to confirm his identity. “Peace be with you” then he immediately shows them his hands and his side, the wounds from the cross. We are told in Isaiah 53 that “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” . This is a prophesy concerning Christ from hundreds of years before. (This image shows: Isaiah 53 in the Great Isaiah Scroll, found at Qumran and dated to the 2nd century BCE).
Our forgiveness brings peace with God and peace within. Our forgiveness is based on those wounds. So, there is this deep connection between this peace that Jesus gives his disciples and the wounds from the cross. We have been permanently reconciled, put back into God's family and can know that calm sense of security that The Father's love brings. That is our peace. That reconciliation, that re adoption back into God's family knowing that fatherhood of God. That peace, that reconciliation is based on the forgiveness of sins and that forgiveness is based on those wounds. As it says again in Isaiah 53, “He was wounded for OUR transgressions”.

So, in the wounds of Christ, he is carrying eternally the marks of the crucifixion, of His sufferings. They are indeed an expression of who He is. Which is why He emphasises them to the disciples to confirm His identity. Jesus is eternally The Offered One, The Wounded One who has suffered for us and understands and identifies with our suffering. He knows what it is to suffer and yet He has conquered death and has the victory as The Lord Of Life.
These wounds are symbolised in the paschal candles nails. Each of which has a grain of incense hidden within (I know that because I put them there). You see the paschal candle and the five nails, as they are called, to remind us of the wounds of Christ. Now, why did we put a grain of incense into each one of them? Hidden away there, what is the symbolism? Well, incense gives a sweet odour but it also represents prayer as we find in the book of Revelations in the Bible when the incense is offered up in heaven and it represents the prayers of the Saints. Incense stands for a sweetness but it also stands for prayer going up before God. Jesus wounds are the cause for sweetness for us despite the suffering He underwent because He paid the price so that we could be delivered. His suffering in a paradoxical way becomes our sweetness. His wounds are part of the sacrifice that is an offering and an intersession for us. He now lives to appear before God for us. There He is The Slain Lamb alive again His wounds still there before The Father.

His wounds are a prayer.
They are His intersession.

Isaiah 53:
“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him,and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Of cause here we have Christ and this is exactly how He was just before the crucifixion. There He was before the people and Pilate said “Behold the man” the man who has been scourged, the man who has the crown of thorns upon his head. A man of sorrows acquainted with grief and not beautiful any more but stricken.
And indeed the next verse tells us:
“Surely he has borne OUR griefs and carried OUR sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” at that point the people thought God had rejected Him. Otherwise why was he suffering?

The next verse:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away;” and so we are reminded of the trial and then the Way Of Sorrows. The Way Of The Cross. “and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?”
Moving on to the tenth verse:
"Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul" (in other words He will see the fruit of His sufferings) "and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

So, Here is the Christ wounded for our transgressions as we spoke of the wounds earlier, bruised for our iniquities. In him therefore we are righteous. There's this mysterious exchange. He takes on our sins, destroys it at the cross and we are able to take on his righteousness. 

We can in a spiritual sense enter into Christ
through His wounds, those openings in His flesh.

How can we do this?
By meditation upon those marks, those wounds. By thinking about them and knowing them as our peace, our shelter. But there is more to it than that. There is a Hymn found in the Book Of Common Praise (Hymn 120) that helps us enter into those wounds, to enter into Christ through those wounds. To meditate upon Christ's suffering and to allow those wounds he suffered to impel us to action. It is a hymn by father Andrew (a Franciscan Anglican from the 19th-20th century)

O dearest Lord, thy sacred brow
with thorns was pierced for me:
O pour thy blessing on my head
that I may think for thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred hands
with nails were pierced for me:
O send thy blessing on my hands
that they may work for thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred feet
with nails were pierced for me:
O send thy blessing on my feet
that they may follow thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred heart
with spear was pierced for me:
O shed thy blessing on my heart
that I may live for thee.

In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Amen.