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.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Devilish Temptations.

The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon
presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish during Lent. 
Why do we fast?
We fast during Lent to maintain a discipline that will allow us to be in control of our bodies, rather than our bodies being in control of us. At first sight it would appear that Jesus' fast made him more vulnerable as it was so extreme (40 days and 40 nights) that it seemed to give the devil an opening.
Starting with the issue of food.
The first thing Satan says is “If you're the son of God, command that these stones be made bread”, but Jesus through His suffering obedience was too strong for Satan. Jesus here reverses the original sin, by overcoming a more intense version of the original temptation. In the story (in Genesis) of that first temptation and that first human sin, the tempter Satan brings Eve to the point of tasting the forbidden fruit, the knowledge of good and evil. What Jesus experiences here is related to what Eve experienced back then.
Note that:
First – Jesus is tempted by food, just as Eve was. He is asked to turn stones into bread and Eve was tempted by the fruit of the tree, which we are told in Genesis was good to eat.
Second - Satan wants to put doubt into Jesus' mind in persuading Him to test Gods' promise to look after Him. He says, “IF you are the son of God, command that these stones be made bread”, so it's not just about food, it is about trying to make Him doubt His very identity and His relationship with the Father. In His weakened state the Devil is looking for an opening that he might foster doubt (the lack of faith in God). Now, this is exactly what Satan did to Eve back at that first temptation. Such a test would only be necessary (the test of God) if you had doubts in the first place. The Devil is tempting Jesus to test God, of cause that wouldn't be necessary unless you doubted whether God was going to do it. So, it is all about doubt and back in Genesis the tempter asks Eve “DID God really say?”. Then later on when he is told what God really said (which he know of cause), he says “No you won't really die”. So, it is about doubting Gods' word, it is not just about food.
Third – There is an offer of glory. The Devil says “I'll give all this to you, all the kingdoms of the world, all their glory if you worship me”. Well, Eve was also tempted with glory. The tempter says to her “you'll become like Gods, knowing good and evil”. There is this parallel between the first great temptation of humanity and this temptation of Christ in the desert.
Now, speaking of our ancient parents (this story and the connection between them).
A little boy once opened a big family bible with fascination. He looked at the old pages as he turned them and something fell out of the bible. He picked it up and looked at it closely. It was an old leaf from a tree that had been pressed between two pages (People used to do that with flowers and leaves and things). “Mummy look what I’ve found” the boy called out. “What have you got there dear?” his mother asked. The astonishment in the young boys voice answered “It's Adams suit!”. We heard this morning at the end of the Genesis reading how their eyes WERE opened and they knew they were naked, suddenly other temptation had come in that had meant nothing to them before. Their bodies had been under the control of their minds before and that would no longer be the case and so they made primitive clothing for themselves.
But - back to Jesus' temptation,
We might be tempted to say “well, that's fine for Jesus because He is God as well as man but what about us?” However it was Jesus' humanity that had to undergo the trials and if we have faith in Christ He lives in us. He does strengthen us. He strengthens our humanity through His humanity by that divine strength. He is the bridge between God and man. So, we don’t need to say “But that is fine for Jesus but it doesn’t mean anything for us” because indeed the strength that He brings to temptation is a strength that we can draw upon also through faith and love .
So can we also learn from His example and directly imitate it?
Well, Yes... The likelihood of us facing the exact same temptations as Jesus is none. However the principles underlying Jesus spiritual self defence are universal. So we will face DIFFERENT temptations to Jesus but we can resist the temptations in the same way that he did. The first thing to note, the first principal of spiritual self defence is that we need God more than anything or any one else. So, commitment to Him comes first. Jesus says to the Devil “ Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” and Jesus says “You will worship the Lord your God alone” He draws on that word of God to say that God comes first. It is on that bedrock principal that God is number one in our lives that enables us to put everything else into perspective and to resist temptation. The second principal that is illustrated in what Jesus does is that we can trust God to meet our needs so we don't need to be testing Him as Jesus was asked to do by the Devil, or wait for proof before we act upon His word or believe in His promises. Unbelief in His promises feeds into sin because it takes away our confidence to fight a good fight. Resisting temptation is like a fight. To fight we need to have confidence. A soldier who has no confidence can't fight. For we have to trust God knowing that He will meet our needs. The Devil is trying to meet Jesus' need in a perverted sort of way. Jesus is hungry, so he says “alright, test God and prove you are who you really say you are and that He really loves you by turning these stones into bread” Knowing that Jesus is here to save the world he says “I will give you the world, I will give it up, you can have it as long as you worship me.” You might say, the temptation of the short cut to do evil that good may result. A temptation that is always with mankind. To do something that is wrong because “ohhh, it might be bad but something good will result from it” but all of this is based on distrust. The idea that we can't trust God to meet our needs and achieve His will the right way without resorting to sin.
So Number one – we need to put God first.
Number two - we have to trust Him to be the one to meet our needs.
Number three – we belong to God. We don't belong to even ourselves and we certainly don't belong to the Devil. God owns us and only He is absolutely entitled to our service.
Jesus says to the Devil “ It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and HIM only shall thou serve” God is not only number one FOR us but He is the one we belong to. We are already His. Only He has absolute rights over us because He created us and then He redeemed us. So to resist temptation we must remind ourselves that what God offers is infinitely better than what the Devil offers and unlike the Devil God actually keeps His promises. We are Gods' anyway so we may as well act like it. In keeping these things in mind we resist temptation. The thing to realise about the Devils temptation is that the Devil is a good liar. A clever liar. He will speak things that are with an element of truth in them but then pervert them. When he said to Eve “when you eat you shall not die” physically it was true. Eve did not die that day she ate the fruit. But she did die spiritually. It was a spiritual death that took place.
When Satan comes to Jesus he quotes from the scripture and tries to use it to achieve his will. So, the thing about temptation is that is not all about the obvious lie. It can be about the subtle lie. Never the less, we can make those distinctions between the truth and falsehood if we trust God, put Him first and understand that we are His already. We just need to live in that reality.

Monday 22 February 2016

Pentatonix - Angels We Have Heard On High (HD LYRICS)

The Greatest is LOVE.

The greatest of these is love.
We heard this morning a very famous passage from scripture, ending with that famous statement. Faith, hope, love abide but the greatest of these is love.
* The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish
Why is love greater than all the things that St Paul compared it to before?
Not just faith and hope but he compared it to all of those gifts like prophesy, understanding mysteries and the faith to move mountains. Why is love greater than gifts of power and knowledge, prophesy or mountain moving faith? Surely the church would have more success one might ask and persuade more people if the world saw that we could supernaturally predict the future or preform great signs and wonders aplenty?
What is “the greatness” of love?
Well, the first thing to realise about love is that it is the end, not the means. Many of these other things that St Paul talks about, these powers and gifts are a means to an end. In other words they have a function in achieving a goal.
What is the goal?
The miracles and the prophecies are for the salvation of souls drawing us into the light and into the truth. But, the love of God within us is the essence of that salvation. That love is the stuff of life. It is the highest truth. It is the end, not merely the means to the end. It is the goal. For God is love. We are told that by John in his first epistle . It is in love that we are united to God Himself. These scriptural principles are also supported by our best reason, our best intuition. We know that for the one who is loving, love is greatest because it is better for a person to be good than to be just strong and clever. At our best we know the virtuous, kind person is more admirable than the merely talented or the powerful. Being a person of love is the ultimate goal of  fulfilled humanity. For the person who is loving that is the fulfilment of who they should be. For those who are being loved, love is also the greatest because although there are many other gifts which St Paul mentions here, faith and hope and the power to move mountains and prophecy and in places in the same book he has mentioned healing and so on. These things are wonderful and bless people, but for those who are the object of love (who are receiving love) all of these other blessings are most effective if they are done in love.
If a person hears a true prophesy or a  true word from God but not from love, not expressed out of love from a person who loves, then they may hear not Gods heart but a clanging cymbal as St Paul puts it. He says in the very beginning “ though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love I become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”
So, if we want people to hear Gods word, to hear Gods heart, we need to have that heart of love. Otherwise the message however beautifully expressed may not reach its target. Sometimes love even without all of the other stuff can persuade when nothing else can. The hardest heart may be melted by patient kindness that refuses to be turned into hatred by that hard hearts initial negative responses. A person who seems to be an enemy to God and goodness may well be turned by somebody who is kind and patient with them and refuses to be put off by their negativity. Whereas the same hard heart may be unmoved by evidence, supernatural power or knowledge because all that will do is prove to them that there is a God but if they want no part of God to begin with, even if He is real, then that may not make a difference. It may just make them more resentful. It is then that an uncomprimable love, even if there is not much else to go on with, is more powerful than power. It communicates more than words.
The Gospel must still be heard, it must still be preached. But, the opening to it may need to come through an agape love more than anything else. When I say agape love, agape is the Greek word which we translate to love or charity in the scriptures of the New Testament. It is that love which is not merely the love of friendship or the love of romance but love that says I “will” the good for you, I want the “good for the other”, not for my sake but fully for yours. Indeed enemies of the faith have been converted through that kind of loving kindness and that kind of patience, where other things may have made no difference or little difference.
Christ himself implies that this is His greatest act of persuasion. Speaking of the cross He says “when I am lifted up I will draw all men unto me”. Not when He preformed healing or spoke great and astounding truths but when He was at His weakest and yet acting out of self sacrificial love, when despite what He was experiencing, when despite the complete lack of power at that moment by choice, He says “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. And that is why Faith, Hope and Love abide, but the greatest of these is Love.
Let us reflect upon and then communicate that love.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Be My Valentine...

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 forest 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 selflessly 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.
( by Di Mathews: churchwarden /blog administrator)

Thursday 11 February 2016

The many factors of Lent.

And Jesus spake unto His disciples, saying, When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;  that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall recompense thee. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through nor steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth or rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break in to steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.It may seem confusing as we have here the gospel for today with the instruction from Jesus not to disfigure our faces and yet we have ashes on our heads. We need to remember who Jesus was speaking to and about. (Matthew 6:16-22)
The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish on Ash Wednesday 2016.

The Pharisee and other religious groups of that time had their own voluntary fasts. The Pharisees in particular would fast twice a week. Now, these were not fasts commanded by the law but they were voluntary fasts of devotion. There were fasting times amongst the people of Israel that were mandated in the scriptures but they were public fasts and they were common fasts (as lent is a common fast). So there would be no social cache showing you were fasting when the people of God were fasting corporately and indeed you have instruction for the people too wear sackcloth and ashes in the scriptures during those public fasts... But when people make a private fast, they make their own personal, devotional decisions about fasting quite apart from what the church has in its rhythm of the liturgical year then they are not to make a big deal of that.
That means if we make a decision during Lent to give something up, it is not something we should be trumpeting to the world. If somebody asks us there is nothing wrong with telling them but it is not something that is designed to be a matter of pride. It is just the contrary to that because Lent is about casting down the flesh, the world and the devil. Of cause the flesh refers to the enemy within. It is not just about what we normally call carnal sins but all sorts of other things as well.
What is Lent?
It is that time when we prepare for the joys of Easter. Where, like Christ, we go through the valley of the shadow of death before we reach the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. The prayer book in todays service (the penitential service before Mass designed specifically for Ash Wednesday) says we are to observe Lent by self examination and repentance, prayer, fasting, self denial and by reading and meditation upon Gods holy word. Those are the traditional ways to observe Lent. We examine ourselves even more soberly and seriously than we normally would and think about the past year, what we have done wrong and ways we can improve.
It is a time of self examination and repentance.
Sometimes people use that time to make their auricular confession in the sacrament of pennants but whether they do that or not Lent is meant to be a time when we examine ourselves and confess before God our sins and think particularly about the areas in our lives (long term, not just short term) where we're perhaps failing to live up to his word.
It is also specifically a time of prayer and fasting.
So people are expected not only to abstain from certain foods or to eat less over that time but also to combine that with prayer. There's not much point observing the fast if means no change at all in our prayer life, if we don't offer up any extra prayer or we aren't praying at that time. Even if it's not extra prayer, fasting is meant to empower our prayers. It is common for people to say "and what are you giving up for Lent?" as it is common for people to give something up for Lent, quite apart from food.
Prayer, fasting and self denial. Why do we do this?
In doing this we are able to focus the mind more on things of the spirit, as things of the flesh are to fall into the background more. Not because there is something wrong with eating, we have to eat, eating is a good thing. By doing less of these things which in itself is good we are able to focus more on the things that are best.
There is then reading and meditation on Gods holy word.
This is where we spend perhaps a little more time than we are accustomed to reading the scriptures and meditation upon them. Now, some people already have a system where they meditate so many times a week or a month, they decide to do it by their own rule of life. In a way this is more directed at those who have no such rule. those who probably need to  get into the habit of reading the scriptures and praying through them.
Is there More to It?
There is one thing in that particular sentence (which is a very good summary of what we do in Lent) that is missing from that particular part of the service and that is the mention of alms giving, another part of the tradition of Lent is for us to give a little more generously to the poor and this is brought out in the reading for evening prayer for Ash Wednesday. Which is from Isaiah 58.
I will read a little from Isaiah 58
So that we get a flavour of that aspect of the Lenten discipline. The chapter heading in this bible is "True And False - Fasting And Worship". If we read through the whole thing we find that God is pretty angry with many people throughout this point because their fasts aren't the kind of fasts that He likes. He says "Behold you fast only to quarrel, to fight, to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours will not make your voice heard on high" and then He talks about what people's fast ISN'T meant to be like, then saying what the fast IS meant to be like. " Is this not the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of wickedness to undo the thongs and the yoke and to let the oppressed go free. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house, when you see the naked to cover him and not hide yourself from your own flesh" (that is from your own family). So, although it seems strange that He is saying "This is the fast  that I choose" and then nothing about food. It is not saying that Lent has nothing to do with fasting from food, because we know when Jesus was asked about his disciples and how they were not fasting as often as the Pharisees, He said that when they fast this is what they will do. Yes, we fast from food, but there is not much point fasting, or even fasting and praying when reading the scriptures if it doesn't lead us to more compassion toward others and if we don't make special effort at generosity. Not only to the poor but for our own family.
Lent has many dimensions, many factors to it.
So I would encourage us to look at that part of the prayer book and think about how we can observe many ways (even if they are not huge ways) of prayer, fasting, self denial, reading of the scriptures generosity, compassion, self examination and repentance as we move towards the great solemnity of Holy Week, Easter.

May God prepare our paths and grant us the grace
to follow through with our good intension
as we begin Lent.
Feel free to join us each Sunday morning during Lent
for Anglican Catholic Prayer, Worship, Holy Communion, Mass 
at st Marys school chapel in Victoria street Maitland NSW Australia

Tuesday 9 February 2016

The Season of Lent

Lent is a season of forty days (not counting Sundays) represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is on the10th February 2016, and ends on Holy Saturday.

Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.
Lent is a time of focusing less energy on the physical aspect of ourselves and repairing and building our spiritual aspects. It is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. Therefore, our parishioners are invited “to observe a holy Lent: by self–examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self–denial; and by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word”. We are all at different stages of our spiritual journey, If you don't know how best you can participate in Lent then talk to Father Matthew for inspiration.
( Thoughts by Di Mathews: churchwarden /blog administrator)

Sunday 7 February 2016

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday Service
St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Parish
Wednesday 10th February 2016, at noon.
Venue - St Marys School Chapel in 
Victoria St Maitland NSW
All Welcome.
This holy day will mark the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting and prayer that is considered preparation for Holy Week and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the forehead. The ashes which are made from blessed palm branches taken from the previous year's palm Sunday Mass, symbolize the dust from which God made us. The ash is placed on their foreheads in the shape of the cross as the words from Genesis 3:19 are spoken: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Although there is no Biblical reference to Ash Wednesday or Lent, scholars of Christianity date the tradition of a 40-day fasting period back to 325 A.D. Writings from the Second-century Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a visible sign of penance. They symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.
Lent mirrors Jesus’ own 40-day period of fasting, described in the book of Matthew.

Spiritual Athletics

"Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I pummel my body and subdue it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified." (1Corinthians 9:24-27)
The following transcript was taken from oral sermon presentation by Father Matthew Kirby
An analogy of athletics is used by St Paul in this passage. He does it elsewhere in the scriptures as well. Here he compares the Christian life to a race, then later in the same passage he compares it to boxing. "Nor do I box as though beating the air: but I pummel my body and subdue it”. In other places he talks about life as a type of warfare, as the activities of a soldier. So, all of these very physical analogies or metaphors mean that we are spiritual athletes. It doesn’t matter what our status is as physical athletes, we may have a very poor status as physical athletes but that doesn't change the fact that we need to be true spiritual athletes. In this analogy that St Paul uses, he talks about us “running a race”.
What are we running from? What are we running towards?
We are running from temptation. Trying to avoid the temptation of sin. From situations we know will tempt us. Situations that we are vulnerable to and that will vary from person to person. We are to avoid occasions of sin. We practice what the old theologians called “the custody of the sensors”. We pay attention to what we read, what we watch and what we listen to because what goes into our minds tends to affect what we think. We run from temptation but that doesn’t mean we block ourselves off from the world entirely, that is unrealistic and unhealthy. But things that we know will strongly tempt us we avoid as much as possible.
More important than what we are running from is what we are running to. We are running towards God. Our focus is on Him in the same way a sprinter looks a the finish-line. For us the finish line is eternity with God. We focus on God himself, He is our goal. We run from temptation and we run towards The Lord. Unless we have our spiritual eyes on Him then we can't run away from temptation because it is more important what we run towards than what we run away from. We now know what we are "running from" and what we are "running to".
What is this “running”? What is it an analogy for?
It is an analogy for the works that we do as Christians. To serve others. To love our neighbour. To glorify God. That is our “run”. It is not only what we do for others, it is also our prayer life which is a spiritual athletic activity. In our spiritual works as an athlete for God we even go to gym each week, it is called a church. Exercise those spiritual muscles in worship, by hearing His word and I hope by actively processing that word which is required to run our own lives.
St Paul doesn't just use “the runner” as a metaphor, he also uses “the boxer”.
He even refers to himself as a boxer. So, we have a fight on our hands. We have to fight temptation. Sometimes we can't run from a situation. There might be a situation that we know will make us angry, and maybe for a good reason. We might also realise that anger can be a temptation, especially if we go too far in our anger. If we can't avoid the temptation we must fight the situations in our lives where things come and tempt us to get too angry (or whatever the sin is). We can't avoid the situation all of the time but we can fight it. We resist the temptation.
What are we fighting?
In a sense we have to fight ourselves. We are not fighting other people, we are fighting “the enemy within”. He says “I pummel my body and subdue it, less I be preaching to others and myself I be disqualified” and of cause as you are aware many sports people see their primary competitor as themselves because they are always looking for a personal best. When they go to the gym they are thinking about what they are trying to do and how to get their bodies to do what they want. So, they look after their diet. They want to have that huge bowl of chips but they deny that particular desire. They might want to stop with the weights at a certain point saying “I really want to stop, I've had enough, but I have to go further to get to where I want to go. To achieve what I want to achieve”. They go through the pain barrier. They subdue the body through diet and going through that pain barrier, always aiming for a personal best. That is what they do as “physical athletes”.
We too have to think about this as “spiritual athletes”.
Even though we are “spiritual athletes” the body is still relevant because as human beings, the Christian faith teaches us, we are not just souls who happen to have this thing called a body. We are embodied souls. We are soul and body in a true unity. Our body and soul correlate to each other. They are important to one another. To look after ourselves, our spirits, includes being tender in our bodies. The word tender has to do with self control and moderating or modifying things. We temper our desires within our bodies. That may include practising self denial. Physical athletes look after their diets whereas Christians practice fasting.
Some have thought that Paul's imagery demanded a literal beating of himself as he talks about pummelling his body to subdue it. Some have taken it literally and made whips and hit themselves with it but St Paul warns in another place against treating the body too harshly. In Colossians 2:23 we see that there is the other side, “These indeed have an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigour of devotion, self effacement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking indulgence of the flesh”. There are certain things that can be done which seem to be hyper-spiritual in terms of cruelty to the body (extreme fasting and so on) but in many cases this is not according to God's will. There are places in the scriptures where there are extreme acts of self denial (40 day fasts for example) but when St Paul talks about pummelling his own body he is using an analogy from boxing, he is not actually talking about whipping himself. In fact the only suffering St Paul and his lot self inflicted was through fasting as far as we know. Although it is known they duly suffered scurging and worst in the hands of others and the saw this as redemptive.
We should not forget that in our age of comfort and anaesthetics that there is suffering in Christian life that is redemptive. But, Paul wants us to imitate the athletes by keeping our bodies under control. One thing about physical athletes is that they discipline their bodies but they don’t treat them so harshly as to destroy them. That would be pointless, counter-productive. Similarly Paul talks about the state of being too harsh to the body because if you make the body weak and ill, literally you may in fact be damaging the soul as well and be unable to do the works of God. We can summarise this be looking at the negative and the positive.
On the negative side.
When in temptation run from it, or when you can't then fight it. Deny the self through your flesh, through fasting and self discipline.
On the positive side. Run. Do good works. Fight. Pray. Focus on the Lord. Get fully involved with the church, in other words go to gym and really get involved. Contribute to the church, of yourself, of your resources and of your talents. If we do this we will win the prize.