Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Power of the Housegroup

Whenever we think of great events, we always picture great cathedrals in which kings are crowned, princes and princesses are married and the noble heroes are laid to their final rests in grand ceremonial. Treaties are signed in great places of meeting, tents of battle, fields and plains of note and worth. And souls are saved in the upper room of an inn in Jerusalem.

No, I know that's not a complete picture, but it was in that upper room that the whole mystery of the Incarnation was crystallised in the institution of the Eucharist. The Lord's ministry was spent mainly either out in the open with the large crowds or within houses. Look at the faith of the friends who dug through the roof of a house to lower in their bedridden friend. Such faith is rewarded by a miracle from the Lord. Quite what the owners of the house thought with a hole in their roof. Perhaps it didn't matter. Perhaps the miracle within their four walls was more than enough compensation for such a minor inconvenience.

For the Early Christians, the changing of lives and the redemption of souls happened in housegroups. Like-minded people thirsty for the Good News, longing to hear of the end of the influence of Sin, the World and the Devil, met in little houses huddled around the warmth of the promises of Christ while the winds of the Zeitgeist raged and bore away those who would rather reject the Eternal in favour of the Material.

It is not the Cathedral that is the Crucible for the Christian Faith. It is not the grand places where our Salvation is worked out, but in the everyday. We battle with everyday temptations, everyday sins and everyday demands on the choice between God and Not-God. Our dance with Eternity happens in our own homes, behind closed doors, in our real lives.

If we are truly sincere in our Christian Faith, then we will have a rule of life;we will say our prayers, and we will seek others with whom to share our faith. This is difficult in a world which prefers fragmentation than unity. Much ado is made about of "diversity of expression" among Christians and this has included diversity in doctrine to the extent that the integrity of the Christian Faith is not being preserved in the mainstream Churches.

As the Established Church is blown away by the Zeitgeist, we find ourselves in the same boat as the Early Christians. They survived in housegroups and catacombs, and perhaps now is the time that faithful Catholics must worship in the houses of other Catholics, or at least make more honest relationships and build social bridges on the small scale. A greater and deeper faith can develop in a meeting of Catholics praying together and discussing and searching for Christ in the living room than in the superficial faith of an all-singing all-dancing extravaganza that many Parishes have swapped for the established liturgy and doctrine of the Holy Church.

It is important, then, that those isolated by the movement away from orthodox Christianity find some commonality. If you're an orthodox Anglican then the Established Church is not exactly going to help you to find the fulfilment you crave. Because you're orthodox, you know that sitting back and letting your faith slide into oblivion is not an option, so what are you going to do?

Why not form a housegroup and just invite people in to study the Bible? Or why not arrange to meet up at another location ant pray Mattins or Evensong together. Once you've established yourself, why not look for a trustworthy priest to provide you with the Sacraments. There are folk out there who will help. Why not join an online forum and find like minded people in your area or find a Continuing Anglican Church with an outreach programme. Your faith is too big for Cathedrals and Palaces: it's almost big enough for an upper room, isn't it?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Epiphany 2013 - Finding that which was lost.

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the feast of the Epiphany and after an adult Baptism.

Where has it got to, this time? You had it a minute ago and you’d just put it down while you went to collect something else, and it’s gone! Where do you look?

Well, you try retracing your steps but that doesn’t work. You check various containers and jars and boxes that you’ve got round the house.  Finally, with great dread and trepidation, you realise that there’s only one thing for it. You have to look down the back of the sofa - such uncharted territory!

The back of the sofa is one of those places where things just go. Change, keys, and safety pins seem to be the most common items, though one might speculate that the lost tribes of Israel could be found there too!


 Looking for things is a common experience to us all and it generates within us a great sense of unease and distraction as we wrack our brains. We cannot get settled until it’s all been sorted out; our hearts will only become eased again when it has been found with imaginary trumpets and a sense of relief and elation.

But what if we don’t really know what we’re looking for?


Wise men from the East – probably Persian Astrologers – are searching for something that they don’t really know. They follow a star in the East to find a baby, the king of the Jews who is worthy of worship. They can only be looking for God Himself.

 Does that sound a little odd to you? Magi from a far distant land East of Israel travelling westward following a star in the East? Are they walking backwards? You can’t really find anything by walking backwards, can you? But then, you might retrace your steps to find something! Of course, the text means that it was while they were in the East that the Magi discovered the star.

Scholars believe that the star of Bethlehem was more of an astrological event than astronomical. After all, the relative positions of the stars and planets matter more to an astrologer than an astronomer. Rather, they have seen in their charts and almanacs an event in the stars that signifies the birth of this new king who must be worshipped.  The Heavens are telling the Glory of God, the wonder of His work displays the firmament.

This is what they are looking for, even if they don’t know what they might find. They have to journey across rough terrain and dangerous country with precious gifts, ever at risk from bandits and robbers. This is not a search down the back of the sofa; this search is based on a reality which is not yet fully formed in their understanding. Yet this has been placed in the hearts of these men by God Himself, and they know that they will be uneasy until they do find this child. After all, this child is not only the king of the Jews, He is worthy to be worshipped!

And yet, they find him in the manger in a little stable, not in a great palace.


The experience of the Magi is common to us all. Human beings have within themselves a desire to know, a capacity to seek and find out. This research leads us into the solving of many problems, a cure for HIV, a perfect house, an act in law that saves a case. Until that research is complete, we cannot rest or relax. We have to deal with a sense of unease in our hearts until that search has come to an end. We have to endure frustration because we don’t get all the answers we want at once.

All Christians go through this journey of seeking, not necessarily by going anywhere. St John the Baptist is looking for his Christ by doing what he believes his Christ wants him to do – to baptise people. St John puts himself in God's way. His search takes a major turn when He finally meets the Lord at His Baptism in the Jordan, but that’s for next week! It is important to realise that, although St John meets Jesus and recognises Him, His search is not complete even then for this is God revealed as Man. St John must wait for this Man to be revealed as God. For St John, this does not take place in his lifetime, but rather after his death.


Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near.
The Christian life is one long search for God. It is a journey to a place that we’ve only heard of based on the words of people now far away in the distance, people whom we only vaguely know. But we know them nonetheless, and their testimony is true. It is a journey to find God, One whom we seem to recognise in a deep memory , almost a dream but cannot pin down. Yet God is always with us! It’s a search that we can refuse to make, or can put down at any time, or try to drown the sounds of our unfulfilled restlessness with the trappings of superficial amusements.

To come to Baptism as an adult is a conscious decision to engage with one’s personal search for God. Baptism puts us in God's way where we might get closer to finding our heart’s desire in the Love of God and to be part of a community of others who have also entered on this search. Together we can draw each other’s attention to glimpses of the Divine in our world and share experiences of His presence. By becoming a member of the Church, we commit ourselves to finding the One Who Made us – a search that will eventually succeed with great joy.

Sometimes though, we find what we are looking for has been with us all along, tucked away somewhere safe. Might this be true for you?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Twelve drummers drumming, so how does one drum the Christian Faith into willing minds?

Peter.—1. I believe in God the Father Almighty;
John.—2. Maker of heaven and earth;
James.—3. And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
Andrew.—4. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary;
Philip.—5. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried;
Thomas.—6. He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead;
Bartholomew.—7. He ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
Matthew.—8. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead;
James, the son of Alpheus.—9. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church;
Simon Zelotes.—10. The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins;
Jude the brother of James.—11. The resurrection of the body;
Matthias.—12. Life everlasting. Amen.
Although it is doubtful that the Apostles pronounced the Apostles' Creed at all, the twelve points that the creed contains is based fully on the Apostolic Faith inherited from the Apostles after Pentecost. The Original Apostles did not have the word "Trinity" but they did understand the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in Whose three-fold name they were commanded to baptise. As good Jews, they would have understood God the Father creating the world. They were certainly present with Jesus in His Life, His Death and His Resurrection. They will have seen the Transfiguration, the miracles, the ascension and believe Him when He tells of His return as Christ the Triumphant King.

The formation of the Church is in their hands and they already have the pattern for its existence in their hands. They will not know the word "Catholic", but they do understand the centrality of what they have been taught and the need for people to find The Way through their testimony and teaching. They recognise the need to be One in Christ, both now and in the World To Come. The seeds of the Creed are within the Apostles' understanding and will be ratified by the great councils to come.

The Catholic Creeds speak of the Apostolic Faith in which we are told of the fruits of the Spirit which lead to the beatitudes borne from cultivating the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to the gifts of Creation and Life under the Law of God announced in the Gospels in which the Glorious Trinity expounds His twofold covenant ratified in the blood of Christ Crucified.

All this comes from the Birth of a Baby, True Love born among us. The Faith is simple, made complex by the frailty and failings of Mortal Man who have lost the language of heaven and learn it by the convolution and interaction of so many ideas. We cannot express the faith in its entirety. Its words cannot be entirely spoken save only in the language of living.  Eternity is beyond our comprehension because of the lack of Time. The Language of Eternity can only be spoken by lives lived completely according to the whole, not in the part. The Christ Child bridges temporality and Eternity and completes our language for us. Twelve days are over, the Epiphany begins.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Eleven pipers piping - eleven faithful apostles. The fidelity of the apostles is of great importance to the Church. It is upon the rock of the faith of the apostles that the whole Church stands. It is by the apostles that the Church has grown. It is through the blood of the apostles that people have seen the sincerity and determination with which simple men have been fired.

God has given the gift of Apostleship to the Church not only to form its backbone, but also to generate its growth. Apostles have been granted a method of generating apostles through Consecration and Ordination, and the Church continues its faith precisely because of the fidelity of the original 11 Apostles. Yet from their apostleship comes the apostleship of St Paul, the great missionary bishops such as St Barnabas, the great evangelists such as St Luke, the great Mystics such as St John the Divine.

The call to become an apostle or a successor of the apostles is not a job for the individual but rather a gift to the Church and it is only in the light of the Church that the call to apostleship can be recognised. To claim apostleship as a right is to miss the point. To see it as a Sacrament Machine is also to miss the point. Indeed, to equate it with any specific task is to miss the point because it neglects the ontological character of Ordination.

While not every Christian is called to be an Apostle, we all have ownership of apostleship through our Baptism into Christ. We find our apostleship by listening to Christ in Scripture, in the Church, through the Apostles. We link back to those who heard, saw, and touched the Incarnate God through the unbroken chain that the Incarnate God has given us in the Succession. We owe it to ourselves as God's Creation to follow Him in fidelity.

It is the work and teaching of the apostolic faith that we are told of the fruits of the Spirit which lead to the beatitudes borne from cultivating the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to the gifts of Creation and Life under the Law of God announced in the Gospels in which the Glorious Trinity expounds His twofold covenant ratified in the blood of Christ Crucified. Apostleship is our way of responding to His True Love.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Tenth day of Christmas

Ten lords a-leaping and ten Commandments. These are seen in such a negative light that the real joy and strength that they possess is obscured by the word "don't". Four of these commandments underpin our understanding of the legal system - murder, adultery, theft, perjury - and three of these are regarded as criminal offences. Adultery no longer counts as a criminal offence, but then neither do blasphemy, Sunday trading, failure to attend Mass, or being envious of another's propert. Does this mean our legal system is deficient?

The question of legality is actually irrelevant. The Ten Commandments are not a stick with which to beat people. They are a framework for identity, the skeleton on which we can build our understanding of "Love thy neighbour as thyself", the beginning of how we can understand relationships with other people. To understand what murder is means that we have to understand why it is a crime and that leads us to why the lives of others are not only as valuable as ours, but more valuable to us in their preservation. To understand what adultery really is means that we recognise that relationships have boundaries and sacrosancta that must not be violated. The ten commandments provide us with boundaries that keep us safe and aware of the Love of God.

We should meditate on the ten commandments which are, after all, the beginning of the Jewish Law since the Torah is full of commandments and edicts. These are misunderstood by so many folk these days and yet they represented the founding of God's own people in the Jews before Salvation was offered also to the Gentiles in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

God has given us the framework  in which we can bear the fruits of the Spirit which lead to the beatitudes borne from cultivating the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to the gifts of Creation and Life under the Law of God announced in the Gospels in which the Glorious Trinity expounds His twofold covenant ratified in the blood of Christ Crucified. Our True Love commands so that we may indeed know we are loved.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Ninth Day of Christmas

Nine ladies dancing - Nine fruits of the Holy Ghosts. We previously have touched on the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, but gifts are only the sowing of the seeds to germinate within our lives. These gifts bring about changes in our lives and lifestyle which bring us the fruit that God wants us to bear. These are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.

These fruit are not something which are just nice to bear. It is mandatory that a Christian bear them! Our Lord tells us about how to tell the difference between a true teacher from God and a false teacher = "by their fruits shall ye know them." These fruits need to be seen, to be visible to all people so that we might show that the Holy Ghost truly has a temple in us.

If the vicious atheism of Christopher Hitchens and his companions tells us anything, it is that we Christians have not been bearing this fruit well enough. Hitchens has a point. How can we persuade an unbelieving world of the existence of a loving God if we are not prepared to bear His fruit?

Of course, we are all frail and feeble. Yet it is our feebleness and frailty that allows the true light of God to shine through our failure to bear His fruit. We have to trust in Him to shine in us and keep focused on bearing His fruit for His worship despite our tendency to get the wrong end of the stick - badly! Fruit requires cultivation of the gifts we have been given. This is hard work, but necessary if we are to thaw heart made cold by cynicism based on Humanity's past.

Cultivation of the fruits of the Spirit lead to the beatitude from cultivating the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to the gifts of Creation and Life under the Law of God announced in the Gospels in which the Glorious Trinity expounds His twofold covenant ratified in the blood of Christ Crucified. True Love always bears fruit.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Eight maids a-milking - the image sends us back to simpler times when human beings worked with their hands to provide for families and communities. A romantic idyll, possibly, but simplicity and purity are rare commodities to find in our lives controlled by the second hand of the clock rather than the rolling of the celestial spheres. Yet how happy are those who live in that simple and honest lifestyle in which appearance correlates with actuality.

Eight is the number of the Beatitudes pronounced by the Lord as He preached on the mountain.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, those unencumbered by the clutter of things that force the attentions onto material goods, those who recognise that they own nothing of real worth and look humbly to the hand of God to feed them. These folk recognise that only God can provide and only God will rule. They possess the kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, those who express honest emotions of sadness at the injustice in the world, at the needless deaths, at the lives that pass unloved and unrecognised by a world to busy to deal with the apparently useless. Blessed are those who are simply unsatisfied with how Society cares for other, cares for the world. Blessed are those who allow their hearts to be broken by cruelty in any form. These folk will find comfort in God. God, not Society, will make all things new. All sadness will end; heavy hearts will be lightened; joy will come in The Morning.

Blessed are the Meek, those who do not rely on any authority of their own, who are humble and realise their limitations. Blessed are those who know if they are put in charge, then they are accountable for their decisions not only to those above, but also to those below. Blessed are those who know that they must explain their actions to the Highest power and act accordingly.These careful and gentle folk will be given the tender care and concomitant joys of their stewardship of the Earth, knowing that they are supported by a loving God.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who are simply not satisfied with the claims of governments and monarchs to know what's best, those who treat philosophical theories of ethics with caution and scepticism, those who seek what is truly right from the Absolute Truth that does exist, These folk will find precisely what they are looking for - the true righteousness that is inherent and characteristic of the Divine Being.

Blessed are the merciful, those who are not blinded by hatred of those who do them wrong, those who see the real interpretation of "an eye for an eye", those who let go of the injustices they suffer through forgiveness because they are aware of the transience of human action. Blessed are those who refuse to demonise any human being whatsoever, who accept human judgement knowing that a greater judge will try each and every human being. Their generosity of spirit will be returned to them. Their failings will be forgiven, and they will find true and complete absolution for their faults because they choose not to remember the faults of others.

Blessed are the pure in heart, those who have no ulterior motives for their actions, those who seek simplicity of action. Blessed are those whose lives are focused entirely on God, who do not weave complex schemes to get their own way. These folk will look into a mirror and, because their lives are purer than crystal, they will see God shining through them, and rejoice at the privilege.

Blessed are the peacemakers, those who hate hatred and fight against fighting. Blessed are those who seek to mend wounded communities, who look to heal divisions, to repair Society, to enfranchise the demonised and to accept the outcast. Blessed are those who see the good in both sides, who see the human beings in both sides, who see the children of God in both sides. These will be recognised as the Children of God, just as they recognise the image of God in all people.

Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness' sake, those who see that there are things more valuable than comfort, health, and even the preservation of life itself. Blessed are those who hold principles dearer to them than their own blood, and who will stand up for their belief in goodness, in kindness, generosity, love, peace and truth and in the God who is the source of all these properties, even though it will mean degradation, oppression, torture or death. They too recognise God as their king and He will choose them for His kingdom for their loyalty to Him. They will have all that which has been taken from them restored an hundred fold for Eternity.

These Eight Beatitudes demonstrates the nature of God as One Who Blesses. Such Blessings are evidence of the happiness of humanity in receiving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to the gifts of Creation and Life under the Law of God announced in the Gospels in which the Glorious Trinity expounds His twofold covenant ratified in the blood of Christ Crucified. These Beatitudes are the effects of the gifts of our True Love.