Sunday, May 19, 2013

I mitre known

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Whitsunday 2013.
You may have noticed
         that clergy have a habit
                  of wearing strange hats
- birettas, zucchetti, galeri, saturni,
trenchers, tiaras and mitres.
How many of these have you seen,
or even heard of?
Of these,
the mitre is perhaps the most iconic.

 You'll no doubt have seen
 some splendid examples of these,
especially those worn by recent popes.
As you know,
a mitre is a hat worn only
by a bishop or an abbot,
and so there must be something
about being an abbot or a bishop
which this hat especially signifies.
 What does it look like to you?
Does it remind you of anything?
In the West,
the shape of the mitre
gives the answer quite quickly.
It is meant to represent
the cloven tongues of fire
that descend upon the heads of the apostles
on the day of Pentecost.
This is the coming of the Holy Ghost,
the other Comforter
that Our Lord Jesus has promised us.
He tells the disciples,
"For John truly baptized with water;
but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost
 not many days hence."
God gives to us the gift of Himself again
and each of Jesus's disciples is baptized
in the Holy Ghost.
Of course,
we too have been baptised
in the same way
in water and in the spirit.
You will have noticed
when you were baptised with water,
but when were you baptised in the Holy Ghost?
In the Western Rite,
after we are baptized,
we are anointed with the oil of Chrism
and this is the outward sign of
the Baptism with the Holy Ghost.
Not all of us have been baptised
in the Western Rite
and have actually missed that anointing,
but it isn't a problem.
When we are confirmed,
the grace that we have received at baptism
is strengthened by the Holy Ghost
at the hands of the Bishop.
Certainly by our Confirmation,
we will have been baptized in the Spirit.
If we've all been baptised in the Holy Spirit,
shouldn't we all be wearing mitres?
We have all received
the same baptism as our bishops,
so why is the mitre only for bishops?
On the day of Pentecost,
the effect of that baptism
is quite profound.
The disciples are launched
immediately into action,
speaking in tongues
as the Spirit gives them utterance.
There is noise and kerfuffle
as they speak in different languages
the wonderful works of God
for a cosmopolitan society to hear.
This is something
that we certainly don't expect to see
when we get baptised or confirmed.
But this very activity
is responsible for three thousand people
becoming Christian in a single day!
St Peter's eloquent sermon
speaks to the hearts of thousands
and the result is that that
the Christian Church is born.
It is this that sets the pattern
for the building of the Church.
The Apostles,
those who are closest to Christ Jesus,
receive power of the Holy Ghost
to form the bedrock of the Church.
Into their hands falls
the oversight of the Church
and the building up of the body of Christ.
Indeed, the word Bishop means
"one who has oversight",
but this is only one aspect
of the needs of the Church
which must be met.
These Apostles were chosen by Jesus
specifically to receive
the baptism of the Holy Ghost
and this baptism completes
their ordination as well.
They have been trained for ministry
with the Lord Jesus before His Death;
 they receive the commission for this ministry
 before His Ascension
and they receive the wherewithal
to perform their ministry directly
 from the Holy Ghost.
For those of us
who have not been chosen
to be apostles
or successors to the apostles,
the baptism we have completed
at our Confirmation
enables us to follow our own vocations.
"God hath set some in the church,
first apostles,
secondarily prophets,
thirdly teachers,
after that miracles,
then gifts of healings,
diversities of tongues."
The mitre is only worn by bishops,
 just as the barrister wears his wig,
the queen her crown, mayors their chains,
blacksmiths their aprons,
and railway workers
their bright orange jackets.
In the Eastern Church,
however, the mitre takes on
a different appearance.
It looks more like a crown
decorated with icons  and with a cross on top.
What have crowns to do with the Holy Ghost?
The mitre-crown is a symbol of authority
and we know that Our Lord
gives his apostles authority.
It is an authority
which they do not possess by themselves,
but by God Himself
and, as we read in the Revelation
to St John,
each apostle has to give
that authority back
by casting their crowns
before the One Who sits
upon the Throne.
It is Christ's authority and Christ's crown.
The same is true for us
who are not called to be bishops.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power
to perform the vocation
with which God has created us.
It's not our power,
it is God's and He has every right
to withhold it as He sees fit.
St Paul specifically warns us
that we should grieve not
the Holy Spirit of God,
whereby we are sealed
unto the day of redemption.
To do so
means that we fail
to become who we are meant to be.
With God we become our real selves,
without Him we can do nothing
with any authority.
Only a few of us will wear mitres.
This is a heavy burden to bear
as "for unto whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required:
and to whom men have committed much,
of him they will ask the more. "
the burden of our baptism in the Holy Ghost
is no less serious.
How is that baptism affecting your life?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Christian Resources Exhibition: Dull Doulia or Loathsome Latria?

I published my latest post on the Anglican Catholic Blog that Fr. Chadwick has set up.

The exhibition has been a great success and I really wish I'd been there. Well done to Bishop Damien Mead and the clergy and laity who helped with this!

Bishop Damien's diary of events can be found here.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Religion versus the Spirit?

 Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis, Rochester on the fifth Sunday after Easter

You've been meeting your friend, Susie,
      for about six weeks now.

One day, while having tea,
       you invite her to come along to Church.

"Oh no," she says, "I am spiritual,
       but not religious."

How does that strike you?


Many people describe themselves
       these days
             as spiritual
                    but not religious.

What can they mean?

We know that to be spiritual,
      we believe that there is 
            more to life than what we see.

A spiritual person usually believes
      in the existence of the soul
            life beyond material goods,
                  money, tellies and the Daily Mail.

On the other hand,
      when we say that we're religious,
            we mean that we are bound
                   to a particular way of life,
                       a particular set of beliefs,
                       a particular community.

If we say that we're spiritual
        but not religious, 
              then we're saying that
                    we believe in the spirit
                            but we're not bound to follow
 a set of beliefs.

That sounds okay, doesn't it?

Perhaps we should all be like Susie?


The trouble is,
      if you are spiritual,
            then you already have a set of beliefs!

You believe in the spirit,
  and that belief shapes the way you live life.

You cannot actually be spiritual 
    and not religious!

So what does Susie really mean
when she says she's spiritual
but not religious?


Many people like Susie,
reject religion because 
it takes away the control they have
of their own lives.

They want to make the decisions in their lives,
not some set of rules 
that they really don't understand.

So, they make up the rules as suits them.

They decide what's really spiritual.

Indeed, many people 
believe in the spirit,
but live their lives as if that spirit didn't exist
so that they don't become 

They hear from Christianity,
the truth about the soul,
about Everlasting life
about redemption from all that is Evil,
and they believe it,
because it cheers them up!

But they won't live a Christian life.

St James tells us,
"for if any be a hearer of the word
and not a doer,
he is like unto a man
beholding his natural form in a glass.

For he beholdeth himself,
and goeth his way
and straightway forgetteth
what manner of man he was."

We cannot truly know even ourselves
if we do not practice what we preach.

We cannot know the spiritual
if we continue to live as if 
there was no spiritual life.

If we are truly looking for things
beyond what we see,
so that we might escape from 
the Evils of this real world,
then it is not enough to listen
and be cheered up
with the fact of life
beyond Death.

We have to commit to that hope,
we have to do what we believe
in order to be saved from Evil 
and Death.

We are saved by our Faith,
but not by faith alone.


We believe in God, Father, son and Holy Spirit.

If we truly believe that,
then we have to live it.

Belief is not about some nice ideas.

"Belief" literally means
"hold something dear"

Belief in God is not a theoretical nod
to the existence of a Creator.

It is a commitment
to communicating with Him in prayer
to obeying His commandments
to repenting of sin.

To believe in God as King of the Universe,
means we have to treat Him as the
King of the Universe!

You only have to read the prophecy of Jeremiah
to understand that, at times,
Judah thought of God
as just a nice idea.

"Judah hath not turned unto me
with her whole heart, but feignedly,"
says God to Jeremiah.

There is no commitment to treating
God as real in either
Judah or Israel.

Indeed, this is exactly 
how Our Lord Jesus finds Israel
paying lip-service
choosing what to believe
rather than really
believing in God.

You can see this in the Church today.

When we cease to believe 
that Our Lord Jesus Christ
is really and actually present at Mass
sacramentally in the Blessed Host
and in the Precious Blood,

it stands to reason
that our worship turns into whatever we want it to be
rather than God-centred.

People seem to think that
when "nasty religion" is away
the "nice spiritual people" will play.

This shows exactly the wrong idea
that people have about 
what religion really is.


St James reminds us,
"Pure religion, and undefiled 
before God and the Father 
is this:

To visit the fatherless and the widows
in their affliction
and to keep oneself
unspotted from the world."

The Christian Religion involves looking for
the well-being of others,
caring for those 
who have no-one else to care for them;
supporting those
who have lost support and help them
to find peace.

We should indeed apply this 
to those who have lost earthly parents
and earthly spouses.

However, it is also true for those
who have lost a Heavenly Parent
and a Heavenly Spouse.

All human beings need love.

Those outside the Church need it 
precisely because they are
outside the Church.

Think of Susie,
"spiritual but not religious" Susie
who has lost God,
and can't see where He is.

Should we force her into the Church?


This would deny her freedom to choose,
and push her further away!

Should we persuade her with
clever arguments?

It's possible, 
but she may feel pressured that 
we're trying to convert her
and push her further away again!

Should we persuade her 
by showing her where she has gone wrong in life?

Well, would you be persuaded 
with a catalogue of your errors?

The only thing that will persuade her
is if she freely sees in us
the God that she seeks
but does not yet know.

If she sees what she is really looking for
in your life
then she stands a chance
of making up her own mind freely.

God always presents Himself
but never forces Himself.

There is always a choice.

If we truly bind ourselves to Christ,
being both spiritual and religious
then we will shine with His light
and radiate His love.

Just how are you going
to help Susie
to see the light in you?