Sunday, February 21, 2021

Apostles for all

Propers for the first Sunday in Lent

Sermon for the first Sunday in Lent

The bishops are the successors of Our Lord's first Apostles, those eleven men who sit at His table, who hear Him in the synagogues and then go out giving up everything, even their very lives, for the truth of His Resurrection. Those eleven become twelve with the addition of St Matthias, and then fourteen with St Paul and St Barnabas and so on...

The earliest Christians chart these Apostles and their successors and they show that, for the good of the Church, these Apostles are to be succeeded in our bishops so that the whole Church throughout Time may receive the grace of God that the Disciples receive.

But what of us who aren't bishops. Do we just sit there like sheep and let the bishops do all the work?

[PAUSE]

There is a tendency among certain sorts of Christian to be lazy. These say, "I'm okay. I'm saved. There's nothing for me to do except sit in the congregation and bask in God's love." These will sit and criticise their bishops or priests and question their message and not do anything other than do what they want to do in smug self-satisfaction.

These are the Christians that St Paul encounters at Corinth.

[PAUSE]

Having written his beautiful first letter to the Church in Corinth, St Paul receives a reply in which his credentials as an apostle are called into question. They think that his message to them doesn't suit them.

We see St Paul demonstrate that he is better qualified for apostleship than any of their false apostles but that he glories only in the Cross of Christ. What we see now is that he turns the tables on these false apostles. If they truly glory in the Cross of Christ, then they will pick up their cross with enthusiasm.

[PAUSE]

For St Paul, apostleship is a perpetual Lent. It means giving up what is good for Christ. It means receiving unjust punishment for Christ. It means being willing to put your head above the parapet to proclaim the Gospel and risk a cannon ball to the face. 

And this is not restricted to the bishops. As Catholics we are to participate in the ministry of our bishops. We aren't to sit there and let them do all the work. We aren't to sit glued to Facebook and watch them get abused for the Gospel they preach. We aren't to see them as figures to snipe at. We are to share their work. The bishops are bidden to give God's grace to you in order for you to do something with it. The sacrament of Confirmation is open to all Christians and in it we receive the grace to work actively as Christians in the world. If we don't then we receive God's grace in vain. We bury our talent and will have to receive the consequences when the Master comes to collect His talents once more with interest.

[PAUSE]

Our Lent should be looking to give up ourselves for the good of the Church. We should look at ways in which God through His bishops sends us out to work for good for those who need to hear and receive the good news and God's hope in their pain, sorrow, fear and doubt. We should listen carefully to God this Lent and hear how He sends us.

And then, when He sends us, we pick up our cross and walk with it into the world for the love of all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Identifying Love

Propers for Quinquagesima

Sermon for Quinquagesima

St Paul talks of love and we know that it's this unconditional love that we can have for each other. We also know that God is love and that He commands us to love Him and to love our neighbour.

How can love be a commandment? Can God be such an insecure tyrant as to demand that we love Him?

[PAUSE]

Ah! He commands that we love Him. He does not demand that we love Him.

Just as He commands the universe to be, just as He commands fire to be hot, just as He commands gravity to hold planets and galaxies together and electricity to power motors and just as He commands human beings to be a fusion of body, mind and spirit, so does He command us to love because He wants us to share His life with us.

If God is love then love needs to be shared and God has created us to share it. Love unites us to God. There is nothing that can separate from God's love for us except our own non-existence. His love for us is unconditional. If we are to know what love is then we must begin with God. This is why this commandment is first. In order to love our neighbour, we must first love God.

Can human beings love anything unconditionally?

[PAUSE]

What stops us from loving unconditionally is sin. A conditional love is not the love from God because God's love is unconditional. Thus any restriction on love must be the consequence of sin somewhere down the line, either directly our fault or the consequence of others' sins. The fact that we need marriage vows in the first place arises precisely because they can be broken.

There is a further trouble. We might not put conditions on our love for someone else but we can and do put conditions on what it means for someone to love us. Sometimes we claim that we cannot be loved unless we are loved for who we are.
Sometimes we claim that unless we are not accepted as we are, we cannot be loved.

[PAUSE]

The trouble is that, actually, we don't get to say who we are: God does. God gives us being but we shape our being with what we do. If we sin then we distort ourselves and must return to our Creator. If we make sin part of ourselves and demand that people accept that sin, then we deprive ourselves of God because we are separating ourselves from Him.

[PAUSE]

We hear people say, "God loves me for who I am!" This is true. But when we say that, what we often mean is, "God loves me for who I say I am!' and that is not true. God does not love us for who we say we are. He loves us for who we are. 

If we want to be loved for who we say we are then God will give us what we want. It will be so much less than what He offers. It will be less than unity with Him. It will be separation - eternally so. It will be Hell. 

God's love can only be fulfilled by returning to Him and allowing ourselves to be loved for who we really are. This means a sacrifice of things which stand in the way. This means a rejection of things which tell us that we are something less than who we really are. This means a fast from good things in order to find better things. This means a fast from seeking the fulfillment of the lusts of the flesh in order to find reunion with God through the humanity of Christ Jesus Our Lord.

[PAUSE]

Our actions do shape ourselves which is why we are justified by faith and works together. Our Lenten fast must be an action that turns us to the Light of Christ so that we can strip away the conditions that we put on loving and being loved. The result will be a fulfillment of God's commandments to love and an Eternity of knowing exactly how God loves us. 



Sunday, February 07, 2021

Why should the Anglican Catholic Church grow?


 A reflection on what we are trying to achieve when we say we want the church to grow.

How to win followers and influence people.

Propers for Sexagesima

Sermon for Sexagesima

You may have noticed that the world of Social Media has brought forth a new type of person - the Influencer. These are people who gather such a following that businesses pay them to advertise their products and thus influence their followers. These are the superstars of Instagram: social media royalty. Their voices are heard across the internet.

Whose is the most influential voice you hear? What makes them influence you so?

[PAUSE]

St Paul finds himself faced with the Church at Corinth who doesn't really take him seriously. The Corinthian Influencers don't think highly of St Paul and looking down upon his teaching. They have a different message for Corinth based on their success and status and St Paul is rather low in their estimation.

The question that St Paul is asks the Corinthians is what is it about these influencers that makes what they say of better value than what he says. Is it their education? Well, Paul is well-educated. Is it their Jewish heritage? Well, St Paul's is impeccable. Is it the exciting life they lead? Well, St Paul's life has been a roller coaster since the road to Damascus. In fact, anything that makes the Corinthian Influencers worthy of their influence, St Paul has in spades. 

But it's all worthless.

St Paul says that his position as an Influencer is utterly irrelevant. The Corinthians are not listening to the right people because the people who influence them most do not preach the Cross of Christ.

The Influencers speak from their status, their learning, their heritage, their life experience. The Cross of Christ speaks of embarrassment, humiliation, pain and death. Anything that has given these Influencers is shown to be worthless when nailed to the Cross.

What St Paul glories in is the Truth and nothing less. Away with all earthly authority authority! Away with power, status, charm and good looks! Away with degrees, education and learning. It is the Cross of Christ that is to be preached of its own weight, not because someone tells you to.

[PAUSE]

Our Lord wants us to follow Him from our own choice and conviction, not because people tell us to follow Him. We weigh the words of St Paul and we find that they are supremelyvaluable based on what he says not on who he is. The Bishops of the Church have the ministry of teachers but they are duty bound to teach only the truth of the Gospel. Even if we dislike our priest or our bishop intensely, we must put that dislike aside and weigh what they say.

[PAUSE]

In recent years, we have had bishops telling us that the Resurrection is just a story. One very senior woman has recently accused St Paul of being wrong to cast out a demon. If we listen to what these people say, we can hear that they have corrupted the teaching of the Church. They have become Corinthian Influencers seeking to preach a popular, fashionable Gospel which lacks any substance. Their gospel is a gospel of earthly justice. It is not the Justice of God.

[PAUSE]

God has given us a brain to use to weigh up what we hear and see, so that we might find Him. The existence of the Church and her teaching is His gift to us for all time so that we are not blown about by the winds of doctrine puffed out by Corinthian Influencers. 

[PAUSE]

The words of St Paul point solely to the Word of God by Whom we shall be judged. Let the Word speak for Himself in His Gospel, in His Church and in your lives.



Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Combing out hard labour.

Propers for Septuagesima

Sermon for Septuagesima

We are now in an age in which we have major labour-saving devices: washing machines, microwaves, even self-cleaning glass in our windows. If our devices really do save labour, why are we still working so hard?

[PAUSE]

It doesn't really matter whether we are slugabeds or earlybirds, the work that faces each of us is hard and often we feel disheartened at facing our labours. Like the Red Queen on her run with Alice through the looking glass, we seem to put an enormous amount of energy into just staying still. If we don't, things just fall apart. Why?

[PAUSE]

When Humanity is cast out of the Garden of Eden, God tells us, "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

Notice God doesn't curse the ground. He tell us that it is cursed by us. Our hard work is as much a consequence of our disobedience as smashed china is a consequence of letting go of Grandma's favourite milk jug. God's creation is ordered and Humanity's free decision is to disorder it based on the Devil's lie. God tolerates this because He loves us enough to let us be free to choose.

It means that all of our lives follow paths like tangled hair. They knot and intertwine until our paths become hard and complicated. The more we look to do our own will apart from God, the more we knot and tangle not only our lives but the lives of everyone else! No wonder it hurts when we try to straighten things out. No wonder the prospect of God running a comb through our lives is frightening.

[PAUSE]

"It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness : for so he giveth his beloved sleep."

In our hard work, we often lose sight of ourselves and our relationship with God. We work in vain, our lives tangling and snagging on the result of our brothers and sisters trying to live their lives. We cannot escape hard labour.

But we can look beyond it.

God gives His beloved sleep.

[PAUSE]

We live our lives for God. While that doesn't excuse us from Life's hardship, it does allow us to see ourselves as part of God's Creation and in the light of His promise of rest with Him. God labours six days to create and rests when His labour is complete. We, too, have the promise of His rest from our labours.

[PAUSE]

Labouring for God is hard work indeed, whatever time we pick up our shovel. But it's end is God Himself waiting like the prize at the end of the race. We will weep, we will struggle, we will hurt and be in agony, but all things - absolutely all things - work for good for those who love God.

We just keep calm, carry on and keep praying. It's all we can do, but God will do the rest.