Saturday, May 27, 2023

A fruitful Whitsunday

Sermon for Whitsunday

Would it surprise you to know
that Pentecost is not a festival
exclusive to Christianity?

The fact of the matter
is that Pentecost is very much
a Jewish festival,
something that the disciples
have carried with them
throughout their lives.

Notice how they gather together
of one accord
to celebrate the feast of Pentecost.

So what is the Jewish feast of Pentecost,
and why is it now so very Christian?


Pentecost is Greek for fifty
and so fifty days after the Passover
would be the day of Pentecost
the Festival of Weeks as it is called.

Originally, Pentecost
was supposed to be a harvest festival
of the first fruits,
that is, the first produce
that comes in the year.

Pentecost is the feast
of giving thanks to God
for his generosity
and to offer those first fruits to Him
as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

This practice really continues
until the destruction of the temple
puts an end to all the sacrifices
and all the feasts.

Since then,
the feast of Pentecost
has been associated
with the memorial of
the giving of the Torah
to the Israelites by Moses
which occurs around
the same time of year.

This is surely very significant
because we have the association
of the first fruits of God's creation
with God giving us the first law
which we as Christians still need
to take to heart.

There is something very deep
about why our Lord chooses
to send the Holy Ghost at this time.

For the disciples,
the temple is not yet destroyed
though it will be.

So for them,
Pentecost is more about
the first fruits of God's creation.


And now we realise,
on this the birthday of the Church,
that the Church herself
is to be identified with
the first fruits of creation.

These first fruits
are always set apart for God.

In sending the Holy Ghost
on the day of Pentecost,
the Lord is clear in his intention
that the Church should be a holy body
set apart for the worship of God.

This is precisely what the Torah is for
to show people what being holy looks like
and how God intends us
to be set apart from Him.

This is why the first fruits
and the Old Testament
are inextricably linked.

Our Lord comes,
not to destroy the Law of the Torah
but to fulfil it!

All through His earthly ministry,
Our Lord has been talking about
the Kingdom of God
in terms of the sowing of seed
and the reaping of wheat.

The good wheat,
the ears that carry a hundredfold of grain,
are the ones that are dedicated to God
and are His fruit.

You see this so much
in the disciples,
in particular in how they behave
when the Holy Ghost descends upon them.

At this moment,
the fact that they are set apart by God
becomes apparent
and unquestionable.

We know that
they were set apart by God
from the moment of their calling
when they chose to follow Jesus
leaving behind their fishing nets
and their tax collecting.

Now it becomes apparent
these disciples are the first fruits
of the Church,
set apart for his service,
beginning the Church of Christ
which will last to these days
and beyond.

We are the chosen generation,
 we are the royal priesthood,
we are the holy nation.

This is what the day of Pentecost means.

It is not something new
but rather it is something renewed
so that the glory of God may be seen.

We, too, ought to be first fruits.

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself
is the first fruits of those who sleep,
the first to rise from the dead
in order that the dead themselves
might be raised to life,
separated out by the Holy Ghost.

This is why Easter Day
and Pentecost are linked by God Himself,
first by the resurrection
of Our Lord from the dead,
and then by His separating
the Church out of the world
as the first fruits of His ministry.

The dead are raised
and the faithful
are raised to glory
through the action
of the Holy Ghost Who dwells
in them in order that
they might be righteous
in the eyes of God.


For the Christian,
every day is the day of Pentecost
because we can commune
with the Holy Ghost
at any time and
our separation from this world,
our separation from sin,
our separation from death,
comes as a process
of justification,
of sanctification,
and of glorification.

In asking for the presence
of the Holy Ghost in our lives,
we are asking for Pentecost
and asking to be fruitful
in the service of God.

This is why the sacrament
of Confirmation is so important.

We are baptised with the Holy Ghost
at our Baptism with water
in the name of the Trinity.

But, if we truly wish
to sanctify our work
as Christians in the world,
then we approach the bishop
to lay his hands upon us
and confirm us with the Holy Ghost.

This is when we are fit for service
and can live lives actively dedicated
to the service of God.


At our Baptism,
we receive the seeds
of our justification
which grow throughout our lives
so that with our Confirmation,
we can bear the first fruits of labour
for the love of God.

At our Confirmation,
we receive grace
whereby we are strengthened
for service.

And then we, too,
must sleep in death
only to be raised with Christ
and become the first fruits
of those who sleep in Him,
awake to the Eternal sunshine
od His Divine Glory.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Excommunicated by the Holy Ghost?

Sermon for the Sunday after Ascension

Just how bad is it
to be thrown out of synagogue?

You might wonder
whether it is the same
as being thrown
out of Church today.

We can certainly think
about the pains of losing
the church community,
but is this the same pain
that the first century Jew would feel
at being thrown out of the synagogue?


To be thrown out of a synagogue
means to be thrown out
not just of the synagogue community
but the whole community
around you.

It's like being thrown out of a village.

All you would be met with
would be abuse,
angry stares,
turned backs,
and maybe even a stone thrown at you.

To be thrown out of a synagogue
is a big deal.


Some of us
have had the experience
of being thrown out of Church
– not physically,
we have not been picked up
and thrown out.

But we have been made
very aware that
we are not welcome.

For many of us,
this is because
we have tried hard
to stay faithful
to the Church’s traditional teaching.

We have been thrown out
by being made unwelcome,
pushed aside,

And this is all because
we do not allow modern ideas
to enter into church teaching.

If a teaching isn't available
to those who come before us,
then it can't have been part of the Faith
from the beginning.

Church doctrine
only works if it is for
the whole Church,
past present and future,
not just for now.

This still isn't
quite the same
as being thrown out
of a synagogue
because that would
mean that even your family
would have to reject you.

Our Lord is very clear,
we are to uphold the faith
 that He teaches us
over and above the teaching
that we receive from our community.

Current social norms,
customs and ideas
are not to be part of church teaching,
at least not substantially.

Our Lord says that we can expect
to be thrown out of the synagogue
when the Holy Spirit comes.

Does this mean that
He is responsible
for our trials and tribulations?



We suffer because
people don't want to see
what we have.

What they see is a faith
that stays true to its Founder,
one Whom they need to reinterpret
to make His teaching fit their ideals.

This means that this faith
cannot be changed to fit the society
in which we live.

We cannot change what is meant for everybody.

It is not those who are faithful
who caused the division in society,
but those who insist on implementing I change.


Of course,
that is not to say
that all change is bad.

Quite the reverse.

Science and technological advances
have indeed made life easier for millions.
There is progress in making people less needy.

The question really is what is the cost?


Change is good
if it seeks to bring the love of God
to all people and
follows the rules set before it.

It will not be able
to change the substance of what has gone before,
such as changing the meaning of
what it is to love,
but it will be able to change
how that how is that true love
is seen and experienced.

We can have electric light in church.
We can have air conditioning.
Our robes investments can be made of polyester.
Of course not everybody is comfortable with that,
but that is at least a matter of taste.

It does mean that
we cannot baptise with lemonade.

It does mean that
we cannot celebrate the Mass
with a cracker and grape juice.


We can expect trials
when we receive the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost is not subject to Time
and He can move back and forth at will
between the Creation of the world and its end.

He is constant  
just as our Lord Jesus
is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Therefore he bids us
to be steadfast
standing against a world
that does not want God
to be in control,
but rather wants the individual
to replace God on His throne
and take control of their own lives.

This is a diabolical deception!

We are always free to do what we want,
but we should be looking
to what the Holy Ghost wants in us
for He dwells in us
to make us righteous
to wash us,
justify us,
sanctify us
and fit us for Heaven.

That is His desire for us
and we are free to reject him.

We are free
to take control from Him
and lead our lives the way
that we think we want
but rather in slavery
to fashion and the whim of the world.


The Church does not throw people out.

At least, it shouldn't.

Rather, if a Church
is truly holding fast to the faith of Christ,
then we can be sure
that we have a place within it.

But we hold that place
by conforming to Christ.

We fall,
and make mistakes,
and we get angry,
and we storm off,
but there is always the way back,
there is always forgiveness,
there is always love.

If there isn’t,
then it isn’t the Church that we have left.

We can always return to Christ
and in returning to Christ
we return to his Church.

We always have a home with Christ,
the Holy Ghost,
when He comes will show us.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Forgotten identities and lost souls

Sermon for Rogation Sunday

Have you really studied 
your face
in a mirror?

For some of us
that's easy to do.

For others of us
it is the hardest thing 
in the world.

Some people cannot 
pass a mirror by without
looking into it.

Others cannot even bear
to catch a glimpse of their reflection.

Why is that?


The relationship
that we have with mirrors
depends very much
on how we see ourselves.

For most of us,
we comb our hair,
check our teeth
check out any small blemish
and then go our way
without giving our reflection
a moment's thought.

For some of us,
our reflection is an opportunity
to admire the work 
that we've put into looking good,
or even how little work
we've needed to put in
to look 
drop-dead gorgeous.

Then we leave the mirror,
confident that people
will fall in love with us
because of how great we are.

For some of us,
the eyes of our reflection
stand in judgement over us,
pointing out the failure,
the decrepitude and 
the ugliness that we perceive
in ourselves.

So we don't look properly,
and our reflection
remains only 
a distorted image in our minds.

For some of us,
our reflection is something
that we obsess over,
try to fix, try to perfect,
gazing and inspecting that face
not tearing ourselves away
because we know that,
if we do,
we will forget that image
through the distortions
of our memories.

But that's exactly it.

Each one of us 
leaves the mirror
and is left only with
some rapidly distorting image
of our own face.

While we look in the mirror,
we have a chance at
seeing the truth,
but even then,
our pre-conceived ideas
of who we are
may even distort the evidence
of our own eyes.

If we want to see the truth
then we must pursue the truth.

If we want to see ourselves
then we must seek Jesus.

The only way 
to know who we are
is to return to the One Who made us
for we bear His image.


We are created 
to reflect God,
whether we like
looking at ourselves
in the mirror
or whether
we despise 
looking at ourselves.

as St James points out,
in order to truly reflect
the face of the Word of God,
we have to live, love and behave
like the Word of God.

We are not just to be
heaters of the Word
but doers of the Word.

What we do
does affect who we are.

To neglect to do 
the word of God
is to forget the image
of Him that we bear.

What we do 
affects who we are
and who we are to become
in Christ.

What we do affects our salvation
because what we do
affects the person
whom God is saving.


It stands to reason
that we become who 
we are meant to be 
by forgetting how we see ourselves
and focus on seeing Christ
in the mirror and being 
true to Him.

It means letting go
of always having 
to look fabulous.

It means letting go
of hating our reflection
and daring to do
the unthinkable
and realising
that the reflection in the mirror
belongs to the Creator
and reflects Him.

If we want to remember
what we look like
then we must work
at seeing Who we look like.

Only then will we 
truly show Christ to the world
in ourselves.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Time Travel Trinity

Sermon for the fourth Sunday after Easter

Surely the Holy Ghost
has been present in creation
since the beginning time?

Wasn't He there,
moving on the face of the waters,
 right at the beginning
when God said, “let there be light”?

Why does Our Lord Jesus Christ
start talking about when
the Holy Spirit will come
if He’s already here?


If you think about it,
we actually have
the same problem with
Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Was he not
in the beginning with God?

Of course he was –
Saint John testifies to that.

“In the beginning was the Word...”

If Our Lord was in the beginning
how can He have been born
two thousand years ago?


The problem is our
understanding of time.

If Doctor Who
can travel back in time
before he was born,
then this should be a piece of cake for God,
and God is not fiction!

God the Holy Trinity,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
are in Eternity.

Somehow they all stand outside of Time. T

his is how it is possible
for Our Lord to have been born
two thousand years ago
and still be present
at the moment of Creation.

 Time has no restriction for Him.

Christ injects himself into Creation
two thousand years ago
so that we can see Him,
handle Him,
walk with Him,
hear Him speak.

Because we are all time-bound
we do not have this freedom
to move backwards and forwards in time
or see into Eternity.

This means we need revelation.

God has to reveal himself over time
in order for us to understand
Who He is
and so it is necessary
that the Holy Ghost
is revealed to us in time.


What we see here
is that the Holy Ghost
proceeds from the Father
as the source of all things
and enters into Time
through the Son.

This is how we understand
the relationship between
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost proceeds
only once from the Father
through the Son.


Why should this matter to us?

Why does the Holy Ghost need to be revealed?



When we want to make
a relationship with people,
we need an introduction
so that we can find a way
to begin the conversation.

This is a typical English problem:
we don't like speaking to people
when we haven't been introduced to them.

Our Lord, therefore,
like the good Englishman
that He is,
makes sure
that we are introduced
to the Holy Ghost.

It means that the Holy Ghost
is not some kind of magic force
that you might find in Star Wars.

This means that the Holy Ghost is a person.

We are introduced to Him
and He engages in a relationship with us.


Admittedly, this relationship
seems to be full of reproof.

The Holy Ghost convicts us of sin,
He shows us where
we are wanting in righteousness,
and He reminds us that judgement awaits.

This seems very uncomfortable:
do we really want to know the Holy Ghost?


Of course we do!

To know the Holy Ghost
is to know the Father.

To know the Holy Ghost
is to know our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is good for us that our sin,
our lack of righteousness,
and our need for judgement
are revealed to us.

This is nothing less than
an expert doctor
giving a diagnosis of a severe ailment
that we possess.

The words of the Holy Ghost
are there to bring us life
in all its fullest.

This is the Breath of God
that breathes into us a new spirit.

It is the Holy Ghost
Who works with us
and within us
in the process of our justification
that begins at Baptism
and continues through to the day
in which we are taken to God in judgement.

It is the Holy Ghost who sanctifies
on a path by which we are set aside for God, p
laced upon the narrow way
to the strait gate.


The day of Pentecost
will soon be here
for Christ's disciples
and now they listen to the promises
of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

These are promises they can trust
because Our Lord
has already kept His greatest promise,
the promise of Resurrection.

And as they engage
with this risen Lord in a reality
that is so strange
and yet so ordinary,
their eyes and ears are full of wonder.

Their hearts are being prepared
to receive the Holy Ghost,
prepared for that great introduction
to the One Who will change
their lives yet again for the better
by equipping them for service.

We, too, can listen to
the words of Our Lord
and hear His promises.

Yes, there is judgement ahead,
but it is a righting of wrongs,
a filling in of the cracks
and putting aright whatever is amiss.

We have this now in ourselves
because the Holy Ghost is in us now
and He makes himself known
in the utter joy we feel
when we hear the promises of Christ for us
and know that they are true.

We too are being prepared
for service –
a particular service by which
we respond in love to God –
and that is something
that is always been revealed to us,
no matter who we are.