Thursday, December 28, 2006

One year on...

Well, as of 29th December 2006, this little bloglet is a year old. Thanks to the folk who do click in regularly, I hope you've found this first year interesting and thank you for the comments.

I've learned a lot this year about myself and about the state of the Church.

This is how I began:

Where do I start? I am a Catholic, not a Roman one, mind you, though I'd dearly
love to be in Communion with His Holiness for whom I have a profound respect.
No, I'm an Anglo-Catholic in the Church of England, though if the decision goes
through to "ordain" women as bishops then I'm dropping the Anglo bit. I remain
in the Church of England since I was born into it, and I don't really wish to
leave it.I'm a schoolteacher, but I confess that I don't like it very much for
various reasons both political and personal. I am exploring a vocation into
Benedictine Orders. So becoming an OSB may fulfil my love of academic study and
my Catholic affectations. The trouble is that Anglican Religious orders seem to
be on the wane. This would be a disaster if this actually happens.I have a lot
of friends in the Continuum, i.e. those Anglo-Catholics standing outside the
Anglican communion. My dearest wish is that somehow all those various Catholic
denominations should strive for a unity which will fight the growing menaces of
Liberalism, Relativism and Individualism that are infecting the Church as well
as society. Such a wish can only come through prayer, but we need the prayer
centres too. Pass me my hassock, please.

Well, I don't call myself an Anglo-Catholic these days except only as a rough guide to where my churchmanship lies since few people have heard of the Anglo-Papalists. Indeed, if I'm asked, I always say that I am Catholic. If anyone is astute to notice my Church of England Readers' badge then I have some explaining to do. I've certainly learned more about my Papistical leanings and the fact that Anglicanism does need the Church of Rome for guidance in its doctrine. This position has been ratified for me by the rati-zinger himself , His Holiness Pope Benedict, who demonstrates the importance for the Church to be faithful to its Tradition.

Following the C of E's declaration that women in the Episcopate is consonant with Anglican Understanding, I am at present waiting to see what the "brief from Hell" is going to propose before I make my decision whether I need to swim or not. I am constantly reviewing this situation which is far from ideal. I certainly do not consider myself to be an Anglican if Anglicanism is consonant with women "bishops".

As for my Benedictinism, well, that's on hold for a little while as I get used to my new job. I continue to develop my relations with Elmore Abbey in the hope that some more formal affiliation may result. I have found St Benedict very useful for balancing my life out.

So one year on sees some growth and some change but still the same problems and irritations. We are stuck with the -isms, including the Neo-Arianism that Dan Brown seems to be selling as well as Gnosticism. These can only be fought by working on our beliefs as set down in Scripture and communicated through the Church. History does not fight the Church, it is modern historians who are trying to make it look as if the Catholic Church is responsible for cover-ups and conspiracies. I cannot see what it would gain from doing so.

This year I do need to do more study, my Latin is horrible, my Greek worse and my Hebrew appalling. As I settle in my new job then hopefully I shall find the time to work on some things that I've laid aside for a while such as the proper ministry of Women and the "Natural Sacraments" that I proposed last year. No - I hadn't forgotten. Perhaps you wish I had!

Well here's to another twelve months.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Feast of the Nativity

Well, it's here, Christmas Day! While arranging the lettering for the Parish Alternative Christmas Card, I did find that the phrase "Happy Christmas" had a rude but rather pertinent anagram about the sham which the Modern "Christmas" appears to be. Of course it's only a sham if we haven't used Advent to prepare for the Baby to be born anew in our hearts.

But why is this just a Christmas thing? I wonder how many parishioners actually prepare themselves for Mass which itself points to a strange amalgamation of events of the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of the Lord as well as continues to bring him afresh into our bodies as well as our lives. We seem all too ready to say that Easter is more important than Christmas because of what happened on Good Friday, and then we seem ready to argue as to whether Good Friday is more important than Easter Sunday. It's an act of hammering the Eternal into the Temporal.

We divide up the year into seasons because we are Temporal, we don't have a choice, but we have to remember that each season cannot be separated from any other.

Christmas shows us the Divine Miracle, the Great Sacrament, and is inextricably linked with Easter Day. Even from His Birth the world around the Christ-Child points to His Sacrifice as the deaths of the poor little Holy Innocents show. Even now we must live with their deaths, and we must live with His Death too, but we live with His Resurrection, and by this the Holy Innocents themselves find life anew.

So rather than focus on one event of the life of Christ at a time, let us allow the Holy Ghost to lead us through the life of Christ wherever He wills, and show us each as individuals and collectively as a Church how that life of Christ is to be lived in us.

I hope you have a happy, loving and fulfilling Christmas, and I pray that you will find 2007 a joyful and prosperous year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Change and decay in all around I see.

A conclusion that I drew from my last post was that the way that the Truth reveals Itself overrides all ways of thinking about the Truth. The Truth is not a slave to the fashion unlike the the ways of the Athenians whom the Acts of the Apostles tell us "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." (Acts xvii.21)

I believe that we are today very much like the Athenians, always looking out for where the zeitgeist blows us, and alter our theologies in order to take into account the "newness" of the the ideas. And then comes Qoheleth, who says: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

As was written before, we are new every day, yet this belies our transience. We are the ones that change and alter, who grow and decay. This is not a characteristic of the Truth which is eternal. His Revelation to us does not change or alter because, despite our newness, the human race does not change in its need for God. Our technology and understandings of how things work may appear to be new. Indeed, at no other time in the existence of the human race has transglobal communication been as instantaneous as the present age.

However, Humanity itself does not change, and largely, neither does Humanity's understanding of Humanity. Our understanding of society is as rudimentary as it was in Abrahamic times. Our psychologies contradict each other and seem to explain very little. Our Anthropologies turn up evidence for one method of social behaviour and then another study performed a few years contradicts the first. Our understanding of what is good for us changes with the opinions of the scientists who happen to be in charge of the research at the time.

Science (Scientia Omnisciens the goddess of human reason) itself seeks answers, but can only come to replace God with other unprovable statements such as the existence of parallel universes which can never be observed or measured because, by definition, they are parallel to ours and never meet. When they do, they interact in something like the Big Bang so any information about this universe is lost in a melee of chaotic ripples.

All this leads to a question: How does the Revelation of the Truth apply to the current age? Well since the Truth is Eternal, "current age" makes sense only to those of us in the present. It is possible that you may be reading this long after I am gone, so the age will cease to be current for me, but it will be current for you.

It is the Church Militant that carries the Revelation to the inhabitants of the current age, and it is thus her duty to adhere to the Revelation and to engage it in conversation with those of the present. Thus the Church Militant has the difficult job of communicating the Eternal with the Temporal. The language it must use must be that of the Eternal Truth yet in a way that is communicable to the Temporal. To try and communicate Eternity to the Temporal is impossible but the aim of the Church Militant is to set the Temporal on the route to the Eternal. The language used will be strange and unclear except with much prayer, thought and meditation.

For example, the use of Latin to the modern Catholic, or the language of King James to the young churchgoer are both incomprehensible at first, yet with the encouragement and loving supoort of the church around, the language is learned. The subtle nuances within the Scripture and within the Liturgy add to the earnest soul's discovery of God which must be undertaken with the Church because only the Church has the key to hold together the Temporal with the Eternal.

To aid this process, Scriptures are translated into the modern vernacular, Liturgies embrace new forms. However, unless they do not point directly and clearly to Eternity, if they try to explain everything in simple language, if they attempt to remove the Mystery which results from the discrepancy between Temporality and Eternity, then they are useless, and worse than useless because they point away from the Truth.

Likewise, the Teaching of the Church comes from Eternity and does not change: it is immutable.
New Doctrines do grow as Humanity's discovery of God grows. Abraham realises that God exists and is worth obeying. Moses realises that God is powerful and faithful. Elijah realises that God is not just some mountain deity. The Apostles realise that God is personable and loving. New Doctrine grows as Humanity seeks God in His Eternity and only then does Humanity grow. If God makes it clear that there is a practice that is not right, then He doesn't change His ruling be it in the 20th century BC or the 20th Century AD. Thus the Teaching of the Church does not change: she is still engaged in her Mission of guiding the Temporal to the Eternal.

So rejoice that however temporal you are, you have a place in the Church Militant. If you are faithful then know that you will then have a place in the Church Triumphant when the Temporality of the Church will cease to be all that we human beings participate in, but participate in the Eternal Worship of God.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Science and Religion IV: What is Truth?

As a mathematician, the central and underlying concept at the basis of mathematical thought is the concept of truth. We build mechanisms to discern whether a given statement possesses the quality called truth. It's interesting that in a subject like mathematics where the concepts and constructions do not actually possess a concrete reality, there is nonetheless acceptable statement and method of proof. Even though Goedel says that there will be statements in any axiomatic system of logic which cannot be given the labels "true" or "not true", one can, in mathematics, easily disprove the existence of a quantity, something which many folks find hard to understand.

Now, I have never studied philosophy - at least not properly. My grasp of the tenets of philosophical veracity are undeveloped to say the least. I have never read Plato, or Socrates and have managed only a smidgin of Aristotle - I have never had the time - so I will disappoint anyone who has any more of a grounding in the noble subject. However, my brain does function on what I believe to be reasonably sound rational principles: I'm citing the success in my mathematical studies as evidence to support this.

The issue I've been contemplating is this. We can be dreadfully solipsist and disbelieve the existence of everything other than our own being or we can agree with another person on what is true. There thus exists a whole series of "truths" in the World each where two or more people have concurred, yet these are nothing more than subjective truths. The Big Bang is a truth, the Hebdominal Creation is another, and yet they contradict. Or do they not?

Well this is the crunch: surely the only way that we can be certain of the truth is for us to know everything, and I do mean everything - knowing what Reality really is, knowing both beyond the Planck length and above the scale of the the Great Attractor or the Cosmic String if such objects exist. Then we can say truly "the Sun will come up tomorrow".

So if we are not omniscient, then all truth is relative and subjective, there is no objective truth... unless there is a God.

Note of course that this is not a proof for the existence of God. God cannot be proved like a theorem from the reason of men. His existence as pure being means that He is the Truth as He always claimed, because only His existence is independent of that which He has created.

This surely means that His Truth exists beyond the philosophies of human beings. If God exists (and I believe He does) then Truth is an absolute, transcending all the fashionable thinking of any age. He doesn't change, and neither does the revelation that He shows us. Truth must be revealed or its existence as Truth is meaningless, and while God has the right not to reveal Himself, He does not wish human beings to live meaningless lives. Thus we have an utterly intransigent and hence reliable Revelation of an unchanging and Eternal God given to the Church. Now, we can look at that Revelation through various viewpoints, but the Truth remains the same, because the Truth is independent of viewpoint, otherwise there is something inherently wrong with the method of discerning the Truth.

So we are stuck with the same Scriptures, the same Liturgies, the same Collects, year in year out because they are our discoveries of communicating with the Truth, and we can ask where is the newness, the freshness, the change. And Truth tells us, "well, that is you."

Shameless publicising!

...Well actually, not!

You see The Continuum is up for an Anglican Blog award, and quite frankly, it deserves to win.

Whereas the readership of my little blogling is not as vast as that of Albions, if you haven't already done so, please follow this link to the nominations and vote for the Continuum.
It would be a meaningful occurrence if the Continuing movement could be recognised for something it is good at, rather than for the impression of vitriolic spikiness that we are reputed to possess.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We wish you a measured Christmas

My second at school.

Homily preached at Eltham College on 3rd and 4th December 2006.

Presents given:
Catherine Tate DVD for Mum;
Duran Duran CD for Dad (not that he has a good taste in music);
Skateboard for Grandma,
Beyonce Knowles Calendar for Grandad,
Box of chocs for elder sister;
Doctor Who box set for younger brother.
Total expenditure £106.78.

Presents received:
New PS2 game from Mum;
Latest Gorillaz Album from Dad (told you he didn’t have any taste in music);
A day’s abseiling from Grandma;
Beyonce Knowles Calendar from Grandad;
£20 worth of mobile credits from elder sister;
DVD of Spiderman versus the Teletubbies from younger brother, (what planet is the boy on?)
Total income: £106.78

So what’s the point? How is this different from spending £106.78 on yourself at another time of the year? Wouldn’t it have been better just forgetting about Christmas and just finding something good for yourself for £106.78, after all, who wants Spiderman versus the Teletubbies DVD?

Why bother with all the hassle of traipsing round looking for appropriate presents to get the family?

It’s like birthdays. You can put a manky old £10 note in your brother’s birthday card to him, and, lo and behold, on your birthday there’s a manky old £10 note in your birthday card. Is it the same one? Well it might as well be.

So what is the point?


If we look at Christmas as a purely commercial holiday, then we lose something important. £106.78 in and £106.78 out, so on balance we break even. But how do we feel if we don’t break even? Guilty if we have spent less than them than they on us?
Upset because we have spent more on them than they on us?

Is it right to measure Christmas like this? Should we say that we’ve had a successful Christmas just because we’ve broken even with what we’ve bought and what we’ve been given?


Perhaps part of a successful Christmas comes in actually thinking about the people we’re buying presents for. We know that Grandad will be more than happy with his Beyonce Knowles calendar, but is there something else that might be more fitting?

The cliché says that it’s the thought that counts, but it’s more than just a thought. We can think about getting Dad a brand new Ferrari but if all we really get him is a Toffee Crisp, then it’s not saying much for how serious our thought was.

The bloke whose birthday we are supposed to be celebrating suggests that we should give to people who cannot give in return. This act tests our sincerity of spirit.

The thought has to be balanced with action: we have to prepare ourselves to do something to find the gifts for the family and friends that we have around us. The key to a successful Christmas is preparation.


The shops have been preparing for Christmas since December 26th last year. What’s new? The Christmas trees and reindeer are hauled out early so as to remind people that Christmas is nearly here because we are likely to forget, aren’t we?

The Infant Schools have been preparing for Christmas since October which is why all the Coco Pops boxes have disappear at the beginning of November and strange cardboard masks bearing only a vague resemblance to sheep and oxen start to grace Reception class windows, frightening all the passers-by. Teachers have been struggling to find a politically correct script.

Without proper and careful preparation, the School Nativity play turns into Nightmare on Elm Street part 8: The Mangling.

Christians call the preparation for Christmas Advent which as you know comes from the Latin word advenire meaning “to arrive”, and it is a time of preparing the heart to receive the Christ-child anew in our lives.


We think of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary preparing herself to have her baby, and Joseph too, preparing to receive a child that is not his. In the East, Persian Astrologers have been preparing charts and calculations to find the place and time of the birth of the new Messiah. Elsewhere, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth in nursing an infant John the Baptist, who will grow up to cry “Prepare the way of the Lord”

Without these key people preparing carefully, there would have been no Christmas, at least not as we know it now.

Likewise if we do not prepare ourselves for Christmas, then we miss a time of year which is special to all of us. We miss the smiles on the faces of our family and friends when they open our gifts to them. We miss enjoying the partying and celebration, if we treat it as any old time of the year.

So just how are you going to prepare for Christmas?

How are you going to make it not just about the presents?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Generation Game

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church Swanscombe on Advent Sunday 2006 based on St Luke xxi.25-36

[Long pause, waiting for something to happen. After a minute waiting, I begin.]

Frustrating isn’t it?

When you’re not sure
what you’re supposed to be waiting for,
nor when it will happen,
nor quite what the consequences
of it will be.

It stresses you out.

Elaine is annoyed.

Her favourite programme
is on after the football,
and she has just switched on
only to find that
Jose Beckham
or David Shilton,
or Diego Smith,
or whoever is supposed to be playing,
is lining up the 150th penalty shot
at the end of another nil-nil draw.

What is she to do?

Should she switch over or off,
or should she stick it out
becoming ever more concerned
that the BBC will actually
take off her favourite programme
because the football has over-run?

The trouble with waiting is
that it leaves you in a quandary:
should I wait a little longer
or do something else.


Elaine thinks that
surely the 150th penalty shot
must be a sign that
the game is coming to the end.

The players must be tired,
and they are likely to make mistakes,
so one of them is bound
to score a penalty very soon.
That goalie is looking a little bit floppy.

She watches expectantly,
hoping that her programme will be on shortly,
as Bobby Shearer lines up the shot,
walks back,
takes a run up,

The trouble is,
we know that the end of the game is near
because we’re on the penalties,
but the 150th penalty doesn’t mean
that the next penalty will be the last,
it could go on indefinitely.

Even then
Elaine has got the interminable
post-match analysis
to sit through.

Do you ever find yourselves
in situations like that?

What is the limit of your patience?


Do you find yourself
becoming more impatient
with the world around you?

How do you feel when Jesus says
“There will be signs
in the sun,
in the moon,
and in the stars;
and on the earth
distress of nations with perplexity,
the sea and waves roaring”?

Do you find yourself thinking
“Is it now?

Is God coming back tomorrow”?


Are you ready for Him if he does?


We certainly see signs around us.
Distress seems an inadequate word
to describe the situation
in the Middle East.

We’ve been told
that all around us
the climate is changing.

The Sun may be getting hotter;
scientists say the expansion of Universe
is actually speeding up.

Aren’t these the signs
that the Lord tells us will happen
before He came back?

But the Lord also says,
“this generation will by no means pass away
till all these things take place.”

So, if Jesus is talking
first to the folk 2000 years ago,
hasn’t the generation that He speaks of
passed away?

Does this mean
that we have actually missed
the second coming of the Lord?

Well, clearly not.

So is Jesus wrong?

—after all He is on record for saying
that even He doesn’t know
when the Day of the Lord
is, was or will be.

Do you really think that He’s wrong?

But this has profound
implications for our belief.

If Jesus is wrong about this,
He could be wrong about
a whole host of things.


Think about it.

What do we believe?

Do we believe that Jesus is risen from the dead?

Yes – it’s the heart of our faith.

So this means that He is alive.

Is He with us now?

Well, yes, He promises to be with all His children.

this is Mass – His Presence is more obvious here,
because we come to Mass
for the purpose of meeting and receiving Him,
and He us.

So can He still talk to us?

Well, doesn’t He always?

Surely we can hear Him say to us
“this generation,
(our generation)
will not pass away
until all these things take place.”

He is not talking about His coming again,
He’s telling us that there will always be
these signs around us
that point to His coming.

There are Christians
who will look to the Apocalypse,
the Book of Revelation
to reveal what’s going to happen.

They speak of beasts and horrible plagues.

But Revelation doesn’t tell us
what’s going to happen in the future.

It speaks of events that have already happened
in Roman times
mixed together with events beyond Time,
so we can’t rely on it.

There isn’t going to be a Rapture.

The Lord will not come again
until every person has heard
the Good News
of the Lord’s love for us.

He gives everyone the opportunity
to make an informed choice
– to love Him, or not.

The reason he hasn’t already come
is because He wants you to believe in Him
and have the same chance of Eternal life
as our parents
our grandparents,
our great grandparents
in fact all the generations
who have gone before us
and the generations who will come after us.

So, if the Lord is not going to tell us
when He is coming,
why should we worry about the future?

There will always be wars
and rumours of wars,
and storms,
and the most terrible catastrophes
to befall mankind.

But Jesus says
that we must not worry
about them happening,
but to use them to look to Him
and remember His presence.

Then we go out and tend to those
who have been hurt by these disasters.

If we spend our time
worrying about the future we cannot control,
then we forget about the people
whose present is appalling,
and who need our love, help and support.

Our future is safe in the hands of God.

We trust Him to love us and save us, don’t we?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Truth and Me

laetare ergo iuvenis in adulescentia tua et in bono sit cor tuum in diebus iuventutis tuae et ambula in viis cordis tui et in intuitu oculorum tuorum et scito quod pro omnibus his adducet te Deus in iudicium

Rejoice, therefore, young man in your youth and may your heart be in good things in the days of your vigour; so walk in the ways of your heart and in the perception of your eyes and know that through all these things God will draw you to judgment.

Ecclesiastes xi.9 (translation from Vulgate by yours truly, forgive me)

Ecclesiastes is a snapshot of an earthly life without God and, quite frankly, makes for depressing reading unless we actually bother to let God read it with us. I've recently stumbled on this verse and I must confess not to feel so comfortable in considering its implications.

Here is a verse that speaks loudly of self-satisfaction. Looking at society around, we see that the media loves young folk who are bright, shiny and pretty. It undresses them, poses them and exploits them, and because the sensations are entirely pleasurable, not only do these youngsters permit it to happen, they try to defend this way of life. To qualify as a good musician you have to display three yards of midriff with a gaudy bauble mutilating your navel. And what happens when the youth fades and things start to sag southwards? Deparation and oblivion.

Interesting: you can't spell "youth" without "you"?

Throughout that verse we see the words tua, tuum, tuae, tui, tuorum, all singular possessive pronouns relating to one individual, all expressing a desire to cut off that which does not belong to the self until God Himself Who actually owns that very self - te - in its entirety decides that it has rendered itself unusable.

It's very easy when we're young to believe that we have the world all sussed out. Pierre Simon de Laplace famously declared that he did not need the "hypothesis" of God's existence because he believed that the Universe was clockwork, like a gargantuan cuckoo clock. When you have grown up and made a beginning of a life for yourself on your terms, away from the parents, it's easy to think you have it all right. Then you sit down and watch the news and form your own opinions of life, of how it is and how it ought to be.

It's unfair that people are starving in Africa.
It's unfair that gay people are being persecuted.
It's unfair that women are regarded as second class citizens.

Absolutely right on all counts. No one should starve, no one should be persecuted, no-one should be a second class citizen. However it is very easy to use one's own reasoning to conclude:

It's unfair that gay priests cannot enjoy a sexual relationship.
It's unfair that women cannot be priests and bishops.
It's unfair that those who oppose such things spend more time on these little issues than on dealing with the starving in Africa.

These are the conclusions drawn by Society around us, including those vehemently opposed to the message of the gospel, and as such they take no account of the Church as a whole. Not even His Holiness the Pope can enforce his beliefs on the Church, though he can guide and assist, and (if you believe in his Infallibility) only at the bidding of the whole Church, past and present, can he pronounce doctrine. Of course if you aren't a Roman Catholic (or Ultramontane Anglo-Papalist) then you argue that the Pope hasn't that authority over the whole church.

But the point is, the Truth is only apparent from the Church as a whole, not from individuals, but a collected effort to hear the word of God and hear the Word of God. Collectively the Church is infallible, not as individuals. Those who disagree with the church are welcome to disagree, they have that right, indeed God willingly and lovingly gives them that right, but at the end of the day, an individual cannot pronounce what is True unless he or she speaks the Doctrine of the Church. We must therefore submit to Church Doctrine, though it will cause us pain to do so. But God does promise that whoever does suffer pain because of obedience to Christ's Rule has truly circumcised his heart in Christ (which must necessarily be terribly painful) and is now party to the New Covenant of Christ. Gratia deo!

Thus those who reject the Church, may have wonderful lives, but as they walk away from God, God Himself will have to make a grave and bitter decision, not without tears I believe. Choose God and thus His Church, or choose Death. The choice is simple.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Guess the modern "worship" song

I'm rusty, so please point out the mistakes.

V. Gradatim super Orbem progredior.
R. Gradatim super Orbem progredior.

V. Tene me, ut ab veteribus ad novos tecum ambulem.
R. Tene me, ut ab veteribus ad novos tecum ambulem.

V. Per angulam Orbis circumvenio.
Orbem amplius ampliusque cognosco.
Dum nova video,
haec mecum adspices.

R. Tene me, ut ab veteribus ad novos tecum ambulem.

V. Dum per bona et mala eam,
me in via recta teneas.
Si non viam eundam videam
sciam te viam mihi ostendere.

R. Tene me, ut ab veteribus ad novos tecum ambulem.

V. Da mihi fortitudinem in asperitatem orbis.
Fac me amandum esse quamquam Orbs durus est;
saltem cantemque in omnia facta mea.
Tene me, ut tecum ambulem.

R. Tene me, ut ab veteribus ad novos tecum ambulem.

V. Plus vetus quam orbem es,
Plus juvenis quam vitam meam.
Vetus semper semperque novus
Tene me, ut tecum ambulem.

R. Tene me, ut ab veteribus ad novos tecum ambulem.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What is this King of kings?

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Swanscombe on Sunday 26th November 2006 based on Daniel vii. 9-14, Apocalypse i.4-8 and St John xviii.33-37.

In all the world,
there is none as bald
at this moment as Pontius.

He is tearing his hair out.

Before him stands
a rather grubby little Jewish man
who looks as if he has been
beaten up rather badly.

His clothes are covered in dirt,
his lip is bleeding,
and one of his eyes looks a little puffy.

“That’s going to be a proper shiner,”
thinks one of the guards.

So what’s giving Pontius grief?

Well, this grubby man
standing before him
has been accused of being
the king of the Jews,
and it is these Jews that are expecting
Pontius to do something about
this troublemaker.

The real trouble is that
he doesn’t seem to be able
to get a straight answer out of Him
in this most peculiar trial.

After all,
how can you be accused of being a king?

“Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Are you speaking for yourself,
or did others tell you this concerning me?”

What kind of answer’s that?

How can Pilate find out the truth
if he’s going to get an answer like that?


“Are you speaking for yourself,
or did others tell you this concerning me?”

Pilate can’t quite decide whether
this Jesus is being disrespectful
of his office as Governor of Judaea.

At Jesus’ reply,
he shifts on his throne uneasily,
brushing away an impertinent mosquito
that has decided to try and drill for oil
in his arm.

Certainly, the Jews have shown him
little respect when they delivered
this man to him at this time of night.

They don’t seem to have any respect
for their king either.

What authority
does this poor Jesus
have with the Jews?

What is a ruler without authority?

Perhaps it’s a Jewish custom to treat their rulers like this.

They’re a mad lot these Jews,
always getting their knickers in a twist
about something!

“Am I a Jew?”
says Pilate,
“I don’t understand your customs,
but it was your people
that brought you to me.

I don’t understand why?

What have you done?”

Has this Jesus made
the biggest mistake of his life
declaring himself to be a king
of a people who don’t want himto be king?

What is a ruler without
any understanding of his people?


Jesus looks at him,
wiping away a little blood from His lip,
“My kingdom is not of this world.”

“What?” thinks Pilate,
eyes widening, “he’s a lunatic!

But if he is a lunatic
why are the Jewish authorities
so afraid of him?

Is he their king or not?”

Jesus continues,
“If My kingdom were of this world,
My servants would fight so that
I should not be delivered to the Jews;
but now My kingdom is not from here.”

“That’s true,” thinks Pontius Pilate
relaxing slightly at the news
that Judaea isn’t going to be overrun
by angry hordes intent on chopping him
into pieces.

But what is a ruler without people to defend his rule?


But this Jesus has admitted He has a kingdom.

“Are you a king then?”
asks Pilate,
feeling a little bit surer that he is getting
near the truth about the identity
of this weird little Jew.

“You say rightly that I am a king.

For this cause I was born,
and for this cause I have come into the world,
that I should bear witness to the truth.

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate gives up.

“What is truth?”
he says dismissively.

Whoever this man is,
he is not a threat either to him,
or to the Jews.

Pilate decides that Jesus
should be free to live his life.

After all, what is a ruler without freedom?

The trouble is,
as we see in these, the last few hours
of the life of the Lord,
Pilate is not free to let Jesus go.


Is Jesus really a king then?

Is Pilate any more of a ruler than Jesus?

Pilate has authority over the Jews,
but he can’t seem to get them
to respect his decisions.

He doesn’t understand the Jews at all,
and if he had all the armies
in Rome at his disposal,
they wouldn’t get to Judaea
in time to prevent
a rather nasty massacre
if the Jews decided to revolt.

He may have the freedom
to try to impose his will on the Jews,
but he dare not exercise it
beyond what his army can do!
What do you think of Pilate’s status as a ruler?

Is it any better than any other world leader, even today?

What authority does any leader have?

What freedom do they have to do what they want?

Who fights for them?

Do they really know what their subjects need?

How do we answer these questions
about Jesus’ claim to be king?


Questions, questions, questions!

The fact that Jesus is the Son of God
means that he has complete freedom
over all of the Universe
– a freedom that He is prepared
to share with us.

Who fights for Him?
A heavenly army of angels
led by St Michael the Archangel
who defeats Satan,
and we too have angels to fight for us,
because He has given
His angels charge over us.

Does He know the needs of His subjects?

He knows us through and through.

He knows every thought that passes through our heads.

He may sit on His throne of fire in Heaven,
but His heart is with each one of us on earth,
and by living His way
of loving our neighbour as ourselves,
so will we know each others’ needs.

What authority does Jesus have?

He is our Lord and God.

All authority in Heaven and on Earth
have been given to Him,
and He shares this authority with the Church.

Is Jesus a king then?

Haven’t we just said so?

But if He shares all his kingship with us,
and if we keep a true faith with Him,
serving Him and loving Him
and worshipping Him,
doesn’t that make us kings as well?

What do you think?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Apologia pro vita mea (II): Watching out for falling lightning conductors!

Sorry, Cardinal Newman for borrowing your title again!

It seems that lately I am being asked the question "So why aren't you a Roman Catholic?" If I look at myself , I realise that I am practically a Roman Catholic, just from within the Church of England. So why don't I join up with the Holy See?

Well, the answer's obvious: I'm an Anglo-Papalist, i.e. I look to Rome for Doctrine and to His Holiness as Chief Bishop but I simply cannot convert to Rome on my own. I look for the reconciliation of the Anglos with the Romans wholesale, not in dribs and drabs. The Anglican way is rich robust and beautiful, but incomplete without the Roman Catholic Church, and I believe that the Roman Church would benefit enormously from what we Anglicans have learned during our sad time of separation. I would dearly love to see His Holiness engage in further talks with the truly Catholic Anglicans to heal this rift. I know I have Prayer-Book Catholic friends who would disagree with me heartily, but at least we walk in the same direction for the majority of our thoughts, and we can worship together - that can only be a good thing.

At present, I am in impaired communion with the C of E, i.e. I can only receive Communion from validly ordained priests (unlike many of the incumbents within the Communion), and I can only teach the Catholic Faith (unlike far too many priests and movements in the C of E). I am also in impaired Communion with my own Parish in that I have to insert the Nicene Creed and other parts of the Canon missing from the parish liturgy (which has been cobbled together from divers and dubious parts of Common Worship) while the rest of the congregation recite their substitutes (usually some dumbed-down affirmation).

So why do I stay? Because I have to - a situation not uncommon with Anglo-Papalists, particularly with my other more isolated fellows who like me are called to serve in a parish that doesn't want to know. That seems to me the whole point of Anglo-Papalism, that we are meant to be inferior Isaiahs, calling the people to the right way.

I have been umming and ahing about whether I ought to renew my Reader's licence. I have felt like taking off to an Anglican Catholic Church which Albion found for me, and have felt the temptation to swim the Tiber which another dear friend has been urging me. I love both of those churches very deeply because to me they are part of the same wholeness, even though they may not perceive it in the same way that I do. However, my time is not yet, and I must stay in the C of E in a vain attempt to call on the deaf ears of a failing church. There will come a time when I will have to go, and it may not be in the very distant future, and so I do hope to strike up a good relationship with the ACC even while I am still in rapidly darkening regions.

The first thing that perhaps I need to see is how the C of E will manage women "bishops". There really is only one way forward with this - the third province. It simply will not work otherwise.

The second thing is how long I can stick out the "all-singing, all-dancing" Mass at my church. Well, God will give me strength there, I pray, especially if I have to remain there.

As I say in my blurb on my blog (a blog blurb - sounds positively revolting!!) my calling appears to be "to seek the Truth and to help others in their search for it". Of course, my parish only want to hear what they want to hear and will not engage me in debate or dialogue, so I inhabit the edges wild and dishevelled like Patrick Troughton in the Omen. Guess I'll have to watch myself when it gets stormy! Your prayers would be appreciated. Let me know if I can help by praying for you too.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This is the Word of the Lord

This is my latest article for the Parish Magazine, the December/January issue.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

“This is the word of the Lord”. These are the words said every Sunday by at least two readers and our response to these Scripture readings is always “Thanks be to God” even when the phrase “this is the word of the Lord” appears in the middle of the text being read. It’s an automatic response to a phrase that is engrained within ourselves as part of our Christian belief.

Most of the time the phrase trips off our tongues without too much thought, and its easy to do when the passage that we’ve just heard tells us about the fidelity of God despite our sin. However, sometimes it seems to be rather a weird thing to say considering what has just been read to us. Do we want to say “this is the word of the Lord” in response to “Take all the prophets of Baal and let none of them escape” or in response to the story of the rape of Tamar and the sad death of her brother Absolom in the second book of Samuel. Can we really say “this is the word of the Lord” in response to the savagery of Psalms 58 or 109? Sometimes it just doesn’t seem like it is the word of the Lord. How do we reconcile the savage sounding God who commands the wholesale slaughter of the people of Jericho with the loving God of the New Testament?

A few weeks ago, on Bible Sunday, we read in St Paul’s second letter to Timothy that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” This is all very well, but this sentence of St Paul was written before many of his other letters and before any of the Gospels were written. Indeed, the Gospel of St John was written after St Paul had died. How can this sentence of St Paul that we use to justify our use of Scripture be used to apply to things written afterwards, and without St Paul’s knowledge.

What people don’t seem to realise is that the Bible is incomplete. It is not merely a manual for living life, nor just a textbook for understanding the will of God. It doesn’t seem to make sense in places; in yet other places it is fussy over seemingly ridiculous details which do not seem to matter. The Jews of the First Century were treating the Old Testament just like that. These Jews could easily say “this is the word of the Lord” while stoning an adulteress to death.

At Christmas time, we hear a different phrase: “this is the Word of the Lord”. How is this different from “this is the word of the Lord.” Do you see the capital “W”? This Word is a person, our Christ, the Messiah promised to the Jews with their Scripture, and the Gentiles with their science and philosophy. At Christmas time we celebrate the fulfilment of the word of God in the Person of the Word of God – the Lord Jesus Christ. Without the Word of God, the Bible is rubbish, meaningless twaddle, the gibberings of madmen, inaccurate historians, the wild imaginings of deluded fools.

Indeed, there are folk who take the Bible and treat it this way, interpreting it for themselves, making what it says bend to fit their understandings and attempt to make all around them conform.
All Scripture is indeed God-breathed through the Word of God. Jesus is called the Word because He communicates to God the Father for us, and to us from the Father. It is only through Him that we understand the will of God, and it is only through Him that all those difficult passages of the Old Testament make sense, even if we can’t see how it makes sense. There will be justice for the dead of Jericho, for Absolom, for Tamar, for the millions of slaughtered men women, children and animals, just as there will be justice for all who have been wronged. There will also be mercy in abundance too. Don’t ask how justice and mercy can both be achieved, only God knows that, but justice and mercy are all achieved by the Word of God, born in a stable, brought up as a carpenter, taught as a rabbi, died as a criminal and was raised in body mind and spirit as our Redeemer and Saviour.

Now if there is a danger that the Scripture could be misread, misinterpreted or misrepresented, then what safeguard have we for the Word of God? Well, the Word of God isn’t just found in the Bible, that’s why the Bible is incomplete. The Word of God is in the Church Herself, present in every Mass, in every prayer, in every house-group, within the heart of any human being who genuinely holds Christ as Lord. We should listen then to the teachings of the Church which have been built century on century from the lives of all who have served Christ before, and whose lives are only briefly sketched in the pages of the book we read every Sunday.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Continuum

It is 1 year ago, that a certain Albion Land set up his blog The Continuum. It was as a direct result of this that this little blog came into being, since I pressed the wrong button while trying to post a comment, and found myself lumbered with a blog! Well, this blog has a little way to go before its first birthday in late December. But none the less I'd like to thank Albion, Fr Hart, Fr Kirby and dear old Ed for keeping a mine of information going.

If you want to be part of the Continuing Churches, then this blog is necessary reading, and more. The Continuum as a Church needs to work harder at getting its message across in a liberally dominated society. We need to broadcast our news and come together if we are going to be regarded as the proper Anglican Church (which we are, since we follow the Tradition and Scripture and Reason faithfully). So, dear Reader, if you have never visited the Continuum blog, do it now! You won't regret it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Tradition is not an argument."

I found this on Julio's blog. How I feel for him. We're in a world of iconoclasts insistent on breaking down structures or reasoning and communicating, just so that we can somehow be "free" to be ourselves.

The irony is that it is God who wants us to be free to be ourselves. Indeed He has freed us from the slavery to sin in which we are forced to be anything but ourselves. Now that is part of Christian Tradition - the ultimate freedom - to be what God made us to be. To cast away Tradition is to cast away our link with this Truth.

But why does society want to get rid of Tradition which it sees as restrictive? Why is Tradition so oppressive? Perhaps there is a bit of displacement going on here.

It's easy to displace onto others the faults that we ourselves have, or ascribe inadequacies to others when it is our worldview which is skewed.
We flip the bird to the driver who speeds past us honking their horn aggressively, without realising that we are the one who is driving unhelpfully slowly on the motorway.

If Tradition doesn't allow us to do what society thinks is reasonable, then it must be that Tradition is wrong, and it must be bowlderised so that it fits what is correct in the modern sense. Tradition is a threat to the modern way of living, and the modern way of living cares only about now, never about tomorrow, less still about yesterday.

Tradition has carried the Catholic Faith through all Catholic Christians, all of whom encountered in different ways as different people in different countries with different cultures the same God, the same Truth, the same Creed (modulo a filioque) and received the same Baptism. Tradition binds us together and bids us not to be selfish, isolationist or intolerant. Daily, the current of the World dashes our bodies against the Rock of Tradition, and in so doing we are made smooth like polished pebbles.

Society cannot see this because Society sees what it wants to see, and to it Tradition is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. However, let us not concern ourselves with the big picture. By living our lives according to the Faith that our fathers (all the way back to Our Lord Himself) held but living it as part of our lives as who we are, then we work on the smallest scale possible, sowing minute seeds of fidelity and love that will be missed. God will ensure that these are watered and will grow to proportions that people will not be able to ignore. Let us not depise the day of small things but rather do what little we can. Therein lies the hope of one who is Traditional in the world of Iconoclasm.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Petitioning the person in the pew

Albion posted the following comment on a post about the AIC:

Could we perhaps try to move this away from what is running perilously close to a sniping match, and try to be more constructive. I, too, find it curious that there seems to be an inordinate focus on the hierarchy and virtually nothing on the numbers on the faithful. But this is not unique.

What do we have in common here, and is there any ground for cooperation and intercommunion between the AIC and the other jurisdictions?

He makes very good points: one that is pertinent to the article in question, but also in the general scheme of things. When are the usual people in the pew sought out for advice for the church? When does the opinion, experience or understanding of an "ordinary" (no such thing) parishioner get considered?

In Britain, the government of a Parish is usually made by the PCC (I gather that in the U.S. they call this the Vestry Committee) so the day-to-day running of the Church is dealt with by an elected body.

But what role does the ordinary parishioner play in the Church? These are the folk at the coal-face of life. These are the folk whose charge it is to go into the community and live Christian lives in a world which, quite frankly, would rather they didn't. Theirs is the greater persecution, since they inhabit a world that is not cloistered away from corruption and spiritual attack. These folk come to Church regularly to find spiritual refreshment and rest, sanctuary and security, hope, health and happiness, as they devote their lives to God. Yet when are they ever heard by those whose job it is to serve them? Frequently within their own parishes, I hope, but on the global scale of things about the direction of the Church, in describing their needs and calling for consistency, very seldom.

At the Reformation, the majority of the faithful wanted to retain the Roman structures that provided them with the certain knowledge that they were in church. They were ignored by those who wanted to impress the new doctrines upon them. Okay, so the majority of the laity aren't academic theologians, but if the Church has done its job and served them by teaching them to listen to Scripture and Tradition, then they will know when something is amiss, as did those affected so drastically by the schism from the Roman Catholic Church.

And similarly now. The focus as to what happens to the Church seems always to lie at the feet of the bishops. They have authority to guide and govern the Church, but when things go awry, as the Anglican Communion has, and the bishops speak on their own doctrines after capitulating to the Zeitgeist, what does one do? It is to the priests to whom the faithful turn for guidance, and to the bishops that the priests turn for authority.

There are many parishioners within the Continuum who are after the same thing - the honest and true worship of God in the Catholic Faith uncorrupted by fate, fashion and feelings, and the majority of churches within the Continuum offer just that. Yet are they the ones being kept apart by the politics of the bishops?

I suspect that the majority of the traditional followers of the Church of England are actually Anglo-Papalist in their affections, but do not have the ear of any Anglo-Papalist movement, nor the education to voice their concerns in the way that the hierarchy would hear. Many are being misinformed by liberals who peddle a epistemological solipsism of doctrine, and individuality of worship, effectively an intellectual opium to dull their minds to the actual Truth.

If the people want to be heard then they must seek out the language that people will hear. It is not enough that there be a knowledgeable spokesperson, but that each Christian should have the education to know their need, the need of their society and how the Church is failing to provide that need.

Yes, bishops and priests have authority in matters of Doctrine, provided that it is the correct Doctrine. Thus those in Orders must be respected, but their decisions made on behalf of the whole Church must include the voices of the parishes if there is to be consistency. His Holiness is the servant of the servants of God, the focus of Catholicism, as long as he does actually serve those servants of God (which the present Pope is doing magnificently. He listens, as did his predecessor). He will only do this by listening to those who have to engage the world in a harder struggle than those who have the shelter of Holy Orders. Even the Pope is outranked by the Catholic Faith, yet it is that same Faith that we have to carry with us, within each of us, into the world. Let us trust the authority of priests and bishops, but temper that trust by educating ourselves carefully in the Doctrine that Our Saviour gave us. You don't need a Ph.D for that!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Warts'n'all least that was how Oliver Cromwell wanted to be painted. This is one of the few times that I would feel like concurring with Oliver Cromwell, since the man stood for everything which I reject and against much of what I embrace. Why else would I, a committed Catholic have a picture of an arch-Protestant on my blog.

Yet whoever Oliver Cromwell was, he was a human being. I regard him as being misguided and the lead conspirator to regicide, but what of Mrs. Cromwell, and Richard Cromwell, his son? They loved him. But you see that Oliver Cromwell was a human being, fallen, broken, a sinner, one who makes other people's lives a misery, one who makes still other people's lives a joy. I also agree with him on another respect - he spoke of Jesus Christ as Lord and Master, and there is the Truth!

There has been much debate on Anglo-Catholic Central about persons such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu who have done so much to work for the liberation of the oppressed, and have now started preaching liberal doctrines on homosexuality. Clearly Archbishop Tutu has left the orthodoxy of the faith in pursuit of his understanding of freeing the oppressed, a calling that indeed we are all commanded to follow. Does that mean that now, Orthodox Christians must close their ears to anything that Archbishop Tutu says?

Also I note that there is a new cartoon of His Holiness, the late Pope John-Paul II, celebrating his life. to my mind it seems to be more of a putting of the venerable gentleman on a pedestal. In showing him as impossibly good, it makes him less of a human being. that's not to say that through him God did not achieve some truly remarkable feats of liberation, but rather we seem to focus less upon the Divine Operator and more upon the instrument of His operation.

The media worldwide paints pictures in black and white, people are either angels or demons. Indeed how often in the media are rogues seen as loveable and saints as evil, tainted beings. Paedophiles are irredeemable, our young people are all yobs and vandals, Moslems are reactionary and vengeful, and Anglo-Catholics prissy, gay, self-haters. Rubbish. No human being is just one abstract description.

No-one is allowed to be human anymore. No-one is allowed to fall without just damnation from the media. The career of English comedian Michael Barrymore is still struggling after the body of Stuart Lubbock was found in his pool in suspicious circumstances. Like the Evil Queen, or Captain Hook in a British Pantomime, it's as if we need a hate figure. Even Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are human beings, they have qualities of goodness within them even though their hands are covered with the blood of thousands.

What also of homosexual couples who are constantly being demonised by some Christians and Christian societies? The Bible is clear that those who practice their homosexuality are sinning. This sin does infect society, all around us in ways that we truly do not always know or understand. And yet if the feeling that one homosexual has for another is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, then is there not love within that feeling? And why should the homosexual be singled out in this? It is because their condition leads to a temptation that is accepted in modern society, and thus is not acknowledged as sin. However, the sins of each one of us that we too refuse to acknowlege infect society just as plainly, just as vilely in the same way.

This all comes down to making judgments upon others. The only person whose heart we know best is our own, and our judgments of others are impaired because we are not the person whom we judge.

Truly anyone who teaches that homosexual practice is right is not teaching the doctrine of Christ, but so is the one who preaches damnation upon any human being. St Paul says "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

Does this mean that I am pro-individualism since I am advocating that we should judge only the actions of ourselves rather than the actions of others. I don't think I've said that anywhere. We are free to be the person whom God intended us to be, but that means responsibility; "rights" mean "responsibilities", and the right not to be judged means that we should not act in a way that will cause people to judge us. If we persist in sin, even without knowing it, then we endanger our relationship with God as St. John tells us: "[Y]ou know that [Jesus] appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." Our lives are not our own and consequently we must live as a community in supporting each other in the love of God, despite the crippling infection of sin.

Again, on the strength of St John we cannot have priests or bishops who practise homosexuality for "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous."

However, sinners that we are we have to live with this fact: we are all worthy of being demonised, because we all act like demons in our accusations of others and in our own persistance in sin. (Remember Satan is "the accuser").

Archbishop Tutu is a sinner, and yet still a potential saint and I will always measure his words up to the Canon of the Catholic Church. What he says that concurs with the Canon, I shall know it to be the truth. What he says that is contrary to the Canon, I shall reject it. I shall remember that he has helped thousands by his example and by his tireless fight to end oppression. I shall also know that he is fallible, and in need of the Grace of God, as am I and more so, for I am the worst of sinners.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's an ill wind...

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul's Church, Swanscombe on 15th October 2006, based on St Mark x.17-31.

That advert's on telly again.

A man lies beside a pool
on a sunny day.

One of those fluffy, shiny women
walks up to him with a drink
and sits down on the sun-bed
next to him.

He smiles at her,
she smiles at him,
reaches down and picks up
a packet of cigarettes
which she offers to him.

He takes one,
she takes one,
both light up,
and then the Narrator starts up
- an Alvar Liddell soundalike -
"cool, fresh, relaxing Llama cigarettes
- you know they're good for you."

Seen that one?


Well, perhaps not recently.

This could have been an advert
from the 1960s,
couldn't it?

Those were the days
when nobody was without
a cigarette in the hand
- it was fashionable,
and it did make people feel great.

Now that we have seen too many people,
our fathers and mothers,
husbands and wives
grandfathers and grandmothers
die from lung cancer,
do we know that smoking is
a highly damaging activity.

We may have thought
that it was good for us once,
but not now.

Certainly we wouldn't see
an advert like that these days,
would we?

Or would we?


How do we know that
something that is advertised as good
really is good?

After all,
the job of an advert is
to persuade people that
they cannot do without
a certain product.

What would be the point
of adverts which say:

"Glisty Hair Cream
-turns your hair blue and makes it fall out"


"look worse with Slick
- the mascara that makes you look as if
yo've gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson"


"Woohoo probiotic yoghurt
-Woohoo glues you to the loo"?

If adverts are designed to mislead,
who do we know the truth?

Remember "Go to work on an egg"?

Yet what happened when Edwina Currie
wen to work on eggs?

What once was good for us,
is regarded with suspicion and fear.

What is good for us, isn't.

How do we know what is good?


You push your way through the crowd of Jews,
fighting to get to the front to see Jesus.

Your head burns with that question
that you've allways been dying to ask Him.

Finally, you're through the crowd,
you fall at the Lord's feet.

"Good Teacher,"
you gasp, breathlessly,
"Good teacher..."

Jesus fixes you with His penetrating gaze,
seeing easily into your very soul.

"Why do you call me 'good'?"

Well? How are you going to answer that one?


Of course, Jesus is good.

Isn't it obvious?

But how do we know this?

How do we know that
He isn't some charlatan,
some hoaxer out to mislead the people?

Because He isn't.

That's what belief is all about.

We believe that Jesus is the Lord,
and the Lord is God and God is good.

As our Lord Jesus Christ says,
"No-one is good but One,
that is, God."

So "goodness" is something that God is.

It's a quality of the God Whom we worship,
and it's a quality that He has built
into His Creation.

On the Sixth Day of Creation,
before He goes for His nap,
God sees all that He has made,
and behold, it is very good.


This means that everything
that we see around us
has some goodness in it.

This is usually more obvious
in landscapes that make us go "ah!"
or the great cathedrals that make us go "ooh!",
or in kittens which make us go "aw!"

But equally so,
there is goodness in things
that we don't associate with goodness.

Is there goodness in the sight
of the litter-strewn streets of Swanscombe?

Is there goodness when
a lioness attacks and kills a zebra
to feed her hungry cubs?

Is there goodness
when someone we love
passes from this life?

God sees everything He has made,
and behold,
it is very good.

So why is this hard to believe?


"Good Teacher,
what must I do that
I may inherit Eternal Life?"

"Go sell all your possessions,
then take up your cross and follow me."

Do you follow the young man
as he turns away
realising that he cannot give away
all that he has?


Let's face it,
we're just no good at doing good,
and when Jesus challenges us
to do something worthwhile,
we just cannot bring ourselves
to rise to that challenge.

We indulge in behaviour
which goes against that which
God requires of us.

This is certainly not good.

We make the greatest errors.

Each one of us has,
deliberately or unwittingly,
hurt others,
sometimes deeply.

The world is full of misery
caused by people
doing what they think is good,
though frequently,
some people's understanding of 'good'
seems suspect.

There is pain
and death in this world,
all caused by human beings,
some of whom are trying to do 'good'
and yet are not doing good.



But St Paul says:
we know that all things
work together for good
to them that love God,
to them who are the ones
called according to His purpose.

That's worth repeating.

We know that all things
work together for good
to them that love God,
to them who are the ones
called according to His purpose.

That's us!

We Christians try to do good,
and follow God,
but we fail.

But whatever our failures,
whenever our goodness falls short,
whenever we have hurt another,
God wrests that away
from the Evil One
and uses it for good.

this good is often difficult to see,
but how much goodness
are we now seeing springing
from the horrible memories
of the Holocaust?

"For man,
this is impossible,
for God,
all things are possible."

God uses those times
when we don't do good
to work His wonders,
but this doesn't mean that
these situations are
devoid of pain or suffering.

true goodness
involves pain and suffering,
but that pain and suffering
isnt' the purpose of goodness.

If we truly look towards God,
then however much we are in pain,
we can be sure that we will find
true goodness.

If we are to embrace
that which is truly good,
then we must be prepared also
to embrace the cross
upon which we will be crucified
with the Lord.


"Why do you call me 'good'?"
Jesus asks you.

What's your answer?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

When the heart's ahead: an anatomy of a gut reaction.

Oh dear, I've just made a fool of myself over at Anglo-Catholic Central when I brought the attention of the 400 or so members to an article in this week's Church of England Newspaper which seemed to encourage composers of modern Church music not to think and compose meaningless trash, only to read it more carefully and see that it was actually criticising Modern church music and the whole ghastly "worship song" genre, by lampooning the inherent vapidity that modern songwriters think consitutes a good song to sing at Mass.

It's struck me that I have just behaved very much like so many religious folk around the world, in being far too reactionary without listening to the details carefully. This does seem to put me in line with the members of Christian Voice who criticised Jerry Springer: The Opera before they saw it, and, more recently with the Moslems reacting to the words of His Holiness, Pope Benedict.

It's easy to do. So what happened? I saw something which caught my eye, just a phrase which filled me with dread, a single sentence which touched a nerve, which for me was in the sensitive area of Church Music. So automatically I read looking for more bits to fuel the indignation, and it seems missing out the vital bits in which the author had said that he was satirising those who are presently diluting our liturgical music with meaninglessness.

Each of us has a raw area, and Anglo-Catholics are usually raw all over having been rejected from Anglicanism. It's something we have to expect, and consequently we leap (or at least I do) to defend our practices in a world which presses us to heresy. This leads me to wonder whether we need to defend ourselves so readily, and on such an intellectual level. Anglo-Catholicism is small in comparison with the Anglican Communion, but it is robust. We have the doctrines of the Catholic church which have lasted through centuries, and while there are good Catholics in the world, will always continue.

Anglo-Catholics have recently been accused of using too many words to defend themselves. Are we wasting our breath?

So what must I do in future. Be careful, is the answer, and don't react until I have fully comprehended the situation. Sometimes a wound stings from its own healing rather than from someone prodding it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Community versus Commodity

I've just returned from the Diocesan Readers' Conference in which the key-mote speaker was the Rev'd Professor Gareth Lloyd-Jones from the University of Wales speaking on the Hebrew Scripture and how it describes the life of a people under the rule of an Empire.

He raised some very interesting issues, and many of them resonated with me and my near theological isolation in my community. There are just no other Tridentine Anglo-Papalists in this diocese of the Church of England. If you are one, let's do lunch. If you are also a priest, then let's do Mass! Widening the subdenomination to include the Anglo-Catholics (the proper ones, not the Affirming Catholicism syncretists), it's clear that we are in the minority here clinging onto what we have received and trying desparately to hold it as fully as possible. We follow the traditions in an empire of liberalism.

Listening to the Reverend Professor, I was reminded how it was Joseph, the favoured son of Jacob who unthinkingly engineered the oppression of his own people. It was he who sold sustenance to the folk for their money, then their cattle, and finally for their slavery. Did the Jews have a choice? It was one of their own people who, in conjunction with the state, took possession of the Hebrews as a commodity. Interestingly, it was the priests who remained largely untouched by the Egyptian resources takeover. In essence, the Egyptians through Joseph, bought the religion of the people.

Now, let's look here. The dominant empire in Britain (and in America too) is that of the Consumer Culture in which everything is regarded as a commodity, even workers. The Consumer Society seeks its pleasure using whatever means it can and will not stop at anything to consume it. In more unsavoury language (forgive me but I believe it to be the correct thing to say), ours is a culture of masturbation. It does not take delight in what it has, it seeks only more in order to scratch an itch. Our society cannot live with waiting, or constraint and it will sell all that it has in order to gain what it wants more immediately.

If this is the culture, then we in Blighty had better watch out because we already see the Established Church giving way to the rule of pleasure, the rule of individualism and the rule of "believe what you want" which is largely the creed of the Consumer Empire. We Anglo-Catholics are in pain and, like the Israelites, we cry out at every heresy that the Established church embraces, only to be told to "get a life" or "worry about more important things" or "we have to go with the flow". Those of us with firm principles are being branded "narrow-minded" (as if that were something unforgivable) or "fundamentalist" even though fundamentalism is the last thing that can be attributed to an Anglo-Catholic.

It was escaping from the Egyptian oppression that made the Hebrew society unique in the world for it was as a direct result that they found the comfort of the Decalogue, a stabilising structure of rules and ideas which gave them the support that they needed to live life in the sight of God.

We Anglo-Catholics have already within our minds and hearts and libraries the stabilising structure that we need within the Scripture and the Tradition. Just as the Decalogue is expanded and expounded in the Pentateuch for several chapters (several long chapters) likewise have our Scriptures and Tradition been expanded upon in every age by the Fathers of our Faith. We already have so much, but how are we using what we have? To squabble with one another, or to stand together in solidarity against the world which seeks to buy us and sell us as commodities?

It is the Decalogue that sets our Jewish brothers and sisters apart as people of God, what is it that separates us? How do we use it?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Giving thanks by giving up.

This is my first homily to the boys (and sixth-form girls) at Eltham College. Consequently, I've had to adapt my style slightly to make concessions for the youthful ear. Hope it doesn't offend you too much!

Homily preached at Eltham College on 4th October 2006.

It is Harvest Festival
at St Philip’s Church
in the village of
Little Flapjack-on-the-Turn,
as is the custom for this time of year,
the locals bring their produce
into the church
by way of giving

All this produce
goes to the needy of the Parish
and it is supposed to be
the best of the year's harvest.

In the old days,
the church would be chock-full of
fruits and vegetables,
bread and pastries.

These days,
the church is more often full
of mouldy satsumas,
bedraggled pumpkins,
disappointed lettuces,
and tins:
tins of soup,
tins of stewing steak,
tins of potatoes
and tin upon tin upon tin
of baked beans.

the people who get
these tinned produce
are the elderly.


Old Mr Smith gets
the tins of stewing steak,
and he hasn't a tooth in his head.

Mrs Bundock has lost her tin-opener.

And poor Mrs Murphy ends up
with all 365 tins of Baked Beans
and as a result is banned
from leaving her house
for the rest of the year
in order to reduce
greenhouse gasses.

She is released
from this prison
at next year's Harvest Festival
when she receives another
365 cans
of baked beans.

Is giving tins
and mouldy fruit
to a church Harvest Festival
an appropriate way of giving thanks for
all that we receive?

Well, who would
be a good example of how
to give thanks appropriately?

Today is St Francis' day,
so how does he,
St Francis of Assisi
give thanks for
all that he is given?

He does the Full Monty
in front of a large crowd of people
including a rather bemused Bishop!

Okay, so it's not precisely the Full Monty.

This is the 13th century,
about 800 years before
Tom Jones records
"You can leave your hat on".

Tom Jones himself is probably
still only a Welsh coal miner.

But St Francis strips off
all his clothes
to make a point.

His very rich father
has been telling him
to stop wasting the family fortune
on the poor,
and he brings him
in front of the Bishop
to threaten to disinherit
St Francis.

So St Francis reacts
by literally giving up everything
he owns,
not just his possessions,
but his clothes as well
- everything.

All for the love of the poor.

St Francis lives to give freely,
without grudging a penny,
and this is how he gives thanks.

He has been given freely,
so he gives freely,

Possessions merely
weigh him down with things
to look after and replace.

But doesn't it seem strange
that in order to give thanks
for what we do have,
St Francis seems to tell us
to give up everything?

Well, we mustn't follow
St Francis too closely,
otherwise the Headmaster will not be able to invite
senior members of the Clergy
to Eltham College

Even the followers of St Francis
- the Franciscans -
go around correctly dressed.

But the root of the word "thanks"
is the word "think", and to give thanks
means to consider how much we have,
and how we are using it.

We do need
to look at our lives more closely
and strip away
the surface of possessions
and material things.

What is it that we really need in our lives?

Do we really need
the new pair of Nike trainers,
the new iPod, or
the new digital television set.

If we believe that we do,
then who might benefit
from the old ones that we had?

But if we do believe
that we need new iPods, trainers, et c.
is it because the old ones have
worn out or broken,
or because they have gone
out of fashion?

It can cost an awful lot
to keep up with fashion.

If we have to have
the latest model,
the newest edition,
the most powerful version all the time,
then surely we start spending
our time nervously scrutinising
the shopping channels,
hovering around
or grabbing at the Argos catalogues waiting for the new stuff
to come out.

Is that any way to be living life?

Are dedicated followers of fashion
truly thankful for what they have,
discarding perfectly good things
for the latest model?

So who really does enjoy
the world we live in?

The Franciscan who owns nothing
but enjoys the beauty of the Earth
free from all the hassle
of owning possessions,
or those enslaved
by every whim
of fashion?

Whose thanksgiving is greater?

How do you express thanks
for all you have?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Be Longing to Belong: a Postlude

In the past few days, circumstances have illustrated some of the the thoughts I had in my last post.

Steve Irwin, the famous Australian naturalist and "croc-botherer" sadly died while filiming a television programme after being stung in the heart by a stingray.

Richard Hammond a British Television presenter, recording a programme on cars, is nearly killed when trying to break the British land-speed record in a jet-powered car.

It seems that the dreaded ratings war in the Television Industry is driving presenters to do more and more dangerous stuff for the purposes of our entertainment. While their devotion to the furthering of human experience and understanding of the world around us is commendable, I worry that the demands of television companies to entice people to keep their eyes glued to the box, are more and more unreasonable and dangerous.

May we learn to find ways of participating in the human dialogue with God, not from our armchairs, but actively in our lives. May God restore Richard Hammond and receive Steve Irwin into His loving arms.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Be longing to belong

After reading Dr. Michael Moynagh's book Changing World, Changing Church, it seems that consumerism has penetrated to the very heart of Western Culture and indeed is penetrating even the heart of the Western Church.

Day by day we are presented with the most minor of choices. Cup of coffee? The questions come in - regular or large? latte, mocha, cappuccino? shot of this? hint of that? c. Michael Moynagh suggests that this is how the Church will eventually become, and lists some very exotic forms of church. Imagine! a church for dancers, a church for chess players, a church for windsurfers... et c. each person insisting how their worship is carried out and in referring to others "praxes" with the phrase "well, they can do that if they want, but it's not my cup of tea."

For me, this is a horrible vision of the future. Church becomes less a way of life and more an indulgence of some fleeting whim or taste. We choose to be with one group of people, but not others. If there were a Church for Manchester United Supporters, it is doubtful that unless they were truly moved by the love of Christ that they would willingly go to the Church of Chelsea Supporters.

Look at the disciples! Wouldn't any sane leader choose people from the same background to further his cause so as to avoid fragmentation? Not Our Lord. As C. S. Lewis says, He was either mad, bad or Son of God, and part of His "madness" then was to choose St Matthew a tax collector (and hence Roman collaborator) and St Simon the Zealot! How these two must have hated each other at the beginning, or perhaps would have done had they met under different circumstances. It's clear that Christ wants everyone to be part of the same Church, but a Church that follows His teaching rather than the teaching of the whims of the human heart.

If two people with opposing desires are to be part of the same Church, then it's clear that at least one of them will not have their desires met. A Church of coffee drinkers will have the Angl0-Latte wing and the Roman-Mocha wing, so if the coffee being served that day is Cappuccino, then neither party is going to be satisfied. So what? Why have they come to church in the first place?

We can fill our lives by trying to get precisely what we want down to the number of granules of sugar we put in that blasted cup of coffee. But in filling our lives with this minutiae and concern for adiaphora, we push out God. In order to worship properly, we cannot be content with the life that we have now. We have to be longing for something, and that something should be God, not the perfect latte. Life can never satisfy our longing for God, and that's really what should give Christians that distinctive "saltiness" in the world: they don't care what they're drinking, they're just thankful it's coffee. It is the common yearning for God that brings St Matthew and St Simon together.

But what is worship in the first place? It is putting the object of worship first in our lives - giving "worth-ship". Surely if we are demonstrating that God is worth the most in our lives, then our love of a particular brand of coffee should be the last thing that we bring to mind. Worship is the submission of life to the object, and if the object of our worship becomes "God, but only in a certain manner" then that is pure and simple idolatry - the worship of a God of one's own imaginings.

In order to belong to the Church, we have to be longing for Christ. Indeed, if we are truly content with the life that we have, then we have lost Christ! The life of Christ is beyond the reach of this life. The Church should be a place of people, all wanting the same thing, the same Redeemer, the same God -crying out like the young ravens in the wilderness (Ps cxlvii.9) and being satisfied with His Body in sacramental form. But even the Blessed Sacrament should not be enough for us because our physical nature is fleeting and passes away from His Eternity, and so our experience of Communion fades and we hunger once more. It will not always be so -He has seen to that!

Any parish Church that follows the teaching of Christ is formed by people who are looking to fill up the void of human existence with Him for Whom that void was created. If we choose to fill that void with coffee, then what fools we are!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Battling Prattling

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Swanscombe on 17th September 2006 based on the epistle of St James iii.1-12.

Mr. Young’s year 8 class is a little boisterous today.

It’s all because Eric has brought in
his new mobile phone
which can take photographs,
play Gnarls Barklay’s number one hit
as a ring-tone
and has 37 different games
of Tetris on it.

Eric is just showing his friends a Tetris cheat when Alan,
a larger boy with bit of a reputation,
takes Eric’s phone out of his hand
and steps on it,
breaking it into a thousand pieces.

Of course, all this gets back to Mr Young
who soon has Alan in detention
with a flea in his ear.

“How dare you treat someone else like that!
Listen to me!
You’re a wicked child,
and you won’t amount to anything
with that attitude in life.”



The trouble is Alan
has always been called a “wicked child”.

You see,
Alan’s mother died in giving birth to him,
and as a result,
his father has difficulty loving him.

What do you think of Mr Young’s choice of words?

Is Alan really a wicked child?

If he’s told that he’s a wicked child,
mightn’t he eventually come to believe it?


As Christians know,
we’re all capable of evil acts,
but we learn to separate
who people are
from what they do.

“Hate the sin, but not the sinner”,
that’s what we say,
isn’t it?

The trouble is,
Mr Young is not saying that to Alan.

Mr Young’s tongue has slipped up.

In his anger, he is just prattling.


We join the Lord and His disciples
as they walk around Caesarea Philippi.

Peter is feeling quite thrilled
at having won
the “spot-the-Messiah” competition.

And then Jesus starts talking about
what has to happen to that very Messiah:
and death.

And this upsets Peter, because,
having found the Messiah,
he’s being told that
the One to Whom he wishes to devote his life
is going to meet
a terrible, horrible end.

The thought
“If you don’t do something,
you’ll lose your Messiah,”
burns within him until,
at last,
Peter can stand it no more.

Taking his beloved Lord to one side,
Peter says, “for goodness sake, Jesus,
don’t talk like this.

This is not how it’s going to be
and you know it.

We’ll be there to stop any harm coming to you.”

Jesus looks around at the others,
then the reaction:
"Get behind Me, Satan!

For you are not mindful of the things of God,
but the things of men."

Harsh, don’t you think?

Would you like to be called “Satan”
by one whom you love,
and one who loves you?

And what has Peter done?

He seems to have demonstrated concern
about the Lord’s welfare.

Is it a crime now to care about the people we love?


Peter’s words upset Jesus
because they show that
Peter is not yet ready
to be a teacher of the Truth.

God knows full well that
Peter will lead the Church well as a bishop
ordained by Christ Himself,
defending it against all the horrors of the world.

God knows that Peter will end his days
crucified upside-down on Vatican Hill
for love of Jesus.

But Peter is far from ready.

Suppose Jesus had listened to his words.

“Okay Peter, you’re quite right,
let’s go back to Galilee
and forget the whole thing.


Nearly came a cropper then, didn’t I?”

No Resurrection, no Salvation.

Peter’s words obviously tempt Jesus to give up,
just as Satan tempted Him in the wilderness.

But Jesus knows the Truth,
and, despite that truth,
will not spare Himself
the scourge,
the crown of thorns,
the nails
and the spear.

At the moment, Peter’s words are unreliable.

He’s just prattling.


This is a problem that teachers face.

Just how does a teacher put
thoughts and ideas into words
so that students can understand them,
and then go on and use them well?

It isn’t easy, because you have
to know how you are thinking
and how the student is thinking!

Teachers would love to know
the thoughts of their students
just to make sure that their lessons are sinking in.

If you use even one wrong word,
then you can utterly ruin
any potential understanding that a child could have.

It’s a reality that all teachers have to face
- have they explained things clearly enough?

Is what they have taught accurate?

Are they guilty of prattling?


If one word can cause a child to go wrong,
what about a culture which is
saturated with words and noise?

Look at the information
and misinformation
that we meet on a day by day basis.

One year we are told eggs are good for us,
the next year they’re bad for us.

We’re told there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,
and then that there are none.

The world in which we live is filled with prattle
–meaningless noise,
thoughtless words,
and irrelevant information that corrupts us all.

No wonder people are being misled
into some very dark paths.


And no wonder
that they will not listen to the Church.

The Church has become one voice among many,
and God’s still small voice of calm
is drowned by cries of all kinds.

No one wants to hear a voice of love
that says that submission to the will of God
is the road to everlasting happiness.

No wonder
we don’t get new people through the church door
if we are just adding to the noise around them.

They only hear words,
not what God is saying.

Even the places where we worship
we can fill with noise,
so that we fail to hear the word of God.

“Lord, we just want to praise You,
we just want to glorify Your name,
we just want to give You thanks.”

And God says, “I just want to get a word in edgeways.”

One theologian calls this condition
“the Prattler of Pious Platitudes”
- the tendency within each of us
to block out the words of God
with faint and empty praise.


If the message of God
is being drowned out by the noise of prattle,
then perhaps the only way
to ring out God’s message of love
loud and clear
is to live the truth of that message of love
in our lives.

Perhaps we don’t have to say a thing
in order to show the love of God to people,
just let our lives be an example to everyone.

The more closely we follow God,
the more His light shines in us,
and that light is utterly unmistakable.

So how do we live our lives
as beacons of the love of God?

Have you been listening?

Have I been prattling?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Big Death and Little Death

Yes, it's another post about Sex! Or is it? Elizabethans used to refer to the act as "the Little Death", and therein perhaps lies the root of humanity's eternal preoccupation with the act of procreation. Sex and Death have been taboo subjects at one time in history or other. Sex was taboo for the Victorians, whereas Death was something of great fascination for them. Now the roles are reversed, Sex is the driving force behind modernity and Death something to be glossed over.

For the Christian, both are terribly important because they both mark fascinating singularities (almost in a mathematical sense) of what it means to live. Conception is the start of life, expiration the end of physical existence. Fr Basil Matthews, erstwhile Abbot of Elmore Abbey, stated that life begins with an inspiration and ends with an expiration - a breath. I'm fond of that picture because of its relationship with the spirit, the pneuma, the ru'ach. But nonetheless, life begins, not with a physical breath, but with the amalgamation of two microscopic gametes and this in conjunction with the inspiration of a soul. An organism comes together, and then a while later falls apart again.

The fact that there is an imbalance between our regard for Sex and Death means that our view of life is skewed terribly. "In the midst of life, we are in death" - the two go together! However, in modernity, our preoccupation is with Sex, as a way of forgetting about death.

"The look" is to be young and thin, full of vigour. Our teenagers are bombarded with images of scantily-clad peers, the natural drive being supplemented by the need to demonstrate that vigour. Our elders are held in disrespect, because they are old and ugly, steadily getting weaker until they disappear into boxes in the ground or behind a curtain. Death is the punishment for becoming unsexy, which we must all steadily become, if "unsexy" means older and less potent.

Mankind craves potency, control over his own destiny, and seeks to extend that potency artificially if need be. And Death comes along, and renders his power infinitesimal. Modern "Sex" then attempts to drive away Death, only the attempt is utterly futile, not least because Sex to stave off Death is already dead.

The Christian position has always been the greatest reverence for both Sex and Death, and this is why the Church is "obsessed" with both. Except that it isn't obsessed, certainly not as the world is. Sex is good - it means Life - and Death is good, because Death has no longer any sting for the Christian, but is the doorway to an eternity full of the ecstasy and passion that both life and death possess.

In accepting that we have no control over our life, but submitting to the will of Christ we are free to be born, to engender life and to die without the need to prove anything. We therefore enjoy Sex - and I believe that even celibate Religious Folk are given the sense of euphoria that accompanies it - and we actually enjoy Death because our passage from this world means the ultimate and aweful propect of being with the Someone who loves us all.

In Christianity, neither the Big Death, nor the Little Death has the sting, neither the grave nor the bedroom has the victory.