St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church Service Times

You are invited to join us for Anglican Catholic Holy Communion / Mass on:
Every Sunday 2017. Maitland NSW Australia. Venue: St Marys School Chapel in Victoria St. Mass at 11am.
Email
Fr Matthew Kirby for further details.
Check here for any additions or cancelations of services.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Confirmation



As a follow up to Dia's Baptism,
Last Tuesday saw a confirmation taking place at St Hildas.
Thank you to all those within our parish who attended,
as well as those who couldn't be there but still held Dia in their prayers, 
and a special thank you to our American guests

This image was taken during the ceremony.

Archbishop Mark Haverland, Dia Vikland and Father Matthew Kirby
pose for photo in front of the main altar at St Marys Chapel.

back row: Bill Kirby, Archbishop Haverland, Father Matthew, Father Jonathon
front row: Dia Vikland, Amy Corp, Clayton Foggin.

our American Guests:
Archbishop Mark Haverland, Father Jonathon and Clayton Foggin.




Monday, 8 May 2017

from within

It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from within you - the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God.
- (1Peter 3:3-4)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

new Baptism

Easter Sunday 2017 was Dia's special day of Baptism.

Through all of life's ups and downs may
she always hold tight to God
and may the love of Christ shine through her.

As a newly adopted daughter of God
please welcome her into the Body of Christ.


Easter Sunday 2017 Photos





Palm Sunday 2017 Photos





Monday, 27 March 2017

Don't Make Faith Harder

A thought for today:

"God gives faith; we don't. But we can do things that make faith harder for other people, and we must try to minimize those things."
(Quoted from Archbishop Mark Haverland)

Monday, 20 March 2017

Dance before the Lord

I once heard the  physical gestures during the liturgy referred to as a dance of joy before the Lord. Each time I see the congregation cross themselves or bow at the knee or lower their heads at the name of Jesus I think of this saying and smile inwardly.

 If you didn't grow up in the traditional Catholic faith you probably won't be sure what the gesture of crossing yourself during the service is all about, or when you should or shouldn't do it. When I first became part of the church, I certainly didn't. Recently I was asked about this gesture and so decided to do a small write-up here that might be of assistance.

Firstly, there is a modern symbolic interpretation of the cross which I like. The vertical section (the up and down line) represents the transcendent, spiritual realm (the Father) and a horizontal section represents the immanent, physical earthly existence (the Son). When you cross yourself these lines are intersecting slightly above center at the point of the heart, creating wholeness (Holy Spirit) as God was made man. Pretty cool aye?

The sign of the cross (Latin: signum crucis), or crossing yourself, is a form of prayer and it isn't a ritual restricted only to Catholics. It is a way of marking ourselves as Christians and it is a visible expression of our belief and hope in God. It is a reminder to us of the Triune God and also recalls Christ's passion and death on the Cross for our salvation. The Sign of the Cross is probably the most often used prayer of Christians. Despite its simplicity, the Sign of the Cross is an ancient prayer rich in meaning. References to it appear in writings dating back to 240 AD, and it is believed that it was in use during the earliest days of Christianity.

Are you wondering how to do it? 
Well, there are 2 ways you can position your hand, both are symbolic.
 
1. Hold your thumb and first two fingers together to represent the Three Persons of the Holy     Trinity, and fold the other two fingers down against the base of your thumb to represent the Two  Natures of Jesus Christ (meaning He is fully human and fully divine).
2. With an open hand, where their five fingers remind them of the five wounds of Christ.

Anglicans, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics cross themselves using a Western Style. The direction they use is from the left to the right, representing Jesus’ descent into Hades (the left side) and His ascension into Heaven (the right side).
   
1. Touch your forehead
2. Touch the base of your sternum
3. Touch the left side of your chest
4. Touch the right side of your chest
5. As you cross yourself, say, whisper, or think: “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Now you know "how", but what about "when"?
Well, it is a custom to do this gesture when invoking the Trinity, before and after prayers and ceremony. It is also a stand-alone practice of asking God to bless oneself. Many Christians also make the sign of the cross when they hear the name of the Blessed Trinity. By observing other people in your church you can also get a feeling for times when it is appropriate. You can also cross yourself when you need to pray but you are at a loss for words. By tracing the cross on your body you are taking up your cross and following Jesus. Because we are called to pray non-ceasing, and the crossing of oneself is a form of prayer, I don't think there is any time when it would be inappropriate so don't worry about being the only one inspired to do the gesture at any time during a service.

What's that? you saw someone trace little crosses on themselves?
This is done before the Gospel reading at Mass.
To do this you use your thumb. 

1. Place the small cross first on your forehead
   (while saying the words in your mind "Christ be on my mind"),
2. then sign the cross on your lips
   (while saying the words in your mind "Christ be on my lips"),
3. then sign the cross on your chest
   (while saying the words in your mind "Christ be in my heart").
In doing this, we acknowledge our belief in the Word of God, our commitment to spread His Word in our daily lives, and our awareness of His presence in our hearts.

When we make the Sign of the Cross on ourselves, we are also expressing our belief in God and the Trinity, reminding ourselves of God's love for us, of the sacrifice Jesus made to give us eternal life, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

Hope this was helpful. God Bless.

( by Di Mathews: churchwarden /blog administrator)

Monday, 6 March 2017

Love your sense of humour, Lord

We have entered into the season of Lent, a time where we try too deny ourselves of the flesh to make way for the spirit in becoming more of Christ. Today (the 6th day into Lent) I opened a book by David Pullar and the first story I read seemed so appropriate. I will share it with you. (Di Mathews)

"Love your sense of humour, Lord"

I love your sense of humour, Lord. It comes through in so many of your stories.

I can just see you watching that narrow gate in the walls of Jerusalem called "The Eye Of A Needle". Camels had to be unloaded and led through. Even a surcingle, a rope around the camel's girth, would catch and cause problems.

To the side is a prosperous merchant. The size of his girth testifies to his prosperity. I can see you picturing him outside the gates of the Kingdom Of Heaven with all his possessions. One by one they would have to be lain aside. Then off comes his cloak and each of his garments, till he stands as naked as the day he was born, except for his money belt around his middle. It catches as he tries desperately to squeeze through the narrow gate. Finally, he has to remove it and go "starkers" into Heaven !

Even funnier to me is the thought of the look on his face as he emerges in Heaven - not naked as he had left the outside, but clothed with radiant robes as a much loved son of God.

Lord, help me not to treat myself too seriously, but to "hang loose" for an easy entrance to your home.

(uploaded with permission from David Pullar, Illustration by Andrew Pullar)

Monday, 27 February 2017

Ash Wednesday

will be at midday this Wednesday (1st March 2017)... 
Hope to see you there.


What is Ash Wednesday About ??
This holy day will mark the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting and prayer that is considered preparation for Holy Week and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the forehead. The ashes which are made from blessed palm branches taken from the previous year's palm Sunday Mass, symbolize the dust from which God made us. The ash is placed on their foreheads in the shape of the cross as the words from Genesis 3:19 are spoken: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Although there is no Biblical reference to Ash Wednesday or Lent, scholars of Christianity date the tradition of a 40-day fasting period back to 325 A.D. Writings from the Second-century Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a visible sign of penance. They symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.

Lent mirrors Jesus’ own 40-day period of fasting, described in the book of Matthew.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

sacrificial payment and infinite forgiveness

The following is a transcript from an oral serman 
presented by Father Matthew Kirby to his parish.

Peter said unto Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?" Jesus said unto him "I say not until seven times, but until seventy times seven”. (Matthew 18:21-22)

To see the full significance of both Peter's and Jesus' statements we need to know two things:

The first is that Peter would have considered his maximum allowance to be seven forgiveness's per person as fairly generous, it was after all more than twice as many the number given by respected Jewish religious authority. It says to forgive 3 times so peter had clearly noted Jesus' teachings that were previously given about forgiving others. 

The second thing we need to know is that the number Jesus has given implies unlimited forgiveness. If we were to keep a written tally of how many times we had forgiven somebody (how else could we keep track of it) and then  consign them to an allowed-to-hate-forever-more list-number-491 we would be missing the point. You can imagine it can't you? someone keeping a list, "okay that is the 244th time, you are almost half way to the limit you know". To keep such a tally in anticipation of the day we may give up forgiving would show that we had never forgiven them at all. The kind of love that forgives is the kind of love that keeps no record of wrongs (to quote Paul in 1corinthians 13). So what Jesus is saying is that it is a countless number of times. 

The other important thing to note about the number Jesus uses, is that it counters (or stands against) the same number used by Lemech in the book of Genesis. Lamech used this number as a measure of revenge. (Genesis 4:23-24) " Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say, I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”" (or 70x7 as it can be translated) And so this is a statement of revenge and he has revenged himself on somebody and he claims for himself without waiting for God something similar that has happened to Caine who had murdered his brother, God had punished him and said that no one can kill him or they will be revenged seven fold. So this fellow takes it upon himself to say "well if anyone has a go at me, they are going to be avenged seventy-sevenfold (70x7)". So Jesus is taking this particular verse (and what he says can be taken as either 70-times-7 or 77-times) from the Old Testament and turning it around (turning it on its head). That was about vengeance, this is about forgiveness. Jesus is deliberately contrasting unlimited revenge with unlimited forgiveness. 

In one commentary I read it talked about the unlimited revenge of primitive man, referring to that Old Testament example. I think it is safe to say that mankind as a whole is never outgrown its desire to go further than justice demands in seeking retribution. This is because love of justice is seldom if ever our primary motivation, fear and hatred tend to move us more than love of justice. There is many examples of this in our long and bloodied human history.   

When Jesus wants to underline limitless forgiveness he uses the parable in today's Gospel reading. In having told Peter to forgive seventy times seven or seventy seven times (uncounted times) he then goes on to tell a parable. In the parable we have a master forgiving his servant, then that servant NOT forgiving his fellow servant a debt of a much smaller amount. Again, it helps to know some of the historical context. The sum that Jesus mentions which this servant owed the Lord was 10,000 talents which is many millions of dollars in today's money. (The word talent, when used as a measure of money, refers to a talent-weight of gold or of silver. The gold talent is reported as weighing roughly the same as a person, and so perhaps 50 kg). This is almost like one man owing to total debt of a country, it was an astonishing amount. So this parable is deliberately using hyperbole because it is very difficult for a servant to owe his master that much, it is a huge amount. Then, what does the fellow servant owe him? a hundred denarius, now that is more than 3 months average wages. It is not a pittance, it is a substantial amount, yet it is so tiny compared to the previous sum. In other words Jesus in not saying "you have to forgive because what it is that you have to forgive is nothing". He is not saying that at all. He is saying "You may have to forgive a lot (the equivalent of Three months wages), but compare that to God and how He is forgiving you, the whole human race constantly and His forgiveness is unlimited". The interesting thing is that when this wicked servant (who was forgiven but would not forgive) tries to deal with the situation before he is forgiven, he says "Lord have patience with me and I will pay you everything." and that was an empty promise because he couldn't, he would simply be incapable of paying back millions and millions of dollars (or the equivalent). He was desperate. The response of his Lord was to have compassion, even though he knows this fellow is really fibbing and can't pay him back. 

But the King or Lord in this particular parable is not a direct analogy for God. It is a story we have to take on its own merits about an extreme example of a human situation. So the King is not necessarily equal to God. God wouldn't sell the mans whole family to pay off his debt as this King does later in this parable. We are meant to take this seriously as what would happen if humans behaved this way and then compare that to the way God would react to our unforgivness. As I have said before parables are not allegories, we can't say every single component in a parable stands in for something else directly, it is not that simple. Parables didn't work that way in the ancient world, they often had one or two points. You weren't meant to take every part of the parable and make it an analogy for something else. Indeed you might say that the parable is deliberately unrealistic in that we have a radical change in the the King's attitude and we have this ridiculous amount of debt, which was (even in those days) impossible for a servant to owe his master. However the massive debt does stand in for something. 

That massive debt is an analogy for how much God forgives us all for the weight of sin. There is a reason why God can not forgive the unforgiving. Because to not forgive when we are sinners is really not to repent from our own sin. The humble heart that seeks forgiveness is the same gentle heart that offers forgiveness. The two go together naturally. We need soft hearts in order to imitate Christ whose physical heart was literally broken, pierced for us on the cross. He who calls His heart meek, lowly, that is gentle and humble. One way to soften our hearts toward God and those who have hurt us is to meditate on the extent of Gods forgiveness of each and every one of us and on what it cost Him. 

So let us do that as we approach the Eucharist which is the memorial of Christ's sacrificial payment of our massive debt. It is the communication of Gods infinite forgiveness. 

In the name of The Father, and of The Son, and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, 13 February 2017

True Love.

She had beautiful brown hair with a fringe and the deepest brown eyes. Her name was Pam. She lived next door, and we would walk to school holding hands. I loved her.

Then her parents moved away, and I never saw my beloved Pam again. At the age of six one seems to have very little control over one's parents and the course of life.

I recovered, then years later, I saw her - the girl of my dreams - Renee, blond, blue eyes and even curves where the glamourous movie stars had curves. She was fourteen. I was twelve. I adored her and followed wherever I could.

What hurt most was that she got this big kid to come and tell me to "rack off".

Ive learnt a lot about love since. It certainly never runs smoothly. Ive learnt that love and suffering are very much tied together. Ive also learnt that the moments of bliss and contentment and joy still make it worth the while to love, and be loved.

Thanks Father, for the gift of Love, and people to love. Thanks for the insights it gives into the way you love each of us, however different - but for ever.

(The above text is published with permission - 
from the writtings of David Pullar. Illustration by Andrew Pullar)

Lord, 
As I walk through each day 
you offer so many opertunities to practice love with my fellow man 
so that I may master what Love is, prior to standing before you. 
Help me to see the good in others 
so that I not only love those who are kind to me 
but also those who are not.

Allow me to glimpse at their potential 
and see them as you do, 
Remind me of my own shortcomings 
and the fact that you still love me 
even though my journey is yet to be completed.
Amen

(prayer by Di Mathews)

What is Valentines Day

This Valentines day I am working in a charity store whose policy is to be accepting of all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion or any other aspect of life that may be a topic of predudice. Part of its policy is not to sell items of any religious nature (not limited to Christianity). The interesting thing is that I was asked to create a "Valentines day" display in the store to market some of their products. It was made obvious our cultures ignorances regarding true meanings behind some of the celebrations it now takes for granted. Last year our blog ran an article about who St Valentine was. Once again I will run this legend.

This Saint Valentines Day when you are feeling all romantic and loving, step back from the commercial card rack and give a thought to the purpose of recognising Saints because Valentines Day wasn't invented to romance the opposite sex. Its purpose was to honour a Saint and to learn by his example. In the legends that developed about Saint Valentine he wasn't trying to win the heart of a young maiden, but rather he puts his dedication to his faith and love of God, followed by his love for and serving of others, above everything including his own safety. 


We are a bit lacking in the factual recordings of this particular Saint. 
However a lot of the early Saints do have legends that develop.

There are many legends behind Saint Valentine. Story has it that while under house arrest, because he defied the order of the emperor Claudius and secretly married couples so that the husbands wouldn't have to go to war. Soldiers were sparse at this time so this was a big inconvenience to the emperor. To remind Soldiers and persecuted Christians of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have given them hearts cut from parchment. Saint Valentine (who was a former Bishop) was challenged during a discussion about faith by Judge Asterius while under arrest. The judge insisted that Valentine prove his faith and the validity of Christ by restoring the eye sight of the Judges adopted blind daughter. If successful Asterius would do anything Valentine asked. Valentine laid his hands on her eyes and the child's vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentine what he should do. Valentine replied that all of the idols around the judge's house should be broken, the judge should fast for three days, and then undergo baptism. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) were baptized. Valentine was later arrested again and had to face the emperor Claudius. Valentine tried to convert Claudius to Christianity, but Claudius refused and condemned him to death, commanding that Valentine either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentine refused and Claudius' command was executed February 14, 269. Legend has it that on the day of his execution he left the girl a note that was signed “Your Valentine" as a farewell.

Let Us Pray,

O'Saint Valentine,
The lover of Christ and of the church,
we ask for your intercession
so that we may learn to love God above all things,
and to selflessly love one another.
O'Glorious Saint Valentine pray for us,
that we too may have the steadfast faith of the martyrs.

Almighty God, strengthen my faith.
Give me the courage to always place you first.
Fill my soul with the love of God
so that it may shine forth into the world.
Fill my heart with your love for man
so that I may serve them well according to your will.
Amen


Lord Jesus Christ... be my Valentine.

( by Di Mathews: churchwarden /blog administrator)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Big Bin

It's garbage day! The "Big Bin" has to be put out for the collection truck which comes in the morning.

Big bins are beaut! Big, so that they can take all our garbage - garbage from the kitchen and from the study, scraps and saw dust and shavings from the workshop, even weeds from the garden. But sometimes there is also the litter others have left - on the footpath, and thrown over our fence - all placed in the "big bin" and wheeled out on its own wheels to the side of the road.

Later that day - oh the miracles of this modern age - it stands empied, patiently waiting to be taken back to its place - to be filled again.

Lord, it seems to me that's what you meant when you taught us to pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us".

Only you, Lord, can take ALL the garbage of our lives - not just the wrong we have done - but ALL the wrongs others have done to us. It clutters up our lives till we wheel it out for YOU to take away - and then leave us with more room for your love.

Thank you Lord, for Garbologists - Human and Divine.

The above text is uploaded with permission
(from the writings of David Pullar, Illustration by Andrew Pullar).

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 
(Matthew11:29-30 RSV)

Lord, 
Help us to make our burden light so that our souls find rest. 
Lighten our hearts and thoughts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit 
and remind us to place the trash from each day where it belongs 
and not to litter our lives nor the lives of others with it. 
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 
Amen

(Di Mathews, Church warden and Blog admin)

The Greatest is LOVE

The three most important things to have 
are faith, hope and love. 
But the greatest of them is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year

O IMMORTAL Lord God, who inhabitest eternity, 
and hast brought thy servants to the beginning of another year: 
Pardon, we humbly beseech thee, our transgressions in the past, 
bless to us this New Year, 
and graciously abide with us all the days of our life; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Our Advent Wreath

What is Advent?

Most of us know that Advent represents the time before Christmas, and to many children it is a count down of how many sleeps until Santa arrives and presents appear under the Christmas tree. Did you realise though that Advent is actually the beginning of the Christian year, a time of waiting and preparation or the coming (Adventus) of Christ. 

The Advent wreath dates back to ancient celebrations of the winter solstice - that time in the year when the sun reaches its southern-most point in the heavens and the days are the darkest and most gloomy. Because they longed for the return of the suns light and life, the ancients stopped all usual activity, sacrificed the use of their wagon wheels and hung them up, festooned with lights and greens in their celebration halls. There they awaited the return of their sun-god, thinking of the warmth and life he brought. Celebrations culminated in the "nativity" of the sun -  the turning point of the year.

As Christians, we use the same meaningful custom to anticipate the feast of light and life: the nativity of the Savior. We add one light on the wreath for each Sunday in Advent, We think of the darkness after Adam's sin and watch the growing hope and light as the prophets and Virgin help us prepare for His saving birth.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who art the true light that lightest every man that cometh into the world: Bless we pray thee, our wreath and its candles which we shall light in preparation for thy coming, and so enkindle our hearts with the fire of thy love that we may receive thee with joy and gladness, and evermore stand fast in the faith. For thou livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Each Sunday in Advent marked by lighting of a new candle on the Advent wreath of five candles. The three purple candles are coloured for the season. A pink candle is traditionally lit on the third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminding us of the joy of the coming of Christ. The white candle, symbolises the presence of Christ and is joyfully lit on Christmas Day.

Symbols of Advent
  • The colour of our Advent altar -  purple, the colour of royalty welcoming the coming of Christ the King. Purple is also the colour of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week suggesting connection between Jesus' birth and death. The nativity and the Incarnation, are linked with His crucifixion. Jesus came into the world as the "Word made flesh" and lived among us to reveal God and His grace. He did this through his life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.
  • The Circle Of Wreath - represents the eternity and endless mercy, of God, without beginning, nor end.
  • The Green of the Wreath - Our hope of newness, renewal and eternal life.
  • Light of the Candles - The Light of God that came into the world through Christ to bring newness, life and hope
  • Lighting the Candles - The progressive departure of darkness from the world as the more and more light is shed through the candles.
  • Four Outer Candles -  The four weeks of Advent, representing the four centuries between the time of the Prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.
  • Three Purple Candles -  A period of waiting, expectation and preparation.
  • Advent Sunday - The First Candle: The Candle of Promise. A time of expectation and hope.
  • Advent II - The Second Candle: The candle of Light. The peace that is to come.
  • Advent III - The Pink Candle. The candle of Love. It symbolizes joy for the promise is almost fulfilled.
  • Advent IV - The Fourth Candle:The candle of Hope. The love of God for humanity.
  • Christmas Day - The white center candle: The Candle displaying the light of Christ. It is lit on Christmas Eve or Day to display that the light of Christ has come into the world in fulfillment of the prophecies.



Sunday, 30 October 2016

Christ the King

Christ the King 2016

The following is a sermon summary.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” [Introit : Revelation 5:12] +

Confusing verse: 
How can the Lord receive wisdom when he is omniscient ?
How can he receive power when he is the omnipotent Creator? 
What does the one for the Earth is his footstool need with wealth? 
What does this act of worship mean?

There are two levels at which this can be taken. 
First, it is can be interpreted as saying that He is worthy of having all this ascribed to Him, so that it is short for “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive acknowledgement of his infinite power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Cf. Revelation 4:11.) 
A second way to understand this is to remember that it follows on from earlier statements in the chapter that the Lamb has conquered, established a Kingdom for his people, and earned the right the unroll the scroll of human history and destiny. Thus, the seven glories, which, unusually, are here introduced in the Greek with only one article – “THE power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing”all represent one gift to the King, which is the sum of all creaturely achievements or possessions. In other words, all the good of human kingdoms and cultures and thought find their true place under his sovereignty, and thus all honour is duly given to Him. Then the words can be interpreted as “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive the power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing of all mankind and his works!”

The connection between these interpretations is the recognition that all the beauty has come from Him, and so it all belongs to Him and finds its fulfillment in Him. That is who we follow and who we worship. And He truly is worthy: worthy as God and worthy as the Second Adam, the Man who has redeemed and restored humanity.

But, as I noted before, Christ's Kingship is not merely over us but, in the end, with us in partnership. This astonishing truth is made clearer as we look further into the chapter and what came before it. Who spoke this praise? The angels, but also the “Elders”. Who are they? Allow me to read from more of the chapter, and then quote from a Biblical Commentary.

[English Standard Version: Revelation of John Chapter 5] 
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! And the four living creatures said, Amen! and the elders fell down and worshiped. 

[Excerpt from the Navarre Bible Commentary]: 
God's sovereignty over the world--as symbolized by the throne--is shared in by others whom the vision also portrays as seated on thrones. They are symbolically described as twenty-four elders who act as a kind of heavenly council or senate. These elders appear frequently in the course of the book, always positioned beside God, rendering him tribute of glory and worship (cf. 4:10) "the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing," (cf. 5:9) “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation," (cf. 19:4) "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”, offering him the prayers of the faithful (cf. 5:8) "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; or explaining events to the seer" (cf. 5:5) "Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”(cf. 7:13) "Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?”. It is not clear whether they stand for angels or saints; the Fathers and recent commentators offer both interpretations.

The symbolic number (twenty-four) and the way they are described suggest that they stand for saints in the glory of heaven. They are twenty-four--twelve plus twelve, that is, the number of the tribes of Israel plus that of the Apostles. Our Lord in fact promised the latter that they would sit on thrones (cf. Mt 19:28) "Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel". The twenty-four elders, then, would represent the heavenly Church, which includes the old and the new Israel and which, in heaven, renders God the tribute of perfect praise and intercedes for the Church on earth. The number twenty-four has also been seen as reflecting the twenty-four priestly classes of Judaism, thereby emphasizing the liturgical dimension of heaven (cf. 1 Chron 24:7-18) "The first lot fell to Jehoi′arib, the second to Jedai′ah, the third to Harim, the fourth to Se-o′rim, the fifth to Malchi′jah, the sixth to Mi′jamin, the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abi′jah, the ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecani′ah, the eleventh to Eli′ashib, the twelfth to Jakim, the thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jesheb′e-ab, the fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, the seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Hap′pizzez, the nineteenth to Pethahi′ah, the twentieth to Jehez′kel, the twenty-first to Jachin, the twenty-second to Gamul, the twenty-third to Delai′ah, the twenty-fourth to Ma-azi′ah". (cf. 25:1) "David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service certain of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jedu′thun, who should prophesy with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was:" (cf. 9-13) "besides their kinsmen, heads of their fathers’ houses, one thousand seven hundred and sixty, very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.". Whichever is the case, the white garments indicate that they have achieved everlasting salvation (cf. 3:5) "He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels". and the goldencrowns stand for the reward they have earned (cf. 2:10) "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.", or the prominence among Christians, who have been promised that, if they come out victorious, they will sit on Christ's throne (cf. 3:21) "He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne". [NB: these vv just before first mention of 24]

So, these Elders represent the same 12 plus 12 that we see described at the end of Revelation when the New Jerusalem is described with 12 foundations named after the Apostles and 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel. 

In other words, the Elders do probably represent glorified human Saints of the whole people of God. The fact that we see them offering the prayers of the saints (that word here referring to Christians generally, as is normal in the New Testament) is one of the reasons that Catholics ask for the prayers of the Saints in heaven. Thus we discover that the kingly priesthood, the reign of believers, begins even now, is intensified after death, and is fulfilled in eternity.

And in the same way Christ makes a gift to us of Himself and His kingdom, we find here that we give all of ourselves to Him in return for He is worthy, and yet lose nothing and gain everything in the final analysis. Thus the circle is complete, the interchange of love and blessing being perfected in the union of Christ with his Bride, the Church. +

Monday, 10 October 2016

Where are you ACC ?

If you are part of our parish here at St Hilda's at Maitland you already realise the ACC isnt one of the biggest churches in Australia. Remember though, that it is world wide and not just restricted to our own backdoor. Many of the members of the larger ACC community can be found online, offering the friendship and spiritual support just as if they attended the same little church building as yourself. I think this is one of the wonderful things about finding Christ is that you also start to find his followers, even over long distances. 

This week i had the privilege of sharing this fun image found online. This gentleman (for anyone who may not know him) is Bishop Damien Mead from Rochester church (UK) Don't worry he is not immoblised, this image was just taken after blessing a mobility scooter. I mean, how could you resist taking it for a spin with that number plate. Such a great image that captured the mans fun-loving personality (shared with his blessings). 

Don't be afraid to make yourself seen and to also seek out online, the ACC is very active and welcoming out there. 

text supplied By Di Mathews (Church warden and blog admin).

Monday, 3 October 2016

Astonishing Arrogance or Personal Challenge?

"He that is not with me is against me".
In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.

The following is a transcript from an oral serman 
presented by Father Matthew Kirby to his parish.

It is often said that the Gospel of John makes the most of Jesus' divinity and presents his teaching in the most abstract way. All that talk of Jesus being The Light, The Bread, The Life, Glory, Truth and The Word. Whereas, on the other hand, it is said that the "Synoptic Gospels", the other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), present Jesus in a more human way and emphasise his moral teaching more than his teachings about himself.

While there is an element of truth in this, there are many exceptions. Many places where the Gospel Of John emphasises Jesus humanity and the other Gospels show of His divinity and there are parts of the Gospels which could be found in any of the Gospels. So, for example if we look at Matthew chapter 11 we have a very famous passage which is quoted at Mass, (Matthew 11:27) Jesus says: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father: and no man knows the Son, except the Father; no one knows the Father, except the Son, and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then he goes on to say, "All you who labour and are heavy laden, i will give you rest..." and so on. This verse "All things have been delivered to me by my Father: and no man knows the Son, except the Father; no one knows the Father, except the Son." is very much reminiscent of John's style of writing and yet there it is in Matthew's Gospel. It is also found (i think) in Mark. That kind of categorisation where we say "oh, John emphasises the divinity and the others emphasise the humanity" is a bit of an over simplification. 

There are other exceptions to this general rule. In the Gospel from Luke, Jesus says "He that is not with me is against me". This implies that in judging what men are, the main issue is their attitude to Jesus. That, if you think about it, is an astonishing claim. If it is true it means that something about Jesus makes Him the ultimate standard. It is like saying the world can be divided into two groups, those who are with me and those who are against me and there is no neutral ground. As if that is the one great moral reference point. Everything is measured in terms of how it conforms to Jesus' character and will. Now, if that claim by Jesus is untrue then it is astonishingly arrogant. it stands therefore as a fundamental personal challenge of Jesus to every human being. Like the one he gave to St Peter when he said to him "Who do you say that I am?" St Paul says the written word of God is a sharp sword but so is the one we call "The Word" Jesus himself. He is like a sharp sword. St Paul said the word of God divides, and similarly Jesus himself divides us into the "for" and "against", the good and the evil. He compels us to make a choice. He says here, "He that is not with me is against me". In another place He reverses it and says "He who is not against us, is for us", so there is this great division based on Christ himself, of humanity.

So, Christianity is all about Jesus. That is the case through all the Gospels where we see Jesus presents himself as the central character in history and the one who decides good and evil amongst men. The one who is the standard. We can understand this better if we look at the parallel passages in the other Gospels. This was from Luke earlier but I will read from Matthew (Matthew 12:30-32) "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Therefore I say to you, all kinds of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age, or the age to come." now let us compare this to John (John 8:48-59) "The Jews answered Him, “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"”. There you go, again the same accusation. In all three passages, we start with the accusation that Jesus does what he does through demons. Jesus answers "I dont have a demon but I honour my father and you dishonour me. yet I do not seek my own glory. There is one who seeks it, He will be the judge. Truely truely I say to you if anyone keeps my word he will never taste death". The Jews said to him, now we know you have a demon. Abraham and the prophets died, and You say, ‘If a man keeps My word, he shall never taste death.’ “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets are dead! Who do You make Yourself out to be?”Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. If I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you. But I know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day. He saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old. Have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”" and then they tried to stone Him. 

Why does he say that? Why doesn't he say "before Abraham was, I was" to say that he existed before then? Well, the phrase "I AM" is the name of God in the old Testament. It translates as Yahew or Jehovah. So, he is claiming divinity here in that very parallel passage. So, this is John's presentation of a similar event, maybe not identical confrontation but it is one of those confrontations where Jesus is accused of doing what he does through the devil. In Matthews Gospel we see he talks about the blasphemy against the spirit. In this Gospel we see that he again makes this great vision. He is saying "I am speeking the truth, I am not trying to glorify myself, it is God that glorifies me because of who I am and before Abraham was, I AM.". Indeed the miracles He performs are confirming who He is and this is the very thing that they refuse to accept. So, all three passages are quoting the Lord's response to an accusation that He is demon possessed. That is the context in all three cases. All three cases show that rejecting Jesus is the ultimate sin because to reject Him is to reject God. This is what He says in all these passages. "You are not just rejecting Me, you are rejecting God, The Father, whose glory Jesus reflects. God The Son, who Jesus is. By rejecting Jesus you are rejecting also God The Holy Spirit, who inhabits and empowers Jesus the man". Of cause Jesus was saying "I'm not doing this by the devil, Im doing it by the Holy Spirit, so when you say Im doing it by the devil, you are not just insulting me, you are insulting the Holy Spirit", that is what He says in Matthews Gospel. So, in each case, in each Gospel it is the same basic message. They accuse Him of doing this by the devil and He says "NO, and by saying that you are opposing yourself to God. It is God who is doing this". 

Remember: He said "If Im casting out devils by the finger of God then no doubt the kingdom of God has come apon you". That is a very suggestive way of putting it. The kingdom of God has come apon you, not the kingdom of God has come TO you. It is a bit more violent than that, the kingdom of God has fallen on you, it is there, it is in your face, and you are rejecting it. 

So, there is this fundamental unity between all the Gospels and they present Jesus as making the same basic response in each case to these accusations. To reject Him is evil because it is not just rejecting him as a man, it is rejecting him as God. Notice in Matthews Gospels he says "Whoever says a word against The Son Of Man will be forgiven" so, looking at Jesus' humanity is one thing but because that is not all there is to him then our response to Christ is a fundamental aspect of who we are. This helps us undersatand what Jesus means by saying "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable but blasphamy against the Son Of Man is not". He is not deminishing his own importance or merely saying a certain insulting form of words about the Holy Spirit is some infinite sin, He is talking about those who can see that Jesus realy is, and have enough reason to know he is, more than a man but still reject him. They would prefer to call the light darkness, and darkness light, to call good evil and to call evil good, than to trust in Him. They saw what Jesus was doing , he wasn't doing bad things, he wasn't killing people, he was helping people, and because they would not accept him they would reject that light, reject the good, the obvious good in what he was doing and therefore their rejection is all the more significant. 

So, we must not be ashamed of the name JESUS. 
Christianity is not just a wise philosophy 
or a radical ethical system. 
It is LIFE. Life from the Lord Of Life himself.

If a church encourages and does good deeds, 
speaks out against injustice, and rebukes moral foolishness 
but does not lead people to Jesus, 
it FAILS. 

For without Him, all our works are dead,
All our words are powerless to transform sinful hearts within.
But with Him, there is truth and righteousness 
and the power of the resurrection.

In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.