St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church Service Times

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Fr Matthew Kirby for further details.
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Friday, 8 April 2016

Enter Into His Wounds


“Peace be with you”, when He had said this he showed them his hands and his side.

*The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon - presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish*
 
What is the connection between the blessing of peace
and the showing of the wounds? (The wounds in His hands and in His side). Jesus a few days before that had been crucified and nailed through the wrists and a spear had been thrust through his side, probably into his heart, to confirm that he was dead. He shows his apostles these wounds, in this room where they were hidden away because they were afraid. In their fear he says “Peace be with you” and immediately shows them the wounds.

So, is there a connection?
Yes there is.

The first thing, perhaps the more obvious thing, is that Jesus is confirming that it is really him because it would have been difficult for them to believe it. Even after every thing that's happened there's still this doubt. We know on a number of occasions after the resurrection, even with him right in front of them, sometimes they could hardly believe it. It was just too good to be true. So, as St Thomas famously said “I wont believe it until I see the wounds”. Even seeing Jesus in front of him he would not believe until Jesus had shown him his hands and side. For here Jesus is saying I really have risen, I am not a ghost.

But there is a second level, much deeper than the first. It is not merely to confirm his identity. “Peace be with you” then he immediately shows them his hands and his side, the wounds from the cross. We are told in Isaiah 53 that “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” . This is a prophesy concerning Christ from hundreds of years before. (This image shows: Isaiah 53 in the Great Isaiah Scroll, found at Qumran and dated to the 2nd century BCE).
Our forgiveness brings peace with God and peace within. Our forgiveness is based on those wounds. So, there is this deep connection between this peace that Jesus gives his disciples and the wounds from the cross. We have been permanently reconciled, put back into God's family and can know that calm sense of security that The Father's love brings. That is our peace. That reconciliation, that re adoption back into God's family knowing that fatherhood of God. That peace, that reconciliation is based on the forgiveness of sins and that forgiveness is based on those wounds. As it says again in Isaiah 53, “He was wounded for OUR transgressions”.

So, in the wounds of Christ, he is carrying eternally the marks of the crucifixion, of His sufferings. They are indeed an expression of who He is. Which is why He emphasises them to the disciples to confirm His identity. Jesus is eternally The Offered One, The Wounded One who has suffered for us and understands and identifies with our suffering. He knows what it is to suffer and yet He has conquered death and has the victory as The Lord Of Life.
 
These wounds are symbolised in the paschal candles nails. Each of which has a grain of incense hidden within (I know that because I put them there). You see the paschal candle and the five nails, as they are called, to remind us of the wounds of Christ. Now, why did we put a grain of incense into each one of them? Hidden away there, what is the symbolism? Well, incense gives a sweet odour but it also represents prayer as we find in the book of Revelations in the Bible when the incense is offered up in heaven and it represents the prayers of the Saints. Incense stands for a sweetness but it also stands for prayer going up before God. Jesus wounds are the cause for sweetness for us despite the suffering He underwent because He paid the price so that we could be delivered. His suffering in a paradoxical way becomes our sweetness. His wounds are part of the sacrifice that is an offering and an intersession for us. He now lives to appear before God for us. There He is The Slain Lamb alive again His wounds still there before The Father.

His wounds are a prayer.
They are His intersession.

Isaiah 53:
“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him,and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Of cause here we have Christ and this is exactly how He was just before the crucifixion. There He was before the people and Pilate said “Behold the man” the man who has been scourged, the man who has the crown of thorns upon his head. A man of sorrows acquainted with grief and not beautiful any more but stricken.
 
And indeed the next verse tells us:
“Surely he has borne OUR griefs and carried OUR sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” at that point the people thought God had rejected Him. Otherwise why was he suffering?

The next verse:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away;” and so we are reminded of the trial and then the Way Of Sorrows. The Way Of The Cross. “and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?”
 
Moving on to the tenth verse:
"Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul" (in other words He will see the fruit of His sufferings) "and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

So, Here is the Christ wounded for our transgressions as we spoke of the wounds earlier, bruised for our iniquities. In him therefore we are righteous. There's this mysterious exchange. He takes on our sins, destroys it at the cross and we are able to take on his righteousness. 

We can in a spiritual sense enter into Christ
through His wounds, those openings in His flesh.

How can we do this?
By meditation upon those marks, those wounds. By thinking about them and knowing them as our peace, our shelter. But there is more to it than that. There is a Hymn found in the Book Of Common Praise (Hymn 120) that helps us enter into those wounds, to enter into Christ through those wounds. To meditate upon Christ's suffering and to allow those wounds he suffered to impel us to action. It is a hymn by father Andrew (a Franciscan Anglican from the 19th-20th century)

O dearest Lord, thy sacred brow
with thorns was pierced for me:
O pour thy blessing on my head
that I may think for thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred hands
with nails were pierced for me:
O send thy blessing on my hands
that they may work for thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred feet
with nails were pierced for me:
O send thy blessing on my feet
that they may follow thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred heart
with spear was pierced for me:
O shed thy blessing on my heart
that I may live for thee.

In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Amen.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Human Body - Gods Amazing Masterpiece

The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon - presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish
 
1 Thesselonians 4:1-8 (RSV)
Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you. For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness.

Keep your own body in holiness and honour. 

The epistle for today (the Revised Standard Version which I read from) has an alternative reading, but it provides for the more anciently accepted one . Verse 4 which says “Each of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honour” or more literally “how to control his own body in holiness and honour”. The first thing to note about this more ancient translation "keep your own body in holiness and honour" is this, the body is intended for honour. The body of a human being has intrinsic dignity, it is not a dirty or demeaning thing, but it has beauty and worth.

The Christian teaching on sexual morality is not based on hatred or contempt for the body. The human body is a wondrous thing, an amazing masterpiece that God created at the beginning of time. At the beginning of time for us he said, "It is very good”.

The second thing to note about this is that the body matters to the soul, it is one with it. It is really part of who we are, even if it is not the highest part of who we are. That verse says it is our own, “keep your own body in holiness and honour”. What we do to it and with it, even if nobody is obviously hurt by our doings, truly reflects on our spiritual health. Otherwise St Paul’s teachings on sexual morality would make no sense. He not only forbids adultery in this particular section and harming the brethren but he also prohibits fornication. So, even if there is no adultery. Where it appears nobody rights are infringed, So what he is saying is that what we do with the body does matter with the soul, that these two are integrated.

The reason sex and marriage go together is precisely this body-soul unity. What sex is physically for the bodies involved, the ultimate act of union, total, mutual, self giving. Marriage is for the person. The whole life, body and soul. Ultimate act of union, total mutual self giving. What that is physically tor the whole body and soul, for the whole person - that is marriage - if you think about it. Because what is marriage but the man and the woman saying “I am yours and you are mine”. There is that self giving and it is “till death do us part”. It is whole! It is total! and it is an act of union. What marriage is for the whole person body and soul, the sexual act is for the body. The two are related. When we separate them our integrity is damaged in both senses of the word. This is part of the reason for the church's teaching. It is not just that it says in the bible “Don't do it”, so don't do it. God has reasons for His commandments to do with our health – the health of our body, soul and spirit.

Our wholeness and inner harmony is broken when we break that unity. And thus our honesty is denied if something is said with the body that does not correspond with the commitment of the soul. That is why our integrity is damaged. Integrity means two things. It means both wholeness (everything working together) and it also means honesty. Both of these are affected when those two things are separated.

The third thing to note in this verse is that the body is to be subject to the reason, it says “keep your own body in holiness and honour” so the person is to use their reason and their conscience to subject their body. The properly formed conscience, the moral sense as part of our reasoning is meant to control what we do with our body. Uncontrolled passion or what St Paul calls the lust of prepubescence undermine our humanity and our bodies dignity. We are not mere animals operating solely by instincts. Our body is good, our body is important but is is not meant to override our soul. It is meant to express our highest life of the soul. Indeed the body keeps its honour by being subject to a soul which is subject to God's goodness .

That brings me to the fourth point of this verse and passage. The body is not just intended for honour, as wonderful as that is, but for holiness. “keep your own body in holiness and honour”. Because even better than subjection to a healthy soul is consecration to God. Being filled with the Holy Spirit. St Paul teaches not that our souls are the temples of the Holy Spirit. He says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. So the Christian world view doesn’t separate soul and body. It doesn’t treat is as these angelic souls that just happen to have this annoying thing called a body, which sometimes gets in the way. Yet sometimes that is the way people think. Christians can sometimes think that way. That is not what God wants us to think when it comes to our body. Our body is not just this thing that weighs down the soul although it can do that. It is a thing of beauty and it meant to be in integral unity with our souls but of cause the greatest good for us is consecration to God, it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is so our whole person becomes a temple of God and then we become involved in the highest life that there is because our body was meant to be instruments of God's loving will.

The fifth thing to note about this passage/verse is that these principles don’t just apply to sexual morality but to all aspects of our bodily existence. Our sleeping, our eating patterns, our exercise, our manual labour, all of this is affected by that principal that our body has an intrinsic dignity. Even the clothing we wear has a relationship to how we view our bodies. We belong to God, he wants the best for us, our body our soul and our spirit. It is in recognising these truths that we can make good descissions about the body. Including apparently small and trivial things like eating and sleeping patterns and so on.

Lets make our bodies temples Of God's Holy Spirit.

In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Amen.