St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church Service Times

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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.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Splendor Of Truth

"Neither was guile found in His mouth". 
In the name of The Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

"Neither was guile found in His mouth". This is St Peter speaking of Christ. "He did no sin", he says, "neither was guile found in His mouth, when He was reviled, reviled not again". So in the midst of talking about the sufferings of Christ he notes His sinlessness and especially His honesty. No Guile in His mouth means no dishonesty, no deceipt, no trying to lead people astray. 

He is the Shephard, The Devine Shephard of our souls. Jesus said "I am the Good Shephard". The Good Shephard gives his life for the sheep. Part of that shepharding is to lead us to truth. The Shephard who looks after litteral sheep takes care of them and part of taking care of them is leading them to good pastures. Now, Jesus and the clergy underneath him are meant to be shephards of the flock and of cause their job is not to primarily lead Christian people to litteral food, but to Spiritual food. In other words to lead them to The Truth. So that truth, that ministry of truth is the essential part of what Jesus as The Good Shephard, and where He leads his people. 

Today we will focus on Jesus as the truth.

In these days, St Francis has been a rather contraversial figure. He hasn't been the only contraversial pope recently. John Paul 11 was considered a mixed blessing by many in his time because although he opposed and underminded totalitarianism and stood up for peace and justice for the poor, he also taught the catholic faith and morals without compromise. His critics see his comittments as inconsistant, they don't mind the bit about helping the poor and speaking up for the poor and opposing totalitarian regimes like communism but they weren't so happy about hin defending catholic morals. They saw that as reactionary, as they call it. They couldn't see the consistancy between the two. By such criticisms they showed how little they knew the man or the faith. This is true unfortunately for many within the church. You see, that pope did not set out to be either progressive nor regressive because he neither believed that (as they say) "old is mold and new is true". Nor did he believe the mythical "good old days". Whether it was "in" or "out" of fashion what he wanted to teach was "The Truth". Right or wrong was what mattered, not political right or left. He knew the truth challenges every human culture, ever since the fall, that the truth challenges every stage of our development. 

I will quote from his famous "Veritatis Splendor". The splendor of truth.

"The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God. Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6).
Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22)." There he is quoting three different parts of the Bible, in that one sentance. 

He goes on to say "This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself." Here what John Paul is talking about was the belief in the modern age that freedom has nothing to do with truth. Freedom is about doing whatever you want as long as nobody else gets their freedom inpinged upon. So he speaks about relativism and scepticism. There is a reference to scepticism in this document to John 18:38. So we see that scepticism even at the cricifixion. When Jesus says His kingdom is the kingdom of the truth and Piolet says "What is truth" and walks away without waiting for an answer. 

He goes on to say "But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man's tireless search for knowledge in all fields. It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.

No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: "There are many who say: 'O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord' " (Ps 4:6).

The light of God's face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, who is as St John says "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15), the "reflection of God's glory" (Heb 1:3), "full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). Christ is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man's questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself", and then he quotes from the Second Vatican Council "In fact, it is only in the mystery of the Word incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord. It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father's love"."

For that is the truth that Jesus reveals "Gods love". 

The Pope went on to say: "Jesus Christ, the "light of the nations", shines upon the face of his Church, which he sends forth to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15). Hence the Church, as the People of God among the nations, while attentive to the new challenges of history and to mankind's efforts to discover the meaning of life, offers to everyone the answer which comes from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Gospel." So we as the people of God have this responsibility to shine forth the light of the truth, the splendor of the truth, the glory of the truth. And that is what Jesus leads us to, but he leads His sheep to the truth and that is a primary part of His shephardship. Not just so we can have the truth and forsake ourselves and be content with that, He wants to bring others into His fold as He tells us in the Gospel, He wants to bring all of the sheep in and so, we, when we have found the truth in Jesus and seen the light of Gods love in His face, we are to shine forth that light ourselves in our words and our actions so that we help the shephard to bring in all the sheep. Because Jesus is not only the shephard but "He is The Way, The Truth and The Life" and we ought to want the blessing of The Truth for all mankind. 

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