Sunday, October 22, 2017

render unto God that which is God's

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our gospel reading today concerns one of the many occasions on which the religious authorities of our Lord's time attempt to lay a snare for him. And I imagine you know all too well the explanation for what they are trying to do, learned from your days in the schoolroom, sermons heard over the years, and hopefully even your own reading, what the trap is that they think they are setting. Should Jesus answer that that people should not pay taxes to the Emperor, then they will denounce him as a rebel to the Roman authorities – who will then, they hope, arrest him and at least imprison him and perhaps even execute him. But if he says that they should pay taxes – well, what sort of a Messiah is he, one that publicly declares that the Jewish people should meekly bow before the demands of the hated Roman oppressors? That answer, they hope, would finish him as a teacher of the people and remove him as a threat to their own authority. Whichever way he answer, Jesus is finished; something that will make them very happy.

Our Lord, of course, sees through their plan. 'Why are you putting me to the test?' he asks them. And he knows also that they are not asking him this out of a spirit of honest enquiry, but rather, as St Matthew puts it, out of malice; for he finishes his question by saying to them 'you hypocrites.' He then he takes a coin and asks them whose image and title is upon it; and when they say the Emperor's, he gives them his justly famous response of 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s' , as the old translation so beautifully puts it.

Our Lord, of course, does more than give a clever answer to his enemies with this reply. He also gives us two commands. The the first is that we must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. This means that Christians must be good citizens of the state. We must pay our taxes, obey the laws of the land, provided that they are just laws that do not conflict with our moral duties as children of God, and uphold the state in the lawful exercise of its authority.

The state, as St Paul tells us, has the sword to compel us. And that is true. The state, at the end of the day, has the ability to use force in order to make us obey its commands. But the faithful Christian should not fear that ability, because he complies with all the just laws of the state willingly and cheerfully, not only in public but also in private. The consideration as to whether or not we will be caught in any wrong-doing ought not be a factor when it comes to how law-abiding we are.

The other command of our Lord's that lies within his response that day is that we must render unto God that which is God's. And we know, or should know, what that is, for Christ has told us. He has told us what the first and greatest of all the commandments is – to love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and heart. And he has also told us what it means to love God – those who love him will keep his commandments. And, as St John the Apostle tells us in his letters, those who say they love God and yet do not keep his commandments are liars. There are doubtless many who present themselves to the world, and perhaps even to themselves, as faithful Christians; but if they deliberately reject any part of God's law and refuse to obey it, then they are lying to both themselves and the world. It is such as they of whom Jesus Christ spoke when he said that there were many who call him Lord Lord to whom he will say depart from me, ye evildoers; I tell you that I never knew you. And they will be sent from him into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There is one final message in the twin commands from our Lord in our gospel today. And that comes, of course, from the fact that sometimes our duty of obedience to the state will sometimes come into conflict with our duty of obedience to God. What do we do should such a situation arise? The answer is obvious. Obedience to God must always comes first. It is, after all, from God that authority on heaven and earth comes – as our Constitution acknowledges. 

And you will have noticed, I hope, that when I spoke of obedience to the laws I also said that those must be just laws. A law that, for example, tried to outlaw going to church on a Sunday would be just such an unjust law – it outside the authority of the state to interfere with a person's practice of religion - and therefore such a law must neither be tolerated or obeyed. Another would be if the state were to declare that a certain class of human beings could be arbitrarily killed. Justice requires the protection of innocent human life; and any law that suggests otherwise must be rejected and resisted. God and religion are not something that Caesar permits as long as they do not interfere with how he exercises power in any manner he sees fit; but rather God allows Caesar to have power in order that the societies in which his children live may be well ordered … and they can only be so if they are governed in a manner that is in accordance with the laws he has given us out of love, and which must lovingly obey in return … something that I pray all here will remember always, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 21 Oct 2017

‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others.' 
Luke 11. 42

It avails nothing to follow all the rules and regulations of Church teaching without love of God and neighbour in your heart. The Christian must obey God's holy laws joyfully and with love.

Friday, October 20, 2017

prayer diary Friday 20 Oct 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.' 
Luke 12.4,5

To fear for your life is natural. But take courage from your faith and consider rather what is more important and fear instead for your immortal soul.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wear the wedding garment!

May my words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

There are three categories of people in our Gospel reading today. The first are those ungrateful subjects who refuse their king’s lawful command that they should attend the wedding banquet. Some simply ignore his invitation and go about their daily business, treating his command with wilful disrespect; others go further and treat the king’s messengers with violence. And terrible is the fate that they bring down upon their heads because of their wickedness – they are destroyed and their city is burned.

The Holy Tradition of our Church has always been clear as to the interpretation as to who these people stand for. In the context of our Lord’s time, they stand for those who reject him and his teachings, and therefore reject both the Father who sent him and his will for the children he created. And Holy Scripture, as we well know, speaks to all ages; so we must consider as well the context of the age in which we ourselves live and what it means for us. This means we must consider the words of our Lord as being a prophetic warning to those who reject him, the Truth of his Gospel, and the Church which he established. No one should desire to be counted among those of this first category. For the destruction of which he speaks in his parable is, of course, eternal.

Moving to the next category, the king in the parable sends his servants into the streets to invite new guests. And so they do. And they are not discriminating. Good and bad alike are invited to the wedding banquet. And so the hall is filled. But it is not enough to simply accept the invitation, as what happens next shows when the king challenges the man who has come not wearing a wedding garment. This man is bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What does all this mean? Again, the interpretation has always been clear. God invites all into his Church. But it is not enough to simply enter in and pay lip service when it comes to following his commandments. For as Christ says elsewhere there will be many who say 'Lord, Lord', claiming that they have been faithful followers of his, who will be told that he never knew them and they must depart into that outer darkness. They may never have formally rejected the Truth of the Gospel, but they have done so in the manner of their living. They may have come to the feast; but they never put upon themselves the wedding garment of obedience. It is not enough to say you believe, or even to actually believe, if that belief is not followed by action. A Christian is not someone who makes a formal intellectual acceptance of God's Truth; a Christian is someone who puts that truth into practice, whatever the cost.

For what is the point of belief if it is not backed up with practice? Let us consider some of the commandments. We say we believe that the Lord is God and we will worship nothing and no one other than him – and yet we will give work, sporting activities, and social events priority above the practice of our faith. We say that we believe that we must keep the Lord’s Day holy – and yet churches are near empty while the day that is his is treated as if it were simply another Saturday. We say that we believe in prayer – yet how many will actually pray even once during the course of a day, much less attempt to engage in the ceaseless prayer that we are called to by Scripture? We say the words ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ - but how many will then follow that commandment by practising the sexual purity, both in mind and in body, that have always been part of the teaching that Christ gave to the Church he founded? And so on.

These practices are the wedding garment spoken of in the parable – the humble obedience to God’s law and the good deeds that follow from that obedience. Failure to clothe yourself in it leads, as we have noted, to being cast out. And it is not a category that any should wish to find themselves among.

But humbling oneself and putting the wedding garment on, and wearing it always, leads to the eternal life that is represented by the wedding banquet. Those who are invited in and allowed to remain are those who have clad themselves thusly, the practice of their faith bringing them to the everlasting wedding feast of the Lamb that takes place in heaven. These are the third and final category of the three I spoke of as being mentioned in the parable. And it is this last category that I hope and pray all here will numbered among on the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord when all shall be judged. Even as I hope that all here will pray likewise for me, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 14 Oct 2017

'Give us each day our daily bread.' 
Luke 11. 3

Christ told us to pray for what we need for each day. How many of us labour for a future that is months, years, or decades away, a future we may never see? If you have enough for today be content; and labour instead for the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, October 13, 2017

prayer diary Friday 13 Oct 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

‘When the unclean spirit … returns … it finds (the house) swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and ... and the last state of that person is worse than the first.’ 
Luke 11. 24-26

Beware when you think you have made some spiritual progress. That may be the time of greatest spiritual danger as a sense of pride may make you more vulnerable than before. Remember that no achievement is yours but a gift from God; and with deep humility give thanks to Him.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 12 Oct 2017

So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 
Luke 11. 9

Our Father in heaven answers all prayers in the way that he knows is best for us. As you pray, then, strive to ask only for that which will be pleasing to him.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 11 Oct 2017 (St Philip the Deacon)

The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 
Luke 10.1

Tradition teaches that St Philip was one of those sent out by the Lord. So also are we sent and every human heart we meet is a place he intends to go. Consider carefully then how every act and word of yours serves to prepare them to meet the Living Lord.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 10 Oct 2017

‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ 
Luke 10. 41, 42

How many of us spend so much time on the cares of this world that we neglect to prepare for the next? Take time for prayer, worship, Scripture, and spiritual reading; for the time you spend with the Lord is the most productive of all.

Monday, October 9, 2017

prayer diary Monday 9 Oct 2017

'Which of these three ... was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ 
Luke 10. 36, 37

In the parable, the Samaritan says that on his return he will pay whatever extra is owed the innkeeper. For us to do likewise means that neither must we count the cost of helping those in need.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

taking control of the narrative

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today presents us with a case of a false narrative that is promoted by the powerful and which is commonly accepted versus the truth which is denied and rejected. The false narrative in question – fake news to use a phrase which has entered into common usage – is that the religious leaders of Jesus’ time are Holy Men who are doing God’s work in the world. The truth, as our Lord lays out in the parable of the Wicked Tenants, is that they are in fact doers of evil, and very great evil at that, and are very much opposed to doing God’s will – so opposed, as Jesus prophetically tells them, that they will even kill the Son of God himself if they think it is to their advantage to do so.

It has always been the way of the powerful to try and control the narrative, the story, and present things in such as a way as to justify their actions – and, of course, demonise those who oppose them. We may look to the Roman Empire of our Lord's own time for an example of this. There excuse for endlessly extending their territory was what they called the 'Pax Romanun' – Roman Peace. They did not act for the sake of power or wealth; no, their aim was much nobler, to bring peace and civilisation to the barbarian lands around them. The fact that they did so at the point of a sword, that the lands they conquered had often been quite peaceful lands before their arrival with civilisations far more ancient than their own, did not seem at all ironic to them; and that wealth and power came with their occupation was a mere accident of trying to help their less fortunate neighbours.

The false narrative of the European Colonial powers as they carved up the Americas, Africa, and Asia among themselves was in a similar vein. They did what they did for the benefit of the people whose lands they invaded, and whose natural resources they appropriated. We are not taking, they told themselves and the world; we are giving – giving civilisation and education, giving heath care and sanitation, giving roads and railways, giving unity and stability and peace. Naturally this comes at a cost … the cost of the crops of your land and the minerals under it and the labour of your people. But we make great sacrifices ourselves to bring you all this – we must live in your foreign lands to oversee all this … or at least our soldiers, drawn from our own lower classes must do so, and some few of our own elite classes to keep watch over them and you … and if some wealth makes it way back to own our own shores as a result, well then we deserve it, we have earned it, it is a small price for you to pay for something you never asked for in the first place.

These examples are, of course, historical: one from ancient days; and one from the more recent past. But what of our own age? Well one false narrative of the time we live in, one that should be of particular concern to us as Christians, is the myth that is heavily promoted by secular forces that our faith is not of Divine origin, but rather it is something that has been invented by men.

This, of course, is something that they are inclined to believe because most of them do not believe in God in the first place. To them God and religion is simply something by made up by some men in order to try and oppress others. And naturally since it is only a product of the human mind, it is something that can be changed at the whim of man.
Anything that they do not like, particularly anything that acts to put restraints on their sexual activities, can be cast aside.

And sadly there are many within the Church, who even though they do believe in God effectively act as if the teachings of the Church, the Church we must remember that was founded by Christ, are something that were invented by man and can therefore be changed. They find it difficult to face down the challenges that secular atheism brings with it; and so even if they will not deny God, they will deny the teachings he has given us as laid out in Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Traditions of God's Church. They are seduced by the culture around them; and they become more concerned, as St Paul puts it in his letter to the Galatians, with pleasing men rather than God.

It is easy to understand why. The forces at play in the world around us are powerful. And while we in the Western world do not face the open persecution and even martyrdom that Christians do in so many other parts of the world, we do face what might be termed soft persecution from the secular culture: our values mocked and called old-fashioned; things sacred to us ridiculed and even treated sacrilegiously; our opinions scorned and told they are something we must keep private and in no way allowed to affect how we speak in public debate and especially how we may vote.

However, we can not allow this to intimidate us. It is not the Christian way. And I can say this because we know this is not how Christ acted. When he was faced with the false narratives of his day he spoke out against them. And he did not fear to do so even though he knew it would cost him greatly. He laid down his life for us; and we in return can endure the mockery, the anger, and the dislike of those who hate God and religion for his sake and the sake of making his Truth known in the world. And I pray that all here will do until the end of their days: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 7 Oct 2017

The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.' 
Luke 10. 17,18

The supernatural is not something reserved for the next life. It is active in this one too; and we, as Christians are called to be warriors in the battle against the forces of darkness that seek to consume us.

Friday, October 6, 2017

prayer diary Friday 6 Oct 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’ 
Luke 10.16

Christ gave authority to his followers and the Church he founded to pass on the truth that he preached. Take care then that you what you listen to yourself, and what you pass on to others, is his truth, and his truth alone.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 5 Oct 2017

“Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 
Luke 10.11

Christ knew that some would reject those he sent with his Good News. Jesus told them when that happened to walk away; but as they did so to give a last reminder of what it was they rejected. We must take every chance then, no matter how remote it seems, to call all people to Christ.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 4 Oct 2017

Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ 
Luke 9. 61-62

Many think they will follow Christ when the time is right. And then they delay and delay until the chance has passed. The time to say 'yes' to Christ is now; for now is the only time we have that we can be sure of.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 3 Oct 2017

The Samaritans ... did not receive him ... James and John ... said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’But he turned and rebuked them. 
Luke 9. 53-55

Force is not Christ's way. Our time in this world is given us to work out our salvation; and the decisions we make to accept or reject God in this life will be respected in the next.

Monday, October 2, 2017

prayer diary Monday 2 Oct 2017

"Master, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him; for he that is not against you is for you." 
Luke 9. 49, 50

People of goodwill are not the enemy, even if they are not believers. It is enough for now that by their actions the Kingdom is proclaimed.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

our traps only ever trap us

Our Gospel reading today, where an encounter of our Lord with some of the religious leaders of Jerusalem is described, takes place on the same day as his triumphal entry into the city. Shortly after that he cleanses the Temple, chasing out the dealers in livestock and overturning the tables of the money changers, and declaring that his Father's House has been made into a den of thieves.

It is because of these actions that the chief priests and elders ask him by what authority he does these things. And we must note from the outset that theirs is not a sincere attempt to understand what is happening. The question is designed as a trap for Jesus. They believe that whichever way he answers they will have an excuse to condemn him. They have heard others refer to Jesus as the Messiah – if he admits to them publicly that this is true, well they can use that to their advantage. Other men in the history of their land have made such claims, usually men trying to stir up rebellion against the Roman occupiers. If Jesus tells these leaders he is indeed the Messiah, then they can run straight to Pilate, the governor, and denounce Jesus as being a threat to the security of the region. 

Perhaps, indeed, they hope Jesus will go even further than that. He has often referred to himself using the mysterious title of Son of Man, and he frequently refers to God as being his Father. If he were to claim Divine authority for his actions, then they would have an excuse to accuse him of blasphemy, and use that as a means of stirring up the crowd against him. They knew all too well, as we ourselves know from our reading of Scripture, just how fickle the mob in Jerusalem could be. And, of course, if Jesus denies having any special authority, denies being the Messiah or anything else, then they can use that to undermine him before the people. 'Look,' they will be able to say, 'even he admits he is nothing special – why they do you bother to follow him or listen to him?'

So they must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves as they wait for their answer. But our Lord, as he so often does, turns the tables on them. He says he will not answer their question until they have first answered his: where do they say the authority of John the Baptist was from. And, as we see, they dare not answer it honestly. They think John was not a man sent by God, but they dare not say it for they know that the people believe that he was; and they can not say that he was indeed sent by God, for then they will have to explain why they did not believe him and follow him. So the leaders are caught in their own trap. They know whatever answer they give they will make themselves look bad – just as they hoped to do with Jesus – and so they refuse to give any answer at all.

And having caught them in one trap, our Lord immediately catches them in another, by the question he asks at the end of the parable of the two brothers – a question, it might be noted, they can really not afford not to answer, having already failed publicly to answer the previous question Jesus put to them. Now, the interpretation of the parable has been made clear to us by the Church Fathers, those great saints and early leaders and teachers of the Church. The son who says he will, but then does not do as his father asks, stands for those present who claim to God's will, but in fact do not by rejecting Jesus; and the son who says he will not but later does stands for those who currently reject God's law – those who are objectively speaking leading sinful lives – but will later repent and obey.

The answer to Jesus' question as to which of the two brothers does the will of their father is so obvious that the religious leaders answer quickly, almost without thinking – and, of course, by declaring that the son who at first refuses, but then repents, and obeys is the one who is ultimately the one who is obedient, they condemn themselves.

Now, because we know these passages of Scripture speaks to us just as much as it did to those who were present when the scenes they describe took place, it is important as we draw to a close that we apply some of the questions asked that day to ourselves. First, consider that the chief priests and elders asked Jesus by what authority he acted as he did. How would you answer that question?  Would you say that it was because he was the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity? I presume that all here would, or else you would not be here, you would not call yourself a Christian.

Now consider the two sons; of them both, who are you most like? Do you say you will obey the will of the Father, but do not – perhaps always finding excuses to justify your actions? Or do you sometimes struggle, but always repent, and then strive to do better to follow God's law? I hope that there are few or even none who in their heart of hears know themselves to be numbered among the first. But I also think that most, if they are honest, would know themselves to be among the second – sinners, but sinners who want to be saints. And if that sometimes seems hard, remember that it was such as those that Jesus said would enter into the kingdom – the kingdom that I pray all will enter into in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 30 September 2017

‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.' 
Luke 9.22

Christ spoke these words in prophesy of his passion. But the cause of his his suffering and death was human sin. Therefore each sin we commit betrays him still. Strive with all your might to be less and less a betrayer of the one who came to save you.

Friday, September 29, 2017

prayer diary Friday 29 September 2017 (St Michael and All Angels)

Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!' 
John 1.49

Before the miracles, before the signs, before the Resurrection, Nathanael believed. Such are the gifts of God to those who have faith in him and love him.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 28 September 2017

Herod said, ‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he tried to see him. 
Luke 9.9

Hardened in his wickedness as he was, even Herod felt the draw of Jesus' power. Never abandon your brother or sister, no matter how far gone they may seem to be in their life of sin. Their hardness of heart may yet be broken by Christ.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 27 September 2017

Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 
Luke 9.1,2

What great and wondrous authority Jesus gave to his Apostles. And that authority now resides in the Church our Lord and Saviour established, his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 26 September 2017

He said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’ 
Luke 8. 21

An intimate relationship with God is possible for all. But it requires that first we hear the word of God and then live that Holy Law with humble obedience.

Monday, September 25, 2017

prayer diary Monday 25 September 2017

'No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar or puts it under a bed.' 
Luke 8.16

Your faith is not a private thing to be hidden away only to be taken out on special occasions. It is something you must openly live every moment so that by your life you share it with others and help bring the light of Christ to the world.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

the one reward for faithfulness

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I have often thought that if a landowner were to actually behave like the one we read of in today's Gospel, he would soon find that in the morning there would be be very few men in the market-place seeking work; while come the evening when he returned for his last visit he would find the place bursting at the seams! However, it is not the intention of our Lord in this parable to provide us with business advice or to promote a new model of employment practice. Rather he seeks to explain that when it comes to the eternal reward that awaits each and every one of us, God's idea of what is right and proper is very different to how a human being might judge the situation.

And it is well for us that God views things very differently from men. In the immediate context in which Jesus is speaking, his purpose is to make it clear to Jews, whose ancestors have been faithful to God for generations, that the Gentiles who are only just coming to understand and believe in the one true God will not be treated any differently to them. But Sacred Scripture, as we know, speaks to all generations; and to us it says that those who come late to faith, or late to being obedient to God's law despite knowing the teachings of the faith, will receive the same reward as those who have been faithful servants all their lives.

This, of course, is how it must be. Eternal life is eternal life. One person can not have more of it while another has less. For if one person had less, then that person would not receive eternal life at all. And how can you grant one person more eternal life than another? The answer of course is that you can not. God created us all to have eternal life with him in heaven; and while we may reject that gift and spend eternity elsewhere as a result, it is simply a logical impossibility that God may grant one person more and another less of the eternal life with him that he offers.

God, of course, understands that this might be a difficult thing for us to understand. That is why he himself tells us this parable in the person of the second person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ. He wants us to understand that he does no one an injustice when he gives the same reward to the person who is faithful to him over the course of a long life from beginning to end, and to the person who lives an equally long life but only repents of his evil ways at the end of it. This is because salvation is God's free gift to us; it is not something that any of us are entitled to. And as the landowner says to those who grumble: am I not allowed to do as I choose with what belongs to me? And if that is true of a man, then how much more true is it when it comes to God.

God, as already been pointed out, understands that this may be difficult for some to understand. That is why the landowner in the parable is not angry with those who grumble. This is evidenced by the mild manner in which he speaks to them. He even addresses them as 'friend.' There are many parables in which the person who by interpretation stands for God displays anger with those who argue with him or oppose him, sometimes a great and terrible righteous anger. But not in this case. He gently explains that they have suffered no wrong; and indeed have themselves received their just reward, the good reward that has been promised to them.

There are two points with which I should like to end. The first is prompted by a question I have had more than once in Confirmation classes, which goes along the lines of: why should I not live as I please and wait until the end of my life to repent, be forgiven, and go to heaven anyway? The answer to that is, I hope, obvious to all here. We none of us know for certain if we will be alive tomorrow, or even a moment from now, much less that we will be alive to repent many years from now. And, as I hope all here also know, to be able to commit deliberate and repeated sin requires you to harden your heart and constantly deny to yourself and the world that those actions are sinful in the first place; and it is, of course, impossible to repent of what one refuses to acknowledge as sinful.

And the second, and last, is that we should note that the landowner repeatedly returned to the market, searching for workers to labour in his vineyard. The road to salvation always begins with God's initiative; and he wants all to be saved, no matte how late they come. But we must also note that each time he arrived he found people there – people who had not been present at his previous visits, people who were now ready, willing, and able to work in his vineyard. God's initiative requires a response from us. And just as those who do not come to the market seeking work will not receive any payment at the end of the day, those who do not respond to our Lord's call at any stage in their lives cannot receive the reward of eternal life. Pray for me that I may always respond as our Lord desires I should respond to his call; even as I will pray for you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 23 September 2017

'The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.' 
Luke 8.13

We face many things that test our faith. When trials occur do you stand fast? Do you fall away and think you will ask for forgiveness later? Or do you fall away without even realising that you have done so?

Friday, September 22, 2017

prayer diary Friday 22 September 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Soon afterwards Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. 
Luke 8.1

Our Lord did not just proclaim the good news, he brought it with him wherever he went. We too must live our lives in such a way as to bring his good news into the lives of those we meet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 21 September 2017 (St Matthew)

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. 
Matthew 9.9

Our Lord called St Matthew to be an apostle and he followed him. He calls each of us also, each to our own role within the Church. And we must respond as St Matthew did, by rising up and following Christ – whatever the cost.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 20 September 2017

'They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;we wailed, and you did not weep.”' 
Luke 7.32

There are some who will criticise you no matter what you do; truly it is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't. Ignore them. There is only one whom you must hear and obey for he has the words of eternal life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 19 September 2017

Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ 
Luke 7.14

Each day our Lord commands us to rise up, to hear and obey his word, so that we may enter into eternal life. How do you respond to his command?

Monday, September 18, 2017

prayer diary Monday 18 September 2017

‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.' 
Luke 7.7

Several times in the Gospels we read of Jesus' praise for the great faith displayed by some. In what manner do you think would he regard the faith that you have in him?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Forgiveness and the Cross

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

The topic of our Gospel reading today is that of God's forgiveness; and the parable of the unmerciful servant demonstrates that his mercy toward us is essentially unlimited. There is no sin that we may commit that God cannot forgive, provided that we are repentant. However, it also shows, in order to attain mercy, we must ourselves be merciful; in order to be forgiven, we must also forgive. And if that seems hard, we must remember, as the parable demonstrates, that even though the offences that others commit against us may seem great, they are as nothing compared to the offences we commit against God. For any wrong done to us, no matter how great we may judge it to be, is simply an offence against a mortal creature; but all offences against God, no matter how trivial they may seem, if done against the Almighty creator of the universe.

It for that reason that Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins. And it is because of that infinitely great sacrifice – God becoming man so that he might suffer and die for our sins – that we must keep the Cross at the centre of our lives. That Cross means the possibility of Salvation for all; and Salvation means that it is possible for us to one day be where we were created to be – with God, in heaven, for all eternity.

Therefore, wonderful things can happen for us if only we will keep the Cross at the centre of our lives. Indeed, let me tell you a little story concerning something rather wonderful that happened recently, in this very Church, when one person understood the importance of keeping the Cross at the centre of things.

One Sunday, not many weeks ago, I came into St Mary's to conduct Divine Services as usual. As I faced the altar, I was first startled and then entranced by an unusual sight. Upon the White Cloth on the surface of the Holy Table there shone an image of the Cross in golden light. It took me only a moment to realise that it was caused by light reflecting off the Cross in the Sanctuary onto the Altar Cloth. But why was it happening? It had never happened before that I had seen. Now, it was a sunny morning; and of course as we all know, the angle of the sun changes throughout the year and what with sometimes days being wet or cloudy, perhaps it was that conditions had never been just right for me to notice this happening before? But as the service progressed, I glanced back to the altar several times; and though the angle of the sun changed, the phenomenon continued and the bright, golden cross continued to shine unmoving upon the white linen of the Holy Table. This made it clear that it was the light of the sanctuary lights themselves being reflected from the cross down onto the altar; which made it all the more puzzling, as in that case why had it never happened before?

The only thing I could think of at that point was that someone must have moved the cross or adjusted its position so that for the very first time it was catching the light in this way and reflecting its image upon the altar. And so it proved to be. After the service, as I was telling the few people who had remained behind about what I had noticed and inviting them to come and see it for themselves, Sylvia Ward told me that when she had been cleaning and doing the flowers she had noticed that the flowers were obscuring the cross to some extent; and thinking that it was wrong that the cross should be hidden in any way, she had moved it a little so that it would remain in plain view and retain its position of prominence within the church. She had kept the Cross at the centre of things. And something wonderful had been the result.

Now, of course, this is only a small thing – although I must confess that it caused me great excitement and wonder at the time, and still warms my heart whenever I see it – but it does, I think, serve as a sort of a parable. We as Christians are called to keep the Cross at the centre of our lives. When it was done in this case, something rather beautiful was the result – a glowing cross was cast upon the Altar in God's Church. And that I think can serve to remind us of the even more beautiful and wonderful things that can result when we keep the cross at the centre of our lives always … if we lead our lives always thinking of how Christ died for us … if we lovingly follow his teachings, carrying our own crosses, forgiving others as we ourselves wish God to forgive us when we fail to live up to our calling to be as Christ-like as possible … realising that even as we carry our cross, the cross of Christ carries us … carries us daily ever nearer to our heavenly home and eternal life … to the place where all mourning ceases, all sadness is over, where all is joy and love, and all our sins forgiven … a forgiveness that we have through the Cross of our Lord … the Cross that I pray that all here will embrace, now and always, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 16 September 2017

'Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and do not do what I tell you?' 
Luke 6.46

There is no salvation without sacrifice. Christ died that we might be saved; and we must forego all that does not conform to his teaching if we hope to partake of the salvation that he offers.

Friday, September 15, 2017

prayer diary Friday 15 September 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?' 
Luke 6. 39

Who is it from that you seek to learn how to live – those blind guides who speak with the approval of the world? Seek the counsel rather of He who speaks with the authority of the Divine, God's Son, who speaks to us through Sacred Scripture and through the Church which He founded.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 14 September 2017

'But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.'Luke 6.27

In the context of this passage, our Lord spoke of those who hate you because of your faith in Him. And what greater love could you show to such as those than to do all that you can to bring them also to the path that leads to Salvation?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 13 September 2017

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 
Luke 6. 22

Great are the rewards in heaven for those who risk the hatred of the world for the sake of the Lord. Can you say that you have earned the Lord's blessing in this way?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 12 September 2017

He spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles. 
Luke 6. 12, 13

Our Lord did nothing without first engaging in prayer. We must also seek God's guidance and strength before we act.

Monday, September 11, 2017

prayer diary Monday 11 September 2017

The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. 
Luke 6.7

The wicked seek for reasons even in the good deeds of the most holy to accuse them of evil. But the evil is in their own hearts and will one day be their undoing. Pray they will repent before that day comes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

true love means speaking the truth

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

The topic of our Gospel reading today concerns the correction of wrongdoing in others. It is an uncomfortable one, particular in this modern age of 'live and let live.' And it seems to stand in contradiction of our Lord's words elsewhere of 'judge not, lest you also be judged.' This is a favourite scripture quotation of many these days; ironically, generally used by those who would never dream of obeying anything else that Christ teaches – people who, indeed, would deny our Lord's divinity, and perhaps even the existence of God.

However, our Lord's words here, and in many other places in scripture, make it clear that when he teaches us to 'judge not' he is not commanding us to be silent in the face of evil, whether in the world or in the behaviour of others. The Church has always taken it to mean that it is not for us to comment on the eternal fate of those who, ostensibly at least, seem to be very great sinners. That is something that is left to the judgement of God alone; and it is why the Church has never during the entirety of her nearly 2000 year history ever taught that any particular person, no matter how evil they have seemed to be, no matter how great their crimes, have passed from this life into eternal damnation.

But refraining from making this kind of judgement does not mean, as I have already said, being silent when we see those around us breaking God's laws. Let us look at a fictional example to consider why it is important that we should not.

Let us imagine a young, married woman whose husband's job takes him abroad for long periods of time. During one such absence she is seen having drinks with an old boyfriend in the local public house, their behaviour becoming increasingly flirtatious. Her family and friends say nothing. Soon after she goes out for dinner with him on several occasions and then on to local nightclubs until the wee hours. Again her family and friends say nothing. Finally, his car is seen parked outside her house all night, several nights a week. The other nights her car is parked outside his. And still her family and friends say nothing.

And of course they should speak. Why? For the sake of her reputation? Well, naturally, reputations are very important things. A good reputation is more valuable than silver and gold. Indeed, to quote Shakespeare : 'Who steals my purse steals trash … but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.' But even so, there was a more important reason that her friends and family should speak.

For the sake of her marriage? Again, marriage is something of great importance. For the Christian it is something sacred – in the words of our Lord: 'What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' And irrespective of faith, it is the very building block of society. This young woman's action threaten not only her own marriage but also helps undermine the institution of marriage within society. And yet there is an even more important reason that her friends and family should speak to her about the wrongness of her actions.

And that is for the sake of her immortal soul. This woman is engaging in adultery. This is not to judge her – it is to speak the plain and objective facts of the matter. And we all know what the commandment says: 'thou shalt not commit adultery.' And our Lord, even as he protected the woman taken in adultery from those who would stone her to death, told her to 'go, and sin no more.' Why did our Lord tell her to 'sin no more'? Because those who die unrepentant of serious sin face serious eternal consequences. The friends and family of this woman can not know that this woman will be damned; and it is certainly not for them to say that she will be; but that is quite evidently the fate that she is risking. And if her friends and family love her, then the fear of her anger at being told what she is doing is wrong, the worry that she will end their relationship and never speak to them again, will not stop them from speaking to her. Because what is that risk compared by what she risks by her actions?

This example, as I said, is made up. And it covers, you will note, only one of the commandments. There are others. Perhaps it would be good if you went through them all in your mind, if not now, then later. Think of the lives of those whom you love. Are they living in such a way as to break God's law? Would you dare, out of love for them, to tell them so? And as you ponder, think of your own lives. Are there aspects of it that need correcting? And if there are, are you willing to do so? And if not, do you have friends and family loving enough to help you, loving in the true sense of love, love that will only the best for the other person, understanding that the best must always look to the eternal salvation of the one they love? I pray that you do – even as I pray that you will love all others in his way in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 9 September 2017

Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’ 
Luke 6.6

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Why then do so many who call themselves his followers neglect him or pay him little heed on the day that is his?

Friday, September 8, 2017

prayer diary Friday 8 September 2017 - Birth of the BVM

And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.' 
Luke 1. 46,47

Mary, utterly pure, rejoiced at the privilege of being the Mother of our Lord. Should not we also rejoice, we for whom he took flesh, died for our sins, and nourishes with his own body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 7 September 2017

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 
Luke 5.8

The honest and humble response to the greatness of God is to recognise how unworthy we are. And yet, God loves us and calls us to serve him.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 6 September 2017

Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. 
Luke 4.39

The example of St Peter's mother-in-law speaks to us all. God provides us with everything. Our first response should be that of grateful service.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 5 September 2017

They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 
Luke 4.32

Mere mortals that we are, we can not claim to have authority like Christ's. And yet if we pass on his teaching faithfully, the authority that is his teaching shines through.

Monday, September 4, 2017

prayer diary Monday 4 September 2017

They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 
Luke 4.22

We all face those who say things like 'who do you think you are to teach me anything?' Take courage from the fact that Christ himself faced the same problem; and that the teaching you share comes not from you but from the Father of us all.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

false compassion

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our Gospel reading today*(printed below) we see St Peter try to persuade our Lord from accepting the things that must happen to him – that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly at the hands of the authorities there, and be killed. And it must surely seem to us that the reaction of St Peter is a very natural one – the man whom he has left everything for to follow, the man he believes to be the promised and long-awaited Messiah, the man he has declared to be the Son of the Living God, the man he calls master and teacher and Lord, the man he loves more than life itself has told him that he is soon to face a very cruel fate. And the greatest of the Apostles is quite frankly appalled. So much so that he is moved to speak to our Lord in a manner that is, to put it bluntly, astonishing. He begins to rebuke him! Imagine – a mere man takes it upon himself to rebuke the One he knows to be the Son of God! But, as I said, at a certain level his reaction to the information that Jesus shares with him about future events can be seen as being quite natural. Who among us, after all, would be happy to be told that even someone we did not like very much was soon to suffer greatly and then die? And if we were told that this was to be the fate of someone we greatly loved, would we not do everything within our power to prevent those terrible future events from taking place?

And yet the reaction of our Lord shows that reactions such as St Peter's are not to be countenanced. Consider: he does not say to him 'I know that you are saying this because you love me and do not wish to see me suffer'; and he does not say 'you speak this way because you are a man of great compassion who does not wish to see someone else in pain'. No; he says 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.' He is telling St Peter that when he behaves in this way, even though he may think he speaks out of love, out of compassion, that he is actually doing the work of Satan; that far from being good, what he is doing is evil. Why? Because he is placing the way human mind thinks and the human heart feels above the will of God as it has been revealed to him. And let us be quite clear – God's will has been revealed to him concerning this matter in a very unambiguous and direct way. For he has been told by Jesus himself what the fate of the Christ is to be; and he himself, only moments before, just a few verses prior to those we hear read in our Gospel reading today, when Jesus asks his disciples who do they say that he is, has declared that he is the Christ, the Son of God.

This, of course, makes St Peter's actions all the more surprising. He knows this is the will of God – for the Son of God himself has told him that it is. And yet he sets himself to argue against it. This demonstrates to us what a powerful temptation it is that St Peter faced – the temptation that when obeying God's will seems hard or to come at a great a cost to try and find a way around it. It is so powerful a temptation that it is little wonder that we will often hear people speak out against the clear teachings of Scripture or the Church founded by Christ, saying that those teachings must be changed, or if not changed at least not acted upon, so we can deal with people more compassionately, or more pastorally … but it is a false compassion as the reaction of our Lord to the words of St Peter shows. It is false because even though these things may seem good, even godly to us, they are not – they are evil, they are of Satan. It is false because it puts the desires of men before the will of God.

And it is false because it forgets, as St Peter did that day, that there are things beyond this life. For when our Lord outlined the fate of the Christ to his disciples on that occasion, it did not end with suffering, it did not end with death. It ended with the Resurrection – the Resurrection which is for us the promise of eternal life. That is why Jesus was able to tell his followers that they must take up their cross if they wished to follow him; because no matter what it cost them to do so, it would not end in death for them just as it did not for him – it would end in eternal life. And it was for eternal life that we were all created; it was for eternal life for us all that Christ suffered and died and rose again; and it is for eternal life, for ourselves and all others that we must daily strive … even as we pray for it in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

*Matthew 16: 21-28

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." 23* But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." 24* Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27* For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. 28* Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 2 September 2017

But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 
Matthew 25.18

We all know the fate of the servant who did nothing with the talent entrusted to him – his master called him wicked and lazy and cast him out. The gifts God gives us are to be used for his glory in the world. There is much to lose if you do not and everything to be gained if you do.

Friday, September 1, 2017

prayer diary Friday 1 September 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 
Matthew 25.11,12

This life is but a preparation for the next. And there will come a moment when all the time for preparation is gone and you will be judged on what has gone before. Pray that your life will be such that Jesus knows you and opens the door.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 31 August 2017

'Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.' 
Matthew 24.42

We know neither the moment of our own death nor the day when our Lord will come again. Therefore it is plain common sense to live as if either might come any moment.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 30 August 2017

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.' 
Matthew 23.27

There is more to your life of faith than convincing the neighbours you lead a God-fearing life. What goes on behind closed doors where they cannot see matters also, as does your own interior life which is known only to you and your Creator.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 29 August 2017

'You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!' 
Matthew 23.24

Is that not true of many of us, that we take great care over the smaller matters of our faith while ignoring the major ways in which we breach God's holy laws? What Jesus condemned in his own day is made no less sinful by the passage of time

Monday, August 28, 2017

prayer diary Monday 28 August 2017

‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.' 
Matthew 23.13

Who 'locks' people out of heaven by harsh teaching today? Perhaps there is a new danger now - those who try to make the faith so easy that it asks nothing of us at all.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

God's Church will prevail

I'm not preaching this Sunday, but I thought I'd offer a few quick thoughts on today's Gospel from St Matthew: 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter,  and on this rock  I will build my church, and the powers of death  shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (
16: 13-20)

There are many who worry about the decline in the practice of religion in our society. And they are right to do so - but not because it signals the demise of the Church, but because of the evidence it provides of the spiritual danger so many are in. The Church will never fail; it will last until the end of the ages. Christ himself told us so - no evil of the world, the flesh, or the devil can prevail against it. If we have supernatural faith like St Peter, who recognised and acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God we will know this to be true and not be afraid. However, this is not reason for complacency. As I said above, the troubling behaviour we see should give us cause for concern regarding the eternal fate of many. Therefore, we must fearlessly preach the word to them, lead them to Christ by the example of our lives, and pray for them always. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

prayer diary Saturday 26 August 2017

'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice' 
Matthew 23. 2,3

Sadly there are often sacred ministers who fail to lead holy lives. But their lack of holiness does not invalidate the Truth of what the Church teaches. However, be careful that what they teach is indeed in accord with that Truth; for there are those who will offer teaching intended to make their own misdeeds seem good.

Friday, August 25, 2017

prayer diary Friday 25 August 2017 (day of discipline and self-denial)

And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 
Matthew 22.37

Loving God totally and unreservedly is the first step on the road to holy living. Focus on this first; and from it all other virtues will flow.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

prayer diary Thursday 24 August 2017 (St Bartholomew)

'For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.' 
Luke 22.27

The world sees success as the gathering together of many possessions; but all these mean nothing if at death you are without treasure in heaven. St Bartholomew left everything to follow Christ, giving up even life itself for his sake. And yet he died a richer man than many kings. And so may we, if only we follow his example.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

prayer diary Wednesday 23 August 2017

And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 
Matthew 20. 9-10

The Lord has but one reward for all who serve him – eternal life. Do not spend so much time thinking you are more worthy than others of God's free gift, lest by your vanity you lose this reward for yourself.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

prayer diary Tuesday 22 August 2017

And Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 19. 23

Do not say to yourself 'I am not wealthy' and think that therefore these words do not apply to you. Think rather of the great attachment you have to your material possessions and whether your love for them stands between you and God.

Monday, August 21, 2017

prayer diary Monday 21 August 2017

Jesus said to him, 'If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' 
Matthew 19. 21

Not all are called to Holy Poverty for the sake of the Kingdom. But all are called to love God above all else and at all times strive to lay up treasure in heaven.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

no room for race hate in the Church

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is a very obvious theme running through our readings today from Sacred Scriptures – and that is how God is the God of all people upon the earth; and his Son was sent for all. In our Old Testament reading God, speaking though his prophet Isaiah says his house will be a house of prayer for all people. In our epistle St Paul reminds the Romans that God is merciful to all, Jew and Gentile. And in our Gospel reading the Canaanite woman comes to Jesus asking for healing for her daughter, who is tormented by a demon; she is a foreigner, but she seeks God's help and mercy – and her prayer is granted.

This message that God is the God of all people, with no preference being given to the colour of their skin or what part of the world they may happen to come from, is very timely in the light of recent events in the United States, where Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists marched openly in the streets. Theirs is the quite frankly evil ideology that lead to the Holocaust, a dark stain in the history of humanity when millions of innocent lives were brutally snuffed out on the basis of the nonsensical and blatantly pseudo-scientific notion that some races were superior to others and that the interests of 'racial purity' demanded that what were deemed 'lesser races' be exterminated.

Now, when we think of the Holocaust we quite naturally think first of the Jews, six million of whom lost their lives in its horrors. But we must also remember that over eleven million others, mainly Slavs, lost their lives as well. They were also deemed to be lesser by this dreadful ideology; as were those of African origins and many others too. That over seventeen million lost their lives is horrifying and reason enough that such beliefs as these should be seen as being beyond the Pale. But this mind-numbingly large number was simply the tip of the ice-berg in terms of what was intended. Had the Nazis prevailed, their evil ideology would have required the death of not just millions but billions.

Sadly, sometimes there are those who try to claim that religion justifies racism. Sometimes they do so to justify their own racism; and sometimes they do so in order to justify their own prejudice against religion. But as our readings from Sacred Scriptures today make clear there is no basis upon which a person can find comfort for such views in the Holy Bible. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that just as the Lord told his followers that they could not serve two masters and could not serve both God and Mammon, neither can a person claim to be a follower of Christ while also adhering to this kind of ideology. How could they? The first is to seek to be holy as God is holy; the second is evil and therefore must be seen as belonging to the Evil One.

He is, of course, the Father of Lies; and the lie that one race is somehow superior to another is one of his most noxious ones. It is denied by science which, by virtue of the study of DNA, tells us that ultimately all men and women of the earth are kin to each other, that no matter how far you travel every person you meet is a distant relation. And it is denied by Sacred Scripture, which tells us that we are all children of our First Parents, Adam and Eve.

Because the Christian faith is utterly hostile to such an evil ideology, it is important the Christian faith in all its fullness be proclaimed fearlessly in the world. We must never forget that many thousands of brave Christian men and women also died during the Holocaust, sent to the death camps specifically because they knew their faith demanded of them that they speak out against the evil they saw taking place around them. They spoke then; we must speak out now – not just against this evil, but all the evils in the world today. We may not have white supremacists in our nation, but there are plenty of other evil creeds seeking to tempt the unwary, the gullible, the dissatisfied, or the oppressed soul to follow them. And also, because we know that those who follow such evil ideologies are deluded by lies and falsehoods, we must pray for them. For our Scripture readings today tells us today that God desires the Salvation of all. And deluded though they are, they are also our brothers and sisters, some through their baptism, all through their blood. We must never abandon them to the Evil which has ensnared them but instead pray for them endlessly - in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

prayer diary Monday 14 August 2017

The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.’ And they were greatly distressed. 
Matthew 17. 22,23

The disciples were distressed at our Lord's prophetic words, as are we when when we consider he suffered and died for our sins. Why then do we continue to sin wilfully?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

walking on water

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today's Gospel reading is the account of our Lord's walking on water. It is a dramatic display of his divine power and has become justly famous, so much so that the phrase 'to walk on water' is widely used in popular culture – so that, for example, a person who has done something seemingly impossible might well say 'and for my next trick I will walk on water' or a person who thinks he is above others and doesn't think the usual limits apply to him might be disparagingly described as 'thinking he can walk on water.'

Read carefully, the account in fact details three miracles. First our Lord walks on water; next he permits St Peter to join him on the surface of the lake and walk on water also; and finally, he calms the storm that is afflicting those in the boat. And each teaches us something important about Christian life.

Looking at the first: initially when the disciples see Christ coming towards them, they are terrified. There they are, in a boat, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, with a storm raging all around them. And suddenly they see someone walking towards them. That they should react with fear, thinking it is some kind of apparition, is not surprising. But Jesus tells them not to be afraid. And the fear leaves them.

We also have much to be afraid of. We live in a world that surrounds us with threats, both physical and spiritual. But we have been washed in the waters of Baptism and made part of his Body, the Church; we are fed on the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist; and we have the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Traditions of his Church to guide us. Christ is with us also; and therefore we need not be afraid, whatever threatens.

It is in response to this first display of divine power that the second follows. St Peter sees our Lord on the water and asks him, if it is he, to command him to come to him. Our Lord does; and St Peter obeys. It is important for us to note here that the apostle does not attempt to do this in his own strength; he does not see Jesus walking on the lake and say to himself 'well, if he can do it, then so can I!' No, he seeks to do so in the power of our Lord; more, he asks him to command him to do so. And when, because of the howling wind around him he becomes frightened and begins to sink, his immediate response to to call out to our Lord, who saves him.

We as Christians often face great difficulties. Sometimes they seem impossible to overcome. But here we see St Peter, rather than try to avoid what seems impossible, instead actively seeking it out … and remembering that it is by God's power that he prevails; even when he doubts he remembers this. And therefore rather that giving up, he prays to God for further help. And God grants him that help.

Our Lord and St Peter then join the others in the boat. And the wind at once ceases. The storm is over. And the response of the disciples to this final miracle is equally immediate. They worship him, saying that he is truly the Son of God – the first time in the Gospels that he is recognised as such.

Many Church Fathers regard the tempestuous sea as representing the world; and the boat, once Christ has entered in, as being his Church. Thus it is the only place where we may truly find safety; and therefore we as Christians must be careful never to separate ourselves from it. Christ did not found his Church idly; it is a vital part of his plan for the salvation of all. His Church is the people of God; and a person who deliberately sets themselves apart is not part of a people. His Church is the only place where we may be in fellowship with those other people who are also members of the body of Christ. And his Church is the only place where we may partake in the Sacraments that sustain us during our earthly pilgrimage that is intended to lead us to our heavenly home. In our Gospel reading it is in the boat that the disciples worship Jesus; and if we are also to worship him rightly we must also do so from within that boat, that ark of Salvation, which is his Church.

And as I finish, a final thought. There is an element of fear in each of these three miracles: the fear of the disciples when they see Christ approaching; St Peter's fear that causes him to sink; and the fear all in the boat have of the storm that threatens them. Christ takes away the fear in all three instances; and he can take away the fears that surround us and threaten us, not just our bodies but our very souls, if only we will trust in him – something that we must all pray for: in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.