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Painting our way into the fold

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sermon for the first Sunday after Christmas

Wile E. Coyote has decided that the best way to catch Roadrunner is to paint a door on the wall so that Roadrunner will think it’s real and crash into it. You know what happens. Roadrunner runs to the painted door, somehow opens it, runs through it and closes it again. Wile E. Coyote’s jaw drops to the floor. Of course, when he tries to do the same, he ends up on the floor watching little birds fly around the two-foot bump on his head.

The rule is clear: you cannot enter through a painted door. And yet people try.

[PAUSE]

Our Lord is quite clear. Those who enter the sheepfold by climbing over the wall are sheep-stealers. He is, as usual, referring to those Scribes and Pharisees who don’t really worship God but rather want people to follow them so that they can look important. We see this time and time again. There are so many awful cult-leaders who bask in the worship of their followers and will happily lead them off a cliff to satisfy their delusions. They bypass the door to steal souls from the Church.

Only the Lord Jesus is the door by which one can enter the sheepfold. But it seems there are those who, like Wile E. Coyote, can paint an image of Jesus on the wall of the sheepfold and enter in that way. These are no less sheep-stealers than those who climb over the wall.

This poses a bit of a problem for the sheep. If someone comes in through the door, they know that it really is someone they can trust. It’s not so easy to spot someone coming in through a fake door.

How do we tell a real door from a fake door?

[PAUSE]

The answer must lie in being sure that it’s the right Jesus. This is why we still say the Creeds. This is why we have the Holy Bible. This is why we celebrate the sacraments. All these strengthen our attachment to the real Jesus Christ. The Church has always had these from the beginning. Yes, the Creed weren’t written until five hundred years after Jesus’ birth, but their contents have always been believed by Catholics. The books of the Bible weren’t finalised until three hundred years after Christmas Day, but their contents have always been recognised as testimony about the Lord from when they were written only fifty years or so after His Resurrection. The sacraments were started by Jesus Himself. The Church has taught the real Jesus from Day One and it teaches the same Jesus now.

Except…

[PAUSE]

We have always seen those who like to re-interpret the testimony about Our Lord for their own ends or to fit their own philosophies. These are the ones who paint the fake Jesus on the wall of the sheepfold and enter in. Their Jesus is their own invention. It may almost be a photograph. But it isn’t real. Church Teaching about Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Mission, His Death and Resurrection does not change. It is the same teaching that we have always received. If there is any change in Christian Doctrine, then it is to satisfy the egos of those who think they know best based on worldly concerns.

 By their fruits shall ye know them because their fruit will divide the Church rather than unite it. It is the one whose actions cause schism who enter in by painted doors. But the Lord is very clear. There is one sheepfold and there will be many sheep from other places who will enter in. It will be the real Lord Jesus Christ Who unites His Church. We will be one when we follow only Him rather than those who paint their own doors.

Blogday 2019: Chugging along

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Today we are fourteen.
Well, I’m posting this a day early so as not to confuse it with tomorrow’s sermon. I find that if I do two posts in a day, one of them gets forgotten. While I don’t write in order to build up an audience, I do try to write to reach out to people in a spirit of evangelism and encouragement in the traditional Christian Faith. Numbers viewing are now down and decreasing steadily due to my renunciation of Facebook where I used to post much of my material. I have become so tired of the petty polemics that some seem to enjoy. I don’t miss those who criticise every detail of worship, every detail of Christian Doctrine and every detail of why I am not where I am supposed to be. Of course, it is important not to confine ourselves to echo chambers and engage in robust debate. The trouble is that we don’t get debate, but rather polemics in which we talk past each other and fail to understand (sometimes deliberately) what the other is saying. Perhaps I am guilty of this most of all.

I have noted that there are those who claim to be philosophers and theologians who try to win arguments for their point of view by demonising their opponents. There are those who challenge traditional Christian Doctrine by calling those who follow that doctrine backward or incoherent or worse. To my mind, to insult your opposition means an automatic loss of the argument. Perhaps it’s a good job that I wasn’t present at any of the Oecumenical Councils otherwise I wouldn’t believe anything!

I note that I haven’t posted as much this year. Well, that’s because it’s been a busy year. I am now a published author, albeit self-published through Lulu rather than a more established, professional publisher. I know that I am nothing in the academic world and that what I write will not reach the dizzying heights of SPCK or OUP, but then I do wonder whether that might not be a bad thing given the worrying tendency that many media outlets display in restricting content that does not conform to a politically correct worldview. There are things which we may not criticise at all, now. While I may tire of the constant cross-denominational nit-picking, I would rather walk away from it than demand that it be prohibited outright. It's best that they just get on with it and spin themselves into the ground like Abbott's king of Pointland. What I have written certainly seems to have appealed to some readers and I am very grateful for a couple of very positive reviews that I have received on Amazon. I am yet to receive the more critical reviews which I do dread, admittedly. Yet, a good Benedictine will receive the criticism in the same way as he receives praise and perhaps value it more highly. Something else I have to learn, it seems.

Nonetheless, my books have been on sale since the beginning of the year and so I don’t post as much here other than the sermons that I write on behalf of Readers. I have noticed that they have become more focussed on the issue of repentance, lately. They have also become more cerebral. I suppose that this is due to the fact that I am essentially writing for someone else and that means reducing the content which perhaps comes from my mannerisms and personality. Looking after my family means that I don’t have much time to sit and reflect as there is always someone who needs me right this second and no other second will do.

The biggest casualty has been my poor little Mission. Of course, this has been mothballed rather than written off completely, but it’s difficult to see how things change. Circumstances do change, however, and will change in ways that I don’t expect. I am still very settled as an Anglican Catholic and don’t anticipate that this will ever change. In writing Anglican Catholicism: Unchanging Faith in a Changing World, I rather think that I have eliminated any intellectual doubts that I might have had in being in a minority group. I am convinced of the integrity of Anglican Catholicism as, perhaps, the only coherent form of Anglicanism. Of course there are many more Anglican Catholics out there who aren't members of the Anglican Catholic Church but hold the same Catholic Faith as we do. The hand of friendship is happily extended and waiting for reciprocation.

The present time, admittedly, is very confusing for all who call themselves Anglican as the Lambeth Anglican Communion begins to fragment. I notice that one former Anglican luminary has departed for Rome because he can’t unite the different Anglican groups into one fold.  Quixote or sheer self-aggrandizement? Only God knows truly.

I suspect that this isn’t a problem with Anglicanism per se, but rather the Protestant nature of some aspects of it. The number of evangelical groups that are forming, all claiming to be Anglican, all claiming scriptural orthodoxy, all claiming allegiance to the XXXIX Articles, is rather baffling and I don’t understand why the Free Church of England’s Unity Forum hasn’t worked unless personality has got involved.

Of course, it may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. After all, didn’t the original Anglican Church of North America arising from the Congress of St Louis in the late 1970s split up along High Church – Low Church lines? What about the splitting of the Continuing Churches in the 1990s? I agree. These are a major embarrassment, but they are the fruit of their time and the product of men in whom the fires of outrage at the heresy of the Episcopal Church were still burning. It has taken us forty years, but we are coming together. We are all in communion. We have the greatest respect for each other. We share resources. We hold joint synods. We may be separate organisations but we are as we have always claimed to be – a small part of the One True Church. True Unity is Christ-centered.

And we all have some legitimate claim to the adjective “Anglican”. This does not lie for us within any confession, nor accident of history, nor the pages of a book, though these have shaped our Anglicanism and given it voice. For us Continuing Anglicans, Anglicanism lies within the totality of our heritage that comes from the Christianity which set foot on this rain-soaked archipelago sometime in the first or second centuries. It cannot be pinned down, but can only be lived out. Yes, the Book of Common Prayer is a vital part of our heritage. While I don’t use it explicitly for my private prayers, it is something that I will readily use for Morning and Evening Prayer and my Benedictine Breviary for my private prayer is centred on this central Anglican text and aspects of Sarum which also grounds the Book of Common Prayer. We have the Book of Common Prayer, but we also have the Missals and Breviaries that accompany it. The 1928 American Book of Common Prayer is a beautiful expression of Anglicanism within the American Church but it is American in its culture and therefore inappropriate for global use. In England, we have the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, though some of us use the American book.  There is, even within Anglican Catholicism, a breadth and latitude that perhaps embodies our Faith. What we do not compromise on is our faith – everyone believes the same core doctrine found in the Creeds.

To the CofE, that is far too restrictive. Their tenet is that you should believe what you want. There are atheist priests in the CofE. There are those who believe that the Resurrection is a purely spiritual event, not an historical one. Uniformity in doctrine gives a backbone to our lives. It doesn't mean that we don't think for ourselves, but rather that we have a mechanism which brings us to the feet of Christ as disciples, supplicants and/or mourners. Uniformity of doctrine is an antidote to the intellectual hubris that infects the Church in the West. Many of the hot topics are about inclusivity and diversity in which people are told they can live their lives how they want and God will pick up the pieces for them. Inclusivity is effectively infantilism in which the nobility of struggling with God is replaced with an anodyne existence save only to "call out" the bigotry of those who are prepared to struggle against this infantilism. The words that get bandied about in such discussion are "privilege" and "entitlement". These are words that arrive from envy but then I would hazard a guess that much of the left-wing philosophy being peddled today is a philosophy of envy. St Benedict saw this problem and called it murmuratio, the murmuring that Moses encountered from Israel in the wilderness. If the language that we hear most is empowerment then it is not of the charity that we read about in I Corinthians xiii.

What, then, are the aims for this year? Every year I do wonder whether I can keep this blog going or whether it will be the last. I am tempted to sink into silence through sheer grief at the destruction of sensible theological discourse in the "mainstream" churches and through sheer fear that my airing a controversial opinion could result in me being censored or even my poor innocent wife fired from her job. The injustice is that my wife has her own opinions and I have mine which are not the same. She is a member of the CofE and I most certainly am not. And yet, the toxicity promoted by social justice warriors aimed against my words could damage her. How is that fair?

I am still writing and have a book in progress, though progress is slow mainly through having to care for my family, and that the material is stretching my poor little understanding to its limit. Also, I continue to support the network of Readers in providing sermons. I will continue to watch the CofE dissipate slowly and call it out on its immorality as is my duty. What I do pray, however, is that I may have the time and opportunity to develop spiritually and not just intellectually as I fear that I am perhaps puffing up rather than building up. 

To the Holy and Undivided Trinity,
To the crucified Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
To the fruitful Virginity of the blessed and glorious Mary Ever-Virgin,
To the whole company of the saints
be everlasting praise, honour, power and glory from every creature.
And to us may there be the remission of all our sins forever, world without end. Amen

Binding the spiritual

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Sermon for Christmas Day

There are many people out there who say that they are “spiritual but not religious.” What do they mean?

These folk reject what they call organised religion in favour of seeking meaning within their own lives and spirits. Yet, lest anyone dare rush to condemn these folk, we should at least consider their reasons. Sometimes organised religion hasn’t served humanity very well. Most regrettably, there have been times when members of the Church have wounded critically the lives of men and women to the extent that they see the Church as an oppressive organisation. Sometimes, all the policies, patterns and procedures drive people away rather than encourage them. Sometimes, Christians just aren’t very nice people.

And yet, look how full the cathedrals and churches get for Midnight Mass, how carol services, nativity plays and singing are still really popular even with people who would not describe themselves as Christian. Why is this so? Why do people who are spiritual but not religious often find much comfort in observing Christmas Day?

Is it because the baby in the manger is so cute?

Is it because the baby in the manger is a sign of hope against poverty, victimhood, and oppression?

Is it because the baby in the manger is a good story being handed down from generation to generation?

Is it because of the baby in the manger at all?

[PAUSE]

There is within the human spirit a desire for light, a desire for nourishment and a desire for love and these desires hit us at the very heart of our souls. Darkness, hunger and cold are not part of the human condition and when we are overwhelmed by them, we start to shut down. For those who are spiritual but not religious, this resonates with them deeply.

Midnight Mass is where the Church stands up in defiance at darkness, hunger and cold. With candles and heaters alight and the old, old story proclaimed from the pulpit, the attention goes to the advent of the Lord in the sacrament. Whether or not the individual believes in the Real Presence, there is something there for them to think on.

And all goes back to the baby in the manger.

For, as St John tells us, the baby in the manger is there to combat all the ills of humanity and He does so by being the purest love in human form. This love is a thread that passes through all humanity from the beginning, and it binds us together in solidarity. As long as we allow this thread to grow and develop in our lives, we can be sure that we will be free of darkness, of cold, of hunger, of pain, of degradation and humiliation because this baby lies in the manger for each one of us, for you, you and you. No exception.

What we feel in our spirit that pulls us to Christmas is the thread of love that is knotted into our humanity in the person of the baby in the manger, a baby who will grow, and teach, and work wonders, and scandalise organised religion, and die horribly, and rise again.

We are tied to Christ in love. Which is interesting.

For the Latin for “tied” is at the root of words like ligature, ligament and obligation. And it is at the root of religion.

One cannot be Christian without being religious. It is true that we do not have to be tied to cruel and insensitive organisations, but the Church should not be such. There are so many people out there who need to see the truth of the baby in the manger who are drawn to that manger by something they cannot understand and we cannot let them leave that manger without showing them in ourselves that same love that he showed us.

The Church is not about power, system, and control and if people think that it is, then we’re doing something wrong. Christian Doctrine may be fixed, but it is fixed in love and not power for the salvation of anyone who desires to be free of darkness, hunger and cold. If people are put off the Church because of human sin, then it is our duty to repent and draw them back by the image of the baby in the manger meaning more in our lives than anything this dark world can offer.

We have no grounds at all to condemn anyone who says they are spiritual but not religious. We just need to show them that what ties us is that life-line that will pull us into endless joy and eternal Christmas Day.

The End of the Book of Life

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sermon for the fourth Sunday in Advent

In this day of technology and information, there is still something to be said in favour of books. Their weight, their texture, their smell all contribute to making their words real. The computer screen doesn’t have that effect even if the information you see is more accurate. Books have a sense of permanence that computer information does not. You can’t accidentally delete a book with a click of a finger. To delete a book requires significant physical effort, or an ill-placed cup of tea.

As we stand with St John in his vision, we see what God wants him to understand. St John knows books and so he is shown books. How would God have given His revelation via a computer screen in this day and age? Would the great apocalypse to St John be played out in a YouTube video?

It seems that God still uses books too.

[PAUSE]

There is a Book of Life and St John has seen it opened.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Once a book is published, its contents are fixed. And here is a bit of a problem. St John himself tells us that the Book of Life was written from the foundation of the world. Does that mean that our fate is sealed from before we were even born?

If God can see all of His Creation as a complete book, then surely He has written our fate completely. Perhaps Calvin is right, some people are predestined for Heaven and others for Hell. Or perhaps Origen is right, that a loving God would not allow His creation to go to Hell and so everyone must be saved from Hell.

Are our lives really a closed book?

[PAUSE]

These are questions that Christians have been wrestling with for centuries and there are no hard and fast answers. The reason is obvious: we cannot know the mind of God, nor can we know our fate after death. Christians have long been accused of declaring that a certain men are in Hell. These include the more obvious such as Hitler and Stalin, but then Christians have also condemned Luther, Calvin, and virtually all the popes. And yet, if you think about it, the moment that a Christian makes this judgement, he has written his own book of life.

Our Lord is quite clear, there is everlasting life with Him and there is everlasting fire in which those who find themselves there possess a worm – i.e. a gnawing pain – that will not die. Hell is a reality and it lies outside of the Book of Life.

So how can God create Man in His own image and yet allow him to end up in Hell?

[PAUSE]

God makes Man in His own image. In other words, whether we are sinners or not, whether we love Him or not, we reflect the being of God within our very selves and are therefore worthy of His love through that image. Yet, with the freedom to choose, Man chooses to sin and is therefore separated from God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is made man so that, by His death, Man can return to sharing fully in God’s Divinity. God becomes Man so that Man can become like God.

This means we are being given the opportunity to be truly alive and to live beyond Creation in the warmth of God’s love. In bearing the image of God, we exist beyond the simple understanding of the world we know and see and hear now. Indeed, we already exist beyond the whole confines of past, present and future. The question is whether we choose to unite that image with God or to say, “no” and keep away from being reunited with God.  

Since Love does not insist on its own way, the opportunity to be reunited with God must be able to be rejected and rejected Eternally. Hell is separation from God. It is therefore real and Eternal for those who refuse to reconcile the Eternal image that they bear with the One whose image it is. This is why Hell is so terrible. This is why Our Lord not only has to tell us how horrible it is, He has to show us through His teaching, through His healing of the sick and His death upon the Cross. It is to save people from the reality of Hell that the Apostles work so hard and live and die, sometimes horribly. This is why the testimony of the martyrs, virgins and confessors is a matter of life and death. Our Lord wants us to be reunited with Him and is giving us every opportunity for that to happen.

[PAUSE]

If our names are not written in the Book of Life, then the consequences are dire. We, in the Church, have a lot of work to do in bringing people to see the Lord in us. It is a big task, but God is with us. We have to be faithful and let His image shine in us. We have to stop condemning people to Hell but rather let God’s light in us lead those who stray back.

There is a Book of Life in which our names are written, and we have books of our own lives which we write ourselves. Is the image of the Lord on the cover?


Waiting for the Grapes of Wrath

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sermon for the third Sunday in Advent

We stand with St John looking at the working out of God’s plan for the Earth. The scene is that of harvest time, but a harvest time unlike any that we’re used to. We see Our Lord Himself, sharp sickle in hand, reap the Earth as if it were grain. Then we see an angel, sharp sickle in hand, reap the Earth as if it were grapes. The grapes are put into the winepress and trodden down, and blood pours out – a lot of blood!

It all sounds like something from a horror film doesn’t it?

[PAUSE]

Holy Scripture often presents us with confusing or even downright unpleasant images, and they are there for a good reason. God wants to make us think, for in thinking we take in what He is saying more deeply. Also, what He is saying cannot be expressed in simple language. A picture really does paint a thousand words, even if it is an unpleasant picture.

So what do we see?

[PAUSE]

We see the Sone of Man with a crown on His head. This can only be Our Lord Jesus Christ. He bears a sickle and so it is clear that He is going to reap the harvest. And now we need to think hard, because Our Lord uses a lot of farming imagery in His parables. Does He ever refer to Himself as one who will reap the harvest?

He does indeed refer to God as one who harvests in the parable of the talents. Remember the man with one talent who buries it in the ground because he is afraid of the master. This man says to the Master, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed.” And this is something that the Master confirms. He does indeed reap where He has not sown and gather where He has not strawed.

We are beginning to understand what St John is seeing in his revelation now, but there is one further question to ask.

Surely God has created everything. He has sown every seed, hasn’t He? What can there be that God will reap that He hasn’t sown?

The answer is simple.

[PAUSE]

God has not sown evil. That’s what the Devil has sown in us. There, in the Garden of Eden, the Devil sows evil into our very being by tricking us to accept evil in the guise of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. God did not so that seed, but He is certainly going to reap it!

This is why the grapes that are reaped by His assisting angel are the grapes of God’s wrath.

We must never understand that God’s wrath is like the wrath of Man. It’s clear that God’s wrath is directed with pinpoint accuracy at every Evil inflicted on mankind, and this wrath is fierce and terrible. This is why we will all tremble, for while there is Evil within our nature, God’s wrath will be directed at it.

Thus, the fruit of Evil is placed into the winepress and crushed outside the city, and blood comes out – a vast quantity.

But where do we see blood in relation to Our Lord and Evil?

What we are witnessing here is the way that the wrath of God conquers Evil, for this winepress is the Cross, and the blood is the Blood of Christ poured out for the New Covenant, poured out for the whole Church throughout Time. Remember that Our Lord is dragged out of the City of Jerusalem to be crucified. He is crushed and broken, but the glorious fact is that as His body is crushed and broken, He bears on Himself the weight of our sins. All the sins of the world are placed upon His shoulders and die with Him.

With St John, we are standing on the outside of History looking in. We see the events of the Crucifixion unfold from a different viewpoint. Yet, as we leave our worship to go back into our busy lives, we find ourselves waiting for the effects of this reaping of Evil to happen. We still see so much evil, so much horror, unkindness, selfishness, violence against the innocent. And we are sick of it all.

But we see that God is sick of it too.


We wait for the coming of Christ in the Mass by which we receive the Blood shed for us to cleanse us from our sins. We wait for the coming of Christ to make things new. We wait for the coming of Christ so that His light that burns inside of us will become visible in the World. We wait for the wrath of God with fear, trembling, and utter joy. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Τρεις αναφορές κατά δικαστών για υπέρβαση 8μήνου έκδοσης δικαστικής απόφασης

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Με ιδιαίτερη λύπη καταθέτω τρεις αναφορές - αιτήσεις στο πλαίσιο της εφαρμογής του άρθρου 307 Κ.Πολ.Δ. και 194 Κ.Δ.Δ. για ισάριθμες λειτουργούς της Δικαιοσύνης που έχουν υπερβεί τον νόμιμο χρόνο έκδοσης των δικαστικών αποφάσεων.
Ενώ ο νόμος ορίζει ότι οι δικαστές ελέγχονται αν παρέλθουν 8 μήνες από την ημερομηνία της δικασίμου, στις συγκεκριμένες τρεις υποθέσεις στις οποίες είμαι ο πληρεξούσιος δικηγόρος των εναγόντων - προσφευγόντων και εκκαλούντων, δυστυχώς οι δικαστικοί λειτουργοί απέτυχαν να ανταποκριθούν στις υποχρεώσεις τους.
Η καθυστέρηση για το Πρωτοδικείο Αθηνών συμπληρώνει αύριο τους 12 μήνες απραξίας μετά την συζήτηση της υπόθεσης, ενώ για το Εφετείο Αθηνών έχει υπερβεί τους 9 και για το Διοικητικό Πρωτοδικείο Πειραιώς τους 8 μήνες. Με την αναφορά μου ζητώ εκτός από την άσκηση της αρμοδιότητας αφαίρεσης της υπόθεσης και ανάθεσή της σε άλλους δικαστές να ελεγχθούν και πειθαρχικά όσοι ευθύνονται. 
Εφόσον όντως οι πρόεδροι της διοίκησης και ο Γενικός Επίτροπος της Επικρατείας αντίστοιχα αφαιρέσουν με πράξη τους τις υποθέσεις από τις τρεις δικαστές, θα σημαίνει ότι η ίδια η Δικαιοσύνη έχει εγκρίνει την αναφορά μου για αδικαιολόγητη καθυστέρηση. 
Σε αυτή την περίπτωση, κατά την οποία όντως κριθεί αδικαιολόγητη η καθυστέρηση θα προβώ σε ανακοίνωση των ονοματεπωνύμων των τριών δικαστών μέ κάθε πρόσφορο μέσο, ύστερα βέβαια από προηγούμενη προσωπική ενημέρωσή τους κατά το άρθρο 14 του GDPR προκειμένου να ενημερωθεί το δικηγορικό σώμα, αλλά και το σύνολο της Ελληνικής Κοινωνίας για την αδυναμία τους να αντεπεξέλθουν στις στοιχειώδεις δικαστικές τους υποχρεώσεις και να επικαλούνται το δημοσίευμά μου ως λόγο εξαίρεσής τους εκ των προτέρων ή και εκ των υστέρων όταν διαπιστώνουν ότι έχουν την ατυχία να ανατεθούν οι υποθέσεις τους στις συγκεκριμένες δικαστές. 
Παράλληλα, όταν εκδοθούν οι αποφάσεις εξυπακούεται ότι θα προσφύγουμε εναντίον του Ελληνικού Δημοσμίου για την δίκαιη ικανοποισή μας για την υπέρβαση της εύλογης διάρκειας της δίκης (Ν.4239/2014) και εάν δεν είναι ικανοποιητικά τα αποτελέσματα, θα προσφύγουμε και στο Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο των Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου.
Καθημερινά παρακολουθούμε μέσω του συστήματος solon.gov.gr την εξέλιξη σε υποθέσεις μας που εκκρεμούν και θα ακολουθήσουμε ακριβώς αυτόν τον τρόπο νόμιμης προστασίας μας από δικαστές που αδυνατούν να ανταποκριθούν στις στοιχειώδεις υποχρεώσεις τους.

Thousands and thousands

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sermon for the second Sunday in Advent

The question is there for all to see. If you’ve managed to bind up the Devil in the bottomless pit for a thousand year, what would possess you to let him out again?

The Revelation to St John is a very difficult book to understand. We’re dealing with the vision of a man who sees Heaven and lives in a culture very different from our own. This culture has symbols and metaphors and cultural references that we have lost. We have to understand that. Our descendants will have the same problem. If we look at our mobile phones the icon we touch for “phone” is an old handset from a telephone that has been practically obsolete from the turn of the twenty-first century. In a thousand years, that icon will confuse our descendants.

This doesn’t answer the question. Why must Satan be released in a thousand years?

[PAUSE]

First, we do need to look at this business of what “thousand” means here. Is it a literal thousand years? The answer is no.

If we look at what St John is saying, the pattern is as follows.

Satan gets bound and put in the pit. Then the faithful are raised and reign with Christ for a thousand years in the first resurrection.

After the thousand years, Satan gets loosed from the pit to deceive the earth and war is made but it seems that he is quickly beaten and thrown into the fire for ever together with those whose names are not written in the book of life.

The clue which tells us that this thousand years is not literal is the fact that Our Lord does not reign just a thousand years, but reigns for ever. His kingdom shall have no end.

[PAUSE]

Time in St John’s Revelation is just as symbolic as everything else. What’s does a thousand years symbolise? Well, here’s the thing. According to the Jewish scholars of St John’s time, a thousand years before the Lord’s birth is the beginning of the reign of King David. Thus the thousand years mark the years of Jerusalem with all its ups and downs, with all the rises and falls, the captivities and freedoms, and the great temple. All this ends with the coming of the Lord at His birth in Bethlehem.

The first thousand years represents all the prophecy that points to Christ. It represents the rule of David and the Old Covenant. The second thousand years must therefore also point to Christ, especially the witness of His reign and the New Covenant. This is why God says, “Behold, I make all things new.”

While Christ is King, Satan is bound. But a king is only a king for as long as the people accept his rule, and the same is true for Our Lord. Our Lord does not force us to accept Him as our king, even though He most definitely is the King of Heaven. Satan remains bound for as long as people accept Christ as their king. The moment they reject Him, they are in the clutches of Satan. That’s when the rule of Christ ends for them. This is when the thousand years ends for those who reject God. There is only one fate for those who do reject Him: the second death – the permanent death.

It is not God who sets Satan loose. It’s us, and this is why he must be set loose for those who willingly and firmly refuse to recognise Jesus as King. In writing to the Corinthians, St Paul reminds us that there are times when we need to let the unrepentant go their own way. He says that we need to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Sometimes, that is the best we can do and hope that the prodigal son will return to the kingdom of Our Lord. Love can never insist on its own way.

In Eternity, Time means nothing – this is why the Book of Revelation is so confusing. We may live in times when respect and love for God are waning. We can rest assured, though, that while our time is short, the Kingship of Christ is always near us. While the Church stands, while the sacraments are available, and while the Gospel is preached, Christ is with us.

And one day soon, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.

Stumbling Scholarship

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sermon for the first Sunday in Advent

How many true gods are there in the Old Testament?

You will, of course say, just one. However, some scholars will say that there are lots.  Some will say that there is no one true god called Yahweh but that the Jewish people believe in different gods at different times in their journey. Some scholars will even point to the existence of a Mrs God who mysteriously vanishes.

These scholars will look at the words of the prophet Isaiah and say that this is evidence of God being one mountain god among many.

If these scholars are looking at the same text that we are, surely with all that training and study and translating and discussion, these scholars must be right.

Why aren’t they right?

[PAUSE]

There is a worrying trend in modern Bible scholarship which says that the Bible is a book like any other and is therefore open to the same methods of criticism as any other book. There is a whole academic industry out there which seeks to say, “Oh this bit of the Bible was added later” and “these words of Jesus are probably not authentic.” These scholars reject miracles on the grounds that they defy modern science and therefore could not possibly have happened.

These Bible scholars have forgotten one thing: it all starts with Jesus.

[PAUSE]

Here we are at Advent Sunday. This is the beginning of our liturgical year. Why do we start here? We start here because of Jesus. We start here just where the Jewish people started, waiting for the Messiah to come. We look to the places where God has already revealed Himself: Mount Sinai, Mount Tabor, Mount Carmel. Yes these are mountains but God is highly exalted. He is higher than the mountains. Not for nothing does the Prophet Isaiah say:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

We look for God on High and we await His coming, His Advent.

And He presents to us a man, a baby lying in a trough, so far removed from the heights of the mountains.

And the scholars will look at this baby lying in the manger and sniff, “oh it’s just a baby in a manger. That’s all. Nothing higher than that.”

[PAUSE]

They have eyes and see not.

This Jesus we see with the benefit of history, but a history wrapped up in tradition, passed on faithfully by Christians from the first until the last. Each Christian knows the truth and seeks to pass on the truth faithfully knowing that, if we deviate from the truth, then we lose it completely. This is why we have the Holy Scriptures written by different people each bearing witness to the same thing. This is why there are many different copies of the original texts of the Bible so that, if one were deliberately altered, we can compare it with the others.

And it all begins with Jesus.

[PAUSE]

Jesus bears witness to God. Being a Jew, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour affirms the Old Testament and spends his earthly ministry showing us how we are to interpret it. There is only one God, not a pantheon of gods of different mountains. There is no Mrs God. If there were then Jesus would have borne witness to her. Jesus, the humble son of the Carpenter and little Mary from Nazareth, no degrees or doctorates, no training in contextual criticism, no intention of being one of the established scholars, scribes and Pharisees, He alone shows us what the Bible says because it is all a witness to Him.

If you are confused, or if you just want to see how the Bible works, start with the Gospels for these are the eyewitness accounts of Who Jesus is and what He does. Hear His words. Then see how the Disciples take His words and form the New Testament. Look back at the Old Testament and hear Jesus speak there too. And hear Jesus speak through the Fathers of the Church, too, who base their understanding on the same Holy Scriptures.

[PAUSE]

It all begins with Jesus. All scholars worth knowing will start with Him. Bad scholarship always seeks to denounce the faith of good Christians who have gone before us. Good scholarship will affirm the Faith that we have received in the Bible, the Church Fathers and the Creeds. Good scholarship will begin with Jesus as He is.

Here we stand waiting for His coming for yet another year. We stand looking up on high for we believe that is where we shall see Him. We stand longing for Him to come back. And we know that if we are faithful then we shall see Him in the glories of Christmas Day.

It is in the manger that the Truth of Holy Scripture lies. And no scholar can take that away from you.

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