Friday, October 4, 2013

St Paul’s Canterbury,29th September 2013, Pentecost 19

Sixth in a Series of Sermons
on the paintings of Sir Stanley Spencer

The Images used in this Series are taken from
Sir Stanley Spencer’s Paintings of
“Christ in the Wilderness”, held in the
Gallery of Western Australia in Perth.

The Rt. Rev'd John Bayton, AM


Stanley Spencer’s Image:  THE SCORPION
Jeremiah 32 v 1-3a, 6-15.  Psalm 91 v 1-6, 14-16.  1 Tim 6 v 6-19.  Luke 16 v 19-31. 

The Feast of Saint Michael and all Angels

         On a rusty throne     
Past the furthest star of space
I saw Satan sit alone.
Old and haggard was his face;
for his work was done and he
rested in Eternity.

And to him from out the sun
came his Father and his Friend
saying, now the work is done
enmity is at an end.
And he guided Satan to
 Paradises that he knew.

Gabriel without a frown,
Uriel without a spear,
Raphael came singing down
welcoming their ancient peer;
and  they seated him beside
One who had been crucified.

This poem by James Stephens sums up for me what is eternally possible for both you and me in the end, because who or what could resist the love of God  forever?
Stanley Spencer’s image of “The Scorpion” is an allusion to the Evil one – Satan. It is he who condemns us before God, the one who says to God, ‘Look at Bayton ; everyone thinks he is a good man, prays, studies, preaches, teaches, helps people; but that is always on the ‘outside’ of life.  Inwardly he is like Jesus, a glutton and a drunk. His friends are like him – sinners of the worst kind, especially those at Saint Paul’s church in Canterbury.   It is the  nature of Satan to destroy.   Satan  is also known as “Lucifer’ meaning “Light” and it is he who set  himself up to replace God on the throne of Heaven, His desire was to become God and to overthrow goodness and  replace it with darkness.   He is a fool !. 
On the other hand we read of Jesus who  ”  …thought not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking upon himself the form of a servant; and being found in human form humbled himself……for this sake every knee should bow  and every soul confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

In the first century AD there was no such thing as ‘Judaism’ per se.  There were many ‘isms’ just as today there are many ‘Christianities’.   There was  Pharisaism,  Saducaism.  The Essenes of the Dead Sea, the Herodians and many cults.     The Pharisees  believed in Resurrection and Angelology.  They  worshipped in synagogues. The Saducees were  the aristocratic cult bearers of the Temple. They demanded worship in Jerusalem.   They  said there was no Resurrection and no Angelic world beyond this world.   This world was all that is.  One was expected to obey the 613 laws of the Pentateuch and one lived on after death only in the memory of ones descendants.  
 This  theology abounds today, not only in Judaism but in Christianity and in the world of agnosticism and atheism. 
One has only to look at the designation of many Melbourne Synagogues and the  Notice boards that proclaim benefactions to realize the truth of this, that you only live beyond this life in the memory of others.   How sad.
I  remember once going to offer condolences to a Presbyterian Minister whose wife had died.    He said to me –“Please do not worry. Please do not pray for her soul. She is gone.  She lived a good life and that is all there is.”  I remember saying to him,    “No life after death ? No heaven, no meeting with Jesus. No eternal vision of Love ? No being immersed in the glory of God”, to which he replied, “ That theology belongs to the Mediaeval church”.  
Or the story of the chap at the burial of his wife.  His friend said to him, “Oh I am so sorry that your wife has died”   to which he replied, “ Oh, don’t worry, I’ll soon find someone else!!”
The  world is peopled with Saducees, people who live good lives but say there is nothing beyond this life. 
Last Monday I showed my audience at U3A a fossil that is probably one of the most ancient of all evidence of a life 300 million years ago. 
 Stanley  Spencer took the Book of the Revelation of  St. John chapter 9 verses  33 following, when he spoke of the Fifth Angel -  “Out of the smoke  locusts came down upon the earth and were given the power of scorpions….and the agony they suffered was like the sting of scorpions….and of the thundering of many horses…they had tails and stings like scorpions…”
Saint John  writes  seven letters to the Seven Angels of the Seven Churches of Asia.  This Image reveals Spencer’s scholarship of the New Testament.  Remember his only primary school learning was in his own home.
Now, for First Class Honors in our weekly Homilies, can you name the Seven Angels?  
You will of course name  MICHAEL, GABRIEL, RAPHAEL and perhaps URIEL.  That makes four.  The other three?   We can only describe them in poetry –


The seventh angel
is completely different
even his name is different.

He is not like Gabriel
the golden
pillar of the throne
and baldachin.
Nor like Raphael
the choir-tuner

Nor even Azrael
engineer of the planets,
geometer  of infinity
splendid exponent of theoretical physics.

is black and nervous
and has been fined many times
for illegal import of sinners.

Between the abyss
and the heavens
without a rest his feet go pit-a-pit.
His sense of dignity is non-existent
and they only keep him in the squad
out of consideration of the number seven
but he is not like the others
not like the hetman of the hosts
All scales and feathery plumes

Nor like Azrafael
interior decorator of the universe
warden of its luxurious vegetation,
his wings shimmering like two oak trees

Nor even like Dedrael
apologist and cabalist
Szemkel Szemkel
…the angels complain
Why can’t you be splendid?

The Byzantine artists
when they paint all seven
produce Szemkel
just like the rest
because they  feared they might lapse into heresy
if they were to portray him
just as he is
black, nervous
with his old halo tarnished.  

The Bible is filled with references to ‘Angels’,  the most prominent in the Old Testament being the Three Angels of the Lord who appeared to Abraham under a Tree in what is now the town of Nablus in the West Bank of Palestine to proclaim the birth of Isaac. 
 Jacob lying down to sleep with his head on a stone dreaming of the angels and archangels ascending and descending from earth to heaven.
Then we have the story of the three children in the fiery furnace in the Book of Daniel.   Then we have  the Angel Gabriel who evangelized the Virgin Mary.    The angels who sang “Gloria  “ at the birth of the Savior.   The angel who strengthened Jesus after his fasting in the Wilderness.  The Angel who appeared to Zechariah to tell him of the birth of John the Baptist;  Nahanael meditating on Jacob’s Ladder .  And the Apocalypse – the book of the Revelation to John, riddled with images of angels – the seven angels of the seven churches and so on.   All in the context of Prophecy.
Each one of us has a Guardian Angel, one who cares for us, looks after us and even  gives us a parking Spot when we pray to her !         Jesus himself, when confronted by evil said, “….my Father could send ten legions of angels…”  He also refers to the destiny of the dark angels….” In Jesus Prophetic utterances angels are prominent.  They are a hierarchy- Cherubim – the Bright Red angels of the love of God.  The cherubim – the Bright Blue angels of the Divine Energies of God.  My dear late mother always said that my twin sister and I were like the Cherubim and Seraphim, because “They continually doth cry”.  Thrones. Dominations. Archangels, Angels – we sing of them every Eucharist as we introduce the Holy, Holy, Holy of the Sanctus.  We proclaim our belief in them, but do we acknowledge them in our daily prayers ?  They are real and they live with Jesus in that parallel Universe we call “the Kingdom of Heaven”. 
I have the memory of several  occasions when I have been overcome by the presence of the holy angels.    Once in particular.   One Sunday night after Evensong at St. Peter’s Eastern Hill, I went to the chapel of the Angels  at  about 730pm.    I had recently painted a frontal for the Chapel Altar there, depicting the hosts of Angels.   I knelt  down to pray and  in a most marvelous  vision I saw the  host of heaven, Angels and Archangels. 
I have no idea how long I prayed there, but I do know when I returned to the Vicarage  it was well past midnight.    
Every night I pray to my guardian Angel and on waking, (as I mentioned last week),  I invoke the Prayer of  the Holy Trinity.    “I bind unto myself this day the strong name of the Trinity !”     Amen .  
St Paul’s Canterbury , 29th September 2013, Pentecost 19

Sixth in a Series of Brief Homilies:
Women Heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures

The Rt. Rev'd John Bayton, AM


Once again a powerless woman confronts powerful men.  This is  a great mythical Old Testament narrative, a fictional  story set in  the context of the Persian Empire during the reign of King Xerxes (485-465) who ruled over 127 Provinces.  [Remember George Handel’s ‘Xerxes’?]   Does this mean it is not a ‘true’ story.  The answer to this once more raises the question, “Is the bible True” to which I reply, “Wrong Question”.  The real question is “What is the purpose of Holy Scripture” and the answer is always, “theology”.  
The King made a great banquet and invited all the nobles of the Provinces. He then commanded Queen Vashti to attend in order to display here beauty.  She refuses.  The king ‘burned with anger’.  How dare a woman defy her husband.  Out she goes forever.  Mordechai, a descendant of King Saul is a Jew living in Exile.  He has an adopted daughter, Esther who pleases the Eunuch in charge of the Harem so he takes her in and  after a year Xerxes overwhelmed by her beauty crowns her and takes her to be his wife.  Mordechai overhears two eunuchs plotting to kill Xerxes,  tells Esther who  reports this to the king who decides to reward Mordechai.  Enter Haman, a descendant of King Agag the Amalekite, sworn enemy of King Saul and the Israelites.  So there is an ancient ‘blood-feud’ between Haman and Mordechai.  Xerxes promotes Haman for his loyalty and good works and gives him the king’s signet ring to do whatever he thinks good.  Mordechai refuses to kneel down before him.  Haman is furious  plots to kill all the Jews living in exile and sends letters under the King’s seal to all the Provinces indicating that on a certain day- the Thirteenth Day of the month Adar, the slaughter of all Jews in the Kingdom will take place.  Naturally the king agrees, but he has been tricked by the wicked Haman.  There is terror amongst the Jews because, as a race they face extermination.  Queen Esther goes to the King.  The Protocol require that only if the king holds out his scepter may she speak to him.  He does.  She asks that she be given permission to hold a banquet for  the king and all his nobles of all his Provinces.  He agrees.  The King now realizes he has not honored Mordechai for his part in saving the King from death so he asks Haman, “What shall be done for the man the king honors”.  Haman thinks the King means him.  So he says [Chapter 6 v 7ff], “Xerxes and  Haman go to the banquet”.  Haman prepares to execute Mordechai.  Xerxes asks Esther to declare her petition.  She convinced the king that he had been tricked into condoning the slaughter of all the Jews in his Kingdom, including herself and tells the king so.  “Who dares to do such a thing?’ he asks her.  “The evil Haman’ she replies.  The king gets up and goes out into his garden to consider his options.  Haman is terrified and throws himself down on the couch where Esther is lying.  The king enters, sees Haman, and,  thinking that he is about to ravage the Queen calls the guards and has Haman hung on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordechai.  He then gives all of Haman’s estates and wealth to Esther.   And to Mordechai he gives his  signet ring, dresses him in fine clothes with a gold chain around his neck and gives him the white horse that once Haman rode.  
We ask, what then is the purpose of the Book of Esther?  Again as with Jael and Judith the purpose is to declare that nothing can overcome the goodness of God.  God’s Will for his people cannot be thwarted.  By God’s grace powerless women may overcome the evils of powerful men.  ‘Esther’ is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God. 
St Paul’s Canterbury, 22nd September 2013, Pentecost 18

Fifth in a Series of Sermons
on the paintings of Sir Stanley Spencer

The Images used in this Series are taken from
Sir Stanley Spencer’s Paintings of
“Christ in the Wilderness”, held in the
Gallery of Western Australia in Perth.

The Rt. Rev'd John Bayton, AM


Stanley Spencer’s Image:  THE HEN
Jeremiah 8 v 18 – 9 v1.  Psalm 79 v 1-9.  1 Tim 2 v 1-10  Luke 13 v 31 – end. 
Lectures, talks and Homilies immediately after Lunch are not contusive to wide-awakedness.    Years ago in theological college, every Thursday we had a Lecture at 200pm on ‘Old Testament Studies in Greek’.   The day about  which I now refer was humid and hot, the kind of day that induces slumber. No air-conditioning.    Fr Peter Bennie engaged us in a lecture about worship of gods.   Monotheism- the worship of one God; Polytheism the worship of many gods; Henotheism the acknowledgement of many gods but worshipping only one.  At one stage some were drowsy some  asleep.
Doug Jones was snoring loudly, so Fr Bennie said, “Mr Jones.  Mr Jones!” Doug suddenly came back into this world from the world of dreams.  “Mr Jones, what is Henotheism”.  “I beg your pardon Father” said Doug. “Mr Jones, What is henotheism”.  “Henotheism?   Poultry worship”!
Today, Saint Luke takes us into Christ’s Lament, his great Intercession.  Yesterday was St. Matthew’s Day and in his Gospel Chapter 23 v 37 Matthew tells us the same story of the mother hen and Jesus lament over the Holy City.   With his chosen disciples Jesus came down from Galilee through Jericho and ‘up’ to Jerusalem.   They come to the Mount of Olives and begin their descent across the Kidron Valley, up to the Golden gate of the Holy city.  They come to rest for a while at a half-way place.   Jesus is weary.  He sits with his head in his hands, then standing up, with tears in his eyes he says, “Jerusalem, O Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing”.      Dominus Flevit   -‘The Lord wept’.   This is one of Jesus’ great prayers of Intercession.    Oh how I wish all Intercessions were so brief !
Over the place where Jesus wept is an eight sided  Chapel designed by Italian Architect Antonio Barluzzi, paid for by the Italian Fascist Dictator  Mussolini for the Vatican’s support of his invasion of Abyssinia.   Seven of the sides are dedicated to the seven Virtues.  Inside this chapel is a mosaic depiction of  a  Rooster and in the grounds outside  is always a live mother hen.   Spencer shows Jesus encompassing the hen and her chicks while the hen encompasses and protects her chicks.
In Stanley Spencer’s image Jesus appears in feminine form.  Compassion is a feminine characteristic.
Look carefully at the Stanley Spencer’s  Image of “the Hen” on today’s Pew sheet.    Jesus leans over a little hen with her chickens.  What is not so obvious is the Rooster immediately above his head.     This is an image of ‘protection’, taken by Spencer from Psalm 17 verse 8 – “Hide me under the shadow of your wings…” And again Psalm 57.   He painted this Image in 1954 and it suggests the domestic setting of his own Village Cookham.
Did Jesus know the Greek Myths ?  In the city of Sepphoris where he most certainly worked as a stonemason, [ not  ‘carpenter’] there are two great theatres one with seating capacity of 3000 .  Is it possible that Jesus used to walk the six km across the Valley from Nazareth to see the great theatrical Plays  - Sophocles,  for example – the Theban Plays,  Hesiod, Homer,  plays about the Trojan wars which occurred at the same time as Moses.  On one occasion  he uses the word ‘upocrito’ a Greek word meaning ‘Actor’.  And again, as I mentioned last week, in what language did Jesus  dialog with Pontius Pilate ? Certainly not in  Latin; most probably in Greek.  And again Philip bring to him some Greeks who have heard the word of God!
What then of the Rooster, the Cock ?  This is an allusion to the cock that crowed when St Peter denied Jesus three times.    In ancient Greek mythology the cock crowed twice in the early morning to lead the souls of those who had died during the night from this world across the river Styx with  Charon the Ferryman with his two pennies; Cerberus the three-headed dog;  into Hades.
Here in this Gospel of Luke (also in Matthew) Jesus assumes the role of  the feminine.  We are made in the image of God – both male and female – masculine and feminine. All of us, men and women are both.,  We have both masculine – authoritarian and feminine – compassionate attributes.
What is your image of God ?  The desire to protect is  universally feminine.  Mother gathers the family together.  At least this is my experience.  Every Sunday when we were children my mother, my late brother and my sister and I would gather at my grandmother’s home for Sunday lunch.   She was the Matriarch, conscious of her background and her every-day responsibility to care for her children.   Like women  of every country, nation and tribe nation for millennia she was responsible for maintaining the fireplace – the ‘hearth’, the ‘focus’ of the home.   She never would allow grandfather to gather wood, set the fire or light it.  This was a ‘woman’s’ holy task.   As we read in the Old Testament to this day.    In my opinion Intercession, such as Jesus prayed it, is the work of the feminine in both men and women.
In 19th century stained glass windows the Virtues replaced the Saints and were always women.   Iconography became allegorical.  We have many stained glass windows in the churches of this diocese where the Holy men and Women are displaced and replaced by images of “Faith”, ‘Hope” Charity”, Temperance, “Fortitude”, Prudence and “Justice” . 
Today we consider Jesus Great Intercessory prayer  – “O,  Jerusalem, Jerusalem….”
Marina Warner [“Monuments and Maidens”  p 83  pub Weidenfeld and Nicholson London 1985} reminds us (inter alia) “In Mediaeval  hortatory literature and imagery, the female  form came to be used as an unquestioned metaphor for transcendence…”
When we consider the women saints – eg Hildegarde of Bingen , St Teresa of Avila, Clare of Assisi, St Margaret, Elizabeth of Hungary,  Hilda of Whitby, Catherine of Alexandra, Catherine of Siena.  Lucy, Anne mother of the Virgin Mary, and  here in Melbourne Frances Perry founder of the Royal Womens’ Hospital.   And Mother Esther, founder of CHN Cheltenham.   Mary Sumner founder of MU.      All were women  of Intercessory Prayer.
Male saints are invariably people of Theology, Scholarship, Giants of Scriptural Studies, Makers of Good works, Martyrs, confessors, spiritual writers and dogmatists.
 I have never read anywhere that ‘Intercession is the task of the ‘Feminine’, but my own studies convince me of this possibility. 
Intercession is Christ’s feminine task – as we  may see in the Hen of Stanley Spencer’s beautiful painting today.
As we consider the role of women in the Bible (as we have been at 800 o’clock with Miriam,  Rahab the Harlot, Ruth, Jael and today – Judith and next week Esther, ; I am convinced that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, so-called ‘powerless women’ out-do, up-stage and  ‘outclass’  “powerful men’ .   Why is this ? Because the ‘feminine’ in history is more attuned to the Will of God than the ‘masculine’.
Men are  immersed in the passive absorption  of information ; for men, reading is an existential act.  To ‘read’ is an event.   For the feminine reading is  transformative. 
 Do you ever watch Jennifer Byrne’s “Tuesday book club” ?  See what I mean.
 For this reason Jesus told his disciples that the ‘news’ of the Kingdom of God is not for those who have ears, but for those who have ears to hear; from  ‘thinking’ to ‘knowledge’.   The masculine absorbs knowledge; the feminine transforms it (as St Paul reminds us) and makes it ‘formation’.
In the beginning, for this reason, the first man was called ‘Adam’. He is formed of ‘adama’ = dust.  Adamah is ‘earth’, ‘ground’.  He is formed into a fantasy-aroused existence’.  He looks around at all the animals, but can find none as a mate.  Made in the Divine Image he teaches God something new.  However, ‘made in the Image of the Divine’,  Man has no  fixed image. He cannot find a ‘mate’; so God in his infinite wisdom takes from his rib a form of himself and creates ‘woman’.  Man – Adam co-operates with God in the evolution of ‘woman’. This new creature is to be the one who is to have compassion.
We long for a beautiful world, a world of goodness, of beauty, of kindness, of love yet we live in a masculine world, a world of ugliness, wars, destruction and injustice.   In this masculine world Jesus would take us under his wings and protect us from the evil of the rooster, the cock who lurks in the background of Stanley Spencer’s painting of today’s Gospel.
Jesus tells us that His Kingdom, that is, the entire Cosmos, is transformed by the beauty of Feminine Compassion.   We are made in God’s Imagination ! This is no a childish fancy, but a reality because we are called into an interior lifestyle; a life ‘within’.   Jesus said  – “the Kingdom of God is within you”.
How may we imagine the ‘Kingdom of God?”   Of the ‘God of War’, the ‘God of Hosts’ of the Old Testament ?    No way !   The teaching of Jesus is always  -  ‘love’, forgiveness’ compassion, justice’, peace – feminine attributes of humanity.  The God of the Old Testament  was created  by Men.  Their “Promised Land”- Israel-  is always defensive against the powers of other nation!  Thank the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ , that masculine, patriarchal God  no longer exists.
Jesus is the Divine force that exists beyond us, a powerful manifestation of compassion, love, forgiveness and peace.  Jesus nourishes us by His Sacraments,  guides us by his Scriptures and sustains us by his Spirit  still intercedes for us.   His  Intercession is our Life and our End.  The One who takes us under his wing and defends us is our Lord  who, even though we live in it, defends us from the cruelty of the world.  Amen.
St Paul’s Canterbury , 22nd September 2013, Pentecost 18

Fifth in a Series of Brief Homilies:
Women Heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures

The Rt. Rev'd John Bayton, AM


The Book of Judith is a Deutero-canonical Book, not included in the original canon of Scripture, neither is it mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is an apocryphal Book, written in about 1st-2nd century BC.  Judith is a mythical character.
As we read the Book we are confronted with many contradictions.  Does that matter?       Not at all, because  we are not dealing with history. This is sacred narrative.
“Judith” is the feminine form of ‘Judah’, the essence of Judaism.  She is the  beautiful widow of Manasseh who  left her very wealthy.  Her country was in the grip of severe drought and the leaders had decided to surrender to the Assyrians.  Judith is desolated by their decision, divests herself of all her finery  and dresses herself in sackcloth and ashes.
In due course  she decides to take it upon herself to free her people from oppression.  She bathes herself, puts on her best robes and jewels, bracelets, rings, and, upset with her people for refusing to believe that God could release them from the oppression of the Assyrian King Nebuchadnezzar and the General of his army – Holofernes.  She sets out to seduce the General.  His soldiers challenge her and she tells them she had defected and wishes Holofernes to destroy Jerusalem.
With a maid-servant she goes to the camp of Holofernes.  She asks  permission to bathe, wash,  eat her kosher food  and pray. Each night for a week she carries a bag with ritually pure food (kosher) for the General. They  trust her and  assist her each night in her rituals.  In due course she meets Holofernes.  He is exhausted after battle.  Judith tells him that she has a plan to hand Jerusalem over to him.  She lies but he believes her.  She says, “God has sent me to do things with you at which the world will be astonished.  “Holofernes invites her to eat and drink with him, but she tells him that she must eat and drink only Kosher food.
She dresses herself, puts on her best make-up and jewels and flatters him into believing that she would make love to him.  He invites her to a  banquet and desires to sleep with her.    He gets blind drunk.  She has his servants take him to her tent.  He, like Sisera about whom we heard last week  falls asleep.  She takes his sword and with two blows decapitates him and puts his head in her bag.
Then according to their nightly custom Judith and her maid leave his tent.  This time Judith has the head of Holofernes in her bag.  The guards wish her a good-night and she returns to her own village and presents the head of Holofernes to Uzziah  King of Judah who  blesses Judith and she returns home.
Without their leader the Assyrians are in disarray.  They flee and the Israelite army  pursues them and do them much harm
So, what kind of woman was Judith?    (1)  A great strategist.  (2)  A powerful woman in the face of powerful men. (3)  A conniver, liar and murderer.  And like Jael about whom we spoke last week, she was savior of her people.  Is that what the story of Judith is about?  I don’t think so; for it is a narrative of a supposed history written in the method of Myth.   The purpose?  To convince us that in the Long Run, God is supreme.  Powerless women prevail over powerful men.  The Will of God for his people cannot be thwarted.  God’s Will for you and for me is unalterable.  We learn of it as we  pray fervently for those things over which we have no control.  This is the reason for prayers of Intercession, the message of Jesus in the Gospel for today.

St Paul’s Canterbury,15th September 2013, Pentecost 17

Fourth in a Series of Sermons
on the paintings of Sir Stanley Spencer

The Images used in this Series are taken from
Sir Stanley Spencer’s Paintings of
“Christ in the Wilderness”, held in the
Gallery of Western Australia in Perth.

The Rt. Rev'd John Bayton, AM


Stanley Spencer’s Image:  RISING FROM DEEP SLEEP
Exodus 23 v 7 – 14. 1 Psalm 14. Tim 1 v 12-19a. Luke 15 v 1 – 10.
Stanley Spencer’s painting “Rising from Sleep” is an image of Christ’s first daily ‘habit’ (if I might be excused using that word). Jesus’ daily experience was the continual practice of the presence of God through prayer and revelation. “I and the Father are One”. “Did you not know that must be about my Father’s business?”
Stanley Spencer recognized that because of who He was, Jesus is able to call us into God’s Hospitality. As I mentioned in the first sermon in this series Spencer grew up in a house where the Bible was the means of instruction in all aspects of daily life. He tells us that the Nursery was the Garden of Eden, and all his early images were formed from descriptions in the biblical narrative. All of his early works were paintings of Jesus and his disciples, and of holy men and women of the bible. (A few exceptions…) He reminds us that what we are, in our conscious and unconscious lives, our intellect, our gifts and talents, all recipients of the gifts of God for which we must give thanks. Hence, this painting of Jesus rising out of sleep.
Everything in Creation is a gift of God and our prayers ought always to contain thanksgiving for such – animal life, bird life, the environment, the air we breathe, the ground beneath our feet.
During a brief homily at last Wednesday’s Eucharist I invited the congregation to consider the following question “What is the first thing you say when you awake in the morning? “Where am I”. “What day is it?” And so on. Is your first word of the day a Prayer, such as Spencer implies in his painting on the Cover of today’s Pew Sheet.
A prayer of thanks for waking? A prayer of blessing for spouse, partner, family? Or, something like this, “Holy smoke, what day is it? Or ‘Is that the time? I’m going to be late!” …. Or, if ever you have seen the film –“Four Weddings and a Funeral, the Bridesmaid’s cry O F… ”””
 For many years my first daily utterance has been “I bind unto myself this day the strong name of the Trinity.” I also have a final word after our evening prayers. I say to Anno, “See you in the morning” which is an expression of Hope.
We all have morning rituals also; the things we do as affirming matters of detail…… Sheet Today – “RISING FROM SLEEP’. In this painting Jesus comes out of his forty days and forty nights in the wilderness exhausted, wracked out and, in a sleep of dreaming he is confronted by Satan who temps him three times.
Let us think for a while about this Word and Image. How do you think? In words or in Images? How do you ‘read’ the Temptations of Christ? In Words or in Images?
Let us go back to the First Reading. Moses goes up to Mount Sinai where God writes the Commandments on two tablets of stone. Moses goes down the mountain and is confronted by Aaron who has made a Golden Calf. Moses smashes the Ten Commandments. Image prevails over Word. In most paintings of “The Golden Calf” we see High Priest Aaron standing by a life-sized animal - such as this ….one of my own paintings [Display “The Golden Calf” by +J]
In fact, if we consider the Sculpted Image of the golden Calf found in the ruins of Tel Dan in northern Galilee as the ‘original story’ from which the Exilic Scribes ‘wrote back’ the account as being in the Exodus, It is a very small image –about 30cm high and 40 cm wide !
In any case, however large or small, whether there were 600,000 Israelites or 400 as Hans Kung suggests (and my own scholarship confirms Hans Kung’s estimate, Moses grinds the gold of the Calf into dust and makes the people eat their own words. He then ascends the mountain where God commands him to chisel in his own hand the new Commandments. Moses descends Sinai and the Word prevails over the Image.
From that day on to our own Age ‘Word’ and ‘Image’ have been at loggerheads.
What is an Icon – an Image? It is a two dimensional representation of a multi-faceted reality. An Icon is a window into heaven. Christ, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews is “the perfect – complete Image of God” And we, ourselves are made in the Image and Likeness of God.
The icon reveals a Presence that acts on anyone who passively receives it. It conveys an impersonal eternity.
You have heard me say in this place many times that I believe in ‘parallel universes’. How else can I conceive of “heaven”. It is not ‘up there’ as Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is Within you”. Heaven is not an abstraction, it is a reality. Why? Because Jesus taught it as such! Imagery does not fall capriciously from heaven ( “The Forbidden Image” by Alain Becanscon. P. 140). “It is in the grip of sacred history and is authenticated by it”. And so are we, you, me, as individuals; we are in the grip of Holy History. God knows us, you, me, individuals, because you and me, we are made in the ‘image and likeness of God’. The world about us, as we have seen in the recent Elections, favors ‘individual identity’. Our Politicians are not elected for their policies, but for their ‘charisma’, their personalities.
The history of the Church evolves in a series of paradigm shifts – from the time of Jesus – spirituality; to the time of the Apostles after the Resurrection – Apostolic; to the next generation-Theological; to the next generation- philosophical (Thomas Aquinas to Abelard – the period of Umberto’s “the Name of the Rose” which he said ‘I wrote it not about the Middle Ages, but IN the Middle Ages)) , to humanism – The Sistine chapel, Michaelangelo, da Vinci et al; , to married Popes Cardinals etc; renaissance, to Reformation – Luther, Cranmer, Calvin et al; the Enlightenment with William Blake et al; to modernity to post-modernity, to where we now are.
The Protestant Reformations differed from country to country – the German Reformation was – Doctrine. The Swiss – Scripture and England a Reformation of Liturgy.
Like everything else in creation religion evolves. Nothing remains static.
Stanley Spencer once said that “life is like a journey on a train. You go fast but you are not able to distinguish every detail of the landscape; neither can you see the engine that drives you”. Very profound idea also taken up by Van Gogh in his “Starry, Starry night” with its eleven stars. Not for nothing is the world’s most important athletic icon – Nike – the word that I Greek means ‘Victory’. The Icon is a prototype of Prayer.
And, you may ask “what is prayer? There are many answers to this question.
Let me here say that, as I go from week to week to different churches (as a rule) and listen to , rather than ‘pray’ the Intercessions, I am often quite dis-orientated by what I hear – People praying as though God needs to be instructed, or worse, God is being told what is happening, rather than ‘what is going on’. – The congregation is ‘in-formed, rather than ‘formed’. E.g. ‘Let us pray for Uncle Charles who has dandruff!’ The Intercessions are ‘Bidding Prayers’ not discussions.
Often, as I go about my Episcopal duties, the Intercessions in some churches take longer than the Sermon, which ideally in Anglicanism is eleven minutes! And I am often tempted to call out, “Hey! Speak up. Speak to the deafest person in the Congregation!” Salvation, the act of being wrested from this world, is not achieved by knowledge, but by Revelation! And Revelation comes through Prayer. This is the message of Jesus, not of philosophers or those who pray the Intercession.

St Paul’s Canterbury , 15th September 2013, Pentecost 17

Fourth in a Series of Brief Homilies:
Women Heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures

The Rt. Rev'd John Bayton, AM


I am sure you would all know by now that Galilee in northern Israel is one of my most favourite places in all the world.  It is a tiny piece of land by Australian standards, smaller than Victoria yet one of the most important places in the entire Middle East.  Lush, the bread and fruit basket of the M.E. in fact, so lush that it produces no fewer than three crops every year.  Despite the “little town of Bethlehem” Jesus was most probably born there; at least he grew up there in Nazareth and he ministered there for three years – Capernaum,
Beth-Saida, Megiddo, Tabor, Tel Dan and into present day Syria and Lebanon.
Tabor is where he was Transfigured.  Tabor lies in the Plain of Jezreel along with Megiddo where General Allenby defeated the Turks and took to himself the title ‘Lord of Armageddon’.   Halfway up the mountain to Tabor from the Plain of Jezreel is the beautiful village of El Debir – the site of the Palm Tree of Deborah, with its kiosk where one can purchase Coca Cola, Chocolate and ice-cream biscuit and beautiful crafted articles  such as this Bag.  El Debir.  Deborah who was a priest-prophet in ancient Israel at the time when the Israelites were under occupation by the Canaanite King Jabin.
The Lord told Deborah to go up and fight against Jabin, promising her that God would deliver Jabin into her hands.  She sent for Barak (no, not Obama) to fight against Jabin.  He told her “I wont go unless you go with me”.  She was a most powerful woman.  Please read the story in Judges  Chapter 4.  What a difference from Ruth whom we considered last week –“Whither you go I will go….”
Deborah with Barak went up against the Canaanite King and his army led by Sisera and defeated them.  Sisera, Jabin’s commander found his way to Deborah’s territory and into the tent of Jael the wife of Heber for enforced hospitality.  He is exhausted . He invades her tent.  He is snot a guest otherwise Jael would have washed his feet.  She throws a carpet over him.  He demands a drink of water.  He is not a guest but an enemy.  Jael gives him a drink not of water but of warm milk.  One of the early Jewish scribes says
 she ‘nursed him at her breast”.   Another ancient Scribe tells us that she gave him ‘Goat’s milk’ – the drink that husbands serve to their new-found wives at a Jewish  wedding (to this day).  He understands the symbolism and prepares for sex.  However he is  exhausted from the battle and the loss of his army and  falls asleep.  The powerful man is in the hands of a powerless woman. He is powerless and impotent.  It was “woman’s work” to erect and dismantle tents.  He intended to rape her, but now he “falls between her legs”  [Judges 5 v 27].  Jael knows how to drive a tent-peg.  She takes one and  with a large wooden hammer used to drive tent-pegs, smashes it through his temple into the ground beneath.
Israel’s warriors return to the Plain of Jezreel, to Deborah’s Palm tree where, with Deborah they sing a song of Praise to God.
At the end of the story, Sisera’s women tell his mother that he is delayed because he is looking for a fine  purple carpet for her.  He returns to his mother wrapped in a carped dyed with his own blood.

St Paul’s Canterbury,8th September 2013, Pentecost 16

Third in a Series of Sermons
on the paintings of Sir Stanley Spencer

The Images used in this Series are taken from Sir Stanley Spencer’s Paintings of
“Christ in the Wilderness”, held in the Gallery of Western Australia in Perth.

The Rt. Rev'd John Bayton, AM


STANLEY SPENCER’S IMAGE:  He went up into a Mountain to Pray
First Reading:  Philemon – The art of letter writing.

I would like you all to close your eyes for a few moments. Now, please put up your hand if you have written a letter on paper with ink or ball-point, this week past. Thank you. Now with eyes still closed, put up your hand if you have written a letter on paper, put it in an envelope with a postage stamp, or even a post-card, sometime during this past month?
Thank you. How do we in September 2013 communicate with one another? By telephone, by e-mail, by fax, by word of mouth?
On Tuesday last I had a conversation with a colleague, the Lutheran Pastor of Footscray.  He asked me “What are you going to preach about on Sunday?” I said, “In part, Stanley Spencer’s Image of Christ going up a mountain to pray; Paul’s Letter to Philemon – all in the context of Communication.”
He told me that a week before he visited a young man, a bricklayer in hospital who because of his addiction to his computer and in particular to e-mail the lad had lost the ability to write even his own name! In this context I have noticed how many young peoples’ handwriting is abysmal; due to the same problem.
Some of the greatest literature in the world is contained in letters. Remember Saint Paul and his thirteen letters? Especially his short letter to Philemon, subject of today’s Epistle; Apollos’ letter to the Hebrews [Attributed wrongly to St. Paul] the letters of James, Peter, John, Jude and the writer of the Apocalypse – the Book of the Revelation to John with his seven letters to the churches.
Closer to home we have many famous letters written by equally famous people – King Edward 8 to Wallis Simpson; Patrick White; Stanley Spencer to so many of his friends and lovers; Prime Minister Gladstone; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Shackleton to his Wife; Nelson to Lady Hamilton and so on… Apart from Patrick White, whose letters in our own age are famous in what they tell us about contemporary events.……
I have my own father’s War letters which tell of some of the horrors of his experiences as a Medic..
It has often been said that in his lifetime Jesus wrote nothing. What then do we make of the account in St. John of the Woman taken in Adultery? Jesus bent down and wrote in the dust …. What did he write? The fact that he wrote no letters, no manifesto, does that mean he was illiterate. God forbid. What language did he speak? He was fluent in Hebrew, in Aramaic, in Greek, and in Latin (How did he converse/debate with Pontius Pilate? The conqueror does not speak the language of the conquered – as we know today from our time in Israel-Palestine. Israelis do not speak Arabic, but Palestinians must speak Hebrew!)
In any case, what do we mean by ‘writing’; what do we mean by ‘Communication”? It has often been said that Indigenous Australians had no written language. This of course is not true; they had the most sophisticated language of sighs and symbols and icons of every primitive nation.
Stanley Spencer’s imagery is of profound symbols and metaphor His painting - “He went up into a Mountain to pray” gathers up many of Jesus’ movements in Galilee. What mountains are close to Capernaum where he lived after he left Nazareth? There is Mount Tabor in the Plain of Jezreel where he was Transfigured with Moses and Elijah. . There is the Mount of the Beatitudes which is only about 500 metres above the Lake of Galilee. But maybe the Evangelists mean us to speak metaphorically, not literally. Last week we considered what it meant when Jesus told us to “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret”…today I want to relieve us of the perpendicularity of Prayer – “Go up into the mountain.” ‘Up’ as metaphor. Remember Jesus was received ‘UP’ at the Ascension? Literally? I don’t think so, for there are, in my theology, “Parallel Universes”. In school 4th Grade goes ‘UP’ to fifth Grade? Matriculation students go “UP” to University. People go “UP” to Oxford or Cambridge, or Melbourne or Monash.
You, me here at St. Paul’s go UP to receive Holy Communion. Those whom we elected yesterday will go UP to Canberra even though some will come from North Queensland and go ‘down’ to Canberra. Bills that pass the House of Representatives go UP to the Senate ….and so on.
In the Wilderness Jesus goes up into a mountain to pray. Mountains are places of spirits. Valleys are places of souls. Spirit and Soul are two completely different aspects of our eternal humanity. Mary’s Magnificat – “My soul magnifies the Lord; My spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” Before God blew his own Spirit into the lifeless lump of clay there was no such thing as ‘soul’ – only spirit and body. God created the human race in the same way as he created the entire Cosmos – with both ‘seen and unseen dimensions” as we say every Sunday in the Creed. Stanley Spencer’s paintings are to be read as “things seen and unseen” His “UP” is to be read at those four levels of comprehension that I have mentioned to you once before – Literally, Morally, Allegorically (Metaphorically) and Spiritually. He once wrote – “My mind is flying around, restless, agitated and distracted, thinking ahead, lighting on unsolved problems, unable to simply let go of problems…..then a small miracle occurs… I paint it out”. It occurs to me that that is what I am like ! And you? Are you at peace with yourself at all times and in all places? I don’t think so! Even Saint Paul, perhaps the greatest letter writer of all literature, from time to time conveys the thought that he is not always at peace. On the contrary, for in his beautiful little letter to Philemon he is in prison; in chains, suffering from epilepsy and partial blindness; yet he can write in his own hand!  Now, once again, this time with eyes open, put up your hand if you have written a letter on paper with ink or ball-point if you have written a letter to anyone during the past week. !
Perhaps I ought to be more charitable – during this past week, put your hand up if you have written an e-mail to a friend? Perhaps, in due course, handwritten correspondence will pass away – like carbon copies, like the fax. Things come and go so quickly that we perhaps overlook the fact that it is in “all things” that the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
I well remember the first time I heard of a Fax. At the time I was Chair of the Board of Governors of St. Michael’s Grammar School – 1987. At a Board Meeting the Headmaster told us that he had, that day received a Fax from the Schools solicitors. He went on to explain what a Fax was. Like others on the Board I was astounded. Then at a Meeting of the Australian Bishops at Gilbulla NSW the Primate had invited a chap to explain to us what Computer was capable of doing especially in the context of e-mail. I had no idea what the good man was talking about.
Last week I signed up to something called ‘Facebook’ or something like that. Inter something or other…. Within 15 minutes I had a phone call from a friend and fellow Bishop in Colorado; and 16 others all within half an hour.
How did Paul write to Philemon? Certainly not by e-mail; nor by Fax; nor by Australia Post. On papyrus? On parchment? Who knows! Everything evolves; particularly theology and our understanding of Holy Scripture.
In my Retirement I am theological supervisor to a man who has come into Anglicanism from another Tradition. Last Tuesday we spoke of Anglican Poility in the context of Tradition. I said that Anglican polity is built on ‘Scripture, Tradition and Reason” He asked me “What is Tradition”. I replied, ‘Tradition is the mediation between key contradictions in a culture.” He said “I’ll have to think about that”, to which I replied, “So will I because I came to that definition only yesterday. In any case, Tradition is about ‘communication’”. Think about it. Communication. My own grandfather would not have a telephone in his house because one day 70 odd years ago a friend of his, talking on the phone in a storm, was electrocuted!
We all have stories. I have many stories about introducing women into the Sanctuary at Eastern Hill.  Of introducing new Liturgies.  Of bring the Holy Table down from the East end into the Nave….and so on.
So! IN order to communicate with our friends do we have to write letters on paper with ink or ball point pen? Or do we write to them on e-mail. In the long run it doesn’t matter so long as WE COMMUNICATE WITH THEM! Many friendships are lost because of a failure to write a letter; to go up with Jesus into a Mountain to pray. Do we speak of Faith when we write to our friends? Do we tell them what wonderful things are happening here at St. Paul’s Canterbury, and invite them to join us? I remember once asking a couple to join us in Sunday worship. He said to me, “I would love to go to Church but I didn’t know that I would be acceptable or welcome. I was in the army in the war and had to kill other men. I thought Church was only for good people, not for the likes of me..
I had often meant to write to the Syrian Patriarch in Jerusalem whom we got to know and love when he was translated to Damascus, I never wrote to him. Last week I learned that he is one of the two Bishops, missing, presumed killed by Assad’s soldiers. How I regret not having written to him. And so on. How sad. I meant to write to…… then I read of their Funeral Notice; and then one night recently I had a very bad dream about him…
“For the good that have not done: the evil I have practiced… Good Lord, deliver us…”
When you go home today, pick up a pen, take a piece of paper and write a letter to someone you have had no contact for a long time……