Gospel reading & Sermons for each Sunday Based on the Lectionary of the 

Syrian Orthodox Church

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19 May 2019

posted 17 May 2019, 23:06 by C S Paul

19 May 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Third Sunday after New Sunday (fourth Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Third Sunday after New Sunday

John 6:47-58 New King James Version (NKJV)

47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 

48 I am the bread of life. 

49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 

50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 

54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 

55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 

56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 

57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 

58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

To Be Or Not To Be

by Walter W. Harms, Austin, TX

To live — what does that mean? We have come to an age when we think we almost know what it means to live. We perhaps more certainly know what it means not to live.

When the heart stops pumping, when the breathing ceases, when there is no response, we say, "This person is not living. He or she is dead. Not living."

Arguments about when life starts are more difficult. When does human life begin, that is when is life viable, able to survive on its own, is more problematic. Even more problematic is whether people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, persons in comas, those who can no longer live or survive without the aid of machines of many kinds are really living.

But, of course, that is only the physical side of living. I don’t think there are many of us here, except for some of the very young, who have not experienced the feelings that Shakespeare expressed in the soliloquy from which the title of this message is taken. Wouldn’t it be better for us to be out of this misery? What kind of a life is this if we are filled with so many hurts, unsolved puzzles, heartaches, disappointments, troubles, anxieties, terrors?

Think of the Christians in southern Lebanon, right now. Can it be called living when at any moment shells may destroy all you have worked for, all you have gotten, and a style of life which will never ever be the same again, whether that is materially or mentally? What does it mean "to be"? To live? To have life?

For many of us it all too often appears that life is in the past, in the good old days of youth, vigor, waking up each morning filled with the juices of life, each day an adventure to be savored and enjoyed, and now…. Well, we won’t go into that.

When are we truly living? What does it mean to live?

We are here today because we have heard that this fellow, Jesus whoever he was to the people of his time, said such things that are either true or made up of smoke and mirrors. He said, "I have come that you might have life, and life to the full." He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He said, "Apart from me, you (you in the pew) can do nothing."

This Jesus and his statements are really radical as we find them in the reading from John for today. Now before you get too huffy and upset, we should at least examine what he said. Does what he say have some validity to it? And, oh yes, I want you to remember that famous word from a man called Paul, who wrote: "We live on the basis of faith (what we believe), and not on the facts of life." It is what we believe that forms the basis of almost all our behavior, our outlook on life, our actions. As a proverb from Togo says: "Wherever the heart is, the feet don’t hesitate to follow."

At first hearing, what he says it is almost nauseating. He says: "I am the bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." "I tell you the truth, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

We have to eat his flesh in order to have life! The bread of life is his flesh, which he will give for the life of the world. "World" here means people, as in another earlier word from John: "God so loved the world." He loved and still loves the people of the world.

It is not a great surprise that this caused an almost violent argument among some the people who heard these words of Jesus. But perhaps, is he speaking metaphorically, like "you have to have me in your system, your head, your emotions, that part of us we call our spiritual life"?

Or perhaps, in its simplest form means: "without Jesus as front and center in all you do and are, you ain’t living; you’re stone cold dead, friends"?

Is that a shocking statement to us? Are we alive in any sense, without any presence of Jesus in our lives? Aren’t people "alive" doing great things, accomplishing great advances in science, medicine, the understanding of the human mind? How can Jesus say that without eating his flesh, we are not alive, do not have life? Isn’t it true that some of the finest moments in our experience had nothing whatever to do with Jesus?

Maybe we forget that the source of all life is in the Father, in Jesus, is Jesus. If our life now and what we hope will follow after this life depends on our relationship with the source of life, then Jesus is the living bread, which we must have "to be" and sustain life, just as "bread" is necessary for us to have any kind of physical life. Without Jesus, then we would "not to be."

As Jesus lives because of his Father, so we live because of our earthly father, but in a more real sense then our relationship with the "Father who is in heaven" is our source of life as well. Jesus is the one who conveys through his very fleshly body the life from his Father, the Father of all life, of life of all kinds.

The only kind of eating and drinking that goes on regularly in the church is the eating and drinking in the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Supper. In this eating and drinking of bread and wine, we say we are eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus himself. While we might be repulsed by those words of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we need to be reminded he can take that which seems repulsive and make it into something good: the executioner’s cross becomes the precious symbol of our rescue from death, sinful humans who do the worst to fellow humans are turned into messengers of peace, love, and hope.

It is here where we begin "to be," to live, to find newness after the mold of sin has corroded our lives. At the altar is where we begin to eat and drink of the river of God’s pleasures which will be fully realized by us in a life where no evil ever darkens our lives. When we take Christ Jesus into every part of our body, then we know that though our flesh still urges us on to sin, our inner self, the real self has life in every fiber of our being because the Source of life, no, Life itself, Jesus is there.

Then the "to be" of our existence is realized. We have life, we have eternal life now. We will be raised by Jesus on the last day. We remain in Jesus and he is us. We will live through Jesus. Yes, again, we will live forever!

We are tempted to believe that this right now is all that is. We show that in our attempt to enjoy as much as possible while we are "alive."

We attempt to remain young, because old means the end. Even in retirement complexes, those with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs don’t want to be seen by those without these devices, because, well, they mean the lost of independence, and the end coming.

As we eat and drink Jesus in the Sacrament, I would hope that we enjoy life now because Jesus is with you every week. And the Blessed Sacrament received each week is to counter the world which says life with this religious claptrap isn’t where life really is. We need to know that "to be" is only when Jesus is in us, and it is always "not to be" when Jesus is not in us.

What will you believe? What will Jesus be to you: an ornament on the hood of your life, and the engine which give you power and movement?

To be or not to be, that is the question!

12 May 2019

posted 10 May 2019, 08:50 by C S Paul   [ updated 10 May 2019, 19:10 ]

12 May 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Second Sunday after New Sunday (Third Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 4:31-38 New King James Version (NKJV)

31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”

33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 

35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 

36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 

37 For in this the saying is true:‘One sows and another reaps.’ 

38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

The Fields Ripe for Harvest

Jesus at last sees a harvest. This is clear now from his experience with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. From her testimony gather many believers, and they are on their way to see him. In the passage following the one quoted above, we learn that many Samaritans believe, not just because of the woman's testimony but because they hear him preach and teach, and they believe for themselves.

Jesus begins to instruct his disciples in the way of his work, and what sustains him. "I have food to eat that you do not know about." His food is to do the will of the one who sent him and to complete his work. Jesus is working for a goal, for a harvest, and the work itself sustains him, gives him spirit and energy, and propels him forward. Jesus then teaches his disciples that they must do the same work, although they will reap what they do not sow. So, we have an allusion here in the readings to the parable quoted in the section from Mark yesterday, of the sower whose seed scatters everywhere, but takes root and gives yield only in the good and deep soil. Jesus is already marking to his disciples the ripeness of the field, the reaping that is happening even as the sower continues to sow. In the Samaritan believers, the reaping is already happening so that reaper and sower rejoice together.

The passage continues:

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I have ever done.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.'

Jesus' harvest among the Samaritans is their faith and understanding of his identity, and this he calls the fruit for eternal life, the fields ripe for harvesting. These outsiders shall be among the first fruits of the harvest, once again teaching us that a sincere heart and sincere faith are the things which qualify us for this harvest and this eternal life. As I think about this scene and these early believers, I wonder how it applies to us today. Do we reap? What do we reap, for whom the word was sown long ago, for whom these stories are now thousands of years old? I also ponder on the allusions to harvest which tell us not simply about faith, but harken to the idea of judgment and Jesus' messianic mission, and give us echoes of the apocalyptic understanding of what is transpiring and what is underway.

In these early believers, an important pattern is laid down, the rules of the past are broken, and expectations shattered. These outsiders are not the ones to whom the earlier laborers - the prophets - were sent. The teacher breaks apart our assumptions and understanding to reveal the new. What new do I await and expect now? Do my eyes need to be opened to something new today?

5 May 2019

posted 3 May 2019, 08:55 by C S Paul

5 May 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

First Sunday after New Sunday (Second Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 21:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

Breakfast by the Sea

21 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 

But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 

Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 

But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 

Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 

13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish

by Rev. Dr. Mathew C. Chacko

Christ is Risen!

The Resurrection appearances of Jesus are the continuing meditation of the Church during Sundays after Easter. They had basically one purpose: to confirm the faith of the disciples in Jesus as the Savior and Lord and to strengthen them in their faith as their Savior and their trust in him as their Lord and Master. These in turn were to prepare them as his witnesses and to make them his apostles.

It could have been interesting, and perhaps amusing, if Jesus appeared to Pontius Pilate, the chief priests Annas or Ciaphus, or even Herod, the King. But he did not.

He appeared to his own only. For the believers, the day of Resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of a new age. St. Augustine writes, "The day of resurrection is the eschatological, eighth day, which ushers in the new creation represented by the new week, --- the first day of the new era of salvation" [ACCS Commentary on LUKE, p. 373.] This extra ordinary event, a complete contrast of the experience on the Friday previous to that, turned their perception of reality so drastically that they saw Jesus in an entirely different way. The apostle to India, Thomas, doubted the veracity of the Resurrection and vowed that he would not believe unless he himself saw Jesus and felt his nail-pierced hands and his wounded side. The Savior appears to the disciples at the next Eucharistic assembly and asks Thomas to see and touch and believe. Those who doubt the doubter's authenticity as an apostle of Jesus should open their mind's eyes at the appearance of Jesus just for Thomas, as it were. The trauma that the disciples were going through at his mockery trial is not hard to understand if you are a believer. Those who truly experience the Resurrection of Jesus by faith only can understand the eleven disciples' struggle at this point of their spiritual journey. However, Thomas believed and confessed and perhaps took his rightful place along with the ten, who were there when Jesus first appeared to them as a group.

In the doubts of the disciples is born the foundation of our faith. St. Leo explains: "Their 'seeing' instructed us, their 'hearing' informed us, their 'touching' strengthened us. Let us give thanks for the divine plan and the necessary 'slowness' of the holy fathers. They 'doubted' so that we need not doubt." Ibid., p. 376.

St. Luke narrates the story of the appearance of Jesus to his disciples where he had dealt with their doubts, not in the same way, but in similar fashion. See Luke 24: 36-42. 36. As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. 37. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. 38. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do questions arise in your hearts? 39. See my hands and feet, it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has no flesh and bones as you see that I have" 41. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42. They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43. And he took it and ate before them.

This passage resembles the account given in today's reading, but not same instance, but another rendering of Jesus' Resurrection encounter. Not only Thomas had doubts and questions, but all of them in various degrees intensity. Even John may have his own doubts and questions. John does, however, recognizes the Lord faster, because he was in tuned with the Master closer than any one else. It seems to be a slow process for the disciples to accept Jesus' Resurrection appearances as real and authentic and that Jesus is alive again!

The miracle that we see here in this story has several aspects. The heavy catch, the net not being torn, and the visitor with fireplace and fish on it. Where did he get the fire and the fish? The Creator, once confined to this earth's condition, while he was walking on this earth, of using the created things, now is creating out of nothing.

How much the disciples at this point have pondered about these events and understood their significance is beyond our understanding. These Resurrection appearances of Jesus, however, have instilled in them a faith and a hope helping them recall and confirm everything that Jesus spoke to them, while he was with them.

What are the lessons we can learn from today's Gospel?

1. We all like miracles. We expect miracles. We pray for miracles. Miracles do happen everyday in our lives. Some times we may not even notice them. We may call them coincidences. But miracles, when they do take place in our lives, they should open our inner eyes, spiritual eyes in better terms, so that we recognize our Lord in the midst of it and make our recommitment in our trust and obedience to him and his Word.

2. Many of us are still fishing, doing our older job of making money, position and power though we have accepted to follow Jesus in our ways of thought, word and behavior, and to continue his mission of calling people to be Christ's ambassadors. This is not a predicament of the lay folk, but sadly, it is the case with most of us clergy. While writing this I am not putting myself above lay or clergy who go fishing always and every where. I am examining myself to know for sure what I am doing with the Lord's call to be his servant and a fellow servant for and with others in the ministry.

3. It is unfortunate that our priests have to go fishing to earn a living. Ministry has become a secondary or part time job and the priests cannot do justice to their main calling, serving God and His people. It is a job that requires 24/7 commitment. But how can they do it? It is encouraging to see dedicated and brilliant young men who are born and raised in this country, aspiring to be priests in our Church. Perhaps, now is the time that we find ways in which these deacons and future priests can serve as full-time pastors.

4. Enticing people by promising miracles is a way of fishing which some "Churches" and perhaps most Churches are utilizing today. I remember one time that an honorable person in our Church promising prayers on peoples' behalf for ever if they contribute a one time offering of thousand dollars. He was assuring the prayers of a community that has taken upon itself intercessory prayer. This is leading people away from a trusting relationship with God. A miracle is a sign according to St. John, the apostle, and the purpose of it is to manifest the glory of God and thereby a call to commitment or recommitment to trust and obedience. People go to shrines of saints expecting a miracle. That is OK as long as they know that the ultimate source is God and the saints are reflecting God's mercy and grace. We need to teach the use of miracles in their lives.

In summary, as the disciples were strengthened in their faith and commitment to following the Lord and dedicating themselves in his mission by these Resurrection appearance and the accompanied miracles, may we too through our worship together recommit ourselves to following him.

Indeed, He is Risen.
Praise the Lord.

28 April 2019

posted 25 Apr 2019, 00:22 by C S Paul

28 April 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

New Sunday (Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 20:19-31 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Apostles Commissioned

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 

22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 

23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Seeing and Believing

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 

25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 

27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

That You May Believe

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 

31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

The Everlasting Breath of Jesus

by the Rev. Dr. John Killinger

Fifty years ago religious pundits said Christianity was dying. Harvey Cox wrote in The Secular City that we had entered a new era, when people were learning to live without religion.

But look at the events of the last few years. The remarkable controversy over Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. The unflagging popularity of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, based on an old notion that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a child together, and that Mary and the child escaped to France and became the center of a vast secret cult. The incredible success of the Left Behind stories, that have sold more than 40,000,000 copies and helped set the stage for what some journalists are calling the “rapture mentality” of right-wing America.

What has happened? The power and creativity of the Christian faith obviously aren't dead. They're enjoying one of the most remarkable resurgence anybody could have imagined. Why is that? What's the secret of Christianity's enduring dynamism?

Maybe it all goes back to something the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, says occurred in the upper room in Jerusalem. The disciples gathered there after the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, even though the doors were locked. He greeted them with the customary greeting “Shalom” and showed them the wounds in his hands and side. He told them he was sending them out just as his Father had sent him. And then he did a very odd thing. The Bible says “he breathed on them.”

What was that about? Our word “inspiration,” you know, comes from the old Latin words in spirare, “to breathe into.” Jesus was inspiring the disciples by breathing his own breath into them. It's a wonder this didn't become a sacrament of the church, because it set into motion one of the most powerful forces the human spirit has ever known. Jesus breathed on the disciples and started a revolution of creativity that has never stopped.

It formed the early church, which by the fourth century became the most powerful influence in the world. It shaped the art and thought of the Middle Ages. It led to the founding of the great universities. Our culture in America grew out of the Christian Reformation. Even when the world began to look more secular, the basic impetuses of art and education and medicine and philanthropy all came from Christianity. The creativity Jesus released in that little room in Jerusalem when he breathed on his disciples shaped and reshaped the world for centuries.

We can't imagine our culture without it. The great cathedrals, our legal and judicial systems, our whole understanding of morality, our arts, Dante, Shakespeare, Bach, Mozart, the modern university system, the healing professions, social services, the idea of a United Nations, world service organizations – none of them would have happened without the enduring breath of Christ.

And that heritage keeps being renewed. This is why there's a resurgence of religious interest in our own time. The creative power is still there. It's still at work in our lives and culture.

You've probably heard the phrase “Caesar's breath.” It is science's way of reminding us that energy never dies or disappears. The molecules of Caesar's breath, 2,000 years ago, are still in our atmosphere today. They have scattered around the globe and we are breathing them with every breath we take. Christ's breath is still alive too. The breath he breathed into the disciples that day in the upper room – the spirit and power of God – is still circulating. And it is far more powerful than Caesar's breath. It's the reminder that God, whose spirit hovered over the face of the deep at creation, was still making the world through Christ and is still working on it today.

Where is that spirit operating now? What will its new manifestations be? That's the trick, isn't it, to try to see it, to anticipate it, before it happens. To guess which way the power of God is going.

I will tell you one thing. If the past is any guide, the Spirit of God will manifest itself in such creative ways that we'll be totally surprised. It will be something we probably never guessed or expected. I've been studying it for a long time, and I will tell you what I think. I can't be sure. Nobody can. But I will tell you what I think.

I think, with the new globalism produced by electronic communications and modern travel and the erosion of old economic and political barriers, that a hundred years from now we shall see a Christianity vastly transformed by its openness to other religions and its desire to relate to them in the quest for a new and higher form of spirituality.

I know that idea is threatening to a lot of people. That's why fundamentalism is so strong in our country. People are scared of the unknown. They cling desperately to what they regard as the great pillars of their own faith and believe the world will come to an end if those pillars are threatened in any way. That's why the Left Behind books are so popular. They convince frightened believers that the world is about to come to an end because their old religious culture is under siege.

And it isn't just in our country. There's a brand of fundamentalism in almost every religion in the world right now. That's why Islamic fundamentalists have been so successful in rallying Muslim fanatics against America. They too are afraid of the collapse of the only culture they have known.

But this frightening time we are in is a great creative opportunity, and the inspiration breathed into the apostles all those centuries ago is still alive today, and it will respond to the opportunity by forging a new Christianity for a new age. It will produce new understandings of the world, and new theologies and ethics, and new forms of worship and devotion, and new societies for advancing all of these.

Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State who has become one of the world's leading oracles, said recently in The Washington Post that we are all too shortsighted. While we are focusing our attention on the Middle East and our troubles with al Queda and the terrorists, something of much greater significance is occurring. It has to do with Asia, which Kissinger says is becoming the next great focus of manufacturing and economic power in the world, and which will soon rearrange all our perspectives of who we are and what it means to be members of the world order.

Suppose he is right. Already Buddhism and Hinduism and other Asian religions are becoming popular in the West. What will the ascendancy of the East do to alter the playing field for Christianity? My guess is that Christianity is up to it – that the creative power that has been there from the beginning, since that day when Jesus breathed on the disciples, will prove itself as strong as ever. Nothing will look the same after the revolution. But the spirit of Christ will still be there, shaping a new world for our children and their children and their children after them.

I remember a delightful little white-haired lady I used to visit in one of my parishes. Her name was Deanne Gwaltney. I sometimes teased Deanne about having a man’s name, and told her I had once been a dean too, but had given it up for a worse job, being a preacher. I once asked Deanne, who was then in her eighties, how she felt about all the change taking place in the world around us. “Oh, I don’t worry about it at all,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “You know, God has always managed to bring the best out of the worst, and somehow I don’t think God will fail us now!”

About the Author:

The Rev. Dr. JOHN KILLINGER has been pastor of seven churches, a teacher at seven colleges and is the author of seventy books and counting, including his newest, called 'Hidden Mark: Exploring Christianity’s Heretical Gospel'

21 April 2019

posted 20 Apr 2019, 02:28 by C S Paul   [ updated 20 Apr 2019, 02:29 ]

21 April 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Easter Sunday

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 16:1-8 New King James Version (NKJV)

He Is Risen

16 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the motherof James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 

Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 

And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 

But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

So they went out [b]quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Devotional Thoughts for Easter - (Holy Pascha, Kyamtho)

by H.G Yakob Mar Irenaios

HE IS RISEN! Gleams at Easter Morn

Easter or `Kyamtho' marking the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the celebration of life over death, good over evil and hope over the ruinous clouds of disappointment. It seems as though the entire flow of history had been pointing to and waiting for the grand events of far reaching consequences for the whole creation ? the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Usually young children (and some older ones too!) are confused over this issue; why was a decent, sincere and sinless man, who only wanted to serve others, put to death through violent `death-engine' of the cross. Was it that the Jews were so senseless and, and were more cruel than their fellow beings else where? The fact of the matter is that evil is always up in arms against the gleams of good and will continue to be so. This is the ever current situation in individuals, communities and social institutions. No one could be spared from this! The cruelty of Jews could as well be the story of any people of any age and clime. It is fruitful to listen to the explanation offered by theologians that all humans of all generations are responsible for the cruelty that is exposed through Jews.

People may be remorseful of their role in this cruelty, yet the fact lingers that humans are generally not much concerned about the terrible consequences of sin and disorder that mar the integrity and freedom of creation. They are not generally disturbed about the unjust structures, exploitation of man and nature and the pollution of the environment and the human mind. The sins of humanity had reached such enormous proportions that only a divine intervention could save the situation. The divine scheme of redemption was not an after thought following the Fall of man. Instead provision was made in the divine mind for such a terrible emergency even before the beginning of the world.

The great salvation is freely granted to us by God, at the expense of the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Because of this we need to be grateful to God for enabling us, unworthy humans, to share in the great victory and salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. It is this sense of gratitude that gives a new momentum, sense of direction and meaning to our lives.

Easter is as well the feast of reconciliation ? between God and man, between man and man and also between man and nature.

Ultimately, there is light at the end of this smoke filled tunnel; and `hope springs eternal in human breast'. It is the hope of new vision and new dedication for a cause that is convincing and thus it points to transformed relationships. Life makes sense where it is selfless and service oriented where unjust structures are demolished. Easter tells us that death is not a dead end, but a portal leading to something better and brighter. The resurrection of Jesus is our assurance in this.

Renewal and transformation effected by God is the true "Good News" of Easter that resounds in our ears through our colorful worship and festivities. May the light from the empty Tomb of the Risen Savior greet us as we say unison: HE IS RISEN, INDEED HE IS!

14 April 2019

posted 12 Apr 2019, 03:40 by C S Paul   [ updated 12 Apr 2019, 22:39 ]

14 April 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Hosanna/Palm Sunday

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

The Triumphal Entry

11 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; 

and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. 

And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”

So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. 

But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”

And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. 

Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. 

And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 

Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

10 “Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”

11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Devotional Thoughts for Palm Sunday

by Rev. Fr. V. C. Jose Chemmanam


1) Today is Palm Sunday. Also known as Passion Sunday. Today we bless palms and offer sweet-smelling flowers unto the Lord in recollection of our Lord's triumphal Entrance into the Holy City of Jerusalem.

2) Resolved to finish the work God had given Him to do, Jesus now set his face to Jerusalem (LK 9: 51). St. Mark, with a vivid touch describes this journey thus: "And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid." (Mk 10:32)In this verse we get a picture of two parties;

a) Jesus - a great lonely figure striding on ahead

b) The disciples were following awe-stricken at a distance.

The Disciples were amazed for the kind of lead Jesus had taken for never before had he so stepped out ahead of them. This shows that Jesus was so impatient to reach His goal for He was ?dwelling in his passion?. They were afraid that His Head ?carried a price? and that his enemies were plotting to arrest and finish him. Knowing all these Jesus is heading straight into the midst of the enemies.

3) During this Last Journey to Jerusalem, Jesus did three things.

a) The Triumphal entry

b) The Temple Cleansing and

c) Breaking of the Loaf at the Last Supper.

4) On Palm Sunday we specially commemorate the Triumphal entry into the Holy City. Borrowed an ass from a friend in the neighborhood, He rode on it from Beth- phage to Jerusalem which was undoubtedly a prophetic symbolism. Prophets of Israel used such symbolic and dramatic acts when people refused to listen to the word of God. Prophet Jeremiah once solemnly shattered an earthenware-flask before a group of his country men in order to symbolize the breaking of Jerusalem and said 'This is what going to happen to you, O Jerusalem.'

5) Why did Jesus ride on an ass to the Holy City? The meaning of this action is to be found in Zech 9:9. Centuries before a seer had pictured Messiah as "lowly and riding upon an ass, who would speak peace unto the nations, and his dominion would be from sea to sea." By this symbolic action Jesus was proclaiming that He is the Messiah, to come in the name of the Highest and the One to save (Hosanna in the Highest). He refused the role of a warrior King riding upon a horse but put on the robe of the prince of Peace, for the kings rode upon an ass with a message of peace.

6) What is the relevance of this feast in our lives today? About 2000 years ago our Lord was brought to the Holy City with great acclamation by the crowds "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming Kingdom of Our Father David! Hosanna in the Highest." (Ps 118: 25 - 26) Same Jesus is asking each one of us today," Will you not my son/daughter accept me as your Lord and King and enthrone me within your hearts?" Yea, Let us give heed to the call and receive Jesus into our hearts as the sovereign ruler and savior, and be immensely blessed by the holy commemoration of Hosanna Perunnal.

7 April 2019

posted 5 Apr 2019, 23:21 by C S Paul   [ updated 5 Apr 2019, 23:21 ]

7 April 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Sixth Sunday of Great Lent (Samiyo/ The Blind Man's Sunday)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 9 New King James Version (NKJV)

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 

4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 

And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.

Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”

Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.”

He said, “I am he.

10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”

12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?”

He said, “I do not know.”

The Pharisees Excommunicate the Healed Man

13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. 

14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 

15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

16 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”

Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.

17 They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. 

19 And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 

21 but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” 

22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 

23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”

25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”

26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”

27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 

29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”

30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 

31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 

32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 

33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

34 They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.

True Vision and True Blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”

38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

Devotional Thoughts for Sixth Sunday of the Holy Lent - Blind Man's Sunday

by HG Yohanon Mor Policarpos

Gospel ReadingSt. John 9: 1-41

The Evengelion reading for the sixth Sunday of the Holy Lent is from the 9th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. In this chapter we read about the miracle where-in, Jesus restores the sight of a Blind Man. As per the teachings of our Church Fathers - Miracle could be explained as an act against the rules of nature, by the creator of nature. We read of only seven miracles in the gospel of St. John. In the concluding verse of the gospel, St John states that.. 'there are so many other things which Jesus did… I suppose that even the world itself should not contain the books that should be written'. The miracles point us to the Kingdom of God, and the living experience there. This calls for the transformation of our lives.

In this chapter we read of Jesus healing a man who was blind from his birth and the explanations there after. When we closely read though this chapter we note that the message is conveyed in a very dramatic style. The chapter starts with addressing the point on who was at fault for the man to be born blind - whether it was the man himself or his parents. Jesus answered, 'Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him'. Likewise, we should also be able to bear the trials and sufferings that we have in our life, for the glorification of God. St. Mary, Jesus' disciples and many of our Church fathers have undergone many sufferings for the glorification of God. That doesn't mean that all trials and suffering are for the His glorification. In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 6 onwards, we read of St. Paul praying over his suffering, and further down we read of St. Paul hearing of an assurance.. 'My grace is sufficient for thee'. St. Paul concludes the thorn was given to keep himself from becoming conceited. At times our Lord uses such sufferings as a warning, so that we look back and take corrective measures on our paths and shortfalls. Especially, while we pass through the Holy Lent period, with a heart of repentance, we should be able to win the unification with God though the Holy Confession and the Holy Communion. While we review the readings of the gospel readings of the Holy Lent, we come across the various aspects of prayers

1. In our prayers, we should try to emulate the model of St. Mary, who intervened and interceded for the wedding family, even without their request.

2. We see the Leper appealing directly, like the way we read of King David… 'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness'. David pleads for mercy purely relying on the loving kindness of God, not on his merits. The Leper also prays.. 'Lord, if you will, you can make me clean'.

3. We read of Jesus healing the paralytic, seeing the faith of the men who carried the man. Through this miracle, Jesus teaches us of the importance of interceding as a society or group. This has a definite positive impact. Let us put this into practice during this Holy Lent. For we have the promise… 'Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them'.

4. Through the miracle of healing the Canaanite woman's daughter we get to know the importance and results of continued and persistent prayers.

5. The significance of regular Church attendance, and daily prayers is conveyed though the healing of the crippled woman. She was present at the Synagogue, while Jesus was teaching. She does not ask or plead for healing.

6. The significance of this Sunday is also the glorification of God. Many a cases, our prayers and ministry exalt ourselves. This is what is expected of us. This is not pleasing to God.

Let all our efforts be, to live, pray and strive for the glorification of God.

31 March 2019

posted 29 Mar 2019, 22:28 by C S Paul   [ updated 5 Apr 2019, 23:09 ]

31 March 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (Kpiptho/Crippled Woman)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Luke 13:10-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

A Spirit of Infirmity

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 

11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 

12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 

13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?

16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”

17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

Bent and Broken: Sermon on Luke 13:10-17

by Rev. Dr. Luke Bouman, Valparaiso University

Bent and Broken

When you sit opposite from Lorena, you don't notice that there is anything amiss. She is a spry and sparkling example of 86 years old at its best, when seated. She sits up, looks you in the eye, and makes casual conversation with a rapier wit on almost any topic. She picks up her teacup and scones like there is no difference between the two of you. Nothing is out of place..., that is, until she stands up.

It is then that the 86 years seem to drop on her body like a heavy weight, born about the shoulders, crushing weight bearing down upon her small, and now frail looking body. Deterioration of the spine, the result of years of degenerative disease, has taken its toll and it leaves Lorena bent and broken. As she stands, the sparkle is gone out of her eyes and the breath is drawn, less with casual ease, and more with intense labor. You wish it were possible to attach a string to her head, like a marionette puppet, and pull her up straight. But her body is taught, not limp, gripped with pain, bent in agony.

Yet, without complaint she labors to the door, opens it and lets you out. You know, more often than not, that she will now take some medication that will ease her pain, but dull her eyes to a different state of glaze, not with pain, but into that gentle oblivion that will soon have her resting and sleeping for the duration of the dose. Doctors can treat Lorena, but they cannot cure what bends her to the point of breaking.

I think of Lorena as I read this text for today, wondering if her future is my future. I think of her and pray for her, body and soul. I also, truth be known, say a little prayer of sorts for myself, thankful that I am not bent and broken like that. But in the moment that I say this prayer, I know that it betrays a lie. Closer to the truth is that I am thankful that my bent and broken nature is not visible to any but the most trained of eyes, perhaps visible only to the eyes of God.

I came across this language in, of all places, the science fiction writings of C. S. Lewis. The author of such diverse works as Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Chronicles of Narnia also wrote a trilogy of science fiction works, though little known. In them he tries to describe what Sin is, to beings who do not know. The word his hero finally settles on is "bent." By bent, I take Lewis to mean, misshapen, not the way we were made to be, and not fit for our intended purpose. We are all of us, bent: some, like the woman in our Gospel for today and Lorena, literally bent over, the rest of us, simply out of shape, not as God intended.

Bound and Set Free

The difficulty with this is that in Luke's telling of this story the woman is not only "bent over" but also "bound." In fact the major language of Jesus' action for the woman is "untying." As I looked through the Greek text for this sermon, I was struck by the use of this very common word. It was, in fact, the first verb that I learned to conjugate in New Testament Greek class: "to loose" or untie. Here it shows up several times: Jesus "sets the woman free" in verse 12, in verse 15 he reminds his critics that they also "untie" their cattle so they can drink on the Sabbath, in verse 16, Jesus reminds us that he has just "freed" (older versions say, "loosed") the woman from her bond.

Of course, modern politically correct forces will talk about how words like "bondage" and "slavery" carry baggage that we don't want to address, but no one told Jesus or Luke to be politically correct. Here they identify the problem, the root of the woman's bent shape, as a bondage. But as the story continues, you find that the woman is not the only one impacted. The ruler of the Synagogue is also enslaved, and by the same force, though the symptoms might look different: one visibly bent, the other with a spirit misshapen by a false sense of religious piety and obligation.

We notice that the woman was set free by Jesus, but what of the leader of the Synagogue? Was he also set free by Jesus' words? We can all see the weight of a spirit of illness that might weigh a woman down. We all recognize the demons of addiction that drown people in their own desperate search for relief from life's pains. We might understand the dark lords of depression that ensnare us in a quagmire of shame and self loathing. But what can we do about the spirits of personal piety for religious justification? Do we know these demons enough to see the weight of their pride bending us out of shape, making of us creatures that seek to have God and God's laws serve us rather than the opposite? Are those of us weighed down and bent by the hidden demons of "right doctrine" or "clean living" also set free by Jesus?

The answer is yes! The woman does not come to Jesus to seek healing? He seeks her out and calls her over. He sets her free because he chooses for her to be free. In Jesus, God is doing all of that for all of humanity. God does not wait for us to come to some understanding of our bent shapes. God joins us in the very depths of our possession. God, in Christ Jesus, takes on the full weight of our Sin and experiences our "bent-ness" on the cross. And God renders its power meaningless over us, even when we still seem more intent on holding on to it. Even though the ruler of this Synagogue is shamed by Jesus for the moment, will he recognize in due time that the woman's liberation on the Sabbath is his liberation as well? Luke does not tell us, we are left to ponder.

The Liberating Day

All of this comes back to the question of what the Sabbath day is for? Of course there are many and varied answers. We have Sabbath by God's command, as a day of rest. St. Augustine added to that answer when he prayed, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord." Perhaps it is out of longing for God that we have the Sabbath. My Lutheran roots suggest to me that my Sabbath rest involves something more, something deeper than just being in God. God does something for me on the Sabbath. God meets me and transforms me on the Sabbath. In this context, I'd like to be so bold as to suggest that God unties me, God sets me free.

Our worship services, especially with resources that have been developed in the last 50 years, help us to understand just that. We begin, whether with confession or a thanksgiving, in the waters of our Baptism. It is here that God's liberating word first comes to us and here that our weekly journey reconnects us to that word. In joy we gather and sing with other Christians also once bound, still bound, in need of being loosed. We drink from the sweet cup of God's liberating word, read and spoken as by Christ himself. We speak of our commitment to the world and its healing in prayer as we begin to feel the weight bending our lives lifted from our shoulders. We rejoice at the table as we experience the Living Word coming into us bodily, giving us a foretaste of the feast of freedom that is to come. We are blessed as finally, set free by the Word, we are set loose on the world, where the liberation we have experienced becomes the liberation we practice.

And underneath it all, surrounding it all, infused in it all is God, the God of freeing, life-giving Grace. God meets us in worship, frees us from the weight of our Sin, and then binds us together with others, a community unleashed (dare I say "loosed) upon the world. Now lest we become too giddy with our new found freedom, we need to be reminded that we will be back again. In a week's time we will need God's "loosing" yet again, from the weights and fetters of our Sin. It will be that way always until God's kingdom finally comes among us fully in Christ. But at least we have gained a glimpse of what God is up to with the Sabbath. We taste, we see, we are touched and transformed by the boundless love and grace of God. The result is wholeness, however fleeting for now, as the foretaste of the cosmic wholeness that God has promised to all creation in the fullness of time.

What joy is found in this experience. We are now free for one more thing: honesty. We can be honest about how we are bent and broken. We can be honest about the bondage that enslaves us. We no longer have to hide. We are free to welcome the Christ who comes, sees us, like the woman, weighed down, and bids us come and be made whole.

For Lorena, for the ruler of the synagogue, for me, even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

24 March 2019

posted 22 Mar 2019, 04:37 by C S Paul

24 March 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Canaanite woman)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 15:21-31 New King James Version (NKJV)

A Gentile Shows Her Faith

21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 

22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

23 But He answered her not a word.

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Jesus Heals Great Multitudes

29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 

30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 

31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and theblind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Canaanite woman - A Mother's Love

by Rev. Fr. V.V. Paulose

"Dear Woman, your faith is great! Your request is granted." (Mathew 15:31)

We are what we are by the sheer love of our mothers.

A mother's love cannot be measured. Mothers are ready to go to any extent for the welfare of their children. That is the reason for St. Paul's advice - "Do not despise your mother when she is old" -(Colossians 3:20). The end result of all the hardships and sacrifices endured by a mother always bears good results.

Here, the Canaanite women is at her most depressed stage of life - a daughter terribly possessed by the demon. Finding no cure, she went to Jesus with great faith, hope, and love. With great anguish, she cried, "Lord help me." at the feet of Jesus . Jesus accepted her request and healed her daughter instantly by dismantling all the barricades put forth by the then Jewish society.

Jesus' salvation and healings for all are not limited to the Jews or the selected ones. Till then, the Jews had believed that Jesus was sent only for Israel. And they considered the gentiles are dogs not worthy to sit at the tables with them. Both these contentions was out rightly ruled out by Jesus by testing the needy woman for her faith and answering her. During her ordeal, her mind, eyes and heart were concerned about her daughter’s plight while expecting the healings from the mouth of her Lord and God – Jesus.

Her love for her daughter blinded her from shame, humiliations and arguments. A mother's love can cross any barrier - that is love indeed and faith in action. She was even ready to be considered as a dog taking food crumbs thrown out from the children’s table. What she needed was the healing of her daughter which was granted.

The faith, love and intercession for the needs of others are always answered by Jesus. He would like us to do so continually. A large crowed was brought to Jesus to be healed and he healed them all. Jesus still heals people who are suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually, and we can be the ones who brings suffering people to him like the Canaanite woman. Whom do you know that needs Christ’s healing touch ? You can bring them to Jesus through prayers or through explaining to them the reason for the hope that you have.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Those who are in Christ, are always with Christ and do the mission of intercession. "We are confident, I say and pleased rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord" - (2 Corinthians 5:38). So we intercede the prayers of the departed saints just as we ask the prayer requests for living fellow-believers. This is God’s command and biblical, contrary is diabolical and not in compliance with the word of God. So with confidence, we should request prayers of the living saints and the saints with Jesus.

After the Japanese earthquake had subsided last year, rescuers saw a young woman’s dead body through the cracks of her ruined house. But her pose somehow seemed strange like she was kneeling over something. The collapsed house had crashed her back and her head. When they removed the debris, they saw a 3 month old little boy wrapped in a flowery blanket under his mothers dead body. Obviously, the woman had made an ultimate sacrifice in saving her son. Inside the blanket, there was a cell phone with a text message. It said," If you can survive, you must remember that I love you."

The Canaanite now says to us all, "If you are alive and healed, you must remember that I love you with all the shame and sacrifice and even at the verge of death and mockery "

So do not waste a day by not saying I love you to your parents and loved ones for you may not know when they will be gone. And bring all the prayer requests to Jesus. Let them be healed and delivered.

Be a mother like the Canaanite woman.

17 March 2019

posted 16 Mar 2019, 00:39 by C S Paul

17 March 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Third Sunday of Great Lent (Paralytic/Palsy Sunday)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 2:1-12 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 

Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 

Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 

And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 

“Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 

10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 

11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 

12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Healing the Paralytic

by Fr. Zachariah Diju Skariah

Gospel: St. Mark 2: 1-12

As we come to the start of the third week of the Great Lent, we are reminded of the great healing of a paralytic. In the selected Gospel portion for this Sunday, we see four men take it upon themselves to bring their beloved brother, friend to a home where Christ was present and preaching to the faithful who had gathered in His presence. This powerful healing first reminds us that the Church is a spiritual hospital for sinners. For Orthodox Christians, the church is the ekklesia, or the gathering of persons called out, who believe in the living God as revealed in Jesus Christ. The gathering we see in this home was the living Church of the time that included Christ, the High Priest, and the people who chose to follow Him. The unwavering faith and determination of the four men to bring this paralytic to the Church (hospital), led to the face-to-face encounter with the Almighty Physician who provided spiritual and physical healing. So often, we forget the role of the Church in our lives: it is where one is healed and brought into spiritual well-being and wholeness.

Mere involvement in activities, organizations, and programs within our parishes do not take the place of repentance and spiritual growth. The quality of these activities will reflect the degree of repentance and spiritual health of those who undertake them. Ultimately, activities and ministries will bear fruit and bring healing only to the extent that the persons involved are being healed through repentance. The Church provides us with true doctrine, true prayer, true sacramental life, and true spiritual teaching that can heal us. This is the purpose of the Church and this is our hope for salvation.

Secondly, the scribes falsely accused our Lord of blasphemy after reasoning in their hearts that no one but God alone can forgive sins. The scribes wondered why He chose not to heal the body which is visible and instead claimed to heal the soul which is invisible. Surely, no one can visibly see sin being forgiven nor is it something we can show evidence for. However, Christ in His power, confirmed that he was not trying to deceive anyone, but prove that He provided both physical and spiritual healing to the man as well as strength that led to the man getting up and walking on his own again. It may be hard for us to identify, but we have to take a moment to ask ourselves are we like the paralytic with our souls lifeless and unable to move or do any good? If so, we too need to find an avenue to bring ourselves to the Church for healing. At the same time, we need to have a concern for those around us, raising them up and bringing them to the Holy Church. Only then will we be able to experience any fruit during this Lenten journey and truly prepare ourselves to receive and proclaim the Risen Christ.

May God Almighty grant us the grace and mercy to labor past all of the difficulties, frustration, distractions, and sin in our lives and lead us to true repentance and healing during this Great Lent through the sacrament of confession.

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