SUNDAY SERMON



SUNDAY SERMON

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

Syrian Orthodox Church

5 July 2020

posted 3 Jul 2020, 22:32 by C S Paul

5 July 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Luke 9:10-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

10 And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 

11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. 

12 When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 

14 For there were about five thousand men.

Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 

15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.

16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 

17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.

Human Helplessness and Abundance of God

by Very Rev. Lazarus Remban

The miracle of loaves and fishes is very familiar to us and this is the only miracle of Jesus related in all four gospels.

When the Apostles had comeback from their tour our Lord took them to the neighborhood of Bethsaida, a remote village, for rest. But there also the people crowded, disturbing his privacy. But to Jesus, human need took precedence over everything.

The evening came, home was far away, and the people were tired and hungry. Jesus ordered his disciples to give them a meal.

This Gospel tells us many things, a few being:

1. Jesus was concerned that men were hungry.

It would be most interesting to work out how much time Jesus spent, not talking, but easing men's pain and satisfying their hunger. He still needs the service of men's hand. The mother, the nurse, the doctor, the friend, the parent, the social worker, they have all preached far more effective sermons than the eloquent orator.

2. Jesus' help was generous

There was enough, and more than enough. In love there is no nice calculation of the less and more. God is like that. God has created a world where there is more than enough for all, if people will share it.

3. There is a permanent truth in an action in time

In Jesus all men's needs are supplied. There is a hunger of the soul, there is in every man, sometimes at least a longing to find something in which he may invest his life. As St. Augustine says " Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him". St. Paul says, " My God will supply every need of yours" – even in the desert places of this life.

28 June 2020

posted 26 Jun 2020, 21:54 by C S Paul   [ updated 26 Jun 2020, 22:57 ]

28 June 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 14:14-23 New King James Version (NKJV)

14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. 

15 When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”

16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”

18 He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 

19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 

20 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. 

21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus Walks on the Sea

22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 

23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

The God of abundance

by Trygve David Johnson

There are times in my life when I feel like I’ve got nothing to give. There is no gas in my tank. No food in my fridge. I’ve got nothing left to say.

When I feel this way, however, my life doesn’t stop. The trickle of e-mails keeps dripping into my inbox. The phone keeps whining for attention. The next sermon is in ten minutes. My to-do list looks like 5,000 hungry people.

At such moments of emotional scarcity, I like remembering this story of Jesus feeding 5,000. It reminds me of a fundamental truth—that the ministry I serve in Christ pivots not on how much I have or what I can give, but rather on how much God gives by multiplying what I have.

You know this story. After the news of the murder of his friend John, Jesus retreats to a lonely place. I imagine to mourn. The locals get wind that Jesus has come. The crowd is overwhelming and needy. Jesus heals with compassion. The crowd stays late, and the disciple s want to send the people away so they can get something to eat.

But Jesus has another idea—what we call in the business “a teachable moment.” Jesus wants to teach his disciples something fundamental about the nature of God. It is a lesson, if we take it seriously, that frees us to re-imagine the world.

Jesus says, “You feed them.” The disciples look puzzled. They have nothing. No food. No reserves. They stare out at a hungry mass of people that looks more and more like a hungry mob.

The disciples respond, “We have nothing—only five loaves and two fish.”

Jesus says, “Bring your nothing to me.” He blesses the fish and bread and proceeds to distribute food to the masses. As Matthew tells the story, “All were filled.”

This story reminds me that sometimes Jesus is asking me to simply give my nothing—my little loaves and fishes—and then to stand back and watch Jesus teach a different kind of economy, an economy grown by God’s abundance.

This is a challenging thought. The God of Jesus knows no limitation. Out of nothing, God creates bara—something. The economy of the kingdom of God is abundant and knows no scarcity. My fridge doesn’t always have to be full for Jesus to take what I have and feed others.

This isn’t an invitation to be frivolous or live beyond our limits. Even after an experience of abundance the disciples still gather up and conserve wisely the leftovers.

A question to explore in a sermon is why we buy into the myth that there is not enough to go around. The world operates with economic assumptions of scarce resources. The energy crisis pivots on not having enough. In the name of national and economic security, we exercise influence in far-reaching places to secure enough energy. It is a worldview of scarcity. Billions starve because our culture operates with a system that limits distribution of goods and resources in order to protect the security of the few.

I’m guilty of this. I live out a vision of scarcity with my own checkbook, time and resources. This story of Jesus challenges me to re-imagine my life and live into an economy of God’s abundance. In the kingdom of God we don’t have to hoard—there is always enough supply to meet demand.

21 June 2020

posted 19 Jun 2020, 23:50 by C S Paul

21 June 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Third Sunday after Pentecost

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 

36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 

39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Rejected by His Own

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 

42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 

45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

Sermon of the Week

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil

The gospel says, if we accept Jesus for our support and guidance, he will always receive us. Jesus will never turn us away.

We all experience rejection from others several times in life. Rejection is very hurtful. However, no one will ever experience rejection and the pain from our Lord. Jesus calls on all the people, every one, to receive him in their hearts. If we go to Jesus with our burdens, sure he will give us rest and comfort . We all need emotional and spiritual comfort. Our life gets in turmoil due to the emotional and spiritual vacuum we experience. The stresses in life make us often weary. Jesus promises that he will give us the rest and comfort we will need.

We don't need to be perfect to go to him for rest and comfort. God used several people whose lives were less than perfect to make him known to others:

1. Noah got drunk.
2. Moses couldn't speak clearly.
3. Samson was a womanizer.
4. Rahab was a prostitute
5. Jeremiah was by-polar.
6. David had an affair and conspired to murder.
7. Elijah was suicidal.
8. Jonah ran away from God.
9. John the Baptist ate bugs.
10. Peter denied Jesus.
11. The disciples fell sleep while praying.
12. Mary Magdalene had sinned.

But God used every one of them to make himself known to others. Jesus says, "Come and follow me. I will make you fishers of men." No need to be perfect. We don't need to think that we are disqualified to be with Jesus because of our imperfection. If we acknowledge Jesus, he will also acknowledge us to the Father. We should have faith in Jesus and we shouldn't compartmentalize that faith. Acknowledge Jesus not just on Sundays, but on every day of the week and every hour of the day. Faith in Jesus is not part time, it shall be our life. Our life must be centered around our Lord. None of us possesses the attribute of perfection. It is the willingness to identify our Lord is the most important attribute.

Jesus will not abandon us. He will come to us always. There will never be a time when he doesn't care about us. There will never be a time when he doesn't love us, provide for, and watch over us. We feel insecure when we lose our beloved ones or feel uncertain about our future. The scripture teaches that God will never abandon us if we face similar situations. If any one abandons or rejects us in this world, our Lord will hold us close to him.

Let's go to Jesus just as the way we are. Let's bring our burdens and weariness to Jesus Christ. He is the one willing and able to meet our needs.

14 June 2020

posted 13 Jun 2020, 04:34 by C S Paul

14 June 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Christ Brings Division

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 

35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 

36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 

37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 

38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 

39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

A Cup of Cold Water

40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 

41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 

42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus

11 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.

Second Sunday after Pentecost

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil

The meaning of "disciple" is, "one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine." A disciple of Jesus is a person who follows Jesus and his teachings. Thus every Christian is a disciple.

In Acts 11:26, we read the disciples were first called "Christians" in Antioch. There shouldn't be any distinction between a disciple and a Christian. Every Christian is a follower of Jesus. We are all disciples of Jesus.

What does Jesus expect from his disciples? This is the subject matter for this Sunday's gospel reading.

It is clear from the reading that Jesus expects complete commitment. The gospel projects three components of commitment. They are:

1. Acknowledge Jesus before others: "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." (v. 32-35)

"Whoever disowns me" refers to a life long denial of Christ. Peter denied Jesus, but that was not a life long denial. We all sometimes deny Jesus with our unkind actions or behavior, but we repent our sins.

2 Love Jesus more than anything or anyone else: Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his family. (v.34)

Sometimes when a person becomes a disciple of Jesus, his family turns against him. Therefore, a choice must be made between Jesus and family. Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a disciple from complete allegiance to Jesus. His love for us demands that we love him for more than all others.

3. Willing to give up everything to follow him. Jesus said, "Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (v,38,39).

In the first century, if anyone was carrying his cross, it was clear that he was on his way to die. Many have been losers for Jesus with their life, but will not be a loser by him in the end.

Large crowds followed Jesus in the beginning, but the crowds gradually disappeared. It was because Jesus demanded total commitment from his followers. He made sure that the cost of discipleship was high. Jesus said, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower, will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? (Luke 14:28). Jesus has already counted the cost of discipleship for us. The cost is everything we have. Jesus didn't say, "Follow me, and you will be happy, and wealthy." Instead he said, "Discipleship is going to cost you whatever you have. Do not expect comfort and ease."

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his sour. (Mathew 15:24-26).

The "whole world" refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in one's lifetime. Gaining the whole world looks more appealing than losing everything for Jesus. But the reward for following Jesus is eternal life. While the final result of gaining the whole world is the loss of one's soul.

As Christians, disciples, or followers of Jesus, acknowledge Jesus before others, love Jesus more than all others. And be willing to give up everything for Jesus. That's how we become true Christians.

7 June 2020

posted 5 Jun 2020, 21:10 by C S Paul

7 June 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

First Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 6:26-35 New King James Version (NKJV)

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 

27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 

31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 

33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

First Thoughts on John 6:24-35

by William Loader, Murdoch University, Australia

Gospel: John 6:24-35

The Lectionary skips two verses, John 6:22-23, beginning today’s passage at 6:24. These two verses serve to enhance the drama of the preceding miracle by underlining that Jesus could not possibly have crossed the sea by boat. 6:23 then makes incidental mention of the place ‘where they ate bread, when the Lord had given thanks’ (eucharist esantos), almost an allusion to the meal as eucharist. The brief introduction leads to the question in 6:25: ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’

This provides the platform for Jesus’ response and the dialogue which follows, which is full of subtle humor and irony. It is as if we are watching a stage play. In 6:26 Jesus makes a major declaration. The crowds were following him because their material needs had been met not because they had understood the miracle as a sign. They were like the crowds in 2:23-35. Their understanding and enjoyment of miracles gave them a kind of Nicodemus faith (see the link between 2:23-25 and 3:1-5) which could satisfy only at a superficial level and did not lead to real change, rebirth. Such religion was popular then as it is now, also among those who love to use the language of being ‘born again’.

In 6:27 Jesus exhorts the crowds to work for the food of eternal life. This is an interesting use of the word, ‘work’, which in some of our traditions is the opposite of ‘faith’. Here, on the contrary, it is a way of talking about faith and means something like: ‘set your heart on, make it your goal, put your effort into, work on acquiring’. 6:29 tells us what this effort entails: believing in the one whom God has sent. 6:28 has the crowd speak of ‘the works of God’. The effect of the dialogue is to address the question of spirituality. Where do we find God? In wonders? In some mighty achievements of our own or of others? John reduces the options to one: we find God in relationship. That relationship is established when we believe that Jesus is the message and messenger from God.

The image of the sent one and of God as the sender is dominant in John. It derives from the world of communication in the ancient world, where, without the advantages we have of electronic telecommunication and fast transport, people were totally dependent on communicating their own messages personally or sending someone as an envoy who could act on their behalf and often carried some written communication together with a letter of introduction or commendation from the sender. John makes extensive use of the image of Jesus as God’s envoy and spokesperson in the world. What Jesus brings is not primarily an array of information so much as the offer of a relationship of love and acceptance. This relationship is the source of life, eternal life. Belief is involved, inasmuch as we need to believe that Jesus really does play that role. Faith is then acting on that belief in trust and becoming part of God’s life in the world.

In 6:30 the dialogue reaches a new height of irony as the crowd asks for a sign. They had earlier witnessed the sign given in Jesus’ feeding of the 5000! As if to prompt Jesus, they recall the manna in the wilderness. Meanwhile John’s hearers are being entertained by the absurd naiveté of the questioners. The dialogue then takes a sharp turn in 6:32. Moses did not give bread from heaven; only God gives it. The effect is to say: eternal life is not to be found in the gift of the Law, which was often described under the image of manna and food. Rather the true food of eternal life comes only through Jesus as the divine envoy. 6:49 returns to the image and underlines the point. John is not disparaging the Law. In 1:17 he describes it as God’s gift, but now it has been replaced by the grace and truth brought by the Word. Its function was not to offer life but to foreshadow and bear witness to the one in whom this life would be available.

The crowds then respond to Jesus’ claim just as the Samaritan woman had done when told about the gift of the water of life. She said, ‘Sir, give me this water’. They say, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Neither she nor they at this point understand its true meaning. Jesus then makes his famous declaration which draws together both stories: ‘I am the bread of life. Anyone coming to me shall not hunger; anyone believing in me shall never thirst.’ (6:35).

In the coming weeks we shall be reading the rest of the chapter. The image of bread is elastic. Sometimes it stands for Jesus, himself. Sometimes it is something which Jesus gives. That is certainly the case when 6:51-59 makes the link with the eucharist. Our passage already hints at that in two ways. 6:23 (the verse which precedes our text) possibly alludes to the eucharist. 6:27 speaks of a gift which the Son of Man will give in the future. John prefers to use ‘Son of Man’ when he is speaking of Jesus’ death, exaltation and glorification and its after effects. One of those after effects is the eucharist.

As often in John, we find the passage serves a single purpose: to point to Jesus as the way to God. That can lead to a myopic view which is rather sectarian: loyalty to the leader is what matters; his is the only way, independent of issues of substance. Everyone else must be wrong - or damned. It need not do so. It can lead to a rich and open spirituality in which the ultimate focus falls on finding the light and life, the water and bread, in God and recognizing it wherever we find it and then understanding that life as something to be shared, something to be lived out in love for the world which ‘God so loved’ (3:16) and loves. Then the christ-centredness is released from a narrow exclusive focus, from the cult of the leader, to become the focus of something much more dynamic.

While the repeated melody throughout John sings of the relationship with God and says little of what that means in practice, the music can inspire such involvement, especially within the total setting of the orchestra, as it were, that is, the canon. John is a healthy antidote to activism which, without being rooted in a deep spiritual relationship, has difficulty sustaining itself and becomes in danger of a return to rules and obligations. John refreshingly calls us back to the spirituality of relationship in which love is celebrated and generated. That is profound nourishment.

31 May 2020

posted 29 May 2020, 22:15 by C S Paul   [ updated 29 May 2020, 22:15 ]

31 May 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Pentecost (Fiftieth day after Easter) Sunday School day

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

The Coming Rejection

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 

27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
Jesus Warns and Comforts His Disciples

16 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 

2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 

3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 

4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.

“And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 

6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 

7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
 
8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 

9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 

10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 

11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 

13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 

14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 

15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

Devotional Thoughts for Pentecost Sunday 
by Rev. Dr. V KurianThomas Valiyaparambil
Message:

Pentecost is the great festival that marks the birth of the Christian Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the twelve apostles, Jesus' mother and family, and many other of his disciples gathered together in Jerusalem for the Jewish harvest festival that was celebrated on the fiftieth day of Passover. While they were indoors praying, a sound like that of a rushing wind filled the house and tongues of fire descended and rested over each of their heads. This was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on human flesh promised by God through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29). The disciples were suddenly empowered to proclaim the gospel of the risen Christ. They went out into the streets of Jerusalem and began preaching to the crowds gathered for the festival. Not only did the disciples preach with boldness and vigor, but by a miracle of the Holy Spirit they spoke in the native languages of the people present, many who had come from all corners of the Roman Empire. This created a sensation. The apostle

Peter seized the moment and addressed the crowd, preaching to them about Jesus' death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. The result was that about three thousand converts were baptized that day. The Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of a mighty rushing wind. The assembled began to speak in languages they did not know before. There were many visitors from all over the land. They were astonished to hear them praise God in alien languages. (This account is detailed in the Book of Acts 2:1-11.)

Christian churches see Pentecost as the final fulfillment of the mission of Jesus. It is traditionally called the beginning of the Holy Apostolic Church. It reveals the identities of the divine trinity, namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Pentecost was a once-in-history event. What we can learn from the day of Pentecost are the following:

1) The birth of the Christian church. The Church comes into reality on the day of Pentecost. It was in Antioch that the followers of Christ were first called Christians. (Acts 11:26). The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch traces its origin and foundation back to the very beginnings of Christianity, and prides itself as one of the oldest and established apostolic churches in the world.

2) The church was created by God. Jesus came to this world, and after his death, burial and resurrection, the church was formed. The church came into reality on the day of Pentecost.

3) The purpose of the church is to communicate love and message of God.

4) The goal of the Church is to establish a fellowship among its members. We are all part of that fellowship and shall remain that way. It's a place where we can go and hear the truth. It ministers to its people and meets the needs of its members. The church is like a shade tree on a summer day, a cup of cool water when we are thirsty, a place to come and know we won't be rejected.

Pentecost has become a sacred day on the Christian calendar.

Pentecost is a great harvest of the Holy Spirit to empower and renew our life to be a witness for Christ. Our faith in God cannot live on man's wisdom alone. We need the experience of the Holy Spirit to sustain our faith and empower us to be the disciple of Christ.

The human body is a remarkable machine to maintain a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees, no matter how cold it is outside the house. There is an inner mechanism that works well for us. Like a human temperature control mechanism, the Holy Spirit will keep us in the spiritual zone and transform us when we lack faith. It will unite us when we are divided. It can create an awareness in the moral flaws and spiritual weaknesses in us. It can empower us to speak to others the message of the gospel.

It is the Holy Spirit that makes us work the way we were meant to be. Without the Holy Spirit, we can do very little. With the Holy Spirit, we can shine God's light in us as well as on others. We can fill Christ in us and others to make a better life for everyone.


24 May 2020

posted 22 May 2020, 23:52 by C S Paul

24 May 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Sunday before Pentecost (Sunday of the Monks)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 6:35-46 New King James Version (NKJV)

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 

36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 

39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Rejected by His Own

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 

42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 

45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

I am the Bread of Life

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil

Message:

There are several "I AM" statements of Jesus that are found in the gospel of St. John. They include:

1. I am the bread of Life which came down from heaven (6:35,41,51)

2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5)

3. I am the door of the sheep (10:7,9)

4. I am the good shepherd (10:11,14)

5. I am the son of God (10:36)

6. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)

7. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)

8. I am the (true) vine (15:1,5)

Each one of the "I AM" statements represents a particular relationship of Jesus to the SPIRITUAL needs of men and women. Jesus is the LIGHT in the darkness, the GATE to security, and the SHEPHERD that guides. He is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. In every one of these we see that Jesus wants us to receive him, not for the gifts he can give us, but for what he can be to us. Right after the feeding of the 5 thousand, Jesus made the first of the recorded I AM statements.

This week we witness an important revelation of Jesus, "I am the Bread of Life. He who believes in me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes from Heaven which a man can eat and not die. I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world."

Jesus says the words he speaks of is about the spirit. It is the spirit that gives us the life, not the flesh. By faith we partake in Christ. Eating and drinking is the reception of God's grace by believing in Christ. Seeing and believing in Christ is equivalent to eating and drinking his flesh and body. Jesus underlines the necessity of feeding on him by faith to have eternal life. The Eucharist (Holy Qurbono) represents the communion of the believers in his body and blood. The Lord's supper signifies our participation in Christ by faith and the benefits of eternal life through him. Eucharist is the fulfillment of Jesus' sacrifice. Receiving his body and blood through Eucharist is absolutely necessary of salvation.

In this context, Jesus is referring to the spiritual needs of the people. It is the spiritual food that Jesus is offering instead of the physical food. The physical food will not satisfy our spiritual hunger. We need the spiritual food for eternity.

Jesus' words that he is the bread of life and the way to eternal life were not what the crowd that followed him wanted to hear. They wanted Jesus to provide them food the way Moses had provided manna. They wanted more of the feeding of the 5,000 type miracles. They wanted to satisfy their physical hunger. So they rebelled against him.

The reaction of the Jewish leaders to Jesus' claim made them also hostile to Jesus. These leaders were waiting for Jesus to say or do something they could jump on and ridicule him.

The Jewish leaders saw Jesus as a carpenter from Nazareth. They refused to listen to him with an open heart.

Jesus emphatically said, "He who believes in me will have everlasting life." Again Jesus said, "I am the bread of life," linking this statement with meeting man's everyday basic needs, hunger and thirst. Jesus said this could be permanently cured. When their forefathers ate manna in the wilderness, only their physical hunger was met. Jesus said the bread of life he provides is the spiritual food which is the word of God. Jesus offers himself as the bread of eternal life from heaven.

There are many people around us who are hungry for Jesus' words of hope and comfort. When we develop such a hunger, it would be satisfied. If we take the Bread of Life into our life, our lives can be restored to the true way of Christian spirit. Without the spiritual food, our soul will wither and die. In the satisfaction of that spiritual food, we will discover it is not "eternal youth" but "eternal life" that we are searching for. That moment will bring perfect contentment in our life.

17 May 2020

posted 15 May 2020, 21:23 by C S Paul

17 May 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

4th. Sunday after New Sunday (Fifth Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Fourth Sunday after New Sunday

Luke 9:51-62 New King James Version (NKJV)

A Samaritan Village Rejects the Savior

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 

52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 

53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 

54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 

56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And they went to another village.

The Cost of Discipleship

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”

58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Discipleship Requires Sacrifice - First Look Commentary on Luke 9:51-56

by Rev. Lee A. Koontz

Gospel Reading: Luke 9:51-62

When the days came near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make it ready for him; but the Samaritans did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Jews and Samaritans did not get along. In fact, they openly despised each other, and a Jew could be considered unclean just by passing into Samaritan territory. Considering the pervasive hatred between the two groups, it is astonishing that Jesus decided to enter a Samaritan village in the first place. It was not a convenient stop on the road to Jerusalem, yet Jesus goes out of his way to contact the hated Samaritans living there. That he is denied entry "because his face is set toward Jerusalem" is significant. It speaks to the Samaritans' own hatred for the center of Jewish religious practice, as well as their suspicion of Jesus, a Jew, coming so far out of his way to see them.

I've always found something a bit humorous about the disciples asking Jesus if they should command fire to come down from heaven and consume the Samaritans. Who, exactly, do they think they are? Do they seriously believe that they could do such a thing? Their question is undoubtedly born not just out of their hatred for the Samaritans, but their misguided understanding about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. They obviously seem to understand that following Jesus gives them some sort of divine power, which they could use to smite whomever they wish. They do not yet understand the power or the scope of Jesus' ministry. But the time will come. They will eventually see that Jesus' power lies in sacrifice and self-giving love. They will eventually see that Jesus' ministry is for all kinds of people – even Samaritans.

The theme of the disciples' misunderstanding continues into the second half of this passage. Seemingly eager to follow Jesus wherever he goes, someone tells Jesus that he will follow him wherever he goes. Jesus simply issues a warning that following him won't exactly be a picnic. He has no permanent home, and travels from place to place (even Samaritan villages!) to proclaim the good news. Jesus speaks about two would-be followers who seem just as eager to follow, yet they want to follow on their terms, not his. There is a qualifying "but" in each of their statements. I want to follow you… but I need to go bury my father. I want to follow you… but I need to go say goodbye first.

It seems a bit harsh that Jesus would instruct someone not to go bury their father, or say goodbye to their own family, but he makes a demanding point by doing so. The fact is that for those who would follow Jesus, nothing must get in the way. Following Jesus required the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate commitment. Anyone who lets death or even family get in the way of their discipleship compromises the work of God's kingdom.

Of course, there is more disciple in us than there is Christ, so we will undoubtedly find ourselves playing the role of misunderstanding follower. There will be times when we look to those who will not receive us or Jesus with hatred and contempt. Still, Jesus teaches us another way. There will be times when we seem eager to follow Jesus, but let the demands of life get in the way of our service and commitment. Still, Jesus teaches us another way.

We can only hope and pray that as the journey of our discipleship continues from day to day, we will gradually exhibit more tolerance than hatred, and more commitment than selfishness.


10 May 2020

posted 8 May 2020, 21:50 by C S Paul   [ updated 8 May 2020, 21:58 ]

10 May 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

3rd. 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!

3 May 2020

posted 2 May 2020, 22:20 by C S Paul

3 May 2020

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

2nd. Sunday after New Sunday (Third Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Second Sunday after New 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

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, 'Rabbi, eat something.' But he said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.' So the disciples said to one another, 'Surely no one has brought him something to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.'
- John 4:31-38

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?

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