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

Syrian Orthodox Church

17 June 2018

posted 16 Jun 2018, 00:46 by C S Paul

17 June 2018

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 disciples 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.

10 June 2018

posted 8 Jun 2018, 22:17 by C S Paul

10 June 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Third Sunday after Pentecost

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.

Bread of Life

by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Our Lord and Savior established the sacrament of Holy Eucharist for the continuation of His blessed master plan of salvation as well as for the confirmation of the salvation of the coming generations. By the grace of God, we have to meditate the verses spoken by our Lord at the time of the establishment of the Sacrament for the salvation of the faithful. First of all, our Lord introduces Himself as the bread of life. The people who are starving could only enjoy the taste, greatness and satisfaction after having the bread or what we call the food. Those who are spiritually hungry only could enjoy the taste and satisfaction of the Holy Eucharist, which is the real spiritual food. Though the Holy mystery, the body of our Lord looks like the worldly food, its greatness and uniqueness would be experienced by the ones who would partake it.

We must make it a point not to attend the sacrament only as onlookers. Whereas when we would participate the sacrament with proper spiritual preparation, devotion, expectation and prayer, we could also experience the difference. Our Lord promises "the ones who would partake from this bread and drink will never hunger or thirst."

"Whoever drink of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up in to everlasting life" St. John 4:14. Again in St. John 7:37 we read: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink". And also in Revelations 22:17 we read, "And let him that is thirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life free". We will have to think well how long we could ignore the free promise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In our Lord's version, God the Father is giving the faithful to Son the God. (See the 37 th verse) Immediately after this, our Lord exposes His precious and highly valuable promise. "Him that comes to me I will no wise cast out."

How many of us are so strictly following the above verse of our Lord and acknowledge it, though we have accepted our Lord as our Lord and God and we might attend the Holy Eucharist every week and accept the Holy Eucharist as and when possible? We will have to think about it so seriously. When we might have a worldly problem or when things might not end as we expected, or if we happen to be a patient or so, what would be our position? Would we be strong in our faith that our Lord God is sufficient for all our needs? Or would we lose all our hope? We turn to be people like who lost all their hope and faith. Where goes our faith and how our hope gets vanished? Why we lose our hope as we have meditated several times on the following verses from the Scriptures, including: "Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither he help evil doers". (Job 8:20) and "Come now and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land" (Isaiah 1:18-19)

Now let us look at the 40 th verse of today's reading. "And this is the will of the one who sent me that everyone who sees the Son and believes on him may have everlasting life; and I shall raise him up at the last day." Where we have to see the Son? How we could see? We have to think about these and find out the answers for such small questions. Only because of the answers for these questions we often go to Church as congregation and attend the traditional prayers and the Sacraments.

In our daily lives we come across many who might question us. "What is the need to go to Church, Can't we pray anywhere we like, after all are we not praying to Lord God?" etc. This is the answer for such who advocate the sectarian teachings. Our Lord only taught us to believe him by seeing him. We have to look at the living and life giving body and blood of our Lord. When we look at His body and blood we could see Him. Our Church is strictly following the Holy Sacrament in lines with the instruction of our Lord and savior. But still we must think whether we could see our Lord God properly even though we attend the divine services regularly. Think whether we could realize our Lord properly. May God Almighty enable us all to attend the holiest worships with the full presence of our minds and bodies and to learn more about our God and to realize Him by tasting Him.

Now let us look at the 45th verse of today's reading. "It is written by the Prophets and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me". How true are these verses? How much we have heard about our Savior and we have studied about His wonderful salvation mission. Are we attracted to Him by our Father in heaven? Think whether we could follow the teachings of our God. God promises in Isaiah 54:13 that our children will be advised by Jehovah and their peace will be great. May God enable us to accept God's instructions and advises on the spot. Let our and our future generations' minds be filled with the peace of God.

3 June 2018

posted 1 Jun 2018, 22:37 by C S Paul

3 June 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 10:34-11:1 New King James Version (NKJV)

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 Richard Alan Jordan

Matthew 10:34-39 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

This is one of the hard sayings of Jesus, and while often we might be tempted to go on to something else, there is much of great importance to be heard in this text. No one likes family strife, quarrels -- and at the same time everyone it seems desires peace. In the same way, no one likes to feel as though their life is out of control, so much has been written about how to get it back in control, how to take charge, and how to prioritize. And that’s where we need to begin.

If you notice that the days seem to move faster and faster. If it seems that you have more things to do, than you have hours to do them. Well the answer is time management, at least according to the world. Prioritize, put first things first, make a list and do things in order. Then you can regain control over your life. Then you will be able to respond to events, rather than have the events control you.

It sounds good. It sounds like something we can do. And that is why it is not from God. Listen to the Gospel: "Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." It may be that you can be in control of your earthly existence, but the price you pay is the eternal life that is ours by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Being in control is a form of idolatry. It puts self at the center. It puts self in the place of God. And as a result, it is self that is thanked for daily bread, and for all things necessary. And when self is congratulated, on having done all things well, we have given to self the worship that is owed to God alone. Being in control is to live by sight, and not by faith. God has called us to live by faith.

What this means is that rather than trying to be in control, we abandon self and flee to the arms of God, we turn to God and ask him to guide and direct our life. We turn to God, thanking him for daily bread, and asking him for all things needed. We turn all of our life over to God, and by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us a new and everlasting life. And here is the important part, when we turn our life over to God, we can then hear and see His purpose for each day, and each day, by His grace, we will be able to do all that needs to be done.

You see, we know that we are worth more than many sparrows, we know that the hairs on our head are numbered, so we are called to trust and rely on our gracious heavenly father. And this is how the rest of the text fits in -- for when we trust in God and live by faith, those who would take the place of God get jealous. This often happens in families, for there is a mistaken notion that love means that you place those you love at the center of your life, and the your life revolves around them. Its a problem because this jealousy or covetousness is a form of idolatry that is rarely spoken of. It is rarely spoken of because we desire peace. And so it is that Jesus says, that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. A sword divides, and in this case, it is the word of God that is our sword, that rightly divides the love of God and love of family. Its not a new teaching, it goes back to the beginning: Deu 6:6-7 "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

You see, the unity and peace in families and in life start from peace with God. Peace with God comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The division in families comes from sin, selfishness, covetousness and idolatry. The answer to these vexing sins is repentance, and trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ which is the forgiveness of sins. When people are jealous of our relationship with God, then the answer is to bring them to Christ and to faith. So the love of God always comes first, for it is what enables us to love and forgive our family, friends and neighbors.

27 May 2018

posted 25 May 2018, 23:41 by C S Paul

27 May 2018

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.

Devotional thoughts for the First Sunday after Pentecost

by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Gospel Reading: St. John 6:26-35

In today’s reading 6 points are significant and I would like to share a few thoughts on those points.

1) You seek me not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled. During the public mission of our Lord, many had followed our Lord. Our Lord’s public mission, our Lord had undertaken three types of missions. A) Teaching mission, b) Healing mission and c) Feeding mission. During the public mission, our Lord was teaching a practical lesson for the Christian Church. Unfortunately the people who followed Lord Jesus on that particular day were interested in only one thing. So our Lord is telling the multitude about their intention of following him. In other words, they were not interested to learn about the kingdom of God or such divine teaching. Let us think whether there is any change in the attitude of the people of those days and our attitude. In my thinking there is no change because we are also not at all acknowledging the miracles. In our daily lives, how many miracles are granted to us daily by God Almighty? Do we count them or acknowledge them? If so how we could claim that we are different from the people of those days. Whenever we go to Church, are we not praying only for our own perishable worldly needs? We must pray for our needs and we must seek intercession of Mother of God as well as the saints. But our intention should not be world oriented, where as our prayers and supplications must be God oriented. We must long and pray for the life in God and life with God. Priority must be given for this purpose than the worldly needs.

2) “Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him God the Father has sealed” verse-27. See our Lord’s promise of the everlasting life in St. John 4:14. St. Paul makes it clear that eternal life is a gift of our Savior and Lord. In Romans 623 we read, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. We all are supposed to long for the spiritual growth by making use of the nourishment we receive through the Church. Spiritual nourishment could be attained through the Church only and no other place or event could provide it. The sectarian groups only teach that they could provide salvation. The Holy Church guides the faithful in the right path and leads him or her to the final process of salvation. Salvation is a long and lengthy process. Our prayers, Sacraments, Lent, fasting, almsgiving etc help us in our way to salvation. Our ultimate aim must be to achieve the perfect abideness with our Lord God. We must ask for the abundant supply of the Holy Spirit in us. We must pray for the abideness of our Lord in us. Every one could repeat the Jesus prayer (Lord have mercy on this sinner = Kurielaison) every now and then, at least in our minds. Our Church Fathers had a practice of saying this smallest prayer continuously in mind, even when they were sleeping. We must build up a habit of saying this prayer as many times as we could.

3) What shall we do that we might work the works of God? (Verse 28) Many of us also retain such a thought in us. We also might pretend to be ready to anything for the glory of God. While attending the exhortations we all get attracted and immediately feel to do the possible for the kingdom of God. But after a while we all forget what we think. Let us give heed to the answer given by our Lord.

4) “This is the work of God that you believe on him whom he has sent” (Verse 29) In the first epistle of St. John, chapter 3 verse 23 we read “And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us the commandment”. We must realize who Lord Jesus is for you and me. We must acknowledge daily at least two times, that he is our Lord, God and savior. If so only we could love him and follow him. We should not forget that the greatest of the commandment or the summary of the commandments are: Love God and Love other human beings. Let us think ourselves and find an answer to the question, how far we are sincere in loving God and others. If we cannot love our own brothers, we cannot love God. Let us take a decision that we would love one another. Let us practice this great habit in our lives.

5) “What sign you would show so that we might believe you” Verse 30. The people who had followed Lord Jesus had asked for signs previously also at several occasions. See St. Mathew 12:38, St. Mark 8:12, St. Luke 11:16, St. John 2: 18. That is why St. Paul is saying in I Corinthians 1:22, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom”. The Jews ignored all the miracles of our Lord. Like wise we are also ignoring all the merciful miracles of our Lord. Everyday, before going to bed, will everyone count all the mercies of God, what all miracles through which He has reared us and say a word of thanks to our Lord.

6) “Verily verily I say unto you, Moses did not give the bread from heaven, but my father gives you the true bread from heaven. I am the true bread of life. (Verse 32 and 35) Instead of giving praise to God for all his mercies, we give praises to somebody else. Many of us forget the mercy of God and praise their own or somebody else’s prayers. Due honor and adoration must be given to God at the exact time, before praising or appreciating any body or anything else.

20 May 2018

posted 25 May 2018, 23:29 by C S Paul

20 May 2018

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

John 15:26-16:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 

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.

A Model Relationship

by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius

A Meditation on Gospel Readings on Pentecost

There are four Gospel readings prescribed for the Sunday of Pentecost. The first one of course is for the H. Qurbono which is from St. John 15:1-14. The other three are for the kneeling and all of them from the Gospel according to St. John; first, 14:1-14, second 14:25-31 and third 16-1-15. Jesus after having had his last supper with his disciples, is trying to educate them of the things that they should be aware of in the days to come after his death.

Chapter 17 onwards Jesus addresses his Father and presents the disciples and with them all those who will come to him by the testimony of the disciples. So what is seen in these chapters can be said as his farewell message. Jesus through his words on the one hand, comforts the disciples and on the other, exhorts them to be strong to face future when he was not physically around. He also speaks about the gift of the Spirit which will enable them face future.

Taking all the four readings together, a theme is presented before the congregation by the Church. It can be put in one word, ‘relationship’; relationship between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and with life of humans in relationship. From the kind of relationship exists between the Holy Trinity, Jesus derives a model for the human relationship. This is a unique kind of methodology. We humans derive models for our life in this world from Godhead and the relationship that exists within Godhead (H.G. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Thirumeni has written so much about his). Christian faith in the Holy Trinity is not just a talk about some philosophical theory, rather it is the talk about a model, inspiration and guide for our lives in this world.

In the reading in John 15:1-14, Jesus talks about his relation with his Father and with us. This has consequence on our relation with God and on our Christ-centered lives. The principle that underlies all relationships is nothing but love. Where there is love in relationship there will be peace. When love governs relationships, peace would rule the arena. The world will not be ‘worldly’ any more.

Jesus is going to the Father and through that he on behalf of and as the first of all humans transcends the world. But for humans what Jesus achieved through his death and resurrection can be achieved in its fullness only in future. To make this future possibility a reality, one has to be in close relations with Jesus (‘abide in me’) and through him in his Father. If one is not in Jesus, that person is not with the Father, and if not with the Father, is out of relationship and fellowship. This means non existence of that person. As of now for us to be with Jesus can only be by the help and empowering of the Holy Spirit.

This is where Orthodox definition of sacrament becomes relevant. To us a sacrament is “Entering in to the presence of the Father through Jesus Christ, the Son of God in Holy Spirit”. Every act in our life need to be an act in this style and only then we will truly be sanctified or divinized. To this cause, Jesus had to go away. This has two implications; one, he had to go away to the cross and two, to go away beyond this material world.

One cannot cling on to the historical Jesus and be saved; because history is of the physical realm which cannot as such, unless transformed, enter in to eternity (1 Cor. 15:42-54). Hence we also need to go through a process of dying as Jesus did, that is die to the world and become spiritual people. For us it can be done even while we are in this world. We can die to the world and live to Christ even while we are in the world (Rom. 14:8). When we die to the world, we will also be renewed in Spirit. This is what Jesus was telling Nicodemus when he asked Jesus about eternal life. We need to constantly be dying or being washed and be filled or resurrected in Christ (in Spirit) by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5).

In the liturgy of Pentecost we are, liturgically taking on ourselves this process of dying and filling. When we kneel down, we try to put away what is to death or sin in us and when we rise up and sprinkled with water, we are renewed in Spirit. This can happen only in the context of a community and not in isolation as love can work only in between and not in self. Only when there is another than the one and only when the relationship between is guided by the principle of love this washing and filling will happen. This is why Jesus on another occasion, said “when two or three are gathered together, I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).

The word ‘together’ is very much important in this context. The narration in the Book of Acts of the Apostles about the event of Pentecost clearly says “When they were all with one accord …” (Acts 2:1) the Holy Spirit descended on them.

Holy Spirit works when we are at peace with one another and peace can prevail only when there is love which binds people together. The day of Pentecost, of course is the day of the renewal of the Holy Spirit today in our time. But it does not magically or automatically happen. It can happen only when we love each other and when we are at peace between one another. A world which is divided for all kinds of wrong reason, and a world guided by selfishness, greed and individualism, a world troubled by wars, hatred, in-fight and quarrels need to listen to the message of Pentecost.

We all look for progress and welfare in our lives and in our environment. We all ask, “what is the way out”? We ask how can have freedom, liberation and salvation happen and how can ‘I’ enjoy it for myself? The answer was already been given to Nicodemus saying, ‘die to the world and be filled with the empowering Spirit, set love as the principle that guides relationships, and peace be established every where. Just as the Father and the Son and the Spirit are one, let us be one with God and with one another. “Let us all rise up (from the valley of death and darkness) by the power of the Holy Spirit” and transform ourselves.

13 May 2018

posted 12 May 2018, 04:21 by C S Paul

13 May 2018

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

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.

6 May 2018

posted 5 May 2018, 04:04 by C S Paul

6 May 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fourth Sunday after New Sunday (Fifth Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this 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.”

Who Pays the Cost of Discipleship?

by Rev. Andrew Eckert, Oklahoma

Jesus sets before you today the cost of discipleship. If you wish to follow after Him, what price can you expect?

In summary, there are two requirements for discipleship: First, give up any hope of a permanent home in this present world. Second, give up any family ties on this earth.

These are not easy requirements. A man who came to Jesus said, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." But Jesus replied, "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head," as if to say, "Do you think it is easy to follow Me? I am not going to a particular place where I will stop and live, and there put down roots. No, I wander the earth, and I will finally die a homeless Man. Are you ready for that kind of life?"

Why does Jesus make it so hard? He does not; not really. He does not want anyone to try to be a disciple without first seeing how difficult it is. It is not a hobby or an occasional pursuit. Always, Christ must be first for you.

If you follow the holy Son of Man, then this world, so full of sin, cannot be a permanent home for you. Your permanent dwelling awaits you in heaven. Here on earth, no place is your true home. Home is where the heart is, so your real home is in your Father's House in heaven. That temporary building that you call home is really only a halfway house, or a rest stop on the way to the real destination.

More than that, as Christ's disciple you must put Him before the whole world. He should be everything to you. What is this world compared to the Lord? What is His kingdom compared to the riches and comforts of this transitory earth?

But human hearts are so fickle. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. One moment your whole heart is yearning for Christ. The next moment, you are yearning for some earthly bauble or trinket. The flashy allure of gold and silver idols captures our eyes. These are not necessarily physical, but may be the love of a friend or the joy of security. But all love and all earthly safety must be set aside, and all your life put in constant danger for the sake of your Lord. Otherwise, you are not worthy of Him.

As I'm sure you are aware, in your heart you are not worthy of the Infinitely glorious Savior, the adorable Son of God. Although you must strive to count Him alone as your treasure, you must also confess that you have failed to do so. You have held idols in your heart that distract from true discipleship. If Christ counted those things against you, you would not only be unworthy, but you would be cast away into eternal fire that consumes forever in agony.

But He will not let that happen to you. He has already stopped it, and made you eternally safe in Him.

For this Lord, what would you not sacrifice? Surely all should be laid at His feet in humble offering.

Yet there are some things your flesh does not want to surrender. What about family? Would you be willing to sacrifice your family's love for Christ? Would you be willing to make yourself an outcast to the ones you love for Him?

If you follow the true faith, but your family does not, then there will be division between you. It may be very polite division, or not. It may be open hostility, or not.

In Muslim countries, if you converted to Christianity, your own family might put you to death. Probably, you will not face that much hostility. But who knows what the future of this nation may bring?

People want to think that Christ wants you to do anything and everything for your family. But He does not. You must not sacrifice your faith for your family. If the choice must be made, then you must even surrender your ties with them for the sake of your Lord.

May God never demand that of you! Yet you must be ready even now, or you are not worthy of Him. How hard it is to sacrifice the love of your family, which you can see, for the love of Christ, which is hidden!

May the Spirit give you strength to do what flesh cannot. For your flesh, like that of all men, is too easily swayed by earthly loves. Too easily, family can draw you away from worship, away from Bible Study, and thus away from Christ. What Christ demands is difficult, more than the flesh can achieve.

When a man came to Jesus, but wanted to delay his discipleship for the sake of his father's funeral, Christ rebuked him with harsh words. "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." Whatever the exact situation of the man, the point is clear: The kingdom of God and the preaching of the word are more important than anything.

How harsh and difficult are the demands of Christ!

Another man wanted to go and bid farewell to his family. Christ said that no one who looks backward is fit for the kingdom. The man would be always thinking of those he left behind, and yearning for those he loved.

But who could blame these men if they failed to follow Christ? Could you or I have done better than them? I doubt it. The demands that Christ makes go beyond our strength. Yet that does not mean that you should simply ignore them. As a disciple, you must try and work with all your might for the Savior who gave His all for you.

Yet you will inevitably fail. The call of earthly loves, or the appeal of earthly comforts, will eventually get the better of you. For that is what it is to be a sinner. In your heart there cannot be perfect devotion for Christ until this sinful flesh is done away with in the new Creation. Until then, your discipleship must be flawed and weak.

Will Christ cast you away as you deserve? No, for He is compassionate and slow to anger. Although you should always be absolutely loyal to Him, and you are not, yet He is always, always absolutely loyal to you. Nothing can stop His devotion for you. His grace is never flawed or weak.

He is the One who fulfills all things for you, and has made you worthy by giving you His glory. So you are counted as a perfect disciple of your Lord. He left the perfect House of His Father to become homeless and penniless. He forsook all that earth could offer, and made Himself the lowest of the low, so that you are lifted up on high. He died a death where the consuming fire of His Father's wrath fell only upon Him, so that you will live on in unending comfort and majesty forever.

He made Himself an outcast in His family. Not only did His earthly brothers and sisters think that He was out of his mind, and tried to stop Him, but it was even worse than that. His own Father in heaven, who had loved Him from before the foundation of the world, also rejected His Son. Christ endured this ultimate family division upon the Cross, as the Father's rejection turned the sun in the sky dark as night, dark as the pit of hell. For you, Christ even endured this.

Christ never looked back to heaven, yearning to return instead of redeeming you. He kept on, straight and steady, as He set His face stubbornly, like rock, firm and unyielding, ever putting the mission of death and resurrection as the one and only goal of His life. He sacrificed all. He gave up all comfort, and embraced ultimate agony and torture.

To Jerusalem He went, to offer Himself as the price for you. He followed His Father's will without wavering, until He was received up again by His Father.

So you are not a disciple because you have done enough. You have never done enough for Christ. You are His disciple because He has made you one. He did not simply show you the right path and expect you to follow it. No, He walked the path for you, and when He was done, declared you His perfect disciple.

For ultimately, the cost of discipleship is not what you pay. It is what Christ has paid for you.

Therefore, look in faith to your true home, the New Jerusalem in glory. Look in faith to your new family, with the Church as your mother and Christ as your brother and God as your Father. Into this family you have been adopted, and into that household that lasts forever.

God keep you in this faith, even when worlds burn in fire, and the new creation is revealed. In His Name and to His glory. Amen.

22 April 2018

posted 21 Apr 2018, 07:20 by C S Paul

22 April 2018

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 hen 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?

15 April 2018

posted 14 Apr 2018, 08:57 by C S Paul

15 April 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday after New Sunday

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

Gospel Reading: John 21:1-14

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.

8 April 2018

posted 7 Apr 2018, 07:23 by C S Paul

8 April 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

New Sunday (Sunday after Easter) (The Sunday of the Youth)

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'

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