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

Syrian Orthodox Church

21 May 2017

posted 20 May 2017, 00:04 by C S Paul

21 May 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fourth Sunday after New Sunday

Luke 9:51-62New 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? 

A Sermon Based on Luke 9:51-62 for the Fourth Sunday After New Sunday 

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.

14 May 2017

posted 12 May 2017, 03:39 by C S Paul   [ updated 12 May 2017, 04:36 ]

14 May 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Third Sunday after New Sunday (Fourth Sunday after Easter)

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Third Sunday after New Sunday

John 6:47-58New 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,[b] 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!

7 May 2017

posted 5 May 2017, 22:22 by C S Paul

7 May 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Second Sunday after New Sunday (Third Sunday after Easter)

Scripture reading for this Sunday

John 4:31-38New 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

(Source - Malankara World)

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?

30 April 2017

posted 28 Apr 2017, 22:20 by C S Paul

30 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday after New Sunday 

John 21:1-14New 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.

Learning to Fish In a New Place

by The Rev. Dr. John Killinger

That's gorgeous, isn't it? The common interpretation is that it is about the power and majesty of Christ after the resurrection. Here he is in Galilee, by the lake where he often walked and talked with the disciples. They have fished all night, unsuccessfully -- it was before radar -- when Jesus calls out and tells them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. They do it and hit a bonanza -- 153 fish, we are told later. Jerome, one of the early commentators, said that was because there were 153 known varieties of fish in the world at that time. And, as the net was not broken by all those fish -- the writer later makes a point of that as well -- we can only suppose that it was a symbolic picture of Jesus and his disciples drawing the entire world into the net of God's great purpose.

That's the common interpretation.

Now let me suggest an uncommon one, but one I believe to be no less true. I am encouraged to suggest it by the fact that the Gospel of John is a deeply spiritual book filled with symbolic stories and actions, and even, in places, with symbolic characters.

Let's begin with the lake itself, the place where they were fishing. Lakes, in both fairy tales and sacred legends, are strange and symbolic places. Because they are often deep and hold secrets that can't be discerned from the surface, they are the residences of mystery. In Jungian psychology, they often represent the unconscious, the realm of our dreams and fantasies.

There is something dreamlike about this scene, isn't there? Halfway between night and day, with the first hint of dawn spreading pencil-like along the horizon. Patches of mist and fog rising from the water. The gentle noise of waves slapping against the boat or dripping from the nets. The deep sighs of the fishermen, whose muscles ache from the toil of the fruitless night. And then the Divine Stranger, standing on the shore and halloing to them through the mist, telling them they will catch something if they will lower their nets on the other side of the boat, the right side.

They had been fishing on the left side. We know a lot about left and right now, don't we? The left side of the brain is the calculating, orderly side, the side that analyzes, does figures, gives names to things. The right side is the dreaming side, the creative, artistic side, the side that responds to pictures and images, such as the one we are thinking about here.

Jesus had dealt with a lot of left-brained people in the Gospel. They were the legalists, the ones who thought the world was constructed by an accountant and everything could be got down in black and white. Maybe Jesus was saying to the disciples here that they were not to be like accountants, always trying to take the measure of things, they were to live and act out of their right brains, as visionaries and artists. They were to trust God and live nobly, generously, without counting the cost or stopping to dot their i's and cross their t's. If they would do that, they would always find their nets full, they would live in the overflow of grace and excitement.

But suppose there is something even more personal in the text, something for each one of us, that goes beyond the more obvious and general meaning. That would be a legitimate use of it, wouldn't it? Bruno Bettelheim spoke of "the uses of enchantment" -- the way even fairy stories serve deep and important purposes in our lives by helping us to know ourselves and interpret the messages life reveals to us. What if the story of the lake and the fishermen suggests something to us about our own stories, about the way we may have been fishing a long time without any luck, without catching any fish?

Some of us have, haven't we?

Some of us have been plodding along in our jobs week after week, year after year, with no sense of reward no feeling that we are getting anywhere.

Or we have been coming up with nothing in our personal relationships.

Or maybe we haven't been getting any return on our spiritual efforts. We have been praying or going to church or listening to religious programs -- or maybe all of the above -- and nothing has been happening, our nets have been coming up empty.

You see what I mean.



Nothing in the nets.

And we are tired, the way these fishermen were tired after fishing all night. We are tired of life, tired of trying. Nothing ever seems to happen for us. It happens for everybody else, but not for us. Our lives are empty and unfulfilled.

Aha! "Cast your net on the right side of the boat," says Jesus, "and you will be surprised what happens to you."

How could it? you say. I mean, who knows more about your life than you do? Don't you know how to do your own fishing? Besides, how could there be any fish that close to your boat on the other side, anyway, when you've been fishing where you have for so many years?

But what if he's right? What if there's something tremendous and exciting down there merely waiting for you if you make a little adjustment in where you're letting down your nets, in how you conceive of your existence? What if it's only a matter of learning to fish in a new place?

What might that mean, in your life?

Maybe a new job -- or a new way of doing the old one, a redefining of your position, a re-envisioning of its contours. Maybe a new relationship -- or some fresh ways of acting within the old ones, so that they get injected with passion again and you begin to laugh and sing and skip and look forward to being with the people in your life. Maybe a new church or synagogue -- or a different approach to spiritual life in the old one, so that everything looks different and throbs with beauty and meaning and vitality again.

I'm not saying which it ought to be, the new or the old. What I'm saying is that life, the lake, the unconscious, is filled with possibilities, that it is rich beyond all imagining, that God wants us to enjoy it, to revel in it, to be excited about it, as if it were Disneyland and the fireworks were going off all around us all the time. We weren't meant to go stale, to settle into mere routine, to lose the mystery and glamour and excitement of existence. And if we have gone stale and settled for less than the fireworks, then it is time we heard the Master calling from the edge of the lake, from the edge of our unconscious, and telling us to let the nets down in a new place.

I think of some friends who have heard this word and acted on it.

There's Jody, a lawyer friend in Los Angeles, who was so bored with her life as an attorney that one day she finally quit. When her savings were about to run out, she met a man who owned a puppet factory. He asked her if she would like to work for him. She tried it and was extremely happy. "At least now I know who the real puppets are," she said.

There's Steve, a minister friend who was burned out in the pastorate. Unable to go on as a minister, he became a stockbroker. I watched as his spirit returned. Now he ministers to people all over the country as they phone in to talk about their stocks. "There isn't much of a line," he says, "between people's pocketbooks and their souls." Steve is happy and feels worthwhile again.

Or there are Fred and Diane, a couple in mid-life who came to their pastor and said they wanted to get a divorce. She asked them why. "Because the kids are grown and we don't have anything together any more," they said. Their pastor was a wise and discerning woman. She helped them to see that the reason they didn't have anything was that they didn't know each other any more. She taught them to listen to one another and rediscover the mystery and intrigue in one another. To fish in a new place with one another. Six months later, they were off to Europe on a second honeymoon.

You see what I mean. The lake is deep. It has far richer resources than we usually imagine. It is never completely fished out, not for any of us. We only need to learn to readjust, to let our nets down in a new area, to rediscover the riches.

And when we do -- this is the point of the story from the Gospel -- when we do, when we pull up our nets full of fish again, then we suddenly realize the presence of the divine in our lives. Did you see that? It is after the fishermen let down their nets on the right side and pull them in teeming with fish -- wiggling and writhing with fish -- that they suddenly recognize Christ on the shore and realize there is a connection between him and what has happened. "It is the Lord!" exclaims young John. And then they can't wait to get to shore and visit with him.

I have watched it for a long time. This is the way real religion always works. It isn't something you generate inside yourself. It occurs whenever your nets, that have been empty, begin to come up full again; when life that was hard and narrow and grudging begins to be free and open and happy again. Then, like Peter in the story, you can't even wait for the boat to get to shore; you want to jump in and rush up to Christ and say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Or, in the words of Celia, in Shakespeare's As You Like It, you say, "Oh, wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and, after that, out of all whooping!"

23 April 2017

posted 22 Apr 2017, 18:44 by C S Paul

23 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

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

John 20:19-31New 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, “Peacebe 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.

Must We See to Believe?

by Wyvetta Bullock

Do you believe in things you cannot see? Growing up in the 50's and 60's in the southern part of the United States, I learned the value of believing before seeing. In the face of being devalued and discriminated against, I believed that my neighbor and I were created equal. And in the midst of being told that I did not possess the academic capacity of my white counterparts, I believed that I could grow and matriculate through schools of higher learning.

Now, my early years seemed to be filled with contradictions about what was real and what was believed to be true. Another way of saying "believe to be true" is "to have faith in." Webster’s dictionary defines faith as, "firm belief in something for which there is no proof." In the 11th chapter of Hebrews faith is described as, "the assurance of things hoped for, the [evidence] or conviction of things not [yet] seen." The poet, William Wordsworth referred to faith as "passionate intuition." So, one could say that believing or having faith is trusting to the point of knowing.

Trusting something or someone outside ourselves is not always easy. Physicians tell us that if a child doesn't bond with a parent or guardian in the early months of its life, it will have difficulty trusting others as it develops. And, in fact, if trust is not established early in the development stages, a fracture may occur in the child's spirit and affect its personality for life. We live in an interdependent, connected universe. If we are going to live healthy productive lives, we have to learn to trust others and believe in something beyond ourselves.

My parents were people of faith and trust. They passed on to me the gift of faith for believing in what seems impossible. And, in fact, my brother and I were products of their personal faith for children, as they were older parents when we were born.

When you think about it, each one of us uses faith. We all believe in something. Whether it is ourselves, a holy other, or Murphy's Law, we trust in something. What we believe about ourselves and the world around us makes a difference. Anais Nin said, “We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.” What you believe sets a course for your future and directs your daily activities. Consequently, when we believe only what we can see, we limit ourselves to a whole world of possibilities.

Quantum physicists say that our universe is connected across space and time with this wonderful, invisible web of energy. In other words, what we see is created from what we cannot see. And even more than that, our thoughts, our intentions affect this invisible world for either good or ill. Our ability to create and respond to creation is linked to our beliefs. Our world is really created from the inside out. What is in our heart produces what finally is in our hand. Jesus said it like this, "Out of the good treasure of the heart good is produced." What is seen comes from what is unseen.

In today's scientific and technological world we have plenty of evidence and empirical data to engage our senses. As a result, much of the activities of our daily life go on without thinking about how this things occur. Now, for example, the chair that I’m sitting on. I don’t test to see if it will hold me up. Chairs have proven to be reliable so I don’t have to test it. Based on my experience and the sensory evidence of seeing and touching, so I sit without fear and I trust that the chair will support me.

I also engage the invisible world of technology each day as I imagine most of you do. That is, I use a wireless telephone and computer without thinking about how the information is actually being passed through the atmosphere. Now, although, I can’t see the waves that carry my communications, I believe they are there because of my experience.

There are other areas of my life, however, for which scientific evidence and historical data fall short for providing me with what I need as a human being. When I engage the deeper questions of the purpose and meaning of life, when I face relationships that require reconciling, or when I struggle with life's tragedies, I need something greater than what the current circumstances offer. When situations arise that leave me speechless or that are just too horrific for my thoughts, I need more than what I can engage with my five physical senses. I need to believe and trust in things not yet seen.

There is a story about a pre-civil rights African American community in Florida. The story says that during times of political elections, this community would rent a voting machine and go through the voting process. Now, they knew that their votes would not be counted, but they voted anyway. When asked by members of the white community why they did this every year, they replied, "Oh, just practicing. Just practicing.”

Believing in what is not yet seen means we practice or behave as if it is already exists. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” This is what leaders and visionaries do. They believe in something bigger than themselves and they begin to act as if it is so.

In reality, we all practice our faith everyday. As we live our lives, we live them based on what we believe about who we are, why we are here, and what the future holds. If we believe the future holds promise for a fulfilled life, we generally work and play with positive expectations. If we believe that the future will not be friendly, we generally live with fear.

Several years ago my congregation's choir planned a trip to Southern Africa. We are a mid-sized congregation in a neighborhood that has many economic and social challenges. When people heard about our plans, they laughed. They said, “You are too small, too poor to make such a trip. You’ll never raise the money for 40 people to travel two weeks in Africa." Well, the circumstances seemed too great to conquer and the obstacles too many to overcome. But we believed. We believed that God was with us in our desire to make this journey and we believed that with that vision would come provision. That with the dream would come the means. So we took the first step and began to raise funds. Not only did we raise enough for our journey, but we gave a tithe of what we raised to our sisters and brothers in Africa. Our faith and trust in God's faithfulness was not disappointed.

Given the everyday challenges and stresses of life, it is not always easy to imagine what has not been done before. Some things may seem so far beyond our reach that they may see laughable. Life's unexpected circumstances can sometimes be so overwhelming that they’re almost too much to bare!

In the 20th chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the disciples of Jesus were presented with the overwhelming circumstances of Jesus' death. Their hopes and dreams were crushed by his crucifixion. How could they make meaning out of what had just happened to Jesus? What had happened to the purpose of their 3 years of ministry with him? How could they imagine a friendly future? Their leader was dead and because of their relationship with him, they might be next.

Well, in the midst of their doubt and despair, Jesus entered the room where they are hiding. Jesus talked with them, showed them the nail prints in his hands and feet. The disciples rejoiced to see him. Their leader, indeed, was alive. One disciple, Thomas, was not present when Jesus appeared. When Thomas heard about it, he was not convinced. It all seemed too impossible! Thomas needed proof. Jesus came again to the place where the disciples were gathered when Thomas was present and he gave Thomas the proof that he sought. Thomas saw, touched, and believed.

Jesus' life, and death and resurrection is proof of God's love for world. It is the evidence of life out of death and the assurance that things thought to be impossible can become reality.

Blessed are those who face contradictions with God given confidence. Blessed are those who hear the facts, but trust the truth. Blessed are those who have not seen but yet come to believe.

16 April 2017

posted 14 Apr 2017, 23:04 by C S Paul

16 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Easter Sunday

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

He Is Risen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Devotional Thoughts for Easter - (Holy Pascha, Kyamtho)

by H.G Yakob Mar Irenaios

HE IS RISEN! Gleams at Easter Morn

Easter or `Kyamtho' marking the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the celebration of life over death, good over evil and hope over the ruinous clouds of disappointment. It seems as though the entire flow of history had been pointing to and waiting for the grand events of far reaching consequences for the whole creation ? the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Usually young children (and some older ones too!) are confused over this issue; why was a decent, sincere and sinless man, who only wanted to serve others, put to death through violent `death-engine' of the cross. Was it that the Jews were so senseless and, and were more cruel than their fellow beings else where? The fact of the matter is that evil is always up in arms against the gleams of good and will continue to be so. This is the ever current situation in individuals, communities and social institutions. No one could be spared from this! The cruelty of Jews could as well be the story of any people of any age and clime. It is fruitful to listen to the explanation offered by theologians that all humans of all generations are responsible for the cruelty that is exposed through Jews.

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

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

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

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

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

9 April 2017

posted 8 Apr 2017, 03:47 by C S Paul

9 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Hosanna/Palm Sunday

The Triumphal Entry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The donkey owner's story-a narrative sermon"

by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, & 
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society's South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

Mk 11:1-11

Hello everyone, or as we say in the Promised Land, shalom! I want you to put your imagination to work today. Imagine that you have travelled in a time machine back to the first Palm Sunday. My name is Eli ben Judah. The Gospels do not mention me by name. I'm the owner of that donkey colt Jesus road into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I'll be your host and tour guide. Here is my story.

I remember it well, the day I met Jesus. What a day that was! He came to my stable at Bethphage, near Jerusalem, several weeks before Palm Sunday. The day started out with its usual routines, as any other day. You know: get up at four, dress, pray the morning prayer thanking God for another day, the gift of life, and every other blessing, start the fire, fry some fish, warm up the bread, give thanks to the LORD for our food, eat breakfast, go out into the stable to feed and water the donkeys, and open the stable doors for business—hoping and praying for customers to rent my donkeys.

A few minutes after I opened the stable doors, along came Jesus. I still remember seeing him walking towards me. I've never met a person like him before. He walked with dignity and confidence. His body and face were so radiant that I was almost blinded by such an intense light. His light poured into me, as if it were healing and cleansing me completely. The light seemed to be burning away all that was hurtful and destructive in me. His eyes were so loving and penetrating—I felt he could see right into my whole being and that he knew everything about me. He knew all of the details of my life, from birth right up to the present. I thought of our ancestor Moses, before the burning bush, and Elijah, when God spoke to him with the sound of sheer silence. The holiness of Jesus' presence before me was so intense that I fell to my knees and lowered my face to the dust. Who was I, a humble, ordinary donkey owner to be worthy enough to be in the presence of Jesus?

Even though I had never met him before, I knew, as he came closer, that he was the most perfect, holy person that I'd ever encountered in my life. Like Moses after the burning bush, and Elijah after hearing God's still small voice, I was never the same again. The day I met Jesus, my whole life has changed. Before that time, I went to synagogue on the festival days, and prayed the daily prayers without expecting much from the LORD. Life was pretty humdrum, and I liked it that way. After that day everything changed. Since then, I have found a new purpose for living. Now I want to tell everyone about Jesus and follow his way and his teachings.

Back to that day, when I was down on my knees, face to the earth, Jesus spoke. He called me by my name, and said: "Shalom, Eli ben Judah, donkey owner. Please rise, I have something to ask of you."

So, I jumped up on my feet and was full of curiosity, wondering what he wanted from me. Before I was able to speak he addressed me again, saying: "I am going to need your help in a few weeks' time. I'll be entering Jerusalem then, and I need one of your colt donkeys—they have to be strong enough for me to sit on and ride into the city. I shall do this in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Listen up now Eli, here's what will happen. Two of my disciples, James and John, will come here and untie the colt standing by your door. You and a few of your neighbours will see them, and will ask the following question: "What are you doing, untying the colt?" James and John will provide you with this password answer: ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.' Do you think you can remember all of that?"

I was, at first breathless, so surprised, I didn't know what to say. The prophecy from Zechariah finally sunk in, I realised it was referring to the Messiah. Could this Jesus be our Messiah? After a few moments of silence to collect my thoughts, I blurted out: "You mean to say that you're, um, the Messiah?!" I asked with excitement and expectation.

Jesus answered with certainty in his voice, "I am he." Then he commanded me to keep it a secret, saying: "Don't you dare tell a soul till after my crucifixion and resurrection—then you can go out and tell the whole world."

Rather confused I asked him: "What do you mean crucifixion and resurrection? You aren't going to die like a criminal and then rise from death. I mean, if you're the Messiah and all, aren't you supposed to deliver us Jews from the tyranny of the Roman occupation and govern our nation with perfect peace and justice?"

Jesus answered me, "No Eli, that's not my destiny. I'm the Messiah not only of the Jewish people, but of all nations and peoples. My destiny, in fulfillment of our scriptures, is to suffer and die on the cross to atone, once and for all, for the sins of humankind. Three days later God our heavenly Father shall raise me from the dead. Do you believe me?"

I struggled to understand these hard and sorrowful words, and then replied, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Please stay with me for lunch, you can tell me more."

However, Jesus told me, "No, Eli, I must keep going to the next village, and the next, and the next after that. I've got plenty of work to do before I enter Jerusalem in a few weeks. Remember; keep this conversation a secret until after my crucifixion and resurrection. Don't forget what I told you about James and John. Shalom Eli, see you in a few weeks."

What a day! me, Eli ben Judah of all people, a humble donkey owner, meeting the Messiah! I believed Jesus, and yet, I struggled with what I had been taught by the rabbis. How could Jesus be the Messiah riding on a donkey? How could he be a suffering Messiah? Would God our Father really raise him from the dead three days after his crucifixion? Would his death on a cross truly atone for my sins and your sins, and everyone else's sins, once and for all time? Questions, questions, questions. Yet, Jesus' presence was so holy, so pure, so enlightening. How could I keep such an encounter with the Messiah to myself? I had to tell everyone, I couldn't help it! So, that's what I did. I told every single person in our village: "I've met the Messiah, his name is Jesus!" Most of them didn't believe me, they thought I ate too many nuts and became one. J

The days and weeks passed. Finally the day came. True to Jesus' words, James and John showed up when I was speaking with a few neighbours outside the house. They untied the colt. Folks asked them what they were doing and they provided the password answer—exactly as Jesus had planned it all. The neighbours who were with me then realised that I had been telling the truth. So, all of us followed along with James and John, because we love parades and this one was very special. Jesus our Messiah entered triumphantly, riding on a colt donkey with the crowd cheering him on, crying, "Hosanna!" which means "save us, save us soon." Hosanna is a shout of praise, as well as a plea for help. We praised our Messiah Jesus, shared fully in the joy, waving our palm branches as he rode that little donkey, the animal symbolizing humility and peace—and that day shall come when he rules us all in perfect peace.

Well, that's my story folks. You can time travel back now to Grace Lutheran Church in Medicine Hat. Go in Christ's peace. And, like me, tell everyone you meet the Good News of Jesus our Messiah. Shalom! Amen.

2 April 2017

posted 31 Mar 2017, 22:37 by C S Paul

2 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sixth Sunday in Great Lent (Samiyo/ The Blind Man)

    • Evening
    • Morning
    • Before Holy Qurbana
    • Holy Qurbana

John 9New King James Version (NKJV)

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said, “I am he.

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

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

12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”

The Pharisees Excommunicate the Healed Man

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

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

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

16 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Vision and True Blindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by HG Yohanon Mor Policarpos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 March 2017

posted 24 Mar 2017, 22:39 by C S Paul

26 March 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (Kpiptho/Crippled Woman)

    • Evening
    • Morning
    • Before Holy Qurbana
      • Barazeera 51: 13 - 30
    • Holy Qurbana

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

A Spirit of Infirmity

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

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

12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

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

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

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

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

Set Free

by Dr. Randy L. Hyde

Gospel: St. Luke 13:10-17

If you are a reader of the comic strips, as I am, you will know that this week in Zack Hill, the mother in the strip has created a cliche jar. Every time someone in their household uses a cliche, he has to put a dollar in the jar. Well, here's my dollar. Are you ready?

Sometimes, the greatest life-changing experiences occur 
when you're in the right place at the right time.

It's happened to me, and I'm sure it has to you as well. As I give you a couple of examples from my life, you can feel free to insert your own memories into the conversation.

It was early spring of 1974 and I was leaving chapel at Southern Seminary to go to my next class. My New Testament exegesis professor, Frank Stagg, got in step with me and as we walked to the classroom together he asked me what I planned to do when I graduated at the end of the semester. At that point I really didn't know. I was debating whether to seek a church position somewhere or continue my schooling in further degree work. He told me about a young pastor named Bill Tuck at First Baptist in Bristol, Virginia. Bill was looking for an associate. Would I be interested? If so, Dr. Stagg would like to recommend me.

Looking back over the footsteps of my life, I can see how that changed everything for me. Everything. That conversation took me in a direction I would never have considered otherwise. And it happened just because of a short, but life-changing, conversation.

Here's another dollar.

Sometimes, the greatest life-changing experiences occur 
when you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This time it was the early fall of 1964. The Paragould Bulldogs were in the first half of their annual pre-season Red-White football game. I was playing cornerback on the defense when I saw Steve Brummett, quarterback for the offense, attempt an option play. Seeing the defensive end going for Steve, I knew instinctively that he would lateral the ball to the running back. I timed it perfectly, snatching the ball in mid-air. There was no one between me and the goal line. I took a few steps and just as I was hitting my full stride – running to glory, don't you know! – I encountered that part of the field that took a subtle but sudden slope designed to help with drainage. I was never touched by an opposing player, but I went down with my first knee injury, which would eventually result in surgery and end my football career, as well as my hopes for a college athletic scholarship.

Yet, looking back on what could be interpreted as a negative experience, I see how it led to the events that have shaped my life journey. What would have happened had my adolescent dreams been fulfilled? The chances are I might have gone to a different college, would never have met Janet... You get the picture, don't you? So, sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to the right things.

Have you thought of chance encounters, times when you were in the right or wrong place, that have shaped who you are and what you have done with your life? Well, consider the crippled woman in Luke's narrative we read earlier. There is no indication from the way Luke tells the story that she had come to the synagogue looking for healing. Nothing is said that would make us believe she had heard of Jesus or made a special point to be in the synagogue so she could see if the young Nazarene would perform a miracle in her life. She had just come for Bible study and worship. It was the Sabbath, after all, time to get up and go to church. It was what she did every week, not that it was easy for her to do, considering her physical condition. But she did it.

And as it turned out, she was in the right place at the right time. (Dollar in the jar.)

She knows the rules. Jesus knows the rules, too, as well as the synagogue leader who takes issue with what Jesus does for the woman. Miracles... and just about everybody believed in miracles in that day and time and place... miracles aren't performed on the Sabbath. Miracles come under the heading of “Labor” or “Work.” You didn't even cut your toe nails on the Sabbath (Jesus uses the example of watering one's ox or donkey), much less perform miracles. No, she was there just because she had decided to be in church. She just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and that put her in the presence – not to mention the healing, compassionate hands – of Christ.

I don't usually get to the point this early in my sermons, but this is as good a place as any. Things happen – good things, redemptive things, eternal things – when you find yourself in the presence of Christ.

In the case of the crippled woman, Jesus set her free from the physical bondage that kept her from experiencing life at its fullest. Jesus was more than willing to give her what she, and evidently no one else, could provide. Now, when she called on the name of God, she could lift her face to the heavens. Now, when she offered her gifts in the synagogue, she could do it herself and not have to ask someone else to do it for her. Now, she could stand upright before the One to whom she would then gratefully bow down. All because she was in the right place at the right time. The right place and the right time for all of us and any of us is when we are in the presence of Christ.

Or maybe we should say, when we are present to Christ.

Let's not ignore the third person in our story, the synagogue leader who takes issue with what Jesus has done. After all, he's in the presence of Christ as well. But there is a difference – a big difference – between being in Christ's presence and being present to Christ. I think we can safely surmise that his presence in the synagogue was largely due to its being his job. For this unnamed woman, it was her joy. There's a big, big difference, isn't there?

For him, religion was entitlement and something to be guarded carefully by the kind of rules that people like himself had developed. For her, it was a matter of grace and was something to be given away. Christ noticed the difference then and I can't help but believe he does so even now with you and me.

So here we are, every one of us, in the presence of that same Christ who reached out to this woman and brought healing. His presence to us is symbolized poignantly in the bread and the cup we will share in a few moments. As you eat and drink, I would encourage you to answer this question... Are you doing this because you are in the presence of Christ or because you are present to Christ? It might just make all the difference in whether you are set free from that which disables you. After all, this is the right place and the right time. (Dollar in the jar.)

Lord, if we are in your presence, we are in the right place at the right time. As we partake at your table, may we be present to you as well, for we know in faith that you are present to us. Free us from that which keeps us in bondage, and lead us to eternal life. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

19 March 2017

posted 17 Mar 2017, 22:39 by C S Paul

19 March 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Canaanite woman)

Scripture Reading for this Sunday

    • Evening
    • Morning
    • Before Holy Qurbana
    • Holy Qurbana

Gospel Reading - Matthew 15:21-31King James Version (KJV)

21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.

28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.

30 And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them:

31 Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.

Canaanite woman - A Mother's Love

by Rev. Fr. V.V. Paulose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be a mother like the Canaanite woman.

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