SUNDAY SERMON




SUNDAY SERMON

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

Syrian Orthodox Church




13 August 2017

posted 11 Aug 2017, 22:38 by C S Paul

13 August 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday after the Festival of Transfiguration 

Matthew 21:28-32New King James Version (NKJV)

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 

29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.

30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 

32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Devotional Thoughts for the First Sunday After Transfiguration

by Rev. Dr. Varghese M Daniel, PhD, Connecticut

We are continuing our liturgical journey from the celebration of Transfiguration of Christ to that of the Assumption of Mother Mary. In between these two feasts we celebrate two Sundays. Today is the first Sunday after the Transfiguration.

Jesus said this parable in the context where He saw the unbelief of the believer. Some Biblical scholars argue that the two kinds of sons represent the Gentiles and Jewish people. But some other scholars affirm that the two sons represent the Jewish community itself; representing the lay people who were associated with the Graeco-Roman world and the law keepers of Judaism. Nevertheless, it is notable that this is the only occasion where the phrase “tax collectors and prostitutes” is used in apostolic writings.

Jesus elucidates the paradox of ‘atheism of the theistic’ through this parable and reveals the complexity of human nature.

Three main points from this passage could be meaningful to meditate.

1. The Power of Positive Rethinking

The first son’s disrespect through his words was certainly an insult to his father. He might have responded so due to the thought of the probable discomfort which would arise if he follows the word of his father. However, when he rethinks about his instantaneous response he becomes willing to obey his father’s words. He repented about his response and found the value of genuine repentance.
Mar Jacob clearly depicts this value in a Bovooso: “The tears of a repentant are more valuable than diamonds”. (Tuesday Suthara Sheema Prayer). John the Baptist’s message was the same too. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance (St. Mat:.3.8). That’s why the Fathers of the Church say “confession is a forgotten medicine.” Each opportunity to rethink and analyze the prior responses and decisions in our life could oil the machinery of our relationships with God and human. The genuine repentance, and the willingness to change to even a diametrically opposite view or to make a complete U-turn, if necessary, will help the person to steer his journey towards the right shore.

2. Nothingness of Peripheral Promises

Today we live in a world where we hear more promises with the absence of any in-depth passion towards the promise. Definitely these kind of promises fabricate a kind of contentment to the ears of the audience. However, when they see the nothingness of these peripheral promises, it definitely hurts their hearts rigorously and they identify the person’s dim-witted personality. He / she will lose the basic trust of the immediate people around him / her. This indeed applies to our relationship with God: Jesus noticeably stated “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (St. Mt.7.21). In short, the real fruit of the peripheral promises is self-deception and nothingness.

3. The Greatness of Implemented Promises

Both sons are not true models for a true Christian life. The real Christian model is the right response with the willingness to implement the promise. This model is perfectly portrayed in the parable of the sower (St. Lk.8.8). Some seed fell on good soil; the soil responded pleasantly and nurtured without any delay. The quality and depth of the soil facilitated the growth of the seed to a fruitful tree. So a promise followed by its implementation inserts the quality of trustworthiness into one’s personality. This personality will not be double faced. This quality is an essential ingredient to a positive relationship with God and human. God himself shows this model in his relationship with the people of God. “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant.” (I Kings: 8.56)

Without trust, words become the hollow sound of a wooden gong. With trust, words become life itself. -- John Harold

May God bless us to rethink if our words are insulting to anyone and to learn the nothingness of peripheral promises, and the greatness of implemented promises.

6 August 2017

posted 4 Aug 2017, 04:43 by C S Paul

6 August 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

The Festival of Transfiguration/Koodaara Perunnal 

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Luke 9:27-36New King James Version (NKJV)

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus Transfigured on the Mount

28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 

29 As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 

30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 

31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 

32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. 

33 Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. 

35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 

36 When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.

Jesus is the Promised Messiah

by Fr. Tommy Lane

What a grace for Peter and James and John to see Jesus transfigured. They got a preview of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead and his glory in heaven. It was also a preview of the glory we all hope to share in heaven. This was a very special grace for Peter and James and John.

It was not the only special grace Jesus shared with Peter, James and John. Earlier in the Gospel (Mark and Luke) we read that Jesus only allowed Peter and James and John with him into the house of the synagogue official whose daughter he raised up again (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51). Later, when Jesus was teaching in the temple, Peter and James and John asked Jesus a question privately and he gave them more teaching (Mark 13:3). In Gethsemane, Jesus took Peter, James and John aside from the others to be near him during his agony (Mark 14:33). So Peter, James and John received many special graces from Jesus.

Just before receiving this special grace of seeing Jesus transfigured, Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed and rise after three days (Matt 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). How did they react? Peter (in Matt and Mark) rebuked Jesus for saying this (Matt 16:22; Mark 8:32) and Jesus responded, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." (Matt 16:23; Mark 8:33) The disciples had to learn that Jesus was not exactly the type of Messiah that they were expecting. Instead of being a Messiah to liberate Palestine from Roman domination he told them he would be a suffering Messiah and would be executed. What a shock! That was surely a bit much to take. Immediately following this we read that Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured (Matt 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36). How they needed this grace now. They had left everything to follow Jesus and he had just told them he would be killed. They needed reassurance, and Jesus did not let them down. They received a huge grace now on the mountain as they saw Jesus transfigured.

Moses and Elijah also appeared and spoke with Jesus. Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai and Elijah could be regarded as the greatest of the prophets, certainly here he is a representative of the prophets during Jesus' transfiguration. So we have the Law and the Prophets, as the Old Testament was often called, with Jesus on the mountain. The Old Testament was pointing forward to Jesus as we heard in that beautiful prophecy of Jesus in our first reading from Dan 7. Now two great figures of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appeared on the mountain with Jesus transfigured, to confirm that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. In the opening prayer today we heard,

"God our Father,
in the transfigured glory of Christ your Son,
you strengthen our faith
by confirming the witness of your prophets…"

The Father spoke from heaven and said, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." So the Old Testament and the Father in heaven are now confirming that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. Although Jesus had just shocked them by telling them he must suffer and die, this is, in fact, the plan of God for Jesus.

The Father said, "Listen to him." In other words, "Do not be scandalized at the teaching of my son Jesus about his forthcoming Passion, death and resurrection." As our preface today says,

"He revealed his glory to his disciples
To strengthen them for the scandal of the cross."

Will they listen to Jesus? Will they stand by Jesus as he goes to his Passion and death? We know the story. Peter denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest and James, like the rest of the disciples, abandoned Jesus. Only John listened to Jesus and was not scandalized by the passion and death of Jesus. In John's Gospel we read that John went right into the courtyard of the high priest while Jesus was being tried and went all the way to the cross of Jesus with the women. When the crunch came between Holy Thursday night and the first appearance of Jesus on Easter Sunday, Peter and James did not listen, they abandoned Jesus. Their abandonment of Jesus was only temporary, while John remained faithful right during Jesus' Passion. Later all three of them, Peter, James and John became great witnesses to Jesus. Peter became the first Pope and bishop of Rome. James was executed in Jerusalem by King Herod for witnessing to Jesus (Acts 12:2) and John authored the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John. So the three disciples did listen to Jesus although two of them were temporarily unfaithful during the Passion of Jesus.

Perhaps we are disappointed that Peter and James did not listen to Jesus, did not remain faithful to Jesus, during the time he most needed them. They had seen Jesus transfigured, they heard the command of the Father to listen to Jesus, they had been with Jesus for other intimate moments like the raising of the girl to life again but they were scandalized by the Passion of Jesus. But why should we be disappointed with them? We also have experienced and met Jesus in many ways and sometimes we too let him down.

We meet Jesus in a most intimate way every time we receive him in the Eucharist. It is the time when we are closest to Jesus.

We meet Jesus in the Scriptures as they touch our hearts. Jesus speaks to us now when we read the Scriptures. The Scriptures are not just about the life of Jesus; in the Scriptures Jesus also speaks to us about our lives and in them we meet Jesus as he speaks to us about our lives.

We meet Jesus in a very special way in all the sacraments.

We have seen Jesus in great people like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

But just as Peter and James needed to know after Jesus' resurrection that he did not hold their abandonment of him against them, we need to be reconciled to Jesus often. We need to meet Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation often because there are times when we do not listen to Jesus, times when we deny Jesus, not in the courtyard of the high priest in Jerusalem, but maybe sometimes in our families, or perhaps where we work, or maybe in our communities. We do not have to be conquered or governed by our weaknesses or sinfulness. Just as Peter, James and John received the special grace of seeing Jesus transfigured and received many other graces from Jesus, we too have received many graces from Jesus to help us become the great people he has called us to be and to witness to him wherever life demands.

The appearance of Moses and Elijah during the transfiguration, and the Father saying "This is my beloved Son" confirms that Jesus is indeed the expected Messiah. The Father commanded, "Listen to him." John is a model disciple; he was faithful to Jesus to the end. Peter and James for a short while did not listen to Jesus, but just as Peter, James and John became great witnesses to Jesus, we too can become great witnesses to Jesus.

30 July 2017

posted 28 Jul 2017, 03:57 by C S Paul

30 July 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Mark 8:1-10New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Four Thousand

In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 

“I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. 

And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.”

Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”

He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”

And they said, “Seven.”

So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. 

They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 

So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 

Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away, 

10 immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Jesus Expands Our Small Vision to His Limitless Vision

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Earlier I explained that we interrupt our reading of Mark for six Sundays to read John 6 - the Eucharistic Chapter - and explained that the multiplication of the loaves and fish anticipates the miracle of the Eucharist

Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus gave the instruction for the people to sit down in the Gospel today? (John 6:10) Did they feel like saying, "Lord healing the sick is one thing but feeding five thousand men and several thousand women and children with just five loaves and two fish is asking for the impossible?" Did they think that if Jesus failed to feed the crowds they would all look like fools? We can see that they obviously had worries because Andrew said to Jesus, "what is five loaves and two fish between so many?" (John 6:9) Did they feel like saying to Jesus, "Jesus, don’t be stupid." The disciples had one vision of the situation and Jesus had a different vision of the situation. The disciples were putting a limit on what to expect, but Jesus had no limits. There is a tension between the expectation of the disciples and the expectation of Jesus. The disciples’ vision was small but the vision of Jesus was limitless.

It hasn’t changed much since then. Our vision and expectations are often small but Jesus’ vision and expectations for us are without limits. And if we try to expand our vision to be more like the vision of Jesus the world says to us, "You are stupid." The world says "you are stupid to want to become a priest, you are stupid to want to become a nun, you are stupid to have one more child, you are stupid to join a prayer group, you are stupid to spend so much time in prayer." And the world is right according to its own standards and vision, but the vision and standards of the western world are very often not the vision of Jesus. According to the mind of the world, following Jesus is irrational. So to follow Jesus in our world now you have to lose something; maybe you have to lose some respect for yourself to follow Jesus now. When Mary said "Yes" to the angel Gabriel she lost respect for herself; in the eyes of the world she was a loser, but in fact she became the winner. If we decide not to lose something for Jesus and follow the ways of the world, then we will really end up losers in the end.

In our Gospel Jesus is not the only one with a big vision. The other person with a big vision is the small boy who had the loaves and fish. The thinking of the world now is, "What is in it for me?" or "What will I get out of it?" or "The more I receive the more I will be blessed." That is the attitude which is destroying our western society. If the small boy had that attitude and did not give his five loaves and two fish to Jesus there would have been no miracle. But because of his generosity a great miracle took place. That little boy shows us that when we give we receive. The vision of the world is often small and narrow but the vision of Jesus is without limits.

In the very early days after Pentecost there was a cripple begging at one of the entrances to the Temple in Jerusalem (Acts 3). When he saw Peter and John going into the Temple he begged from them. Peter and John said, "Look at us." The cripple was then obviously hoping to get some money from them. Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!" (Acts 3:6) Then Peter took him by the hand and helped him up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, and he jumped up and praised God. That beggar had a small vision for himself but Peter had a wonderful vision of where his life should be. In a sense we could say that the cripple was asking for pennies but God was offering him millions. Are you putting limits on yourself while God has a more wonderful vision for you?

As Paul preached the Gospel he encountered a similar problem. People had a narrow vision of Paul and his ministry but Paul’s vision was wide. This is what he wrote in 2 Cor 6:8-10,

"taken for imposters and yet we are genuine…said to be dying and yet we are here alive, scourged but not executed; in pain yet always full of joy; poor and making many people rich; having nothing and yet owning everything."

We can ask ourselves, "What is our vision of ourselves and the world?" Do we take our vision of ourselves from the world or from Jesus? God help us if we take our vision of ourselves from the world. The only way to see yourself is to see yourself as Jesus sees you.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for an even greater miracle where Jesus would expand our vision even more. The multiplication of the loaves and fish was preparing for the miracle of the Eucharist. To human eyes in the Eucharist one sees bread and wine but with the eyes of faith we see the Body and Blood of Jesus. Again according to the world it is irrational and stupid to believe in transubstantiation, that the bread really changes into the body of Jesus and the wine really changes into the blood of Jesus. But following Jesus does not entail looking at Jesus with the vision of the world. Following Jesus means looking at Jesus with the eyes of faith, with the faith of Mary who accepted the impossible from the angel Gabriel and responded, "Let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) We do not allow our vision of ourselves to be tainted and contaminated by the world but we take our vision of ourselves and our possibilities from Jesus.

23 July 2017

posted 22 Jul 2017, 19:35 by C S Paul

23 July 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Mark 3:20-30New King James Version (NKJV)

A House Divided Cannot Stand

20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 

21 But when His own people heard about this,they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”

23 So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 

24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 

25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 

26 And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. 

27 No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.

The Unpardonable Sin

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 

29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— 

30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Devotional Thoughts for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

by Rev. Fr. Geevarghese Erakkath

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

The real knowledge about God is the essential factor for the spiritual growth of earthly man. It will make him realize the limitations in life and conscious of his sins. This leads him to depend on the grace of God. Through our daily prayers and reading the Holy Bible, attending the liturgy and constant participation in the Holy Communion we could familiarize with and understand that the healing touch and casting out of demons by Jesus are from heavenly power.

Here in the gospel according to St. Mark, Jesus healed a man who had a withered hand, in the Synagogue. He touched and cured those who came from all over Galilee and beyond the territory. He appointed twelve disciples to share and follow after him the ministry of preaching, healing and casting out demons. He did all these things with Godly authority and power where as the scribes from Jerusalem together with the Herodians said “ He has Beelzebub and by the ruler of the demons he cast out the demons”. Jesus disproved the argument with a parable. The parable of a house divided. An important principle is laid down here. An organization or an institution standing against its own interest will be lead to destruction. ‘ United we stand divided we fall’ is a famous saying. The most effective way to destroy a mighty empire is to saw the seeds of an internal conflict.

Jesus said that the sin of acquisition against the Son of God and all the unworthiness of Man would be forgiven. He made a warning that the denial of the beauty of moral values, ignoring the goodness of others (Jesus’ healing) accepting the limitations of our own, the negligence of hearing the voice of God are all blasphemies against the Holy Spirit. ‘ He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is subject to eternal condemnation’. It was the worst habit of the Jewish hypocrites as Jesus called them to envy at the goodness of others. They try to misapprehend the holy deeds of the savior. It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is a sin that does not deserve forgiveness.

Here St. Mark symbolically depicted the liberation proclamation by Jesus from the demonic bondage to total humanity. The regained soul of every man can enjoy the characteristic spirit of the original creation through the salvation work of our savior. At this time, let me pray to God Almighty to enter the house of my mind with the help of the spiritual strength I attained so far, to bind the satanic thoughts in it and cast out every evil. I may enjoy the peace of mind where God dwells.

16 July 2017

posted 14 Jul 2017, 23:20 by C S Paul

16 July 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Feeding the Four Thousand

32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

33 Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”

34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”

And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.”

35 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 

36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. 

37 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. 

38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 

39 And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.

Devotional thoughts for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

by Fr. Dr. P. S. Samuel ChorEpiscopos

Meditation for 6th Sunday after Pentecost

The Gospel portion for this Sunday is taken from St. Matthew 15:32-39.

32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way. 33 And the disciples said to him, Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd? 34 And Jesus said to them, How many loaves have you? They said, Seven, and a few small fish. 35 And commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied; and they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

The topic is the feeding of the four Thousand or the messianic banquet of the Gentiles. This is also found in St. Mark 8:1-9. Last Sunday the reading was on Feeding of the five thousand. This event is found in all the four Gospels, while feeding of the four thousand is found only in Mathew and Mark. The theme of both events is the same. God miraculously feeds His people.

The Church is repeating these readings as it did with those on the post- resurrection appearances of Our Lord, which occurred on the “first day of the week, or the eighth day”, that is, on Sundays with the ‘breaking of the Bread’. The Church wants to emphasize the fact that the death of Christ, and his resurrection and ascension do not remove him away from us, but that he is an ever present reality and is with us, when we remember him in the ‘breaking of the Bread’, the Eucharist.

There is confusion among some people that the feeding of the four thousand is another version of the feeding of the five thousand. It is clear that this is not so. The five thousand were fed in the land of the Jews (Bethsaida) while the other occurs in the land of the Gentiles (Decapolis). More over both Mathew and Mark set the stage for this miracle after the healing of many gentiles and especially the healing of the daughter of the Cannanite woman (in Mathew), as it appears, after humiliatingly testing her and her people, the Gentiles. Feeding the people in the wilderness is a messianic sign “preparing a table in the wilderness” by God. Feeding of the five thousand is indicative of God feeding the Israelites with manna from heaven through Moses. Here is some one greater than Moses, the Son of God, feeding all God’s people, the Jews and the Gentiles.

The Eucharistic implication of both the miracles is clear, and the Fathers affirm this. All gospel writers except John narrate the institution of the Eucharist. St. John purposely leaves this out and gives the “washing of the disciples’ feet” instead. Why did the beloved disciple, who knew the mind of Jesus more than any other disciple, do this way? John discusses the Eucharist in his sixth chapter using the feeding of the fivethousand as a background for his discourse. For St. John, the disciple of love, humility, love of one’s brother , service to humanity (Jesus came down to serve and to die for the people) are as important as the reception of the sacrament (Christ). St. Paul complained about the rich Corinthians because they ate the meal rather selfishly. John the evangelist saw the need of reminding us that the Eucharist is related to the poor, the hungry of this world. The foundation of our commitment/service to the world is the Holy Eucharist. This is our body. And so John reminds us what Jesus said. “You call me Lord, and indeed I am. But if I wash your feet, then wash one another’s.” Feed the poor, feed the world.

Now let as look at the scripture portion in more detail. Jesus was with the people in a “deserted place.” He was preaching and healing. The people continued to stay with him absorbed in his teaching; they did not go away to find food or other necessities. Jesus knew their needs, and so he took the initiative to provide for them. He felt compassion on them. Com-passion is suffering with those who suffer. To put oneself in the other person’s place and to accept that person’s suffering as his own. This is divine and is prompted by the caring and love one feels for others. God is most Compassionate. He so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to this world. As Jesus has told Philip, “he who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus sheds tears any time when we suffer as he did at the tomb of Lazarus. So naturally he wants the disciples to give food to the crowd, because if he sends them away unfed, they will faint on the way and perish. It is love that exudes compassion. We see that through out his ministry Jesus was moved with compassion and he did heal, feed and comfort, to alleviate the sufferings of others. What about us? Most often we look away and pass by, don’t we?

He asked the disciples to feed the crowd. The disciples got panicky. They felt overwhelmed. Our Lord says, do not worry, bring me what you have. And they brought seven loaves and a few fish, such a small quantity, for the large crowd. We often wonder and say, how, on earth can we feed all the poor in the world? He tells us to start with the people around us, take the first step, feed the poor neighbor, and don’t over-feed your child when the neighbor’s child, your brother’s child, is starving. The community of the faithful has this responsibility. Is not Jesus reminding us of our responsibility to others? Sunday after Sunday we piously go to communion but easily forget the poor, the suffering, the homeless and the orphans of the world. Give them food and shelter. This is the Lord’s command. Be compassionate, remember the needy, pray and provide for them and then the Lord will be pleased with us.

Remember Prophet Elijah reassuring the widow of Zarephath, when she told the prophet that she had only a tiny quantity of morsel just to make a cake for her and her son. “Make a small one for me” says Elijah, and she did and that did wonders (1 Kings 17:10-16).The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:16) Aren’t we often worried that we have very little reserves, for the education of our children, for paying the mortgage for the car and the house, for doing so many things including investing for the future, where is the money to give to the Church or to the poor? Read verse 16. God will provide , He will multiply and provide for us as well as for the poor and the needy if we are willing to share a little of what we have and entrust it with Christ in prayer.

The disciples brought what they had and Christ “took it, gave thanks (eucharistia), blessed it, broke it and gave it” to them to distribute to the people. The God who created the world from “nothing” multiplied it so that all the people, four thousand men and much more women and children, ate and were satisfied and they praised God for this miraculous feeding. This is the Lord’s banquet. It is His Table. Who does provide the bread for the banquet? The people. The women or men who cook it at home and bring it to be offered. He takes it and makes it His own, and invites all to come and participate. All the people have table fellowship with Him and with one another. He provides food for the people through His disciples ‘the shepherds who divide the word of truth’. This is the mission of the Assembly of God, the Church. Yet, at present, many among the people go unfed and hungry. Though provided, many willfully ignore the gift and perish on the way. The Eucharistic implication is quite clear. Every time we assemble in the church for Eucharistic celebration, this is what is happening. The people provide the fruit of their labor, the bread and the wine He takes their offering, He gives thanks, He blesses it, He breaks it , He gives it to the disciples and they distribute it to the people. Christ does all this through the Holy Spirit by transforming the gifts, making them the Body of Christ, and he himself (the Bread of Heaven) is being distributed to the faithful by His disciples (bishops and priests). So compassion leads to communion. Com-union, is entering into an intimate and inseparable union with the Lord. As St. John says, He abides in us and we in Him, leading us away from suffering and death, to life abundant and to life eternal. Every time the Holy Eucharist is celebrated this whole process is reenacted. Nowadays in our Church the people do not know where the bread comes from. Achen or some one makes it and brings it to the church. The people have no idea that it is their offering! Anaphora means offering or lifting up. The priest recites the Eucharistic prayers. He breaks it. We really don’t think what it means to be broken. Those who have seen the “Passion of the Christ” will definitely understand. With out braking (dying) there is no life.

We know that U.S.A is a prosperous Nation. Why? They spend their money rather than keep it in the Bank! What is the use of money or wealth when it is not spent for us and for others? Only when the bread is broken can we be fed with it.. The priest gives it to the faithful. This is communion, receiving the Qurbana. So we repeat what Christ did every time we celebrate the Eucharist, without thinking and realizing the real implication and our own part in it. Jesus feeds us and we are asked to feed others. May God bless us all, May He feed us unto eternal life. AMEN.

9 July 2017

posted 6 Jul 2017, 22:54 by C S Paul   [ updated 6 Jul 2017, 23:17 ]

9 July 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

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

Feeding the Five Thousand

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

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

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

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

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

14 For there were about five thousand men.

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

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

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

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

Feeding Five Thousand

by John Stevenson

Of all of the miracles which are recorded during the ministry of Jesus, only one is described in all four gospel accounts. It is the one which we find in this chapter - the feeding of the five thousand.

This was an especially significant miracle. It was significant because it involved the most number of people. It had the most eye-witnesses. It also had the most volume. The only other miracle that ever came close to it was the turning of water into wine. Bread to the multitude; wine to the wedding guests. Bread and wine - He still offers it to us.

The setting for the story took place in a time of retreat - a time when Jesus was seeking to get away from it all.

WITHDRAWAL TO BETHSAIDA

And when the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. And taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. (Luke 9:10).

Bethsaida was a small town located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Its name was appropriate for a group of fishermen - it meant "house of fishing." It was home to Simon, Andrew and Philip (John 1:44).

It had been a time of great activity. There was a growing intensity to the ministry of Jesus that reached its culmination as He sent the Twelve out on a short-term mission trip.

Now they are back. They have done a good job and they are tired. And so, Jesus determines to take them away from the crowds. They go home to Bethsaida so that they can recharge.

Have you ever suffered from burn-out? You can come to the point when you are tired and just can’t get the emotional energy to go on. At such a time, you need to find a place to which you can withdraw. You will find Jesus waiting for you there.

MINISTRY TO THE MULTITUDES

But the multitudes were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11).

It was one thing for Jesus and His disciples to make plans to get away from it all. It was another thing to accomplish it. They got away from the crowds, but the crowds did not get away from them.

Jesus could have gotten angry at the multitude. After all, they were intruding at a time when they were not wanted. The office was closed and Jesus and His disciples were going on vacation. Couldn't they make an appointment? Instead, the reaction of Jesus was one of welcome. He saw their needs and He felt for them. He cared.

The Christ event is the evidence that God cares. He did not stand aloof from humanity. He became involved. He was involved in the discipleship of the Twelve. And He will be involved in a ministry to the masses.

THE INSTRUCTIONS OF JESUS

And the day began to decline, and the twelve came and said to Him, "Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place."

But He said to them, "You give them something to eat!" And they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people." For there were about five thousand men. (Luke 9:12-14a).

Imagine the scene. Jesus and His disciples have long since left the crowded cities and have made their way to the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee. They were followed by the crowds, so instead of spending the day in rest and relaxation, Jesus and His disciples have a day of teaching.

Now at the end of the day, the disciples are tired and hungry. And they aren’t the only ones. The people are getting hungry as well. And so they come to Jesus with a suggestion. It is that He send the multitude away to surrounding areas where they will be able to purchase food.

The plan of the disciples is entitled: "Every man for himself." But Jesus has another plan. He says to them, "You feed them."

This was an impossible request. I can picture their consternation. They assemble all of their possible resources and they come up with five loaves of bread and two small fish. We know from the other gospel accounts that even this was provided by someone else and had not originally been theirs. How can they possibly hope to feed this multitude? There are no nearby grocery stores and they haven’t got the money in any case. After all, Jesus had told them back in verse 3 not to take any money for their journeys and they had taken Him at His word.

This was an impossible situation. But Jesus has the answers to those kinds of situations. He is trying to teach you something in the midst of your impossible situation. And it is in the understanding of that lesson that impossible situations become bearable.

What is your situation? No matter what it is, don't forget to look for the lesson. Listen for the instructions of the Christ. Listen, because Jesus has the answers to the questions that trouble you.

You see, this situation did not come about by mere chance. It was brought about purposefully. It was brought about to manifest the power of God. The same is true of your situation.

There is a lesson here. It is that a lack of the means to do something is not necessarily proof that God does not want us to do attempt that thing. Having only a little food is no justification for sending the crowd away hungry. Having only a little money is no excuse for not helping the poor. You look to serve God with what you DO have and then watch Him provide for that service.

THE MIRACLE PROVIDED

And He said to His disciples, "Have them recline to eat in groups of about fifty each." 15 And they did so, and had them all recline. 16 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the multitude. (Luke 9:14b-16).

The grass is green. The sun is low in the sky. The cool breeze is blowing off the Sea of Galilee. The disciples are quietly obedient in organizing the people into groups of 50's and 100's. They may have been weak in faith, but they still OBEYED. And as a result, God will do something wonderful.

Having problems believing? Have a difficult time in the faith department? Welcome to the crowd. There is a lesson here for you. It is a lesson for when you find it difficult to believe. When you are having trouble believing, obey anyway. Obey as though you believe, and eventually you will find strength for your faith.

The disciples obeyed the words of Jesus. He has them divide the people into workable groups. There is a prayer of blessing.

I cannot help but think that the disciples were peeking during the prayer to see where the delivery trucks were going to come from. And yet, when the miracle takes place, we are struck by its simplicity. The heavens did not open. Trumpets did not sound. We are not told how Jesus did it.

We simply read that the disciples begin to disperse the food. And there is more food.

And still more. And people are getting seconds. And there is still more.

It isn’t that Christianity has been tried and failed, it is that it hasn't been tried.

Are you...

afraid? His courage is sufficient for you.

alone? His presence is sufficient for you.

in sin? His grace is sufficient for you.

in need? His abundance is sufficient for you.

Notice also that this food was conveyed to the multitude through the agency of the disciples. Once again, men were the method used by the Master. He didn’t have to do it that way. He could have fed them all Himself. Manna could have rained from heaven. Or it could have all just appeared in the laps of the people. But instead, it was the disciples who distributed the food.

This was a part of their training in ministry. They had recently gone out and had been preaching and teaching and healing the sick. But now they are learning that they can only be effective as they are being supplied by Jesus.

There is a lesson here for us, too. God wants to feed a world that is spiritually hungry and He wants to do it through US. He has the resources, but He desires our involvement. It is not our ABILITY that He desires, but our AVAILABILITY.

The Lord teaches us to trust Him by commanding us to do that which is beyond our means to do.

God delights in using the little that we have to do great things. He uses the shepherd staff of Moses to divide the Red Sea and to conquer the Pharaoh of Egypt. He uses the little stone in the sling of David to bring down Goliath. He whittles down Gideon’s army to a little band of 300 to defeat the hosts of Midian. And He is ready to use your little things, too.

THE EVIDENCE OF ABUNDANCE

And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full. (Luke 9:17).

When it is all over, the disciples begin cleaning up. Twelve disciples. Twelve full baskets of food. One for each disciple. Do you see the lesson? It is a lesson in abundance. Jesus is not just sufficient for our needs. He is ABUNDANTLY SUFFICIENT.

The reason that the disciples are assigned this cleanup duty is so that they will learn this lesson. They had wondered earlier where they would get enough food to feed the multitude when there was barely enough food to feed themselves. They may have thought, "If we give what we have to everyone else, then we will have to go hungry." Instead of going hungry, each disciple will end up with a load of food.

The disciples were being taught a lesson. It is the same lesson that we need to learn. It is the lesson that Jesus is sufficient for our needs.

The story is told of Dr. David Livingston, the famous missionary-explorer to Africa having a medical condition which required a regular diet of milk. He kept a goat which supplied the necessary milk. Dr. Livingston was praying one morning and he told the Lord, "Everything I have is Yours, Lord."

I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that when you tell God something like that, He is going to bring something into your life to test that resolve. Livingston was visited that same week by the tribal chief and he noticed that the chief was eyeing his goat. Desiring to show God's love, he took the goat and gave it to the chief. In return, the chief presented him with the staff which he was carrying.

Later that day, Livingston confided in one of his friends, "I don’t know why I was so stupid as to give my goat away. All I have to show for it is this stupid stick." His friend replied, "You don’t understand. That isn’t just a stick; it is a scepter. You no longer own one goat. Now you own all the goats in the village."

When we come to the Lord in faith, giving Him our lives, we find that He has given us a scepter in return. And we have been walking around, thinking that it was just a stick.

2 July 2017

posted 30 Jun 2017, 03:51 by C S Paul

2 July 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Matthew 14:14-23New 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.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

by Rev. Bryan Findlayson

Introduction

The feeding of the five thousand is recorded in all four gospels, in fact Mark records a second feeding of four thousand. This serves to remind us of the importance with which the early church viewed this miracle. Like many of Jesus' miracles, the feeding of the five thousand points beyond itself. As God, through Moses, fed the people of Israel with manna in the wilderness, so Jesus, the prophet like unto Moses, feeds a mighty crowd in "a desolate place." As Jesus' generation said of him, "this is of a truth the prophet who is to come into the world", John 6:14.

The passage

v13-14. The preaching ministry of the disciples had stirred up Herod Antipas and so Jesus decides to cool things down, cf. v1-2. Luke tells us that he withdrew to Bethsaida Julius on the northeast shore of lake Galilee. Jesus and his disciples obviously went by boat, but the crowds, having worked out where he was going, travelled around the lake on foot and got there first. Out of "compassion", Jesus continues his healing ministry among them.

v15-17. By late afternoon the people are hungry and so the disciples point out to Jesus that it is time to let them go home, or to go to the nearby villages for food and lodgings. Jesus tells his disciples that the people don't need to go home, but rather that the disciples should prepare to feed them. Jesus' command, "you give them something to eat", is not a command for the disciples to perform a miracle, but rather seeks to have them rely in faith on the one who can turn water into wine. The disciples can feed the crowd if they look to Jesus. At any rate, the disciples cannot see how they can do this since they have only one plowman's lunch of Barley flat bread and pickled fish.

v18-21. Matthew continues to condense his account of the feeding, omitting many details recorded in the other gospels. None-the-less, he makes all the important points: i] Jesus performs the miracle, not the disciples; ii] The crowd is very large. Counting adult males only, there are 5,000 present, so the total could be around 15,000; iii] The crowd is fully satisfied with food in abundance. There is no significance in Jesus offering a thanksgiving to God for the food, since this was normal Jewish practice. There is certainly significance in the satisfaction of the crowd and the twelve baskets of scraps. We probably shouldn't call them scraps as they were more likely the broken portions of bread and fish ready for distribution, rather than bits and pieces of leftover food. The miracle reminds us that as God provided for the twelve tribes of Israel during their wilderness journey, so he will provide for the messianic banquet, both now and in the last day.

God's providential care

"I want to give my Lord all the praise." These were warming words from a South African swimmer who had just won gold at the Atlanta Olympics. Yet, as I heard the words, I wondered how real they were. Was she just using "Zion speak"? Did she actually think that Jesus controlled the circumstances that gave her gold? If this was the case, the other swimmers could rightly protest such divine interference. To what extent does God's providential care for his children intrude into the circumstances of life?

When God called the people of Israel out of Egypt, he promised to take them to a land flowing with milk and honey. He had called them and so he would provide for their needs. This he did with the essentials of life, in particular, Manna. When Jesus fed the 5,000 he recalled this provision, and in so doing, promised his provision for a new journey to a new land where God's people will find an eternal banquet prepared for them.

As part of God's providential care, believers are provisioned for their journey on the way and thus we pray, "give us this day our daily bread." We also share in the heavenly banquet, yes even now, although it is but a taste. These provisions are not the good things of life; these are but the benefits of God's creation. Yet, when we place ourselves in the center of God's will we do find ourselves provisioned for service and this may include tangible assets, "our daily bread", the resources we need for service. Yet, primarily the provision is a heavenly food, spiritual if you like. This food, above all else, is Christ himself: his indwelling compelling love, his enduring friendship, his determined protection from the powers of darkness.... Thus, we feed on Christ, in the sense of trust him, and in this is life eternal.

25 June 2017

posted 23 Jun 2017, 03:15 by C S Paul

25 June 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

John 6:35-46New 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.

18 June 2017

posted 15 Jun 2017, 23:48 by C S Paul

18 June 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Matthew 10:34-11:1New 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.

Devotional Thoughts Based on Matthew 10:34-39

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.

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 ...

11 June 2017

posted 9 Jun 2017, 23:35 by C S Paul

11 June 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture reading for this Sunday

John 6:26-35New 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 1st Sunday after Pentecost

by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Gospel Reading: St. John 6: 26-35

In the first verse of today's reading we find Him saying "verily verily, I say unto you, you seek me not because you saw the miracles but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled". There is no need for the explanation of the circumstances when and where He told so, as we all are quite aware of it. When we go to the Church for the weekly services and on week days for the prayer, our Lord is repeating the same question to each and every one of us. But we are not hearing such a talk from our Lord, as most of us are not interested to listen to Him, where as we are always there to submit our long lists of personal needs. All our needs are often granted by our good Lord. But we do not consider it as a gift from God; instead we consider that they were granted due to our prayer. In such occasions are we not taking the credit due to God Almighty for ourselves? For the same reason our Lord is repeating the question which was asked to the Jews who followed Him long time back. When we would approach our God and His presence, let us make sure that we are not submitting the long lists of our personal needs, about which He is always aware and caring.

In Verse 27 we read, "Labor not for the meat that perishes but for the meat which endures unto everlasting life; which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him God the Father has sealed." In the only prayer taught by our Lord, we are obliged to pray for the daily bread. We pray give us this day our daily bread. Many of us think that this is the daily food we need and hence when we pray in Malayalam, we say "Aaharam" instead of "appam". We must realize that Aaharam is food and Appam is the bread. We need not pray for our daily food, as it is His look out. He is well off and He could provide to the needy without a prayer for it. Let us realize that the daily food we consume is a perishable one. There is a very touching unique word in this verse, 'sealed'. God the Father has sealed the Son. What for? This is the symbol of the ownership, security and the destination. In Ezekiel 9:4 we read about a seal. In text books we find the seal of the author or the authorized publisher. God the Father sealed Lord Jesus to show the Father's ownership right on Him and to make us believe that the flesh is the only way to get into forgiveness and the everlasting life. When these two points are combined together we reach the destination of abiding in God Almighty. In Revelation 7:2 we read about "the seal of the living God". This seal indicates the freedom from destruction and promise to the reward of beyond words and explanations. We have to find the answer to the question why our Lord addressed Himself as the Son of man. The Cappadocian Fathers have interpreted the incarnation of Lord Jesus as "the incarnation of Son of God as Son of man to convert the sons of men as sons of God". St. Matthew 3:17, 17:5, St. Mark 1:11, St. Luke 3: 22, St. John 1: 33, 5: 37 vouch that He is the Son of God as we are confirmed by God the Father. Again in Acts 2:22 and 2 Peter 1; 17, it is confirmed by the Apostles that He is the Son of God.

When the listeners asked our Lord, "What shall we do that we might work the works of God" our Lord answered "This is the work of God that you believe on Him who He has sent". When we might listen some emotional sermons or so, we might also get emotional and offer our voluntary services for the work of God, saying 'You just tell me what I must do for His kingdom'. We often forget our Lord's words and teachings. He reminds us to believe in Him. Can we confess everyday before leaving our bed, "Lord I believe in you. You are my Lord, God and Savior"? We have to do in addition to leading a church life. The people of those days asked our Lord for a sign to believe Him. We are also not far from such people. We are indeed happy with the signs of miracles often claimed by the sectarian groups and we run after groups after groups to have a strong faith. Such people often ask "after all prayer is only there and what is the harm in attending a prayer". The agents of the sectarian groups often say "you just come and see what is happening there". When we hear this invitation, we often get privileged. We forget everything and follow them and as such we forsake the bread of heaven which promises everlasting life. Our Lord reminds in verse 33, "For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven; and gives life unto the world".

When we would approach Him, let it be our aim and desire to gain more spiritual life in us. Let us believe that our Lord is the bread of life. Let us not forget that the one who goes near Him to partakes His bread and drink will never hunger or thirst. Such a situation is the perfect state of being in God and with God. Let us long for it always and labor for the everlasting life with God and in God Almighty.

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