SUNDAY SERMON




SUNDAY SERMON

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

Syrian Orthodox Church




18 February 2018

posted 16 Feb 2018, 02:48 by C S Paul

18 February 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Second Sunday of Great Lent (Garbo Sunday or Lepers' Sunday)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Luke 5:12-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

12 And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

13 Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”Immediately the leprosy left him. 

14 And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.”

15 However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. 

16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

Devotional thoughts for Garbo Sunday

by Rev. Fr. George, Ireland

Gospel: St. Luke 5: 12-16, 4: 40-41

In the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the one true God forever and ever.
Amen+

We have come to yet another period of Lent. It is a time to re-dedicate ourselves before God and to seek healing from His mercy. Not just for our healing alone, but for the whole creation. The second Sunday of Great Lent, popularly known as `Garbo' is dedicated to pray for and ponder over the pathetic plight of the persons suffering of leprosy. It is in tandem with our Lord Jesus who was willing to heal the leper came to him. The reading passage meant for the meditation of this Sunday is the gospel according to St. Luke 5:12-16.

Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases of the time of Jesus Christ as there was no known cure for it. It brought great physical suffering as well as total banishment and isolation from society for it was considered to be highly contagious. Leprosy had a similar emotional impact and terror associated with it as AIDS does today. The priests monitored the disease, banishing lepers who were in a contagious stage to prevent the spread of infection and readmitting lepers whose disease was in remission. Lepers were considered untouchables because people feared contracting their disease. We see here a leper coming to Jesus with the staunch belief that Jesus Christ could heal every trace of the disease, though his condition was worse. Jesus is seen reaching out and touching the leper to heal him.

It is not that easy for a person, who miserably suffers the pain and agony, to have faith in God or to pursue a religious life. But here, from an environment of not having any scope of religious life, the leper who happens to see Jesus, hears the heavenly voice from a plain of faith. This was made possible by the magnanimity of Jesus. Christ, our Lord, felt compassion for the leper and His willingness made Him touch that marginalized one even without an iota of hesitation. There had been an element of revolution in that great act of Christ. It was not merely a physical touch but was a sheer sacramental one which brought about healing for that ailing person. Thus, that man who had been marginalized till then was brought into the mainstream of society. He was asked to convince the priest of his eligibility for the entry into the public life. From the bondage of physical suffering and social stigma, he was set free to enjoy the freedom of living like any other fellow being.

Even today there are many a people who still live in a state of untouchability. We may consider certain people who are diseased or disable to be untouchable or repulsive. This attitude has to change. We must not be afraid to reach out and touch them with God's love so that they may get a holistic healing. Here the sacrament of the anointing the sick has a vital role to play. The Bible says, "So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them" (St. Mark 6:13).

It is at this juncture that the vision and mission of our beloved Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Metropolitan, of blessed memory, has its pertinence. I must acknowledge here with a great sense of love and gratitude that it was he who initiated the philanthropic activities that are being done in the remote places like Yacharam and Kalahandi particularly for the betterment of lepers. The best tribute that we can pay to his grace is nothing but to offer ourselves willingly in undertaking the unaccomplished dreams of that great lover of humanity.

Are we ready to take up that responsibility (Liturgy after the Liturgy) and face the challenges posed before us? Let the beckoning voice of Jesus, our Lord, which revealed again through the sermons of Mar Osthathios, reverberate in our ears and inspire us. Let us emulate prayerfully the life of Jesus that had been recapitulated through the paradigmatic life of Mar Osthathios. As we mourn in memory of his grace and prepare ourselves for the passion of Christ and His resurrection, let us observe this holy Lent in all sincerity and seriousness by leading a simple and humble life. The heaven will rejoice, if we are able to share our resources like our prayer coated in love, knowledge, food, clothing, medicine, etc with our fellow beings. Let us fly to the door of salvation by being on the wings of Lent.

11 February 2018

posted 9 Feb 2018, 22:22 by C S Paul   [ updated 16 Feb 2018, 02:31 ]

11 February 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday of Great Lent (Kothne Sunday) (Pethurtha of the Great Lent)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

The Great Lent starts by commemorating the first miracle performed by Jesus i.e. turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee. The Gospel reading for each Sunday of the Great Lent is about a miracle performed by Jesus.

    John 2:1-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

    Water Turned to Wine

    On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 

    Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 

    And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

    Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

    His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

    Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 

    Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 

    And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.

     When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 

    10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

    11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

    Meditation on the Reading for Kothine Sunday (John 2:1-11)

    by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius

    Gospel: St. John 2: 1-11

    There are two major acts of Jesus in this chapter of John's Gospel. Both of them are in a way signs. The first is a sign of the fulfillment of his mission and the second is a sign of what happens when the fulfillment occurs. The first talks about the transformation and the second about casting out of all that is unwanted and evil. Both taken together become sign of the establishment of the Kingdom 'temple' abode- of God. When Jesus establishes the Kingdom of God through the shedding (of blood), the sharing (of body) and rejoicing (in resurrection), all the evil elements will be cast out and a cleansed and perfected Kingdom of God will be established.

    It is in this context we are called to meditate on the word 'kairos' used in the passage prescribed for the day. This Greek word can be translated as 'appointed time (hour)'. The first response of Jesus to his mother regarding shortage of wine at the marriage feast was 'my time has not come'. But then he does what she had asked him to do. So we may assume that he was not referring to what specifically he did at that situation when he said 'my time has not come'. Here both 'my' and 'time' have to be read together. This is where our attention is drawn to John 17:1 where he says, 'Father my kariros has come ...'. With this we are assured that the time he was mentioning about was 'the appointed time to glorify the Father' and not to do what he did at the house of feast (there are instances too that support this presumption (eg. 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20 etc.).

    Of course what was need at the feast-house had to be done. But that time was only a pre-taste of 'the time'- 'the time' to glorify the Father. What happens after Ch. 17 gives an idea of the process of mutual glorification. That is the cross, the tomb and the resurrection. In a symbolic way or in sign language we may say, 'being drawn from the well, poured in to the empty jar and drawn out for sharing and for immense joy and satisfaction'. Jesus was separated from the rest of his people as a servant of God, but to humans he was singled out as a criminal (water drawn from the well - Isa. 53:1-4). He was buried in the tomb like a lifeless dead body (water to wash feet in the jar), but when shared by the governor and others at the feast it was superb and fine wine to make them extremely pleased (at resurrection his disciples and the women at the tomb were astonished and were filled with joy). This was a time of glorification of the Son by the Father and consequently glorification of the Father too.

    So 'the time (hour)' is the time of transformation. First self-transformation and then transforming others from despair to joy. We may remember that we are about to start a new season of transformation experience with Kothine Sunday. In Christ and in participation with his humanity, a humanity of all ages and all places, that was joined in incarnation with his Godhead, we also need to go through the same experience. We need to be separated from the rest as we were called out (Matt. 4:19; Rom. 1:6,7) by God (1 Pet. 2:9). Further we have to go through the dying or poured in to the jar/tomb experience (John 3:5; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

    Many of us interpret the trouble of being poured out as temptations we experience in life and talked about in the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6: 9ff; Luke 11:2ff) and try to avoid them. Mind that these are two different things. Temptations come from outside, but pouring in to done by self. This is the suffering that we take up to take out the worldliness and that are evil, deadly and carnal in us (Rom. 7:4,5; 1 Cor. 3:3). It is a painful thing to take away the carnal in us. This is what is expected of us through our observance of the lent (see what happens in the case of Jesus himself. Of course it is given in the gospels as some external force came from outside to test him. But in every human, carving for livelihood, fame and power at any cost is there internally and do not have to come from outside).

    Abstinence from certain food and from some daily routine is simply symbols of this suffering and hence is not final in itself. So we do not have to be too much proud when we say we have observed lent strictly. Unless it becomes a sign of our transformation experience, it is of no value, but something like following a prescription by a dietician or a medical doctor who is advising us of our health.

    When the water came out of the jar the guests were happy and pleased. In turn when the Lord came out of the tomb the Father was glorified and the disciples and the ladies were pleased. The transformation, hence, is not aimed primarily for the glory or benefit or the wine or the transformed. We do not get transformed so that we will be better honored by others. Here a question may be raised. Why then in John 17:1 Jesus asked his Father to glorify him? The glorification of the Son was effected by strengthening him to face the suffering, death and the tomb. Again this glory helps the Son to be resurrected through which the Father shall be glorified. This shall be a matter of hope and joy for others. Our observance of the lent is, hence, for two purposes; for us to be transformed and for us to become a blessing for others as in the case of Abraham (Gen. 12:3).

    Our commitment to the world God created and its growth to its fullness becomes our primary concern. Without self transformation no one can transform another. Without self transformation no one can make another person happy. Our mission in this world is to make others happy and for that we have to be transformed. Jesus' words testify this. He said, "I spoke this that your joy may be multiplied ..." (John 15:11; Rom. 12:2). His purpose in coming in to this world was to transform the world and everything in here including humans. Same is the purpose of us being born in to this world and being strengthened through observance of lent.

    This strength is the glory our Lord gives us, and that is the glory with which we make our God glorified. Through our love towards others the world will know that we are a transformed lot (John 13:35). As said earlier, the wine's taste and fineness was not for the wine, rather was for the sake of those who tasted it. When everyone tastes the fineness of us, the disciples of Christ, who observe lent, the Kingdom of God shall be established. This is 'the time (kairos)' Jesus talked about and this is the 'time (hour)' we are waiting for in Parusia. This is the time we are trying to bring in through our observance of the lent. God be with us through this season of Great Lent and ever since.

    4 February 2018

    posted 2 Feb 2018, 04:36 by C S Paul

    4 February 2018

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    Aneede Sunday - All the Departed Faithful

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    Luke 12:32-48 New King James Version (NKJV)

    32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 

    33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.

    34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant

    35 “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 

    36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. 

    37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.

    38 And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 

    39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 

    40 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

    41 Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?

    42 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom hismaster will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 

    43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 

    44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 

    45 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 

    46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 

    47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

    48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

    Role of Departed Faithful in Our Church

    by Rev. Dr. Joseph Cheeran

    Reference: Luke 19: 11-27

    According to our Church Calendar, the two Sundays before the beginning of the Great Lent are designated as the Sundays remembering all the departed priests and all the departed faithful respectively. The reason for including the laity and priests in the liturgy, faith and the calendar is because they are integral part of God’s plan for salvation of the mankind. Christ’s salvation plans does not have any boundaries. It’s beyond regional and seasonal boundaries. The sacrifice on the cross was meant for the whole creation.

    Just like the first statement in the Nicene Creed, the salvation plan of Christ, who is the Creator and ‘the maker of heaven and earth, visible and invisible’, includes the visible and invisible planes. The organs coexist actively in the body of Church (whose head is Christ). Similarly, the departed, currently living and the future creations also coexist in the body of Christ. Not only the Christians, but also many of the modern religions conduct several rituals including fasting and almsgiving, remembering and praying for the salvation of the departed souls.

    1. The departed were not abandoned in the Old Testament period either. The Jewish Church considers the great fathers of the tribes, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the symbols of the heavenly Kingdom. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, we see Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. Christ sees Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Heavenly Kingdom. (Luke 13:28) This must be seen in the light of the Jewish culture. In Egypt, at the time of his death, Joseph entrusts a mission to his descendants (“you shall carry up my bones from hence”: Genesis 50:25). This indicates that the souls are alive after death.

    When the Jewish State of Israel was formed, the Jewish settlers in Mattancherry (near Ernakulam in Kerala) took with them sacks full of bones of their departed ones on their return journey to their homeland. This shows their traditional faith in the departed souls beyond doubt.

    2. In the New Testament also, in the references about the departed souls, we can see the live nature of the souls. The theme of the story of Lazarus itself is the active nature of the souls. Even when the body was rotten, Lazarus answers the call of his creator-(“Lazarus, come out”). Jesus states that Lazarus was asleep. Jesus spoke about eternal life and eternal kingdom. This indicates life beyond time and space. St. Paul compares resurrection to a sprouting grain. (1 Cor. 15: 34-53). When the wheat grain falls in the ground and gets rotten, a new one sprouts up. The testament of St. Peter regarding the souls is powerful enough to clear any doubts; In 1 Peter 3:19 we read that Christ “went and preached unto the spirits in prison”. Again in 1 Peter 4:6, it’s unmistakably written, “..Gospel was preached also to them that are dead..”

    In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we see that the rich man who is dead prays for his living family members. If the person who is dead prays for the living, we the living have a greater duty indeed to pray for the departed. The departed are the roots of our culture. They hold us firm on the ground like the roots of a large tree.

    3. When we remember the departed faithful, we need to think about the faithful who continue the journey from birth until death. The parable of the talents reminds us that the talents we possess have an owner. The message of the parable of talents is clearly depicted in the Bible verse ‘you got nothing that’s not given’. Resources are not private properties; rather they are talents that are supposed to be dispensed according to the wishes of the giver. Life is the first talent from which other talents originate. We are stewards of resources like health, beauty, talents and good opportunities etc, which are supposed to be utilized for the benefit of others. We should have the attitude that we are the stewards of the universe that consists of our brethren. Talents are not supposed to be buried under the ground. Instead, from the proper utilization of the talents, a just system should evolve. In order to maintain a balanced society, proper utilization of our resources are essential.

    4. The time to conduct the audit to determine the profit and loss of trade is not determined by the trader, but by the owner of the resources. Death is uncertain, like the timing in the game of musical chair. This uncertainty is hanging over our head always as a reality. We need to be vigilant because the auditor who can’t be bribed will audit us anytime. Our time, talents, resources etc are our commodities for trade. Be diligent about faithfulness, hard work and dedication in the utilization of your talents.

    What gives us the courage to face death is the sense of awareness that our duties are fulfilled in a timely manner. Jesus embraced his death by uttering, ‘everything is fulfilled’. ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’, he said. Let’s all be inspired by His confident words.

    Conclusion: Death is certain. In order to face death with courage, we need honesty and integrity, and a sense of stewardship in the utilization of our talents. God will reward us eternally. Let this message help us evaluate our assets and enable us to be blessed.

    28 January 2018

    posted 26 Jan 2018, 08:12 by C S Paul

    28 January 2018

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    Kohne - All Departed Clergy

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    Matthew 24:42-51New King James Version (NKJV)

    42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 

    43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 

    44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

    The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant

    45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 

    46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

    47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

    48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 

    49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 

    50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

    51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Devotional Thoughts for Kohne - Remembering Our Spiritual Fathers

    by Rev. Fr. Dr Varghese M Daniel, PhD, Yale University

    We are blessed with two Sundays in between the 3 days lent and 50 days lent. As we approach the great lent, these two Sundays are dedicated to the reminiscence of our departed people. Therefore this Sunday we remember all our Spiritual Fathers who guide us in our spiritual journey. St. Paul reminds us "Remember your leaders, ('those who have gone before you') who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Heb.13.7). Lent, fasting and prayer are the source of energy for our spiritual fathers and they have revealed that the same will motivate and inspire us in fulfilling and accomplishing a complete journey of life.

    Gospel reading: St. Mathew. 24:42-51

    This Gospel passage is the part of eschatological discourse (Second coming of Jesus Christ - Mt. 24 and 25) and it enlightens us on the characteristics and signs of His second coming. All the three Gospel readings of this Sunday (Evening, Morning and Qurbana) and the Pauline Epistle (IThes.4.11-5.11) reflects the teachings of Jesus pertaining to the second coming of Jesus Christ. These readings not only present to us the nature and conduct of a right servant of the Lord, but also play high relevance in remembering the day of our departed priests. This particular passage associates us to a servant who has been put in charge of the house while the master is away. We sing this unique passage in most of the Sundays in our liturgy (Yejamanan varumannerathu…). Two pertinent points to be noted here are:

    1. Status of the Steward

    "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?" (Vs.45)

    According to modern medicine, consumption of proper food at a proper time is very significant, thereby assuring us of good health and mental supremacy. Hence the steward, who provides the appropriate food at the right time, has a vital role in an individual's life. The Steward must also be acquainted with the condition of the individual (pertaining to any imminent illnesses or ailments). Priests are called as Stewards to administrate the mysteries and offer spiritual food for the individual, who needs it at the right time. That's why we sing, Thannejamaanan thandivyareha... (O priest come in peace who by his right hand divides and gives to the holy mysteries of his master so that they may have life.)

    It is essential for the steward to be inquisitive and to have a clear understanding of the spiritual condition of the individual, who are being placed under their care and also to be accessible to deliver the spiritual food. Trust and vigilance formulates the qualities of an eminent Steward. We could clearly distinguish these qualities in the stewardship in Abraham's servant (Eliezer? Gen.24:10) and Elisha's steward, Gehazi (2 Kings.5.20). One who was an example of trust and the other, one of mistrust. In the Old Testament readings (Numbers 20:23-29 and Deuteronomy 34.1-8, Deu.32.50) we also read the stories of Moses and Aaron. In spite of being great stewards of the Lord, their mistrust was taken into account by the Lord, which in turn prohibited them to enjoy the promise of the Lord. Often in our life, we may have been the recipient of these various admirable services of stewards (priests). However, very often we forget the service of our priests who have inspired us at different ages of our life. The priests and bishops who served in our Church, who blessed our marriage, who baptized us, who did the funeral services for our beloved ones, undoubtedly deserve to be remembered in our daily prayers.

    2. State of the Steward

    When we reflect upon the stewardship, it is important to consider the state of the stewards as well. Many people are feeble in the presence of food. If they fail to acquire the food which they like and to their liking, they are infuriated towards the steward. Some of them are indifferent and show restrictions, others tolerant, and many others swear by the stewards. This is also true in the spiritual atmosphere. Few years ago, a priest noticed one of his parishioners being drunk and abusive to others on the street. The following day, the same parishioner came to the Church seeking Holy Qurbana. The priest courageously mentioned to him, that he needed to seek confession before receiving the Holy Qurbana. Not only did the parishioner refuse confession, but instead started an allegation against the priest and even succeeded in expelling the priest from the parish. But the priest believed in the central verse of the Bible "It is better take refuge in the Lord than to trust in human" (Ps.118.8)

    We, in general, expect stewards to always remain cheerful; irrespective of their mental or physical agony. We always assume stewards to be jovial and good-humored and fail to understand them, regardless of the fact that his child or wife may be ailing with a dreadful disease or they may be enduring an agonizing situation. When we remember our priests on this Sunday, we need to understand these Lord's stewards and their diligent services, before we turn into being their hurtful critics. Today's epistle also emphasizes this (Acts.20.28-38). Let us remember the services of all our Lord's stewards and pray for them to be present as faithful stewards in the second coming of Jesus Christ.

    21January 2018

    posted 19 Jan 2018, 04:00 by C S Paul

    21January 2018

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    Third Sunday after Denho (Baptism of our Lord)

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    Evening

    Morning

    Before Holy Qurbana

    Holy Qurbana

    John 3:1-12King James Version (KJV)

    The New Birth

    There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 

    This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

    Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

    Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

    Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

    That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 

    Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 

    The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

    10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 

    11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 

    12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

    Born anew

    by H.G.Yuhanon Mor Meletius

    This incident talks about the dichotomy between Judaism and Christianity. This has been a theme in all the four Gospels and even in the Church in the early times (Matt. 5:17 f.).

    Nicodemus stands as a representative of his religion. Of course this has been the religion of Jesus too. But while Jesus represented the change that God brings continuously in the world, Nicodemus represents the static religion. So there is a tension between the Old which is old all the time and the New which is continuously being renewed.

    So the last verse in the section can be read first. Jewish religion with its static state has become one of worldly and Jesus represents the heavenly.

    Nicodemus comes at night to see Jesus. John the Evangelist is very good in making use of symbols out of time and place. Nicodemus comes at night because he represents a community that is in darkness. We may recall the state that existed before the creation. Darkness was upon the face of the earth (Gen. 1:1). That was a time when God had not started working on the creation project of human environment. It was also a time of chaos (also due to uncontrolled water covering the face of the earth) and hence rather a time ripe (in the fullness of time – Luk. 2:6) for God to work. The same darkness has taken over the whole religion of Judaism. Now God in Jesus has started to create a new identity in it.

    It was good that Nicodemus came to Jesus. He is ready to accept Jesus as someone from God seeing the works being done by Jesus. But the problem is that there have been so many people who have come from God and have done wondrous things. The Jews considered Jesus one among those great people of the Old Testament.

    Nicodemus calling Jesus ‘Rabi’ is another sign for that. To Jews Jesus certainly exhibits the scholarly skills of a learned person and hence can be called a teacher or Rabi. But Jesus is not happy to see that his own religion is not ready to take things forward and see the ‘signs’ and interpret them on the basis of the message in their scripture and accept Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus knows that he is not just a Rabi. So he takes Nicodemus further and puts a challenge before him. Just being a Jew will not make one eligible to enter in to the Kingdom of God.

    The word ‘anew’ points to the insufficiency of the existing state of affair. An utterly or complete renewal is required. It should be noted that this is not ‘born again’ as some would argue, it is ‘born anew’. The same person, but continuously and thoroughly being renewed.

    The next question from Nicodemus exposes the insufficiency of Jewish religion in which Nicodemus is a teacher. But Jesus waits till later to spell this out (3:10).

    A second good element in Nicodemus is that he wants to continue the dialogue. In other words, he is eager to go further and is not adamant on the exhaustibility of his religion. Hope about future is there in him. But the problem is that he is not sure how to achieve it. The sad fact is that even now he is not ready to accept Jesus as the Messiah. So Jesus talks about the inevitable.

    There has been the purification rite of baptism in Judaism. There was the baptism of John too. A lot of Jews did consider John the Baptist as one from God. Now they consider Jesus also as one from God. But they have to go further and take the baptism of spirit.

    Two things are to be noted here.

    1, talk about entering the Kingdom of God in itself is also an invitation to enter in to the Kingdom.

    2, Jesus himself is the Kingdom of God, because he is not simply one from God, rather he is God.

    This the Jews have not yet understood. This is the work of the Baptism of the Spirit. No purification act of Jews is sufficient to make people eligible to enter in to the Kingdom. This, John the Baptist had already told them (Matt. 3:11). But the Jews never understood that.

    So Jesus further explains it in verses 6 following. He compares born anew human with the wind (spirit). The question is not where it comes from or where it goes to, rather the question is how it relates to one. For Jews, Jesus was the son of Mary. So he, for them, can not have wisdom, can not be more than a person from God. To them he will end up as a man of God just as anyone else in the history of Judaism.

    Two things can be noted here.

    1, Jesus needs to be understood as someone beyond the normal ‘teacher from God'.

    2, anyone born anew is one like Jesus. Any one born anew in Jesus shares the spirit with him.

    Here we can recall the statement in the prayer of removal of crown in the sacrament of baptism in Orthodox Church found at the end of the liturgy. The priest calls the baptized one ‘a brother/ sister of the only Son of God’. The baptized one shares the spirit with Jesus.

    To continue the meditation two things need to be said.

    First, Nicodemus was the representative of the Jewish community when he came to Jesus. We need to ask whom do we represent when we approach Him with our requests and prayers?

    Second, how do we respond to the whole question of born anew?

    Regarding the first question, most of the time we represent just ourselves when we come to Jesus. We present our worries and our needs. It is not sin to do that. But to do only that is a sin.

    The priest during Holy Qurbono, from one of the ‘Sedros’ would read and say ‘I beseech you Oh Lord, pardon and forgiveness for the whole creation’. The phrase ‘whole creation’ is to be taken special note of. Only when we represent the whole creation, or in the limited circle, our neighbor, we can come before our Lord meaningfully. Because born anew is possible only in the company and in the fellowship of our brother (recall the expression of Isaiah at the temple (“Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips – 6:5. Also see the Husoyo prayer of the priest which says, ‘pardon oh Lord my many, great and countless sins and the sins of all your faithful people’).

    Newness was lost for Cain and following him a host of people as they were not mindful of their brothers. Nicodemus represented a community that had exclusive claims and was proud of its heritage, scriptures and law codes. But they could not see Messiah in Jesus because they lived in darkness. Seclusion from the rest of the world creates darkness, darkness creates lack of newness and lack of newness forbids entry in to Kingdom of God.

    To answer the second question, we need to look in to our own community. What kind of a community do we have? A community which is proud of its St. Thomas heritage; its great liturgical and theological traditions; its great fathers and its rich culture. But when newness is missing, none of these would hold value. This is to be taken very seriously.

    Of course the Orthodox Church understands Jesus’ statement about the ‘born anew of water and spirit’ as a reference to the sacrament of baptism in the Church. But Orthodox does not consider baptism as a one time event. It is a continuous process that is initiated in the act of washing in water and anointing by Holy Oil. Unless this washing and anointing happens continuously, just initiation would become meaningless.

    This is where we have almost proved to be one like Nicodemus’ community. The very words ‘change’ or ‘new’ creates lot of restlessness and anxiety in us. The great prophet Isaiah says, ‘God creates a new heaven and a new earth’ (65:17). Again the author of the book of Revelations says, ‘Jesus makes everything new’ (21:5).

    Are we new or old? Is our community a constantly being renewed community or a static one? To find an answer we may just ask our children how we are to them. They represent a new generation. How is our worship service to them? How is our community structure to them? Many times we misinterpret the term Orthodox and say things in our community can never be changed. Well that is what people of the Jewish community also argued. With a static community, entry in to the Kingdom becomes impossible according to Jesus (if that is authentic enough for us). Jesus was not talking to Nicodemus alone. He spoke that to Nicodemus once. But now he is telling us that every day. Any one listening?

    A final word. Every act of salvation is an act of creation as seen in the Bible. This is where the meaning of the phrase ‘born anew’ lies. Before every act of salvation in the Old Testament we can see the presence of either darkness (creation of woman, flight from Egypt etc.) or water (Noah, crossing of Nile, crossing of Jordan etc.).

    Same is the case in New Testament. The act of salvation in Jesus begins with a passing through the water in Jordan. At the climax, which is the crucifixion, we see darkness too. Nicodemus comes at night and there was darkness. That was a situation ripe for ‘born anew’.

    Look at the world around us, at our community. Do we see troubles, problems, unrest, in-fight and other symbols of darkness and chaos in here? Consider the time ripe for being ‘born anew’. We need to come to the presence of Jesus Christ. Ask him questions, how can it happen to us? How can we do it? Do not be adamant saying what we have is enough and what we are now is just fine.

    If there is no born anew, there is no Kingdom of God. Can we afford to lose the Kingdom of God?


    14 January 2018

    posted 12 Jan 2018, 03:24 by C S Paul   [ updated 12 Jan 2018, 03:33 ]

    14 January 2018

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    Second Sunday after Denho (Baptism of our Lord)

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    Evening

    Morning

    Before Holy Qurbana

    Holy Qurbana

    John 1:43-51New King James Version (NKJV)

    Philip and Nathanael

    43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 

    44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 

    45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

    46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

    Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

    47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”

    48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?”

    Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

    49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

    50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 

    51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

    Come and See - Assembling the Team

    by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil

    One of the key themes of Jesus' public ministry is the calling of his disciples. In today's gospel, Jesus begins this with a search for a team of inner circle of faithful disciples who would take the leadership after Jesus completes his mission. Jesus began a three year venture of leading the spiritual journey that would alter the course of human history which would stand for ever.

    The first disciple Jesus chose was Andrew. He was an ordinary man. He chose to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. His brother Peter was also chosen who was extraordinary. Peter did things in a big way. He succeeded big as well as failed big. He wrote letters that became books of the Bible named after him. Peter always stands first when the disciples are listed.

    Today's gospel talks about others who Jesus chose. Phillip was from the same town of Bethsaida as Andrew and Peter. Phillip was encountered by Jesus and later Jesus invited him to follow him.

    Phillip then went to Nathaniel to talk about the Messiah. Nathaniel's response was, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Phillip replies, "Come and see."

    Nathaniel asks this question about Nazareth when Phillip introduced him to Jesus as the prophet from Nazareth. Nazareth was not an important city for the national and religious life of Israel. It had a bad reputation in morals and religious life. Even the Galilean language had a crudeness to it. Due to these factors, Nathaniel was surprised that the Messiah would come from Nazareth or be identified with it.

    Nathaniel starts out as a doubter, but then when he encounters Jesus, he is welcomed as one who knows Jesus well. Nathaniel's doubts vanish instantly. He claims Jesus as the "Son of God" and "King of Israel." Jesus promises Nathaniel that the heaven would be opened up for him and he will be granted insight into the spiritual truth of the Kingdom of Heaven.

    This is the time for all of us to look for a healthy appraisal of ourselves -- who and what we are.

    Many of us are searching for something. It is Jesus Christ what we need. Jesus says to us, come and see - experience his presence and power. Jesus invites us to follow him for a purposeful and rewarding life. The invitation is still there. "Come and See." Jesus is the light that came to the earth to clarify our path and soul. His mission was to guide us and to let us know him. It was to show a better path full of trust, security and promises. Jesus came to redeem us from things which shaped our souls that were not quite right. He came to deliver the truth in a world of false beliefs. What we need is spiritual guidance which we cannot fill with gains in this life such as profits and plea

    7 January 2018

    posted 5 Jan 2018, 21:38 by C S Paul

    7 January 2018

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    First Sunday after Denho (Baptism of our Lord)

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday


    Evening

    Morning

    Before Holy Qurbana

    Holy Qurbana

    Matthew 4:12-22New King James Version (NKJV)

    Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry

    12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 

    13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 

    14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

       15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
    Galilee of the Gentiles:
       16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
    And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
    Light has dawned.”

    17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    Four Fishermen Called as Disciples

    18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 

    19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 

    20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

    21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 

    22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

    Turn Your Life Around

    by Rev. Fr V.V.Paulose

    Sermon for the First Sunday after Denaha

    Why are you avoiding and losing the eternal bliss that is knocking at your door?

    "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the kingdom of Heaven is near." (Mathew 4:7)

    Repentance is the core message in the Bible. We are not destined to live in unhappiness. Happiness is the birthright of all human beings. Once it was snatched from the hands of Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden, the place for eternal bliss and joy by the Devil, the father of darkness, which led to tears, sins and eternal death. From that moment onwards, our eternal Father is in search of fugitives who seek happiness and is never tired of it. He is still carrying the pot of bliss ever ready to give it to the seekers of happiness.

    He is calling us to change our present unhealthy and unhappy way of life and to follow the way of Jesus' life, a life of abundance that He had brought. Repent the life inflicting sins in the way of your life, it may be small or great, like a simple lie to your partner, the money you spend for drinks and the grave sin like unfaithfulness to your partner.

    Cain was angry with God, himself, and his brother Abel when God did not accept his gift. So God asked him, "Why are you so angry and why do you look so dejected?" (Genesis 4:6). God explained, suggested and gave him the chance to correct his mistake. Jesus told Cain, "Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master." (Genesis 4:7). But, instead of turning away from the sinful life, he closed the door of repentance. Instead of turning to Christ, he closed the door at Jesus. Then, out of anger and frustration, he went outside and killed his brother. Once and for all, Cain lost the joy, beauty, and dignity of life.

    How do you react when someone suggests you that you are not living a good life? Do you move to correct the mistake or deny that you need to correct it? The next time someone suggests that you are wrong, take an honest look at yourself and choose God's way instead of the Devil's way.

    Nina, a bright, intelligent and beautiful girl of 17 got admission for computer engineering in a reputed college in a metropolitan city. She was mesmerized and got swayed by the new atmosphere in the college. She started dating attractive boys and lost all interest in studying. When the parents found out that she had crossed all possible limits, they even warned her with dire consequences, but all was in vain. She failed in all the subjects for the first two years. She became depressed and lost all interests in life, and even started hating her parents. At last, the prayers, counseling and help from her relatives convinced her that she was wrong and she repented. She discontinued her studies in that college and joined another college away from the city to forget her past and start afresh. She is doing well and is one of the best students in the college. Now, she seeks advice from her parents and relatives when required. She even takes tuitions to pay her fees and is also a good counselor for the young, even in spiritual matters.

    There is no short cut or quick fix for happiness when living a bad life, a full turnaround is the only solution for your salvation and eternal happiness. Jesus is standing here, with a smiling loving face and saying through His scriptures, "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

    31 December 2017

    posted 29 Dec 2017, 08:26 by C S Paul

    31 December 2017

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    First Sunday after Yeldo (Christmas)

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    4And the Child grew and became strong in spirit,[a] filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

    The Boy Jesus Amazes the Scholars

    41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 

    42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 

    43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother[b] did not know it; 

    44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 

    45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 

    46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 

    47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 

    48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”

    49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

    Jesus Advances in Wisdom and Favor

    51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

    The perfection of Jesus Christ in every age

    by HG Mathews Mar Barnabas Metropolitan

    The perfection of Jesus Christ in every age

    We find the perfection of Jesus Christ for His age at the age of twelve. This is a lesson for us to be perfect in every age.

    Every Jew was expected to obey all the commandments of God and accordingly he had to attend the festival of Passover. 

    Walking two days’ journey Jesus went from Nazareth to Jerusalem, along with His mother Mary and other relatives. After the festival, they all returned to Nazareth. But the child Jesus stayed on, as a result of His intimate piety. 

    He was attracted by worship and the opportunity to learn in the temple. As Jesus was found missing, St. Mary had to go back to Jerusalem in search of Him. He gave the right answer why He continued in the temple. 

    The temple was the house of God and it was His duty to be there. Are we the followers of Christ attracted by the worship and Bible study? To be perfect we have to follow the example of our Lord from early age.

    Jesus Christ made the better choice to be in the temple of God. But when St. Mary His mother wanted Him to follow her to Nazareth, He simply obeyed without any argument. Do we obey our dear ones without any questions and arguments?

    Jesus continued in a life of obedience to the heavenly Father all His life. He was obedient unto his death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). This obedience was just the opposite of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

    Let us abide in Jesus Christ and become as obedient as He was and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

    24 December 2017

    posted 22 Dec 2017, 18:10 by C S Paul   [ updated 22 Dec 2017, 18:14 ]

    24 December 2017

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    Sunday before Christmas

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    Evening

    Morning

    Before Holy Qurbana

    Holy Qurbana

    Matthew 1:1-17New King James Version (NKJV)

    The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

    The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

    Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 

    Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 

    Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 

    Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 

    and Jesse begot David the king.

    David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

    Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 

    Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 

    Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 

    10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon,[c]and Amon begot Josiah. 

    11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

    12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 

    13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 

    14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 

    16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

    17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ arefourteen generations.

    A Suspicious Blood-Line 

    by Rev. Adrian Dieleman

    Introduction

    Mr. & Mrs. Stewart of Louisville, Kentucky received a microwave oven one Christmas from their son. They were so excited that now they, too, could be part of the instant generation. Mr. Stewart unpacked the microwave and plugged it in. Literally, within seconds, the microwave transformed two smiles into frowns! Even after reading the directions, they couldn't make it work.

    Now two days later Mrs. Stewart was playing bridge with a friend and confessed her inability to get that microwave oven to even boil water. "To get this thing to work," she exclaimed, "I really don't need better directions; I just need my son to come along with the gift!"

    Does this sound familiar? Many people have similar problems with VCRs, camcorders, CD players, computers, and electronic clocks in cars or bedrooms. A number of weeks ago Bill Drennon spent over six hours on the phone taking people step by step through fixing up their computer. Like Mrs. Stewart, they need their kids to show them how the stuff works.

    In this season of Advent we want to celebrate that when God gave the gift of salvation, He didn't send a booklet of complicated instructions for us to figure out. Instead, He sent His Son.

    On this second Sunday of Advent I want to look again at the family tree of Jesus. This morning, however, I want to pay special attention to the ladies, the women, in the family tree of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah (we know her as Bathsheba), and Mary.

    You should know that women are not normally mentioned in Jewish genealogies. And, when we look at the genealogies of the Old Testament, we see that Rahab is never connected with the line of David. So why did Matthew place her in the line of David and Jesus? In fact, why are any of the women included in Matthew's list? What is his point?

    As we will find out, these five women help us to understand why God sent His Son to take on human flesh.

    I Jesus Came for Sinners

    A The five ladies – like a lot of the men that are also listed – remind Matthew's audience that Jesus came for sinners. To a greater or lesser extent the five women have a reputation as sinners.

    You can read about Tamar in Genesis 38. It is not a nice story. A couple of months after Tamar's husband died she pretended to be a prostitute. In this disguise she fooled her father-in-law to go to bed with her and got pregnant by him. Though Tamar was a seducer and pretend prostitute Matthew includes her in the family tree of Jesus.

    Rahab we should all know about from the story of Joshua. We can read about her in Joshua 2 & 6. She is the prostitute who hid the two spies Joshua sent to Jericho. We are told nothing of Rahab's union with Salmon, the man who became her husband. But knowing her occupation we can only assume she snared him with her body. Though Rahab was a prostitute Matthew includes her too in the family tree of Jesus.

    Ruth we can read about in the book that bears her name. She was a Moabite. You need to know that the Moabites were the result of the sexual union between Lot and his oldest daughter (Gen 39:30-37). The Israelites had nothing but contempt for the Moabites because they had their origins in incest and considered their offspring impure to the tenth generation (Deut 23:3). Furthermore, Ruth was very forward and perhaps a little improper in the way she pursued Boaz at the barley pile while he was under the influence of alcohol. Though Ruth was an aggressive Moabite Matthew includes her too in the family tree of Jesus.

    Matthew identifies the fourth woman as "Uriah's wife." Her name was Bathsheba. You can read about her in 2 Samuel 11. She was the woman who committed adultery with King David and got pregnant and then permitted David to have her husband killed. Also, she plotted to put Solomon on the throne after David's death. Though Bathsheba was an adulteress and an accessory to murder Matthew includes her too in the family tree of Jesus.

    Finally, we have to consider Mary, the mother of Jesus. She got pregnant under suspicious circumstances. Yes, she was engaged to be married, but she and Joseph were not yet living together as husband and wife. In fact, it was known that Joseph was not the cause of her pregnancy.

    B Suppose you have a cousin who is the president of Calvin Seminary or in Bill Clinton's cabinet. Chances are that you will proudly mention this on some occasion. But let's say your cousin is a convicted murderer. Chances are you would probably be kind of quiet about this.

    Matthew, in contrast to us, is brutally honest about the family tree of Jesus. Under the leading of the Spirit he included five ladies of ill repute in the lineage of Jesus. These five women – like a lot of the men that are also listed – may be seen as a blot on the purity of the Messiah but the LORD is not embarrassed by their reputation. In fact, He was not ashamed to pose with them all for a picture that would be spread out on the first page of the New Testament.

    Look at it this way: with these five ladies in His family tree we see Christ taking on sinful flesh. Or, as the Apostle Paul puts it,

    (2 Cor 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    In the five ladies Christ identifies with us in our sin and misery, our darkness and death so that we can identify with Him in His righteousness and life. In the five ladies Christ became one with fallen humanity so we can become one with Him in God.

    I read about a grandfather who found his grandson jumping up and down in his playpen, crying at the top of his voice. When Johnnie saw his grandfather, he reached up his chubby little hands and said, "Out, Grandpa, out."

    It was only natural for the grandfather to reach down to lift him out, but as he did the mother of the child stepped up and said, "No, Johnnie, you are being punished -- so you must stay in."

    The grandfather was at a loss to know what to do. The child's tears and chubby hands reached deep into his heart. But the mother's firmness in correcting her son must not be taken lightly. Love, however, found a way. The grandfather could not take the grandson out of the playpen, so he climbed in with him.

    My brothers and sisters, that is what Christ did with us at Christmas. In taking on sinful flesh He climbed in with us.

    This coming week we are asked to prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper. As we do so, let us remember that we are sinners, that Jesus took on our sinful flesh, that Jesus identifies with us in our sin and misery.

    II Christ Came for Gentiles

    A The four Old Testament ladies also remind Matthew's audience that Jesus came not just for Jews but for Gentiles too. To a greater or lesser extent the four Old Testament women represent the Gentile nations.

    Consider the four women again. According to the pre-Christian Book of Jubilees (41:1) Tamar was an Aramean. We know that Rahab was a Canaanite. Ruth was a Moabite. And Bathsheba was identified as the wife of Uriah the Hittite. The four ladies show us that foreigners, Gentiles, are included in the genealogy of the Messiah.

    B Here we get a picture of the inclusive ministry of Christ. No one is outside of the family of Christ simply because of race, nationality, or country. Red and yellow, black and white, all are included in the Gospel ministry, all have a place in His mission.

    Here is the assurance that if foreign women can be included in Jesus' family, then you and I can be included too. Our past makes no difference to the Lord. Nor does the purity of our blood-line. He cares not if we grew up Dutch or Christian Reformed or Roman Catholic or white. Jesus' family tree shows us that there is room for every kind of person in His family.

    When Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes moved to Washington, D.C., to take up his duties as chief justice, he transferred his membership to a church in the area. Now, it was the custom in that church for all new members to be called to the front of the sanctuary at the close of the worship service. The first to be called was Ah Sing, a Chinese laundryman who had moved to the capital from the West coast. He took his place at the far side of the church. As the dozen or so other people were called forward they stood at the opposite side of the church, leaving Ah Sing standing alone. But when Chief Justice Hughes was called, he took his place beside the Chinese laundryman.

    Chief Justice Hughes put into practice what the family tree of Jesus shows us: that there is room for every kind of person in the family of God.

    As we prepare for the Lord's Supper let us make sure that we believe in Jesus so that we also are part of His family tree.

    III The Faithful Providence of God

    A Lastly, the five ladies also remind Matthew's audience of God's faithful providence from age to age.

    Look again at the five ladies: Tamar, a seducer, a pretend prostitute, an Aramean; Rahab, a prostitute, a Canaanite; Ruth, an accursed Moabite; Bathsheba, an adulteress, married to a Hittite; Mary, a single woman, and pregnant.

    In these ladies we see God using the unexpected to advance His Kingdom and further His plan of salvation. God triumphed over human obstacles, human sin, and human lust to bring about the birth of the Messiah. God used prostitutes, scheming women, adulterers, and a virgin to bring Jesus into the world. God intervened in human history.

    This means nothing can stop the Messiah's coming or coming again: not human might, not human sin, not human custom or rules. God does what He has to so that the Messiah appears.

    B The genealogy of Jesus teaches us that the only way we can get from Tamar to Rahab to Ruth to Bathsheba to Mary to Jesus is because of God's providence. The birth of Jesus Christ from this suspicious blood-line is evidence of God's planning. When it comes right down to it, the genealogy is not a record of man's biological productivity, but a demonstration of God's providence. The genealogy of Jesus, we can say, reflects the faithful working out of God's plan of salvation in history.


    17 December 2017

    posted 15 Dec 2017, 03:47 by C S Paul

    17 December 2017

    Scripture reading and Sermon

    Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

    Revelation to St. Joseph

    Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    Evening

    Morning

    Before Holy Qurbana

    Holy Qurbana

    Matthew 1:18-25New King James Version (NKJV)

    Christ Born of Mary

    18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 

    19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 

    20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 

    21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

    22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 

    23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

    24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 

    25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.And he called His name Jesus.

    Devotional Thoughts for Annunciation to Joseph

    by Rev. Fr. Prof. Kurien Daniel

    We are at the threshold of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Holy church entered into a holy fast, which leads us to that wonderful event. This week's thoughts deal with the revelation to Joseph regarding the holistic nature of the consummation of Mary.

    It is interesting to note that there are twelve Josephs in the pages of Holy Bible. And all of them are good examples. Here Joseph in today’s text is a person betrothed to Mary. He was a carpenter living in Nazareth and was a Davidic descend. Holy Bible testifies him as a righteous man (St. Mathew 1:19). His righteousness is vividly exposed on three reasons:

    1. Obliged by law:

    According to the mosaic law, betrothal involves the same commitment as marriage. As soon as he learned that Mary was with child before they came together as husband and wife, Joseph was minded to put her away. He considered the pregnancy of his betrothed as a violation of Divine laws.

    2. Filled by mercy:

    We read so in the Bible "then Joseph, her husband being a just man and not wanting to make her a public example was minded to put her away secretly" (St Mathew 1:19). Since Joseph was a religious good man he poured out divine mercy and compassion towards a guilty person. He inclined to be merciful as God is. As one that was forgiven Joseph was ready to forgive.

    3. Guided by revelation:

    "behold an angel of Lord appeared to him in dream saying "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife for that which is conceived in her is of the holy spirit". (Mathew 1:20). At a situation of perplexity Joseph is guided from heaven. God graciously directed him what to do. God came in with advice when he was ready to carry the matter to God almighty. That was the turning point. He made her his wife, went with Mary wherever his presence was needed.

    It is written in the Holy Bible "Joseph aroused from sleep" (Mathew 1:24). Yes he aroused and obeyed the words of God. We also need an awakening to become aware of the present needs.

    1-10 of 312