SUNDAY SERMON




SUNDAY SERMON

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

Syrian Orthodox Church

10 November 2019

posted 9 Nov 2019, 06:04 by C S Paul

10 November 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Hoodosh Eetho - Dedication/Renewal of Church
The Sunday after Koodhosh Eetho is called Hoodhosh Eetho (Dedication of Church) Sunday.

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Luke 19:47-20:8 New King James Version (NKJV)

47 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, 

48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.

Jesus’ Authority Questioned

Luke20 :1 Noit happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him 

and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”

But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: 

The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 

But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” 

So they answered that they did not know where it was from.

And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus is God incarnate and his kingdom transcends the petty concerns of this world

by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius

Many of us want others say what we want to hear. Same was the case between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Jesus’ talk about a new world and a new regime gave the people hopes about history repeated in political scenario. They had the sweet memory of Judas Maccabeus overthrowing the unholy regime of Antiochius Ephiphanes and establishing a Hasamonian Kingdom in Jerusalem in 165 BCE (Antiochius had defiled the temple by offering pigs on the altar of burnt offering).

But Jesus’ interest was not on political power, rather on people and their lives. This is what the leaders of his community failed to understand not only during Jesus’ time but even today.

The gospel reading for the second Sunday of the Orthodox Liturgical Calendar, the Hoodos Itho Sunday (Establishment of the Church), comes from the gospel according to St. John 10:22 to 38. This text talks about the unrealistic expectation of the Jewish leaders and Jesus’ response to that. But for us today it talks about the foundation of the community of Christ. That foundation is: ‘Jesus is God incarnate and his kingdom transcends the petty concerns of this world’ (John 18:36).

People of Jesus’ time wanted to hear a war cry, a cry to organize themselves against the Romans and a call to establish Jewish monarchy in Jerusalem. Jesus was less concerned of who ruled the nation, rather of which all principles governed the people’s lives. He very well knew that even the so called ‘monarchy of David established by God’ did not care so much for the people. So the kingdom was divided in two (1 Sam. 8:4 ff.). Later both nations ceased to exist and people had to go in to exile (Ps. 137). Even when they came back they did not have any caring ruler to govern them. During the Roman period, if the religious leaders wanted, they could have given a better leadership in the community. Lack of political independence was only an excuse for the religious leaders to give a lousy leadership. If they had given the political leadership too, they would have made the people suffer even more. The leaders were concerned of strengthening their hold among the people through political authority.

According to Jesus, religious leaders had to, on the one hand be studying the word of God and on the other hand relate it to the events around them. If they had done that, Jesus was sure, they would have seen the work of God in Jesus. They could have also seen a quality difference between what Moses and the prophets did in the name of God and what Jesus did with authority. This was enough to help the leaders see that Jesus was truly the word of God in flesh. On the contrary they relied on their own wrong understanding of God which was guided by political and institutional interests. For them, God was too transcendent that he cannot manifest himself in human form. They failed to see the witness of their own scripture which addressed humans as gods (Ps. 82:6). The fathers of the Orthodox Church assert that ‘God became human that humans may become one like God’. Of course there is a quality difference between God becoming human and humans becoming one like God. To the Jewish leaders Messiah should be one who liberates people politically. For them political independence would help bring religious and spiritual independence. But Old Testament prophets are strong witnesses to the contrary. Work of God in history never primarily aimed at establishing political leaders, rather was interested in organizing people under God’s caring and protecting banner. It was to that goal God established kings over Israel from Israel and from outside (cf. Cyrus. Isa. 45:1). During Jesus’ time religious leaders in Jerusalem enjoyed considerable amount of freedom to take care of the community affairs if they wanted. But they used it only to cater to their own vested interests.

To come back to the original statement, the people wanted to hear from Jesus a call to establish a new political regime. But as Jesus said before Pilot, ‘his kingdom was not of this world’ (This does not mean that he was not concerned of this world at all. The truth is to the contrary [John 17:15]. Here by the word ‘world’ Jesus meant what is ‘material’ guided by petty interests). Jesus while was the king of peace brought not passive peace in to the world (Matt. 10:34 ff.). Jesus was talking about a division between those who would accept the teaching of Jesus and those who would not. To those who negatively respond to him, the message of Jesus was disturbing. This disturbing message made them angry and they wanted to put Jesus to death. Gospel message should always be disturbing to the effect that it should make us think of our lives and its ways.

This needs to be put in to perspective in our own situation. Christians these days more and more want to hear what is called ‘prosperity’ or ‘comfort’ gospel. Yes Gospel is comforting. But not the way we usually understand it. Comfort can come only through a proper understanding of the word of God and a correction brought in the life style. Today our concept of Messiah is guided by our concern for better education, lucrative career, lavish spending on material processions and an acceptance by everyone. To us, blessing of God can be translated in to ‘experience of prosperity and success’. We pray to God for all these thinking that they are the symbols of God’s blessing. Yes they are gifts of God, but God does not give them to one over against another. He cares for everyone while we care for only for ourselves. The leaders of the Jewish community of Jesus’ time were not concerned of the welfare and freedom of the people when they wanted to have political freedom. They wanted to widen their power and authority over the people through political independence.

God from the very beginning was trying to liberate his creation, particularly humans from all kinds of limitations and was working with them all the way up to make them able to enjoy fullness of the benefit of ‘form and likeness of God’. Though humans through the initial act of trespass set the pace in reverse order, God continued to work in human history to liberate them. To that end God provided them with new possibilities. The last and final possibility was His own son Jesus Christ. But for the leaders of the community the work of God got frozen in a point in history and claimed that what all Moses gave were the end of God’s work. They wanted to hear only what they understood as Moses said. As a matter of fact what Moses proclaimed was what he heard from God. God revealed to Moses only what he could understand under the circumstance. Here is God’s son trying to convey what God really meant. To Jesus God wanted to lead them to greater heights in relation to God and one another. That can happen only if they followed Jesus and his purpose.

What Jesus said was disturbing to them. It was on this disturbing reality that Jesus wanted to establish his community. What do we think of our foundation of our faith? We need to think what we want to hear from a preacher of the Gospel? Most of the times we wish to hear comforting words. But comfort is not the starting point. Comfort and satisfaction in life is the sum total of a life that walks with Jesus through all those difficult moments to overcome them. Resurrection comes after physical suffering and death. But Jewish leaders were not ready to accept this. They wanted to hear that the day of political victory is near and that Jesus was going to lead them to that goal. They wanted to destroy everything contrary to their expectation. They picked stones to throw at Jesus to kill him. They thought they were acting according to the Law of Moses (Lev. 24:16) where as in fact they were acting just against the spirit of the Law of Moses. They did not know that even God had made a human being (Moses) god to another human being (Aron. See Ex. 4:16; 7:1). One becomes god to another for the purpose of liberating the other. They read only certain parts of the law which catered to their own needs (we do that all the time!).

By one becoming god to another, he/she is following the path of Jesus with in a liberative mission. Jesu Christ established the Church established that it may become god to God’s creation or to be a liberative agent in the world. Jesus asked them to judge him by his works. The question is, can any one of us who claim to be child of God say, ‘judge me by my work’? Can we as a Church challenge the world by saying ‘judge us by our works?’ It is on this challenge the Church of Christ is judged by the world.

3 November 2019

posted 2 Nov 2019, 07:04 by C S Paul

3 November 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Koodosh E'atho - Sanctification of Church

The Sunday that comes on of after October 30th is called Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church) Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendars

Mark 8:27-33 New King James Version (NKJV)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”

28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

30 Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 

32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 

33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Meditation for Koodos Itho Sunday And the Memorial Feast of

 Mor Gregorios of Parumala

by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius, Trichur

November 2nd is a very important day in the life of the members of our church. That is the day we observe the death anniversary of Saint Mar Gregorios of Paumala. This day also happens to be the first day of the year, the Khoodos Itho Sunday according to our liturgical calendar.

The text for the day comes from St. Matthew 16:13-23. This passage talks about God's revelation to Peter about who Jesus was and Peter's confession. Jesus further tells Peter that this Messianic secret should not be shared with any one. The reason being people will not understand what is exactly meant by the title "Son of God." On the one hand the very idea of God having a Son is quite unfamiliar and blasphemous to the Jewish community and any talk about that would invite untimely opposition and controversy. Jesus wanted to save this till the end of His earthly life.

Then again the term Messiah which God revealed to Peter and that Peter spelt out was a title which could be misunderstood by people for another reason. People in fact were waiting for a Messiah to come and save them from the Romans. Further they had a different notion about the personality of Messiah. Most of them were expecting a political authority who will liberate Israel from Rome. Some of them were expecting a priestly Messiah. But they were few in number and most of them were in the Jewish monasteries. So Jesus wanted to keep the revealed truth about Him just for among the disciples.

Jesus had an entirely different idea about Himself and His mission as the Son of God and Messiah. He considered Himself as "the Suffering Servant," Isaiah (in chapters 41 ff.) talked about, who would lay His life for the sake of others. He wanted His life to be one for others. He said, "Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and lay His life for many as a ransom" (Matt. 20:28). So He wanted to live His life for others.

When Jesus asked His disciples to "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19) it includes the command that we should do things Jesus did and the purpose He served. The Last Supper contains all the saving work Jesus did for our sake. So as Christians we need to do the work He did, not to die but to live a life for others.

Parumala Mar Gregorios Thirumeni lived the life of a true Christian. He lived his life for his flock. That is the reason we consider him a saint. Because he considered his life as a life for others, we come before him for intercession on our behalf.

The supplication St. Mary put before Jesus clearly tells us of the way of every saint before our Lord. She said, "they have no wine" (John 2:3). She was not concerned of her need, rather of the need of others. Parumala Thirumeni lived such a caring life and we know that well enough. We come before him as his devotees and his flock or children. When he presents us before our Lord he, like St. Mary did, asks us to "do just as He wants you to do" (John 2:5). Parumala thirumeni will be asking us to follow his life in this world because that is what our Lord asks us to do. He said, "I give a new commandment, you love one another" (John 13:34). What is required of us as Christians is to be caring for others.

There are two reasons we are to be caring, one because our Lord has asked us to, and two because our saint lived such a life and we are to follow him as his children. He cares for us and we need to care for others. We come and present various prayers for intercession before Parumala Thirumeni, for our own needs, the needs of our children, for the situation prevailing, for our families, for the things that worries us, regarding what we hope to have in our lives, about our financial crises, about our health concerns and about so many other things.

My question today is, "have we ever presented before the saint that he may request God to make us a caring person?" We pray for our children that they may be successful in education, in career, in their family life etc. Have we ever prayed that he may pray that God will make them caring children of God? Of course we may have, that they care for their parents and relatives. But just as Thirumeni did, or as our Lord did, to be a caring person for every one he or she may meet. If we do that, on the one hand Thirumeni will be much happier about us and on a second note the world will be a better place for every one to live in.

When we stand in Parumala at the holy tomb of Parumala Mar Gregorios Thirumeni or where ever we may live and seek his intercession this year, can this be one of our prayers? "Thirumeni please pray for me that God may make me/ my husband, my wife/ my son/ my daughter/ my brother/my sister ... a caring a person not just for me, but for God's whole creation! Can this be a challenge this year for us to spread. Many of us spread the "ice bucket challenge". Some in Kerala made "one tree challenge". I challenge all of you to make an intercession before Parumala Thirumeni at his tomb, or at their own homes or anywhere they like, that he may pray to God that one of that person's relative or friend may take this challenge.


27 October 2019

posted 26 Oct 2019, 05:58 by C S Paul

27 October 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Seventh Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Matthew 5:21-26 New King James Version (NKJV)

Murder Begins in the Heart

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 

22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 

23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 

24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 

25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 

26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

If God Were Truly In Charge

by John Jewell

"Why does it have to be like this?"

The woman's grief was heavy -- thick. You could feel it as she spoke through her tears. We were walking away from the graveside of her 25 year old son who had been killed in a hunting accident. Her eldest daughter had been killed by a drunk driver two years earlier. The remaining daughter had moved back home with her two young children a month earlier when her husband disappeared with his new found "soul mate". With a large mortgage and no employment, she had no choice but to move back home with her mother.

Is it any wonder she asked, "Why does it have to be like this?"

Certainly you -- or someone very close to you has asked the same question in one form or another. Why is there anger -- and cheating -- and violence -- and hatred? And how about stupidity? Drunk driving is just plain stupid! Why do people have to die because other people are so stupid as to attempt control of a 2000 pound missile while incapacitated?

The answer to why things are the way they are is rather amazing. The reason things are the way they are is that God made the incredible decision to place something as precious as human life into the hands of humans!

As pastors, we hear the woman's question in this form, "Why couldn't an all powerful God have created a perfect world without all this pain and anguish?"

The answer to that, of course, is, "God did create a perfect world. The problem is -- if you read the bible, the perfect world which was created lasted for about two and a half pages."

Why?

Because God made the unthinkable decision to place the world and human life into the hands of humans!

Stay with me now. Here's the key to understanding why things are the way they are and how they can be the way God wants them to be. "God has placed the world and human life into the hands of humans so that they might place them back into the hands of God!"

If God were truly in charge, if we could embrace the love of God for us -- and love God back -- and extend that love to others -- the world would be a different place. Idealistic? Yes! Radical? Absolutely! Possible? It might not look like it, but God really does break through in surrendered, committed, individual lives here and there. And when that happens there is at least a temporary outbreak of the kingdom of God!

And you know something people -- perhaps we need God to fill our hearts with courage and expectation so that we can embrace the fact that Jesus Christ has indeed called us to a radical way of living! If we will allow ourselves to be confronted by the Spirit of God in the words of Jesus in the reading from Matthew, we can discover that when broken hearted people ask, "Why does it have to be this way?" we can honestly answer, "It doesn't !" But... there is a certain transformation that needs to take place if we are to "get there from here" as they say. Our scripture readings point to three factors that can help. We might talk about these three factors in terms of:
1) Beyond the Law - Hitting the Wall,
2) Loving God Means Life, and
3) Grace for the Power to Change.

1. Beyond the Law - Hitting the Wall

In Jesus day, a good, religious, God fearing person, would do all they could to keep the law of Moses and even the interpretation of those laws by rabbis which were held in high regard. The Pharisees almost made a profession of strict law keeping. They felt that if everyone would strictly observe religious law, the world would be a better place. And as true as that sentiment might be -- it simply didn't work! Jesus, on more than one occasion, pointed out that the law keepers of his day usually missed the point of God's law. In fact, Mark tells us Jesus became angry at a group of Pharisees who were more concerned about the details of law keeping than they were about the hurt and anguish of a crippled man as he writes, "He {Jesus} looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart..." [Mark 3:5]

In the reading from Matthew, Jesus says in effect, "Look... do you think the Pharisees and scribes take the law seriously... that they are religious? Let me tell you something, you've got to do way better then the Pharisees and all the outwardly religious folks you know or you will never know what it is like to live in a world where God is truly in charge!"

Then he launched into six examples of how he wanted his followers to do better than the Pharisees. Six examples that would leave them standing speechless! And if we listen closely, they will leave us speechless. Listen:

1. "Call someone a fool and you'll go to hell!"
2. "If you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you've committed adultery... you would be better off to rip out your eye!"
3. "The ancients allowed men to divorce -- I say, NO DIVORCE!"
4. "Don't take any oaths -- you shouldn't have to -- if you love God, your word is good!"
5. "Forget about getting even with people, if someone hits you on the right cheek -- offer him the other cheek!"
6. "If this isn't sinking in, try this -- love your enemies and pray for those who use you!"

"Is he serious?" No doubt they wondered. I can relate -- can't you? Can you imagine the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the United States (Canada, England etc.) declare that as a Christian, he was going to base his policies on Jesus' words in Matthew 5:44 "...I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." ? He would be sent to "sick bay" and then likely given an "Honorable Discharge - Special Circumstances."

What's your reaction to Jesus' words? I have to confess that I share in some of the "jaw dropping" that must have taken place that day. But, just in case people began to look for "wiggle room", Jesus drove home the last nail.

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

This should be sufficient to cause us to hit the wall in a spiritual sense!. This is all God wants from you. Perfection! In other words Jesus takes the discussion way beyond law keeping. We have to do much more than simply keep a few religious laws and observe a few religious practices. We are confronted with the reality that a power beyond us will have to take charge!

2. Loving God Means Life

The fact that God has placed the world and human life back into the hands of human beings sounds like a rather far fetched idea -- to say nothing of risky, but there is a central principle of relationships in this. Without the ability to choose, there can be no real love. I can love you only if there is a choice. Even God's love comes as the result of a choice. Moses explained to Israel, "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples..." [Deut. 7:7 NASB] The lectionary reading from Deuteronomy makes it clear that to love God is to choose God and to choose to live in the ways God sets out for us. This choice is so powerful and so determinative of the outcome of our lives that Moses can say this is literally a "life and death" choice. To choose to love God is to choose life!¹

The most amazing "love choice" God ever made is the one almost every Christian person who has ever lived can recite, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." [John 3:16 NASB] Accordingly, the greatest choice a human being can make is to return that amazing love. Jesus says exactly that in Matthew 22:37 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

In our reading from Deuteronomy, Moses said, "Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you..." [Deut. 30:19-20] It is when we choose to trust the Son that we have life instead of death. However, this love relationship with God is something we can also choose to turn away from. Moses warms the people that if they turn their hearts away from God, they will perish."

We are faced with a problem. Jesus' words are all but impossible to keep and the love for God Moses enjoins seems beyond the reach of most of us. So -- where to from here?

3. Grace for the Power to Change

How can we ever come close to honoring -- much less practicing Jesus' words? What is the power that can help us change?

Perhaps the words of Paul in the epistle reading can help. Here's a rephrasing of what he said to the Corinthian church. (And trust me... the church at Corinth was a very earthy, messed up bunch! ² ) "I couldn't really talk to you in spiritual terms because you are so earthbound. You are so hooked into this world that you don't 'get it' when it comes to spiritual things. We can talk all we want, but only God can really bring about spiritual growth."

In order to make any spiritual gains, we will need to be open to the fullness of the love of God in our lives.

Wait now! Don't let that slip by too quickly. Think about this with me. [Take this slowly and give a few seconds for folk to reflect on what you are saying.]

Are you aware of the depth of God's love for you? Have you allowed the fullness of the love of Christ to penetrate your soul?

It is only the deep love and grace of God that can give us the power to see the world and the people in our lives with spiritual eyes. It is the love of God that brings sufficient healing to the pain and anguish of our lives -- and allows us to let the "perfect" love of God come through our lives for others.

To be perfect -- as God is perfect, is not so much a matter of keeping the law of God as it is embracing the love of God. Once you have embraced the love of God you can let it go -- to others.

This takes us back to the woman's original question. "Why does it have to be like this?" The answer is, "It doesn't!"

If you will open your life up to the fullness of God's love for you, and if you will allow your life to be filled with love for God -- then you will gain the courage to live for God in the tiny corner of the planet that is yours. Perhaps others of us will do the same and this healing love will touch someone near by. Perhaps a few changed lives will touch other lives. And God willing -- one less person will die at the hands of a drunk driver -- and perhaps one more family will stay together. One life at a time, we can make a difference. One candle at a time, we can light the darkness.

Can you and I be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect? Certainly not -- but we can allow a perfect God more room in our imperfect lives. Then we will catch at least a glimpse of what it would be like if God were truly in charge!

20 October 2019

posted 19 Oct 2019, 03:26 by C S Paul

20 October 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Sixth Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler

18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 

20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ 

21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”

22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

With God All Things Are Possible

24 And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 

25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?”

27 But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

Forsaking Everything and Following Christ

by Very Rev. Dr. P. S. Samuel Cor-Episcopa, NY

A rich young ruler approaches Jesus asking Him “What shall I do to inherit Eternal Life?

The Gospel portions for Sunday reading is from St. Luke 18:18-27 for Holy Qurbana, St.Mathew,19:13-26 for Evening prayer and St.Mark.10:17-27, for Morning prayer. All these portions give the same incident/story of the rich young man. There are only slight variations. But the theme is the same based on the above question.

Mathew and Mark say, a young man, approached Jesus; Luke says, ”a certain ruler”, a rich Pharisee. We see a similar story in St. John. Here it is an old rich Pharisee, Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the night asking the same question. Here our Lord’s answer is slightly different at first sight. Again in the sixth Chapter of St. John, there is another way which our Lord gives us to inherit eternal life. (Jn. Ch 6: discourse on the Bread of life) These are specific ways by which we may inherit Eternal life; by sacramental life, of Baptism or new Birth and H. Qurbana participation and by forsaking everything and following Christ.

In today's reading, the last means is clearly emphasized. The young man’s question is, how do I inherit eternal life? Or how am I to be saved? Or how do I go to heaven? This is an ever present quest. All humans have asked this question in many ways. All religions focus on this vital question and our Lord gives one suggestion and leaves it to the individual or the community to make the choice and the decision. Here the suggestion or answer given is to this particular young man and in his special circumstances. We are expected to learn from this instance and direct our lives accordingly. Our Lord’s prescription is “Observe the ten Commandments.” Remember, in another place our Lord mentions the essence of these Commandments ( Mark 12:29-31. “Love God and love your neighbor.”), neighbor here means our fellow human beings.

Now, what do we mean by love? Love is divine. God is love. “God so loved the world, He gave----" Love implies “giving”, not withholding any thing. Or not keeping anything to oneself. It means sacrificial giving. This is what Mother Theresa said, “give, until it hurts.” Look at Jesus commending the widow who gave all she had to the Lord. It really hurt her, but she did not hold back. This is sacrificial love. We all give from our abundance, we give tithes, a tenth of what we have been given by God and we think we are doing something great! Godly love implies much more and expects and even demands much more.

Now look at the rich young man. Jesus demanded something from this young fellow, which he did not demand from the old rich man Nicodemus! May be God expects different things from different people, depending on their circumstances and values. Now look at the answer he gives to Jesus “From my childhood I have observed all the commandments." It is true that he was practicing virtue. He was a ‘good man’ very careful about all the prescribed observances and hence he was proud to be a practicing Jewish leader.

He is not the only one feeling proud about observances. We all are. Real Orthodox Christians,church goers, living what we believe to be virtuous lives. But Jesus looked at him. The evangelist says, Jesus loved him.

We see in the gospels many occasions when Jesus looked at people. These have been turning points in peoples’ lives. There were instances when His look turned out to be when he felt compassion. He joined them in their suffering and suffered with them and healed them. Or wept with them. On other occasions like when he was being questioned in the High Priest’s palace, His penetrating look shook Peter and helped him to repent and be saved from destruction.

This time Jesus looked at him (the rich ruler) with love. It was a sort of X- ray, scanning him deep into his own life and self. Jesus found a spot, a dark spot in him which betrayed him. Our Lord, the eternal physician, diagnosed his malady that kept him away from possessing eternal life. The young man’s idolatry. He had another god. He was worshipping ‘mammon’, wealth, riches, with which God had blessed him.

Jesus told him, young man “You lack one thing, Go and sell what you have, distribute the proceeds to the poor” ( the sick, the homeless, the orphans, the marginalized, the hungry, the poorest of the poor) “and come and follow me.”

This was too much for him. He was quite comfortable in his belief that he was leading a good life. The words were thunder in his ears. Lightning flashed before his eyes. It shattered his peace and hope. His pretest that he loved God and his fellow beings by observing the Law as he understood it, became a nightmare for him. His inner self was exposed and he without saying a word, felt ashamed, left Jesus and the possibility of inheriting heaven.

The disciples and other followers wondered at the sight of a loveable rich ruler, a good man, moving away from the Light into the Darkness with all his riches intact, like a dead man walking, by his own tragic choice. He was a very rich man and did not want to part with his wealth. So he went away feeling sorry. And Jesus watched him go.

This is a powerful story. Let us take a few moments to ponder. He was a ‘good man’ by worldly standards. But Jesus found him wanting. He could not be helped.

Are we any different from that likable rich man? We are all ‘good’. We don’t kill, we don’t steal, we love God and our neighbors. We are virtuous, we go to church, we receive Holy Qurbana, we pray and we fast and we give alms.

What do we lack?

Turn around and shine the search light into our own hearts, and see our true selves, who we really are.

I remember a mortal incident that took place in our village, when I was about ten years old. There was a prominent rich man, well respected by the villagers, an excellent swimmer and an expert in traveling in tiny canoes (very tiny wooden dug out boats). He could stand up on one leg in the boat and row with the other leg and travel long distances in water. One day during the flood season, with water levels very high, he decided to go to the market in his tiny boat. As usual he was standing and rowing with one foot. Almost in the middle of the way his boat turned up side down and he fell in the water. He tried to swim with one hand, roared aloud and sank to the bottom. People came out to see what was happening. Nobody could swim so far and rescue him. The next day when some swimmers dived down and lifted his dead body, they found that he was clutching his money bag tucked in his “mady thump” and keeping his folded umbrella in his armpit! No wonder he could not swim and save himself.

This is what we all are, and what we all do, not only as individuals, but collectively as communities and churches. We hold on to our possessions, land, institutions and beautiful old church buildings, some times at our own peril and never consider alternatives, never listen to the voice of God in us and out side, and never come to terms or compromise and live, but hold on to them, sink into darkness and die. Even Jesus would not help us as He did not help this young man whom He liked and loved so much, though the man was self righteous, selfish, traditional, orthodox and hypocritical.

Let us beware, listen and perceive what God tells us and give heed, turn around and follow Him and abide with Him, and that is Eternal life and salvation. God bless.

13 October 2019

posted 12 Oct 2019, 05:22 by C S Paul   [ updated 19 Oct 2019, 03:27 ]

13 October 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fifth Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Matthew 23:1-12 New King James Version (NKJV)

Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees

23 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 

saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 

Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 

For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 

But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 

They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 

greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your [c]Teacher, [d]the Christ, and you are all brethren. 

Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 

10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 

11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 

12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

First Thoughts on Matthew 23:1-12

by William Loader, Murdoch University, Australia

This is the chapter of woes. It represents a massive expansion of what Mark brings in 12:37-40. Mark 12 then ends with the account of the widow and her generous meager offering to the temple. She stands in contrast to the scribes and Pharisees against whom the woes have been spoken and who rip off widows and the vulnerable. Matthew omits the story of the widow. The result is that the woes against the scribes and Pharisees in chapter 23 lead directly to the prediction of God's judgement on the temple and Jerusalem in chapter 24. In the chapter of woes Matthew has expanded Mark with a large block of material drawn from Q (found also in Luke 11:39-52). Matthew's rule of exposition is that there is no room for smugness. Each of these charges may be just as applicable to the Christian community at some stage and history supports him.

It begins with an extraordinary statement about the scribes and Pharisees. They 'sit on Moses' seat' (23:2). That means they exercise authority for the administration of the Law in the broader social context where Matthew and his communities live, somewhere probably in the area of Galilee or southern Syria. There were not many places where this would have been the case, but it was so here in the late first century and the dominant group in Judaism by that time were the Pharisees. Galilee became their power base not long after the destruction of the temple and from there their influence spread. So Matthew's own situation is being reflected in this opening verse. A few other things are worth noting. The authority of Moses is not doubted; the Law, enshrined in Scripture, abides. Matthew and his community believe that, really, they should be the ones sitting there, but, until that is the case, the Law and its interpreters is to be respected.

A distinction then emerges in relation to the authority of those sitting on Moses' seat. Do what they say, not what they do (23:3) . People may need to say this of us at times, but here more blatant hypocrisy is envisaged. There is then another distinction which emerges. These interpreters of scripture also impose unrealistic burdens on people and offer no help to them to fulfil them (23:4). This appears to contradict the exhortation that one should do whatever they say, but the distinction being made is probably in relation to finer points. It is the difference between: here is the Law and this is what it should mean for you in detail. Matthew disputes the latter.

Matthew's whole approach to scripture is to interpret it on the basis of the love commands. Compassion and love dictate the way Scripture should apply, not a kind of legalistic bureaucracy which assumes God is a control freak. When God is our big ego writ large, then people will be abused in the name of purity or holiness or obedience. In every generation we can find examples of destructiveness done in the name of Scripture or even by means of Scripture. The challenges of chapter 23 have a way of coming home to roost.

Verses 5-7 take up the charges found in Mark 12:37-39. People bent on power surround themselves with the trappings of power, which are often designed to reinforce their claim. What we wear, where we sit, how we are greeted - these are elements of the persona we want people to see and respect. Behind it is often a frail yearning for love which has been met by such compensatory strategies. Abuse of others is frequently the result of exploiting others to meet our own stifled needs. The abuse may be as apparently harmless as captivating congregations with our preaching, framing our communities so that we are constantly affirmed, developing dependency on us among other needy people. Sometimes our garments (and what we do and where we sit) may serve the opposite: to remind ourselves and others that we are here to fulfill a task and are not pretending that we are doing it because we have arrived. If so, we will need to be straight about that. We are beggars telling other beggars where to find bread and occasionally it will help other beggars find the way if we wear a red cross, so to speak.

Matthew follows his principle of no elitism by directing similar warnings in 8-12 to the disciples. There is no place for either sitting back in smug judgement of others nor for imagining that being a follower of Jesus automatically protects us from falling into the very patterns we abhor in them. Matthew is very grounded. He hears the word of Jesus for his generation and it has abiding worth. So we, too, are to avoid playing games with titles. It appears that 'rabbi' first became a title of honour in the period when Matthew was writing, so the mention of 'rabbi' is particularly apt. 'Father' and 'teacher' are some of the options; we have plenty more.

If you are in ministry primarily to compensate for a low sense of your own importance, think again. Don't dive into depression and use the thought to put yourself down even further. Believe the importance God affirms in you. Consume it in the eucharist so it becomes part of your being. The more you do so and remain conscious of what you are doing and not doing, the less you will be fussed by the titles and all they symbolise and the less you will stand in succession to the kind of behaviour attacked here. The badges you might have to wear and titles you might have to carry will, like the vestments, be able to serve their true purpose: aids, if needed, to recognising roles and functions.

It is simply not so that Matthew is kidding the disciples that there is no self interest involved in leadership and so fostering the big lie that goes for piety according to which there is no self interest in what we do - a lie which often has disastrous consequences, especially when we are left with our real self interest ignored which is therefore likely to make itself felt subversively. Matthew's Jesus invites the disciples to think about greatness and what it mean to be lifted up. That is the clear motivation in 23:11-12. We want to be great; we want to do well. We want to be what God made us to be. We want to do what God wants us to do. We want to be so connected with God that what we want and what God wants become one. God wants us to be great. God wants us to rise up.

When we move towards seeing God's interests and our best interests and the best interests of others, when we get in touch with God's being as love, when we see that this is not a distraction from life but being truly in touch with life and the life giver, then we will take a big breath and dive. Let us be great in love. The magic is that here true self interest, God's interests, the world's best interests come together as one. It also means that we can stop playing games to conjure up alternative systems of worth where others are made to serve our distorted notion of self interest and where God and spirituality become a powerful weapon in our arsenal. Perhaps seeing all this first in a setting of ministry - the way Matthew leads us - will help us see that the same kinds of issues confront our hearers as much as ourselves as preachers.

6 October 2019

posted 4 Oct 2019, 23:02 by C S Paul

6 October 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fourth Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Luke 16:13-18 New King James Version (NKJV)

13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The Law, the Prophets, and the Kingdom

14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. 

15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. 

17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.

18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Money is a good servant but a terrible master

by Rev. Dr. V. K. Thomas, Valiyaparambil

Theme: Money is a good servant but a terrible master.

Scripture: "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Luke 16:13).

Message: Jesus shares a great principle with us in Verse 13. The principle is that we have to choose whether we are going to give importance to God or the worldly things - (money). No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or vice versa. We cannot have both God and mammon on our side. Mammon is the pagan god of riches.

The principle comes down to the fundamental truth. Is Jesus really the Lord of our lives or is it the material things that is more important to us? The choice is ours.

There was a comedian by the name Jack Benny of the "Jack Benny Show" on television back in the late 60's and 70's. He was, in the show, pictured as a penny miser who hated to spend his money. In one comedy routine, Jack was confronted by a robber. The robber pointed a gun at Jack and said, "Come on, hand it over, your money or your life." Jack rubbed his chin and said, "I am thinking, I am thinking." In the same manner we have a choice. Worship and serve our Lord or the money: which will it be? Do we say, "I am thinking, I am thinking?" We cannot serve God and mammon in the same proportion. We shouldn't live for to make money as the sole purpose in life and serve God on the side line. If the reason we live for is mainly to make money for the sake of the things money can buy, then that becomes our God and we cannot serve the living God at the same level. On the other hand, we can live to love God and He can give us the gift to make money as God has done for many. There is nothing wrong with making money or being wealthy. We must have God first, and money only to be an instrument of our love for God. We are expected to use that money to help others and for good purposes without seeking recognition for ourselves. That will indicate our love for God and that we are rightfully serving Him with the money He gave us.

Let's Pray:

" Lord, teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart . . . Psalm 90
Help us do today the things that matter, not to waste the time we have.
Yes, the moments we have are precious, Lord, see that we count them dear.
Teach us to number our days aright.
Fill us this day with your kindness, that we may be glad and rejoice all the days of our life.

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, ..Amen."

29 September 2019

posted 28 Sep 2019, 08:50 by C S Paul

29 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Third Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Mark 2:23-28 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

23 Now it happened that He went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. 

24 And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

25 But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: 

26 how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the show bread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?”

27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus and the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–28)

by Malcolm Maclean

We are familiar with the scenario of an individual being escorted round an ancient castle or palace by an old guide. At some stage in the tour the visitor discovers that the guide is actually the owner of the castle, a person with great knowledge of its history and of the original intentions of the builders. The visitor will be pleased if he has not made any critical assessments during the tour, and he will be embarrassed if he has given his opinion on any aspect that has turned out to be wrong. Of course, such an incident is not very serious. Yet it does picture what happened in the incident we will consider this morning.

The Pharisees saw themselves as experts on the Sabbath and they practiced a range of ideas which they thought suitable for keeping it. Often the individuals they came across were unable to assess their teachings on the Sabbath, which only enhanced themselves in their own reputation as teachers of the law. It is likely that the disciples of Jesus may not have been able to respond to the criticism of the Pharisees, but the Saviour of the disciples was more than able to do so. In his response, he revealed that he originated the Sabbath and therefore knew its purpose. His claim to be the initiator and sovereign of the Sabbath is stated in his assertion, ‘The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’ His knowledge of the basic purpose of the Sabbath is seen in his statement, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’

The incident in the cornfield (2:23-28)

We are not told why Jesus and his disciples were in a cornfield. It was common for paths to go through such fields. As they made their way through the fields the disciples ate some of the heads of grain. The presence of the Pharisees indicates that it was a public spot.

It is well-known that the Pharisees had many laws regarding what was acceptable Sabbath behavior and they included among them the activity done here by Jesus’ disciples. The error of the disciples in the eyes of the Pharisees was not taking what belonged to someone else (Deuteronomy 23:25 allowed them to take a little as they walked along), but in doing ‘work’ (a kind of harvesting) on the Sabbath. When they saw what the disciples were doing, they confronted Jesus about it.

What can be said about the outlook of the Pharisees? They were persistent (Mark uses the imperfect tense to describe their ongoing criticism of the disciples), perhaps they imagined they had cornered the disciples without them having any way to escape. We could say that their ideas were ludicrous and loveless, and that would be true. An honest assessment will deduce three other features: first, they were not defending a biblical view of the Sabbath, but a man made rule which they had devised; second, they had a wrong sense of proportion – they regarded optional religious rituals as more important than legitimate human needs; third, their view of the Sabbath had not made them akin to the Lord of the Sabbath (this is obvious in that Jesus had not criticized his disciples for their actions). The Pharisees in their effort to protect the Sabbath had trivialized it, distorted it, and made it a day of joyless conformity to their notions.

How did Jesus respond? He made three comments: he mentioned a biblical incident in which David recognized higher requirements than ceremonial rituals; the second summarized the place of the Sabbath; and the third focused on himself. In proving the first comment, he reminded the Pharisees of an incident from the life of David when he broke the prohibitions of the ceremonial law and gave consecrated bread to his hungry men (it is possible that the incident took place on a Sabbath because that was the day on which the priest replaced the consecrated bread). That passage was sufficient to show that his disciples had not done anything wrong when they ate of the grain. If normally-forbidden food is available, it is right for hungry people to eat it.

There is more to the relevance of that previous incident and the situation of Jesus and his disciples. David, although hungry and leading a group of hungry men, was on his way to the throne of Israel. In a higher sense, Jesus and his men were hungry, but the Pharisees were criticizing the One who was on his way to the throne of God. The religious formality of the Pharisees had made them blind to what was happening before their eyes. The King had arrived and in criticizing his disciples the Pharisees were expressing rebellion against the God they professed to serve.

Second, Jesus forced his critics to think about why God initiated the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a divine provision for man, brought into existence for his overall benefit. God has not given this gift to other creatures (I know the fourth commandment forbids humans using domestic animals on the Sabbath, but the command is not addressed to the animals). The Sabbath not only highlights man’s dignity, but also his uniqueness in God’s sight. Further the Sabbath is God’s provision for all humans. Jesus does not say that the Sabbath was made for Jews alone. Nor does he say it is for any particular group. Instead it belongs to all the race equally.

Of course, to say that the Sabbath was given by God does not specify why it was given to man. Yet we discover elsewhere in the Bible why God gave it. Its main purpose is that humans would rest, which is not the same as idleness or engaging in one’s hobbies. It is true that our bodies need physical rest, but normally that is found during the night hours when we are in bed. So we need to ask ourselves regarding the way to find rest. Here are some suggestions, and we can begin with what is said about the original Sabbath.

In Genesis 2:1-3, we have a summary of the first Sabbath on which God rested from his work of creation. His rest was not one of inactivity, for he was still engaged in his works of providence; nor was not the rest of indifference, as if he was not interested in his creation; and it was not the rest of exhaustion, as if he had stretched his powers to the limits. We get some insight into what is meant by God’s rest in Exodus 31:17: ‘It [the Sabbath] is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.’

Instead God’s rest included rejoicing in the finished work of creation. God takes great pleasure in his actions because they are perfect. This divine celebration was the fuller version of God’s cry of delight that was expressed very day of the creation week (apart from the second day). Further his rest was refreshment in the fellowship of his people (Adam and Eve would have praised him for his splendour, discovered a sense of security in that he was in control, and experienced satisfaction in being reminded that their God had done all this for their good.

Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 reminds people where they will find spiritual rest. In that passage he speaks to those who were burdened by the demands of the Pharisees who did not lift a finger to help them. In contrast, Jesus gives rest in two ways: first, he gives rest from striving to earn salvation – instead of working for it, they receive it by trusting him. Then they continue to experience rest by learning from him, and that is what we should do in order to enjoy the Sabbath.

Third, Jesus in his answer caused the Pharisees to think about him when he called himself the Son of Man and said that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. The title ‘Son of Man’ comes from the prophecy of Daniel describing the Messiah who was to receive the heavenly kingdom (Dan. 7:13-15). So Jesus was stating that he was the One whom Daniel predicted. One aspect of his pre-eminent position is that he is also Lord of the Sabbath. His listeners would have recognized immediately one implication of his claim. Since the Lord of the Sabbath is God, here Jesus is claiming to be divine. And since he is divine, then he has authority to decide what is allowable on his day, which means that his disciples were not doing anything wrong.

A lesson that comes from this incident in the grain fields is that we are not to turn the Sabbath into a day of spiritual bondage. Instead we are to recognise that we have high responsibilities to perform on the Sabbath, that we have to think about God’s purpose for the Sabbath, and we have to acknowledge that Jesus is the divine Lord of the Sabbath. With these details in mind we can approach the other incident recorded by Mark, the story of the man in the synagogue whose damaged arm was healed.

22 September 2019

posted 21 Sep 2019, 03:14 by C S Paul   [ updated 21 Sep 2019, 03:24 ]

22 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Second Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

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

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 

Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”

But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you]have brought no bread? .

Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 

10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 

11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 

12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Distortions Called Yeast

by HG Yakob Mar Ireanios

Second Sunday following the Feast of the Holy Cross

Bible Reading: St. Mathew 16:5-12

"God made human beings straight forward, but they have devised many schemes." Eccl. 7:29

Scheming has assumed the proportions of a dignified art! What has been created good and straightforward degenerates into downright corruption and immorality. The 'fall' has been so grave that the ground of separation between good and evil is getting thinner and thinner with the passage of time, whether it is the Delhi Commonwealth Games, Cricket match fixing scandal or the rhetoric over the danger of climate change. Corruption becomes sweeter, since "stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." (Proverbs 9:17)

Jesus warns us against the big hoax played on us by the powers that be including autocratic administrations, ideologies, Glittering advertisements from multi-national companies and some Faith movements as well which 'rule the roost today. The Lord names them as " yeast" perhaps referring to the style of their functioning and the seductive techniques they apply to entice as many as possible.

The Pharisees and Sadducees are proverbially the "goodie-goodie" people of the times. They appear as the protectors of the "Law" and guarding everything towards the welfare of all! Yet they are the real cancers, eating in the vitals of whatever is good and virtuous. Yeast seemingly is small in quantity, but slowly it works in secret, affecting and seducing maximum minds as possible. As explained by him, effacing the misunderstanding of the disciples, yeast here refers to false teachings. The Pharisees and Sadducees were religious leaders and were learned; however, their teaching techniques were relatively limited as against the options open for teachers today. As thinking persons, it is our duty to "scan" the voluminous 'literature' on religion, commerce, ideologies, trade relationships etc. to identify their essential value. The advertisement industry cajoles us to take in magic formulae, with little discernment.

In life, one confronts situations clear or otherwise, the Lord counsels us to take everything with a pinch of salt. Many people learn the lesson "all that glitters is not gold" the hard way; sometimes only after losing their money, prestige and good name!

In the field of religion, especially, there is a lot of yeast making the rounds. We have around us spiritual "gurus" promising Shanti and Nirvana and what not. There are Christian sects which seem to sell an apparent euphoria over "miracles" to attract credulous people to their fold. These faith groups are advocating worldly prosperity and other worldly 'salvation' through means of easy access. The tribe of Pharisees were demanding Jesus to perform a miracle, and this demand brought them condemnation from Him. Real faith is not to be thus commercialized. God men of our times, Christian or otherwise, claim to perform miracles, and thus a culture of real or fake miracles is "tom-tomed' as the cornerstone of a life of faith. Thus people are duped to believe that miracle is greater than faith itself!

The process of education has numerous possibilities in grooming and directing human thinking and convictions. The Bible says that it is God who teaches all. So human teachers are instruments in the divine hands. Teaching of any hue has to acknowledge this obligation and show a sense of responsibility. No teacher is perfect except the Divine Teacher. Pharisees and Sadducees were teachers as well. So they could influence the life and thinking of the people. Hence the warning from the Lord!

15 September 2019

posted 15 Sep 2019, 02:23 by C S Paul   [ updated 21 Sep 2019, 03:15 ]

15 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

First Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross 

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 13:30-37 New King James Version (NKJV)

30 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

No One Knows the Day or Hour

32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 

33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 

34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 

35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— 

36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 

37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

Second Coming of Jesus Christ

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil

The Second Coming of Christ is confused by several false teachings. Prediction books have been written picking the exact date of Jesus' return. These books have sold several copies, but they mislead their readers. As soon as someone predicts the day or time of Jesus' Second Coming, that prediction is found wrong simply because only God the Father knows when it will be - Jesus doesn't even know.

Here is a story I have read in the "Wikipedia Encyclopedia." (The story is paraphrased.)

In the late 19th century in America, there was a wave of enthusiasm for prophesies predicting the actual date for Jesus Christ's Second Coming.

One such prophet was a Seventh Day Adventist leader by the name William Miller. (1782-1849) And it is in his movement that both the Jehovah Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists find their roots.

Miller first predicted that Christ would return on 21st March 1842. Several thousand followers jammed the Boston Seventh Day Adventist Temple, only to be disappointed. The movement didn't die. It continued to grow.

Miller decided to recalculate his date - April 3, 1843. When the messiah did not show up on that date either, there was frustration and some followers left the Adventist ranks.

Undeterred by these failures, Miller came up with a third date - 22nd October 1844. This date was published as real and rallied his followers in full strength. They spread the new date of the second coming with great enthusiasm that had not been seen before. Church members who did not accept this message were denounced as agents of evil.

One account notes that "Fields were left unharvested, shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away their possessions with no conditions of recovery.

Huge press releases of Adventist publications warned the public that "The Time is Short", "Prepare to Meet Your God," and "The Lord is Coming."

Miller himself began to supply white "ascension robes" to the faithful, many of whom waited for the miraculous event in freshly dug graves.

As we all know, the Second Coming did not occur on 22nd October 1844. In fact, if they had read Mark 13: 32-37 they would not have been taken in by Miller's false prophesy. For Jesus speaking about the Second Coming said in Mark 13:32, "No one knows about that day or hour not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

The Ana-Baptists, a radical Protestand Christian Reformation movement in the 16the century believed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would occur in 1533. When the prophey failed, the Anbaptists became more zealous and claimed that Enoch and Elijah had come in the form of Jan Matthys and Jan Bockelson, the group's two top leaders.

Charles Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, predicted Jesus Christ would return on March 8, 1889. That day passed uneventfully.

The 2011 end times prediction made by American Christian radio host Harold Camping, a former civil engineer, stated that the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011, and that the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011. The Rapture is the taking up into heaven of God's elect people. Camping, president of the Family Radio Christian network, claimed the Bible as his source and said May 21, 2011 would be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment "beyond the shadow of a doubt". Camping suggested that it would occur at 6 p.m. local time, with the rapture sweeping the globe time zone by time zone, while some of his supporters claimed that around 200 million people (approximately 3% of the world's population) would be 'raptured'. That day passed and nothing had happened.

Previously back in 1992, Camping had also predicted the world coming to an end on September 6, 1944. He then said on September 7, 1944 that his prediction didn't come true due to a mathematical error.

On June 9, 2011, a day ofter his recent end time prediction, Camping suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. A neighbor, according to reports, stated that his speech had become slurred as a result of the stroke. He has since then been moved to a nursing home for rehabilitation. On June 21, Camping radio station announced that it wold replace Camping Show with new programming.

Catherine Wessinger, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who studied doomsday prophesies, suggests that the interest in doomsday predictions is a reflection of the uncertainty of people who face a slumpy economy. A lot of times those prophesies gain traction when difficulities are happening in the society.

Jesus said, speaking about his Second Coming in Mark 13:26-27: "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send his angels and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven."

Again, "It is like a man going away: Leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tell the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping". (Mark 13:34-36)

8 September 2019

posted 6 Sep 2019, 22:30 by C S Paul

8 September 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Nativity of St. Mary (September 8)

Fourth Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Mark 6:1-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 

And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 

Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” 

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 

And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

Devotional Thoughts for this  Sunday

by Rev. Fr. Happy Jacob, N Yorkshire

From the early time itself the Blessed Virgin Mary, because of her virtues and her Pre eminent role in Gods plan for the salvation of the mankind, held a distinct position of admiration and love among the Christians.

Several prophecies of the Old Testament foretold the incarnation of the Son of God and the blessed woman who would become a channel for the salvation of mankind. In Genesis 3:15, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel."

In Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."

"Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy. God sent Gabriel to the town of Nazareth. He came to Mary and said, greetings, favored one! Lord is with you. Do not afraid, for you have found favor with God. Her name itself means favored one (exalted). And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. Mary said to him how can this be, since I am a virgin. The angel said, for nothing will be impossible with God. Then she answered, here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." St Luke 1:26-38

The conception of Jesus in the womb of Virgin Mary was preternatural, i.e.: with out a natural explanation.Lk1 :35 The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will over shadow you. Thus we are informed that the virginal conception of the Jesus was the creative act of God Almighty.

God gives His grace upon all who believes in Him. The new era of salvation begins with the conception in the womb of Mary. Mary knows she is having some thing beyond human capability. She was full of grace because she trusted that what God said was true and would be fulfilled. She was willing and eager to do gods will; even it seemed difficult. When God commands he also gives the help, strength and means to respond.

What ever it was that went through her mind; she came to the place of submission. That is the challenge before every one of us too .Like Mary who bears the Son of God, we also change ourselves to bear God.

When we pray the Nicene Creed we state our confession on this great mystery.

"Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God by the Holy Ghost and became man and was crucified for us in….." .

Every time God gives us Grace, he expects us to respond with the same willingness and obedience and trust that St Mary did. Along with this we have to learn the Pauline thought in Phil 2:5-11. "God send his only begotten son to the world to save the sinful world." This passage encouraging us as Christian men and women to be like Jesus. Verse 5. Let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus Christ.

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