SUNDAY SERMON




SUNDAY SERMON

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

Syrian Orthodox Church




23 April 2017

posted by C S Paul

23 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

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

John 20:19-31New King James Version (NKJV)

The Apostles Commissioned

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peacebe with you.” 

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 

22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 

23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Seeing and Believing

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 

25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 

27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

That You May Believe

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 

31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Must We See to Believe?

by Wyvetta Bullock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


16 April 2017

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

16 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Easter Sunday

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

He Is Risen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Devotional Thoughts for Easter - (Holy Pascha, Kyamtho)

by H.G Yakob Mar Irenaios

HE IS RISEN! Gleams at Easter Morn

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

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

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

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

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

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


9 April 2017

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

9 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Hosanna/Palm Sunday

The Triumphal Entry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The donkey owner's story-a narrative sermon"

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

Mk 11:1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 April 2017

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


2 April 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

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

    • Evening
    • Morning
    • Before Holy Qurbana
    • Holy Qurbana

John 9New King James Version (NKJV)

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said, “I am he.

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

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

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

The Pharisees Excommunicate the Healed Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Vision and True Blindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by HG Yohanon Mor Policarpos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


26 March 2017

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

26 March 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (Kpiptho/Crippled Woman)

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

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

A Spirit of Infirmity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set Free

by Dr. Randy L. Hyde

Gospel: St. Luke 13:10-17

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

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

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

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

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

Here's another dollar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 March 2017

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


19 March 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Canaanite woman)

Scripture Reading for this Sunday

    • Evening
    • Morning
    • Before Holy Qurbana
    • Holy Qurbana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canaanite woman - A Mother's Love

by Rev. Fr. V.V. Paulose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be a mother like the Canaanite woman.



12 March 2017

posted 10 Mar 2017, 03:20 by C S Paul

12 March 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Third Sunday of Great Lent -  (Paralytic/Palsy Sunday)

Mark 2:1-12New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 

Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 

Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 

And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 

“Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?

10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 

11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Jesus Healing The Paralytic: Moving Beyond Our Paralyzed Selves

by Rev. Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu

The story of Jesus healing the paralytic is quite a popular story. The intrigue in the story is increased by the adventurous four persons who help get the paralytic to the roof and then struggle to let him down so that Jesus would see him. The crowd that had surrounded Jesus is neutralized by this very creative way of approaching Jesus. It must have been quite a sight for people then. There are two things which come across to us in this passage. This helps us construct a spiritual basis for lent and takes us through a Lenten experience.

Taking the paralytic up and letting go would have been difficult for the four persons. It is like our talks and prayer to God. We are reluctant to pray and give our needs to God. The four men do the opposite of what we do. They know that they cannot get through the crowd. So they become enterprising and take the man up, only to let him down. After being enterprising and knowing that their enterprise works when Jesus takes notice, they are willing to let go of their friend into the hands of Jesus.

During lent are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to accept that lent is a time when we should not only take a commitment to those who are in need of our help? Are we after fulfilling our role, willing to pull back and see God working rather than expressing our over-powering ego and saying that we should then be given the honour of doing everything even when we know we are not skilled for that. Our preparation may make us feel that we can have easy access to God because we are closer to God in our own assessment. But we then understand that this is not the case. This is why we need to let go completely, lent or no lent. Letting go completely gives us uncertainty but coupled with faith and belief is the most important and beautiful thing in Christian faith.

Jesus heals the paralytic of his existence in the midst of people who look down upon him. Jesus says that his sins are healed. The healing is misleading because we think that sickness and sin are related. But this is confusing because sickness can't be related to sin. Rather what this shows is that it is not and if at all, sickness is a corporate responsibility and therefore cannot be pin pointed on one person. What Jesus does through asking him to get up and walk is to tell them that he is fixing their shortcoming instead of the paralytic's. Before that he says that your sins are forgiven.

This is what the scribes complain about. They bicker as to how and from where Jesus got the authority to forgive sins. But it could also mean that Jesus is offering something greater than healing when he says that your sins are forgiven. But this is opposed by the scribes by their bickering. The paralytic could then not have been linked to his personal sin but rather to the corporate sin that everyone was bound to. It could be that Jesus could have been offering him eternal life which would then give him the courage to get over his paralysis. The scribes deny this to him.

But, since the others there try to make that controversial, he says, 'get up, take your mat and walk.' This then brings to an end the way people are going to see him. But the sin of the community remains. The paralytic is given the strength to get up and walk. This was what was denied to him all these years and this is what he now gets through the intervention of Jesus. Even as the onlookers who criticize Jesus and the paralytic stay on, the man on the mat walks away.

Disability is something we like misinterpreting in lieu of the scripture. This becomes so serious that priesthood and lay participation is being done taking into consideration such a framework which, in terms of perfection, is the acceptable and unacceptable. Such a notion has dangerous ramifications on the real and true expressions of the church. This becomes a big sin during lent. Since lent is a time when we are trying to work on our shortcomings and sins, we then should also work on our concept of sin and who is sinning. Any setup which looks into disabled people as people who have in some way sinned is flawed. Jesus tries to go beyond the usual notion by saying that he, as the second person in the trinity, is capable of saying that the sin alleged and pinned on a particular person is being wiped out by him because he feels that this is unjust.

There is a feeling that lent is a time to become strong internally and spiritually. This internal strengthening sometimes also becomes a strengthening of moral attitudes in our culture. Moralizing like the scribes, brings about such comments like 'who is he to forgive sins' and 'by what authority is he doing it.' Churches fall into the trap of thinking that priests and church committees are in the business of saying what is and what is not sin when only God can judge in reality. This means that lent can become a time to be inspired by what Jesus did. He offers forgiveness for sins which have been alleged and labeled.

When Jesus tells the person 'to stand, take his mat and walk', what he may have meant is to tell the paralyzed person to not take this humiliation any more. Give it back to them. What better way than 'to stand up, take the mat and walk'. Jesus inspires the paralyzed person to walk and to walk away after all that the person has had to go through. There is no need to take this insult anymore.

Lent becomes an excellent time for discernment. This is a discernment to accompany those who have been marginalized and then discern and accept the role of God in bringing them to the main stream. The Lenten experience should help us towards this commitment of accompaniment, moving back and then accepting the will of God.

5 March 2017

posted 3 Mar 2017, 02:44 by C S Paul

5 March 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

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

Luke 5:12-16New 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

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.


26 February 2017

posted 23 Feb 2017, 23:09 by C S Paul

26 February 2017

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)

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.

Readings from the Scripture

John 2:1-11New 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

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.

19 February 2017

posted 17 Feb 2017, 21:12 by C S Paul   [ updated 17 Feb 2017, 21:38 ]

19 February 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Aneede - All the Departed Faithful

Readings from the Scripture

Luke 12:32-48New 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 his master 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.

Sermon / Homily on The Sunday of the Departed

by Fr. Varghese M Daniel, PhD, Yale University

"Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice [Job l:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them" (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392]).

Before entering into the Great Lent, it is germane to remember our departed, those who feed the spiritual sustenance to our life. (Heb. 13:7) They nurtured and demonstrated the eminence of our spiritual lives. The readings (including St. Luke 12:32-48) of this Sunday transmit the following thoughts to our minds:

First, The visualization beyond horizon

Christian life mainly endeavors to obtain the life beyond death, which is one of the key teachings of the Bible and Jesus. (St. Jn.6, 1 Cor. 15) This visualization of eternal life inspires us to lead a life of virtue in this world. Jesus assured us that each of our human virtues is the manifestation of God's love. When we stretch out our hands to the needy in apposite time we will lay the bricks for our eternal home in the kingdom of God (St. Mt. 25:31-46). Jesus affirms this is the real treasure, which will remain forever. (This visualization of eternal life also will remind us constantly of the necessity to control the words (St. James. 3:1-12). Hence the words and deeds of our present life determine the ownership of our place beyond the horizon. A prayer for our departed in the Anaphora of Mar Osthathios and Mar Isaac embraces the beauty of the eternal home. This visualization has fueled the life of a believer.

Second, Eternal Readiness for Eternal life

"Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning." (Luke 12:35) This is a call for a persistent and a consistent way of earthly life.

Last week we heard that a car accident had taken 4 young lives in Chicago, all of them were in their early twenties. Just like any other youngsters in America, they expected a life span of 80-90 years. Nevertheless their lives were completed within a minute's time. Their car caught fire and all 4 youngsters of Indian origin died on the spot. They didn't get a chance even to think about the life after death at that particular moment. We all are continuing our journey in the shadow of death. There is no specific time for the preparation of eternal life. So the eternal readiness is a specific criterion for eternal life. (Luke 12:45-47)

Third, the departed are part of the non-departed Church

The Orthodox ecclesiology affirms the Biblical teachings unambiguously that the Church is the bride of our Lord Jesus (Eph. 5:22-33) and she is eternal as her bridegroom. Church includes the living and the departed (Eph. 2:20-22, Hebrew 12:22-24). Every believer who completes his / her life joins with a large community of believers. (Numbers.20:24, Heb. 12:1) In this departed state, the believers are not silent rather they are in communion with our Lord (Phil. 1:21, 23). This faith consoles and encourages us to pray for them and seek their prayers. They are continuing the same Church life even beyond the horizon. That's why St. Paul asks "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" and he affirms "thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (I Cor. 15:55-57)

Let us pray for our beloved departed, who have given blood and sweat to form our identity in this world before we enter into the Great Lent and remember the passion and glorious resurrection of our Lord.




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