17 September 2017

posted 15 Sep 2017, 03:24 by C S Paul

17 September 2017

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday after Sleebo/ the Festival of Holy Cross 

Scripture reading for this Sunday

Mark 13:30-37New 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!”

The Master of The House is Coming. Are You Ready?

by Fr. Alexander J. Kurien, Washington D.C.

There has been no shortage of end time predictions in our lifetime. California-based Family Radio host Harold Camping had his fun with predictions! Unlike most radio talk show hosts, he doesn't just predict game scores or celebrity hookups, but, Mr. Harold Camping predicts apocalypses. It's fair to say most people deserve a second chance, but considering that he has been wrong about the world ending before, it's shocking that people still believe him. In his book 1994, Camping applied numerology to the Bible and predicted that Christ would return between September 15 and 17 of 1994. When nothing happened Camping said he'd made a mistake in his calculations. He apparently hadn't considered the Book of Jeremiah. After recalculating, he decided the world is actually going to end in 2011. And some people BELIEVED him. No really, look! His followers dropped out of med school, leaving their wives and children, and spent all their savings to spread the world about The Rapture. Camping has gone as far as to claim that in 1988 God installed Satan as the leader of the Church in an effort to destroy it.

Televangelist, ex-Baptist minister and failed Republican candidate for the 1988 presidential election, Pat Robertson always has a prediction to make and commentary of the utmost insensitivity on any disaster that occurs. In 1980 he said on The 700 Club "I guarantee by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on this world." He believed that as of 1980, the Anti-Christ was about 27 years old and that Armageddon would start in 1982 followed by 7 "nightmare years" of intense suffering. Which is awesome - I mean, the Biblical apocalypse is pretty epic. The "nightmare years" according to the book of revelations include 4 horsemen, Satan coming back to Earth, zombies, a dragon and some other stuff that would actually be pretty damn awesome to see in real life before dying a terrible, terrible death at the hands of some creature that would look like a main character from Hellraiser. Or maybe we'd just get the traditional Satan, who knows? Either way, it would be exciting.

In 1988 Edgar Whisenant published the rather faddish 88 Reasons Why the Rapture could be in 1988. I say rather faddish because we have history to look back upon. Whisenant based his predictions upon what he considered to be an accurate interpretation of the numbers and days named in the Old Testament coupled with significant Jewish celebrations that were prescribed by God for His people. From these Whisenant predicted that the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church would occur on Rosh Hashana 1988. He was so sure of his formula that he was quoted as saying,

Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town, and there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana 88.

Religious broadcasting networks went so far as to interrupt their regular programming schedules to provide special instructions on preparing for the rapture. Of course, the hype quickly faded when the Lord did not return in 1988. Whisenant continued applying his mathematical shrewdness to the Scriptures, predicting the rapture again for 1989, 93, and 94, though with much less fanfare.

Through this Sunday's Gospel Lesson, Jesus is encouraging us to learn the parable from the fig tree. In the springtime, the branch of the fig tree becomes soft and tender because of the sap within. The swelling is a sign that the branch is about to put forth its leaves. In God's creation providence, this is a sign that summer is approaching. Similarly, when we in our lifetime saw these things happening, we should understand what was soon coming. In simple terms, these words are another reminder for us to watch for and recognize the signs of His coming. This would require that we rightly interpret what a sign really is. This is where the difficulty comes. We must not look at every catastrophic event on the world's stage as somehow ushering in that great day. We must not overreact to those predictions by people like a Camping, Whisenant, or a Pat Robertson that we do not watch at all. We are not to have an unhealthy interest in these things, but we are to be watchful because we are uncertain of the time of His return.

Given the certainty of the signs and the event that they point to, Jesus exhorts the Apostles, and us as well, to take heed, keep on the alert, for we do not know the time that has been appointed by the Father. Three times the exhortation is, Be alert! He then offered a parable to illustrate the urgency of the exhortation. In this story, authority was given to the servants, and every man was left to his work. The servant was commanded to watch for his return. The message here implies that each servant and every man was to work until the master's return, for he might come in the evening, or at midnight, or maybe at dawn at the cockcrowing, or in the morning. They would not know the time of His coming, so their work had to be done. The warning was that He might come and find them sleeping and their business undone. Only those who had their work done would find peace.

Here Jesus was stating that He would depart and leave the work of the ministry in the hands of His servants until His return. But when He would return He wanted to find us so doing His will. We are commanded to watch, but this does not mean that we should quit our jobs, or close our businesses, and go on a mountaintop and look into the Heavens for His return. The watching here refers to an attitude of heart, a heart that is ready to meet its Lord. A person with such a heart is doing the will of God and is promised blessing when the Lord returns. Noah left us a good example, for God warned Noah of the coming flood and commanded him to build an ark. The Word of God declares, in Hebrews 11:7, By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. Here we see that after Noah was warned, he began to prepare the ark. Noah didn't know when God would send him into the ark, so he kept busy working. Noah had to be ready with the ark of God. Noah had respect and reverence for Gods judgment; this is what kept Noah working on the ark all those years. Only eight souls were ready for that day.

In Matthew 24:34-39 the Lord says - Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. When the flood came, it fell on those who were not ready. Only those who were obedient to God's will were saved.

Just as He called Noah to live in obedience to His will, so He has called us to live in obedience. He is calling us to live by faith in the midst of a perverse generation with the promise that the one who perseveres to the end will be saved (verse 13), just like in the days of Noah. Christ calls for a consistent faith. It is a call to live your life day-by-day, moment-by-moment centered on God, saturated with Christ, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit, in joyful obedience to the entirety of His Word. Look around you with everything happening in this world today, especially this past week. I lost a great friend in J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and three other Department Colleagues who were killed Tuesday during an attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. I just returned from Andrews Air Force Base after receiving the remains of my colleagues from Benghazi. The emotions are running high an experience you want to avoid in our life-time. I ask you to pray for their souls and these families trying to comprehend this tragic event in their lives. Do you think the time is near? If you were asked today, could you say that you are exhibiting that consistent a faith and obedience? Are you watchful? Are you alert?

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