21 April 2013

posted 18 Apr 2013, 21:26 by C S Paul   [ updated 21 Apr 2013, 00:01 ]

21 April 2013

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

 Third Sunday after Easter

Gospel Reading for this Sunday

John 4:31-38 New King James Version (NKJV)

John 21:15-19 New King James Version (NKJV)

John 4:31-38

31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.

32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?

34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

The Fields Ripe for Harvest

Jesus at last sees a harvest. This is clear now from his experience with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. From her testimony gather many believers, and they are on their way to see him. In the passage following the one quoted above, we learn that many Samaritans believe, not just because of the woman's testimony but because they hear him preach and teach, and they believe for themselves.

Jesus begins to instruct his disciples in the way of his work, and what sustains him. "I have food to eat that you do not know about." His food is to do the will of the one who sent him and to complete his work. Jesus is working for a goal, for a harvest, and the work itself sustains him, gives him spirit and energy, and propels him forward. Jesus then teaches his disciples that they must do the same work, although they will reap what they do not sow. So, we have an allusion here in the readings to the parable quoted in the section from Mark yesterday, of the sower whose seed scatters everywhere, but takes root and gives yield only in the good and deep soil. Jesus is already marking to his disciples the ripeness of the field, the reaping that is happening even as the sower continues to sow. In the Samaritan believers, the reaping is already happening so that reaper and sower rejoice together.

The passage continues:

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I have ever done.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.'

Jesus' harvest among the Samaritans is their faith and understanding of his identity, and this he calls the fruit for eternal life, the fields ripe for harvesting. These outsiders shall be among the first fruits of the harvest, once again teaching us that a sincere heart and sincere faith are the things which qualify us for this harvest and this eternal life. As I think about this scene and these early believers, I wonder how it applies to us today. Do we reap? What do we reap, for whom the word was sown long ago, for whom these stories are now thousands of years old? I also ponder on the allusions to harvest which tell us not simply about faith, but harken to the idea of judgment and Jesus' messianic mission, and give us echoes of the apocalyptic understanding of what is transpiring and what is underway.

In these early believers, an important pattern is laid down, the rules of the past are broken, and expectations shattered. These outsiders are not the ones to whom the earlier laborers - the prophets - were sent. The teacher breaks apart our assumptions and understanding to reveal the new. What new do I await and expect now? Do my eyes need to be opened to something new today?

John 21:15-19 Jesus Restores Peter

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah,do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah,[b]do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. 

18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 

19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

Restoring Simon Peter

by Rev. Fr. George T, Ireland

A devotional reflection on the Gospel passage St. John 21:15-19 for the third Sunday after Easter.

When Jesus selected the twelve disciples, He had a special intention. He wanted them invariably to be with him always. The gospel of St. Mark 3:14 ff reads thus: “And He went up on the mountain and called to Him that He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have power to heal the sicknesses and to cast out demons”. That means, those Disciples of Christ were supposed to play a dual role.

1. To be with Him always. (To go escort (as entourage) and to share his life in his company.)

2. To be sent out with authority for and on his behalf (as Apostles) to preach, to heal and to cast out demons.

In the last great commissioning, we see Christ re-affirming this fact. Jesus asks his disciples to go out to the four corners of the world to reach out to the unknowns. (Mat 28:16-20) and they have been given the task and authority to baptize and to make everyone His disciples. (Mathew 28: 18-20). This was, in brief, their vocation.

Jesus wanted them to relinquish their valuables for the sake of Him and he expected them to be with their ‘Guru’ not only in times of comforts but even in times of trials and ordeals. Jesus wanted their relationship with him go deeper and stronger to the core. Jesus envisaged ‘Love’ as the connecting link for the maintenance of this net work of their relationship and as the sign of their discipleship. (John 13:31-34). To a certain extent, the twelve disciples proved themselves worthy for their calling. But in some weak moments, they are seen wavering and getting detached from Christ.

Like all other disciples, Simon, meaning ‘reed that wobbles in the wind’, too was called to follow Him. Though he was, as his name implied, a wavering and all impulsive by nature. He is seen following Jesus leaving aside his net, the most important thing in his life which was essential for his livelihood (Mat 4:18-20). In that sense he was a true disciple. But his faith was not that much deep rooted. It is clear from the pages of Bible. (Mathew 14:25-32 and 16:21-28).

In the biblical passage set for reading on the third Sunday after Easter, we see the resurrected Christ who wants to see his disciple Simon. And when they met each other, Jesus asked Simon whether he loved Him or not. The same question had been repeated thrice for He wanted to see whether Simon loved Him. The first two times, when the Greek word ‘Agape’ (volitional, self sacrificial love) is used, the third time Jesus uses the word ‘Phileo’ (signifying affection, affinity or brotherly love) to confirm whether he loved Him even as a friend. The responsibility of tending His sheepfold was given to Peter, not as an exclusive authority, but as part of a collective responsibility. It was not because of any preference given to him as the leader of the other disciples. Instead, it is clear that Simon had lost his discipleship following his denial of his Lord and master Jesus. Jesus wanted to restore and to reinstate the lost position of Simon as one of the twelve disciples. What Jesus did was re-inducting Simon to the college of the apostles.

This episode has a flash back which is depicted in Mathew 16: 13-20. In the conversation that is going on between Jesus and Simon, Simon is seen making a statement thrice that Jesus was the ‘Son of God’. And that too was not one of an inner search for God but that one of God’s revelation. Over against the superficial declaration of Simon Peter pointing to the divinity of Christ, Jesus warned him of his trio- denial (Luke 22:54-64). And we see this happening in the very cold night when Jesus was being taken for trial. Tradition holds that Simon Peter, after having denied his master Jesus, began wailing of his guilty consciousness (Mathew 26:75). His ‘repentance’ made Christ, the compassionate, to forgive him of his iniquity and lifting the indictment on him. After this incident, Simon Peter is seen as firm as a ‘rock’ in his faith towards Jesus and powerful in his mission. (Acts of the Apostles 2:14-6:7).

In Mark 1:14 we see that Jesus begins his public ministry with the message “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Good news is nothing but ‘Christ Jesus’ who was born for you and me in the city of David (Luke 2:10-11). From this, it is clear that for entry into the kingdom of God, two things are essential. One is ‘Repentance’ and the other one is ‘Faith (Trust) in God’. Further, we see in Mathew 16:18 that Jesus offering Peter the ‘Keys of Heaven’ (Mat 16:19). Key is the device that is used for the entry to an enclosed place or in other words, something that provides someone access into a particular area. Heaven was a place enclosed until the coming of Christ incarnate. But by the arrival of Christ, it has been open. Christ was, in fact, offering Peter the entry pass into heaven while he said “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. The privilege of entering heaven is reserved for all who repent and believe (trust) in Jesus Christ. (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:9).

Let us think for a while and ask ourselves. Are we true Disciples of Christ like the twelve who followed the Lord of everything leaving aside everything? Do we have full trust in God even when we face adversaries? Are we able to make an honest repentance while we make our holy confessions? Are we zealous in our Christian mission? Is it the very same love (agape) that the twelve had, reflects in our present church activities? Are we able to be in the company of God throughout our life? Are we able to reach out to the marginalized as a sacrament of God’s presence to bring life into their lives? Are we able to fetch healing to the suffering people around us? Are we still eligible for the status of His discipleship? Could we confirm ourselves of the entry into the Kingdom of Heaven?

What is the lesson that we must learn from this passage or what message does this event convey? It is to be borne in mind always that one’s salvation is not confined to a particular point of time but has a progression. Everyone should strive to grow up to the perfection of God the heavenly Father (Mathew 5:48) and to the fullness of Christ, the head (Ephesians 4:15). Even a spiritual stalwart is prone to fall. One who endures to the end will be saved. (Mathew 10:22). St. Paul warns us of this fact when he is saying: “Those who think they are standing firm had better be careful that they do not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Therefore, one should always be aware of one’s stance as a Christian. One’s spiritual arrogance will no doubt jeopardize one’s spiritual life.

In the second portion of the passage, Jesus teaches Simon Peter of the necessity of yielding to the will of God for being a disciple of Christ (Verse 18). It points to the prioritizing of our aspirations in accordance with the will of God. For a Christian, the parameters are set not by oneself but by God. One who is not prepared to lead a dedicated and committed life can never be a true Christian.

Let me conclude this humble thought with the words of St. Paul, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2). Let this Pauline words reign over us. God bless us all.