29 July 2018

posted 27 Jul 2018, 22:18 by C S Paul

29 July 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 18:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

Who Is the Greatest?

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 

and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Jesus Warns of Offenses

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 

Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 

11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 

13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 

14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

"The Quarrel over Greatness" - A Human Weakness

by Rev. Fr. Alexander J. Kurien

The disciples once again had a dispute over who was the greatest. Who do you think is the greatest among us? What do you measure greatness by? Are the great ones in the world of sports truly great? Are the great ones in the world of political leadership truly great? Are the great ones in the world of military leadership truly great? How about the great ones in the world of entertainment? Yet Jesus gives a different perspective on who is considered great in the eyes of God, as well as among God’s people. After all, what really matters are what God says, not what man says. What man says will fade into the dust of the ruins of humanity, but what God says endures forever (St. Matthew 24:35). And we would do well as a church to give heed to the important words, for in so doing, we will go a long way toward preserving unity in the fellowship, and electing the right kind of leaders for the Church and the Countries.

This is by no means the only time the disciples quarreled over who is the greatest. For example we read of a similar quarrel in St. Luke 22: 24-30. Then a quarrel erupted again when the mother of James and John asked Jesus that her sons sit on his right and left in the coming Kingdom (St. Matthew 20:22-28; St. Mark 10:35-45). But in spite of all the rebukes and teachings of our Lord regarding this subject, they continued to quarrel over which ones were the greatest, just as the modern men of our times.

The disciples had been learning all about the Kingdom of God from the very mouth of the Lord Himself; they had each left everything in this world to follow Jesus Christ; and they probably started to think that they were some pretty extraordinary, spiritual people. Perhaps they began to put themselves on bit of a pedestal. We tend to think of the disciples as almost like superhuman men of God. But here and throughout the Gospels we see that they were very human indeed and very prone to having an inflated sense of pride. Not one of them though would have predicted what Christ would say next. When Jesus spoke about who was the greatest He pointed not to Peter; not to John and not to James; He pointed to a cute little baby. The baby was the example of greatness. What does that mean? Jesus is saying that we must all become children in order to enter heaven. Now that does not seem too hard. After all we can do anything children can do. Surely anything children can be, we have been before and we can be again. Really, how hard can it be for adults to become children of God? The surprising answer is, it is really hard!

A child is not seen as great by anybody. He is completely dependent on his parents. He has no influence. He is weaker than every adult. He cannot make money. He has no exceptional abilities. He has no authority and no power. He just loves his Daddy; he knows he is dependent on him, and delights in him. He doesn’t even think about himself compared to others. He just thinks about how wonderful his Daddy is. You must change and become like that child if you are to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The world in which we live is basically a survival of the fittest environment. To survive and thrive we have learned to be self-dependent and as a result, we have developed a tendency to be like the disciples, wanting to be the greatest. We hate to let slip any signs of weakness. One does not normally want to be seen as being humble like a child. And yet Christ says, "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." So, the question is, what does a child have that we need? Young children typically are trusting; they do not tend to question what they are told as much. You might be thinking, ‘But God has given us an intellect and reason. Aren’t we supposed to think critically and ask questions to discern the truth in the world around us?’ Absolutely, this is true for so many areas of life. But our intellect can only take us so far. An over-reliance on human reason is what keeps many from embracing spiritual truth.

How hard can it be for adults to become children of God? It is so hard that we cannot do it on our own. It is so hard that we have to turn and become children of faith. Our minds must be transformed by the word of Jesus, as it says in Romans 12:2. We can become children of God, thankfully, because Jesus Himself became a child who was destined to die for the world. He came to search out and give His life for every one of these little ones. Our Lord has an eternal life-saving strategy, which may also appear rather frightening to us. It is the cross of Jesus. That cross was a gruesome and horrible sight but it was also God’s beautiful display of love. As a human being, that is where God gave Himself to save us; it is where He atoned for our sins by giving Himself in our place. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the greatest display of God’s rich and profound love.

The Holy Spirit is at work to this day. He reveals how, through faith we see ourselves as dependent and helpless babies but cradled in the arms of our loving God. He supplies what we need and He watches over us. And when Word and Sacrament reshape our hearts and minds, we gain an awareness of this truth. Since we are weak with sin, the only way into heaven is by being turned from our adult-like ways of self-reliance and letting Jesus carry us children there through faith.

Becoming children of God is indeed hard for us adults since we are so very hard-hearted at any age throughout life. In fact, it is impossible for us. But the good news is that it has happened already. Jesus, the only Son of the Father, makes us children of that same Father by Holy Baptism. This is why infant baptism is such a clear and beautiful display of the Gospel, because it visually demonstrates our complete dependence on God and His grace. There we see so clearly that every Christian, every believer is a tiny child in the arms of Jesus.

Everyone in the kingdom of heaven is the greatest! Everyone has the Spirit of God dwelling in him. God perfects everyone for His glory. For those who are in Christ, for those who have faith in Him: All are made perfect. All are great. You are no greater than anyone else. You are not less than anyone else. Because every believer has the righteousness of Christ – and that is what matters. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.