October 16, 2011

posted 15 Oct 2011, 01:52 by C S Paul   [ updated 15 Oct 2011, 01:54 ]

SERMON OF THE WEEK

Prepared by: Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil

(Provided by K.Kuriakose)


October 16, 2011

Next Sunday is the 5th Sunday after Sleebo. Gospel reading is from Mathew 23:1-12.

Theme: "Some of the greatest blessings in life come when you  humbly realize someone else is more important than you are."

Scripture Reading: (Mathew 23:1-12)

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:

2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.

3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do  not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but  they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteriesa] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 

6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;

7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'

8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.

9 And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.

10 Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.b]

11The greatest among you will be your servant.

12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever  humbles himself will be exalted."

Bhagavat Gita, in Ch. XIV.4 reads, "Hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and ignorance belong  to thoseo those born to the heritage of the demons."

Message: The religious leaders of Jesus' day, and some today as well, wanted (or want) to be looked at and treated as though they are a step closer to God than are others. They wanted others to think they had some special privileges in God's eyes that the common man doesn't posses. Jesus said these men dress up in style to draw attention to themselves and expect men to obey rules they themselves wouldn't obey. These religious leaders want to be robed in special decorative titles. They want to be addressed as Rabbis. They demand obedience to the authority they portray.

Jesus says God is not impressed with the pride of these men. If you want to be somebody, put others before you. Become great by becoming a servant. Although pride harms only the proud, it brings contempt for others when the ego is inflated. Pride coupled with inflated ego and arrogance often results in contempt for others and frequently offend friends, relatives, colleagues and everyone who comes in contact with him.

Likewise, we all want to impress on others, want to be seen as successful, and of course, better than others. We all want recognition, high positions, power, money, and so forth. Most of us are braggers of our own achievements. Most of us want to be the lead dogs.

This desire to be first or be the best has a name called, "Pride". Jesus tells us what he thinks about those who want to be first. Jesus says, "First will be the last and the last will be the first."

Just like the Pharisees, many among us want to be seen as  special and treated as closer to God than anyone else. The Pharisees dressed to draw attention to themselves on a higher  level than others. They tried to appear religious without actually being religious. Jesus said they do not practice what they preach.

Their philosophy was, "Do as I say, not as I do." Jesus spent a great deal of time uncovering the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Jesus told his followers, "Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they preach." Hypocrisy is when someone pretends to be something his is not.

A pastor in a small church asked a member who quit attending  services in his church, as to why he is not coming to church? He replied that most of those who attend there are hypocrites. The pastor replied, "May be it is true, but there is always room for one more." It does beg one big question: "Are there hypocrites in our church today?" Yes, there are plenty. Why? Pride and ego make people become hypocrites. We all pretend to be somebody we are not. We are too proud to admit that we are not better than others. Like the Pharisees, we may be able to fool others and be looked up to. In reality, there is nothing to gain by pretending to be what we are not.

As we see in the Bible, God prefers a humbler person who thinks like what God thought than a proud person who cares about how others thought of him. How can we achieve that goal?

1) Make scripture, not others, our standard for life.

2) Avoid living a "showcase" life. Do not seek or go after honor, titles, or approval from people. If you deserve it, it will come to you without you seeking it.

3. Work on developing a Servant's heart. Whoever exalts himself  will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

It was true in Jesus' time, and it is true today.

   
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 

Author: Lew Wallace

Part One

Biblical references: Matt. 2:1-12, Luke 2:1-20

Three Magi have come from the East. One, Balthasar, sets up a tent in the desert. Melchior, a Hindu, and Gaspar from Athens join him and as the three men each tell their stories and they realize they have been brought together by their common goal. As they prepare for the journey to come, they see a bright star shining over the region, and they take it as a sign that they are to leave. They follow the star through the desert towards the province of Judaea.

At the Joppa Gate in Jerusalem Mary and Joseph are traveling through on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They stop at the inn at the entrance to the city but there is no room. Mary is pregnant and, as labor begins, they head to a cave on a hillside behind the inn and here Jesus is born.

In the pasturelands outside the city, a group of seven shepherds are keeping watch over their flocks. Angels from heaven announce the Christ's birth. The shepherds hurry towards the city. They are rebuked by one of the men supervising the khan but nevertheless, inspired by the angels' message, they enter the caves on the hillside and worship Christ.

They spread the news of the Christ's birth and many come to see him. The Magi arrive in Jerusalem and inquire for news of the Christ. Herod the Great is angry to hear of another king challenging his rule and asks the Sanhedrin to find information for him. The Sanhedrin brings out a prophecy, written by Micah, telling of a ruler to come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, interpreting it to signify the Christ's birthplace.

CHAPTER VII

Let us take our stand by the gate, just out of the edge of the currents--one flowing in, the other out--and use our eyes and ears awhile.

In good time! Here come two men of a most noteworthy class.

"Gods! How cold it is!" says one of them, a powerful figure in  armor; on his head a brazen helmet, on his body a shining breastplate and skirts of mail. "How cold it is! Dost thou remember, my Caius, that vault in the Comitium at home which the flamens say is the entrance to the lower world? By Pluto! I could stand there this morning, long enough at least to get warm again!"

The party addressed drops the hood of his military cloak, leaving bare his head and face, and replies, with an ironic smile, "The helmets of the legions which conquered Mark Antony were full of Gallic snow; but thou--ah, my poor friend!--thou hast just come from Egypt, bringing its summer in thy blood."

And with the last word they disappear through the entrance.

Though they had been silent, the armor and the sturdy step would have published them Roman soldiers.

From the throng a Jew comes next, meager of frame, round-shouldered, and wearing a coarse brown robe; over his eyes and face, and  down his back, hangs a mat of long, uncombed hair. He is alone.

Those who meet him laugh, if they do not worse; for he is a Nazarite, one of a despised sect which rejects the books of Moses, devotes itself  to abhorred vows, and goes unshorn while the vows endure.

As we watch his retiring figure, suddenly there is a commotion in the crowd, a parting quickly to the right and left, with exclamations sharp and decisive. Then the cause comes--a man, Hebrew in feature and dress. The mantle of snow-white linen, held to his head by cords of yellow silk, flows free over his shoulders; his robe is richly embroidered, a red sash with fringes of gold wraps his waist several times. His demeanor is calm; he even smiles upon those who, with such rude haste, make room for him. A leper?

No, he is only a Samaritan. The shrinking crowd, if asked, would say he is a mongrel--an Assyrian--whose touch of the robe is pollution; from whom, consequently, an Israelite, though dying, might not accept life. In fact, the feud is not of blood. When David set his throne here on Mount Zion, with only Judah to

support him, the ten tribes betook themselves to Shechem, a city much older, and, at that date, infinitely richer in holy memories.

The final union of the tribes did not settle the dispute thus begun.

The Samaritans clung to their tabernacle on Gerizim, and, while maintaining its superior sanctity, laughed at the irate doctors in Jerusalem. Time brought no assuagement of the hate.

Under Herod, conversion to the faith was open to all the world except the Samaritans; they alone were absolutely and forever shut out from communion with Jews.

As the Samaritan goes in under the arch of the gate, out come three men so unlike all whom we have yet seen that they fix our gaze, whether we will or not. They are of unusual stature and immense brawn; their eyes are blue, and so fair is their  complexion that the blood shines through the skin like blue pencilling; their hair is light and short; their heads, small and round, rest squarely upon  necks columnar as the trunks of trees.

Woollen tunics, open at the breast, sleeveless and loosely girt, drape their bodies, leaving bare arms and legs of such development that they at once suggest the arena; and when thereto we add their careless, confident, insolent manner, we cease to wonder that the people give them way, and  stop after they have passed to look at them again. They are gladiators--wrestlers, runners, boxers, swordsmen; professionals unknown in Judea  before the coming of the Roman; fellows who, what time they are not in training, may be seen strolling through the king's gardens or sitting with the guards at the palace gates; or possibly they are visitors from Caesarea, Sebaste, or Jericho; in which Herod, more Greek than Jew, and with all a Roman's love of games and bloody spectacles, has built vast theaters, and now keeps schools of fighting-men, drawn, as is the custom, from the Gallic provinces or the Slavic tribes on the Danube.

"By Bacchus!" says one of them, drawing his clenched hand to his shoulder, "their skulls are not thicker than eggshells."

The brutal look which goes with the gesture disgusts us, and we turn happily to something more pleasant.

Opposite us is a fruit-stand. The proprietor has a bald head, a long face, and a nose like the beak of a hawk. He sits upon a carpet spread upon the dust; the wall is at his back; overhead hangs a scant curtain, around him, within hand's reach and arranged upon little stools, lie osier boxes full of almonds, grapes, figs, and pomegranates. To him now comes one at whom we cannot help looking, though for another reason than that which fixed our eyes upon the gladiators; he is really beautiful--a beautiful Greek.

Around his temples, holding the waving hair, is a crown of myrtle, to which still cling the pale flowers and half ripe berries. His tunic, scarlet in color, is of the softest woollen fabric; below the girdle of buff leather, which is clasped in front by a fantastic device of shining gold, the skirt drops to the knee in folds heavy with embroidery of the same royal metal; a scarf, also woollen, and of mixed white and yellow, crosses his throat and falls trailing at his back; his arms and legs, where exposed, are white as ivory, and of the polish impossible except by perfect treatment with bath, oil, brushes, and pincers.

The dealer, keeping his seat, bends forward, and throws his hands up until they meet in front of him, palm downwards and fingers extended.

"What hast thou, this morning, O son of Paphos?" says the young Greek, looking at the boxes rather than at the Cypriote. "I am hungry. What hast thou for breakfast?"

"Fruits from the Pedius--genuine--such as the singers of Antioch take of mornings to restore the waste of their voices," the dealer answers, in a querulous nasal tone.

"A fig, but not one of thy best, for the singers of Antioch!" says the Greek. "Thou art a worshiper of Aphrodite, and so am I, as the myrtle I wear proves; therefore I tell thee their voices have the chill of a Caspian wind. Seest thou this girdle?--a gift of the mighty Salome--"

"The king's sister!" exclaims the Cypriote, with another salaam.

"And of royal taste and divine judgment. And why not? She is more Greek than the king. But--my breakfast! Here is thy  money--red coppers of Cyprus. Give me grapes, and--"

"Wilt thou not take the dates also?"

"No, I am not an Arab."

"Nor figs?"

"That would be to make me a Jew. No, nothing but the grapes. Never waters mixed so sweetly as the blood of the Greek and the blood of the grape."

The singer in the grimed and seething market, with all his airs of the court, is a vision not easily shut out of mind by such as see him; as if for the purpose, however, a person follows him challenging all our wonder. He comes up the road slowly, his face towards the ground; at intervals he stops, crosses his hands upon his breast, lengthens his countenance, and turns his eyes towards heaven, as if about to break into prayer. Nowhere, except in Jerusalem, can such a character be found. On his forehead, attached to the band which keeps the mantle in place, projects a leathern case, square in form; another similar case is tied by a thong to the left arm; the borders of his robe are decorated with deep fringe; and by such signs--the phylacteries, the enlarged borders of the garment, and the savor of intense holiness pervading the whole man--we know him to be a Pharisee, one of an organization (in religion a sect, in politics a party) whose bigotry and power will shortly bring the world to grief.

The densest of the throng outside the gate covers the road leading off to Joppa. Turning from the Pharisee, we are attracted by some parties who, as subjects of study, opportunely separate themselves from the motley crowd. First among them a man of very noble appearance--clear, healthful complexion; bright black eyes; beard long and flowing, and rich with unguents; apparel well-fitting, costly, and suitable for the season.

He carries a staff, and wears, suspended by a cord from his neck, a large golden seal. Several servants attend him, some of them with short swords stuck through their sashes; when they address him, it is with the utmost deference. The rest of the party consists of two Arabs of the pure desert stock; thin, wiry men, deeply bronzed, and with hollow cheeks, and eyes of almost evil brightness; on their heads red tarbooshes; over their abas, and wrapping the left shoulder and the body so as to leave the right arm free, brown woollen haicks, or blankets. There is loud chaffering, for the Arabs are leading horses and trying to sell them; and, in their eagerness, they speak in high, shrill voices.

The courtly person leaves the talking mostly to his servants; occasionally he answers with much dignity; directly, seeing the Cypriote, he stops and buys some figs. And when the whole party has passed the portal, close after the Pharisee, if we betake ourselves to the dealer in fruits, he will tell, with a wonderful salaam, that the stranger is a Jew, one of the princes of the city, who has travelled, and learned the difference between the common grapes of Syria and those of Cyprus, so surpassingly rich with the dews of the sea.

And so, till towards noon, sometimes later, the steady currents of business habitually flow in and out of the Joppa Gate, carrying with them every variety of character; including representatives of all the tribes of Israel, all the sects among whom the ancient faith has been parcelled and refined away, all the religious and social divisions, all the adventurous rabble who, as children of art and ministers of pleasure, riot in the prodigalities of Herod, and all the peoples of note at any time compassed by the Caesars and their predecessors, especially those dwelling within the circuit of the Mediterranean.

In other words, Jerusalem, rich in sacred history, richer in connection with sacred prophecies--the Jerusalem of Solomon, in which silver was as stones, and cedars as the sycamores of the vale--had come to be but a copy of Rome, a center of unholy practises, a seat of pagan power. A Jewish king one day put on priestly garments, and went into the Holy of Holies of the first temple to offer incense, and he came out a leper; but in the time of which we are reading, Pompey entered Herod's temple and the same Holy of Holies, and came out without harm, finding but an empty chamber, and of God not a sign.  
(to be continued)

The Power of Positive Thinking

by Norman Vincent Peale

Chapter 2 Continued

Americans unfortunately are not skilled in this practice, which is a pity, for as Thomas Carlyle said, "Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves." This generation of Americans has missed something that our forefathers knew and which helped to condition their character—and that is the silence of the great forest or of the far-reaching plains.

Perhaps our lack of inner peace is due to some extent to the effect of noise upon the nervous system of modern people.

Scientific experiments show that noise in the place where we work, live, or sleep reduces efficiency to a noticeable degree.

Contrary to popular belief, it is doubtful if we ever completely adjust our physical, mental, or nervous mechanisms to noise. No matter how familiar a repeated sound becomes, it never passes unheard by the subconscious.

Automobile horns, the roar of airplanes, and other strident noises actually result in physical activity during sleep.

Impulses transmitted to and through the nerves by these sounds cause muscular movements which detract from real rest. If the reaction is sufficiently severe, it partakes of the nature of shock.

On the contrary, silence is a healing, soothing, healthy practice.

tarr Daily says, "No man or woman of my acquaintance who knows how to practice silence and does it has ever been sick to my knowledge. I have noticed that my own afflictions come upon me when I do not balance expression with relaxation." Starr Daily closely associates silence with spiritual healing. The sense of rest that results from a practice of complete silence is a therapy of utmost value.

In the circumstances of modern life, with its acceleration of pace, the practice of silence is admittedly not so simple as it was in the days of our forefathers. A vast number of noise- producing gadgets exist that they did not know, and our daily program is more hectic. Space has been annihilated in the modern world, and apparently we are also attempting to annihilate the factor of time. It is only rarely possible for an individual to walk in deep woods or sit by the sea or meditate on a mountaintop or on the deck of a vessel in the midst of the ocean. But when we do have such experiences, we can print on the mind the picture of the silent place and the feel of the moment and return to it in memory to live it over again just as truly as when we were actually in that scene. In fact, when you return to it in memory the mind tends to remove any unpleasant factors present in the actual situation.

The memory visit is often an improvement over the actual for the mind tends to reproduce only the beauty in the remembered scene.

For example, as I write these words, I am on a balcony of one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, the Royal Hawaiian on the famed and romantic Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii. I am looking into a garden filled with graceful palm trees, swaying in the balmy breeze. The air is laden with the aroma of exotic flowers. Hibiscus, of which on these islands there are two thousand varieties, fill the garden. Outside my windows are papaya trees laden with ripening fruit. The brilliant color of the royal poinciana, the flame of the forest trees, adds to the glamor of the scene; and the acacia trees are hung heavily with their exquisite white flowers.

The incredible blue ocean surrounding these islands stretches away to the horizon. The white waves are surging in, and the Hawaiians and my fellow visitors are riding gracefully on surfboards and outrigger canoes. Altogether it is a scene of entrancing beauty. It has an indescribably healing effect upon me as I sit here writing about the power generated in a peaceful mind. The insistent responsibilities under which I ordinarily live seem so far away. Though I am in Hawaii to give a series of lectures and to write this book, nevertheless the peace with which this place is filled envelops me. Yet Irealize that when I have returned to my home in New York,five thousand miles away, I shall only then truly savor theexquisite joy of the beauty which I now behold. It will become enshrined in memory as a private retreat to which my mind can go in the busy days that lie ahead. Often, when far from this idyllic place, I shall return in memory to find peace along the palm-lined, foam-washed beach at Waikiki.

Fill your mind with all peaceful experiences possible, then make planned and deliberate excursions to them in memory.

You must learn that the easiest way to an easy mind is to create an easy mind. This is done by practice, by the application of some such simple principles as outlined here.

The mind quickly responds to teaching and discipline. You can make the mind give you back anything you want, but remember the mind can give back only what it was first given. Saturate your thoughts with peaceful experiences, peaceful words and ideas, and ultimately you will have a storehouse of peace-producing experiences to which you may turn for refreshment and renewal of your spirit. It will be a vast source of power.

I spent a night with a friend who has a very lovely home. We had breakfast in a unique and interesting dining room. The four walls are painted in a beautiful mural picturing the countryside in which my host was reared as a boy. It is a panorama of rolling hills, gentle valleys, and singing streams, the latter clean and sun speckled, and babbling over rocks. Winding roads meander through pleasant meadows.

Little houses dot the landscape. In a central position is a white church surmounted by a tall steeple.

As we breakfasted my host talked of this region of his youth, pointing out various points of interest in the painting around the wall. Then he said, "Often as I sit in this dining room I go from point to point in my memory and relive other days. I recall, for example, walking up that lane as a boy with bare feet, and I can remember yet how the clean dust felt between my toes. I remember fishing in that trout stream on many a summer afternoon and coasting down those hills in the wintertime.

"There is the church I attended as a boy." He grinned and said, "I sat through many a long sermon in that church but gratefully recall to mind the kindliness of the people and the sincerity of their lives. I can sit here and look at that church and think of the hymns I heard there with my mother and father as we sat together in the pew. They are long buried in that cemetery alongside the church, but in memory I go and stand by their graves and hear them speak to me as in days gone by. I get very tired and sometimes am nervous and tense. It helps to sit here and go back to the days when I had an untroubled mind, when life was new and fresh. It does something for me. It gives me peace."

(to be continued)

Just for Laughs


Children's Explanation Of God

"You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to help you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time."

"You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there's anybody you want to make happy, it's God."

"Don't skip church or do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong. And besides the sun doesn't come out at the beach until noon anyway."

"If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It is good to know He's around you when you're scared, in the dark or when you can't swim and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids."

"But... you shouldn't just always think of what God can do for you.

I figure God put me here and he can take me back anytime he pleases. And... that's why I believe in God."


Publish Sermons

After a particularly inspiring worship service, a church member  greeted the pastor.

"Reverend, that was a wonderful sermon. You should have it published."

The pastor replied, "Actually, I'm planning to have all my sermons published posthumously." "Great!" enthused the church member.

"The sooner the better!"


Did You Know ?

·         1 pound of lemons contain more sugar than 1 pound of strawberries.

·         61,000 people are airborne over the US at any given time.

·         A flamingo can eat only when its head is upside down.

·     Mark Twain was born on a day in 1835 when Halley's Comet came into view. When he died in                   1910, Halley's Comet was in view again.

·         The Weddell seal can travel underwater for seven miles without surfacing for air.

·         A snail can have about 25,000 teeth.

·         A snail can also sleep for three years.

·         A starfish can turn its stomach inside out.

·         About a third of all Americans flush the toilet while they're still sitting on it.

·         According to Genesis 1:20-22 the chicken came before the egg.

·         Soldiers from every country salute with their right hand.

 

Story of the Week

 I Was There

You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news, Sept. 11, 2001. Neither will I. I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say "Good-Bye." I held his fingers steady as he dialed. I gave him the peace to say, "Honey, I am not going to make it, but it is OK.. I am ready to go." I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children. I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn't coming home that night.

I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to me for help. "I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!" I said. "Of course I will show you the way home - only believe on Me now."

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls. I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven. He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.

I was with the crew as they were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of the believers there. Comforting and assuring them that their Faith has saved them.

I was in Texas, Kansas, London. I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news. Did you sense Me?

I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew every name - though they did NOT all know Me. Some met me for the first time on the 100th floor. Some sought me out in their last breath.

Some couldn't hear me calling to them through the smoke and flames, "Come to Me... this way... take my hand."

Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me.

But, I was there.

I did not place you in the Tower that day - you may not know why, but I DO.

However, if you were there in that explosive moment in time, would you have reached for Me? September 11, 2001 was not the end of the journey for you. But someday your journey will end.

And I will be there for you as well. Seek Me now while I may be found. Then, at any moment, you know you are "ready to go."

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.

Love,

Jesus

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