October 23, 2011

posted 21 Oct 2011, 01:45 by C S Paul   [ updated 21 Oct 2011, 01:50 ]
 October 23, 2011

SERMON OF THE WEEK 
                                        (Prepared by: Rev. Dr. V KurianThomas Valiyaparambil)

Provided by Mr. K. Kuriakose

This is the 6th Sunday after Sleebo. Gospel reading for Sunday 
is from Luke 18:18-27.
 
 
Theme: " It is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."
                          
 
Gospel Reading: (Luke 18:18-25)

The Rich Ruler:  

18A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
 19"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good except God alone. 
20You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother."
 21"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.
 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
 23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 
24Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
                      
Message:
    Here is a story of a rich young ruler who went to Jesus and afterwards came out in worse condition than when he went in. The ruler knew that Jesus possessed divine power and finds that he is in town. The ruler went over to meet Jesus in private. The ruler asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?". Jesus answered him to follow God's commandments: "do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother." The ruler said he has done all those since he was a young boy.  When Jesus heard this, he said, "You are still lacking one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me."
    When the ruler heard this, he became very sad because he was a man of great wealth. He thought Jesus would be happy to hear him say he obeyed all God's commandments and that will assure his eligibility for eternal life. Jesus looked at him and said, "It is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 

    People have tried to water down Jesus' statement, "It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."

    Some have suggested it is a mistake to interpret the "eye of a needle" with a sewing needle. Camels do not go through the eye of a sewing needle. It makes no sesnse. In the days of Christ, cities were surrounded with strong walls for protection against invading enemies. Gates were set in the walls to allow people and materials to come in and go out. The small door to let men in and out was called "the eye of the needle." It was very difficult for a camel to pass through this gate. (Critics cite a problem with this explanation in that there is no archaeological evidence to cite such a gate.)

     Another interpretation  is that "camel" in Aramaic language also meant "rope", since rope was woven out of the camel's hair, that Jesus must have meant "rope". Jesus spoke Aramaic and they interpret Jesus as saying a rope of such thickness would be difficult to go through the eye of a needle. (It's like back in Kerala,  "coir" in one sense could also mean "coconut" since coir is woven from coconut fiber). The debate continues........ 

    In spite of the wealth, success, and influence, there was a hunger in this rich man's life which his wealth could not fill. It's like we work all our life to buy that dream house or a vacation house or an expensive car, or land on a high paying job. But we all can find someone else with  bigger accomplishments than ours. The Bible teaches that there is nothing wrong with money. In fact wealth is a gift from God. But when money starts possessing us, we are in trouble. Money is a great servant but a lousy master. The Bible says that our love for money becomes the root of all problems. It will never satisfy us. It's like drinking sea water. It will only make us thirstier for more water. 

    We all want to achieve financial independence, but we end up in financial bondage. The rich ruler said to Jesus that he doesn't commit adultery, dishonor his parents, murder, lie to others, or haven't stolen from others. Then Jesus said, "There is just one more thing. Go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor." Jesus wasn't talking to sell all his good possessions and give to the poor unless his money has become his god. 

    Jesus looked at the young ruler and actually admired him. When he walked away, Jesus made the famous statement: how hard it is for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? It is easier for a camel (some interpret to mean the 'rope') to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
 
    This is one of the saddest stories in the Bible because the rich man went away in worse condition than when he went in. 
 
    The lesson from this story is that money can't buy us peace and happiness.  Getting that treasure in heaven for the rich man would be the same as for a beggar, thief, doctor, lawyer, professor, or the clergy to get it.  Money can't buy it. It won't be simply given to us either. We have to earn it. Our crave for worldly things can be the root of all problems. Money won't satisfy our crave for possessions. It will only make us crave for more and more.

    So what we are to do? We are warned to be careful not to become obsessed with worldly things. The treasure is waiting for us in heaven.
                
                             

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


Part One -  
CHAPTER VIII  Continued

The reader is now besought to return to the court described as part of the market at the Joppa Gate. It was the third hour of the day, and many of the people had gone away; yet the press continued without apparent abatement. Of the new-comers, there was a group over by the south wall, consisting of a man, a woman, and a donkey, which requires extended notice.

The man stood by the animal's head, holding a leading-strap, and leaning upon a stick which seemed to have been chosen for the double purpose of goad and staff. His dress was like that of the ordinary Jews around him, except that it had an appearance of newness. The mantle dropping from his head, and the robe or frock which clothed his person from neck to heel, were probably the garments he was accustomed to wear to the synagogue on Sabbath days. His features were exposed, and they told of fifty years of life, a surmise confirmed by the gray that streaked his otherwise black beard. He looked around him with the half-curious, half-vacant stare of a stranger and provincial.

The donkey ate leisurely from an armful of green grass, of which there was an abundance in the market. In its sleepy content, the brute did not admit of disturbance from the bustle and clamor about; no more was it mindful of the woman sitting upon its back in a cushioned pillion. An outer robe of dull woolen stuff completely covered her person, while a white wimple veiled her head and neck. Once in a while, impelled by curiosity to see or hear something passing, she drew the wimple aside, but so slightly that the face remained invisible.

At length the man was accosted.

"Are you not Joseph of Nazareth?"

The speaker was standing close by.

"I am so called," answered Joseph, turning gravely around; "And you--ah, peace be unto you! my friend, Rabbi Samuel!"

"The same give I back to you." The Rabbi paused, looking at the woman, then added, "To you, and unto your house and all your helpers, be peace."

With the last word, he placed one hand upon his breast, and inclined his head to the woman, who, to see him, had by this time withdrawn the wimple enough to show the face of one but a short time out of girlhood. Thereupon the acquaintances grasped right hands, as if to carry them to their lips; at the last moment, however, the clasp was let go, and each kissed his own hand, then put its palm upon his forehead.

"There is so little dust upon your garments," the Rabbi said, familiarly, "that I infer you passed the night in this city of our fathers."

"No," Joseph replied, "as we could only make Bethany before the night came, we stayed in the khan there, and took the road again at daybreak."

"The journey before you is long, then--not to Joppa, I hope."

"Only to Bethlehem."

The countenance of the Rabbi, theretofore open and friendly, became lowering and sinister, and he cleared his throat with a growl instead of a cough.

"Yes, yes--I see," he said. "You were born in Bethlehem, and wend thither now, with your daughter, to be counted for taxation, as ordered by Caesar. The children of Jacob are as the tribes in Egypt were--only they have neither a Moses nor a Joshua. How are the mighty fallen!"

Joseph answered, without change of posture or countenance, "The woman is not my daughter."

But the Rabbi clung to the political idea; and he went on, without noticing the explanation, "What are the Zealots doing down in Galilee?"

"I am a carpenter, and Nazareth is a village," said Joseph, cautiously. "The street on which my bench stands is not a road leading to any city. Hewing wood and sawing plank leave me no time to take part in the disputes of parties."

"But you are a Jew," said the Rabbi, earnestly. "You are a Jew, and of the line of David. It is not possible you can find pleasure in the payment of any tax except the shekel given by ancient custom to Jehovah."

Joseph held his peace.

"I do not complain," his friend continued, "of the amount of the tax--a denarius is a trifle. Oh no! The imposition of the tax is the offense. And, besides, what is paying it but submission to tyranny? Tell me, is it true that Judas claims to be the Messiah?

You live in the midst of his followers."

"I have heard his followers say he was the Messiah," Joseph replied.

At this point the wimple was drawn aside, and for an instant the whole face of the woman was exposed. The eyes of the Rabbi wandered that way, and he had time to see a countenance of rare beauty, kindled by a look of intense interest; then a blush overspread her cheeks and brow, and the veil was returned to its place.

The politician forgot his subject.

"Your daughter is comely," he said, speaking lower.

"She is not my daughter," Joseph repeated.

The curiosity of the Rabbi was aroused; seeing which, the Nazarene hastened to say further, "She is the child of Joachim and Anna of Bethlehem, of whom you have at least heard, for they were of great repute--"

"Yes," remarked the Rabbi, deferentially, "I know them. They were lineally descended from David. I knew them well."

"Well, they are dead now," the Nazarene proceeded. "They died in Nazareth. Joachim was not rich, yet he left a house and garden to be divided between his daughters Marian and Mary. This is one of them; and to save her portion of the property, the law required her to marry her next of kin. She is now my wife."

"And you were--"

"Her uncle."

"Yes, yes! And as you were both born in Bethlehem, the Roman compels you to take her there with you to be also counted."

The Rabbi clasped his hands, and looked indignantly to heaven, exclaiming, "The God of Israel still lives! The vengeance is his!"

With that he turned and abruptly departed. A stranger near by, observing Joseph's amazement, said, quietly, "Rabbi Samuel is a zealot. Judas himself is not more fierce."

Joseph, not wishing to talk with the man, appeared not to hear, and busied himself gathering in a little heap the grass which the donkey had tossed abroad; after which he leaned upon his staff again, and waited.

In another hour the party passed out the gate, and, turning to the left, took the road into Bethlehem. The descent into the valley of Hinnom was quite broken, garnished here and there with straggling wild olive-trees. Carefully, tenderly, the Nazarene walked by the woman's side, leading-strap in hand. On their left, reaching to the south and east round Mount Zion, rose the city wall, and on their right the steep prominences which form the western boundary of the valley.

Slowly they passed the Lower Pool of Gihon, out of which the sun was fast driving the lessening shadow of the royal hill; slowly they proceeded, keeping parallel with the aqueduct from the Pools of Solomon, until near the site of the country-house on what is now called the Hill of Evil Counsel; there they began to ascend to the plain of Rephaim.

The sun streamed garishly over the stony face of the famous locality, and under its influence Mary, the daughter of Joachim, dropped the wimple entirely, and bared her head. Joseph told the story of the Philistines surprised in their camp there by David. He was tedious in the narrative, speaking with the solemn countenance and lifeless manner of a dull man. She did not always hear him.

Wherever on the land men go, and on the sea ships, the face and figure of the Jew are familiar. The physical type of the race has always been the same; yet there have been some individual variations.

"Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to." Such was the son of Jesse when brought before Samuel.

The fancies of men have been ever since ruled by the description.

Poetic license has extended the peculiarities of the ancestor to his notable descendants. So all our ideal Solomons have fair faces, and hair and beard chestnut in the shade, and of the tint of gold in the sun. Such, we are also made believe, were the locks of Absalom the beloved. And, in the absence of authentic history, tradition has dealt no less lovingly by her whom we are now following down to the native city of the ruddy king.

She was not more than fifteen. Her form, voice, and manner belonged to the period of transition from girlhood. Her face was perfectly oval, her complexion more pale than fair. The nose was faultless; the lips, slightly parted, were full and ripe, giving to the lines of the mouth warmth, tenderness, and trust; the eyes were blue and large, and shaded by drooping lids and long lashes; and, in harmony with all, a flood of golden hair, in the style permitted to Jewish brides, fell unconfined down her back to the pillion on which she sat. The throat and neck had the downy softness sometimes seen which leaves the artist in doubt whether it is an effect of contour or color. To these charms of feature and person were added others more indefinable--an air of purity which only the soul can impart, and of abstraction natural to such as think much of things impalpable. Often, with trembling lips, she raised her eyes to heaven, itself not more deeply blue; often she crossed her hands upon her breast, as in adoration and prayer; often she raised her head like one listening eagerly for a calling voice.

Now and then, midst his slow utterances, Joseph turned to look at her, and, catching the expression kindling her face as with light, forgot his theme, and with bowed head, wondering, plodded on.

So they skirted the great plain, and at length reached the elevation Mar Elias; from which, across a valley, they beheld Bethlehem, the old, old House of Bread, its white walls crowning a ridge, and shining above the brown scumbling of leafless orchards. They paused there, and rested, while Joseph pointed out the places of sacred renown; then they went down into the valley to the well which was the scene of one of the marvellous exploits of David's strong men. The narrow space was crowded with people and animals. A fear came upon Joseph--a fear lest, if the town were so thronged, there might not be house-room for the gentle Mary.

Without delay, he hurried on, past the pillar of stone marking the tomb of Rachel, up the gardened slope, saluting none of the many persons he met on the way, until he stopped before the portal of the khan that then stood outside the village gates, near a junction of roads. 

(To be continued)


The Power of Positive Thinking

by Norman Vincent Peale

Chapter 2 Continued

Perhaps we all cannot have such murals on the dining-room walls, but you can put them around the wall of your mind: pictures of the most beautiful experiences of your life. Spend time among the thoughts which these pictures suggest. No matter how busy you may be or what responsibilities you carry, this simple, rather unique practice, having proved successful in many instances, may have a beneficial effect upon you. It is an easily practiced, easy way to a peaceful mind.

There is a factor in the matter of inner peace which must be stated because of its importance.

Frequently I find that people who are lacking in inner peace are victims of a self-punishment mechanism. At some time in their experience they have committed a sin and the sense of guilt haunts them. They have sincerely sought Divine forgiveness, and the good Lord will always forgive anyone who asks Him and who means it. However, there is a curious quirk within the human mind whereby sometimes an individual will not forgive himself.

He feels that he deserves punishment and therefore is constantly anticipating that punishment. As a result he lives in a constant apprehension that something is going to happen. In order to find peace under these circumstances he must increase the intensity of his activity. He feels that hard work will give him some release from his sense of guilt. 

A physician told me that in his practice a number of cases of nervous breakdown were traceable to a sense of guilt for which the patient had unconsciously attempted to compensate by hectic overwork. The patient attributed his breakdown not to the sense of guilt, but to his overworked condition. "But," said the physician, "these men need not have broken down from overwork if first the sense of guilt had been fully released." Peace of mind under such circumstances is available by yielding the guilt as well as the tension it produces to the healing therapy of Christ.

At a resort hotel where I had gone for a few days of quiet writing I encountered a man from New York whom I knew slightly. He was a high-pressured, hard-driving, and exceedingly nervous business executive. He was sitting in the sun in a deck chair. At his invitation I sat down and chatted with him.

"I'm glad to see you relaxing in this beautiful spot," I commented.

He replied nervously, "I haven't any business being here. I've so much work to do at home. I'm under terrible pressure.

Things have got me down, I'm nervous and can't sleep. I'm jumpy. My wife insisted that I come down here for a week.

The doctors say there's nothing wrong with me if I just get to thinking right and relax. But how in the world do you do that?" he challenged. Then he gave me a piteous look.

"Doctor," he said, "I would give anything if I could be peaceful and quiet. It's what I want more than anything in this world."

We talked a bit, and it came out in the conversation that he was always worrying that something sinister was going to happen. For years he had anticipated some dire event, living in constant apprehension about "something happening" to his wife or his children or his home.

It was not difficult to analyze his case. His insecurity arose from a double source—from childhood insecurities and from later guilty experiences. His mother had always felt that "something was going to happen," and he had absorbed her anxiety feelings. Later he committed some sins, and his subconscious mind insisted upon self-punishment. He became victim to the mechanism of self-punishment. As a result of this unhappy combination I found him this day in a highly inflamed state of nervous reaction.

Finishing our conversation, I stood beside his chair a moment. There was no one near, so I rather hesitantly suggested, "Would you by any chance like me to pray with you?" He nodded, and I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed, "Dear Jesus, as You healed people in the long ago and gave them peace, heal this man now. Give him fully of Thy forgiveness. Help him to forgive himself. Separate him from all his sins and let him know that You do not hold them against him. Set him free from them. Then let Thy peace flow into his mind, and into his soul, and into his body."

He looked up at me with a strange look on his face and then turned away, for there were tears in his eyes and he didn't want me to see them. We were both a bit embarrassed, and I left him. Months later I met him, and he said, "Something happened to me down there that day when you prayed for me. I felt a strange sense of quietness and peace, and," he added, "healing."

He goes to church regularly now and he reads the Bible every day of his life. He follows the laws of God and he has lots of driving force. He is a healthy, happy man, for he has peace in his heart and mind.

To be continued

Just for Laughs

Quotes about Marriage

·        "Some marriages are made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightning."

·        "Marriage is a lot like the army. Everyone complains, but you'd be surprised at the number that re-enlist."

·        "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards."

·        "Don't assume that every sad-eyed woman has loved and lost - she may have got him."

·        "A man usually falls in love with a woman who asks the kinds of questions he can answer."

·        "Before marriage the three little words are 'I love you', after marriage they are, 'let's eat out'."

·        "By all means marry: If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philospher."

·        "A diplomatic husband said to his wife, 'How do you expect me to remember your birthday when you never look any older?'"

·        "It takes a smart spouse to have the last word and not use it."

·        "Alimony is like buying oats for a dead horse."

·        "The most difficult years of marriage are those following the wedding."

·        "Marriage is like twirling a baton, handsprings, or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy till you try it."

·        "Many husbands go broke on the money their wives save on sales."

·    "There are two times when a man doesn't understand a woman - before marriage and after marriage."

·         "In Hollywood all marriages are happy. It's trying to live together afterwards that causes the problems."

                                      
Did You Know ?    

·        A strand from the web of a golden spider is as strong as a steel wire of the same size.

·        A toothpick is the object most often choked on by Americans.

·        The microwave oven was invented by mistake when an engineer testing a magnetron tube noticed that the radiation from it melted the chocolate bar he had in his pocket.

·        Moisture, not air, causes super glue to dry.   

·        100% of all lottery winners gain weight.

·        The Olympic flag's colors are always red, black, blue, green and yellow rings on a field of white. This is because at least one of those colors appears on the flag of every nation on the planet.

·        Cats can hear ultrasound.

·        If you were to spell out numbers, you would you have to go until 1,000 until you would find the letter "A”

·        Bullet proof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers were all invented by women.


 Story Of The Week

The Boy Under the Tree

In the summer recess between freshman and sophomore years in college, I was invited to be an instructor at a high school leadership camp hosted by a college in Michigan. I was already highly involved in most campus activities, and I jumped at the opportunity.

About an hour into the first day of camp, amid the frenzy of icebreakers and forced interactions, I first noticed the boy under the tree. He was small and skinny, and his obvious discomfort and shyness made him appear frail and fragile. Only 50 feet away, 200 eager campers were bumping bodies, playing, joking and meeting each other, but the boy under the tree seemed to want to be anywhere other than where he was. The desperate loneliness he radiated almost stopped me from approaching him, but I remembered the instructions from the senior staff to stay alert for campers who might feel left out.

As I walked toward him I said, "Hi, my name is Kevin and I'm one of the counselors. It's nice to meet you. How are you?" In a shaky, sheepish voice he reluctantly answered, "Okay, I guess." I calmly asked him if he wanted to join the activities and meet some new people. He quietly replied, "No, this is not really my thing."

I could sense that he was in a new world, that this whole experience was foreign to him. But I somehow knew it wouldn't be right to push him, either. He didn't need a pep talk, he needed a friend. After several silent moments, my first interaction with the boy under the tree was over.

At lunch the next day, I found myself leading camp songs at the top of my lungs for 200 of my new friends. The campers were eagerly participated. My gaze wandered over the mass of noise and movement and was caught by the image of the boy from under the tree, sitting alone, staring out the window. I nearly forgot the words to the song I was supposed to be leading. At my first opportunity, I tried again, with the same questions as before: "How are you doing? Are you okay?" To which he again replied, "Yeah, I'm alright. I just don't really get into this stuff". As I left the cafeteria, I too realized this was going to take more time and effort than I had thought, if it was even possible to get through to him at all.

That evening at our nightly staff meeting, I made my concerns about him known. I explained to my fellow staff members my impression of him and asked them to pay special attention and spend time with him when they could.

The days I spend at camp each year fly by faster than any others I have known. Thus, before I knew it, mid-week had dissolved into the final night of camp and I was chaperoning the "last dance". The students were doing all they could to savor every last moment with their new "best friends", friends they would probably never see again.

As I watched the campers share their parting moments, I suddenly saw what would be one of the most vivid memories of my life. The boy from under the tree, who stared blankly out the kitchen window, was now a shirtless dancing wonder. He owned the dance floor as he and two girls proceeded to cut up a rug. I watched as he shared meaningful, intimate time with people at whom he couldn't even look just days earlier. I couldn't believe it was him.

In October of my sophomore year, a late-night phone call pulled me away from my chemistry book. A soft-spoken, unfamiliar voice asked politely, "Is Kevin there?"

"You're talking to him. Who's this?"

"This is Tom Johnson's mom. Do you remember Tommy from leadership camp?

The boy under the tree. How could I not remember?

"Yes, I do", I said. "He's a very nice young man. How is he?"

An abnormally long pause followed, then Mrs. Johnson said, "My Tommy was walking home from school this week when he was hit by a car and killed." Shocked, I offered my condolences.

"I just wanted to call you", she said, "because Tommy mentioned you so many times. I wanted you to know that he went back to school this fall with confidence. He made new friends. His grades went up. And he even went out on a few dates. I just wanted to thank you for making a difference for Tom. The last few months were the best few months of his life."

In that instant, I realized how easy it is to give a bit of yourself every day. You may never know how much each gesture may mean to someone else. I tell this story as often as I can, and when I do, I urge others to look out for their own "boy under the tree."

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