October 2, 2011

posted 30 Sep 2011, 09:16 by C S Paul   [ updated 1 Oct 2011, 06:03 ]

October 2, 2011


SERMON OF THE WEEK

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

(Provided by K.Kuriakose)


Next Sunday is the third Sunday after Sleebo. Gospel reading for  Sunday is from Mark 2:23-28.

Theme:  Observing the Sabbath law. God's laws are not about control and domination. God did not give us his commands to show who is the boss. He gave us his laws for our benefit. Jesus makes that very clear in this gospel.

Gospel Reading: (Mark 2:23-28):  

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 

24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

25 He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 

26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."

27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 

28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

Message: The term "Sabbath" is derived from the Hebrew word "Shabbat", which means, "to cease". Those who observe Sabbath generally regard it as a day of rest and respect for God for having completed the creation in six days as well as to commemorate Jewish redemption from slavery in Egypt. The so-called "Sabbatical leave" is thought to have its origin mandated also from this concept. The Pharisees were very traditionalists in observing the Sabbath because of its roots in the Old Testament teachings. .

One day as Jesus and his disciples were walking through a grain field on a Sabbath day, the disciples started to pluck some heads of grain to satisfy their hunger. The Pharisees happened to observe this and complained to Jesus about the actions of his disciples. It was assumed, as their teacher, Jesus was responsible for their behavior. The Pharisees viewed picking grain on a Sabbath day was a violation of the rule prescribed in Exodus 20: 8-11 which states, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the Sabbath day is a Sabbath to the Lord. On it you shall not do any work."

Jesus responded by citing the example of King David from 1 Samuel 21:1-16, David who was fleeing from Saul took and ate the consecrated bread from the house of God. The consecrated bread was to be eaten only by the priest, yet David who was hungry and in need of food was allowed as an exception by the high-priest Abiathar. That was on a Sabbath day. In opting for David, the Pharisees thereby exonerated the activities of Jesus' disciples. Jesus cited David's action as a precedent. When David ate the consecrated bread, he was hungry and it would be admittedly a lawful act. Jesus said the disciples ate grain because they were hungry, something the law of God permits.

Jesus then continued to respond by discussing the purpose of Sabbath. Human beings were not created to observe the Sabbath, but Sabbath was created for their benefit. Sabbath is not an end in itself but only a means to achieve a goal. Sabbath was originally given to men for rest and recreation. When pproperly observed, it would be a joy. But the Pharisees had made it a terrible burden for people to bear. None of God's laws were intended to be interpreted to hurt people, rather it was to help them. Jesus addressed the charges by stating that the Sabbath was not meant to restrict necessities. It was made to serve people, not for the people to serve Sabbath. 

Sabbath has been essentially a Jewish practice, not a Christian way of life. It has been a Jewish practice to commemorate Jewish people's redemption from slavery in Egypt. It also commemorates God's creation of the universe, and on the seventh day God rested (or ceased) from his work. Sabbath is fasting from business one day a week. It is a weekly practice of "stilling" ourselves and taking rest, so that during rest we have a still soul and be able to remember what is important that God wants us to have in life. Treat it as a gift from God.

 

Title: 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 V continued

"I was born at Alexandria, a prince and a priest, and had the education usual to my class. But very early I became discontented.

Part of the faith imposed was that after death upon the destruction of the body, the soul at once began its former progression from the lowest up to humanity, the highest and last existence; and that without reference to conduct in the mortal life. When I heard of the

Persian's Realm of Light, his Paradise across the bridge Chinevat, where only the good go, the thought haunted me; insomuch that in the day, as in the night, I brooded over the comparative ideas Eternal Transmigration and Eternal Life in Heaven. If, as my teacher taught, God was just, why was there no distinction between the good and the bad? At length it became clear to me, a certainty, a corollary of the law to which I reduced pure religion, that death was only the point of separation at which the wicked are left or lost, and the faithful rise to a higher life; not the nirvana of Buddha, or the negative rest of Brahma, O Melchior; nor the better condition in hell, which is all of Heaven allowed by the Olympic faith, O Gaspar; but life—life active, joyous, everlasting--LIFE WITH GOD! The discovery led

to another inquiry. Why should the Truth be longer kept a secret for the selfish solace of the priesthood? The reason for the suppression was gone. Philosophy had at least brought us toleration. In Egypt we had Rome instead of Rameses. One day, in the Brucheium, the most splendid and crowded quarter of Alexandria, I arose and preached.

The East and West contributed to my audience. Students going to the Library, priests from the Serapeion, idlers from the Museum, patrons of the race-course, countrymen from the Rhacotis—a multitude--stopped to hear me. I preached God, the Soul, Right and Wrong, and Heaven, the reward of a virtuous life. You, O Melchior, were stoned; my auditors first wondered, then laughed. I tried again; they pelted me with epigrams, covered my God with ridicule, and darkened my Heaven with mockery. Not to linger needlessly, I fell before them."

The Hindoo here drew a long sigh, as he said, "The enemy of man is man, my brother."

Balthasar lapsed into silence.

"I gave much thought to finding the cause of my failure, and at last succeeded," he said, upon beginning again. "Up the river, a day's journey from the city, there is a village of herdsmen and gardeners. I took a boat and went there. In the evening I called the people together, men and women, the poorest of the poor.

I preached to them exactly as I had preached in the Brucheium. They did not laugh. Next evening I spoke again, and they believed and rejoiced, and carried the news abroad. At the third meeting a society was formed for prayer. I returned to the city then.

Drifting down the river, under the stars, which never seemed so bright and so near, I evolved this lesson: To begin a reform, go not into the places of the great and rich; go rather to those whose cups of happiness are empty--to the poor and humble.

And then I laid a plan and devoted my life. As a first step, I secured my vast property, so that the income would be certain, and always at call for the relief of the suffering. From that day, O brethren, I travelled up and down the Nile, in the villages, and to all the tribes, preaching One God, a righteous life, and reward in Heaven.

I have done good--it does not become me to say how much. I also know that part of the world to be ripe for the reception of Him we go to find."

A flush suffused the swarthy cheek of the speaker; but he overcame the feeling, and continued:

"The years so given, O my brothers, were troubled by one thought—When I was gone, what would become of the cause I had started? Was it to end with me? I had dreamed many times of organization as a fitting crown for my work. To hide nothing from you, I had tried to effect it, and failed. Brethren, the world is now in the condition that,to restore the old Mizraimic faith, the reformer must have a more than human sanction; he must not merely come in God's name, he must have the proofs subject to his word; he must demonstrate all he says, even God. So preoccupied is the mind with myths and systems; so much do false deities crowd every place--earth, air, sky; so have they become of everything a part, that return to the first religion can only be along bloody paths, through fields of persecution; that is to say, the converts must be willing to die rather than recant.

And who in this age can carry the faith of men to such a point but God himself? To redeem the race--I do not mean to destroy it--to REDEEM the race, he must make himself once more manifest;

HE MUST COME IN PERSON."

Intense emotion seized the three.

"Are we not going to find him?" exclaimed the Greek.

"You understand why I failed in the attempt to organize," said the Egyptian, when the spell was past. "I had not the sanction. To know that my work must be lost made me intolerably wretched. I believed in prayer, and to make my appeals pure and strong, like you, my brethren, I went out of the beaten ways, I went where man had not been, where only God was. Above the fifth cataract, above the meeting of rivers in Sennar, up the Bahr el Abiad, into the far unknown of Africa, I went. There, in the morning, a mountain blue as the sky flings a cooling shadow wide over the western desert, and, with its cascades of melted snow, feeds a broad lake nestling at its base on the east. The lake is the mother of the great river. For a year and more the mountain gave me a home. The fruit of the palm fed my body, prayer my spirit. One night I walked in the orchard close by the little sea. 'The world is dying. When wilt thou  ome? Why may I not see the redemption, O God?' So I prayed. The glassy water was sparkling with stars. One of them seemed to leave its place, and rise to the surface, where it became a brilliancy burning to the eyes. Then it moved towards me, and stood over my head, apparently in hand's reach. I fell down and hid my face. A voice, not of the earth, said, 'Thy good works have conquered. Blessed art thou, O son of Mizraim!

The redemption cometh. With two others, from the remotenesses of the world, thou shalt see the Saviour, and testify for him. In the morning arise, and go meet them. And when ye have all come to the holy city of Jerusalem, ask of the people, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East and are sent to worship him. Put all thy trust in the Spirit which will guide thee.'

"And the light became an inward illumination not to be doubted, and has stayed with me, a governor and a guide. It led me down the river to Memphis, where I made ready for the desert. I bought my  camel, and came hither without rest, by way of Suez and Kufileh, and up through the lands of Moab and Ammon. God is with us, O my brethren!"

He paused, and thereupon, with a prompting not their own, they all arose, and looked at each other.

"I said there was a purpose in the particularity with which we described our people and their histories," so the Egyptian proceeded. "He we go to find was called 'King of the Jews;'

by that name we are bidden to ask for him. But, now that we have met, and heard from each other, we may know him to be the Redeemer, not of the Jews alone, but of all the nations of the earth. The patriarch who survived the Flood had with him three sons, and their families, by whom the world was repeopled.

From the old Aryana-Vaejo, the well-remembered Region of Delight in the heart of Asia, they parted. India and the far East received the children of the first; the descendant of the youngest, through the North, streamed into Europe; those of the second overflowed the deserts about the Red Sea, passing into Africa; and though most of the latter are yet dwellers in shifting tents, some of them became builders along the Nile."

By a simultaneous impulse the three joined hands.

"Could anything be more divinely ordered?" Balthasar continued.

"When we have found the Lord, the brothers, and all the generations that have succeeded them, will kneel to him in homage with us. And when we part to go our separate ways, the world will have learned a new lesson--that Heaven may be won, not by the sword, not by human wisdom, but by Faith, Love,  and Good Works."

There was silence, broken by sighs and sanctified with tears; for the joy that filled them might not be stayed. It was the unspeakable joy of souls on the shores of the River of Life, resting with the Redeemed in God's presence.

Presently their hands fell apart, and together they went out of the tent. The desert was still as the sky. The sun was sinking fast. The camels slept.

A little while after, the tent was struck, and, with the remains of the repast, restored to the cot; then the friends mounted, and set out single file, led by the Egyptian. Their course was due west, into the chilly night. The camels swung forward in steady trot, keeping the line and the intervals so exactly that those following seemed to tread in the tracks of the leader. The riders spoke not once.

By-and-by the moon came up. And as the three tall white figures sped, with soundless tread, through the opalescent light, they appeared like specters flying from hateful shadows. Suddenly, in the air before them, not farther up than a low hill-top flared a lambent flame; as they looked at it, the apparition  contracted into a focus of dazzling lustre. Their hearts beat fast; their souls thrilled; 0and they shouted as with one voice, "The Star! the Star! God is with us!"

(to be continued)

The Power of Positive Thinking

by Norman Vincent Peale

Chapter 2 Continued

As a physician said, "Many of my patients have nothing wrong with them except their thoughts. So I have a favorite prescription that I write for some, but it is not a prescription that you can fill at a drugstore. The prescription I write is a verse from the Bible, 'Romans 12:2.' I do not write out that verse for my patients. I make them look it up and it reads:

'...be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind...' To be happier and healthier they need a renewing of their minds, that is, a change in the pattern of their thoughts. When they 'take' this prescription, they actually achieve a mind full of peace. That helps to produce health and well-being."

A primary method for gaining a mind full of peace is to practice emptying the mind. This will be mphasized in another chapter, but I mention it here to underscore the importance of a frequent mental catharsis. I recommend a mind-emptying at least twice a day, more often if necessary.

Definitely practice emptying your mind of fears, hates, insecurities, regrets, and guilt feelings. The mere fact that you consciously make this effort to empty your mind tends to give relief. Haven't you experienced a sense of release when you have been able to pour out to somebody whom you can trust worrisome matters that lay heavy upon the heart? As a pastor I have often observed how much it means to people to have someone to whom they can truly and in confidence tell everything troubling their minds.

I conducted a religious service on board the S.S. Lurline on a recent voyage to Honolulu. In the course of my talk I suggested that people who were carrying worries in their minds might go to the stern of the vessel and imaginatively take such anxious thought out of the mind, drop it overboard, and watch it disappear in the wake of the ship. It seems an almost childlike suggestion, but a man came to me later that day and said, "I did as you suggested and am amazed at the relief it has given me. During this voyage," he said, "every evening at sunset I am going to drop all my worries overboard until I develop the psychology of casting them entirely out of my consciousness. Every day I shall watch them disappear in the great ocean of time. Doesn't the Bible say something about 'forgetting those things that are behind'?"

The man to whom this suggestion appealed is not an impractical sentimentalist. On the contrary, he is a person of extraordinary mental stature, an outstanding leader in his field.

Of course, emptying the mind is not enough. When the mind is emptied, something is bound to enter. The mind cannot long remain a vacuum. You cannot go around permanently with an empty mind. I admit that some people seem to accomplish that feat, but by and large it is necessary to refill the emptied mind or the old, unhappy thoughts which you have cast out will come sneaking in again.

To prevent that happening, immediately start filling your mind with creative and healthy thoughts. Then when the old fears, hates, and worries that have haunted you for so long try to edge back in, they will in effect find a sign on the door of your mind reading "occupied." They may struggle for admission, for having lived in your mind for a long time, they feel at home there. But the new and healthy thoughts which you have taken in will now be stronger and better fortified, and therefore able to repulse them. Presently the old thoughts will give up altogether and leave you alone.

You will permanently enjoy a mind full of peace. At intervals during the day practice thinking a carefully  selected series of peaceful thoughts. Let mental pictures of the most peaceful scenes you have ever witnessed pass across your mind, as, for example, some beautiful valley filled with the hush of evening time, as the shadows lengthen and the sun sinks to rest. Or recall the silvery light of the moon falling upon rippling waters, or remember the sea washing gently upon soft shores of sand. Such peaceful thought images will work upon your mind as a healing medicine. So now and then during every day allow motion pictures of peace slowly to cross your mind.

Practice the technique of suggestive articulation, that is, repeat audibly some peaceful words. Words have profound suggestive power, and there is healing in the very saying of them. Utter a series of panicky words and your mind will immediately go into a mild state of nervousness. You will perhaps feel a sinking in the pit of your stomach that will affect your entire physical mechanism. If, on the contrary, you speak peaceful, quieting words, your mind will react in a peaceful manner. Use such a word as "tranquillity." Repeat that word slowly several times. Tranquillity is one of the most beautiful and melodic of all English words, and the mere saying of it tends to induce a tranquil state.

Another healing word is "serenity." Picturize serenity as you say it. Repeat it slowly and in the mood of which the word is a symbol. Words such as these have a healing potency when used in this manner. It is also helpful to use lines from poetry or passages from the Scriptures. A man of my acquaintance who achieved a remarkable peace of mind has the habit of writing on cards unusual quotations expressing peacefulness. He carries one of the cards in his wallet at all times, referring to it frequently until each quotation is committed to memory. He says that each such idea dropped into the subconscious "lubricates" his mind with peace. A peaceful concept is indeed oil on troubled thoughts. One of the quotations which he used is from a sixteenth-century mystic, "Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God. God alone is sufficient."

The words of the Bible have a particularly strong therapeutic value. Drop them into your mind, allowing them to "dissolve" in consciousness, and they will spread a healing balm over your entire mental  tructure. This is one of the simplest processes to perform and also one of the most effective in attaining peace of mind.
(to be continued)


Just for Laughs

Where Are You Going?

In January 2000, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their favorite son, Billy Graham,the famous evangelist, to a luncheon in his honor. Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggles with Parkinson's disease. But the Charlotte leaders said, "We don't expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you." So he agreed.

After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said, I'm reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century.

Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When  he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find  his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn't there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He  couldn't find it.

The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.' Einstein nodded appreciatively.

The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist  down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one.' Einstein looked at him and said, 'Young man, I too know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going.'"

Having said that Billy Graham continued, "See the suit I'm wearing? It's a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.

You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be buried. But when you hear I'm dead, I don't want you to immediately remember the suit I'm wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am,  I also know where I'm going."

 

Did you know ?

  • Ancient Egyptians slept on pillows made of stone.
  • A hippo can open its mouth wide enough to fit a 4 foot tall child inside.
  • A hummingbird weighs less than a penny.
  • The flashing warning light on the cylindrical Capitol Records tower spells out HOLLYWOOD in Morse code.
  • Every time you lick a stamp, you're consuming 1/10 of a calorie.
  • Honeybees have hair on their eyes.
  • In Bangladesh, kids as young as 15 can be jailed for cheating on their finals.
  • The most common name in the world is Mohammed.
  • Bats always turn left when exiting a cave.
  • The praying mantis is the only insect that can turn its head.
  • In Tokyo, they sell toupees for dogs.

 

Story of the week

The Rented Room

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.  We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. "Why, he's hardly taller than my eight-year-old," I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face, lopsided from swelling, red and raw.

Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, "Good evening. I've come to see if you've a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there's no bus 'til morning."

He told me he'd been hunting for a room since noon but with no success; no one seemed to have a room. "I guess it's my face. I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments..."

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: "I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch.  My bus leaves early in the morning."

I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. "No thank you. I have plenty." And he held up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn't take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

He didn't tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was prefaced with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children's room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded, and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, "Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won't put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair." He paused a moment and then added, "Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don't seem to mind." I told him he was welcome to come again.

And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they'd be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4 a.m., and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden.

Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious.

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. "Did you keep that awful looking man last night?  I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!"

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But, oh!  If only they could have known him, perhaps their illness' would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God. 

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