SUNDAY SERMON




SUNDAY SERMON

Gospel reading & Sermons for each Sunday Based on the Lectionary of the 

Syrian Orthodox Church

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14 July 2019

posted 12 Jul 2019, 23:37 by C S Paul   [ updated 12 Jul 2019, 23:40 ]

14 July 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Luke 9:10-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

10 And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. 

12 When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 

14 For there were about five thousand men.

Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 

15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.

16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 

17 So they all ate and were [a]filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.

Feeding the Five Thousand: Dilemma for the Disciples

by Rev. Fr. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil

Message:

Jesus had made it clear that following him would involve a radical change in one's perspective. The life of a disciple is different from that of the world or what the world would expect for a Christian.

Last week we read that the disciples were sent out to preach in their public ministry alone. They reported back that they had successfully preached, conducted healing, and even cast out demons. (Luke 9:1)

Today we will examine the same chapter for the disciple's new experience in the process of learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The text reveals a new situation the disciples had to deal with.

A large crowd followed Jesus. As the day ended, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowds home for there was no food to feed them all and getting food was a problem for the followers. But Jesus instructed them to feed the crowd. The disciples answered, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish." Jesus had the disciples seat the crowd, blessed the five loaves and two fish until all the assembled were fed. They all ate and were filled. Twelve baskets of left over were taken up by the disciples.

This incident teaches a new perspective of the power of Jesus that the disciples probably didn't recognize at the time. For them, it was a deserted place and no food was available to feed them all. It seemed to be a reasonable request based on their compassion for the crowd. It also seemed a reasonable resolution for them.

Jesus' response probably shocked the disciples when he said, "Give them something to eat", meaning it was their responsibility to give them food. The disciples through their association with Jesus knew that they can accomplish things they could never dream of. The disciples had witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, but had no expectation that he would meet their current need. It probably is like us who remain dull to the power of Jesus, no matter how many times he may have met out needs along the way. When Jesus said, "You give them something to eat," it was an impossible task for the disciples. They had neither the food nor the money to buy food. The message is clear. We will never be adequate to meet all our needs. When we think we are great, that we can do our deeds without our Lord's input, it's then that we set ourselves for failure. In the hands of Jesus, if the five loaves and two fish can be a banquet for the multitude of people, his resources will help us more than adequately to meet our needs as well.

The incident teaches us that God does not demand from us what we cannot supply, but only wants us to be his disciples through whom he can work miracles. As Christians, we should seek to get help from our Lord to help others.

7 July 2019

posted 5 Jul 2019, 23:31 by C S Paul

7 July 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 14:14-23 New King James Version (NKJV)

14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. 

15 When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”

16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”

18 He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 

19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. 

20 So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. 

21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus Walks on the Sea

22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 

23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

The God of abundance

by Trygve David Johnson

There are times in my life when I feel like I’ve got nothing to give. There is no gas in my tank. No food in my fridge. I’ve got nothing left to say.

When I feel this way, however, my life doesn’t stop. The trickle of e-mails keeps dripping into my inbox. The phone keeps whining for attention. The next sermon is in ten minutes. My to-do list looks like 5,000 hungry people.

At such moments of emotional scarcity, I like remembering this story of Jesus feeding 5,000. It reminds me of a fundamental truth—that the ministry I serve in Christ pivots not on how much I have or what I can give, but rather on how much God gives by multiplying what I have.

You know this story. After the news of the murder of his friend John, Jesus retreats to a lonely place. I imagine to mourn. The locals get wind that Jesus has come. The crowd is overwhelming and needy. Jesus heals with compassion. The crowd stays late, and the disciples want to send the people away so they can get something to eat.

But Jesus has another idea—what we call in the business “a teachable moment.” Jesus wants to teach his disciples something fundamental about the nature of God. It is a lesson, if we take it seriously, that frees us to re-imagine the world.

Jesus says, “You feed them.” The disciples look puzzled. They have nothing. No food. No reserves. They stare out at a hungry mass of people that looks more and more like a hungry mob.

The disciples respond, “We have nothing—only five loaves and two fish.”

Jesus says, “Bring your nothing to me.” He blesses the fish and bread and proceeds to distribute food to the masses. As Matthew tells the story, “All were filled.”

This story reminds me that sometimes Jesus is asking me to simply give my nothing—my little loaves and fishes—and then to stand back and watch Jesus teach a different kind of economy, an economy grown by God’s abundance.

This is a challenging thought. The God of Jesus knows no limitation. Out of nothing, God creates bara—something. The economy of the kingdom of God is abundant and knows no scarcity. My fridge doesn’t always have to be full for Jesus to take what I have and feed others.

This isn’t an invitation to be frivolous or live beyond our limits. Even after an experience of abundance the disciples still gather up and conserve wisely the leftovers.

A question to explore in a sermon is why we buy into the myth that there is not enough to go around. The world operates with economic assumptions of scarce resources. The energy crisis pivots on not having enough. In the name of national and economic security, we exercise influence in far-reaching places to secure enough energy. It is a worldview of scarcity. Billions starve because our culture operates with a system that limits distribution of goods and resources in order to protect the security of the few.

I’m guilty of this. I live out a vision of scarcity with my own checkbook, time and resources. This story of Jesus challenges me to re-imagine my life and live into an economy of God’s abundance. In the kingdom of God we don’t have to hoard—there is always enough supply to meet demand.



30 June 2019

posted 28 Jun 2019, 23:49 by C S Paul

30 June 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 6:35-46 New King James Version (NKJV)

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 

36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Rejected by His Own

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 

42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 

45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

Sermon of the Week

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil

Message:

The gospel says, if we accept Jesus for our support and guidance, he will always receive us. Jesus will never turn us away.

We all experience rejection from others several times in life. Rejection is very hurtful. However, no one will ever experience rejection and the pain from our Lord. Jesus calls on all the people, every one, to receive him in their hearts. If we go to Jesus with our burdens, sure he will give us rest and comfort . 

We all need emotional and spiritual comfort. Our life gets in turmoil due to the emotional and spiritual vacuum we experience. The stresses in life make us often weary. Jesus promises that he will give us the rest and comfort we will need.

We don't need to be perfect to go to him for rest and comfort. God used several people whose lives were less than perfect to make him known to others:

1. Noah got drunk.
2. Moses couldn't speak clearly.
3. Samson was a womanizer.
4. Rahab was a prostitute
5. Jeremiah was by-polar.
6. David had an affair and conspired to murder.
7. Elijah was suicidal.
8. Jonah ran away from God.
9. John the Baptist ate bugs.
10. Peter denied Jesus.
11. The disciples fell sleep while praying.
12. Mary Magdalene had sinned.

But God used every one of them to make himself known to others. Jesus says, "Come and follow me. I will make you fishers of men." No need to be perfect. We don't need to think that we are disqualified to be with Jesus because of our imperfection. If we acknowledge Jesus, he will also acknowledge us to the Father. 

We should have faith in Jesus and we shouldn't compartmentalize that faith. Acknowledge Jesus not just on Sundays, but on every day of the week and every hour of the day. Faith in Jesus is not part time, it shall be our life. Our life must be centered around our Lord. None of us possesses the attribute of perfection. It is the willingness to identify our Lord is the most important attribute.

Jesus will not abandon us. He will come to us always. There will never be a time when he doesn't care about us. There will never be a time when he doesn't love us, provide for, and watch over us. 

We feel insecure when we lose our beloved ones or feel uncertain about our future. The scripture teaches that God will never abandon us if we face similar situations. If any one abandons or rejects us in this world, our Lord will hold us close to him.

Let's go to Jesus just as the way we are. Let's bring our burdens and weariness to Jesus Christ. He is the one willing and able to meet our needs.

23 June 2019

posted 21 Jun 2019, 22:49 by C S Paul   [ updated 21 Jun 2019, 23:41 ]

23 June 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Matthew 10:34-11:1 New King James Version (NKJV)

Christ Brings Division

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 

35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 

36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 

37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 

38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 

39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

A Cup of Cold Water

40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 

41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 

42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus

11 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.

Second Sunday after Pentecost

by Richard Alan Jordan

Matthew 10:34-39 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

This is one of the hard sayings of Jesus, and while often we might be tempted to go on to something else, there is much of great importance to be heard in this text. No one likes family strife, quarrels -- and at the same time everyone it seems desires peace. In the same way, no one likes to feel as though their life is out of control, so much has been written about how to get it back in control, how to take charge, and how to prioritize. And that’s where we need to begin.

If you notice that the days seem to move faster and faster. If it seems that you have more things to do, than you have hours to do them. Well the answer is time management, at least according to the world. Prioritize, put first things first, make a list and do things in order. Then you can regain control over your life. Then you will be able to respond to events, rather than have the events control you.

It sounds good. It sounds like something we can do. And that is why it is not from God. Listen to the Gospel: "Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." It may be that you can be in control of your earthly existence, but the price you pay is the eternal life that is ours by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Being in control is a form of idolatry. It puts self at the center. It puts self in the place of God. And as a result, it is self that is thanked for daily bread, and for all things necessary. And when self is congratulated, on having done all things well, we have given to self the worship that is owed to God alone. Being in control is to live by sight, and not by faith. God has called us to live by faith.

What this means is that rather than trying to be in control, we abandon self and flee to the arms of God, we turn to God and ask him to guide and direct our life. We turn to God, thanking him for daily bread, and asking him for all things needed. We turn all of our life over to God, and by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us a new and everlasting life. And here is the important part, when we turn our life over to God, we can then hear and see His purpose for each day, and each day, by His grace, we will be able to do all that needs to be done.

You see, we know that we are worth more than many sparrows, we know that the hairs on our head are numbered, so we are called to trust and rely on our gracious heavenly father. And this is how the rest of the text fits in -- for when we trust in God and live by faith, those who would take the place of God get jealous. This often happens in families, for there is a mistaken notion that love means that you place those you love at the center of your life, and the your life revolves around them. Its a problem because this jealousy or covetousness is a form of idolatry that is rarely spoken of. It is rarely spoken of because we desire peace. And so it is that Jesus says, that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. A sword divides, and in this case, it is the word of God that is our sword, that rightly divides the love of God and love of family. Its not a new teaching, it goes back to the beginning: Deu 6:6-7 "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

You see, the unity and peace in families and in life start from peace with God. Peace with God comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The division in families comes from sin, selfishness, covetousness and idolatry. The answer to these vexing sins is repentance, and trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ which is the forgiveness of sins. When people are jealous of our relationship with God, then the answer is to bring them to Christ and to faith. So the love of God always comes first, for it is what enables us to love and forgive our family, friends and neighbors.

Matthew 10:34-39 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father ...

16 June 2019

posted 14 Jun 2019, 23:05 by C S Paul

16 June 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

First Sunday after Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

    • Evening
      • St. Luke 8:4-15
    • Morning
      • St. Matthew 11:20-30
    • Before Holy Qurbana
      • Genesis 41:38-40
      • Exodus 12:31-40
      • Joshua 5:9-12
      • Jeremiah 29:10-16
    • Holy Qurbana
      • Acts 17:10-15
      • II Corinthians 5:14-6:9
      • St. John 6:26-35

Devotional Thoughts for the First Sunday after Pentecost

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil

Gospel Reading: (John 6:26-35)

26 Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 

27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"

29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

30 So they asked him, "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 

31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

32 Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 

33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

34 "Sir," they said, "always give us this bread."

35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Message:

After Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, the people asked him, "What are the things God wants us to do?" The people had witnessed the miracle and it elevated their curiosity.

The gospel tells us that there are a lot of things we can also do to our lives. We need to discover what matters the most and the best things with our life. It is important because the choices we make will determine whether or not we have God's blessings in life. God is in control of the universe, but we can choose what matters the most that will have God's spiritual blessings upon us. We have the choice between a blessing and a curse. If we obey the commandments, it will be a blessing. if we disobey them, it will be a curse.

Jesus answered to the people, "Believe in the one that God has sent." That's what God wants us to do. Believe in Jesus Christ because he is the one sent from heaven to this world. The thing that matters most for us would be trusting in Him. Living by what he says and following the example that he set.

The people asked, "What miracle will you do?. If we see a miracle, then we will believe in you. What will you do? Our fathers ate manna in the desert. Moses delivered them"

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth. It was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven. It was my Father who gave them the bread from heaven. God's bread is the one comes down from heaven that gives life."

The people then said, "Give us that bread, always"

Most of the people followed Jesus because they saw the miracle Jesus did and they wanted the physical food to satisfy their hunger. They had seen the 5,000 eating the miracle bread which was multiplied from five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus said if they would eat the spiritual food that he was offering, they would never be hungry again. Jesus guides all of us into making the right choices in life. He wants us to place spiritual needs before our physical needs. We humans cannot achieve the spiritual satisfaction on our own effort. Our family or friends cannot fill the vacuum. We have to look to God for what others can't fulfill in our life.

Jesus said, "I am not like the bread your ancestors ate. They ate physical bread and still died. I am the bread that came down from heaven, and whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Conclusion:

Jesus wants to lift us up from the physically dominated existence to a spiritual life. The spiritual hunger can be met only with the spiritual bread that comes from the heaven. Earthly food cannot satisfy the spiritual vacuum. We need to place spiritual needs before our physical needs.

Jesus is that bread. He is the one who offers forgiveness, peace and freedom from shame and guilt. It is this food we need to take daily. Unfortunately our worldly hearts tempt us to leave this spiritual bread and seek worldly pleasures. Instead we need to take Jesus into our hearts and continue to feed upon his word. It is necessary to nourish our souls on his gospel messages for the forgiveness of our sins and salvation.

9 June 2019

posted 7 Jun 2019, 21:58 by C S Paul


9 June 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Pentecost (Fiftieth day after Easter) 

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 15:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

The True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 

If anyone does not abide in Me,he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw theminto the fire, and they are burned. 

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Love and Joy Perfected

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 

10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and thatyour joy may be full. 

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 

13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 

14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

A Model Relationship

by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius

A Meditation on Gospel Readings on Pentecost

There are four Gospel readings prescribed for the Sunday of Pentecost. The first one of course is for the H. Qurbono which is from St. John 15:1-14. The other three are for the kneeling and all of them from the Gospel according to St. John; first, 14:1-14, second 14:25-31 and third 16-1-15. Jesus after having had his last supper with his disciples, is trying to educate them of the things that they should be aware of in the days to come after his death.

Chapter 17 onwards Jesus addresses his Father and presents the disciples and with them all those who will come to him by the testimony of the disciples. So what is seen in these chapters can be said as his farewell message. Jesus through his words on the one hand, comforts the disciples and on the other, exhorts them to be strong to face future when he was not physically around. He also speaks about the gift of the Spirit which will enable them face future.

Taking all the four readings together, a theme is presented before the congregation by the Church. It can be put in one word, ‘relationship’; relationship between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and with life of humans in relationship. From the kind of relationship exists between the Holy Trinity, Jesus derives a model for the human relationship. This is a unique kind of methodology. We humans derive models for our life in this world from Godhead and the relationship that exists within Godhead (H.G. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Thirumeni has written so much about his). Christian faith in the Holy Trinity is not just a talk about some philosophical theory, rather it is the talk about a model, inspiration and guide for our lives in this world.

In the reading in John 15:1-14, Jesus talks about his relation with his Father and with us. This has consequence on our relation with God and on our Christ-centered lives. The principle that underlies all relationships is nothing but love. Where there is love in relationship there will be peace. When love governs relationships, peace would rule the arena. The world will not be ‘worldly’ any more.

Jesus is going to the Father and through that he on behalf of and as the first of all humans transcends the world. But for humans what Jesus achieved through his death and resurrection can be achieved in its fullness only in future. To make this future possibility a reality, one has to be in close relations with Jesus (‘abide in me’) and through him in his Father. If one is not in Jesus, that person is not with the Father, and if not with the Father, is out of relationship and fellowship. This means non existence of that person. As of now for us to be with Jesus can only be by the help and empowering of the Holy Spirit.

This is where Orthodox definition of sacrament becomes relevant. To us a sacrament is “Entering in to the presence of the Father through Jesus Christ, the Son of God in Holy Spirit”. Every act in our life need to be an act in this style and only then we will truly be sanctified or divinized. To this cause, Jesus had to go away. This has two implications; one, he had to go away to the cross and two, to go away beyond this material world.

One cannot cling on to the historical Jesus and be saved; because history is of the physical realm which cannot as such, unless transformed, enter in to eternity (1 Cor. 15:42-54). Hence we also need to go through a process of dying as Jesus did, that is die to the world and become spiritual people. For us it can be done even while we are in this world. We can die to the world and live to Christ even while we are in the world (Rom. 14:8). When we die to the world, we will also be renewed in Spirit. This is what Jesus was telling Nicodemus when he asked Jesus about eternal life. We need to constantly be dying or being washed and be filled or resurrected in Christ (in Spirit) by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5).

In the liturgy of Pentecost we are, liturgically taking on ourselves this process of dying and filling. When we kneel down, we try to put away what is to death or sin in us and when we rise up and sprinkled with water, we are renewed in Spirit. This can happen only in the context of a community and not in isolation as love can work only in between and not in self. Only when there is another than the one and only when the relationship between is guided by the principle of love this washing and filling will happen. This is why Jesus on another occasion, said “when two or three are gathered together, I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).

The word ‘together’ is very much important in this context. The narration in the Book of Acts of the Apostles about the event of Pentecost clearly says “When they were all with one accord …” (Acts 2:1) the Holy Spirit descended on them.

Holy Spirit works when we are at peace with one another and peace can prevail only when there is love which binds people together. The day of Pentecost, of course is the day of the renewal of the Holy Spirit today in our time. But it does not magically or automatically happen. It can happen only when we love each other and when we are at peace between one another. A world which is divided for all kinds of wrong reason, and a world guided by selfishness, greed and individualism, a world troubled by wars, hatred, in-fight and quarrels need to listen to the message of Pentecost.

We all look for progress and welfare in our lives and in our environment. We all ask, “what is the way out”? We ask how can have freedom, liberation and salvation happen and how can ‘I’ enjoy it for myself? The answer was already been given to Nicodemus saying, ‘die to the world and be filled with the empowering Spirit, set love as the principle that guides relationships, and peace be established every where. Just as the Father and the Son and the Spirit are one, let us be one with God and with one another. “Let us all rise up (from the valley of death and darkness) by the power of the Holy Spirit” and transform ourselves.

2 June 2019

posted 31 May 2019, 22:22 by C S Paul   [ updated 31 May 2019, 22:35 ]

2 June 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Sunday before Pentecost

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

John 6:35-46 New King James Version (NKJV)

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 

36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Rejected by His Own

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 

42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 

45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

I am the Bread of Life

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil

There are several "I AM" statements of Jesus that are found in the gospel of St. John. They include:

1. I am the bread of Life which came down from heaven (6:35,41,51)
2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5)
3. I am the door of the sheep (10:7,9)
4. I am the good shepherd (10:11,14)
5. I am the son of God (10:36)
6. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
7. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
8. I am the (true) vine (15:1,5)

Each one of the "I AM" statements represents a particular relationship of Jesus to the SPIRITUAL needs of men and women. Jesus is the LIGHT in the darkness, the GATE to security, and the SHEPHERD that guides. He is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. In every one of these we see that Jesus wants us to receive him, not for the gifts he can give us, but for what he can be to us. Right after the feeding of the 5 thousand, Jesus made the first of the recorded I AM statements.

This week we witness an important revelation of Jesus, "I am the Bread of Life. He who believes in me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes from Heaven which a man can eat and not die. I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world."

Jesus says the words he speaks of is about the spirit. It is the spirit that gives us the life, not the flesh. By faith we partake in Christ. Eating and drinking is the reception of God's grace by believing in Christ. Seeing and believing in Christ is equivalent to eating and drinking his flesh and body. Jesus underlines the necessity of feeding on him by faith to have eternal life. The Eucharist (Holy Qurbono) represents the communion of the believers in his body and blood. The Lord's supper signifies our participation in Christ by faith and the benefits of eternal life through him. Eucharist is the fulfillment of Jesus' sacrifice. Receiving his body and blood through Eucharist is absolutely necessary of salvation.

In this context, Jesus is referring to the spiritual needs of the people. It is the spiritual food that Jesus is offering instead of the physical food. The physical food will not satisfy our spiritual hunger. We need the spiritual food for eternity.

Jesus' words that he is the bread of life and the way to eternal life were not what the crowd that followed him wanted to hear. They wanted Jesus to provide them food the way Moses had provided manna. They wanted more of the feeding of the 5,000 type miracles. They wanted to satisfy their physical hunger. So they rebelled against him.

The reaction of the Jewish leaders to Jesus' claim made them also hostile to Jesus. These leaders were waiting for Jesus to say or do something they could jump on and ridicule him.

The Jewish leaders saw Jesus as a carpenter from Nazareth. They refused to listen to him with an open heart.

Jesus emphatically said, "He who believes in me will have everlasting life." Again Jesus said, "I am the bread of life," linking this statement with meeting man's everyday basic needs, hunger and thirst. Jesus said this could be permanently cured. When their forefathers ate manna in the wilderness, only their physical hunger was met. Jesus said the bread of life he provides is the spiritual food which is the word of God. Jesus offers himself as the bread of eternal life from heaven.

There are many people around us who are hungry for Jesus' words of hope and comfort. When we develop such a hunger, it would be satisfied. If we take the Bread of Life into our life, our lives can be restored to the true way of Christian spirit. Without the spiritual food, our soul will wither and die. In the satisfaction of that spiritual food, we will discover it is not "eternal youth" but "eternal life" that we are searching for. That moment will bring perfect contentment in our life.


26 May 2019

posted 24 May 2019, 22:36 by C S Paul   [ updated 24 May 2019, 22:37 ]

26 May 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Fourth Sunday after New Sunday (fifth Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Luke 9:51-62 New King James Version (NKJV)

A Samaritan Village Rejects the Savior

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 

52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 

53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 

54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner ofspirit you are of. 

56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And they went to another village.

The Cost of Discipleship

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”

58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Who Pays the Cost of Discipleship?

by Rev. Andrew Eckert, Oklahoma

Jesus sets before you today the cost of discipleship. If you wish to follow after Him, what price can you expect?

In summary, there are two requirements for discipleship: First, give up any hope of a permanent home in this present world. Second, give up any family ties on this earth.

These are not easy requirements. A man who came to Jesus said, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." But Jesus replied, "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head," as if to say, "Do you think it is easy to follow Me? I am not going to a particular place where I will stop and live, and there put down roots. No, I wander the earth, and I will finally die a homeless Man. Are you ready for that kind of life?"

Why does Jesus make it so hard? He does not; not really. He does not want anyone to try to be a disciple without first seeing how difficult it is. It is not a hobby or an occasional pursuit. Always, Christ must be first for you.

If you follow the holy Son of Man, then this world, so full of sin, cannot be a permanent home for you. Your permanent dwelling awaits you in heaven. Here on earth, no place is your true home. Home is where the heart is, so your real home is in your Father's House in heaven. That temporary building that you call home is really only a halfway house, or a rest stop on the way to the real destination.

More than that, as Christ's disciple you must put Him before the whole world. He should be everything to you. What is this world compared to the Lord? What is His kingdom compared to the riches and comforts of this transitory earth?

But human hearts are so fickle. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. One moment your whole heart is yearning for Christ. The next moment, you are yearning for some earthly bauble or trinket. The flashy allure of gold and silver idols captures our eyes. These are not necessarily physical, but may be the love of a friend or the joy of security. But all love and all earthly safety must be set aside, and all your life put in constant danger for the sake of your Lord. Otherwise, you are not worthy of Him.

As I'm sure you are aware, in your heart you are not worthy of the Infinitely glorious Savior, the adorable Son of God. Although you must strive to count Him alone as your treasure, you must also confess that you have failed to do so. You have held idols in your heart that distract from true discipleship. If Christ counted those things against you, you would not only be unworthy, but you would be cast away into eternal fire that consumes forever in agony.

But He will not let that happen to you. He has already stopped it, and made you eternally safe in Him.

For this Lord, what would you not sacrifice? Surely all should be laid at His feet in humble offering.

Yet there are some things your flesh does not want to surrender. What about family? Would you be willing to sacrifice your family's love for Christ? Would you be willing to make yourself an outcast to the ones you love for Him?

If you follow the true faith, but your family does not, then there will be division between you. It may be very polite division, or not. It may be open hostility, or not.

In Muslim countries, if you converted to Christianity, your own family might put you to death. Probably, you will not face that much hostility. But who knows what the future of this nation may bring?

People want to think that Christ wants you to do anything and everything for your family. But He does not. You must not sacrifice your faith for your family. If the choice must be made, then you must even surrender your ties with them for the sake of your Lord.

May God never demand that of you! Yet you must be ready even now, or you are not worthy of Him. How hard it is to sacrifice the love of your family, which you can see, for the love of Christ, which is hidden!

May the Spirit give you strength to do what flesh cannot. For your flesh, like that of all men, is too easily swayed by earthly loves. Too easily, family can draw you away from worship, away from Bible Study, and thus away from Christ. What Christ demands is difficult, more than the flesh can achieve.

When a man came to Jesus, but wanted to delay his discipleship for the sake of his father's funeral, Christ rebuked him with harsh words. "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." Whatever the exact situation of the man, the point is clear: The kingdom of God and the preaching of the word are more important than anything.

How harsh and difficult are the demands of Christ!

Another man wanted to go and bid farewell to his family. Christ said that no one who looks backward is fit for the kingdom. The man would be always thinking of those he left behind, and yearning for those he loved.

But who could blame these men if they failed to follow Christ? Could you or I have done better than them? I doubt it. The demands that Christ makes go beyond our strength. Yet that does not mean that you should simply ignore them. As a disciple, you must try and work with all your might for the Savior who gave His all for you.

Yet you will inevitably fail. The call of earthly loves, or the appeal of earthly comforts, will eventually get the better of you. For that is what it is to be a sinner. In your heart there cannot be perfect devotion for Christ until this sinful flesh is done away with in the new Creation. Until then, your discipleship must be flawed and weak.

Will Christ cast you away as you deserve? No, for He is compassionate and slow to anger. Although you should always be absolutely loyal to Him, and you are not, yet He is always, always absolutely loyal to you. Nothing can stop His devotion for you. His grace is never flawed or weak.

He is the One who fulfills all things for you, and has made you worthy by giving you His glory. So you are counted as a perfect disciple of your Lord. He left the perfect House of His Father to become homeless and penniless. He forsook all that earth could offer, and made Himself the lowest of the low, so that you are lifted up on high. He died a death where the consuming fire of His Father's wrath fell only upon Him, so that you will live on in unending comfort and majesty forever.

He made Himself an outcast in His family. Not only did His earthly brothers and sisters think that He was out of his mind, and tried to stop Him, but it was even worse than that. His own Father in heaven, who had loved Him from before the foundation of the world, also rejected His Son. Christ endured this ultimate family division upon the Cross, as the Father's rejection turned the sun in the sky dark as night, dark as the pit of hell. For you, Christ even endured this.

Christ never looked back to heaven, yearning to return instead of redeeming you. He kept on, straight and steady, as He set His face stubbornly, like rock, firm and unyielding, ever putting the mission of death and resurrection as the one and only goal of His life. He sacrificed all. He gave up all comfort, and embraced ultimate agony and torture.

To Jerusalem He went, to offer Himself as the price for you. He followed His Father's will without wavering, until He was received up again by His Father.

So you are not a disciple because you have done enough. You have never done enough for Christ. You are His disciple because He has made you one. He did not simply show you the right path and expect you to follow it. No, He walked the path for you, and when He was done, declared you His perfect disciple.

For ultimately, the cost of discipleship is not what you pay. It is what Christ has paid for you.

Therefore, look in faith to your true home, the New Jerusalem in glory. Look in faith to your new family, with the Church as your mother and Christ as your brother and God as your Father. Into this family you have been adopted, and into that household that lasts forever.

God keep you in this faith, even when worlds burn in fire, and the new creation is revealed. In His Name and to His glory. Amen.


19 May 2019

posted 17 May 2019, 23:06 by C S Paul

19 May 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Third Sunday after New Sunday (fourth Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

Third Sunday after New Sunday

John 6:47-58 New King James Version (NKJV)

47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 

48 I am the bread of life. 

49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 

50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 

54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 

55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 

56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 

57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 

58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

To Be Or Not To Be

by Walter W. Harms, Austin, TX

To live — what does that mean? We have come to an age when we think we almost know what it means to live. We perhaps more certainly know what it means not to live.

When the heart stops pumping, when the breathing ceases, when there is no response, we say, "This person is not living. He or she is dead. Not living."

Arguments about when life starts are more difficult. When does human life begin, that is when is life viable, able to survive on its own, is more problematic. Even more problematic is whether people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, persons in comas, those who can no longer live or survive without the aid of machines of many kinds are really living.

But, of course, that is only the physical side of living. I don’t think there are many of us here, except for some of the very young, who have not experienced the feelings that Shakespeare expressed in the soliloquy from which the title of this message is taken. Wouldn’t it be better for us to be out of this misery? What kind of a life is this if we are filled with so many hurts, unsolved puzzles, heartaches, disappointments, troubles, anxieties, terrors?

Think of the Christians in southern Lebanon, right now. Can it be called living when at any moment shells may destroy all you have worked for, all you have gotten, and a style of life which will never ever be the same again, whether that is materially or mentally? What does it mean "to be"? To live? To have life?

For many of us it all too often appears that life is in the past, in the good old days of youth, vigor, waking up each morning filled with the juices of life, each day an adventure to be savored and enjoyed, and now…. Well, we won’t go into that.

When are we truly living? What does it mean to live?

We are here today because we have heard that this fellow, Jesus whoever he was to the people of his time, said such things that are either true or made up of smoke and mirrors. He said, "I have come that you might have life, and life to the full." He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He said, "Apart from me, you (you in the pew) can do nothing."

This Jesus and his statements are really radical as we find them in the reading from John for today. Now before you get too huffy and upset, we should at least examine what he said. Does what he say have some validity to it? And, oh yes, I want you to remember that famous word from a man called Paul, who wrote: "We live on the basis of faith (what we believe), and not on the facts of life." It is what we believe that forms the basis of almost all our behavior, our outlook on life, our actions. As a proverb from Togo says: "Wherever the heart is, the feet don’t hesitate to follow."

At first hearing, what he says it is almost nauseating. He says: "I am the bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." "I tell you the truth, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

We have to eat his flesh in order to have life! The bread of life is his flesh, which he will give for the life of the world. "World" here means people, as in another earlier word from John: "God so loved the world." He loved and still loves the people of the world.

It is not a great surprise that this caused an almost violent argument among some the people who heard these words of Jesus. But perhaps, is he speaking metaphorically, like "you have to have me in your system, your head, your emotions, that part of us we call our spiritual life"?

Or perhaps, in its simplest form means: "without Jesus as front and center in all you do and are, you ain’t living; you’re stone cold dead, friends"?

Is that a shocking statement to us? Are we alive in any sense, without any presence of Jesus in our lives? Aren’t people "alive" doing great things, accomplishing great advances in science, medicine, the understanding of the human mind? How can Jesus say that without eating his flesh, we are not alive, do not have life? Isn’t it true that some of the finest moments in our experience had nothing whatever to do with Jesus?

Maybe we forget that the source of all life is in the Father, in Jesus, is Jesus. If our life now and what we hope will follow after this life depends on our relationship with the source of life, then Jesus is the living bread, which we must have "to be" and sustain life, just as "bread" is necessary for us to have any kind of physical life. Without Jesus, then we would "not to be."

As Jesus lives because of his Father, so we live because of our earthly father, but in a more real sense then our relationship with the "Father who is in heaven" is our source of life as well. Jesus is the one who conveys through his very fleshly body the life from his Father, the Father of all life, of life of all kinds.

The only kind of eating and drinking that goes on regularly in the church is the eating and drinking in the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Supper. In this eating and drinking of bread and wine, we say we are eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus himself. While we might be repulsed by those words of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we need to be reminded he can take that which seems repulsive and make it into something good: the executioner’s cross becomes the precious symbol of our rescue from death, sinful humans who do the worst to fellow humans are turned into messengers of peace, love, and hope.

It is here where we begin "to be," to live, to find newness after the mold of sin has corroded our lives. At the altar is where we begin to eat and drink of the river of God’s pleasures which will be fully realized by us in a life where no evil ever darkens our lives. When we take Christ Jesus into every part of our body, then we know that though our flesh still urges us on to sin, our inner self, the real self has life in every fiber of our being because the Source of life, no, Life itself, Jesus is there.

Then the "to be" of our existence is realized. We have life, we have eternal life now. We will be raised by Jesus on the last day. We remain in Jesus and he is us. We will live through Jesus. Yes, again, we will live forever!

We are tempted to believe that this right now is all that is. We show that in our attempt to enjoy as much as possible while we are "alive."

We attempt to remain young, because old means the end. Even in retirement complexes, those with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs don’t want to be seen by those without these devices, because, well, they mean the lost of independence, and the end coming.

As we eat and drink Jesus in the Sacrament, I would hope that we enjoy life now because Jesus is with you every week. And the Blessed Sacrament received each week is to counter the world which says life with this religious claptrap isn’t where life really is. We need to know that "to be" is only when Jesus is in us, and it is always "not to be" when Jesus is not in us.

What will you believe? What will Jesus be to you: an ornament on the hood of your life, and the engine which give you power and movement?

To be or not to be, that is the question!

12 May 2019

posted 10 May 2019, 08:50 by C S Paul   [ updated 10 May 2019, 19:10 ]

12 May 2019

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church 

Second Sunday after New Sunday (Third Sunday after Easter)

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday


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

31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”

33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 

35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 

36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 

37 For in this the saying is true:‘One sows and another reaps.’ 

38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

The Fields Ripe for Harvest

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

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

The passage continues:

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

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

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

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