The Malankara World Journal Issue 36 (dated October 27, 2011) is now available online at:
This Sunday is the first day of the liturgical calendar for the Holy Church. The church begins by cleaning up things to prepare for the incarnation of God and then the eventual death and triumph of resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were disappointed when they heard Jesus saying to them in today's Gospel reading that to be a disciple, they must take up a cross and follow him, even face a death for His sake.
Saint John Chrysostom expands on this in the meditation, 'Life to Me Means Christ, and Death is Gain:' "The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it."
We present a recent speech given by Pope Benedict XVI in Germany titled 'It is Time For the Church To Set Aside Her Worldliness' that expands on this concept of change we need to undergo to become a disciple of God. The pope said:
"Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked what in her opinion was the first thing that would have to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I.
Two things are clear from this brief story. On the one hand Mother Teresa wants to tell her interviewer: the Church is not just other people, not just the hierarchy, the Pope and the bishops: we are all the Church, we the baptized. And on the other hand her starting-point is this: yes, there are grounds for change. There is a need for change. Every Christian and the community of the faithful are constantly called to change."
We are the instruments that are used by God to cleanse His Body, the church. For this we need to present ourselves to him in a spirit of service, servant leadership and total surrender. Please read the article and implement the ideas in our lives if we want God to use us as agents of change.
This week we present lesson 10 from Murray's Book on Prayer. The lesson is entitled, 'Prayer must be Definite.' A companion article tells us about 'Unforgiveness and Unanswered Prayer.' This may give us yet another clue when we are faced with unanswered prayers. Do you follow the command Jesus gave: "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?"
We are all faced with global recession that has affected those in the west more than in India. So, the two articles, 'Why Young Americans Can't Think Morally' and 'America Needs a Father' give us more thoughts for introspection.
Enjoy the rest of the articles and features in this week's issue of MW Journal.
Table of Contents: Malankara World Journal Issue 36
Bible Readings for This Sunday
Sermons for This Sunday
Inspiration for Today: Life to Me Means Christ, and Death is Gain
Featured This Week: It is Time For the Church To Set Aside Her Worldliness
Book Excerpt: Lesson 10: Prayer must be Definite
Unforgiveness and Unanswered Prayer
Why Young Americans Can't Think Morally
America Needs a Father
Health: Cold and Flu Prevention and Self-Care
Recipe: Pumpkin Granola Bars
Humor: Cajun Confession
About Malankara World
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Oct 30)
Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification) Sunday
The Sunday that comes on or after October 30th is called Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church) Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar.
St. Mark 8: 27 -33
St. John 21: 15 - 22
Before Holy Qurbana
Exodus 40 : 17-38
Isaiah 6: 1 - 8
I Peter 2:1-12
I Corinthians 3: 16-17, 6: 15 -20
St. Mark 8:27-33
Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church
Sermons for This Sunday (Oct 30)
This week's Gospel reading builds upon last week's reading about the cost of discipleship. If you recall, last week, Jesus told the young ruler to sell everything he had and then to come and follow him to inherit the eternal life. The ruler had too much material possessions that limited him from accepting Jesus' offer. This week's Gospel, delivered on Koodosh eetho Sunday, the day for the sanctification of church, ask us to examine our hearts first. Who do we think Jesus is? Do we accept him as the Son of God, the Messiah, the second person of the Trinity? That is the question Jesus is asking today.
However, Jesus is telling us that, just because we accept Jesus as our savior, it is not going to be an easy road for us. Peter and the other disciples thought so too; but they were very disappointed. Jesus tells them and us that being a disciple means that we will be tested and we will face trials and tribulations in life. It is not going to be a bed of roses. It was a day of extreme emotional up and down for Peter.
Daniel B. Clendenin, in 'The Journey with Jesus: Notes to Myself' talked about Peter's predicament this way:
"After Peter confessed that he was the Christ, Jesus began to predict his death, much to the shock of his disciples who longed for a savior who would vanquish the Romans: 'He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again' (Mark 8:31). Resurrection would triumph, but not before suffering, rejection and death. The disciples, who so often in the Gospels misunderstood Jesus and were afraid to ask him questions, got the message loud and clear, for Jesus 'spoke plainly about this.' So plainly that Peter rebuked Jesus. 'This can never happen to you,' he objected. In perhaps the sharpest rebuke in all of the Gospels Jesus characterized Peter’s agenda as satanic.
A second shock followed when Jesus insisted that this pattern of self-denying suffering was incumbent upon anyone who wanted to follow him. After predicting his own suffering, rejection, and death to the disciples, he spoke to the crowd: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it' (Mark 8:34–35). God’s grace is free, but it is not cheap, for it demands everything. This is a high price to pay, Jesus admits, and the risk-reward logic should pierce your heart: 'What good is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a person give in exchange for his soul?' (Mark 8:36–37)."
The Rev. Dr. Debra Samuelson from Minneapolis, MN explains the Peter's dilemma this way. Peter wants a strong God; but Jesus gives him cross, instead:
"No wonder Peter rebukes him. This sounds like blasphemy. The savior of the world, suffer? God's messiah, die? Are you mad?
Peter, you see, wants and needs a strong God. Like so many of his day, he's looking for a descendant of mighty king David to come and overthrow Roman rule and restore Israel to it's rightful place among the nations. Jesus has to be that person. After all, he's already brought relief, comfort, healing, and life. So what's all this talk about suffering and death?
Peter wants a strong God...and who can blame him. Are we any different? When the crushing weight of hardship bears down upon us, when the voices of despair drown out all others, when it's one disappointment after another, don't we also want a strong God to avenge our hurts, to right all wrongs, and to put us back on top of things?
Except...except that it's precisely when I'm down and out, when life's setbacks and disappointments have conspired to make me feel like I'm nothing, that I wonder what a God of might, strength, and justice--the God of winners, that is--has to say to me, an ordinary schmuck and everyday Joe, who often feels far closer to defeat than to victory.
I think this is what Jesus means in his rebuke to Peter by contrasting divine things and earthly ones. By our human reckoning strength is everything, might makes right, and the one who dies with the most toys wins. But God employs a different calculus and measures strength not in terms of might but of love, not by victory but vulnerability, not in possessions but in sacrifice, not by glory but by the cross."
Dr. Samuelson says that when faced with overwhelming odds -- or just with our own limitations, those who take up their cross and follow Jesus do not loose heart because we know that there is as Sister Ann said:
"a power beyond --
a power beyond the cross --
a power beyond our sin --
a power beyond our limitations, our helplessness our weakness.
It is the power of God to bring life from death, to bring healing from disease, to bring wholeness from our brokenness.
We take up our cross when we embrace our sinful selves, accept our limitations and follow Christ beyond them."
The Rev. Dr. David Lose is the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, provides us this powerful perspective:
"So it will also be with us, as we recognize that the God we worship comes not for the victorious but for the vanquished and seeks out not the mighty but the down trodden. Our God comes, as Scripture bear witness, to feed the hungry, to heal the lame, to free the bound and to bind up the broken-heartened. Our God comes, that is, for us.
And so we pray: Come, Lord Jesus, break open our hearts that we might perceive your profound love for us and all people and receive your mercy and grace. Amen."
Malankara World provides several commentaries, homilies and sermons that look at different sides of this week's scripture reading. You can find them here:
Sermons for Koodosh Eetho Sunday
Life to Me Means Christ, and Death is Gain
by Saint John Chrysostom
The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.
Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbor. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!
If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider's web. Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say Lord, your will be done; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.
Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.
You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun's light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.
Please read the rest of the articles in this week's MW Journal online:
In HIS Service
Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World Journal
ID No: 956