Monday, February 23, 2009

Shrove Tuesday & St. Matthias

Little is known of his actual life. We know from the Book of Acts that he was one of the 120 followers of Jesus who were in the upper room. He was selected by lot to take the place of Judas Iscariot as on of the twelve apostles. He preached the Gospel in Juday, and is said to have preached the Gospel in Ethiopia (remembering that when the Christians scattered from Jerusalem because of persecution, they usually sought out Jewish colonies of which there was an ancient one in Ethiopia.), and also preached the Gospel in Colchis (modern Georgia) where he was crucified for his faith. We not in passing, that Georgia, together with Armenia is home of one of the more ancient churches which existed outside the Roman Empire.

Collect: Dear Lord, you raised up Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot as a witness to your name amongst the twelve. Grant that your church would not follow false teachers, but in this and every generation their would be faithful men to lead us in your ways; This we ask through Yeshuah haMoshiach, who livers and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen.

Shrove Tuesday

Today is also Shrove Tuesday. Shrove is the past tense of “shrive” which is to be absolved from sin. Traditionally on this day, people went to the priest to confess their sins and would be given a penitence which they would keep for Lent. Also on this day it was traditional in England to consume pancakes in order to use up the lard (the last of the meat) in the house as well as the last of the eggs and milk so as to fast from milk and dairy products during Lent. The same idea is held in the term Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) reflecting that all the fat (lard) was to be finished off this day. Carnival in Portugues and Spanish reflects the same idea, as “carne” is meat, and Carnival was the time to finish off the meat.

Unfortunately, in many times and cultures Mardi Gras or Carnival instead of reflecting the religious nature has become a time of doing everything that one would not do in Lent, and has often become a time of drunken revelry.

Tonight we will have our Shrove Tuesday Service, in which we all confess our sins to one another, and is a time we concentrate on our individual responsibility. Tomorrow at the 6:00 AM Ash Wednesday Service, we will be confessing our corporate sins as a community and church.

Collect: : Lord, grant that we should make such a true confession, that we would truly walk in love and peace with one another that the light of Yeshua would truly shine through us. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna

Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna in the 2nd Century. Little is know about him, except that he was a disciple of St. John, and that he suffered martyrdom for refusing to recant the Christian faith. When asked to recant his faith, he replied, “Eighty-six years have I served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who saved me.” Before being led to the stake he praised God for the privilege to be a martyr. After the pile of wood was lit he remained unharmed, surrounded by flames, yet unburned, and finally was stabbed to death. He is chiefly known for his Letter to the Philippians in which he describes apostolic faith. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, is considered to be authentic, and together with his letter to the Philippians are part of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.
Collect: Heavenly Father, who gave Polycarp courage and boldness to confess Yeshuah as Messiah, Saviour and Lord and to die for that faith, grant us courage, boldness and faith to imitate him that we may be willing to live and die for you. This we ask through Yeshuah haMoshiach, who livers and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Martin Luther: 18 February 2009

Martin Luther was born November of 1483. Educated by his father to be a lawyer, instead he became a monk. Luther, as many saints had a great knowledge of his sinfulness and unworthiness before God. He challenged the Roman Catholic Church on the sale of indulgences, and promoted the view of justification by faith, and the priesthood of all believers. Condemned and excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, he refused to recant unless proved wrong by scriptures.

Luther, a great scholar encouraged the German Catholic custom of choral singing and wrote many hymns in German, the most well known being, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” based on Psalm 91. In addition to hymns, Luther (influenced by the ideas of Hus) translated much of the Old and New Testaments into German, and also translated the church services into German. As well he provided two catechisms to guide people in faith. Participating in the dissolution of Monasteries, he took as a wife an ex nun, whom he loved dearly. As many in the church, he made mistakes, but his main focus was on God, and his ideas continue to affect the church even today.
Collect: Dear Lord, you raised up Martin Luther to challenge the church in its errors to reform its ways. Guide the church today that she may always be ready to correct errors and seek you in your word and sacraments. This we ask in the name of our Lord Yeshuah haMoshiach, who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sts. Cyril and Methodius: 14 February 2009

Cyril and Methodius were respectively born in Thessalonica in 827 and 826. There father died when they were aobut fourteen and their uncle, took over caring for them. Under his guidance, Cyril came to Constantinople to study in the University, and Methodius became an abbot (head of a monastery) in Constantinople. Cyril was particularly adept at linguistics and spoke Greek, Latin, Slavonic and Arabic among others, and began teaching.

In 826 Prince Rastislav of Greater Moravia asked the Emperor and Patriarch of Constantinople to send missionaries for his Slavic subjects. Cyril and Methodius were chosen and began by training helpers, and then began translating the Bible into Slavonic, for which they devised the Glagolictic Alphabet which contained letters for sounds found in Slavonic, but not in Greek. This Alphabet is still used by the Russian and other Orthodox churches today. The Cyrillic alphabet used in Russian and in the Balkan Peninsula today is derived from the Glagolictic. Unfortunately they were opposed by German ecclesiastical authorities who opposed the Slavonic mass.

The brothers wisely sought the help of the Roman Church in their endeavors, which helped the mission to continue. Rome sent them Bishops to ordain some of their helpers, who celebrated the Eucharist in Old Church Slavonic. Cyril, feeling the time of his death was approaching, became a monk and died shortly thereafter on 14 February 869. Methodius continued the work in Pannonia, which led to conflict with the Archbishop of Salzburg. The Pope made Methodius Archbishop of Sirmium (an older title) to supersede the authority of the Bishop of Salzburg. Sirmium included not only Greater Slavonia, but Panonia and Serbia as well. The Archbishop of Salzburg was so annoyed that he managed to get Methodius imprisoned for two and one half years. Through the influence of the Pope, he regained his freedom and authority, but not the right to celebrate the Eucharist in Slavonic. After Methodius’s death in 885 most of his followers were banished and ended up in the Bulgarian Empire, where under the authority of Constantinople they continued their work, which eventually extended as far east as Kiev. This work also laid the foundation of ideas later to reach Jan Huss, Martin Luther and others of preaching to the people in their own language.

The story of Cyril and Methodius is a sad story of how petty jealousy, politics, lack of missionary zeal, and a lack of considering the pastoral needs of the people can get in the way of our true mission. To the credit of Cyril and Methodius, they laid down the groundwork of evangelising Eastern Europe in language understood by the people. They sowed the seed, others reaped the harvest. We should learn to persevere from them, and also learn not to let political expedients derail us from the imperative of proclaiming the Gospel.

Collect: Lord our God, you raised Cyril and Methodius to proclaim the Gospel in a hostile land and gave them intellectual gifts to translate, create an alphabet, and teach, so raise up in this and every land bishops and ministers who are willing to persevere to the end in proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord Yeshuah haMoshiach. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (white)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Martyrs of Japan: 5 February 2009

The Martyr of Japan have a story to tell of what it truly is to be Christian. Jesuits first brought the faith to Japan in the 16th century and were followed soon after by the Franciscans. The church grew rapidly, and it is estimated that by the end of the 16th century that there were more than three hundred thousand believers in Japan. Unfortunately there were problems due to rivalries between Franciscan and Jesuits and because of intrigues by both the Spanish and Portuguese governments.

Concerned, the Japanese government had 6 Franciscans and twenty of their converts, crucified and then stabbed at Nagasaki, on 5 February 1597. A nobleman tempted the youngest, a boy to renounce his faith, but instead the boy asked to be shown his cross and embraced it. The church grew. From 1614 until 1854 a programme of persecution began, in which Christians were crucified, buried alive, tortured. Churches were destroyed. But the Japanese Christians proved true martyrs indeed (the word martyr means witness). Despite a lack of clergy and contact with the official church, there were still practicing Christians, worshipping underground, when contact with the west was reestablished.

Two things are to be learned. First, we should all learn from the example from the Japanese Christians, and persevere, no matter what. The second thing we should learn, is that it is very important to concentrate on establishing indigenous pastors from early on, so that if the missionaries are driven out, the church may continue on in its fullness.

Collect: Heavenly Father, despite much suffering, your church in Japan continued through persecutions. Grant that we observing their perseverance, would have the courage to follow where they lead the way, proclaiming Christ with our very lives. This we ask in his most blessed name. Amen,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Conelius the Centurion: 4 February 2009

Cornelius was a centurion, that is an officer in charge of 100 men. He was considered to be the first gentile convert to the church, an event of great importance, as to this point the church was all Jewish.

Cornelius was already a sympathizer with the Jewish faith, and through a dream was lead to send for St. Peter. St. Peter, as well was guided by a vision that he should accompany the servant and travel to Cornelius’s house. Peter was surprised to see that the Holy Spirit fell on the whole household, and suggested that since they were saved by faith, and had received the Holy Spirit, then the waters of baptism could not be denied to them. Cornelius went on to be bishop of either Caesarea or Scepsis in Mysia, or possibly of both at different times.

Collect: Blessed Saviour, by dreams and visions you ensured that Cornelius the Centurion would be the first Christian of the Goyim. Grant that your Spirit would continue to work in miraculous ways to invite all Jews and Goyim into the kingdom. This we ask in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen.

Anskar, Apostle to the North: 3 February 2009

Anskar was born in 801.In 826, when King Harald of Denmark asked for missionaries, Anskar, a Benedictine monk, was one of those who was sent out. Sadly, he was ridiculed by his peers for his missionary fervor. Later he also lead a group to Sweden. He built school, and had dealings with the Vikings, who were a tough lot to evangelise, because they thought the breaking of oaths to be honourable.Because of the precariousness of the political situation, he returned to Hamburg, fo which he became the first Archbishop. He helped consecrate Gotbert, the first Bishop of Sweden and is held to be the Apostle to the Swedish people. We remember Anskar most for being Apostle to the North, (Denmark, Sweden and Iceland) and because despite the fact he did not see the fruit of his works, he continued his labour. May we follow his example.

Collect: Lord Yeshua, your servant Anskar was called to Denmark and Sweden to proclaim the Gospel, and you gave him strength to continue despite disparagement and deterrence from those around him. Grant to us and our clergy like steadfastness of mind to obey your call, and trust in you for the seed planted to grow. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple: 2 February

The Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

Today is forty days after Christmas, when Jesus was presented in the Temple and when Miriam was purified. It is another case showing that Jesus completed the law, but also a link between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It has been revealed to Simeon that he will not die until he has seen the Messiah, and he is waiting in the Temple, having been sent there by the Holy Spirit that day. Encountering the baby Jesus, Simeon picks him up, saying, “Lord you now have set your servant free, for I can go in peace as you have promised, for my eyes have the the saviour, whom you have promised to set the world free,” identifying for us and for many who Jesus was, and what he was to do. He warned Miriam that she would suffer. Anna, too prophesied over the life of Jesus, and Miriam and Yosef were astounde.

For this feast, we often start with a candlelight procession. (The Feast is also called Cnadlemass). We march throughout the town and neighbourhood, to proclaim that Jesus, the light of the world has come to set the nations free. Let us be like Simeon and Anna, quick to recognise the saviour, and like them proclaim his to the nations.

Exodus 13:2
Psalm 84:1-6
Luke 2:22-40

Father, as this day Yeshuah was presented in the temple, grant that our Lord Yeshuah would present us to you that we may serve you truly in this world and the next. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (light blue)