Friday, October 30, 2009

31 October: Reformation Day

November 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle church door of Wittenberg. This was a common way of making announcements at the time, and since November 1st is All Saints day, a day of special observance, crowds were guaranteed to see the announcements.

At the heart of the 95 theses was a custom of the day, selling indulgences in order to raise money for the church. The general idea was that one could buy more rapid exit from purgatory for one’s self or a relative. In the famous words of Johann Tetzle, “Sobald der G├╝lden im Becken klingt, im huy die Seel im Himmel springt,“ (when the guilder in the box clings, the soul into heaven springs.“)

The Pope was rebuilding St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, and needed money to work on it. He sent Tetzel and others to raise money through the sale of indulgences. Martin Luther found this reprehensible, and nailed his objections to the church door. (The 95 Theses can be found at:

Several points made by Luther:

If the pope had this power than he should let all people out of purgatory.

Money spent on charity would do us more good than money spent on indulgences.

Repentance is necessary.

The Pope had enough money to repair St. Peter’s, and should have used his own money.

Martin Luther’s theses were extremely important to the church and to Europe and eventually the world. They lead to challenging the Roman Catholic Church in other areas (such as holding church services in languages which the people understood, the marriage of clergy and many other factors. Most of the Protestant Churches we have today are a direct or indirect result of this challenge to the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church indeed reformed itself to some extent, to win back people lost to protestant churches. Europe itself, became divided between the Protestant North (Great Britain, Scandinavia, Prussia, Holland, Latvia and Estonia), and the Catholic South. Among the Protestants was a great desire to know God’s word in one’s one language and to apply it to one’s life. Europe was transformed, not only religiously by the reformation, but economically as well. Religious wars changed the face of Europe, and indeed had a great affect on those who wrote the constitution of the USA. George Washington feared sectarian wars, and for this reason the USA did not recognise any one form of Christianity.

Tonight is also Halloween, from All Hallows Even, meaning the evening before the feast of All Hallows (i.e. All Saints Day). This feast was originally held in May but was moved to counteract the Pagan Holliday of Samain. It was believed that the dead walked the Earth, and that it was necessary to scare them away with Jack O’ Lanterns (made of turnips and apples originally. Needles to say, we encourage our churches to have a Saints Day party this evening with everyone coming as a saint or personage from the Bible.

Collect: Heavenly Father, on this day Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, not to challenge the church, but to transform it into a true body for mission. Grant us zeal in reforming the church and translating scripture and liturgy so all may understand your word, and be enabled for mission to the entire world. This we ask in the name of our Lord Yeshuah. Amen. (white)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

26 October: Alfred the Great, KIng of Wessex

Born in 849 at Berkshire, Alfred wished to become a monk. Instead he became king at the death of his father and four older brothers in 871. At this time the Danes controlled the northeast coast of what we call England today, which was called the Danelaw. Alfred was able to defeat the Danes, and as part of the terms of that defeat, the Danish King, Guthrum became a vassal to Jesus Christ, and therefore so did his nobles. Obviously the baptisms that resulted from this conversion may not have been heartfelt, but, because of this conversion, priests and missionaries were allowed in the Danelaw and in Denmark (which at this time included a portion of Sweden), which in time resulted in legitimate heartfelt conversions.

After defeating Guthrum, Alfred devoted his time to rebuilding the kingdom of Wessex, fortifying it against attack, building schools (including Oxford) and libraries. Enamoured of the Torah’s treatment of the poor, Alfred sought to put such protections in his laws as well. He also translated books and fifty of the Psalms into Anglo Saxon.

The laws which Alfred promulgated are based very much on the Old Testament. In addition to his other talents, Alfred also designed the ships used to defeat King Guthrum.

There are many reason for calling Alfred the Great. Among those not listed above was the protection of England from the Vikings and restoring the peace, allowing British and English Christianity to carry on unmolested. Once King Guthrum had converted he received respect from his Christian subjects in the Danelaw, leading to peace there as well. King Alfred was a man who knew the Bible well, and sought to use it in his life, in the laws and in all he did. Would that our politicians would do likewise.

Collect: Heavenly Father, as Alfred rebuilt England and restored the church, he also witnessed to his enemy Guthrum and persuaded him to receive Messiah. Grant that we too, would pray and witness to all the world, whether they be our friends or our enemies. This we ask through Yeshuah who lives and reins with you and Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (white)

For more information see:

Friday, October 16, 2009

St. Ignatius of Antioch: 17 October 2008

Ignatius is one of the Apostolic fathers (early leaders in the church who knew the apostles. He is said to have been one of the children that Jesus blessed. He was born around the year 35 and died between 98 and 117. He is counted to be the third Bishop of Antioch (after St. Peter and St. Evodius who died in the year 67. It is said that he knew St. Peter and may have known St. John the Apostle, and it is said that St. Peter appointed him to the see of Antioch. Ignatius is most known to us for the letters he wrote on the way to Rome, where he was martyred by being partially consumed by lions. His remains are in Rome to this day, buried under St. Peter’s Basilica.
Ignatius wrote six letters to churches and one to a bishop. His letters emphasise loyalty to one Bishop per city, who is aided by his presbyters and deacons, the earliest letter to emphasise this. He called the Eucharist the medicine of immortality and looked forward to his martyrdom to be with Jesus face to face. St. Ignatius also is the first to emphasise celebrating the Lord’s day (although Acts 20:7-11 suggests the practice first) saying, “We fashion our lives after the Lord’s day.”
These letters are very important, because we have very little written information about this time in the churches history, guiding us in how we should imitate the primitive church.

For more see: (note the first seven are those alleged to be genuine.)

Collect: Heavenly Father, as you raised up your servant Ignatius to be Bishop of Antioch and to suffer and die for his faith. Grant that we may gather more frequently to celebrate the Eucharist, sharing the medicine of immortality, and that we would follow the bishop, as Jesus followed the Father, follow the presbytery as we would follow the apostles, and respect the deacons as we respect God’s law. This we ask through our Lord and Saviour Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reins with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (red)

Monday, October 5, 2009

William Tyndale: 6 October 2009

William Tyndale was born about 1495 near the Welsh border. He studied at Oxford and Cambridge and was ordained to the priesthood in 1521, and soon after began speaking of his desire to translate the scriptures into the English language. It is said that in a dispute with theologians that he said that he would cause a ploughboy to know the scriptures better than the man with whom he disputed.
Finding King Henry VIII to be lacking sympathy for an English Bible, he fled to Germany (and visiting Martin Luther while there). During this time he fled from city to city in exile, in danger of losing his life, and in poverty. In contrast to the popular belief of the time, that we earned our way to heaven, Tyndale preached that salvation was a free gift from God.
He completed his translation of the New Testament in 1525 and had eighteen thousand copies smuggled into England. In 1534 he began work on the Old Testament, and completed the Pentateuch, Jonah, and Joshua through II Chronicles before being captured. He was burned at the stake on this day in 1536, his last words being, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” Miles Coverdale (Jan. 20) went on to finish the work, and up until this time, most Bibles in English are revisions of the Tyndale Coverdale Bible.
For a summary of Tyndales writings, go to English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama, Oxford UP, 1954), pp 187-191. by C.S. Lewis.
Tyndale and Coverdale actually brought back to England a movement begun by John Wycliff in the 14th century. Since King John’s wife was Anne of Bohemia, Wycliff’s ideas found their way to Prague to influence Jan Huss, who in turn influenced Martin Luther who in turn influenced Tyndale. And interesting circle of ideas. It is believed that the Great Bible, which is the basis for the Authorised (or King James) Version, so that much of Tyndale’s work is preserved in the King James Version.

Collect: Father, you gave to your servant William Tyndale the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and perseverance translate the scriptures into the English language. Grant that we would share his passion to share the scriptures with all the world, that they may be made aware that Yeshuah is the way, the light and the truth, and we pray in the blessed name of Yeshuah, Amen. (red)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

St. Francis of Assisi 5 October 2009

St. Francis was born in Assisi in 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, who spent much time in France (hence the nickname Francisco). After sickness and military service he heard Christ tell him to fix his falling down house. Francis took this literally and sold a bale of silk and used the money to restore the church. His father was not happy about this and he denounced Francis and disinherited him. Francis gave his father back his purse, and is said to have laid down his clothes to depart naked. Frances claimed for his bride the Lady Poverty, and begged unused stones and did the work on St. Damien’s himself, doing both the manual labour on the church and to earn food. He also scrounged food from the garbage. He staid with the priest, and took care of the lepers as well, cleaning and washing them, as well as feeding them.

Eventually some other young men took up with him, and the Order of Friars Minor was born. In 1210 it was made official by the Pope, and Francis was ordained to the diaconate so he could read the Gospels to his Friars. Francis and his friars not only rebuilt the crumbling church of St. Damien, but renovated the church in a time when clergy were becoming a little too involved with money. His friars went out, following the Gospel to take nothing with them and to give without charge. They preached the Gospel, using words when necessary. Frances probably also set up the first manger scene. He also went to the Holy Land in 1219 to talk with the Sultan, volunteering to walk through the fire to prove the truth of Christianity. He did set up an armistice, but sadly the Christian rulers would not agree to it. There was one good result, the Franciscans were made guardians of the Christian shrines in the Holy Land.

Sadly, the same thing happened to the Order of Friar’s Minor as happened to the early church. Many people joined seeing the joy of the Friars, but were not ready to embrace Lady Poverty, not realizing the joy of being unencumbered by posseions.. While the order was small, Francis was able to keep this practice up. After he retired though, Franciscans began to own houses and other property, and fell quickly from the high ideals of Francis.

Aside from his joy, Francis was also known for his love of animals, whom he often preached to, and which would obey him. During a 40 day fast near the end of his life he received the stigmata, for which he gave thanks, now being able to know first hand the sufferings of Christ. Francis died, October 3, 1226 singing Psalm 141. Francis is one of the most admired of all saints, but the least imitated. Francis wrote many songs showing his joy, some of which we have with us today. A good way to celebrate the day is watching the movie, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” about the life of St. Francis. May we learn to be joyful, needing only the Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing else.

Collect: Father, your servant Francis gave up the riches of the world to serve you in poverty. Guide us that we would not only admire Francis, but seek to imitate him as he imitated you. Make us oh Lord, instruments of your peace and help us to know that it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, in giving that we receive and that in dying we are born to everlasting life, this we ask through our Saviour, Yeshuah haMoshiach who lives and reigns with you and the Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (white)

Mathew 10:7-10, Psalm 141
Note, this day transferred from 4 October. Please note that we give minimal lessons for most saints who are not in the Bible so as disturb in course readings for daily lessons minimally.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1st at Sundown, marks the feast of Sukkoth, or Tabernacles. During this feast the Jewish people build tabernacles or huts, and have all their meals in them and sleep in them as well. Sukkoth was the autumn harvest time and was a type of Jewish thanksgiving. As well, it commemorates the forty years in the desert, and God’s provision. We note in passing, according to Nehemiah, during the forty years in the desert, their clothes did not wear out, in other words, along with manna and water, God provided for all the rest of the people’s needs.

Many Jews today see the Succoth or hut as a sign of God’s protection as well, because God protected the people in the desert as well.

We too, see that Yeshua completes this feast as he does all the others. He provides for us, if we seek the kingdom, and he will protect us. He will not let us be tempted past what we can bear.

As Christians, we too can keep the feast, setting up a tent or dining fly, and having our meals in it. We also set up tents and sleep in them as well, as well as cooking at least lunch and dinner outside. Good time for brisket and smoked turkey as well. We do this in remembrance of the forty years in the desert, and remind ourselves that it took forty years for the children of Israel to become true people of God. Even Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, and St. Paul spent three years in the wilderness. We might think of it as camping out with God.

During Sukkoth, we remember that becoming a Christian is not an overnight thing, but a process: a process in which for some is quicker, for some is slower, but nevertheless a process in which we learn to apply God’s work to our lives; a process in which we learn to overcome temptation; a process in which we learn to be Yeshua’s hands, and feet and eyes, and mouth; a process in which we learn to trust God; a process in which God builds us into better Christians. As the tent surrounds us, so does God’s provision and protection surround us. We have talked about this process before. The Eastern Orthodox Church refers to it as theosis, that is becoming more God like. As Christ is in God, so we are in Christ. As we become more Christ-like, we become more like the father, for Jesus was his perfect reflection. As Yeshua told Phillip, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.

It is also a time of thinking. Of the six hundred three thousand plus men to cross the Red Sea and were delivered from slavery in Egypt, only two, Yehoshua (Joshua) and Kalev (Caleb) actually made it to the Promised Land. Yeshua tells us, many are called, but few are chosen. St. Paul tells us to run to win the race, and that the bones of the Israelites littering the ground were given as an example for us to learn. Let us look at this and tremble.

God has called us. Will we follow? Will we trust him to provide for us? Will we speak out for him when it is not popular? Will we call others to follow the Lord Yeshua? The entire Exodus process is something that every Christian must go through, from being baptized to learning in the desert. There will be trials and temptations. God will test and prove us in order to make us strong. After all, God wants people of good character to reside with him forever.

Let us as we celebrate this holiday, analyse where we are in our relationship with Yeshua. Are we crying for meat and melons, or are we advancing for the Kingdom of God? Are we wondering where Moses went, or are we preparing for the battle? Let us pray for all Christians, that they would grow in love, knowledge and obedience to the Lord Yeshua haMoshiach (Jesus the Christ), and let us pray for all Yehudim (Jews) that they would see how Yeshua completes the feast and recognise him as Messiah, and may we trusting in his protection, guidance, power, and providence go to war against Satin and those forces which attempt to enslave us.

Collect for the day: Heavenly Father, as we remember that you caused the Israelites to dwell in tents, and as their clothes and shoes did not wear out, grant that we may rest assured of your protection and blessings. This we ask in the name of our Lord Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reins with you and Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (white)

Shalom b’Yeshua haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL
Pastor, Congregation Benim Avraham
Bishop of La Porte, Texas