Tuesday, February 23, 2010

St. Maththias: 24 February 2010


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 Judah, 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.

Daily Office Readings:
AM: Psalm 80; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 1 John 2:18-25
PM: Psalm 33; 1 Samuel 12:1-5; Acts 20:17-35
Eucharistic Readings:
Psalm 15
Acts 1:15-26
John 15:1,6-16

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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

St. Polycarp, Bishop, Martyr: 23 February 2010


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.

Numbers 23:5-12
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 20:20-23

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.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Moshe: Tranfered from Sunday


As we approach Peshach or Passover and Easter, it is a good thing to consider Moshe Rabeinu (1393?-1273? BC), more well known to us westerners as Moses. There is still speculation about the exact years in which he lived. According to the Rabbis, Moses was born and died on the 7th of Adar. Moses lived in Egypt for 40 years, towards the end of which, he killed an Egyptian who was mistreating one of the Habiru (Hebrew) people. Moshe then spent the next forty years taking care of sheep in the desert. The end of this period he has his encounter with the burning bush. His last forty years he spent combating Pharaoh and leading the Hebrews to freedom.

We can look at this in a different way. During Moshe’s first forty years he attempted to save his people through his own efforts. His second forty years were spent learning to depend on God. His last forty years were spent in allowing God to use him to save his people.

Forty is an important number in the Bible. Forty is a number which symbolises trials, temptations and preparations. Moses spends forty years getting to know God in the desert. The children of Israel spend forty years in the desert to prepare to enter the promised land. Yeshua (Jesus) spent forty days in the desert to prepare for his ministry, and of course we have forty days of Lent.

Moses, when he encounters the burning bush approaches to see this strange sight. God instructs him to remove his sandals and come no closer because he is standing on holy ground. Today, the Cohen (Jewish priest) removes his shoes before giving the Aaronic blessing. In both the Coptic and Assyrian churches, the congregation remove their shoes in memory of this verse, and that their church is holy ground. I myself usually remove my shoes before entering the church, or at the least before approaching the alter, in memory of this verse.

Moses does not jump at the opportunity to save his people. Perhaps the memory of the slain Egyptian gives him doubts. Perhaps he did not want to confront the Pharaoh, of whom the Midrash and Talmud suggest grew up with Moses, perhaps he has finally realised that he is not worthy. But God is not concerned with our worthiness. He is concerned with our brokenness and our willingness to be used by him. Moses was a murderer, yet God used him. Samson was a philanderer, yet God used him. You and I are sinners (or were before we accepted Jesus, but now we are saints, we’ll save that for another day). Moses was broken when he fled Egypt, Sampson when his eyes were removed. Are we broken? Have we come to the point that we realise that we are not worthy, nor will we ever be ready for God’s gift of eternal life to us? Do we really appreciate what a wonderful gift this is?

When we are truly broken, and realise that we have no power to help ourselves, nor do those things that God wants us to do, then we are ready to be used by God. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.” (James 3:16) His strength and power are truly manifest in our weakness.

But Moshe hesitates. He tells Adonai YHWH that he is slow of speech. (An aside on this, according to the Talmud, Moshe was a very intelligent child, so intelligent in fact that the Pharaoh became worried that Moshe would supplant his son. Pharaoh’s counsellors suggested that they test Moshe by putting a piece of gold and a burning ember in the crib. If Moshe took the gold, they would know there was danger. Moshe began to reach for the gold, but an angel of YHWH (blessed be the name) pushed Moshe’s hand to the ember which he took and put in his mouth burning his tongue). Anyway, the Lord reminds Moshe that it was the Lord YHWH who created Moshe and gave him his mouth, and of course arranges for Aaron to speak for Moshe. The point that we need to take is that if YHWH calls us to do something, he will give us the power to do it. The Lord sent me to Honduras. It took me a year to learn Spanish, but I was preaching in my first week of travel in Mexico. I was sent to the Miskito Coast. In six months the language was learned. Brothers and sisters, this was not me, it was the Lord. When he gives us a job, he gives us the ability to complete it. This is not just a job in missions or ministry. This is in holiness as well. God calls us to be holy as he is holy.

Friends, I am deeply disappointed by seeing all the smokers rush to the door of their church (close by our house) so they can get that cigarette. I am appalled by gluttony that I see in Christian brothers (and myself, but I am in battle, 22 pounds down and 42 to go). I am disgusted that George Barna’s statistics show that Christian youth are more likely to be involved in sex than non-church attendees. Oh Lord, forgive us, have we done such a sorry job teaching our children.

There are two problems. One, we have lost the power of self-discipline. When I was in high school, contraception methods were pretty primitive. The birth control pill had not yet been invented, yet one girl in four years in a class of 900 plus got pregnant. Times they have changed. My first year in a regular public high school, fourteen of about 200 students that I had were pregnant. People tell me times are changed we cannot go back. My response is balderdash. First we need to remember that sex is a gift for use in marriage only. Secondly we need to know that God will give us the power to overcome any sin in our life. Any sin. Sexual sin, addiction, any sin.

When I gave up my snuff, I had been using it fourteen years. The good Lord showed me that it was messing up my witness with the youth group with which I worked. I was reminded on Christian radio that God was bigger than my tobacco habit. I laid my can of tobacco on the altar, asked the Lord to take away my desire and have been free ever since (twenty-three years now).

Brothers and sisters, God is calling you to personal holiness. You know where if you are listening to him. He will give you the power to conquer sin in your life. God is also calling you to work for him. I do not know where, but you do. Have no doubts. God will give you the power. Twenty-two years ago I left Conroe, Texas on my motorcycle with $90.00 in my pocket. About 10 weeks later I arrived in Honduras still with money in my pocket. God had cleared a way for me miraculously to make it all the way to Honduras. A week after I showed up at the Episcopal School in Tela, the teacher had to leave on an emergency trip because her father was dying. It is amazing how God moves.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t argue with God. Don’t tell him you cannot do it. Be like Samuel and tell him, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Tell him, “I cannot do it on my own, but with you at my side all things are possible.

Moshe Rabeinu, (once he got going) displayed faith. Note, before each of those miracles, except the food ones, Moshe had to obey God, and trust God to do the rest. Let us all go out and do the same.

Readings: Exodus 3:1-14

Collect: Yahweh Shabbaoth, you raised up your prophet Moshe to free the Hebrew people and to talk to you face to face. Grant that we freed from our sins by the blood of Yeshuah would know the liberty of truly being your friends and children as Moshe was. This we ask through Yeshua haMoshiach, who lives and reins with you and Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (white)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

18 February: Martin Luther


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. He is not only the lead man in the reformation, but the main cause of the counter-reformation as well.

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55: 6-11
Romans 3:21-28
John 15:1-11

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Please excuse me for not putting in today's readings. Several in the family are sick and one cousin wrecked her car so my attention was diverted.

Ash Wednesday is the fast day which begins Lent in the west. Lent is 46 days to allow for 40 days of fasting. (We do not fast on Sundays because they are days in which we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Yeshuah haMoshiach and so are feast days)

Lent was originally the final time of preparation to prepare catechumates for baptism, the end of a three year process. In time it also became a time in which people who were excommunicated were prepared to renter communion with the church. Eventually it became a time in which all Christians made special restitution for their sins.

Traditionally, Lent follows Shrove Tuesday. On Shrove Tuesday, Christians would go to their priest or anamchara for confession and receive absolution (In Old English, the priest would "Shrive" them, hence the term Shrove Tuesday, "Shrove" being past tense of "Shrive"). As part of the process of absolution, the person would receive a penance assigned to them by the priest or Anamachra. The penance would begin on Ash Wednesday and end on the Saturday before Easter.

Traditionally we refrain from meat and animal products during Lent, and those who wish to follow a stricter practice will abstain from food on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. We have no fixed rule, but we do encourage our congregation to abstain from pleasures during Lent, whether they be food, television or whatever. Time or money saved should go to charity or to the church. Many who fast use the money they save to contribute to the local food bank. Time saved by not watching TV might be used to study ones Bible, or take some time out to visit your neighbours and tell them about Christ. Lent should not be just about restrictions, but about doing positive things for Christ ans well.

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103
Epistle 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Gospel Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all those who are penitent. Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness of our sins. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stts. Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs


Cyril and Methodius were respectively born in Thessalonica in 827 and 826. There father died when they were about 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)

Psalm 69:8-18
Jeremiah 26:12-15
Ephesians 3:1-7
Mark 16:15-20

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Martyrs of Japan: 5 February 2010

Martyrs of Japan

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,

Psalm 16:5-11
Lamentations 3:46-48, 52-59
Galatians 2:19-20
Mark 8:34-38

Cornelius the Centurion: 4 February 2010


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.

Psalm 67
Isaiah 56:6-8
Acts 11:1-18
Luke 13:22-29

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

St. Anskar: 3 February 2010

Anskar, Apostle to the North

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 led 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, of 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 do likewise.

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.

Psalm 69:13-16
Zephaniah 3:9-12
Acts 1:1-9
Mark 6:7-13

Monday, February 1, 2010

Presentation of Christ in the Temple: 2 February 2010


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 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 astounded.

For this feast, we often start with a candlelight procession. (The Feast is also called Candlemass). 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. Am