Category: Sermon

Am I Worthy? ~ Fr. Robert Paresi, Aspirant

There is a great deal of personal reflection that comes with being a priest. Amongst other reasons, this involves a healthy mind, honest and moral cleanliness through daily prayer and discernment. There is a great deal of worthiness that comes along with being a priest, which involves moral living and daily self-reflection through prayer. We were created in His image and we administer the Holy Sacraments of Our Lord and Savior. We are the voice of his word as we share the Good News through our ministry. To be in a position to administer the sacraments is a great honor and one of worth not to be taken lightly.

I am reminded of how John felt the day Christ asked to be baptized. I am reminded of how John saw this as an honor. But John thought of whether he was truly worthy enough. I can imagine John standing in front of Jesus saying. You want me to baptize you? While with that look of awe in his eyes.

Matthew 3: 13-14 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter his, saying. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” For if Jesus thought that John wasn’t worthy or capable, he would have gone to someone else. I mean after all,  this was Jesus and he wanted John to baptize him, and John alone. Matthew 3: 15 Jesus replied, “Let us do so now; it is proper for us to do this and to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

The first time I administered the Sacrament of Holy Baptism was on my granddaughter. I thought for sure I had this. After all, it’s just my granddaughter, what could go wrong? As I began to prepare for this event, I prayed asking God for guidance and asking myself if I was worthy. I kept asking in prayer, do I uphold all of the duties to which I was ordained to uphold? Have I been a good and faithful servant to God and his people? I don’t mind saying that I began to break out into a cold sweat. All along I kept wondering, what’s the big deal behind baptism, or how stressful could it be? Up until this time I had officiated at multiple weddings and a few funerals, and had already celebrated mass, but something told me this was different. I’d be baptizing my granddaughter in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. I would anoint her as one of God’s own. Wow! what an undertaking!  Me, blessing and anointing Alanna with the Holy Spirit. Me of all people! In the name of God, the Father? I should have been elated but I was scared, and I kept wondering if I was still worthy enough in mind and spirit to undertake something as close and dear to God as to bring one of his new followers into the word with water and oil.

I continued to pray; I continued to sweat; and I continued to shake. I continued to hear the words of John in my mind and I could almost feel his presence. John 1: 26-27 “I baptize you with water.” John replied,” but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” How did John get through this? I finally realized he got through it through his faith. His belief in Christ and he did what he was asked to do. So after all of the worry, I too, did what I was asked to do, and baptized my granddaughter in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, with faith and assurance in Christ.

John 1: 29-34 the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, The man on whom you see the spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, I have seen and I will testify that this is the Son of God.” In those words, John was assured of his worthiness and the strength of his faith.

  1. Jesus came to John the Baptist,

In Judea long ago,

And was baptized by immersion

In the River Jordan’s flow.

  1. “To fulfill the law,” said Jesus,

When the Baptist questioned why,

“And to enter with my Father

In the kingdom up on high.”

  1. Now we know that we must also

Witness faith in Jesus’ word,

Be baptized to show obedience,

As was Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen

 

Wearing Your Faith Like a Tattoo ~ The Rev. Deacon Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

Though I barely remember it, I was baptized as a young girl. My Mother wasn’t very religious, but she saw Sunday church, or Vacation Bible school, as a way to get us out of her hair for a bit. The best thing I can remember is the cookies and cherry kool-aid. I’ve attended many churches since. And watched my daughter and nieces get baptized in the same church where I was married. As a Catholic, I have a greater understanding of baptism and how important it is to develop a stronger relationship with God. In Matthew we learn that though John understood his role in baptizing God’s people, but is vexed when Jesus comes to him to be baptized as well.

Matthew 3:13-17 (NIV) “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Now, Jesus comes into that situation and John says to him, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me (to be baptized)?” (Matthew 3:14). In other words, he makes crystal clear that Jesus does not need this baptism. He does not need to repent. He does not need to confess any sins. So John asks, “why are you here?”.

Jesus gives one sentence in answer, and it is massively important. He says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). It is fitting. That is why He is doing it. It is fitting. Well, what is fitting? Fulfilling all righteousness is fitting. Evidently, Jesus saw His life as the fulfillment of all righteousness. The fact that participating in a baptism of repentance even though He had no sins to repent of shows that the righteousness He wanted to fulfill was the righteousness required not of Himself, but of every sinful man.

Peter speaks on the good news of the Baptism of the Lord, and what it means for the salvation of God’s people.

Acts 10:34-38 (NIV)

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

But what does baptism really mean? I’m sure most of us think of baptism as just being dunked in water, or having water being poured over our heads. But many Churches and christian denominations each have their own way of baptizing someone. In Christianity, baptism is the sacrament of admission to the church, symbolized by the pouring or sprinkling of water on the head or by immersion in water. The ceremony is usually accompanied by the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In the doctrine originated by St. Paul, it signifies the wiping away of past sins and the rebirth of the individual into a new life. Judaism practiced ritual purification by immersion, and the Gospels report that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Baptism was an important ritual in the early church by the first century, and infant baptisms appeared later. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and most Protestant churches practice infant baptism. The Anabaptist reformers insisted on adult baptism after a confession of faith; modern Baptists and the Disciples of Christ also practice adult baptism.

But there is also baptism by blood, usually reserved for martyrs who were not baptized before their death. But we can also think of baptism in another way. While I don’t have any tattoos, I know many who do, including my best friend and my oldest daughter. There are many reasons why people get them. Some represent a special person or place. Others might represent a loss of a loved one, or pet. I’ve seen many tattoos and I always wonder why that particular tattoo. But its for a very personal reason, yet shown usually on a spot on the body seen by anyone.

Which brings me back to the term “baptism”. Most people participate in a baptism to show to the world their acceptance of the Savior in their hearts. It is an outward sign reflecting their faith, and their rebirth. By accepting Christ in to their life, they are then covered by His mercy and grace. It is much like a tattoo. Just as a tattoo is an outward reflection of something meaningful in our lives, so is our baptism. Now we can show the world that we have been reborn in Christ and are covered by His love and grace.

Let us pray.

Father God, we come before you now, asking that you keep us ever mindful of your presence in our lives, and ask that you help us to wear our faith like a tattoo, ever present, ever a reminder of our baptism.  We love you, Lord.  Amen.

The Epiphany of the Lord ~ Fr. Mike Beatty, Aspirant

Sunday, January 5, 2020 – Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Is 60:1-6; Ps 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ep 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

  1. Praised be Jesus Christ!
  2. Now and for ever. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We come today to the formal end of the Christmas season – hard to believe that it’s been 12 days already, eh? You may now throw out your Christmas tree – Father Bluenose says it’s okay. Christmas is over.

The Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the “revelation of the (All-)Highest”; that is, God-made-Man, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, the incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is “revealed” as the All-Highest by the arrival of potentates from the East, about whom I’ll say more in a moment. At the Epiphany, we come, also, to the conclusion of the sequence of revelations which have characterized Our Lord’s earthly ministry from before he was even born. There were three of them – a scripturally- and theologically-significant number! – and the order in which the revelations were made is significant for understanding the identity and ministry of Jesus.

First, He was revealed to Mary, his mother-to-be, in the message of an angel. We need not go over Luke’s majestic account of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38); it is one of the best-known passages of the New Testament. Next, He was revealed to Joseph, who was a righteous man (cf. Mt. 1:19) and, as such, a bit straitjacketed mentally. Not being privy to the Annunciation, he determined to be rid of his betrothed, who turned up pregnant without her husband having had the pleasure of impregnating her.

Scarcely had Joseph formed the intent to divorce Mary quietly, when he was visited in a dream by an angel, who basically repeated what the Angel Gabriel had told Mary: that the child Mary was carrying in her womb was the product of a supernatural, divinely-ordered union. Joseph believed, and, being a “righteous man” (we would say he was strengthened by Grace), stepped boldly into his role as the foster-father of Jesus. That is the two-part first revelation of Jesus as the All-Highest.

The second revelation was to the shepherds who were “living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.” (Lk. 2:8) The shepherds represent the Children of Israel; that is, the Hebrew people. They were of the land; a land flowing with milk and honey; a land which God had promised to give to their ancestors, and did give to them. In the interim, their ancestors had displeased God and forfeited their inheritance from Him, been driven off the land, driven into exile, redeemed by a temporal ruler (King Cyrus II the Great of Persia) and prophesied to of a coming Messiah who would Israel to a right relationship with her God. The shepherds were not trained in the Law; they probably could not read at all. But they were humble children of Israel, doing what God had intended the children of Israel to do when He delivered them to the Promised Land: they had entered into and taken possession of the land, and were enjoying the fruits of their labor on that land. It is to them, humble shepherds who “bore the smell of their sheep” – not to the perfumed and powdered Pharisees and scribes, sleeping in comfortable beds in Jerusalem! – to whom the cacophonous, raucous celebration of celebration of Heaven at the Nativity of the Lord revealed, through the message of an angel, that “a child is born to you.”

The third revelation is what we commemorate today: the arrival of the pagan, animistic, non-Jewish world, represented by the three (or however many) kings (or whatever they were) bearing gold fit for a king, frankincense “which owns a deity nigh,” and myrrh, the “bitter perfume” that heralded the saving death that the All-Highest would die. These kings, or magicians, came to do homage to the Lord of Creation shortly after His entrance into Creation.

Who were these people? That they were not Jews is clear from the fact that when they arrived in Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?” (Mt. 2:2) – not, “Where is our newborn king?” Matthew refers to them as “magi,” which suggests that they were capable of performing “magic” – that is, wonders based on advanced, or arcane knowledge. Other opinions say that they were astronomers, who had predicted the coming of a particularly-bright star, which would herald some great even on earth. Alternately, they have been described as “kings”; the term “magus” may be a corruption of the Latin “magister,” or master, indicating a person of authority. Again, “magi,” in the plural, has a certain relationship to the Arabic word “masjid,” or “majid,” meaning “market,” which suggests that the men were merchants – and, thus, wealthy and cosmopolitan, with ready access to the expensive gifts they brought to lay before the Child.

Whatever their background, whatever their status and role in life, the fact that they came from the East, as Matthew specifies (cf. Mt 2:1) is significant. If we accept the notion that I expressed earlier, that the Magi represent the pagan world coming to do Christ homage, then the journey of the Magi recapitulates, it traces the steps, that Abram (before he was Abraham) took when he came forth from “Ur of the Chaldees,” as the Proclamation of Christmas reminded us 12 days ago. In the same way that Abram, who was not yet the father of nations that he would become, came forth from the Fertile Crescent at the beginning of salvation history, so too do these latter-day devotees of the Living God come from the same area, representing the submission of the non-Jewish world to the King of the Jews.

The arrival of the Magi, the submission of the non-Jewish world to the King of the Jews, completes and perfects the Epiphany; that is, the revelation of the All-Highest. The co-equal and co-eternal Son of God, Jesus, had been revealed, successively, to the specially-graced (first Mary, then Joseph); to the “great unwashed” (the shepherds); and, finally, to the Gentiles. It is fitting and right that we conclude the season of Christmas, which celebrates the coming of the Messiah in the flesh, by celebrating the truth that the Gentile Magi taught: that Jesus is not merely the Son of God, but is God Himself.

What does this mean for us, more than 2,000 years after the fact? How should we respond to the declarations that the Magi made in bringing their gifts: that the Child is a King; that He is God; that He is Victim? We must make our way spiritually to the place where He lay, to receive His visitors. We must see this audience from both perspectives: of God receiving His supplicants, when we understand and share and emulate the adoration and worship that they offered to Him; and of supplicants approaching the Holy of Holies, falling down in worshipful adoration of Him Who above all others is worthy of worship. If we are willing to approach Our Lord and Master with the same humility and joy as the Magi, and to accept the welcome that He offers to us as He offered to them, then we will be able truly to complete and perfect, in our own hearts, the revelation of the All-Highest that is the fit culmination of the Christmas season.

Suffering, Growing, Living in Faith ~ St. Elizabeth Ann Seton ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1:1 JN 3:7-10

Responsorial Psalm: PS 98:1, 7-8, 9

Gospel: JN 1:35-42

Liturgical colour: White.

 

Today we  come together as a church to commemorate the Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who is my name saint within the Order of preachers Independent, due to our Prior (and Presiding Bishop) feeling there are similarities between the life of St. Elizabeth  Ann Seton and that of my own.

Throughout Biblical history and even in current times, we sometimes come across people who have endured much within their lives and who, regardless of this, remain strong and devout within their faith. Today we remember St Elizabeth, whom is one such person from whose life, heart and devotion, we can take inspiration within our own spiritual life.

Elizabeth was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be Canonized to sainthood.

Elizabeth was born as Elizabeth Ann Bayley in New York city on the 28th August in the year 1774, and she was a child of the Revolutionary war. She was raised Episcopalian which was the faith of her parents.

Elizabeth married at the  tender young age of only nineteen years old, to a man named William Magee Seton. He was a young but wealthy merchant and together they parented a total of five children.

Elizabeth had a very deep devout faith and concern for the poor even as a  very young woman and she shared this devotion with her sister-in-law,  who was Rebecca Seton, and with whom she became very close friends. Together, Elizabeth and Rebecca undertook various missions for the poor and for the needy of their region and they adopted the name of the ‘Protestant Sisters of Charity` for their mission works.

Elizabeth’s life changed after only the short time of four years of marriage and her life became rather burdensome in nature. Elizabeth and her husband were left with the responsibility for seven half-brothers and sisters of William’s father when he died in the year 1798.

 

Elizabeth suffered even further in the year 1801, when her own father with whom she had a  very close relationship, especially since the loss of her mother at aged only three,   himself passed into the care of the Lord.

Then yet again she suffered after only another two years, when both her husband’s business and his health failed. Filing for bankruptcy, Elizabeth and her husband sailed to Italy to help his health and to try to revive his business.

Whilst in Italy, Elizabeth suffered even further, as William’s condition worsened. He was quarantined and subsequently died of Tuberculosis in December of 1803. Elizabeth remained in Italy for several months after his death and during this time, was more fully exposed to the Catholic faith.

Elizabeth returned to New York city in June of 1804, only to suffer yet again with the loss of her dear friend and sister-in=law, Rebecca Seton, in the very next month.

At only the young thirty years of age, Elizabeth had endured the loss of so many who were close to her and she seemed to have the weight of the world upon her shoulders. Even so, throughout all this, Elizabeth still remained fervent in her faith.

The months ahead were life-changing for Elizabeth and she seemed ever more drawn to the Catholic faith and to the Mother Church, much to the horror of her friends and her remaining family who were firmly Protestant.

Elizabeth Ann Seton was received into the Catholic Church on the 4th March 1805. Her conversion cost her dearly in the areas of her friendships and in the support from her remaining family.

Elizabeth relocated to the Baltimore area and there she established a school for girls. She also founded a religious community along with two other young women and she took vows before the Archbishop Carroll as a member of the Sisters of Charity of St Joseph. From this time forward, Elizabeth was known as Mother Seton and she left a legacy of care and education for the poor. She even established the first free Catholic school of the nation.

In so many ways, the journey into the Catholic faith, helped Elizabeth to much more appreciate and to embrace her faith even more profoundly. Elizabeth was willing to endure all things to follow Christ. In her journal, she even wrote, ‘If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to stay. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way’.

Many of us who have chosen the Catholic faith have experienced some setbacks and have had to endure issues with relationships, but for this brave and devout woman of faith, the cost was even greater.

Elizabeth died aged only 46 on January 4th 1821 from Tuberculosis and she was Canonized on September 14th 1975.

On this your special day, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Pray for all of us who follow your pathway of faith. Pray that we likewise to yourself will say yes and will accept all that will come to us in the years ahead, and to allow our earthly endurance to further our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Amen.

“Family Friendly?” ~ The Feast of the Holy Family ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

Reading 1: SIR 3:2-6, 12-14

Responsorial Psalm: PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Reading 2: COL 3:12-21 or: COL 3:12-17

Gospel: MT 2:13-15, 19-23

Liturgical colour: White.

My Dearest brothers and sisters, Today, we come together as a church to celebrate the earthly family of Our Dear Lord and Saviour  Jesus Christ. The Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and of course, of Our Lord Jesus himself.  This feast challenges us all to look at what it means to be family.  And our eyes turn toward the Christmas nativity scene.  During this time of Christmas, we tend to sentimentalize the Holy Family – they often tend become figures of plaster and paper,  instead of being of true flesh and blood. But we forget: they weren’t all that different from how we are.  They were holy, yes that’s true,.  But they were also human just like us.

The life of the Holy Family is a life not always turning out the way in which they would’ve expected.  It’s the  life story of a teenage mother,  who conceived a child before she was married.  It’s the life story of an anxious father,  who confronted this scandal,  and who at first,  was planning on divorce. It’s the life story of a family forced to become refugees, living as immigrants in the land that once held their ancestors as slaves. It’s the story of a missing child, and days of anxious worry, stress,  and searching by his parents.

But there is even more.  It’s the story of our Lord’s violent death by crucifixion –  where his mother watched with helplessness and unimaginable sorrow.  This family was holy.  But it was also a human family.   We need these reminders.  Especially now.

The Church calendar shows us that the Christmas season is one of light – but it is also of shadow.  The day immediately after Christmas day and the joy of the Lord’s birth, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, St. Stephen.  Then a couple days after this, we mark the feast of the Holy Innocents,  all the children who were slaughtered by Herod.  The joy of Christ’s birth is suddenly tempered by tragic reminders of what the Incarnation cost.  And the Holy Family shared in that.

It is just a few steps here from the wood of the manger to the wood the cross. But in so many ways, the two singular events are inseparable.   One led inevitably to the other. Joy and sorrow are almost side by side, linked by sacrifice, by faith, and by love.  It is the story of our salvation.  And it is the story of the Holy Family.  he juxtaposition of those two images in this church, the crèche and the crucifix, serves as a powerful lesson for this feast. We realize that when we speak of the Holy Family, we speak of a family that struggled and suffered, like so many of us.

But: this family also knew profound hope. They trusted completely in God. They call all of us to that kind of trust. And they are with us. In our own time, they stand beside all who worry, who struggle, who search, who pray.  The Holy Family stands beside parents anxious about their children, worrying for their welfare.  They walk with immigrants and refugees separated from those they love.  They comfort teenage mothers and single parents.  They console the prisoner, the outcast, the bullied, the scorned—and the parents who love them.  And they offer solace and compassion to any mother or father grieving over the loss of a child.

The Holy Family shares our burdens. But they also uplift us by their example. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never alone. They endured through the grace of God.  They prayed. They hoped. They trusted in God’s will.  We might ask ourselves where we can find that kind of peace and purpose in our own families, in our own lives.

The Holy Family surely must’ve had moments in their life, when living those virtues which they had, when things seemed so desperately hard, or even impossible. But they did things most of us don’t. They listened to the angels who passed them the will of God. They dreamed.

And they gave themselves fully to God.

They made of their lives a prayer.

When we find ourselves overwhelmed, we need to remember where it is that we must focus on today for our guidance and to remember to look toward the Lord’s Nativity, and His Holy Family and their lives. There is our model for living: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  But we need to see them in full,  also ensuring that we remember the closeness of the cross. That was their life and it’s our lives too.  Yet, through all their hardships, in a time of anxieties, difficulties, of persecution and tragedy—a time to some extent like our own –they showed us how to be people of  true faith, people of forgiveness,  and people of love.

They show us, in other words, how to be holy in our lives.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

Matthew 2:13-18 New International Version (NIV)

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[a]

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”[b]

Imagine you are a parent, enjoying the toddler years, or as we know them today, the terrible twos,  when suddenly your front door is blown open and a soldier slaughters your baby. Your baby was sentenced to death by a tyrannical ruler who is obviously not in his right mind.

To many Christians, King Herod is the bloodthirsty villain of the Bible, the jealous despot who ordered the slaughter of newborn babies throughout his kingdom following the birth of Jesus Christ. To his subjects, he was Herod the Great, the paranoid tyrant who imposed oppressive taxes to fund his massive building projects, and who crushed all opposition. And to his Roman masters, he was little more than a reliably loyal—and wealthy—puppet-king.

Throughout history, opinions of Herod the Great have not been…well, great. Herod was a client king, which means he was subordinate to a larger ruling government. In Herod’s case, that government was Republican Rome. Indeed, Herod wouldn’t have been king of Judea at all had it not been for the Romans: rather than inherit the throne as kings usually do, Herod was declared king by the Roman senate, with the understanding that he would lead Judea in a decidedly pro-Roman direction. With the help of the Romans, Herod was able to put down Antigonus’s revolt. With Phasael (his older brother and Governor of Jerusalem) and Hyrcanus (king of Judea) both killed in the strife, this left Herod as the sole claimant to the throne of Judea. The Romans assented, and Herod claimed the title “basileus,” or king, for himself in 36 BCE.

Though the Romans identified Herod as “King of the Jews,” there is some doubt as to the sincerity of Herod’s faith. By blood, he was an Edomite, an Arabic group who had only recently converted to Judaism. Herod’s frequent clashes with the Sanhedrin, not to mention the observant Pharisees and Sadducees who were his subjects, as well as his pro-Roman attitudes and tolerance of other religions, have led some to allege that Herod was not sincerely Jewish.

Look at what is happening in our country today. We as a country have forgotten how to love one another, we have forgotten how to feed the hungry, how to clothe the naked, and how to shelter the homeless. We are separating children from their parents, locking them up in what are essentially prisons and some of them are even dying in them. These children are the innocents today,  just as the murdered babies were in Herod’s time. King Herod was trying to protect his title of King of the Jews by attempting to kill the Son of God. Herod’s ego activated his paranoia, which in turn caused him to go on a murder spree, killing thousands of innocent children.

Possibly the same could be said for our nation and our leaders now. We are not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, nor are we sheltering the homeless, all because of our (and our elected leaders’) huge egos. In John chapter 13 Jesus gave us one commandment:

33 Little children, I am with you only a little while longer. You will look for Me, and as I said to the Jews, so now I say to you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…

We as a nation, we as a people, and we as a world. need to love one another so that all will know that we are His disciples. This wasn’t a suggestion from our Lord – it was a commandment. A commandment given not to just Americans, Europeans, Mexicans, or Indians, but to everyone of all ethnicities, colors and creeds. Closing borders to the hungry and oppressed, is not the way of our Lord. Open our borders, open our hearts, open our minds and obey our Lord’s commandment to love one another and stop murdering innocents as Herod did. Stop feeding the egos of the modern-day King Herods, and obey the commandment Jesus left for us.

Heavenly Father in this season of giving and sharing, open our hearts and minds, take away our egos so that we can love one another. Keep our hearts open so that others will know we are Your disciples by our actions and words.  Amen.

The Big Picture: The Feast of St. John ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

 

1 John 1:1-4 New International Version (NIV)

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.

What is the history of John the disciple of Jesus?

To learn the history of John, the disciple of Jesus, we begin with his life before he met Jesus. John, his brother James, Peter, and Andrew were all partners in the fishing business before they became disciples of Jesus. John was the son of Zebedee who was also a fisherman in Galilee. John’s mother’s name was Salome and some say that Salome was the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary. John owned a home in Jerusalem. Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, John moved to Ephesus.

John pastored a church in Ephesus. He communicated with other churches in the area as stated in the book of Revelation. He advised and counseled many people who would later become believers in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

By order of the Roman Emperor, Domitian, John was exiled to the island, Patmos. Domitian ordered his exile because he saw John as a threat to his rule. However, his popularity and influence in the Christian community continued through correspondence with all the churches. John wrote the book of Revelation during his exile. When he was released from exile, he returned to Ephesus. John founded and built churches all through Asia until he was old, and died the sixty-eighth year after our Lord’s passion, peacefully in Ephesus.

During his life, John wrote the book of John and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd book of John and the book of Revelation. Near the end of his life, it is said that he constantly repeated the phrase, “Little children, love one another!” He did that because he believed it was the Lord’s most important commandment.

It is easy for us to get so caught up in the details of our work that we lose sight of the big picture.

So it’s very helpful that the Apostle John, in these first four verses, gives us the big picture of God’s purpose, from eternity past to eternity future.

1: The eternal pre-existence of God’s Son

That which was from the beginning” (v. 1) What beginning is John referring to? John means the beginning of all things; the ultimate beginning before time and space existed.  The Eternal Son of God enjoyed fellowship with the Father before the creation of the universe and before He appeared on earth as a man.  Jesus Christ, the focus of this epistle, was eternally existent as the Son of God. He is Alpha and omega! Before Abraham was, Jesus said “I am!” He is the One who created time, space, matter, and humanity, and therefore He rules over all!

2: The historical revelation of God’s Son.

“The life appeared” (v. 2) What an amazing turnabout: the Eternal entered time, and He appeared to human beings. The Word became flesh and therefore presented Himself to His creatures. This manifestation did not happen in merely a dream or a vision, as other religious figures supposedly appeared. No. God’s Son was perceived and recorded by three senses: hearing, sight, and touch: “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.”

Now think about that. If the people of Jesus’ day would have just heard His voice, that would have been impressive, right? But to have heard the Son of God was not enough, for people had heard God’s voice in the OT. Now, to have seen the son of God was even more compelling, though some prophets in the OT also had visions of the pre-incarnate Son of God, or as He was called, the “Angel of the Lord.” But… to have touched the Eternal Son of God, well, that was something else! This was conclusive proof that indeed, the Eternal Son of God did become flesh, and really did live among us!

3: The apostolic proclamation of God’s Son.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (v. 3) The historical revelation of God’s Son appearing in time and space was given to the few apostles for the sake of the many. They were charged with declaring Him and the Gospel message to the world. John writes that the manifestation given “to us” (v. 2) became a proclamation declared “to you” (v. 3). Note that this charge involved both a testimony (2) and a proclamation (2, 3). Both words imply an authority, but of differing kinds.

A testimony has the authority of an eyewitness; one must be an eyewitness before he is competent to bear witness. True witnesses speak of what they have personally seen and heard; they do not speak of second-hand information.

But a proclamation indicates the authority of one who has received a commission. It speaks of a higher authority who has given you the charge to speak and herald a message for them. This is what Jesus gave His apostles in Luke 9:2 and what Paul knew he was charged with, in Acts 28:31, namely, to proclaim the Kingdom of God… and they did so with authority.

And these two aspects, of being eyewitness testifiers and apostolic proclaimers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are what drives the writing of the New Testament. The 27 books of the New Testament are the written record of the eyewitness accounts and the divinely charged proclamation of the apostles concerning Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who became a man, to die and be raised, for our salvation, and for God’s glory! Think about the implications of this for or assurance of salvation, and for the boldness we should have in telling others about the Lord!

4: Our joyous fellowship with God, His Son, and one another.

“So that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.” (v.4) The proclamation of the apostolic message about Jesus Christ was not an end in itself. No. Its greater purpose was fellowship and joy, both horizontal and vertical; with one another, as fellow believers in Christ, and with God the Father and with God the Son. And as we see from our profession of faith, our chief purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever:

I BELIEVE IN ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST,

THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD,

BORN OF THE FATHER BEFORE ALL AGES.

GOD FROM GOD, LIGHT FROM LIGHT,

TRUE GOD FROM TRUE GOD,

BEGOTTEN, NOT MADE, CONSUBSTANTIAL

WITH THE FATHER;

THROUGH HIM ALL THINGS WERE MADE.

FOR US MEN AND FOR OUR SALVATION

HE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN,

AND BY THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS INCARNATE

OF THE VIRGIN MARY,

AND BECAME MAN.

Do you see the big picture of God’s purpose in Jesus Christ?

The eternal Son of God…

Appears as a man on earth…

The apostles are eyewitnesses to His life, death, and resurrection…

They are commissioned by Christ to proclaim the Good News about Him…

So that we might have joyous fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… and with one another in the body of Christ…..

For all eternity!

Heavenly Father, during this season of Christmas let us remember that it is out duty (nay, our privilege) to testify to and proclaim the love of Jesus Christ. Let us herald the good news of His birth throughout the entire world and to all his people.  Amen