Category: Sermon

I Don’t Get It ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

There are a few things about which I could not be more certain:  Scott loves me truly, madly, deeply (I really like that song.)  My Daddy was the wisest man on the planet.  My Momma was the bestest woman to ever draw breath.  Jesus loves me and my salvation is secure. 

And, conversely, there are things in life that I will never, never fully grasp.  Like, why do some people think it’s OK to wear stripes and plaid together?  Pi or upper-level mathematics?  How things travel a zillion miles a minute in space? 

And the Holy Trinity is a mystery that we will never fully understand.  The God of the Bible is one God. God has one essence – one substance. In other words, one “stuffness.” However, God exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each Person in the Trinity (or the Godhead) is fully God and fully a Person. They are equally eternal, powerful, sovereign, and worthy of worship. But they are one God.

Got that?  Me, neither, but it is central to our faith. 

Many theologians and holy men and women of God have attempted to explain just how this Trinity Thing works.  One God, Three Persons.  Three in one and one in three.  They have, of course, failed.  It has been said that if you try to explain the Trinity, you will lose your mind. But if you deny it, you will lose your soul.  There are several popular analogies often used to explain the Trinity, but, they don’t work and in reality are heresies.   (Uh oh!)  Here they are:

God is like water. Now, we know that water can be in three different forms:  Liquid, Ice, and Vapor.  But this doesn’t work and this particular heresy is called “modalism.”  Modalism expresses the belief that God is not, in fact three separate persons, but one God expressed in three different forms.  Now, if this were the case, then and the Trinity really is like water, then the story of Jesus (the Son) praying to the Father all those times in the Bible, is just Jesus talking to Himself.  This belief denies something central to God that makes Him God. So comparing God to water isn’t really as helpful as one might think.

It’s also been said that The Trinity is like a man:  A father, who is a son, who is a husband.  Nope.  Same as modalism.  Won’t work.

Then there is the age-old story-legend-myth of St. Patrick using the shamrock.  Or the more modernized versions using an egg or an apple.  The shamrock has 3 leaves to make one whole plant, the yolk, shell, and white make up one egg, or the peel, flesh, and core of an apple make up one fruit.  Umm…no.  Won’t work, because any of these three things that make up one thing will not stand on their own to be a complete thing?  Know what I mean?  The egg yolk, shamrock leaf, and apple peel don’t make one complete whole.  And this particular heresy is called Partialism.  Sigh……

Moving on…

The sun has been used to explain the Trinity.  This example says that the Father is like the sun. The Son is like the light rays that visibly reveal the sun, as Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.  The Holy Spirit is like the heat that emanates from the sun, unseen yet powerful and effective in making the sun felt.  This makes sense, right???  Nope. Sorry.  This explanation is fatally flawed in that is describes the Son and Spirit as creations of the Father. This is the error of Arianism (not to be confused with Aryanism, which is also bad).  In Arianism, the Son is not eternally equal with the Father, but was the Father’s first and best creation. This would make Jesus something less than fully God.  This little gem of heresy is called Subordinationism and was first espoused by Arius who lived in the late 200s/early 300s, and whose modern-day followers are now known as  Jehovah’s Witnesses.

A couple more illustrations of the Trinity that aren’t quite so bad, but aren’t great either are these:

American Christian pastor, speaker, author, and widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster in the United States, Tony Evans, has said that the pretzel is a good illustration because it consists of one piece of dough with three holes. Take away any one of the holes and the pretzel isn’t really a pretzel anymore. (According to some people, the pretzel was actually invented in Europe several hundred years ago by a monk who wanted to illustrate the Trinity to the children of his village, so he took some dough, looped into the familiar three-hour shape, based it, and gave it to the children as an edible object lesson.)

Or this from noted scientist Dr. Henry Morris. He notes that the entire universe is trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity.

Matter = mass + energy + motion

Space = length + height + breadth

Time = past + present + future

Are we having fun yet?  No?  OK, I’ll bring this to a close.  In so doing I’m gonna end where I started. The Trinity is a doctrine that all Christians believe but no one really understands. That much should be clear from this message. If you try to explain the Trinity, you will lose your mind. But if you deny it, you will lose your soul.

Someone asked Daniel Webster, who happened to be a fervent Christian, “How can a man of your intellect believe in the Trinity?” He said, “I do not pretend fully to understand the arithmetic of heaven now,” he replied. How kewl is that little phrase???  “The arithmetic of heaven.”

The Trinity should cause us to bow in humble adoration before a God who is greater than our minds could ever comprehend.

Today, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we rejoice that we have a Triune God who has provided for a Trinitarian salvation. When we were lost in sin, our God acted in every Person of his being to save us. The Father gave the Son, the Son offered himself on the Cross, and the Holy Spirit brought us to Jesus. We were so lost that it took every member of the Godhead to save us.

In 1774 a man named Ignaz Franz wrote a hymn of praise to the Trinity: Holy God, We Praise Your Name. This is the fourth verse:

“Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, Three we name you;

While in essence only one, undivided God we claim you.

Then, adoring, bend the knee, and confess the mystery.”

Let us pray.

Holy God, above us, among us, within us: we rejoice this day that while you might have chosen to be unknown to us, you have revealed yourself in many ways. Each encounter with you calls us to return blessings with worship, compassion, and service. As we worship you today, we do so in gratitude for all your parental care for us through your creation.  As we worship you today , we do so because, in love, you gave us Christ, that through him we might find eternal life. As we worship you today  your Spirit leads your church to reach out in compassion, mercy, and grace to all your children everywhere. In gratitude, we celebrate you, three and yet one. Amen.

PENTECOST from the Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Sebastian and Peregrine in Gevgelija, MACEDONIA ~ The Rev Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

The time of the Church has begun. It is a time of our responsibility to witness in the world what Jesus taught us. Walk the way of the gospel and bring the Good News to others. This task is difficult because we are only human, and yet Jesus is the Son of God. We need help, we need the power of the Spirit of God to stir our hearts and enlighten our steps. That is why those present see it as glowing tongues that shine and warm. They feel it as the force of the wind pushing forward and giving strength in the path of good. It is up to us to develop the sails and direct our boat on this sea of ​​life.

Thus the frightened apostles became zealous heralds of the cross and resurrection, of faith in God and of love for every man. And people, gathered in that square and all over the world, united by the Spirit, understand each other better and forgive more easily. It is these gifts that our families and parishes, the Church and society need most: To understand means to forgive!

The Church received her mission in this world from Jesus: You will be my witnesses! Thus all of us baptized, as its children and members, are called to be apostles of hope and witnesses of love. That is our calling and our mission, our mission.

We certainly strive for friendly, family, business and civic duties. We can call this the horizontal of our existence. Something like the foundations of a future house. But the walls must already be visible in the foundations. The foundations are there only to carry a horizontal that rises upward, toward heaven and God.

Sometimes we Christians lose sight of our spiritual mission, and we do not even know the meaning of this daily rush in which we are involved. More and more work is being done, earnings are never enough, the voids of the heart are too deep when they want to be filled only with earthly things. Here is the Holy Spirit and his seven gifts. He is a support to the mission of the Church, to explain the truth to us, to strengthen our decisions, so that our love does not cool down…

God’s call is often repeated in the Bible: Arise and go! Jesus says of himself: I am the way… So our human and religious life is a permanent journey. The complete truth is up there, we always discover it a little bit, the beauty of its flowering never ceases.

The Holy Spirit makes us free and creative, encourages us to row towards the open sea of ​​life and God’s history. Man was not created to just keep the past, something acquired, old habits… It is our vocation to discover new seas of life. It is our task to spread the sails and the Holy Spirit will give us the strength of a suitable wind.

The Ascension of the Lord ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Postulant

The Liturgical year of the Catholic Church is divided into six seasons – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Ordinary Time. In addition, the Church observes memorials, feasts, and solemnities. The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is one of the great solemnities. It occurs on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday, which always falls on a Thursday, and often passes unnoticed by most Christians. So, many churches move the Ascension Day to the following Sunday to ensure more people participate in the celebration.

What is the meaning and importance of the ascension of Jesus Christ?

Today’s readings, from the Book of Acts (1:9-11), the Gospel of Mark (16:15-20) and the Gospel of Luke (24:50-53) give a detailed account of Jesus’ ascension.

You may remember since Easter Sunday we have been reading several familiar stories of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances to his disciples. During his appearances Jesus greeted them with peace and talked to them. He walked with them to Emmaus and explained the scriptures to them. He showed them his wounds and asked them to touch him. He shared a meal with them. He dispelled their doubts and fears and proved to them that he is alive. He instructed them not to leave Jerusalem until they had received power from the Holy Spirit.

On the fortieth day, while the disciples had gathered in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared before them for the last time. They asked him whether he was going to “restore the kingdom of Israel” at the time. Jesus said to them that “it is not for them to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by His own authority but that they would be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and bear witness to the gospel”. He then charged them to “go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to everyone, to heal the sick, to cast out demons and told them that no deadly or poisonous thing will harm them”.

Jesus’ appearance ended with him being “taken up into heaven and seated at the right hand of God” in their sight. After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the disciples received the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had promised, and then they went everywhere preaching the gospel of Jesus, healing people and working many signs and wonders with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is the event we commemorate today.

The Ascension of the Lord is important for two reasons.

  1. With the Ascension Jesus decisively ended his time on Earth and entered God’s heavenly domain, so that his own words should be fulfilled. He had told his disciples, “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man”, John (3:13). He had said to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”, John (20:17). Jesus had descended from heaven in the Incarnation and returned to heaven in the ascension.

However, he ascended to heaven not only to return to where he came from but also to prepare a place for those who believe in him. He said, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you”, John (14:2). Yes, the Ascension of the Lord is a great consolation to all who are afraid of death or afraid of dying. Let us, therefore, encourage one another to remember that Jesus descended, died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven for us. Let us believe and live in the hope of one day being with him in God’s kingdom forever.

  1. Jesus Christ, having entered heaven once again, intercedes constantly for us for the power of the Holy Spirit which is very essential to the life of faith in Christ. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away the Holy Spirit won’t come to you. But If I go, I will send him to you”, John (16:7). Jesus has not promised to restore to us our health, family, relationships, work, fortunes, and finances according to our own times, ways, thoughts, plans and desires but in God’s time. Meanwhile he has promised us the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can courageously preach his gospel, minister healing in his name, wisely deal with difficult people and take on evil and win.

Let us today, therefore, earnestly pray for ourselves and our Church that we may be blessed with all joy and peace in believing in the ascension of the Lord and continue to seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit – the fear of God, piety, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, understanding and wisdom.

 Amen.

God Bless You!

The Ascension of the Lord ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Acts 1:1-11

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 

Reading II: Eph 1:17-23

Gospel: Mk 16:15-20

Liturgical colour: White.

The Ascension=Being witnesses of Christ

Today we celebrate the Ascension of The Lord. This is when Our Lord and Saviour, after finishing his ministry here on earth, until he comes again in glory, returned to His Father in Heaven. Let us look at what God’s word of The Holy Gospel is telling us today:

Mark 16:15-20 (NIV)

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

The  Gospel today seems to be focused more upon the apostles going out and spreading his Holy Gospel, than it does about Jesus going up to The Father.  As Jesus goes to his Father, the message is to that we all must take over the spreading of Our Lord’s gospel now, and that we need to be witnesses to him. We are all called to share  that which we have received, and to speak of what we have seen and heard.

We witness to Jesus in our lived in many ways. This includes by prayer, by reading and spreading the gospel and in our service of others in Christ’s love. Prayer is our time to be in personal touch with God who is constantly reaching out to us. The gospel is what feeds our souls, our minds, and our spirits, it is a daily opening to the true words and deeds of Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour. Our service in The Love of Christ to others, brings us to witness in the true way,  the care of God as we give and receive care to each other.

NEW PRESENCE

This is what we give to our ascended Lord and is also what we receive from him. The word of God are the divine words of truth and

salvation, spoken in human words. All of our time with God is linking heaven and earth, and we are each sharers in his divinity as we are in Jesus and Jesus is also with us, he has shared in our humanity, . Far from being the absence of Jesus, it is his presence in a new way among us.

Indeed, Our Lord Jesus has gone back to The Father to make a heavenly place for us, and will return in Glory to bring us home. Until then, we are all called to continue our Lord’s ministry here upon the earth. We are the only Jesus that now can be seen, through our witnessing of him in our lives to others. Are you being a true witness of Christ in your life?

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, right before your Ascension into heaven you told your apostles to be your witnesses to the ends of the earth upon receiving the Holy Spirit. May we be similarly inspired to spread your Gospel message in word and deed, according to your will for us. And may we do so prudently and joyfully, with your help, your guidance, and your grace! And remembering this glorious event, help us to seek what is above, Heaven, where you are seated at the right hand of God the Father!

Amen.

I Hate People ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

I have a really hard time with bigots.  With ultra right folks.  With folks who preach hate under the cover of their ‘christianity.’  I have a really hard time with child abusers, with spousal abusers.  I have a really hard time with habitual criminals and crooked cops.  Animal abusers.  With politicians who say one thing and do another.  And the list goes on.  And on.  And on. 

I have a hard time with those who profess to be my friends, but prove themselves otherwise.  With those who say they love me, but do whatever they can to denigrate those whom I love and prove themselves to be the antithesis of loving. 

And sometimes I have a hard time with people in general.  In the musical “Scrooge” by Leslie Bricusse, Scrooge sings, “I Hate People:”

Scavengers and sycophants and flatterers and fools

Pharisees and parasites and hypocrites and ghouls

Calculating swindlers, prevaricating frauds

Perpetrating evil as they roam the earth in hordes

Feeding on their fellow men

Reaping rich rewards

Contaminating everything they see

Corrupting honest me like me

Humbug! Poppycock! Balderdash! Bah!

I hate people! I hate people!

People are despicable creatures

Loathesome inexplicable creatures

Good-for-nothing kickable creatures

I hate people! I abhor them!

Sadly, I think we all of us feel that way about people at times. 

But then, there’s this little quote that springs to mind: 

You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love. 

Now, doesn’t that just knock the wind out of my sails and punch me right in the gut.  In spite of everything, God loves those folks that we have a hard time with.  God loves those whom we really, really have a hard time with.  God loves those whom (gasp!) who don’t love US. Pretty humbling, huh?

The Scriptures appointed for today drive that point home.  In our first reading today (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48) we hear St. Peter teaching the Jewish Christians that the Gentiles are God’s people just as much as the Jewish ones.   In our second reading,  ( 1 Jn 4:7-10) St. John says to us  “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”   And in our Gospel reading for today, Jesus pulls no punches, spares no feelings, and takes no prisoners when he says, flat out:  “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”  Notice, not a suggestion.  Not a subtle hint.  A COMMANDMENT. 

Oops.

SO, all those folks that I have a really hard time with?  Love ‘em anyway.  All those folks who have a hard time with me?  Love ‘em anyway.  Jesus teaches us to “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 6:28). 

And it’s HARD.  Living our lives as Jesus would have us to do ain’t no picnic at times.  Not when we really and truly strive to be like Christ. 

So, what IS this love?  St. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 13 that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Oops again.  More often than I want to admit, I fail at this.  I seem to forget all about that “love” that I’m supposed to be showing.  I don’t think Jesus, Paul, or Peter, expected us to be all buddy-buddy, welcome-to-my-inner-circle, be-my-best-friend with everyone, especially those folks with whom we have such a hard time.  But what Jesus expects of us is to love everyone with that same love God loves us.  And I’m not talking about that “love the sinner, hate the sin” crap.  That, more often than not, is just an excuse for bigotry.  What I AM talking about is this:  We are called, as Christians, to love.  Period. 

Notice, I said “love,” not “like.  There is a vast difference in the two. But what does it mean to love others? All too often, I’m afraid, we confuse liking someone with loving them. In other words, we think loving someone is similar to liking them, only much stronger. And this isn’t necessarily wrong, as far as it goes; a husband should genuinely like his wife and enjoy being in her company.

Does this mean we can’t love someone who’s difficult to like? No, it doesn’t, not if we understand the kind of love God has for us. God loves us not because we’re perfect, or even likeable, because we aren’t. We fall far short of what He wants us to be, yet the Bible says He still loves us.  

So, reckon wonder, what do we do????  How do we love those folks we can’t stand? 

Remember how much Jesus loves you. Read through the stories of his crucifixion and regain that sense of awe at all he gave up to secure your freedom.

Confess the limitations of your own love. Jesus knew none of us would measure up. That’s why he sent his Spirit to pour out his love in our hearts (Romans 5.5).

Surrender the difficult relationship to him. Place the person’s negative responses to you in his hands. Ask God to heal any emotional scarring you have from this person and enable you to totally forgive them.

Ask him to show you how to manifest his love to them. You don’t have what it takes, but he does. Trust that his Spirit will give you the words to say in times of conflict, and that he will show you what actions you can do to demonstrate his love.

And above all else, and perhaps the hardest to do is to: 

Choose love. When pain and frustrations with this person surface, you need to choose to depend on the Spirit’s power to bless and not curse, to sacrifice your time and energy and not just retreat for self-preservation.

Choose love. 

Let us pray. 

Father, I have to thank You for looking beyond my faults and for loving me unconditionally. Forgive me when I fail to love others in the same way. Give me eyes to see the needs of the difficult people in my life, and show me how to meet those needs in a way that pleases You.  Help me to love as you love.  Help me to keep uppermost in my mind that we are, all of, your children.  Help me to choose love.  Amen.

Grapes and Raisins ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Are you a grape or are you a raisin?  And before you decide that I’m nuts, bear with me and lemme do some ‘splainin’ here.  Ever grown grapes?  Been to a vineyard?  Seen a grape vine?  Grapes grow in bunches on vines…the vines come out of the ground and provide the nutrition and things that are needed to produce the fruit. Grapes have to stay attached to the branches and vines for them to keep growing. Right?

Now, what would happen if one of these grapes fell off of the vine and sat in the sun for a while? It wouldn’t be fresh and juicy anymore, would it? In fact, it would sort of wither and shrivel up…kinda like raisins!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like raisins, and they’re great for cookies or cereal or a quick snack, but again, stick with me here.  Compared to big beautiful grapes though, raisins look pretty sad and icky, don’t they?

In today’s Gospel, (John 15:1-8) Jesus talks about vines and branches.  People in those days knew a lot about farming and planting, and a lot of folks had vineyards where they grew grapes. Jesus said that He was the vine, and that we are the branches.  What’s up with that?  Jesus was explaining how important it is for us to stay connected to Him. Just as the vine provides nutrition that helps fruit grow on a plant, Jesus gives us all that we need to grow in our faith. The branches on a grape vine have to stay connected to the vine so that they can produce delicious fruit. Otherwise, they’ll dry up and wither like sad little raisins. If we walk away and abandon faith, we’ll “shrivel up”, too!

We need to stay close to Christ so that He can produce “fruit” in us.   Spiritual fruit refers to things that help others and show that Jesus lives in and through us.

We are taught in Paul’s letter to the Galatians that  things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). How do we make sure we are connected to Jesus? We read God’s Word and study the Bible. We pray, talking to God and listening, too. We go to church so we can be connected with other “branches” that also abide in Him. Most importantly, we recognize that Jesus is doing the work and producing fruit through us. We don’t have to do a special set of tasks or have “enough faith.” We stay connected to the “vine” of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit develop its fruit. We trust in God and rely on Him for all things, staying close to Him and thanking Him for giving us life and hope.  In other words, we actually become disciples of Christ. 

“Now,” you say, “I’m a Christian already.”  Nuh huh.  Nope.  Not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about being a disciple, not a Christian.  My friend, Rainbow Joseph, explained it best when he wrote:

“You were called by Christ to be a disciple, not a Christian.  A disciple is an apprentice. A disciple learns from a teacher how to be like the teacher. A disciple learns by doing. A disciple practices the skill that is learned, over and over, improving a little more each day.  Jesus THE Christ has called you to be a christ to those around in your own personal Israel.  If you are not the Christ to those around you, then you do not serve THE Christ and you have learned nothing.  If you are not the Christ to those around you, then you are not a disciple, and if not a disciple, you are certainly not a Christian.”

Like I’ve said before, you are the only Jesus some people will ever see.  You are the only Bible some people will ever read.  SO… are you a grape, or are you a raisin?  Amen.

I Am The Good Shepherd ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

I am The Good Shepherd.

Reading I: Acts 4:8-12

Responsorial Psalm: 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

Reading II: 1 Jn 3:1-2

Gospel: Jn 10:11-18

Liturgical colour: White.

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today, the 4th Sunday of Easter, is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. 

The Good Shepherd is the topic which our Holy Gospel is telling us about today.

Let us firstly look at today’s Gospel reading:

John 10:11-18 (NIV)

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Let us take a closer look at what we being told in John 10:

Christ is telling us what it means for him to be our shepherd and for us to be his sheep in seven wonderful ways.

1. Christ has received you as a gift from the Father.

“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29)

Christ’s sheep are a gift that he receives from the Father.

Now how would you know if you are one of Christ’s sheep? How would you know if you have been given by the Father to the Son?

The identifying marks of Christ’s sheep are stated clearly in this verse: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (10:27). But what does it mean to hear his voice?

Jesus says earlier, “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep” (10:26). So it follows that believing is a distinguishing mark of the sheep given to the Son by the Father. Christ’s sheep hear his voice, they believe his Word, and they follow him.

So, if you believe and follow Jesus Christ, you are one of Christ’s sheep. You have been given by the Father to the Son.

2. Christ knows each and every one of us completely.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…” (10:14-15)

Jesus Christ knows us all completely! There is never a time when we are ever a mystery to Christ.

In the Psalms we read, “The Lord knows our frame…” (Psalm 103:14). Christ knows our temperaments, our moods. He knows what lifts us up, and he knows what gets us down.

There is nothing any of us could ever tell Jesus about ourselves that he does not already know completely.

Here is the joy of following Jesus Christ. Because he knows us so completely, he is able to lead us effectively. The good shepherd knows exactly what we need, and he is able to give us what we need at precisely the time that we need it.

3. Christ gave himself for each and every single one of us.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.…I lay down my life for the sheep.”(John 10:11, 15)

This is something so very wonderful: The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Everything Jesus endured in his passion was for us. When he gave himself into the hands of the arresting party in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was for us. When he was scourged and beaten, it was for us. And when he was condemned to death, it was for us.. When he hung on that cross in agony, it was for us.

We must never ever forget that our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, chose to suffer and die for each one of us. This was not imposed on him. He gave himself willingly. “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (10:18).

Jesus accomplished everything he had come to do and then he gave himself into death. And this is what he has done for us.

4. Christ called us and brought us to himself.

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” (John 10:16)

How does he bring us to himself and make us his sheep? “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (10:3). The sheep who are called by name in John 10:3 are the same sheep who enter by the door in John 10:9. And Jesus says, “I am the door.” Christ is the door, and “if anyone enters by the door, he will be saved”(10:9).

We each come through the door when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But when we believe, we will very quickly have an awareness that there was something going on beyond our believing. Somehow he called us. Somehow he brought us. He did not stand back and wait to see if we would come to him. Like the shepherd who went out to find the lost sheep, he laid us upon his shoulders and brought us back home.

5. Christ owns all of us and will never ever abandon us.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…My sheep hear my voice…”(John 10:14, 27)

What a marvellous thing to be owned by the Son of God! The contrast here is with the hired hand. The hired hand “does not own the sheep” (10:12). The hired hand has no real investment in the flock. He shepherds the flock because he is paid to do so. The hired hand has to calculate whether it is worth the effort and risk of doing this job for what he gets paid. There is a point when the hired hand may say, “It’s just not worth it.” There are limits to his commitment.

Christ does not care for us because of what he can get out of us. That would be the spirit of the hired hand. Christ cares for us because we truly are his. There will never be a time when he will say, “we aren’t worth it.” He made us his own, at the cost of his life and, having made us his own, he will never leave us; he will never forsake us.

With such a shepherd committed to us for life, what do we indeed truly have to fear?

6. Christ gives us eternal life.

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish…” (John 10:28)

Jesus does not say, “I will give them eternal life at some time in the future.” He says, “I give them eternal life!” If Christ is indeed our  shepherd, this precious gift of eternal life is already given to us.

And notice the word give. In other words, we did not earn this priceless gift.Eternal life is freely given by the shepherd and is freely received by his sheep, simply because he is the shepherd and we are the sheep.

The life Jesus gives is eternal. Eternal life, by definition, is a life that never ends, and if we have this life, it’s ours forever!

7. Christ guards us and will keep us forever.

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)

What reason do we have for confidence as a Christian when all the pressure of life stands against us? Can what is ours in Christ ever be taken away?

Christ’s sheep are in his hand. That’s the answer! And as if that wasn’t enough, our Lord adds, “No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (10:29-30).

The hand of Christ is beneath us, and the hand of the Father is above us. Thus we are forever safe and secure.

Are these things true of your life? Have you accepted the Lord as your Shepherd?

Let us pray:

O Lord Jesus Christ,

good Shepherd of the sheep,

you came to seek the lost

and gather them to your fold.

Have compassion on those who have wandered from you.

Feed those who hunger,

make the weary lie down in your pastures,

bind up those who are broken in heart,

and strengthen those who are weak,

that we rely on your care,

find comfort in  your love,

and abide in your guidance to our lives’ end;

for your name’s sake.

Amen.

Told Ya! ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Do you remember when we were kids and our parents would tell us to not do that thing because if we did, we would cause all manner of problems AND get into trouble?  And because we were us, we went right ahead and did that thing and we caused all manner of problems and got into trouble.  And our parents said, “I told you so.”

And, poor Scott.  Sometimes I feel so bad for him.  He has it rough.  You see, he lives with me.  And one of my very, very, very favorite things to say to him is, “I told you so.”  (Scott is much smarter and a heckuva lot wiser than I am, but do you think I’d let HIM know that?  Uh unh.  I ain’t doin’ it.)

And of course, there are those (infrequent, oh so very infrequent!) times Scott gets to say to me, “I told you so.”  (I hate that.)

So why do we not listen?  Why do we not accept what we are told?  Why must we, in our (self-centeredness) have to learn the hard way that what God says, He means?  Or do we ever learn?  As many of you know, Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 are two of my very favorite verses of Scripture.  Both of them give us assurance that God has things well in hand and that we really don’t need to worry about things.  And God has proved himself over and over and over and over ad infinitum in my life.  He has cared for me when I had nothing else.  He has shown Himself faithful and true and proved to me that I have no need to worry.  So WHY do I worry?  Why can I not get it through my head that I have no need to worry, I have no need to doubt?  I would dare say that many of you have had similar experiences.

Whatever the answer to that question is, we are in good company.    Over and over and over again, throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures both, we continually hear God tell us, “Have I not told you…  I told you….”  In the Gospel reading for today, when Cleopas and another disciple are on their way to Emmaus, Jesus appears to them and teaches them and says to them (are you ready) “I told you so.”  (Well, actually, according the NIV  He said,  “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Luke 24:25)  They recognized Jesus and he disappeared and then they hightailed it back to Jerusalem, straight to the disciples.  And as they were telling the disciples what had happened, Jesus appeared to them all. They were, of course, amazed, frightened, excited!!!!!  And what did Jesus say?  He said, “I told you so.”  (NIV:  “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44)  Now, these weren’t your every day, run of the mill, ordinary disciples.  These were THE DISCIPLES;  hand-picked by Jesus, his closest companions.  They who had witnessed miracles firsthand.  And they had trouble getting with the program and believing.  But ya know, Jesus then gave them yet another chance, kinda started from the beginning again, and did a reteach.  (NIV:  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45-48)

How awesome is that?  Even after all the things the disciples had seen, had witnessed, had had first- hand experience with, Jesus taught them yet again.  And so it is with us.  When we truly desire to increase our faith, when we truly seek another chance to learn the lessons that Christ teaches us, He will always, always give us another chance to try again.  It is up to us to continually open ourselves to learning those lessons.  The hymnist, Clara H. Scott certainly had the words right when she wrote in 1895:

Open my eyes, that I may see

Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;

Place in my hands the wonderful key

That shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for Thee,

Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my eyes, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear

Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;

And while the wave notes fall on my ear,

Everything false will disappear.

Silently now I wait for Thee,

Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my ears, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

Open my mind, that I may read

More of Thy love in word and deed;

What shall I fear while yet Thou dost lead?

Only for light from Thee I plead.

Silently now I wait for Thee,

Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my mind, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let me bear,

Gladly the warm truth everywhere;

Open my heart and let me prepare

Love with Thy children thus to share.

Silently now I wait for Thee,

Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my heart, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

It is my hope and prayer that each of us open ourselves to learn the lessons that God teaches us, and that we do our utmost to learn, and to live those lessons.  Amen.

Simplicity and Peace, God’s Peace ~ Milan Komadina

Sisters and brothers today we commemorate the Second Sunday of Easter. There are several useful chapters from the Bible that I would like to share with you and we can actually learn and remember some very useful things. Let us read.

Jn 20:19-31

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

We live in the chaotic time. Every day is so busy. Run to work, run home, run to meet your friends or family members and all of the activities that we do on a daily level are taking away our inner peace. Let us pray sisters and brothers for a moment and let us remember who was the one that can give us peace – Lord Jesus. As we read the first thing that Jesus said when he appeared in front of his disciples after the resurrection were: Peace be with you! Remember anytime when you feel chaotic, nervous, exhausted and stressed you can find your peace in Jesus.

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Look at the apostle Tomas. He does not believe that Jesus is alive and that He really resurrected. Oh, this is such a familiar feeling my dear. I remember those many times when I am spiritually down or when I feel so over worried about my earthly problems – the feeling is like Jesus is not real. It is a feeling like I want to touch him, I want to hug him and I want his real material presence here in my life. This story from the Bible reminds us that we are not the only one. Maybe at the moment you don’t feel that he is here. And similarly to Thomas you would like to feel Him even closer and even more material. Maybe your life is so difficult or you have many problems and it seems like Jesus is far away. Remember, dear sister and brother he is here. He is always here.

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In the last part of this short sermon I would like to share one more story from the Bible with you. Something that teaches us about the way we should be acting toward each other. Let us read.

Acts 4:32-35/1

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Here we could remember how important is not to be in love with all the material things that surround us. Wanting to have a lot of money, expensive clothes, expensive car, a luxurious house etc. actually produces bigger and bigger desire to have more. Because people are never satisfied. This is human nature. But what we really need is some clothes, a bed to sleep, a roof above our heads, a plate to eat and a glass to drink. This is all so simple and this is the thing which Christians who were living in the first century knew very well. They were sharing everything. They were modest and humble. I pray for all of us to be like them. But not because Bible says so, but because believe me we would be happier, we would be more grateful and we would appreciate this life much more. Because the life is a gift from God and it is beautiful by itself. There is no need for material wealth to be happy. And here is one more short story:

Jn 5:1-6

The Healing at the Pool

Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

An important wisdom about our health is to be aware that God is our only real doctor. Sometimes we are sick or sometimes we suffer some health related issues and we desperately want and pray for Jesus to heal us – right now and very quickly. In this story we learnt that this man was sick for 38 years. Hey, 38 years of hope to recover. That is a long period of time. I just want you to remember this thing whenever you feel sick or even weak, or mentally exhausted. Maybe Jesus will not intervene right now, maybe you should wait for some time. In order to be patient or to learn something. Because the life is the lesson. And everything happens with the reason. Even the sickness. Let us all remember that. But I hope that you all will be healthy and happy and that in joy and peace we will celebrate today`s holyday. Peace be to you all in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Resurrection Living ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

I have seen the Lord!  What a testimony!  What wouldn’t we give to be able to say those words?  And yet, Mary was greeted with disbelief.  No one expected Jesus to rise from the dead.  In fact, one of the common elements of the resurrection stories across the gospels is that NO ONE expects the resurrection. Even though Jesus predicted his death … and resurrection … several times across his ministry, no one greets the news that God has raised Jesus from the grave and defeated death and the devil by saying, “Praise God!” No one shouts “Hallelujah” when they hear that their friend and Lord has been raised to life. And absolutely no one, upon hearing the news that death itself could not hold the Lord of Glory captive, says, “I knew it – just like he said!”

How often do we do the same?  We, like the disciples, actually deny the resurrection.  How so you ask?  We actually deny the resurrection every time we talk poorly about someone, refuse to serve our neighbor, refuse eye contact with someone who is different, fail to smile at a stranger…..every time we lose our patience, get frustrated when someone doesn’t get what we’re saying right off the bat, every time we act with less than love.

That’s right – we do that. 

However, like the disciples, we can change that.  In the Resurrection Story, no one expects the resurrection and no one, quite frankly, believes it at first. This is true, as I said, across the gospels, and it is certainly apparent in Luke. The women come to the tomb expecting to anoint Jesus’ dead body. That is, they have no expectation that he has been raise. In fact, only when they are reminded by the “two men in dazzling clothes,” do they recall Jesus’ promise.

Energized by this encounter, they run back to tell the rest of the disciples … who greet their tale with utter skepticism. In fact, Luke says that those who received the testimony of the women regarded their message as an “idle tale.” That’s actually a fairly generous translation of the Greek work leros. That word, you see, is the root of our word “delirious.” So in short, they thought what the women said was crazy, nuts, utter nonsense.

Resurrection, in other words, throws off the balance, upsets the apple cart, and generally turns our neat and orderly lives totally out of whack. Which is why I think that if you don’t find resurrection at least a little hard to believe, you probably aren’t taking it very seriously! And, truth be told, I suspect that’s where most of us – we’ve heard the story of resurrection so often it hardly makes us blink, let alone shake with wonder and surprise. Which is rather sad, when you think about it, because this promise, as difficult as it may be to believe initially, is huge, and when it sinks in and lays hold of you, absolutely everything looks a little different.

And isn’t seeing the world a little differently what being a Christian is all about?  The prayer often attributed to St. Francis sums it up nicely:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

Like the disciples, like the women at the tomb, let us proclaim the resurrection by living our lives so that others see that we are, in reality, living the fact that the Lord is Risen!  The Lord is Risen indeed!

Amen