Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Cross

In addition to my usual reading - the Bible and Christian literature - I find myself more and more drawn to Christian history and esepcially the early centuries after Christ, because the closer we get to the source, the fresher the water. Here is something I came across by Theophilus of Alexandria who was a Coptic Pope from the latter part of the 4th century, beginning of the 5th. It is a wonderful celebration of the Cross:

The cross is the consolation of those who are afflicted by their sins.
The cross is the straight highway.
Those who walk on it do not go astray.
The cross is the lofty tower that that gives shelter to those who seek refuge in it.
The cross is the sacred ladder than raises humanity to the heavens.
The cross is the holy garment that Christians wear.
The cross is the helper of the wretched, assisting all the oppressed.
The cross is that which closed the temples of the idols and opens the churches and crowns them.
The cross is that which has confounded the demons and made them flee in terror.
The cross is the firm constitution of ships admired for their beauty.
The cross is the joy of the priests who dwell in the house of God with decorum.
The cross is the immutable judge of the apostles.
The cross is the golden lampstand whose holy cover gives light.
The cross is the father of orphans, watching over them.
The cross is the judge of widows, drying the tears of their eyes.
The cross is the consolation of pilgrims.
The cross is the companion of those who are in solitude.
The cross is the ornament of the sacred altar.
The cross is the affliction of those who are bitter.
The cross is our help in our hour of bodily need.
The cross is the administration of the demented.
The cross is the steward of those who entrust their cares to the Lord.
The cross is the purity of virgins.
The cross is the solid preparation.
The cross is the physician who heals all maladies.
Theophilus of Alexandria

Easter Sermon

This Easter past I was rushed for time having two sermons to write for two different kinds of service with two different sets of readings. So I decided to do what Orthodox Churches do across the world every Easter, and that is read out an Easter sermon written by St. John Chrysostom - John the Golden-Mouthed - acknowledged by many as the greatest of all Christian preachers. This sermon was first preached circa 400 AD. Here is my introduction and the original sermon:

Introduction
St. John Chrysostom was a bishop in the early church and lived from 349-407. He was called Chrysostom which means ‘golden-mouth’ because he was considered one of the greatest preachers the church has ever seen.

He wrote his Easter Sermon in AD 400 and it is read every Easter Day in every Eastern Orthodox Church. It is a simple proclamation of the victory Jesus has won through His resurrection from the dead.

One term has to be explained before I read it, and that is the word ‘Hades’.
Hades is synonymous with death and the power of death over humankind. It is a Greek word of the Old Testament word ‘Sheol’ which is the land of the dead where everyone went when they died. It therefore had the last word over everyone’s life. It had a power that no one could break. Until the coming of Christ.

Sermon
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavour.
The deed He honours and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.

Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Saviour has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hades, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

(Hades) was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

(Hades) took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Turned off and tuned out

Whenever the Bible is read or heard, it is an opportunity for the one seeking God, to encounter or meet with Him. It is an opportunity for Him to speak to them and for them to hear what He has to say. Which is why the Scriptures are read in Church services. And, provided that we are open - that is asking, seeking and knocking (Luke 11:9-10) - then for those who ask it will be given to them; to those who seek and they will find; and to those who knock the door will be opened to them. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”.

Of course the opposite is true and if you go to Church and not ask, seek or knock, then you are hardly going to hear God or meet with Him. And what applies to the Scriptures, applies to all the service. God is there to be worshipped, and encountered. If we go expecting to give nothing or to receive anything, we will always be disappointed, and worse still, bored! 

When a person is bored they are either not interested in the subject or are not committed to getting to grips with it. Either way if that is applied to worship and someone is bored, one has to wonder why the person is in Church in the first place?

Lottery. Good or bad?

The following is a sermon I gave in response to some concerns raised about our application for a Lottery Grant to renovate our church and ch...