Saturday, February 28, 2009

1 March 2009: 1st Sunday in Lent

Deuteronomy 21:22-22:30

The Tanach for today has a set of laws some of which apply to us, and some of which apply in principle.

The first is a man hung on a tree is not to be there past sunset because he is cursed. We note in passing, Jesus was cut down from the cross before sunset.

The next is the law of return, and it applies to us even today. If we find our neighbours animal straying, or something belonging to our neighbour, we are to return it to them. This is not always easy to do, but something we strive to do if possible. God will bless us for it.

The next is pretty obvious, no tranvestites. Now some people have held this law to mean woman should not wear pants, but the vagaries of fashion are ever changing and vary from culture to culture. The purpose is not that a woman should not wear pants, nor that a man should not wear a kilt, but that a man should dress as a man and a woman as a woman. God wants no confusion about the sexes.

Maybe some of our game laws derive from the next one, but it is emminently practicle. If we take the eggs, we leave the mother so she can lay more eggs. If this law and the principel behind it were applied everywhere, (and here I am thinking of Central America where a favourite way to eat iguana is stuffed with its own eggs, and iguanas are harder and harder to find) food might not be such a great problem.

The next is common sense. If we build a house with a roof which you can walk up to, it needs a wall. In other words we build things safely.

Ox and donkey ploughing together, but combined with the next, we are not to mix differetn kinds. The same with two different kinds of seed. The tassles were on the outer clothing, and included one blue thread to remind us that we are set apart and are to be holy for the Lord.

The next adresses divorce. We note that while Moses permitted divorce, Jesus told them the permission was because of hard hardedness. The instant adressed here is if a man falsey accused his wife of adulter or not having been a virgin. If he has accused her falsely, he can never abandon her. IF the accuasation is true, then she is to be put to death. The Bible holds marriage and chastity in high regard, standards that we need to return to. Folowing we are again reminded, the punishment for adultery is death. This is followed by practicle matters. A woman taken in the city is guilty of adulter because she didn't call for help. In the country, she may have called but no one could hear so she is innocent. Lastly we are told that if a man has relations with a woman they are to be married, and can never be divorced. Lastly the first of several incest laws, a man is not to marry his father's wife, for that would dishonour his father.

Some of these rules are practical for today, and all have implications for us today. As mentioned above, God is very serious about marriage and sex. It is time for us to return to being serious about it to. One reason God is so concerned about this, is because marriage is an icon of the relationship between God and his people This is repeated over and over in the prophets, God is the faithful husband, Israel is the bride, and in the New Testament, Christ is the bridegroom, the church is the bride. God insists on fidelity in marriage because it demonstrates his faithfulness to his people, and he wants the people to be faithful to him.

I note in passing that the teenage pregnancy rate is growing, and of course it is well known the results that single motherhood had on children. Someone stated on an interview, that abstinance was not very practicle, and that by having a baby she was being forced to be an adult. I find it interesting, that when I was in high school, birth control was not readily available, but we had very few pregnancies. It is sad to day that most kids today do not want to take the repsonsability of waitning to have sex. This is sad in many ways, firstly becasue, the icon of marriage being a relationship of God and his people is rapidly disappearing. It is sasd becaue numerous studies indicate that two virgins have the highest success rate in marriage and the lowest divorce rate. It is sad because the greatest thing one can bring to their marraige parner is their virginity.

Now, sex is important. After all, God made us as sexual beings, but he also established rules for that sexuality. As we ignore those rules, we set the seeds of the destruction of our society.

Mar Michael Abportus

Sunday, February 22, 2009

22 February 2009

Today we remember when the Father appeared to Moshe and Eliyahu. These experiences are reflected when Moshe and Eliyahu appear to Yeshua when he is transfigured. God tells Kephas, Yakob and Yohanim to listen to Yeshua. When a parent tells the child to listen, he usually means to obey.

As we approach Lent, and Shrove Tuesday, we need to ask ourselves, "Are we obeying Christ?Do we give him time each week? Do we share our treasures, and talents with him? Are we actively inviting people to join the Kingdom? Am I studying the Bible? Are we healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and helping the widow and orphan?" In these last days before Lent, we need to ask ourselves these things. If there is a besetting sin in our lives, we need to go ahead and confess it to a priest and accept our penitence for the time of Lent. We should condider, what we need to do to improve our relationship with Christ. Prayer and fasting should be an important part of our Lenten discipline, fasting not only from foot, but from those things which keep us from advancing the kingdom, no matter what they are.

Join us Tuesday night to forgive one another. Join us Wednesday morning in accepting the ashes of repentance.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

15 February 2009

II Chronicles 18:1-34

But Jehoshaphat asked, "Is there not a prophet of Yahweh whom we can inquire of?"

As Jehoshaphat asks this question, he is surrounded by prophets telling him to attack. He realises in his heart that none of these prophets are really of the Lord. Whenever we commence a venture, our first question should be to inquire of the Lord. The first way we inquire of the Lord, is by searching out his word. Any project that we do should be in conformity with God's word. Secondly, we should search out good advice from Godly men and women, and inquire together of God's will. Jehoshaphat recognised that many of these men, despite being prophets were not truly Godly. God will speak with us, but only as we have learned to obey his word.
Richard Hooker, a prominent theologian of his day laid out some basic rules for us. The first was that we should seek God's word. God's word, where it makes a statement on an issue, is to be obeyed. The Bible is very clear on certain issues. We should obey where the Bible gives a clear word. Where the Bible does not apply direct rules, then we should follow the tradition given by the church in accordance with the dictates of the Bible. Where the Bible and tradition are silent, then we are to us our reason to follow God. Now this has often been referred to as Hooker's three legged stool but this is very much a misnomer. Three legged stool implies that Scripture, Tradition and Reason are equal, but this is not at all what Hooker said or implied. There is a very clear hierarchy, Scripture is most important, Reason is the least, and we only use reason where scripture and tradition are silent, and only in line with what the two suggest.

For example in modern times, some churches wish to put the three on equal footing, and use reason to trump the Bible. Some people will tell us that homosexual is a natural thing and some people are born homosexuals, so we should permit homoerotic behaviour and permit active homosexuals to be clergy. Instead we look at scripture which tells us that homosexuality is wrong period. We allow our reason where scripture is silent, but again in accordance with precepts laid down by the Bible.

But we find out something else about God's ways in this lesson. God's ways are not our ways, and no matter what we try to do we cannot outsmart him. God sent lying prophets to lure Ahab to his death. Ahab must of had some kind of premonition that this might be true, so he disguises himself. At first the enemy concentrates on the king of Judah thinking he is Ahab, but they realise their mistake. An archer though, drawing his bow in random strikes down Ahab. God's will will be fulfilled, no matter what we do. The only way to escape is to repent, which Ahab did not seem to be inclined to do.

Let us then learn to obey God in his word, and following the traditions of the church, and obeying him with heart and mind and strength. He will then give us the wisdom to follow him truly where the Bible and tradition are silent.

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL

Saturday, February 7, 2009

8 February 2009: 5th Sunday of Epiphany

I Chronicles 17:1-19

We are told: 3 The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals 4 but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. 5 The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. 6 His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.

God is in the business of blessing. When we as a nation and culture, learn to truly follow God, the blessings will be with us. The lesson tells us, the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because...he walked in the wasy his father David had folled. The kingdom was full established under Jehoshafat, and later on we are told, that the fear of the Lord fell on the surrounding kingdoms, they didn't make war and the Phillistines and Arabs paid him tribute.

Not bad for a little kingdom the size of Israel. When a country, or nation or peopel obey God, the blessing will follow. In the USA we have been blessed for many years because of the faith of our forfathers, men and women who came to be able to worship freely. Even thosse who did not come for religious reasons, thanked God for his providence in the new land. These blessings may or may not carry on. Our land is turning against God. We have a new president who voted yes to a law stating that if an aborted baby was born alive, he or she should be left to die. We are getting ready to kill fetuses for stem cell research. Some preachers are afraid to proclaim the Biblical truth about homosexuality. More and more children are born out of wedlock, so that millions of children are robbed of the opportunity to see the icon of marriage as an image of the relationship between God and his people.

We must learn to care for the poor and helpless. We need to discared the vain grip that money has on our hearts. Spend our selves into debt, and into derpression,and the goverment thinks we can borrow our way out of it.

We truly do need a change. A change in borrowing habits, in spending habits, in who and what we put first in our lives. The government has not said, but we need to learn to save and live in our means, a radical change from life in the last 20 years where we lived on credit. It means that there will be changes, there will be suffering, but if we start lining up our money and enonomy for saving, the long term result will result in a more fiscally disciplined country, one that can survive.

If we as a nation want God's blessing, then we as a country need to bless God, through obedience, money, lifestyle, through marriage and a return the the Christian agenda. If we continue in the path we are follwongg, it is well probable that God will withold his blessing.