Friday, December 5, 2014

The Problem of Sin

Today, in the United States, we seem to have a real problem with sin.A lot of people are bashing the Bible because they do not like its definition of sin.  In the Old Testament, there are several words translated as sin in English.  One of them means to miss the mark as in archery.  Another means twisted or bent.  Both are important meanings of the word.  God has a perfect plan for each  of us.  If we are not walking in that plan, we are sinning.  The Bible lists specific sins, but any time we are out of God's will we are sinning.

The second use in being bent or twisted is important today.  In society, we like to take good things and twist them.  Food, alcohol, sex, money even are all good things in and of themselves.  But we have this habit of twisting them.  Gluttony or self starvation, alcoholism, fornication, and greed are all results of twisting something good.  This is Satan's favourite sin, when he twists something good.

What can we do about sin?  First we need to recognise it.  A good first step is to read the Bible which gives a pretty good list of sin.  Remember though, that not all the Tanakh is binding on Christians.  The only food laws for Christians is to abstain from eating blood.  None of the ritual laws apply to Christians, although knowing them helps us to understand Messiah.  Everything in the New Testament though, applies to Christians.

Today many people are preoccupied with sin.  WE don't want to do it, but we seem unable to stop ourselves.  On the other hand, there are many who are tempted, but keep themselves from sin.  I find the secret to beating sin in our lives is the Sh'ma:

Hear O Istrael, the Lord your God, the Lord is one.
Love him with all your heart,
with all your mind,
with all your strength
This is the first and great commandment, the second is like unto it.
Lover your neighbour as yourself to obey the law and the prophets.  (Mark 12:29-31)

So is their sin in your life?  Do you love God with all your heart?  Is he the most important thing in the world to you?  If you really love him, you will hate what he hates, and he hates sin.  When we are truly  in love with someone or something, we will try and please that person all the time, and look for their benefit.

Do we love the Lord with all our mind?  Pornography even among Christians and Pastors is a serious problem.  What are we looking at?  Does it glorify God?  And it is not just sex.  Many commercials on TV glorify greed, especially the Old Navy commercials where the lady kicks everyone out so she can go buy stuff on sale at Old Navy.  Do we really want to teach our kids and ourselves that message?  When you see that good looking girl or guy walking down the street, does your mind go straight to sex?  When you see that hot car, or nice dress, do you lust for it?  The secret is to thank God for it, and throw the focus from the object to God.

Do we love the Lord with all our strength?  Really, how much  do most people really resist sin in their lives.  When Clinton had his indiscretion, what was the response?  Everyone does it anyway!  If that were true, we would really be in trouble.  In the first three centuries the church grew by leaps and bounds because "Christians don't do that."  Christians took care of the poor and sick.  Christians were honest with everyone and stayed away from sexual sin.   We need to get out there and exercise those spiritual muscles.  WE need to start looking out for our neighbour in truth.  Quit buying stuff on Sundays so people can be with their families.  Help in the fight against Ebola, in the sex    trade, and abuse of children.  Truly treat your neighbour the way you would like him to treat you.

We are on a slippery slope.  Many today want to redefine sin, and have the church participate in it.  The fact that so many of our clergy are divorced and remarried is a sign that we no longer accept the Bible.  It is time to read it, and apply it to our lives so we may conquer sin with Yeshua.

Monday, November 24, 2014

23 November: Messiah the King

This week, instead of concentrating on the Tanakh, we will be concentrating no the Gospel.  Since today is the feast of Messiah the King, our lesson was from Mark 11:27-33.

They returned to Yerushalayim, and as Yeshua was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the presbyters came to him. They began to ask him, “By what authority do you do these things? Who gave you the authority to do such things?”
Yeshua replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of Yochanan - was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me.”
They debated among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven’ he will reply, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But dare we say, ‘From
men?’” They feared the people, for all considered that Yochanan was indeed a prophet.                                                                                                                           They answered Yeshua, “We do not know!”
Yeshua said to them, “Then neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”       

We note the discussion was over the authority of Yeshua.  Was it from man, from Satan, or God.  Yeshua sets a trap for them by asking about Yochanan's (John the Baptist) authority.  They find that Yeshua has trapped them, because if they admit the Baptist came from God, Yeshua will ask why they did not listen to and obey him.  If they say the Baptist was merely a man with no authority from God, they resist a revolt, for many believed in Yochanan. 

Today, our question is not about the authority of the Baptist, but about the authority of scripture, so the question must be asked, "From where does the authority of scripture come?"  For the Orthodox Church, the Old Testament is the LXX or Septuagint version.  In the New Testament, out of 350 Old Testament quotes, 300 come from the LXX.  Most of the quotes in Matthew come from some unkown source, and Matthew or the person who translated Matthew into Greek may have translated it himself.  So we accept the LXX as authoritative, because that is the version accepted by the authors of the New Testament.  

The New Testament, on the other hand is very much a work of the church, but not so much a work by the church.  The church and New Testament very much developed around each other.   For the very early Christians, the Biblical authority was the LXX.  Paul tells us this about the Old Testament:

15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is[b] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Now the New Testament had a different development.  While the early church had the LXX in writing, it had no overtly Christians texts in writing.  What they did have were eyewitnesses to the faith, and when they realised the return of the Lord was not imminent, they began writing things down.  Matthew was probably  the first, writing his Gospel in Aramaic, possibly as early as 50 A.D., if not earlier.  It is said that St. Thomas took a copy of St. Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew (Aramaic) with him to India.  Mark was written by John Mark, who if he knew Jesus, did not know him well.  He is believed to have been a disciple of Peter.  Luke, on the other hand was disciple of Paul, and never met Jesus.  John's gospel was more than likely written by the church of Ephesus, based on either John's teachings and or writing, around the year 100Most of the New Testament was written by Paul, who had a vision or visions of  the risen Messiah.  There are several other books, which may or not have been written by apostles. 

So as the church grows, and apostolic witnesses are dieing out, it needs to develop authoritative books.  The originals of these were probably the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the Epistles, which were passed around from church to church.  As I mentioned, the church and New Testament grew around each other.  There was no hierarchy in the beginning which said these books were legitimate and these weren't.  When Constantine called the 1st Counsel of Nicaea, he did not have an agenda as to making Christians worship on Sunday, nor a list of books upholding his theological position.  What he did have was a church with much disagreement which was threatening the stability of his empire.   Today, it is popular to say that Constantine did have an agenda and that he imposed that agenda on the church.  But if one studies history, what we find out instead, that basically, the church did not pick a certain set of books because those books upheld their doctrine, but they chose these books because these books were the ones that were  used in the worship of the church.  In other words, the church and the books molded each other.  Another thing at Nicaea, the recognition of Sunday worship being the primary worship of the churchConstantin may have recognised Sunday as a day of rest in his empire, but again, he was merely recognising something already true in the church and going back to the book of acts.

So, is God Lord?  Is God sovereign?  Does he have the power to determine that his will is revealed in scripture?  Many people today, especially our youth choose to believe that God is not sovereign, and that most of the New Testament was written by man without God's inspiration.  They want to boil Yeshua down to the "historical" Jesus, a wise teacher, with no authority. 

This is not the Yeshua I worship.  The Lord Yeshua I worship is sovereign, over history, over  time, over the Bible and the church. If  my Lord had intended to promote extra-marital sex, homo-sexual sex, child sacrifice, then he could have picked another group besides the Jews.  There were various societies who had these practices.  If fact God had some of them exterminated, because he found them to be so evil. 

The problem today, is most people do not want a sovereign God. They want a God who will permit them to do what they want.  They are not interested in God's plan of salvation.  They think the great Santa in the sky will  give them what they want and will not judge them.  No judgement for them, just the worship of self, self gratification, self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency, self which is I, the centre of SIN, the beginning of Idolatry.

It is high time that we begin to recognise that Adonai Yeshua is sovereign.  He inspired the scriptures which show the saints, warts and all.  We are told the scriptures may lead to salvation, and they are useful for correction and training in righteousness.  It is time for the CHURCH to return to the Bible.  Today the CHURCH is week and fragmented, because many no longer believe in God's sovereignty.  We need to recognise that sovereignty, and allow God to rule our lives.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Daniel 9:1-19: A Model Prayer

The Tanakh is full examples to help us to pray and live better lives, to be disciples. Our discipleship brings us to the point where we understand what it truly means to be a disciple.  The little passage in 1 or 2 Timothy, when it is describing what the scriptures are and can do, is referring specifically to the Tanakh, or Old Testament.

We find a marvelous prayer here by Daniel:

Let us note, that Daniel begins his prayer by fasting.

Then he addresses God as the Awesome God who keeps his covenant, recognising who God is.

Next, he describes who we are, we and our ancestors, who have sinned continually against God.

He describes the punishments that God has sent, and asks for God's help, not because there is any reason to forgive us, but because God is merciful

And God answers his prayer.

If we truly want to be disciples,  we need to start with fasting.  The western church forgets fasting more and more every year.  The church  needs to return to regular fasting, and the church needs to return to acknowledging sin. We need to aknowledge our sin of sex outside of marriage and divorce.  We must acknowledge our failure in helping our children to be disciples and in not managing our personal and corporate resources in ways that promote the kingdom.  Sometimes we lock all this in at Lent and forget to do it the rest of the years.  We finish, not because of who we are, but because of who God is, full of mercy, not looking at our sins, but looking at the spilt blood of Messiah.  And if we pray single mindedly as James tells us, with the mind of Messiah, he will answer our prayers.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sunday

For our study this week, we are looking the Wisdom of Solomon 1:1-8, 

Wisdom, in this book is usually regarded as the Holy Spirit, and we are given a grave  warning.  The Holy Spirit will not be  with someone who plots evil, who is not disciplined, or participates in deceit.  The lesson from Joel today is usually believed to refer to the first Pentecost Sunday, but I believe that from time to time we see manifestations of the Spirit, like the Silesian Children's revival, the time of Meister Eckhart, where the Spirit manifests in power with healings, and where we see people acting like the New Testament Church.

Indeed, we had one of these manifestations near by at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer some years back.  The pastor of this church had  received the Holy Spirit in fullness, and many people came to see what was going on.  People were healed, people spoke in tongues,  people shared their home and a powerful community was growing up.  This all came to an end as sexual scandals by the Rector (chief priest) and elders came to light.  As long as the Rector fought these urges, the Holy Spirit transformed that church.  But when he allowed himself to dwell on temptation, it over came him, and the Holy Spirit departed.  From being a spiritual power house where addicts where healed, where people shared their goods, Church of the Redeemer has dropped into a place where it now shares a building with a Lutheran Church.

The mission of Jesus was to restore.  In our first lesson today, we saw at the tower of Bavel how God confused the languages, because of our pride.  On the Jewish day of Pentecost, we saw that about 3000 died for idolatry.  In Christian Pentecost, all hear in their own languages, and about 3000 are saved.  Those numbers are no accident.  Yeshua came to reconcile us with God the Father.  To do so, when we receive Yeshua in our baptism, we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  We can either allow allow that Spirit to guide us, or we can quench the Holy Spirit by plotting evil, participating in deceit, or by not having discipline.  If we want the true power of God, we must allow Him and Him alone to guide our lives.  When we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we are filled with power.

Look around, is your church guided by the Spirit.  Do you see mighty acts of power.  It is time for all of us to plead that God give us the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and to remove all evil from our lives.  God wants to transform us, but we need to be ready to cast evil out of our lives and out of our churches.   We can no longer call what is evil good, and what is good evil.  God laid down the guidelines for us.  Pray, study the  word, allow him to transform your life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

27 May 2014

Exodus 16:21-17:7

When I was growing up in the 60s, most people recognised that Sunday was a day of rest, a Christian Sabbath as it were.  Early Christians celebrated the Eucharist on Sunday, because Yeshua rose from the dead on Sunday, and because the Holy Spirit was given on a Sunday.  Sunday was regarded as the 8th day of creation, because Yeshua by his death and resurrection made everything new.  It was natural then that the day of rest would pass from Saturday to Sunday, and when the Emperor Constantine declared that no work should be done on Sunday, he was basically reflecting what the church was already practicing.  

The Blue Laws of Texas, today have all but disappeared, and according to several friends of mine who work at grocery stores, Sunday is now the biggest shopping day of the week.  The lesson from Exodus indicates that we are to have a day of rest, not only a day of resting in the Lord, but a day of rest, no work, a day that can be spent with the family relaxing.  As the blue laws have disappeared we see less unity.  I know some Mexican families who go to the park at 11:00 at night, because Dad works 7 days a week, Mom has off Tuesday, and the kids are in school Monday through Friday.  Some people claimed the blue laws harmed them, but personally, I see that many things were better when they were in place.

Of course I know many of you have to work on Sunday, you no longer have a choice as the forces of secularisation take over.  But for those who do have a choice, working on Sunday shows we don't trust the Lord.   Over the years, I have found that when I give God my tithe, and my time, he meets my needs.  I am not getting rich by any means, but I am blessed with what I need.  God was unhappy with those who went out seeking Manna on the Sabbath, because they were demonstrating that they did not trust God to take care of us.

Of course the world is against having Sunday off.  Somehow it offends them, and they  want to make sure everyone has the right to work on Sunday and not have time off with their families.  We Christians too, have forgotten that we are to be salt and light to the world, i.e. we are to change it.  Laws forbidding work on Sunday go all the way back to Constantine, and all the way back to Alfred the Great among English speaking Christians.  Christians have changed countries and the world in the past, and we can do  it today.  The family and congregations are both hurt because most retail businesses give their employees no choice about working on Sunday.  If you tell them you won't work on Sunday, then you won't work.  

It is time we really looked at our position vis a vis the world.  Is the world to run us, or are we to rule the world.  Many Christians, especially Calvinists believe we are to remake the world.  In the past we as Christians freed slaves, took children out of factories and mines, and abolished sati.  The work is not finished.  Many women and children to this day are slaves even here in the United States, and we must fight these evils.We need to have confidence that we are in the world to change it.

We do that first by changing ourselves.Before Christians run the world, they most run themselves.  For example, bearing in mind the words of Jesus about divorce, why is it that there are more divorces among evangelical Christians than the population in general?  Why is it that the church's teaching on birth control so changed in the 20th century?  Why do more kids get pregnant in the Bible belt?  Why are so few people getting married?

Could it be because we no longer allow the Holy Spirit in  our lives?  The Bible tells us the fruits of the spirit are:
love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

Do we see these fruits in Christians any more?  What is true love according to the Bible?  Helping those in need.

Are we joyful in our life with Christ?  Do we find that joy in him and obeying him?
Do we truly have the peace or Shalom of God?  It comes through obedience.  Among those whom I have counselled with  besetting sins, many have told me they have no peace, because they know what they are doing is wrong. 
When someone cuts you off on the freeway, do you respond with a curse, or a blessing?
Are we truly kind to one another? (and kindness includes telling someone he is wrong)
Do we try and remove all evil from our lives?
Do we believe and follow God where ever he leads us? Even if it means not going with the world.
Are we gentle with other Christians in correcting and guiding them, and with those outside the church?  (remember gentle does NOT mean sugar coating the truth)
Do we have self control of our own lives?

According to the Lambeth Council of 1930, that very last one is critical.  Why is it that the millenials want to strip the Bible down to what Jesus said, instead of using the entire Bible.  Yeshua frequently quoted from the Old Testament.  Peter in his Second Epistle to Timothy tells us: "
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If it was good for the early church, why isn't it good now.  I think it is that little word, self control.

(BTW, I stand convicted on several items in the fruit of the Spirit.  I will aim to change, will you?

Monday, March 17, 2014

16 March 2014

Part of our reading from Baruch today is a model prayer for us, very standard for the Tanach.

The prayer begins with what God has done.  This is not done to remind God what he  has done for us, but to remind ourselves and to increase our faith.  , "Dear Lord who delivered me from tobacco and alcoholism, who brought me to and from Honduras various times, who kept my boat afloat and me alive through the tropical storm, who gave me my wife and children and grandchildren."  Just typing this makes me feel more confident in my prayers.

The second part is also a reminder, "who punishes as you told us you would and as you predicted.  God warned them over and over and over, keep the Sabbath, do justice, love one another and take care of the widow and orphan.  "Dear Lord, I saw some one in need to day and didn't help them out, and I derserve to be punished. 

If we really want to pray to God, it is important that we start our prayers this way, filling our minds and heart with the things God has done for us, and reminding ourselves that we are sinful and do not deserve a single blessing, but trusting God to have mercy on us.

Monday, March 10, 2014

First Sunday in Lent: 9 March 2014

Today we will concentrate on Baruch.  Baruch begins by reading his book to the king and noble families, who are struck to the heart, There were four results of the reading, the people wept, fasted, prayed and collected money to send to Jerusalem for the sacrifice.  The people of Jerusalem are instructed to pray for Nebuchadnezzar and his heir, and to confess their sins.

The confession follows.  In the confession, the people admit that they had sinned against God and deserved to be punished.  They admit not only their own sins, but the sins of their ancestors in not listening to the law and the prophets, and because of those sins, they were scattered to the nations.

When we pray, we need to realise there is none who does good, not not one, not without the power of the Holy Spirit.  We also need to remember our ancestors, and plead the blood of Jesus between their sins and ourselves.  We also need to know that God moves in many amazing ways.  The creation of the Jewish diaspora, the adoption of the Aramaic language from the Indus to Israel were all factors in the spread of the gospel.  When Messianic Jews fled Jerusalem in 72 A.D., they went to the Jewish Diaspora, in Cornwall, Ethiopia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and even India and China and spread the Gospel.

The other lessons point out things for us as well.  God has his own timing.  Our timing is always now, but God knows the right time.  Could it be that God allowed the Hebrews to suffer a little more, so they would not go running back to Egypt at the first sign of trouble?

The passage from Samuel also raises questions.  We often talk about David's heart, but do we ever talk about Jonathon. Jonathon has a kingdom to lose to David, but is always David's friend and sometime protector.  Jonathon sees in David the greatness that is needed to bind together the 12 tribes.

I hope each of you is benefiting from your Lenten discipline.  Remember, if you fall, just start over again the next day.  We are building up our spiritual muscles.  Be sure and set goals. and there is nothing wrong with modifying those goals as we go along.  The ultimate goal of Lent, is to become more like Christ.

Monday, March 3, 2014

3 March 2014

This week we continue with preparations for Lent, but will also deal with the Tanach of the week. 

The lessons this week all focus on the transfigurations of our Adonai, Yeshua.   The first lesson, deals with Moshe ascending the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12-18), while the Prophet is about Eliyahu's experience on the mountain, when he receives his commission (I Kings 19:1-18).  The writing (Job 38:1-41, 40:1-5) follows Job's complaint to God about his circumstances.  God responds out of the whirlwind, and basically asks Job, "Where were you when I made the heavens and the earth?"  God asks him where he was when God made the heavens and earth, when he set the boundaries of the sea, if he could order nature, if he had been to the bottom of the ocean, if he knew the places of light and darkness, if he knew where rain and snow and lighting come from, if he could control the stars, or could feed the wild animals.  God in his questioning is demonstrating that He and He alone had created the Heavens and the Earth.  God in essence is revealing to Iyov that he is Sovereign over all creation because he made it, and that since he is sovereign, it is necessary to obey him.  

In the west today, we have troubles with words like sovereign, king, lord and kingdom.  We think of  a monarchy being something like Great Britain, Spain, Holland, Denmark, etc., where the monarchs are basically figure head monarchs, with very little say in how the country is run.  In the time that the book of Job was written, there was no such thing as a constitutional monarch.  The monarch was president, congress and supreme court all rolled into one.  It is a concept that today we have a hard time understanding, partly because we think such a thing is wrong.  We believe in voting, and kicking the guy out if we don't agree with him.  We don't seem to understand that God is not an earthly king, but as Creator of the Universe, whose nature is love, Absolute Sovereign.  We respond with a false God, the Great Santa Claus in the sky, who gives us what we want when we are good, and not when we are bad and who is too nice to ever punish us.  We have lost the point of view, that God's laws are laid out, for us, to help us live a life of holiness that will help us to truly find our purpose in life.  We have forgotten the virtues of prayer, fasting and alms giving and replaced them with a self righteousness which grieves God and leads to our own condemnation.  We refuse to see punishment for sin as what it was in the Bible, and we refuse to think that the God who punished Israel and Yehuda will do the same for us.  It is indeed a slippery slope, when we start ignoring God's commands.  Yeshua tells us that the Sabbath was made for man (i.e. for our well being) yet we ignore it today.  No Fault divorce (prohibited by Yeshua himself) was placed into practice to keep people from perjuring themselves to get divorced.  (I was flabbergasted when I learned this).   We have decided that the creator of the universe, who made us is not allowed to have any input into how we run our sexual lives.  We forget that God's word tells us that many sins are caused by idolatry, yet we continue to worship the false gods of money and power, and materialism. 

It is then time for the church to truly recognise that God is King and Sovereign, not only of the Universe, but of our lives.  We need to line up our church, our lives, and our society with his word, and not act like it is optional.   Our God is a consuming fire, and he is love.  As Christians, we need to obey him and proclaim his word to all the world.

In addition this is the last Sunday before Lent begins.   We have been talking about things to do with Lenten discipline, and have covered study and piety.  Today, we will talk about action, to which there are several aspects, the first of which is Apostolic Action, which is proclaiming the Gospel.  Before you proclaim the Gospel, you must be in prayer, and know God's word.  Secondly  we need  to have a plan of action.  Who are we going to evangelise.  Once we know who, we start out praying and fasting for that person.  We ask God to give us the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to that person.  Don't worry, he will.  And if that person turns the Gospel down, keep praying, you might just be preparing the ground for someone else.  Once through your efforts someone comes to Messiah, you need to teach them Christian Discipline, and stick with them at the very least until they are baptised.

Action also means holiness of life.  If you are going to attract someone to Messiah, then people need to see Messiah in you.  It is popular to ask, "What would Jesus do?"  Well that is a good question.  You, as a Christian may be the only sign of Jesus that some people will see. 

Action also means stewardship, of money, time, resources.  Do you use your time well.  Do you frequently spend time with God in prayer and study?  Do you regularly help those who need that help?  Do you give at least 10% of your money to God, and spend the rest of it in ways that Messiah will approve?  Do you share your time, your money, even your home with those in need.  That my friends is also action. 

I would like to invite you all to join us. The Great Service of Forgiveness will be Tuesday at 8:00 P.M.  Out Ash Wednesday service will be Wednesday at 6:00 A.M.  Hope to see you.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

23 February: 2nd Sunday of Shrovetid

The theme for the 2nd Sunday of Shrovetide, in accordance with our Pre-Lenten activities is prayer, or piety.  Piety is a very important in the life of a Christian, and our prayer life, like our study of the Bible will help determine what kind of Christian we are.  Piety, in part is a response to reading the written word, but is also a response to the world around us.

As with studying the Bible, our goal is to improve our Christian life, by starting where we were.  Before we decide what we are going to do for Lent, we need to analyse our lives now, and see where we are.

There are at least two aspects of prayer that are all but forgotten in western Christianity outside of the monastery, silence and fasting.  Silence should be part of our study, and it should be part of our prayer life.  Silence allows us to reflect on our own prayers, and on our readings, and also gives God a chance to talk to us.  In today's modern society, our lives are full on noise, TV, radio, telephones, texting, internet and others, and we rarely take time to reflect.  We suggest that for every minute you spend reading the Bible, your should spend a minute reflecting on what you read.  Likewise, after praying, we should reflect on our prayers and the prayers of others in order to listen to the Lord's voice.   After all, he might expect you to be the answer to someone's prayer.  In addition, before attending church services, and before praying we should take a bit of time in silence to centre our thoughts on Jesus.

Fasting too, as mentioned above is an aspect frequently forgotten in the western church outside of monasteries.  Primitive Christians as near as we can tell fasted every Wednesday and Friday, and in my life time members of the Roman Catholic church fasted from midnight till taking communion. 

How then, should we fast.  Here, we are not quite so much doing an exercise to train us for the future, but something for all of Lent.  Traditionally, Christians did not eat meat during Lent (not counting Sundays, which are feast days).  Shrove Tuesday, also called Fat Tuesday, because that was the day lard was cleaned out of the house (often by making pancakes using the lard), so there would be no meat in the house.  We leave it up to your conscience as to how much you would like to fast for Lent.  We would hope that once the Fifty Days of Easter are over that all would fast or abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

We should also look at other aspects of piety, which should include public prayers, private prayers and prayers with your family.   We would gladly send materials for use in family and private prayers.  Again, look at where your are, and build on that.  If your prayer life is non-existent, then start slow.  Give yourself a chance to succeed.  Too many people lay down a stiff round of daily prayer and are unable to complete it.  Remember, public worship is also very important.  If you are in a church that practices weekly communion, that should be an important part of your day as well.

The success of your Lent, will usually have to do with how much you plan in advance.

Monday, February 17, 2014

1st Sunday of Shrovetide: 16 Februar 2014

Today is the first Sunday of Shrovetide, often know as Septuagesima Sunday, because it is 70 days before Easter.  Shrovetide is still part of the Epiphany season, but we mark the last three Sundays of Epiphany as Shrovetide in preparation for Shrove Tuesday and Lent.  In former times many went to the priest to confess their sins and have absolution pronounced (or to be shriven), and the penance that they kept for Lent was assigned to them at this time.  For some, this penitence was necesary before being admitted to communion for some grievous sin.  Lent was also a  time of preparation for those preparing for baptism.  Shrovetide, then for us is a time to prepare for confession if we so desire, and a time to think about how we would keep a holy Lent.

This first Sunday of Shrovetide, then we look at our study habits.  All Christian study essentially begins and ends with the Bible, which is our chief source of knowledge.  We need to study the Bible on our own and in groups.  The more we know it, the more we can use it as a measuring stick.   But it is very important to read it in groups as well, so as to benefit from thoughts and insights of others.

In addition to the Bible, it is a good thing to also be reading the pre-Nicene fathers.  Especially the Apostolic fathers knew the New Testament and Old Testament in Greek and actually knew the Apostles. (

Also it is good to read the history of the church, from the beginning to now, and it is good to understand the early heresies of the early church such as Gnosticism and Arianism. It isn't a bad idea to learn about your own church and churches in the community around you.   To top it off, there are many how to books for Christians.  Steer away from those promoting the prosperity Gospel (just ask yourself how many apostles died rich men?) and books promoting cheap grace. Yeshua did not die for us to continue on in the same way, but he died that we may be transformed into his image.

As in everything, be looking at how your study habits may be changed, not only for Lent, but after as well.   Many  of my habits regarding Church, began in Lent, but continued on after.  Whatever you do, in study, prayer and apostolic action should be something you are capable of doing.  As in all things, begin with what you already do, and add to it.  Don't make it so difficult that you cannot keep to it

May your Lent help you grow in Messiah. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Church Calender

Instead of writing on the Tanach this week, I would like to talk some about the Church year and its seasons.  For Christians, since the book of Acts, Sunday is the regular day of worship, and early on Friday and Wednesday were the regular days of fasting.  Sadly in the west, fasting appears to have gone out of fashion.  Aside from being based on the Civil calender, the church's calender is also based on the lunar calender.  Easter, according to western usage is always the first Sunday after the first full Moon following March 21st, which basically puts it on the first Sunday after Passover.  Therefore Lent, and Eastertide are determined by the date of  Easter Sunday. Eastertide ends on Pentecost Sunday, 7 weeks after Easter, and Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is forty-five days before Easter.

The principle feast day of the church is Easter. Other principle feasts are Assentionday, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, Christmas Day and Epiphany.  Any of these days take place of Sunday if they so happen to fall on Sunday.  Other feasts which may pre-empt Sunday are: The Holy Name and the Presentation.  Other feasts of the Lord are:  The Annunciation, Holy Cross Day, The Visitation and the Nativity of John the Baptist.  Other major feasts are: Feasts of the Apostles, Feasts of Evangelists, St. Mary, mother of Jesus; St. Stephan, the Holy Innocents (Childermas), St. Joseph, St. Mary Magdelene,  St. Michael and All Angels, St. James of Jerusalem, and Thanksgiving day. 

The principle fasts are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  All Fridays of the year outside of the fifty days of Easter and the twelve days of Christmas are considered days of special denial, along with all days of Lent and Advent, excepting Sundays.  Sunday is always a feast day and never a day of fasting in honour of the resurrection.

Advent is the first season of the church year.  The word Advent comes from Latin for to come, and in Advent we prepare for the second coming of the Lord, as well as preparing for Christmas.  Advent, traditionally is marked by fasting and self-denial. Many people will use an Advent wreath during Advent.   The colour of Advent is blue, for the sky from where will come Jesus when he returns again.  Advent Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent is always the fourth Sunday before Christmas. 

The second season  of the year is Christmas, which begins at Sunset on December 24th.  During the twelve days of Christmas, we remember not only the birth of Messiah, but also St. Stephan the first Martyr, the Holy Innocents, John the Evangelist and the Holy Name.  Each of these feasts point us toward the incarnation of Messiah, which is by many considered to be the grandest of all miracles, when God became man to pay for our sins.  The principle colour of Christmas tide is gold (for the king)

The Epiphany begins on the sixth of January, and on the day itself we remember the wise men seeking Yeshua.  Epiphany means manifestation, and on the day we remember how He was first manifested to the nations, and in the season, how we are to manifest Yeshua to the world.  The first Sunday of Epiphany we remember the Baptism of the Lord, and that indeed is one of our four principle feasts for Baptism.  The reading for Epiphany tide are concentrating on the miracles of Messiah.  Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord use gold for the king, followed by green (for growth of the church)  for the beginning of the season.  The last three Sundays of Epiphany tide are Shrove tide, in which we prepare for Lent, by preparing for our confession if we so desire, and planning our spiritual  disciplines for Lent.  We use purple (preparation) for Shrove tide, except for Transfiguration Sunday which is God. 

Lent begins with the Eve of Ash Wednesday, when we, together or separately confess our private sins.  Ash Wednesday is a day when we focus more on our corporate sins as a church and a nation.  All of Lent is marked by fasting and other signs of penitence.  Traditionally, the presbyters appointed penitential excercised on Shrove Tuesday, when the people confessed their sins.  Lent was a time of repentance, of preparing catechumens for baptism, and for restoring fallen church members to full membership.  We use an Lenten array for Lent, burlap trimmed with purple.  The last week of Lent, Holy Week, we used burgundy trimmed with black to mark the blood of Messiah shed for us.  In Holy Week we remember the Events culminating in the crucifixion of Messiah.

Easter Even, we say adios to the events and celebrate the Queen of Feasts, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus.  The first 8 days of the Great Sabbath are celebrated in gold for the king, and correctly celebrated by daily Eucharist.  The rest of Easter tide is white for purity and holiness.  The white is replaced by gold on Assention day,a and the last day of the fifty days of Easter is flame red for the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Easter too, was a major feast for baptisms, since the catechumens had spent Lent preparing for baptism.

The next season, known by some as Trinity tide for the first Sunday in it, is a seson where we work on spiritual growth, for the Christian and the church.  The colour is green.

The last season of the years, starting 8 weeks before Christmas is Kingdom tide, in which we prepare to be part of the kingdom, and consider what it means to be part of God's kingdom.   Once again, the colour is blue.

Hopefully this essay is of use in understanding the seasons of the church.