Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Special Edition: Ascension of Our Lord; Evangelization

Volume 3 No. 141 May 8, 2013

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Ascension of Our Lord
Ascension of Our Lord
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

Bible Readings for Ascension (May 9)

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_ascension-Thursday.htm

Sermons for Ascension (May 9)

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Ascension.htm

Jesus' Ascension Gives a Foretaste of Life in Heaven

Using the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the pope explained that the event took place in three stages: first was the glory of the Resurrection, then the power to judge and finally his Ascension to sit at the right hand of the Father. ...

Featured: Opening Our Minds to the Ascension

The commemoration of the Ascension passes us by in this country. In places where the Eastern Church is prevalent it's an important feast day, up there in importance with Christmas and Pentecost. In many places, it's a work holiday. Always falling on a Thursday, the word "Ascension" passes through lips casually, but it is doubtful that those who speak it contemplate its meaning. ...

Our Turn To Evangelize

Now it is our turn. As it always has been, being an apostle today is difficult. As we get older, it gets harder. Nevertheless, it is our turn. We live at a crossroads of history. ..

The Ascension of the Lord

 Jesus, being God, took Himself by His own power up to heaven. And He took our humanity with Him so that, united to the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, our human nature is already present in heaven in Jesus Christ. ...

What to Preach and Where to Reach

Forty days after Easter. During those forty days, the risen Christ appeared to his disciples a number of times, speaking, as it says, about the kingdom of God. Christ was preparing his apostles for what he would be sending them out to do after he ascended. He had a mission for them to carry out. This is the church's mission still to this day. And Jesus gives us everything we need to carry out this mission. What Jesus did to prepare and empower the apostles he does now for us. ...

You Are Christ's Ambassador

You have a destiny to fulfill, something greater than you've ever even imagined. Embrace His truth, embrace His love, and embrace the blessings He has in store for your future! ...

Telling Your Story in Evangelism

The task of evangelism often includes telling our individual story along with the larger gospel story. Weaving the two together makes for a powerful articulation of God's gracious work through all times and his specific salvific work in an individual heart - namely, yours. ...

Prayer Request for Our Abdicated Bishops and Priests

Chain Prayer Requested for The Safe Release of the Bishops by Samajam

Recipe: Shila's Perfect Muffin Recipe

Family Special: Sharing The Goodness of God

Make a point of frequently encouraging each other by reciting the great deeds of God, reflecting back on those spiritual milestones that prove His long-term faithfulness. ...

About Malankara World

Foreword
On Thursday, May 9, 2013 we celebrate the feast of Ascension. Jesus gave His disciples the final commandment before He ascended into heaven, viz., Spread the word (or Evangelize) and Baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The importance of ascension was covered in depth in last years Malankara World Journal Special Edition (issue 76). Please refer it for more details. This Special Edition will supplement issue 76 with more discussion on the Evangelism.
 

Thanks

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for Ascension (May 9)

Bible Readings For The Ascension of our Lord

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for Ascension (May 9)
This Week's Features

Jesus' Ascension Gives a Foretaste of Life in Heaven

by Pope Benedict XVI, 2010

The Ascension permits us to "foretaste" the divine life from here on earth. It is not a question of abandonment, because "He remains with them forever in a new way."

Using the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the pope explained that the event took place in three stages: first was the glory of the Resurrection, then the power to judge and finally his Ascension to sit at the right hand of the Father.

The ascension was preceded by the blessing of the disciples which prepared them for the gift of the Holy Spirit "so that salvation might be proclaimed everywhere."

Then the Lord attracted their eyes heavenwards so as to indicate "the good way during the earthly life."

He continues to be with us on our path as Christians as He is "the companion of those persecuted because of their faith" and is in "the heart of the marginalized and is present in those to whom the right to life is denied."

We also remain able to hear, see and touch the Lord through the Church especially through the Word and the sacraments.

Through ascension, the Lord opened the way to Heaven for us, thus permitting us to "foretaste" the divine life from our place on earth.

Source: CNA/EWTN News

Featured: Opening Our Minds to the Ascension

By Katerina K. Whitley

Scripture: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

The commemoration of the Ascension passes us by in this country. In places where the Eastern Church is prevalent it's an important feast day, up there in importance with Christmas and Pentecost. In many places, it's a work holiday. Always falling on a Thursday, the word "Ascension" passes through lips casually, but it is doubtful that those who speak it contemplate its meaning. In our church it is celebrated but on a minor key; we have to admit that the Ascension is a difficult image to create in our minds and it's difficult to make sense of it. Coming 40 days after Easter Day, it is mostly ignored since it falls on a Thursday.

On feast days, it's interesting to look at some of the remaining customs of ancient people, because even under the veneer of superstition and legend, a core of truth may be found. In many parts of Greece where the Orthodox observe the day with great joy, village people stay up on the night of Ascension staring at the skies. Legend tells us that those "who are pure in heart" see a light ascending to the heavens. For some reason, in Greek villages the day is associated with shepherds, so milk features greatly in the recipes set aside for just this day. And the water of the sea becomes symbolic also: This is the first day of the year when people enter the sea either to swim or to wade, and then to carry some of the water home to ward off evil.

The first custom, that of looking at the skies, reminds us of the unquenchable longing of the early Christians for the Lord's return. There is a poignant scene in Lloyd Douglass' book, "The Robe," where Christians are pictured as always looking to the distance as if waiting for someone, longing for someone, so convinced were they of Jesus' imminent return.

Luke is the only one of the evangelists who gives a particular image to this event, starting with the end of his gospel and continuing it in the Acts of the Apostles. Fascinated by his words, countless great artists and iconographers have painted their interpretation of Jesus' Ascension. In these paintings, icons, and frescoes, Jesus is literally ascending, his feet no longer touching the earth, sometimes surrounded by angels, a cloud above ready to hide him from human eyes. And thus it is that many of us probably imagine the Ascension.

There is nothing specifically right or wrong in this image. We are visual thinkers. Words help us create images that we remember even though we have seen them only in art or in our own minds. This is not the place to inquire in what form Jesus returned to the Father. Some hints are given throughout the stories of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances: He enters a room suddenly, without using a door; he appears next to couple walking together on the road to Emmaus; he cooks breakfast for Peter and his friends by the shore. But he disappears just as suddenly as he appears. So the hints tell us that though the resurrected body is visible, the qualities it demonstrates are different from the body that was crucified. This is enough for us.

Two details are surprising in this final story in Luke's gospel. One is found in verse 45: "Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures." There is something liberating in this statement. Our minds must be open to understand, not closed. We see so much evidence today of minds that refuse to understand the truth of the scriptures, preferring to stay closed and limited by what they think they understand. Reading the Bible with open minds, open because Christ has done the opening, reveals something new each time we read a passage.

The other detail is that even though Jesus disappeared from their midst, the disciples "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." These are the same people who, with great fear and grief, had hidden during the crucifixion and burial. Why are they joyful now? Their dearest friend has disappeared from their eyes. They will not see him again and this time apparently they know that he will not be making another post-resurrection appearance. Why are they joyful now? Is it that now, finally, they truly understand him and believe him?

The opening of their minds to understand the scriptures has much to do with this joy. "You are witnesses of these things," he tells them. What a powerful word this is: "witnesses." They have witnessed a new creation, and they know it. They have witnessed love in action. They are now witnesses to the resurrection.

The fear of death has been replaced by the joy of knowing life. They believe in his promises. The Paraclete, the Advocate shall come. They will stay in Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Above all, they have been given a job to do. Their life has a purpose and this fills them with joy. In our reading from Acts, Jesus tells his disciples: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

We are included in that last phrase, "the ends of the earth." The disciples fulfilled their mission. They did the work. Now it's up to us to continue it.

Editor's Note:

Katerina Whitley is the author of "Around a Greek Table" (Lyons Press, 2012). She lives and writes in Louisville, Ky.

Source: Sermons that Work, Episcopal Digital Network

Our Turn To Evangelize

by Father Patrick Langan, LC

Gospel: Mark 16: 15-20

And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Introductory Prayer:

Lord, thank you for taking the time to be with me. There are things in life, Lord, that attract me, but you attract me more. I hope in you because you are always faithful to your promises. Maybe I don't fully understand what it means to love, and maybe I don't love the way I should, but I do love you.

Petition:

Lord, help me to focus on what I can do to tell others of your love.

1. Christ:

When Christ blesses, it happens. When he takes yeast and kneads it with three measures of flour, it leavens the dough all through. When he blesses the bread, it multiplies. When he blesses the Eucharist, he is there for us. Christ blesses his apostles. These are not just events of the past, for God's word is a living word. He also wants to bless me and my work. How can I draw down Christ's blessing upon me, my family, the people I love, and the work I do? All I have to do is ask him to bless me and believe that he can and wants to. He will take care of the rest.

2. Apostles:

Imagine the apostles talking after the Ascension. Andrew might say to Peter, "Peter, Christ told us to preach to all nations." "You are right, Andrew, we need to go to the next town," Peter would agree. "No," would urge Andrew, "we have to go to Athens and Rome." Peter might object, "Athens and Rome! But we don't know anyone there." In an attempt to persuade him Andrew would add, "Peter, Jesus wanted us to begin here in Jerusalem because this is the largest Jewish city. However, he has shown that he has also called the Gentiles to the Church. We must go to their capitals, their cities of greatest influence so that they too might hear the message Jesus entrusted to us." Despite their fears, they obeyed Christ and proclaimed the good news in new places.

3. Us:

Now it is our turn. As it always has been, being an apostle today is difficult. As we get older, it gets harder. Nevertheless, it is our turn. We live at a crossroads of history. I know Christ is blessing me. He is sending me. I feel fear, but I know he is asking me to imitate the fidelity of the first apostles. He is only waiting for me to begin preaching so that he can bless all that I undertake in his name.

Conversation with Christ:

Lord, thank you for coming. Thank you for giving the apostles the strength to resist and persevere. Now it is my turn. Grant me the graces I need to proclaim the good news.

Resolution:

I live life but once. So today I will analyze how I use my time and resolve to eliminate one of the bad habits that leads me to waste time.

Source: Regnum Christi

The Ascension of the Lord

by Fr. Altier

Gospel: St. Luke 24:46-53
Also: Acts 1:1-11; Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lord's Ascension into heaven. By Ascension we mean that He, by His own power, was taken body and soul into heaven. This is different from Our Lady's Assumption. To ascend means to go up by one's own power, to be assumed means to be taken up by someone else's power. Our Lady was lifted up by God; but Jesus, being God, took Himself by His own power up to heaven. And He took our humanity with Him so that, united to the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, our human nature is already present in heaven in Jesus Christ.

Now beyond this St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we heard today from his letter to the Hebrews, that Jesus then has passed into the sanctuary. He is our high priest and He has offered a sacrifice, as he points out, not like the high priest of old who used to enter the Holy of Holies that was made by hands. The Holy of Holies in Jerusalem was a copy of the temple that Moses had seen in the vision of heaven. What God, up on top of Mt. Sinai, showed to Moses was that vision of the worship of heaven. He then told Moses now you make a sanctuary that is going to be modeled on what you saw. And so the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies once a year with the blood of the bull and the goat so he could sprinkle that blood upon the altar for the forgiveness of sin. But St. Paul tells us that Jesus has passed through the veil (the veil of his flesh), and entered into the Holy of Holies that is not a copy of the real one, but has entered into the true Holy of Holies, the one in heaven itself.

Now about the veil that St. Paul is mentioning, remember that passage in St. John's Gospel that tells us that at the moment of the death of our Lord, the veil or the curtain in the temple was torn in two. There was a huge veil, a huge curtain that hung in the doorway between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple. It is as if there was a huge veil right across here at the front of the sanctuary that separated the sanctuary area from the rest of the church. That is the way that it was so that the people could not see into the Holy of Holies. That curtain, or veil, separated the people from the place of the Lord. Now St. Paul tells us, unlike the high priest that had to go around that veil and into the Holy of Holies, Jesus has entered the Holy of Holies through the veil which is His own flesh, the veil of death, the veil which keeps us from God, that is the life in the body.

Now our Lord, even with His body, has entered into the glory of heaven; and He has gone not with the blood of bulls and goats but with His own blood. He has entered therefore once for all time. This is what is so important to be able to understand; that in His Ascension our Lord has taken His sacrifice up to heaven. It is just as we pray at the Mass, "Lord may your angel take this sacrifice to Your altar in heaven," so that the sacrifice of Jesus is before the throne of our heavenly Father. In having taken our humanity and His sacrifice into heaven there is no more sacrifice for sin. That is why at Mass we do not sacrifice Jesus again, but it is one continual sacrifice. Once for all, St. Paul says, once for all time.

Many Christian people misunderstand that and they say Jesus offered Himself once on the Cross, therefore it is done. Everything is finished, there is no more sacrifice for sin, no more sacrifice period, it is all finished. Jesus died for my sins therefore I am going to heaven. That is not what it meant. St. Paul means it is once for all time. That sacrifice continues to be offered, as it will right here on the altar in just a few moments, and for all time there is one sacrifice as God promised through the prophet Malachi.

Why are we talking about this on the Feast of the Ascension? In this we see several things in the readings. First of all St. Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles. He is writing to a person he calls Theophilus, which is you and me (Theophilus is from two Greek words which mean the lover of God.) For anyone who loves God, St. Luke is writing, this is the truth of what happened. He reminds us that Jesus for forty days after He suffered, showed Himself to His Apostles and proved to them in many ways that He was alive. He sets the context. He talks about the life, the suffering, the death, the resurrection, the forty days and then was taken up to heaven in their sight. So we see the whole context the life, the death, the resurrection of our Lord, and now also the Ascension. The Ascension is so important because without it the work of redemption would not be fulfilled. Think about what it would mean if Jesus did not ascend into heaven. It would mean that we could all rise from the dead and then we would be stuck here on earth for the rest of eternity. God did not make us for that purpose. He made us so that we can be with Him. And the only way we were going to be able to be with Him is if the way to heaven was open, if whatever separated us from God was removed. So just as at the death of Jesus the curtain was torn in two, now we see that through the flesh Jesus has entered into that Holy of Holies. There is nothing any longer which separates us from God except for our natural life in this world. Now at the moment of death when we enter through that veil, we too have the opportunity to be able to go heaven to be united with our Lord, and to be able to enter face to face into that glory of God.

The reason I was talking about that sacrifice of Jesus is that it is not just a matter of sitting around gazing lovingly at God. That would be enough; that would be more than enough. It would be more than we would be able to handle for the rest of all eternity, because God is infinite. To be able to look at Him for the rest of eternity implies that we will never ever, ever reach the end of God. There will always be more and as we look at God (there are not instances in eternity but if there were) at every single instance of eternity we would see more. We would see a new vision of God, and we would be filled with the glory of God. But God is not content merely with that. He has invited us into the very worship of Himself. That is why we have to understand the importance of what Jesus has done by taking His sacrifice up to heaven, by bringing Himself and His flesh in our human nature before the throne of God to offer Himself once for all time to our heavenly Father. Right now He is standing before the throne of almighty God, and He is showing to God the Father the wounds that He incurred for us. As we offer this sacrifice on the altar in just a few moments, and that sacrifice is taken up to heaven, Jesus is right there showing the heavenly Father the sacrifice that He offered physically as we offer that sacrifice mystically and united with Him. So the importance of this is that we now already share in the heavenly worship.

What we are doing right here is similar to what happened in the Old Testament. Moses had the vision of the heavenly worship and made a temple that looked like the temple in heaven, and was able to enter into the worship of God and offer the blood of bulls and goats. We offer the blood of the innocent Lamb in the true tabernacle. So even though here we already share in that heavenly worship it is still in a temple, which is a mere copy made by human hands, but we offer a sacrifice that is not merely human but it is divine. We offer the very sacrifice of heaven and we receive the very bread of angels, the bread come down from heaven. We receive Jesus, and that is the dignity that will be ours for all eternity. Jesus has already taken Himself and His sacrifice and His humanity; His body, His Blood, His Soul, and His Divinity, He has taken up to heaven and He has offered that to our heavenly Father. The heavenly Father has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. But even still it is not complete. Notice again the context in the readings twice, in St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews as well as in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear that, "This Jesus whom you saw go up to heaven will return just as you saw Him go." It is not enough that when we die that our souls would be able to go to heaven. God made us both body and soul, and so right now the saints who are in heaven already gazing on God, do not yet enjoy the fullness of what they will have because our bodies, like the body of Jesus will be reunited with our souls. Assuming that we go to heaven, our bodies will be with our souls for all eternity, so that just as the body of Jesus Christ was taken to heaven, and that sacrifice which He offered in His own flesh is now offered to God before the throne, so too our bodies, our flesh, our humanity (for which that sacrifice was offered) will also be taken up to share in the glory of God. That is what this day is all about. That is the importance of the Ascension. Not only has Jesus already taken our humanity to heaven, not only is He there offering that sacrifice once for all time so that we would have the opportunity to share in the glory of God; but He will come back in His glorified humanity to take those who will rise from the dead on the day of judgment, on the day of resurrection, on the last day of this world, He will take us with Him so that we will enter into the glory, into the fullness of glory of God in body and soul. Not only will we look upon the face of God; we will actually enter into the very worship of God, and be able to understand in the fullness of our being what it is that we already participate in here. We will enter into the heavenly banquet, the marriage banquet of the Lamb, where we will feast upon Jesus Christ for all eternity.

Where we enter into God, God enters into us (as we talked about last week) and we will understand even as we have been understood; we will see even as we are seen. And we will be able to participate fully in the worship that we already share in here, where the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will be ours for all eternity. We will be able to unite ourselves with Him and offer glory to God and worship Him for all eternity. So today and every day as we come for Mass and we worship God, we need to gaze lovingly upon our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. At the same time we need to look forward to the fullness of that, but recognize the dignity that is ours. Even now we share in the worship of God, but now only in a temple and in the Holy of Holies that is a copy of the true one. As we look forward to the fullness of the promise that we already share in this Mass and in the Holy Sacrament of the Mass, we look forward to the glory of God and the fullness of worship. That is when we too will enter through the veil into the very sanctuary of God, and with the angels, and the saints, and with Jesus Himself, we will worship our heavenly Father through all eternity.

Source: Homily Preached on May 27, 2001; Transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.

What to Preach and Where to Reach

by The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Scripture: Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11

Luke 24:44-53 (ESV)

Then Jesus said to them, "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 the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Acts 1:1-11 (ESV)

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

Today is Ascension Day, that glorious day when our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of the Father and from where he will come again on the last day. Ascension Day, which occurred forty days after Easter and thus on a Thursday, which is why we always have service on this day of the week at this time of the year. The Ascension of Our Lord is a major festival in the church year, because it marks such a momentous event.

Forty days after Easter. During those forty days, the risen Christ appeared to his disciples a number of times, speaking, as it says, about the kingdom of God. Christ was preparing his apostles for what he would be sending them out to do after he ascended. He had a mission for them to carry out. This is the church's mission still to this day. And Jesus gives us everything we need to carry out this mission. What Jesus did to prepare and empower the apostles he does now for us. So what we hear Jesus saying in our readings today from Luke and Acts--this applies to our churches in our day. Our Lord's marching orders, and the power to carry them out, are still the same.

St. Luke is the one who tells us much about this, both in the ending of his gospel and at the beginning of his second book, the Acts of the Apostles. In Luke 24 and in Acts chapter 1, we hear Jesus telling the church two things: "What to Preach and Where to Reach."

In these instructions that Jesus gives right before his ascension, he gives an outline of what to preach--that is, the content of the church's preaching--as well as an outline of where to reach, the extent of the church's mission. The preaching outline and the reaching outline--both are given here, so let's give our attention to both.

First of all, what to preach.

Jesus gives the apostles their preaching outline in Luke 24, where he says: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations." First he opens up our minds to understand the Scriptures, what its central content is, and then he tells us how to apply this content to people in the church's preaching.

"Thus it is written": In other words, here's what the Bible is all about, boys. And it's all about Jesus. "Everything written about me," Jesus says, "in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." What the whole Old Testament was driving at, and what the whole history of Israel was leading up to, now has come to pass in the coming of the Christ, this same Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the great King, the divine deliverer whom God had promised centuries earlier.

And those messianic prophecies now stand fulfilled. Jesus has accomplished the mission he set out to do, the mission he was sent from heaven to do, namely, to rescue mankind. The human race was in a heap of trouble and could not extricate itself. Mankind had rebelled against God, fallen into sin, and come under the curse of death and conflict. Hopeless was our situation on our own. Stuck in the mire, that's where we were. But Messiah came, Christ came, to undo the mess, to rescue us from the death-trap we had gotten ourselves into.

How would he do it? In a surprising way. The Christ would go to the cross. He would have to do this, if the rescue mission was to be successful. Why? Because justice had to be served. Man must die for man's sin, the law must be kept. And the wages of sin is death, death under God's judgment. But to save us, Christ took that judgment on himself. Even though Jesus was totally innocent--he kept God's law perfectly--he loved us so much that he took our place as our stand-in. Jesus takes the punishment we deserve. His suffering and death is enough to cover everyone in the world, because he is the holy Son of God. His righteousness gets credited to our account, and thus we are free, forgiven, debt paid off in full, and then some. This was God's rescue plan all along, even if people didn't recognize it at the time. But Jesus did, of course. That is why he says, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer." He suffered death in our place so that we would not die eternally.

But that is not the end of the story. Jesus continues: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead." The resurrection--this too is what is written and what the church should preach. Christ rose from the dead; this is his Easter victory. By his death Christ destroyed the power of death, that dangling sword of Damocles hanging over our head. Christ disarmed death, took the sting out of it. Because he shares his resurrection life with us, we who trust in him for our salvation, we have life in his name.

So the death and resurrection of the Christ--this is the heart and core of the Bible's content, according to Christ himself. These historic events are the bedrock, the foundation, and the central focus of the church's message. The death and resurrection of Christ--these are the most important events that have ever happened in the world, they really are. The whole future of humanity and of every individual person in this world depends on these monumental events--the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the rescue of us doomed sinners. This then is what gives substance to the church's preaching.

The application--the life-saving, life-giving application of what Christ has done, applying it to the lives of human beings, for that is what happens in the preaching of God's word--this is where Jesus goes next in his preaching outline: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name." Repentance and the forgiveness of sins--this is where the rubber meets the road in applying what Jesus has done historically to you and me personally. Repentance--calling sinners to give up on themselves as their own gods, as their own saviors. You can't do that job, you will fail miserably. Only God can save you--and yes, you need saving. So repent. Recognize your deadness. Turn to God for life. He will give it to you. This then is the preaching of forgiveness. What Christ won for you on the cross is delivered to you free of charge, with your name on it. And this forgiveness is received by faith, as the Holy Spirit works faith and trust in your heart, as you hear the gospel.

Do you want to know what is the most important thing that is going on in the world today? It is not the build-up of arms in Iran. It is not the Islamic jihad. It is not the U.S. economy or the presidential campaign. No, the most important thing that is happening in the world today is the preaching of the gospel done by the church. It is the church preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in fulfillment of Scripture, and calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This may look like nothing in the world's eyes, but this is what God is doing now through the church. It's why the world is still around, frankly, and that is, to give the church the opportunity to spread the gospel around the world and so to save millions of sinners before the return of Christ.

So Jesus has told the church what to preach. Now the second thing he says in our readings tonight is where to reach.

The outreach outline--that's the other part of Jesus' ascension instructions. Luke gives it to us in brief in Luke 24, where Jesus says that this message "should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." And then we get it again in more detail in Acts 1, where Christ tells the apostles the expanding extent of the church's mission: "And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Jerusalem. Judea and Samaria. The end of the earth. If you could see these places on a map, you would see concentric circles moving outward. And this is what the church did, as we read about it in the Book of Acts. First in Jerusalem itself, and only among Jews. Then moving outward, out into the country of Judea, and then crossing an ethnic and religious border by venturing into Samaria. Then, even more daringly, going to the Gentiles throughout the Mediterranean world. And the going and the preaching and the bearing witness hasn't stopped since. The mission moved out to northern Europe, where many of our ancestors received the good news, and we today are the beneficiaries of that mission.

And so now we are the church that continues to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. To Africa and to Asia, for example, places where the church is really growing right now. As you know, in March I went to Indonesia to teach at a pastors' conference there, to help the church in Indonesia carry out its mission in a very hostile environment. Indonesia is the fourth largest nation in the world, with the largest Muslim population. It is exciting to see what the Lord is doing there, bringing thousands of people to faith in Christ. This is but just one example of how the worldwide Christian mission that Jesus started when he ascended into heaven has reached to the end of the earth.

Before Jesus ascended, he gave the church instructions on two things--what to preach and where to reach.

What to preach? We preach Christ crucified, crucified and now risen from the dead for your salvation and the salvation of every other person in the world.

Where to reach? To the end of the earth--to Indonesia and to Iran and Pakistan and all those far distant places around the globe. But also right here, close to home. In our "Jerusalems"--Bonne Terre, Potosi, De Soto, Park Hills. To your neighbor next door, to your adult children, to your co-worker or friend from the club. Wherever there are sinners in need of a Savior, there is where we bring the gospel. And yes, including here tonight, for you.

You Are Christ's Ambassador

by Joel Osteen

Scripture:

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God."
(2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV)

God has an assignment for you that nobody else can fulfill. God needs you. He needs your gifts, your smile, your love, your passion. You are a part of His divine plan. You have something to offer nobody else can offer. Nobody has your exact personality, your exact looks. There is something unique about you. Don't wear that "average" label. If you think you're average, then you'll be average. If you think you're ordinary, then you'll live an ordinary, "get by life" and never do anything great.

The truth is, there is nothing ordinary about you. You have the fingerprints of God all over you. The Creator of the universe breathed His life into you. He crowned you with His favor. You have royal blood flowing through your veins. You have a destiny to fulfill, something greater than you've ever even imagined. Embrace His truth, embrace His love, and embrace the blessings He has in store for your future!

Prayer:

Father, thank You for equipping me and choosing me to be Your ambassador on earth. Help me to be Your light and use my gifts and talents to lead others to know You in Jesus' name. Amen.

Telling Your Story in Evangelism

by Randy Newman

The task of evangelism often includes telling our individual story along with the larger gospel story. Weaving the two together makes for a powerful articulation of God's gracious work through all times and his specific salvific work in an individual heart - namely, yours.

Many have supported their emphasis on sharing a personal testimony by pointing out that Paul did so numerous times in the book of Acts. In Acts 26, for example, Paul tells Agrippa about his Damascus Road experience with the hopes that he, along with all who were listening to him "may become what I am, except for these chains" (vs. 29).

As an encouragement for us to follow Paul's model, some have argued, "People can't dismiss your personal testimony because it's your story. They can't deny it."

I'm all for people sharing their personal testimony. But a bit more careful thought needs to shape the process.

It is worth noting that Paul did not merely share his subjective, personal experience. He wove together that story with the more objective, universal Gospel story that must be proclaimed to all people. Paul crafted a dual-themed masterpiece that spoke of his unique encounter with Jesus along with these objective propositions:

Paul's hope is what God had promised the fathers (vss.6-7)

Paul's message included the fact that conversion (anyone's!) is from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, involves forgiveness from sins, and leads to sanctification (vs. 18)

People must "repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds" (vs. 20)

This message is in line with the prophets and Moses (vs. 22)

The crux of the matter is not Paul's subjective experience but the objective truth that Christ suffered and rose from the dead (vs. 23)

So, as we consider sharing our testimony, we should, like Paul, weave together a two-fold story that combines our individual experience with the Gospel for all. Otherwise they will indeed dismiss what we say as something merely our experience. They won't deny it. But they won't embrace it either. They won't disagree but they won't feel its sting.

How do we do this? Here are two suggestions:

Prepare.

Few of us can compose Pauline brilliance on the spot. Think through which events were pivotal in your coming to faith. Be sure to include both strands of the two stories (your experience and the gospel message). Decide ahead of time what you will and will not say. And choose your vocabulary carefully.

Proclaim that the gospel is both true and good.

It's one thing to tell the story of how you became a Christian and what convinced you of its truth. It's another thing to tell why you're thankful for the gospel's work in you - how it's made you a better person, a more gracious husband, a more patient parent, a more compassionate friend, etc. People need to hear both aspects of the gospel - that Jesus rose from the dead and that you actually wish others could be like you.

About the Author:

Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Prayer Request for Our Abdicated Bishops and Priests
It has been more than 16 days since the kidnapping of the two Metropolitan Archbishops of Aleppo, Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. We still do not have any information about the whereabouts of these bishops They were abdicated while on a humanitarian mission on Monday, April 22, 2013 to have two priests released.

Kidnapped Bishops in Syria - April 2013
Kidnapped Bishops: Bishop Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and
HE Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

Every prelate of the both churches Syriac and Greek is putting possible efforts now to facilitate the soonest possible release of the abducted archbishops from captivity.

Please continue praying for these bishops and priests for their speedy release. If you haven't signed the online petition to President Obama, please do so using the following link:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/save-syrian-christians-bishops-and-clergy-men/Nqrb3cv1

More Info at: https://www.facebook.com/SOCMNet

Chain Prayer Requested for The Safe Release of the Bishops

by Chev. Daniel Biju Daniel, Saudi Arabia

Saint Mary's Jacobite Movement (SAMAJAM, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia) is conducting a, one day long Chain prayer for the recent problems we are facing especially for quick and safe release of our Bishops, Priests, our suffering brothers in Syria. Chain Prayer will start on Tuesday 7th evening with evening prayer at 7.00 pm and keep continue with 30 mins time slot till Wednesday 10 pm to end with regular Wednesday intercession prayer to St. Mary.

A prayer structure is prepared for uniformity. (This document in Malayalam can be accessed in Malankara World by clicking here.)

We request all of our spiritual fathers, brothers, sisters to join with us at your convenient time and to remember the prayer subjects during the Holy Mass on the day of Ascension.

Barekmor / slomo

for SAMAJAM, Land of Midian

Recipe: Shila's Perfect Muffin Recipe

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

Dry Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour.

½ cup sugar.

½ cup brown sugar

½ tsp. baking powder.

½ tsp baking soda. -- CORRECTED

Salt to taste.

Note: Set aside 2 tbsp. of sugar. Sift the rest of the ingredients together and set aside.

Wet Ingredients:

2 eggs.

¼ cup vegetable oil.

¼ cup melted butter.

One banana.

1 cup blueberries.

Milk to loosen the batter.

Directions:

Mix the blueberries with the 2 tbsp. sugar and keep on the side.

Mix egg, melted and cooled butter, vegetable oil and mashed banana with a wisk. Add the sifted flour, and sugar mixture. Gently fold. Do not mix too much. Then add the blueberries and just mix. If the batter is too thick, add the milk to loosen it. Batter should be slightly loose.

Heat the oven 350 degrees F (175 deg C) and bake for 18 to 20 mts or till they are done. To get the perfect dome shape, keep the batter for 20 to 30 mts after mixing and then bake.

Enjoy. You will not be disappointed with the results.

Perfect Muffins

(Editor's Note: Tested at St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland after the service on May 4. They went fast!)

Family Special: Sharing The Goodness of God
What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? PSALM 116:12

We closed our first year-long devotional book with a letter written by a man named Obadiah Holmes to his nine children in the late 1600s. As we near the close of this book, we'd like to share another letter Obadiah wrote to his wife, tenderly exhorting her to remember a full lifetime of God's faithfulness. As you read it, notice what was important after nearly a half-century of marriage:

My heart has cleaved to you ever since we came together, and is knit to you in death, which is the cause of these lines as a reminder of God's goodness to us in keeping us together almost fifty years. God has made all our conditions comfortable to us, whether in fullness or emptiness, lifted up or thrown down, in honor or disgrace, sickness or health, by giving us contentment and love for one another. We have every reason while we live to praise His holy name while we are together. And when death does separate us, may the one still breathing praise Him while breath remains.

Therefore, having some thought that I may go away before you, having signs that my day is but short and it may be that I cannot speak to you at the last, I shall give you some considerations for your meditation—that they may speak when I cannot.

Consider how the Lord carried you along ever since you came into this world. He has provided for you and preserved you in many dangers, and has given you food and raiment with contentment. He has increased our store, sometimes to our wonder, also continuing our health in very great measure. He has given us a great posterity, and has provided for them in a comfortable manner.

Like Obadiah did in this letter, make a point of frequently encouraging each other by reciting the great deeds of God, reflecting back on those spiritual milestones that prove His long-term faithfulness.

DISCUSS

How has God provided for you "sometimes to [your] wonder"? See if you can list 5 to 10 ways each.

PRAY

Give thanks for God's constant provision, care and attention to your needs.

Source: 'Moments with You' Devotional
 

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