Volume 2 No. 50 January 30, 2012
Nineveh Lent Special SupplementIf the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web
Table of Contents
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Bible Readings for Nineveh Lent from Lectionary
Featured: Nineveh Fast by HH Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
The History of the Three Days Lent in Syriac Orthodox Church by Rev. Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu
"The God of the Second Chance" by Dr. Haddon Robinson
Three Days Lent - Are We Ready to Obey, Pray, Repent? by Cheriyan Vengal
Here am I, Lord, Send Me from Footprints Diary
The Way Back by Greg Laurie
This is a special edition of Malankara World
Journal to commemorate the Nineveh lent or Three-Day
year, the lent starts on Monday, January 30 and ends on Thursday,
The Nineveh Lent or Three Day Lent is a lent of attrition and repentance commemorating the repentance of the people of Nineveh at the preaching of Prophet Jonah. This lent starts three weeks before the start of the Great Lent. However, when you read the article by Biji achen, you will notice that there are other reasons also to commemorate a three day lent.
We have provided a great collection of articles and sermons in Malankara World to understand and practice repentance that is pleasing to God. This year, the last day of the Three day lent coincides with another important feast of the Church, viz., Ma'altho, presentation of Jesus in the temple and the purification of Mary. We will have more to say about this feast in our next edition of Malankara World Journal.
This Sunday in Church
Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Gospel Analyses for all four days of Nineveh Lent is available in Malankara World and can be found at:
This link also has articles and links to other articles on fasting and on how to conduct a meaningful lent.
|Inspiration for Today|
He is our peace.
God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; for he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself. And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
EPH. 2:14. II Cor. 5:19,21. Col. 1:20 22. Col. 2:14. -Eph. 2:15. John 14:27.
by HH Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East, Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church
This Lent is called after Nineveh, because the Ninevites were the first to practice such a fast praying for God’s Mercy and forgiveness. This fast is practiced following the example of the people of Nineveh of old times who hearkened to the warning of God through Prophet Jonah and proclaimed a fast enjoined on man and beast, on the greatest of them even to the least of them in supplication of God.
And God repented of the evil he had said he would do unto them and he did it not. (Jon. 3)
This fast began to be practiced in our church towards the fourth Century AD. This can be inferred from the memres of St. Ephrem, the Syrian (373) and the hymns he composed in the past. This fast used to last for six days, but now it is only for three days starting on the third Monday that precedes Lent. It had been neglected through the ages. Mar Dionysius Bar Salibi (1171) states that Mar Marutha of Tikrit (+649) was the one who enjoined it on the Church of the East first in the region of Nineveh. Bar Hebraeus reportedly states that the confirmation of this fast was due to the crises the church went through in (Hirat). The people there fasted three days and three nights praying constantly in fulfillment of the command of their bishop and they were rescued from the ordeal by God.
Armenians embraced this practice of the Syrians calling it (Sorep Sarkis). The Copts did the same during the patriarchate of the sixty-second Patriarch of Alexandria, Anba Eprem, the Syrian. This fast is highly favored among Syrians. Some faithful abstain from food and drink throughout this three day fast, then they receive the Holy Communion on the third day and afterwards they go on eating fasting-food until Thursday morning.
The rest of the faithful abstain from having food till noon or till late afternoon and afterwards they eat fasting food. Prayers that are sung to melodies of Lent usually accompany fasting. In the event of having the presentation of Lord Jesus into the Temple, which we usually celebrate on Feb.2, during this Fast, it is mandatory that we celebrate the commemoration day and afterwards we carry out the celebration of the Holy liturgy in the morning as usual, whereas the prayers of Nineveh’s Fast are said at noon. Abstinence from food ends directly after the mass by eating fasting food.
[Editor's Note: Excerpted from His Holiness' article: 'Fasting' that describes all the lents in Syriac Orthodox Church in depth. The full article is in Malankara World. ]
by Rev. Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu, Malankara World Board Member
Bar Ebroyo narrates the history of this fast as follows in his Eccleciastical History:
"The people in the East began the fast, which is being observed three days after the Epiphany, in this time (i.e. the time of Catholicos Hananeshu, who became the Catholicos in A.D. 686). When Abdul Malik, the son of Morwon, heard of the beauty of the women in Hirto, he asked the Governor there to send all the virgins to him. As this command came, the governor started to gather all the virgins. Then all the Christians came together in the church, and prayed and fasted. They prostrated before the Lord and appealed to Him to save them from this punishment.
On the third day when their Bishop John was reading the gospel, he got a revelation about the death of Abdul Malik, and he revealed it to the people. After some days, this news was confirmed. It is said that, from this time onwards the believers observe this fast.
But some others say that this fast was begun in the East when the king Quzra Abroose prepared to rape the virgins." 
Fr. Chediath gives the following versions also in his translation of Bar Ebroyo's 'Sabhacharithram' (pp.248-251) :
A lot of people died in the village of Beth Garme because of a fast spreading infectious disease. The Bishop of that diocese Mor Sabarisho summoned the people for a public prayer. He told them:
" The most virtuous God has showed mercy to the people of Nineveh and withdrew from the intended punishment according to the words of prophet Jonah. How much more will He show mercy to us, who believe in Him, His Messiah, and in His Holy Spirit?"
And the people obeyed him. They came together and supplicated to God intensively. All, including the infants, have worn sack clothes. And God has removed the infectious disease for them. As the East Syrian Catholicose Thimothi (he died in AD 819) took charge as Catholicose, he ordered these 3 days prayer and fast to be continued annually. And this Lent should be known as the lent of Anger and not as the lent of Nineveh.
1. Chronicon Ecclesiasticum III, cols. 139-141. (Abbeloos, J. B. and Lamy, T.J. (ed. and transl.): Gregorii Bar-Hebraei Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, I-III, Paris-Louvain, 1872-1877.)
Translating from the famous book "Bibliotheka Orientalis" by
Assemani (ASSEMANI, J. S.: Bibliotheca Orientalis
Clementino-Vaticana I, De scriptoribus Syris Orthodoxis, Rome, 1719
/ reprint Hildesheim-New York 1975; II, De scriptoribus Syris
monophysitis, Rome, 1721/ reprint Hildesheim-New York, 1975)
by Dr. Haddon Robinson, Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, S. Hamilton, MA
I was speaking at a college some time ago, and after one of the meetings, a young man came to talk with me. He was quite upset. He told me he felt that God had given up on him. I asked him why he had come to that conclusion. He said he had grown up in a religious home, but when he came to college he had rebelled against everything he had ever been taught. He had broken his own standards and he had broken God's standards. He had gotten in trouble with the police. It was pretty serious stuff.
What bothered him most, though, was that he had done the same wrong acts over and over again. He knew better, he said, but he continued doing what he knew was wrong. He once thought of himself as a Christian, but no longer. He was convinced that God had given up on him. He felt that he was beyond hope.
Perhaps you can identify with that young man. Perhaps you've done things you're ashamed of. In fact, you may have a dirty little secret that you keep bottled up in your life. You don't want to think about it, and you live in fear that someday somehow somebody will find you out. Deep down inside you are uncomfortable and even afraid. Once, perhaps, you may have been part of a worshipping community, but no longer. What caused you to give up your faith was that you think that God might not tolerate someone like you. You, too, may feel that you are beyond hope.
If you feel that way you are not alone. I'd like to tell you about two men who messed up their lives. In fact, they turned their backs on God completely. You couldn't blame God for giving up on them.
The first of the two was a man called Peter. Peter was one of the best known of Jesus' disciples, and he served as a kind of unofficial spokesman for the group. Although Peter was brash and outspoken, he was intensely loyal to Jesus. Yet, in a way, Peter became a tragic moral failure.
Here's what happened. Jesus was arrested and put on trial. Peter lingered outside the courthouse warming himself by a fire. As he stood there trying not to be noticed, a young woman spotted him and accused him of being a follower of Jesus. Peter was probably frightened by the accusation so he denied it. But the young woman wouldn't back off. She accused Peter a second time. Again Peter denied any association with Jesus. Then as he made his loud denial the crowd picked up on his accent. The accent was a dead giveaway. Peter wasn't from their part of the country. He was from up north. So the crowd joined the young woman in accusing Peter of being a disciple of Jesus. Then Peter cursed and swore and denied that he even knew Jesus. In that hour of crisis, Peter betrayed his good friend.
If you had been there and heard Peter utter a stream of profanity to deny Jesus, would you have written him off? If you were Jesus, would you have given up on Peter? If a friend did that to you, would you forgive her?
That was a grim episode in Peter's life. And later, when he realized what he had done, he wept bitterly. Peter must have wondered if there was any hope for him. After all, in a way, he was no better than Judas who had betrayed Jesus. Peter had betrayed a friend, someone he had once sworn to protect.
Yet, after his resurrection, Jesus went looking for Peter. You see, Jesus had died for Peter. He died so that Peter's sins could be forgiven and so that your sin and mine could be forgiven. That is why Jesus forgave this man who had vehemently denied him. What is more, Jesus restored Peter and set him free.
In a matter of a few weeks Peter preached the first Christian sermon. That sermon was about the forgiveness of sin. Out of his defeat, Peter learned something. He learned that God is the God of a second chance.
Now, look at the second man who turned away from God. His name is Jonah. You may think of Jonah as a man who had a whale in his story. But, believe me, the story of Jonah isn't about a fish. It's about the God of the second chance.
Jonah, a prophet, had been commanded by God to preach to the citizens of Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the nation of Assyria. Jonah was to tell the Assyrians that judgment was coming. And he knew that if he did that, they could repent and they might be forgiven. That was hard for Jonah to deal with. You see, Jonah hated the Assyrians.
The Assyrians were easy to hate. If you were to wrap up in one package Nazi Germany, and Iraq and Iran at their worst, you can get a feel for Assyria. The Assyrians were arrogant and cruel conquerors, and Jonah despised them. To tell Jonah that he was to preach to the Assyrians was like asking a man whose family had been threatened by terrorists to offer those terrorists complete forgiveness.
Forgiveness? Nothing would have pleased Jonah more than to see the whole bunch of the Assyrians wiped off the earth. Those Assyrians may have mattered to God, but they didn't matter to Jonah.
God had directed Jonah to travel east over land to Nineveh. But Jonah booked passage on a ship headed west toward Spain. During that journey, a tremendous storm arose, and Jonah ended up in the Mediterranean Sea. That's when the fish swallowed him. Within a short time of gulping down the prophet, the fish suffered an attack of indigestion. Wasn't hard to figure out why. Jonah's disposition was enough to make anyone sick! But God allowed Jonah to survive being swallowed by that fish. You might have thought that God would have given up on Jonah and drafted another prophet easier to work with.
But, in the middle of the book of Jonah there is a most interesting phrase. I think it's the most interesting phrase in the book. It says, "The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time." Deliberately, consciously, stubbornly, Jonah had run away from God. Yet, God came to the prophet a second time and allowed him to carry on his ministry. That's one important lesson from the story of Jonah ... God is the God of the second chance.
On New Year's Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. During the first half of the game a player by the name of Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California on his own thirty-five yard line. In evading some of the Georgia Tech tacklers, Riegels became confused. He started running sixty-five yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, outran him and tackled him on the one yard line just before Riegels was about to score for Georgia Tech. Then, on the next play, when California attempted to punt out of its end zone, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, which was the ultimate margin of victory.
That strange play came near the end of the first half. Everyone watching the game was asking the same question: "What will coach Nibbs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?" The players filed off the field and trudged into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor. All but Riegels. He pulled his blanket around his shoulders, and sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and wept like a baby.
A coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half-time. That afternoon coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, "Men, the same team that started the first half will start the second."
The players got up and started out. All but Roy Riegels. He didn't budge. The coach looked back and called to him again. Still Riegels didn't move. Coach Price walked over to Riegels and said, "Roy, didn't you hear me? The same team that started the first half will start the second." Roy Riegels looked up and his cheeks were wet with tears.
"Coach," he said, "I can't do it. I've disgraced you. I've disgraced the University of California. I've disgraced myself. I couldn't face that crowd to save my life."
Then Coach Nibbs Price put his hand on Riegels shoulder and said, "Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over." Roy Riegels did go back, and those Tech players testified that they had seldom seen a man play as Roy Riegels did in that second half.
When I read that story, deep inside I said, "What a coach!" When I read the stories of Peter and Jonah and the stories of a thousand men and women like them, I say, "What a God!" We take the ball and we run in the wrong direction. We stumble and fall. We're so ashamed of ourselves that we never want to try again. And God comes and in the person of Jesus Christ puts a nail-printed hand on our shoulder and says, "Get up; go on back. The game is only half over."
That's the good news of the grace of God. That's the good news of the forgiveness of sins. That's the Gospel of the second chance, of a third chance, of the hundredth chance.
by Cheriyan Vengal, Toronto, Canada
God has commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach them to repent. But instead of obeying God's command, he headed for Tarshish. All of us know what happened to Jonah. The same is happening to us in our daily life also. God directs us what to do, but we don't accept it as we have our own plan and go ahead with that. But eventually our plan fails. It's the same saying as 'man proposes, but God disposes'. God disposes our plans only if it is contradicting with His plan. Even if He disposes our plans, He will take care of us. If we fell into traps due to our own plan, He will not allow us to be crushed under it. But remember we will be inside the 'fish' of complications striving to get out. The fish obeyed the command of God not to eat and digest Jonah, but only to swallow, and after three days to vomit him on dry land. The leafy plant obeyed the command of God to grow above Jonah and give him shade. The worm obeyed the command of God to chew this plant, and the sun and wind also obeyed His commands. Are we ready to obey His commands and live accordingly? Let's practice obedience on the first day of lent.
We can get out of the 'fish' if we pray and submit ourselves to God as Jonah did. Jonah testifies that God answered him when he called in his distress; God listened to his cry when he called for help. He promises that he will look again to the temple of God even though God put him through many hardships. He acknowledges that God is the one who lift him from the pit. Our prayer should also be a total submission to God same as Jonah's prayer. Our mind and heart should be fully immersed in the prayer. Nothing should distract us. We should totally disconnect ourselves from the worldly feelings. As we are inside the 'fish', we will have only one prayer 'lord please get me out of this situation'. God will deliver us from our sufferings. Are we ready to pray by totally submitting ourselves to God? Let's do a prayerful self submission on the second day of lent.
Jonah proclaimed to the Ninevites that 'forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown'. After hearing this, they believed in God; a fast was proclaimed and they put on sackcloth and prayed. They did not tasted, and eat and drink anything. They gave up their evil ways and violence. The above proclamation by Jonah is aimed at us also as we are more or less the same as the Ninevites. Remember the words, 'forty more days, and we will be overthrown'. Count down started ! Are we ready to repent like the Ninevites. As the King of Nineveh took off his royal robes, let's took off our luxuries and put on sackcloth and pray. Let's fast like the Ninevites. God excused the Ninevites as they turned out from their evil ways. He will excuse us also. Let's repent from our heart on the third day of lent.
Even though the deadline for Ninevites was forty days, God blessed their generation to last for another century and half, because they obeyed, prayed and repented. God is giving us a chance to obey, pray and repent to get blessed. Let's make use of it in these three days of lent so that our generations will last forever.
"As Thou didst answer Jonah, answer us who call on Thee. Thou redeemest those from wrath, Ninevites who called on Thee."
In the beginning, the Word of the Lord came unto Jonah saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me." Nineveh had walls fifty feet high and a hundred feet thick; they used to have chariot races along the top, and the city was very wicked.
Did Jonah do as the Lord requested? No, he tried to flee to Tarshish, and to flee from the presence of the Lord – as if he could hide from God!
Psalm 139 says : Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
Scary thought, eh? God knows our every move, our every thought and even our intentions, and He knew Jonah’s intentions, probably before Jonah even knew them.
Jonah paid his fare on the ship at Joppa, destined for Tarshish, and was still trying to flee from the presence of the Lord. Then, the Lord sent a violent storm so that the ship was about to be broken. The seamen were afraid and:
Where was Jonah during all of this? He was fast asleep in the sides of the ship, but unlike Jesus in Mathew 8:24, who was at peace in His sleep, Jonah was not at peace in his sleep.
The captain came to Jonah and asked him to call upon his God, for they thought that they would perish if his God did not hear him. Next, they cast lots to find out whose cause the evil was upon them, and the lot fell on Jonah.
The next questions are amazing, considering the circumstances. They asked Jonah what his occupation was, where he came from, what country he lived in and what people he belonged to? Quite a set of questions, especially when you consider what dire straits they were in.
Jonah answered them, saying. 'I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord (what a lie!!) the God of heaven which hath made the sea and the dry land.'
It was no small wonder that everyone was afraid of what God could do to them – after all, it was He who made the sea, and He who commanded the storm. Then the men were exceedingly afraid (notice that the men are now exceedingly afraid) and asked Jonah why he had done this, as he had told them how he fled from the Lord.
By this point in time, the sea was really raging, and the men wanted to know what they needed to do to calm the tempestuous seas. Jonah replied that they were to cast him into the sea, but this was no mean feat for a Hebrew, as he wouldn’t have known how to swim, and would have been terrified of drowning.
They cried unto the Lord saying, "We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life. These were men who had previously had gods of their own, but now they were praying to the Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth.
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea, and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men:
All of this from men, who prior to this, had their own gods. Now they accepted the one true God, maker of heaven and earth as their God, too. Yes, he was needed in Nineveh, for the Ninevites really needed God’s guidance and rebuke. But God, in His Wisdom, knew that the mariners needed Him, too. Jonah may have thought that he was outwitting God. But in reality, God was still using Jonah for His purposes.
Oh, that we could be like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8 and say:
I hope that this study on Jonah has blessed you as much in reading it, as it blessed me whilst writing it.
Source: Footprints Diary
by Greg Laurie
" 'Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.' Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God." (Jeremiah 3:22)
I find it interesting that when Peter encountered the risen Christ, Jesus asked him the same question three times. How many times did Peter deny the Lord? Three. And three times Jesus asked him, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me . . . ?" (John 21:15–17).
The former Peter would have said, "Do I love You? No one loves You like I do, Jesus."
But the new-and-improved, repentant Peter said, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You" (verses 15–17).
Jesus used the Greek word agape for love the first two times, while Peter used a different word, phileo. Agape carries the meaning of intense, complete, devoted, sacrificial love, while phileo refers to love as in friendship. So Peter was essentially saying, "Well, Lord, all I can commit to right now is that I like You like a friend."
I wouldn't criticize Peter for that. It was an honest assessment of where he was. Don't ever boast of how much you love Jesus; boast of how much Jesus loves you. Our love is fickle. It runs hot and cold. But God's love for us never changes. It is always there. That is why John the apostle referred to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." That was not arrogant. John was saying that he knew Jesus loved him. And you need to know that Jesus loves you, even if you have fallen away from Him.
Maybe you have messed up. Maybe you are in a backslidden state. The way to get right with God is to return to Him. He says in Jeremiah 3:22, "Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." So remember where you were. Return and repent of your sin. And then start living as God wants you to live.
Copyright © 2012 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.
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