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

Theme: Great Lent Week 1

Volume 4 No. 199 February 27, 2014

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Isaiah 26:3 Winter scenery Malankara World Journal Issue 199
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

For most people, lent means fasting. Unfortunately, it is only part of the story. Fasting is only one leg of a stool with 3 legs. The other legs are charity (alms giving) and Prayer (along with introspection, and repentance - asking for forgiveness of our sins.) We need to cleanse ourselves of our iniquities. There is no sin that cannot be wiped out by our Lord. He is waiting on the other side of the Door, knocking on it and waiting for you to open it and welcome him into your heart like the father of the prodigal sun. Cleanse your heart so that Jesus can come inside and fill it with his grace and joy. ...

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 2)

Bible Readings For The First Sunday of Great Lent (Kothne Sunday)
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Great_Lent-1-Kothne_sunday.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (March 2)

Sermons for the First Sunday of Great Lent (Wedding at Cana)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_1st-sunday-of-lent.htm

4. Prayer - Beginning of Great Lent

5. Prayer: Petition of Mor Jacob

From Lenten Prayer Book

6. The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Water Into Wine (Part One)

The first miracle Jesus Christ performs during His ministry is changing water into wine at a marriage feast in Cana (John 2:1-11). When we compare what Christ and Moses each did with water, Jesus' miracle shows the contrast between law and grace. Moses changes water to blood, and Christ changes it into wine. Earlier, in John 1:17, the apostle John writes, "For the law was given through Moses, [and] grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Moses' turning of water into blood suggests judgment (Exodus 7:14-17), while Jesus' turning of water into wine implies generosity and joy. ...

7. The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Water Into Wine (Part Two)

In the ancient Near East, with its scarcity of water, wine was a necessity rather than a luxury, so it came to symbolize sustenance and life. Due to its close relationship to the ongoing life of the community, in association with grain and oil, wine is also representative of the covenant blessings God promised to Israel for obedience, and which He would withhold for disobedience. Finally, wine also represents joy, celebration, and festivity, expressing the abundant blessings of God. ...

8. Poem: O Little Cana, How Still We See Thee Lie

9. The One Who Gives Abundantly

Imagine that the Bible was lost and somebody today was given the task of recording, to the best of their ability, the deeds and words of the Son of God. They were to give an account of the good influence that Jesus had had in people's lives. What do you think would have been recorded as the first instance through which Jesus showed his greatness? Imagine that there would be a poll among the Christians of the 21st century where they were to answer the question: how does Jesus show you that he is the greatest?

I'll tell you one thing. I don't think this would make it among the top ten: Jesus showing up at a small town wedding, making water into wine. But that's what the apostle John reports as Jesus' primary miracle, when he revealed his glory to the disciples, when he showed them his greatness. ...

10. Lent 101: Honoring the Sacrifice of Jesus

When I look into the eyes of our suffering God, I'm in awe - suddenly the complexity of our Lord, the love of our Lord, the humanity of our Lord shows through. I realize God is not just some nebulous energy source or a grandfather sitting in the clouds - He is so much more. The Cross is where our faith stands when all other faith's fail. Christ's sacrifice and his subsequent resurrection are the true "cruxes" of the Christian faith. Without one there would be no salvation, without the other, no hope. This is why Good Friday and the following Easter Sunday are the most important dates on the Christian calendar - even more so than Christmas. ...

11. Shubkono (Reconciliation) Service

Our Holy Church specifies the first day of lent (Monday after Kothne Sunday) as the day of reconciliation (Shubkono). What a great way to start the Great Lent by unloading our sins - both to God, to our family and friends. It is a beautiful service. Please read the following articles and the references to get going. ...

12. Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 1 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week1.htm

13. Health: Suicide and Addictions: The Neglected Link

Alcohol and drug abuse are second only to depression and other mood disorders as the most frequent risk factors for suicidal behavior. Alcohol and some drugs can result in a loss of inhibition, may increase impulsive behavior, can lead to changes in the brain that result in depression over time, and can be disruptive to relationships - resulting in alienation and a loss of social connection and increasing suicidal ideation. An overdose of alcohol or drugs could also result in death. ...

14. Recipe: Rava Pongal

A year-round favorite; but especially during the lent season.

15. Family Special: Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before Marriage

When Merry and I were preparing to be married, we went through counseling and got a lot of good advice. But there are some important things that we did not fully understand. So if I were talking with a pre-married couple, here's what I'd tell them about the "Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Married": ...

16. Ruby Jubilee of Bishopric Consecration of HB Catholicose Baselios Thomas I

17. About Malankara World

Foreword
In the past two weeks, Malankara World Journal has honored two distinguished bishops and a distinguished priest. Unfortunately, we came to know about the Ruby Jubilee celebrations of our catholica bava too late to do anything significant. We will do that at some point in future.

Although Malankara World will not get into personalities and politics, we honored the three persons because of their service that is in line with what Jesus would have been proud of. Kochu Thirumeni has used the opportunity to celebrate His Grace's 20th anniversary of the bishophoric consecration, by helping 20 poor couple to get married. That certainly is very commendable. His Grace is also very active with schools and colleges as well as other charitable activities.

Themotheos thirumeni's activities may not be widely known as His Grace shies away from promoting them due to personal humility. But his charities and mission centers help people all over India. These are well managed and operated with volunteers. It is remarkable. We felt it is about time that what thirumeni does is known so that HG will be able to do more.

Last, we have featured a lowly priest, who is synonymous with humility. Like St. Mary, as God has raised him more having pleased with his humility, he continues to bow down due to his personal humility. People who have come across with him at least once will not forget him. Want to learn about servant leadership? Go to Manarcadu church and look for Kizhakkedathu achen. You will find it there.

Three persons. Different leadership styles. But the results are the same. Their actions are pleasing to God as they are helping poor, ordinary people. People see the reflection of God's Light in their faces.

We will be entering the Great Lent in a few days. In fact, from Nineveh Lent onwards, we were preparing for the Great Lent. (Catholic Church calls this week the 'Week of Sexagesima'.)

We read in Psalm 17:

The sorrows of death surrounded me,
the sorrows of hell encompassed me;
and in my affliction I called upon the Lord,
and He heard my voice from His holy temple.
I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength:
the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.

(Psalm 17: 5–7, 2–3)

When you read the first two lines (Psalm 17:5)

The sorrows of death surrounded me,
the sorrows of hell encompassed me;

imagine yourselves to be Jonah in the stomach of the Great Whale, constantly attacked by the digestive juice and enzymes of the whale (so that you be converted to food of the whale). Now you can get an clear idea of the sorrows of death and the sorrows of hell referred to in this psalm. We need to think of the original sin - the sin committed by Adam and Eve. We need someone to redeem us. There is only one redeemer who can do that job, Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity who has incarnated as a human being to save us from eternal hell. God provides the refuge and he delivers us from eternal damnation. But we need to ask for it.

The Great Lent is the time we prepare for participating in the Passion Week and experience the sacrificial atonement of our Lord that redeemed us. There is a popular hymn (I heard it first in 1977 when I was in Chattanooga, TN) that stays with me even today:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

Bill Gaithers and his chorus have made this hymn into a big hit. But the lyrics are so beautiful and meaningful! It summarizes the whole bible, isn't it? Our life would have been nothing if Jesus hasn't incarnated and died on the cross for all of our sins. Our fears are gone because of Him. Remember all the angels announcing the birth of the savior prefaced it with "Fear Not." There is no need to fear anymore. We can now face eternity because of him.

In case you are wondering, here are the full lyrics for this hymn:

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

And then one day, I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict'ry,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

We have just passed the Aneede Sunday, when we remembered all our departed faithful. (The previous Sunday we remembered all our departed clergy.) Because of Jesus, they could face death knowing full well that they are now passing to the eternal life with our savior in a city with everlasting lights.

For most people, lent means fasting. Unfortunately, it is only part of the story. Fasting is only one leg of a stool with 3 legs. The other legs are charity (alms giving) and Prayer (along with introspection, and repentance - asking for forgiveness of our sins.) We need to cleanse ourselves of our iniquities. There is no sin that cannot be wiped out by our Lord. He is waiting on the other side of the Door, knocking on it and waiting for you to open it and welcome him into your heart like the father of the prodigal sun. Cleanse your heart so that Jesus can come inside and fill it with his grace and joy.

Malankara World has a great resource that helps you with meditation, reflections, bible readings, etc. on each day of the Great Lent. It is designed so that you can spend as little as 5 minutes or few hours every day. Don't just rush through it. Read a short passage or even a prayer. Meditate on it. What can we learn from it? How does it apply to our life? What should we do? Come up with some action items so that these can be implemented in our lives so that the bible comes alive in us. You can find this great resource here:

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lent/default.htm

We will be with you on every day guiding you through these lenten season and then through the passion week.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 2)

Bible Readings For The First Sunday of Great Lent (Kothne Sunday) (Pethurtha of the Great Lent)

The Great Lent starts by commemorating the first miracle performed by Jesus i.e. turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee. The Gospel reading for each Sunday of the Great Lent is about a miracle performed by Jesus.

Sermons for This Sunday (March 2)
This Week's Features

Prayer - Beginning of Great Lent
You are merciful to all, O God, and despise nothing that you have made. You overlook people's sins to bring them to repentance and you spare them, for you are our living God. (Wisdom 11:24, 25, 27)

Gracious God, you are calling us on this Lenten journey to see anew, to name new realities and to act with integrity and justice.

Give us the courage to not only take time to reflect on your presence in our current reality, but also to share with one another our thoughts, our anxieties, our joys, our wonderings as well as our "What ifs…" On our journey help us to become servant leaders, to "think big," to reverence the earth, to be builders, not destroyers, to be conserving creators and not poisoning consumers, to proclaim hope in the face of darkness; and to be one with God who finds joy in sharing this earth with us.

We ask this in the name of Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Source: Lenten Prayer and Reflection Guide - Diocese of Scranton

Prayer: Petition of Mor Jacob
We call upon Thee, Lord our master, come to our help;
hear our petition and have mercy on our souls.

Lord of angels and watchers, Lord our Master,
hear our petition and have mercy on our souls.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, enlighten our mind.
In faith I knock at Thy door, answer me in Thy mercy.

Open my eyes to behold Thy truth and worship Thy holy name.
Protect my youth as I have trusted in Thy mercy.

Give to me, Lord, a pure heart. Grant to my intellect
the wisdom of salvation from Thy absolute perfection.

Vest me with spiritual weapon against the evil one.
Seal me with Thy holly name and deliver my life from destruction.

I have followed Thee with love for Thy goodness.
May I not be ashamed.

Hover Thy right hand over me, Lord.

My Master and merciful Father I intend to belong
entirely to Thee, and I adore Thee.

I have obtained the mercy and grace that I prayed for.
Let my intellect collect the good from Thy treasures
like a merchant. May I not be ashamed.

Give me the true book to read. Lord, I am Thy servant
and the son of Thy handmaid.
Give me life because of Thy holy name.

I received Thy sacred body and drank Thy precious blood;
let me live by Thee. Let Thy holy cross (+) be a fortress
protecting me from deception.

I have called upon Thee and prayed to Thee, Lord.
Hover Thy right hand over me.

O Good Shepherd, make me a lamb of Thy flock.
Father of the world and King of life, Glory to Thy name.
Let my prayers enter before Thy majesty like oblation.

Thou, who hear all and accept the petitions and supplications,
listen to our prayers and have mercy on us.

At Thy door, O compassionate One, knocks the voice of our petition;
withhold not from Thy worshippers the answer to their needs.

O God, on Thee we call for help in our weakness;
hear, O good one, the voice of our prayer,
and answer our requests in Thy mercy.

Source: Syriac Orthodox Church Lenten Prayers

The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Water Into Wine (Part One)

by Martin G. Collins

The first miracle Jesus Christ performs during His ministry is changing water into wine at a marriage feast in Cana (John 2:1-11). When we compare what Christ and Moses each did with water, Jesus' miracle shows the contrast between law and grace. Moses changes water to blood, and Christ changes it into wine. Earlier, in John 1:17, the apostle John writes, "For the law was given through Moses, [and] grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Moses' turning of water into blood suggests judgment (Exodus 7:14-17), while Jesus' turning of water into wine implies generosity and joy. In John 3:17, John comments, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world [what the law does to sinners], but that the world through Him might be saved [what grace does for those who repent]."

This miracle demonstrates at the earliest possible time that Christ's ministry would be one of grace and truth, as an extension and complement of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-19). Jesus had come to fulfill God's law, that is, to teach it and live it as an example of how to apply it to everyday life (Luke 24:44-45).

1. Why is John's statement that this miracle was the "beginning of signs" by Christ so important? John 2:11.

Comment: That we are told that the miracle in Cana is the first Jesus performed discredits the false traditions that He worked miracles during the thirty years before His public ministry. It invalidates the miraculous accounts in the apocryphal gospels, which have been excluded from the Bible because of their contradictions to Scripture and their counterfeit nature. All stories about Christ's alleged miracles done prior to His public ministry are false.

2. Why does Jesus perform His first miracle at a marriage ceremony? John 2:1.

Comment: Jesus heaps great honor on marriage by using such an event to manifest His glory. The apostle Paul writes, "Marriage is honorable among all" (Hebrews 13:4), but society increasingly scorns marriage, a fact clearly seen in rampant premarital sex and divorce upon demand. Like Christ's coming, a wedding is a joyous celebration.

Jesus and at least six of His disciples were invited to the wedding, suggesting that the wedding couple were concerned about the character of their guests. As His blessing and presence are essential to marital happiness, Christ must be involved in our marriages. However, those who desire His involvement must invite Him in. Had Jesus not been invited to this wedding, a serious problem would have marred the marriage feast. We can learn that couples in whose marriage Christ is involved have a great advantage in solving problems that arise later.

3. Why was running out of wine a problem? John 2:3.

Comment: Weddings in the ancient Near East included a strong legal side, especially regarding providing the appropriate wedding gift, of which the wedding feast was a part. When the supply of wine failed at this wedding, more than social embarrassment was at stake. The bridegroom and his family could have become financially liable for inadequate wedding provisions. The seriousness of the lack of wine (symbolizing a lack of joy) helps us to appreciate the blessing contained in the miracle Jesus performed (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9).

This situation relates to the common problems couples experience in marriage, even among God's people. We cannot always stop problems from developing, but we can overcome them with the help of Christ who dwells in us and therefore within our marriages (Romans 8:10).

4. Why does Jesus rebuke His mother for her seemingly innocent request? John 2:4.

Comment: When Jesus reprimands Mary, calling her "woman" (gunai) rather than "mother" (meter), He implies that He is not conforming to her authority but acting under His Heavenly Father's authority. This statement establishes that Mary, even as His physical mother, has no authority over Jesus, destroying any belief that urges us to pray to Mary to intercede for us. On the two occasions in which Mary is seen intruding in His ministry—here and in Matthew 12:46-50—Jesus verbally moves her aside. His rebuke censures her assumption of authority she does not have. She also seems to lack the humility with which we must go to God with our requests.

Since the Father had already predetermined Jesus' agenda, Mary's request is inappropriate because she tries to determine what He should do. The Father would not have let Mary change His plan, so He had probably already inspired Christ to perform this miracle. Obviously, Jesus does not deny Mary a solution, but He does mildly rebuke her for her attitude toward Him and His purpose.

5. What does Mary's response demonstrate? John 2:5.

Comment: On behalf of the newlyweds and their families, Mary prudently goes to Jesus to solve their wine problem, emphasizing the value of friends and brethren praying for the marriages of others. The strength of Mary's faith is exhibited when she orders the servants to follow Jesus' instructions, confirming her acceptance of what He had said to her in verse 4. She demonstrates both meekness and faith by expressing a humble attitude. This is what service to Christ is all about, living in obedience to His every word.

Source: Forerunner, "Bible Study," November 2006; © 2006 CGG

The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Water Into Wine (Part Two)

by Martin G. Collins

Sometimes, God's commands are puzzling to the human mind. He tells us:

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We may not understand why He gives them, or we may feel they are out of touch with our circumstances, but we are to obey His every command, for His wisdom is greater than ours. In fact, as Paul writes, "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (I Corinthians 1:25). We can see this factor at work in Jesus' miracle at Cana.

In the ancient Near East, with its scarcity of water, wine was a necessity rather than a luxury, so it came to symbolize sustenance and life. Due to its close relationship to the ongoing life of the community, in association with grain and oil, wine is also representative of the covenant blessings God promised to Israel for obedience, and which He would withhold for disobedience. Finally, wine also represents joy, celebration, and festivity, expressing the abundant blessings of God.

1. What is the quality of Christ's miracles? John 2:6-7.

Comment: Normally, the water pots supplied water for the ceremonial washings in accordance with Jewish tradition (Mark 7:3-4). Each water pot could hold two to three firkins of water, equivalent to 17 to 25 gallons. This means that the six water pots could hold a total of about 150 gallons of water! When Christ blesses, He does it abundantly! On other occasions, Jesus miraculously provided more than enough food (Mark 8:8; John 6:13). His generous abundance in giving coincides with the wealth of His lovingkindness.

2. Could a person abuse the abundance of a miracle?

Comment: Potentially, wine can generate either positive or negative results. Negatively, wine can be abused, causing a person to lose self-control. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1); and "do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation" (Ephesians 5:18). When Jesus made the water into wine, He did not intend for the wedding guests to get drunk. He provided the right amount for the number of people in attendance to enjoy themselves but not lose control.

3. Is Christ running a welfare program with His miracles? John 2:7-8.

Comment: Jesus shows us that God is pleased to use human instruments in performing the wonders of His grace. He did nothing in changing water to wine that was unnecessary for Him to do. The servants filled the vessels and took the wine to the master of the marriage feast. There was no reason for Christ to do this kind of work for them. Instead, He did what no one else could do. This principle applies to His work in us: He does not do things for us that we can do ourselves. Further, He will not perform miracles if they would destroy industriousness or encourage laziness and irresponsibility. Miracles do not excuse us from carrying out our responsibilities.

Likewise, faith without works is dead (James 2:14-19). It is an honor to work with God in faith to accomplish His will, and if done with the right attitude, no one ever regrets his involvement in that service. God's commands are usually not easy to do, but they are possible - and necessary to do - if we want His blessing. In light of this principle, Paul states, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10). This miracle prods all who follow Christ to grow in faith.

4. What part does obedience play in the receipt of blessings?

Comment: When Christ desires to bestow a blessing, He often first gives a command, but since the carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7), humans often do not like God or His servants "telling them what to do." People want to have privileges without responsibilities and blessings without faithful obedience. Some of Christ's miracles are associated with commands, which must be obeyed for the miracle to occur. Thus, a person who lacks spiritual blessings may be lacking obedience, so an improvement in obedience to God often increases blessings. Obedience is a key to great blessings.

Similarly, James reveals God's command regarding sicknesses and injuries that interfere with our normal activities: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14-16). God does not always tell us why we should do something, and frankly, we do not need explanations in order to obey. Puzzlement only shows our lack of wisdom, not God's.

Running out of wine at the wedding feast could potentially have resulted in serious legal consequences for the wedding couple. Christ made up the deficiency, just as He does regarding our salvation (Acts 4:12). Wine is a symbol of joy. When the wine ran out, the wedding feast began to lose its joy, but Christ's miracle brought it back to the wedding. This parallels the sinner's need for salvation. When we accept Christ as our Savior, repent, and are baptized, we become a new creation just as the water was changed to the finest new wine. Great joy is the result.

John 2:11 says that this miracle manifested Jesus' glory. Making water into wine glorified Him, as does bringing sinners to salvation. Sin makes us fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but salvation brings glory to God (Ephesians 1:12) and eventually to us (Romans 8:17, 30).

Source: Forerunner, "Bible Study," December 2006; © 2006 CGG

Poem: O Little Cana, How Still We See Thee Lie
O little cana, how still we see thee lie
on the back of your "Welcome to Cana" sign
it reads, "Welcome to Cana"
your still had run dry
you had the makings
but not the time
for fine wine

look again
you've got the time
you still have the makings
for still water to become living water
to welcome the world
to welcome the universe
still no longer, still right now

Source: Wesley White 

The One Who Gives Abundantly

by Sigurd Grindheim

John 2:1-11:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him.

Imagine that the Bible was lost and somebody today was given the task of recording, to the best of their ability, the deeds and words of the Son of God. They were to give an account of the good influence that Jesus had had in people's lives. What do you think would have been recorded as the first instance through which Jesus showed his greatness? Imagine that there would be a poll among the Christians of the 21st century where they were to answer the question: how does Jesus show you that he is the greatest?

I'll tell you one thing. I don't think this would make it among the top ten: Jesus showing up at a small town wedding, making water into wine. But that's what the apostle John reports as Jesus' primary miracle, when he revealed his glory to the disciples, when he showed them his greatness.

Why couldn't Jesus have found a better purpose when he performed his first miracle? Why couldn't he have intervened in some of the many political conflicts of the time and put an end to war? Why couldn't he have done something with the world's food supply and put an end to world hunger? Why did he choose a small town wedding where he had to provide some more wine? These people had been partying for days and they had probably had enough to drink already. Why does Jesus choose to provide wine at a rural wedding when he would reveal his glory?

This story tells me that Jesus' concern is to help individuals and make them happy.

How different this is from so many religious ideas about who Jesus is and what he does. Some people have thought that a follower of Jesus should abstain from marriage. Some people seem to think that a good Christian must not be too light hearted, but that a good Christian must be very serious. How very different the real Jesus is. He comes to a wedding. And he decides to perform his first miracle to help people enjoy themselves and have fun.

The point is not that Jesus is encouraging excessive drinking. That is repeatedly condemned in Scripture. But the point is to show how Jesus is the giver of all good things.

Jesus says: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). In our Norwegian tradition we tend to think of abundance as something that is too much, something that is unnecessary, almost immoral. But if you do a search in the Bible for the word "abundance" and similar words, you will soon find that one of God's blessings is that we have abundance.

When Moses gives his last speech to the people of Israel, he makes it very clear that they have two options before them. They can serve God, who brought them out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, or they can choose their own ways. The result will be either a curse or a blessing. If they go their own ways, they will experience the curse, and they will finally lose the land that God gave them, as they eventually did, but if they follow the Lord, they will experience the blessing. They will be prosperous and they will have abundance.

Deuteronomy 30:8-9 reads: "Then you shall again obey the LORD, observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and the LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors."

Many of us have experienced that God can lead us and demonstrate his goodness to us also when we don't have abundance, also when we suffer and when we feel everything in life goes against us. Because God can turn everything around for the good and he teaches us that the most important good thing in life is to know Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist says: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps 73:25-26).

But the text for today reminds us that we have a generous God and a generous savior. We have a God who wants us to have all good things. And he wants us to have abundance. Just as when he was a guest at the small town wedding in Galilee and they were a little short of wine. Jesus did not just provide a little wine. He found six of the biggest water jars available and while he was at it, he provided about 150 gallons of wine. They should be able to keep the party going a little while longer.

Jesus reveals that he is the one, as the apostle Paul says, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).

In his world famous book on prayer, Ole Hallesby takes Mary in this story as an example of someone who knows how to pray to Jesus. What is it Mary does? She merely tells Jesus what the problem is. She does not suggest what Jesus should do. Mary, no doubt, has some idea of what Jesus is capable of. She remembers how he was born, and how he was conceived. She remembers the message from the angel that she "will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and she will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Luke 1:31-33). But she does not come to Jesus with an already thought out solution. She does not even ask that he do something about the problem. She simply says what it is. And she is so confident that Jesus, who is the giver of all good things, and who cares for us and wants us to have abundance, he will provide the best possible solution, better than what she can imagine.

Jesus' reply to his mother may seem harsh: "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4). Jesus' first miracle is the beginning of Jesus' special ministry, and to reveal himself as God's Son, and it is necessary that also Mary has to learn that she has to come to Jesus as everybody else. She does not have any privileged access to the Son of God even though she is his mother. She is in the same position as everybody else. Mary, however, is not discouraged by this seemingly abrupt answer she receives from Jesus, but she remains just as confident that Jesus has the situation under control. She does not bother to talk more to him about it. She knows that he knows. And she trusts him. She simply tells the servants: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).

I don't know if Mary would have been able to imagine what Jesus was about to do. Probably not. When Jesus provides an answer to our prayers, the answer is often more glorious than what we were able to expect. By giving us something other than exactly what we were expecting for, he is able to give us more. He provides a solution that is better than what we even could imagine.

My mother was able to teach me a lesson about this once, when I was in Junior High. I had just started at a new school, and these transitions to a new school are not always easy. In my case, I was picked on by some of the other kids. Especially one of them turned out to be very annoying and at times I thought it was absolutely terrible to be at school because of this individual. My mother and I used to pray together every night and when I had told my mother about this very annoying kid, my mother suggested that we pray for this boy and that we pray that he and I become friends. Now, at this point, I realized that my mother and I had a serious communication problem. Because she had clearly not understood what a jerk this fellow was. And my mother's suggestion was more than stupid. But I couldn't very well object, either. So I went along with this praying, confident that it could not possibly yield any results whatsoever. This boy was simply beyond what you could pray for. Maybe it was possible that he might leave me alone. That was something I could imagine. But becoming his friend? No way. Not in this world and definitely not in the next. Can you imagine what happened? We became friends. We became very close friends. We used to hang out all the time. I would go over to his house and we would hang out together.

He is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, says the apostle Paul (Eph 3:20). It is true.

© Sigurd Grindheim

Lent 101: Honoring the Sacrifice of Jesus

by Sarah Jennings, Editor, Crosswalk.com

And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:33-49

Although the nature of suffering is not one that offers itself to easy explanations or pat answers, the answers we seek seem to make the most sense in light of the Cross. There is nothing in the world - no religion, philosophy, or material comfort - that offers such a powerful answer to life's toughest questions as the two slabs of wood on which our Savior died. Although I was drawn to Christianity in search of joy, it's the Cross that keeps me coming back day after day, year after year.

That's because it is through God's suffering He becomes real to me. I don't know about you, but sometimes the glorious, triumphant, all-knowing Alpha-Omega is hard for me to wrap my limited human faculties around. On one hand, I want to bask in His glory but on the other, my gritty existence makes me feel too far removed from such a magnificent king. Yet St. Paul points out, "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4: 14-16)

When I look into the eyes of our suffering God, I'm in awe - suddenly the complexity of our Lord, the love of our Lord, the humanity of our Lord shows through. I realize God is not just some nebulous energy source or a grandfather sitting in the clouds - He is so much more. The Cross is where our faith stands when all other faith's fail. Christ's sacrifice and his subsequent resurrection are the true "cruxes" of the Christian faith. Without one there would be no salvation, without the other, no hope. This is why Good Friday and the following Easter Sunday are the most important dates on the Christian calendar - even more so than Christmas.

Lent - A Time Set Aside

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. Matthew 4:1-2

Just as we set aside time to spiritually prepare for Christmas Day, it makes sense to set aside time to prepare for the two most important days of the Christian year. Lent offers us an opportunity to come to terms with the human condition we may spend the rest of the year running from and it brings our need for a Savior to the forefront. Like Advent, Lent is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and understand our Lord a little deeper, so that when Good Friday and eventually Easter comes, it is not just another day at church but an opportunity to receive the overflowing of graces God has to offer.

But unlike the childlike joy associated with the season of Advent, with it's eager anticipation of the precious baby Jesus, Lent is an intensely penitential time as we examine our sinful natures and return to the God we have, through our own rebelliousness, hurt time and again. Lent is also an opportunity to contemplate what our Lord really did for us on the Cross - and it wasn't pretty. But ultimately, the purpose of Lent does not stop at sadness and despair - it points us to the hope of the Resurrection and the day when every tear will be dried (Rev. 21:3).

Bringing Lent Home

So where does Lent come from, and how do we "do" Lent? The Lenten season developed as part of the historical Christian calendar and is typically celebrated by Catholics, Orthodox and some mainline Protestant churches that follow a liturgical calendar. Although its format has varied throughout the centuries and throughout different cultures, the basic concept remains the same: to open our hearts to God's refining grace through prayer, confession, fasting, and almsgiving as we anticipate Holy Week. Lent traditionally lasts forty days, modeled after Christ's forty day fast in the desert, and ends on Good Friday. In the Western Church, Lent officially begins with a reminder of our mortality on Ash Wednesday. (Editor's Note: Orthodox Church begins the lent on Monday before the Ash Wednesday. The Malankara Catholics, I was told, also undergo 50-day lent like us beginning it on Monday.)

As with Advent, you can benefit from celebrating Lent even if your church does not formally do so. Here are some of the key elements of the Lenten season, along with some of the symbolism that comes with it. Many of these practices can be celebrated both individually and as a community:

Purple:

Like Advent, the official color for Lent is purple. Usually, churches that celebrate Lent choose the deepest, darkest shade of purple for this special season. They may also strip their churches bare of some of the usual decorations adorning the walls. Purple is the color of repentance for sins and also symbolizes the state of our souls outside the light of Christ. During this time, pray for those who do not know Christ and for those who have sinned gravely against Him.

Confession:

As mentioned above, Lent is a penitential season, even more so than Advent. The 40 days are set aside to really examine areas of recurring sin in our lives that prevent us from being conformed to God's Will.

Keep in mind the idea here is not to be overly scrupulous or to deceive yourself into thinking you can earn heaven through your own goodness. The goal is to honestly examine your life in light of God's Word and to make a commitment to change in any areas you have not submitted to the Lord. A good way to start an examination of conscience is by praying Psalm 139, verse 23-24: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Then, hold up your life to the Ten Commandments. Confess, perhaps even to your pastor or an accountability partner (James 5:16), the ways you've sinned against God, thank Him for His forgiveness, and ask Him for the grace to change.

Fasting and Prayer:

Fasting is a practice that has really gone by the wayside in many Christian circles. Yet, if done correctly, it can be a powerful time of renewing your relationship with God. Fasting can be found in both the Old Testament and the New, with Moses (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9,18 ), Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), and our Lord (Matthew 4:2) all participating in 40-day fasts. Fasting is a way of denying ourselves the excesses of life so that we might be more attuned to the Lord's voice. It is also a way of disciplining yourself, strengthening your "spiritual muscles" so to speak, so that when temptations arise in life, you are already used to saying "no" to your desires. And finally, fasting is also a way of participating, in a small way, in the sufferings of Christ and can be particularly powerful when accompanied by prayer and confession.

A word of caution:

Although fasting can be a wonderful spiritual exercise, it is also an easy one to abuse. Make sure that when you fast, you do not deprive yourself so much that you do harm to your body. Fasting should only be practiced by adults and mature teens. Also, take into account any medical conditions or nutritional needs when deciding what and how much to abstain from (I recommend consulting with a doctor and/or spiritual advisor before undertaking a serious fast). On the spiritual front, Jesus warns us to guard against pride while fasting (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18).

Meditating on Christ's Sacrifice for Mankind:

In addition to periodic fasting and prayer, our scriptural meditations typically turn to the salvation offered to us through Christ's suffering. Read Old Testament Scriptures prophesying the suffering of Christ and the New Testament Gospel accounts.

Charity/Almsgiving:

A very important element of the Lenten season is becoming aware of not only the suffering and sacrifice of Christ but also to the suffering of others. Between now and Good Friday, choose one way you can increase your giving to those in need. It could be through extra financial offerings, donating goods you no longer need or use to charity, or increasing your personal time commitment to a ministry or cause close to your heart.

Lent is a time when Christians separate from the world; when we find out our faith is not just a feel-good, self-help religion but one that answers the deepest questions of life and eternity. Those who journey through the Lenten season will enter the Easter season with an increased appreciation for who God is and what He has done for us. And the joy of Resurrection, as well as the promises of eternity, will not be soon forgotten.

Shubkono (Reconciliation) Service
Our Holy Church specifies the first day of lent (Monday after Kothne Sunday) as the day of reconciliation (Shubkono). What a great way to start the Great Lent by unloading our sins - both to God, to our family and friends. It is a beautiful service. Please read the following articles and the references to get going.

Reconciliation and Healing

Preparing for Confession - Orthodox Church

Preparing for The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Prayer for Lent - Reconciliation

Psalm 51 - Repentance Prayer

A Reconciliation prayer for the Great Lent

You will find several articles of interest in the Malankara World Library - Section on Confession

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc.

If you only have a few minutes to spend a day, you can read short reflective articles and meditations. If you have more time, there is bible readings, and others to enrich your day.

Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 1 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week1.htm
Health Tip: Suicide and Addictions: The Neglected Link

by Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, September 10th, is the World Suicide Prevention Day. A good time to ponder the consequences of what we as a society have long neglected to address - the close link between suicide and addiction disorders.

We can't blame our neglect on ignorance. Multiple federal studies have revealed the startling statistics over the last five years. We know that addiction is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. - 600,000 out of the 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. annually are attributable to tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs. The failure to integrate addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery effectively into our nation's healthcare structure costs upwards of $468 billion annually, harming families and communities across the country.

Alcohol and drug abuse are second only to depression and other mood disorders as the most frequent risk factors for suicidal behavior. Alcohol and some drugs can result in a loss of inhibition, may increase impulsive behavior, can lead to changes in the brain that result in depression over time, and can be disruptive to relationships - resulting in alienation and a loss of social connection and increasing suicidal ideation. An overdose of alcohol or drugs could also result in death.

Individuals with addiction disorders are almost 6 times more likely to report a lifetime suicide attempt than those without an addiction disorder. Yet only one in ten people with addictions report receiving any treatment at all.

Clearly, "Addiction is America's most neglected disease," as America's psychiatrist Dr. Lloyd Sederer eloquently states in a Huffington Post article.

This truth points to what we can do to stem the escalating rates of suicide and addictions in America.

We must bring attention to the public health crisis that addictions have become.

It's a crisis for which we are unprepared. It's a crisis on which we are largely silent. Since 1980, 3.3 million people in the U.S. have died of addictions, while 600,000 people have died of AIDS. If it was any other disease, we'd be marching on the streets!

But better late than never. We must march now and wave high the banner that addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing or character flaw that many still believe it to be.

We must invest in public education, prevention, and early intervention.

We must let those who suffer from addictions and their families know that help is available. We must let them know where they can turn for help and who will pay for it — parity and the Affordable Care Act have significantly expanded coverage but not everyone in need of treatment may be aware of that. Programs like Mental Health First Aid ( http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/program_overview/ ) play a key role - as they educate on signs and symptoms of addiction disorders, highlight potential for suicidal thoughts and attempts, and outline an action plan for seeking help and present treatment and support resources in the community.

As with any public health crisis, we know that the solution lies in the cure. We must invest in the science that supports recovery from addictions and in translating science to service.

Medication assisted treatment, injectibles, psychotherapies, 12-step and other recovery models all have a role. And we must not overlook the emerging technologies that support our treatment and early intervention efforts. From apps that alert people in recovery to avoid bars to support through text messages, virtual and mobile technologies are bringing addictions care into the palm of our hands.

Most important, we must expand access to addictions treatment.

Screening for addictions must be built into primary care visits and care for diagnosed disorders must be delivered in multiple settings - primary care, specialty behavioral health settings, online, and even in minute clinics - whenever and wherever people seek it.

By raising awareness, focusing on the science, and expanding access to treatment, we can do for addictions what has been done for cancer, heart disease, and AIDS. We can save lives!

Recipe: Rava Pongal

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

Ingredients

1 cup Rava (Semolina)
1/2 cup Moong Dal
10 Cashew Nuts
1 tsp Ginger Finely Chopped
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Black Pepper
4 tbsp Ghee
Curry Leaves
Water
Salt to taste

Directions

1. Roast the rava in a saucepan without adding oil or ghee

2. Cook the moong dal in a cooker until soft and mushy

3. Heat ghee in a pan. Add cumin seeds, curry leaves, black pepper, ginger and cashew nuts in it and fry for 2 minutes

4. Add salt and 2 cups of water to boil in it. Add roasted rava and mix well. Heat the mixture until rava is cooked

5. Then add cooked moong dal to it and stir until water completely evaporates. Serve hot.

Yield: 2 - 3 servings

Family Special: Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before Marriage

by Dave Boehi

I've been thinking a lot lately about what couples should know before they get married. For one thing, I've been making some updates and revisions on FamilyLife's 'Preparing for Marriage workbook', which is used by thousands of pastors and counselors around the country each year for pre-marriage counseling. In addition, my younger daughter, Missy, was married recently. As a parent you think of all the things you should tell a child before marriage, and nothing ever seems to be enough.

When Merry and I were preparing to be married, we went through counseling and got a lot of good advice. But there are some important things that we did not fully understand. So if I were talking with a pre-married couple, here's what I'd tell them about the "Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Married":

#1: Marriage is not all about you.

It's not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It's not about getting your needs met. It's about going through life together and serving God together and serving each other. It's about establishing a family. It's about committing your lives to each other even though you may be very different in 10, 20, or 40 years from the people you are now.

#2: You are about to learn a painful lesson - you are both very selfish people.

This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy and hazy days of courtship, but it's true, and it shocks many couples during their first years of marriage. It's important to know this revelation of selfishness is coming, because then you can make adjustments for it, and you will be a lot better off.

#3: The person you love the most is also the person who can hurt you the deepest.

That's the risk and pain of marriage. And the beauty of marriage is working through your hurt and pain and resolving your conflicts and solving your problems.

#4: You can't make it work on your own.

It's obvious that marriage is difficult - just look at how many couples today end in divorce. This is why it's so critical to center your lives and your marriage on the God who created marriage. To make your marriage last for a lifetime, you need to rely on God for the power and love and strength and wisdom and endurance you need.

#5: Never stop enjoying each other.

Always remember that marriage is an incredible gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun."

Enjoy the little things of life with your spouse: the food you enjoy together at home or in restaurants...the movies you like...the little inside jokes nobody else understands except for you...the times you make each other laugh...the games you play together.

And focus on making memories together: Plan special dates and weekend getaways. Make sure you reserve time for each other after you have kids. When you are old, you won't look back and remember how great it was to buy that new furniture or watch that great show on television. You're going to remember what you did together and saw together and created together.

How about you? If you were talking to an engaged couple about what you wish you'd known before marriage, what would you say? Write down your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: FamilyLife Today®

Ruby Jubilee of Bishopric Consecration of HB Catholicose Baselios Thomas I
On February 24, 1974, Rev. Fr. C. M. Thomas was consecrated as bishop Thomas Mor Divanyosis by Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Yakub III. Later, on 26-Jul-2002 HG was consecrated as the Catholicose of India by Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas with the name His Beatitude Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I.

On Monday, February 24, 2014, a meeting was held at Puthencruz to celebrate the fortieth anniversary (Ruby Jubilee) of the Bishopric Consecration of HB.

His Beatitude celebrated the Holy Qurbono at St. Athanasius Cathedral, Puthencruz on Monday morning. In the public meeting following the qurbano, His Eminence George Saliba Mor Theophilose, Archbishop of Lebanon and Holy Episcopal Synod Secretary of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Churches attended the celebration as Patriarchal Delegate. Dr. Syriac Thomas, Member of Minorities Commission of India, delivered the Presidential speech.

We pray to God the Almighty to provide HB good health and wisdom to rule and lead the Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church as a good shepherd for years to come.

About Malankara World
With over 6000 articles and hundreds of links to outside resources covering all aspects of Syriac Orthodoxy that are of interest to Family, Malankara World is the premier source for information for Malankara Diaspora. In addition to articles on spirituality, faith, sacraments, sermons, devotionals, etc., Malankara World also has many general interest articles, health tips, Food and Cooking, Virtual Travel, and Family Specific articles. Please visit Malankara World by clicking here or cut and paste the link on your browser: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/default.htm

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