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

Volume 4 No. 231 August 8, 2014

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 10)

Bible Readings For The First Sunday after the Festival of Transfiguration

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_1st-sun-after-transfiguration.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (August 10)

Sermons for the 1st Sunday after the Feast of Transfiguration

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

3. Featured: Two Sons: Yeses That Don't Mean a Darn Thing!

In this parable for today, Jesus is inviting you and me to have a change of heart...you and I need a change of heart...about the messed up world around us. You and I need a change of heart about the painful needs of hurting people around us...we need a change of heart about actually doing God's work of love in a messed up world. We all need this change of heart, a change inside. ...

4. You Are The Light of the World

Jesus is also the great light of the world (John 8:12). Those who believe in Him are brought out of darkness into His light (Colossians1:12-13) and in turn become lights also. In essence, they live the beatitudes. What does light do? ...

5. Obedience to the 'Heavenly Vision'

If we lose "the heavenly vision" God has given us, we alone are responsible - not God. We lose the vision because of our own lack of spiritual growth. If we do not apply our beliefs about God to the issues of everyday life, the vision God has given us will never be fulfilled. The only way to be obedient to "the heavenly vision" is to give our utmost for His highest - our best for His glory. This can be accomplished only when we make a determination to continually remember Godís vision. ...

6. Holiness is more than being 'Nice.'

We live in a time that has tended to reduce holiness to merely being nice and agreeable. In this manner of thinking holiness tends to be variously thought of as: getting along well with everyone, being kind, agreeable, helpful, likable, generous, pleasant, mild mannered, amiable, good humored, middle of the road, even tempered, placid, benevolent, friendly, forbearing, tolerant, thoughtful, and the like. It can all be summed up by saying that "so-and-so" is "basically a nice person." And thus the goal seems more to be nice than holy. ...

7. Five Evils of a Bad Attitude

Over the course of our lifetime we will struggle and fight against many sins. Some we will overcome easily, while others will follow and haunt us for most of our lives. I believe for some of us, the struggle to maintain a good and godly attitude in all circumstances is a problem we don't give much attention to. Is a bad attitude really that bad? ...

8. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 10)

Sermons for This Sunday (August 10)
This Week's Features

Featured: Two Sons: Yeses That Don't Mean a Darn Thing!

by Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, USA

Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32

There was a father who had two sons. He needed the lawn mown. The lawn was such a mess and friends were soon coming over for dinner. The father asked his oldest son: "Son, would you please mow the lawn for me? We have friends coming over for dinner within the hour and a mown lawn would make the place look a lot better." The oldest son replied: "Yah, Dad. That won't take me long. And besides, you give me the keys to the car; you put gas in the car; and my threads are pretty nice." The oldest son went outside just as his friends pulled up to the front curb, shouting, "Hey, it's time to party. Let's hit the drive-in," and off they all went in a hot-looking car.

Meanwhile, the lawn was looking tacky, so the father said to the younger son. "Son, would you please mow the lawn right now? We have friends coming over for dinner." And that younger son gave such an agonized howl, a whine that screeched your ears, "Ohhhhh, Dad. Do I haaaaaave to?" He went outside, just as his friends pulled up with their bicycles, shouting, "Hey, let's go. Girls down the street." The younger son got onto his bike, thought for a minute, had a change of heart, and said, "I'll catch up with you later," and went and mowed the lawn. Now, which of the two did the will of their father. And the answer is so obvious.

We all have had these experiences, where the promises far exceeds the performance, where people say "yes" too easily and then don't follow through.

And isn't it aggravating when people say, "Yes, yes, we'll do it!" and then don't follow through. Like when the grandparents are coming over for dinner and the children are asked to pick up their rooms, and they nod a passive "yes," and you, the parent, find them lounging in front of the television. Does this drive you up the wall? Or am I the only such parent who has such feelings about his children.

Since we all have had similar reactions and feelings, it is easy for us to understand the parable of Jesus for today about the two sons. The meaning is so obvious. That is, some religious people make all kinds of grandiose promises to God but their performance doesn't live up to their promises. These Christians promise God, "O yes, God, I will be your faithful disciple. I will carry out the mission of the church. I will do your work in the world. Yep, count on me. I'll get the job done for you, Lord." But they don't do a darn thing. And so God goes and finds some less churchy people who actually go and do what God wants done in this world.

To understand this parable about the two sons, it helps to understand the context, the setting, which are the Bible verses before and after the story. Like a diamond, its beauty can be enhanced by the right setting. And so it is with the parables of Jesus; the setting enhances the meaning of the parables.

This parable for today about the two sons is part of a larger section of the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus and the Pharisees are in conflict. In Matthew 21-24, Jesus and the Pharisees are in conflict with each other, and this parable is part of that conflict. In fact, Jesus had been in conflict with these Pharisees since the first days of his ministry three before. For three years, Jesus had a running conflict with these folks.

As Jesus was approaching the temple that first day of the week, our Monday morning, he noticed a beautiful, green, well shaped fig tree that was so lovely to behold; but upon closer inspection of this perfectly looking fig tree, it was obvious that there was no fruit. And so it was with the religious lives of the Pharisees; they looked so religious; their religious lives looked so alive, so green, so well shaped, but upon closer inspection, they didn't produce any fruit. Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered and died. It wasn't any good anyhow. That is, it didn't produce any fruit. And so it was with the Pharisees; they looked spiritually alive but they were really dead. Their hearts were dead inside and so were their actions of compassion for people around them. Those acts of compassion were non-existent in their lives.

Later, Jesus compared the Pharisees to cups that look pretty and clean and shiny on the outside, but inside, the cups are dirty, moldy, and corroded. And so it was with the hearts of the Pharisees: they looked good on the outside, when people were watching, but inside, their hearts were polluted and corrupted and stained.

So Jesus and the Pharisees were interlocked in conflict that Monday morning in the temple. (Matthew 21:23 "And when he entered the temple.")

Jesus said to the Pharisees: There was a man who had two sons. He said to the first son, "Will you go and work in the vineyard today? The vineyard is a mess, and there is so much work to be done. Picking up the rocks. Planting. Pruning. Picking grapes. Producing wine. Will you do the work in the vineyard today?" In other words, will you care for the sick and dying, the blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb? Will you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison?" And the older son said, "Of course, you can count on me." And the older son went off to the vineyard...where he conducted a worship service, and then held a Bible study in the Old Testament, and then enjoyed some wine and cheese and fellowship with his friends who also had come to the vineyard.

The vineyard was still a mess and there was much work to be done; and so the father approached people from the lower rungs of society to see if they would do the work. He approached the taxcollectors and tanners; the pimps and the prostitutes; the bookies, the bartenders, the bellydancers and asked them the questions: "Will you do the work in my vineyard. It's a mess. The world is a mess. Would you care for the sick and dying, the blind and lame, the death and dumb? Would you feed the hungry? Clothe the naked? Visit those in jail?"

And the tax collectors and prostitutes said: "Are you crazy? Who do you think we are? Some goodie-two-shoes? Get real." They started to walk away from the mess, but took a second look, had a change of heart, and went and did the work that needed to be done.

And Jesus looked the Pharisees in the eyes and asked the penetrating question: "And which of the two sons was faithful to the father's will?" And the answer was so obvious.

Jesus continued: "And so the taxcollectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you Pharisees, even though you look so religious and smell so religious."

Ouch. A zinger.

So what does this story have to do with you and me?

This parable is an invitation from Christ to go and do God's work in the vineyard, in the messed up world in which we live.

And living like a Christian is work in this messed up world. There are so many hurting people to care for, so many sick and dying, blind and lame, deaf and dumb, so many without food, clothing and in prison. And it is work to live as a Christian in this kind of world.

For example, the past week while on my late afternoon walk, I saw her wandering down the street, her mind almost totally gone; dementia, Alzheimer's. As she came closer, I recognized that she was/is a member of our church. And there was Norma chasing after her. Norma, a friend of twenty-five years, is now in charge of her aging life because she has no family or children or anyone else to care for her. Norma was letting her run off her rage and anger, as she wandered down the street. Norma was caring for her for two weeks in her own home as they waited for a bed to open up in an Alzheimer's unit. And let me tell you; it was work for Norma, caring for her demented friend. It is work, working in the vineyard.

I called a friend this week who is very, very sick and in the hospital. The voice in the hospital room answered, "So and so's residence." Yes, the family had been living there at that downtown hospital for three weeks. They were all tired, worn down by the onslaught of the disease. It is work, personally caring for the sick and dying.

This past week I attended a board meeting of Lutheran World Relief and heard of the disaster care after the immensely devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan. So many families without homes. So much to be done. I heard first hand accounts of the painful devastation as the result of wars in Kosovo and E. Timor. I heard stories of young girls and women who were raped by marauding soldiers in Kosovo, and were now pregnant by those soldiers. These young women had been cast out of their homes by their parents for religious reasons, that their daughters have been defiled. And who was to care for them?

The vineyard, the world, is always in a mess. There are always earthquakes in the Turkeys and Taiwans of the world. There are always wars in the Kosovos and the E. Timors of the world. There are always divorces and families falling apart. There are always poor families living down the street, with not enough money and emotional resources to make it.

And what is the reaction of the church to this pain and devastation in the world around us, far and near? Too often, we merely hold our worship services in the middle of the vineyard. We have our Bible studies and small group studies in the middle of the wine estate. We go out to St. Michelle's (our neighboring vineyard northeast of Seattle) lovely vineyards for wine church sponsored tasting parties and fellowship events.

And so God, in the parable for today, in his disgust for our unwillingness to do the needed work in the vineyard says, "I will go and find somebody else who will do the work in this world of mine."

In other words, this parable is an invitation for us not to be like the Pharisees. It is a challenge to go into God's messed up world and do the necessary work.

In Jesus' parables, the accent is always on the last figure, on the last personality of the story. That is where the focus is. For example, in my opening stories, the focus is on the the third stringers who had a change of heart and went and ran three miles. The focus is on the second piano student, average in her ability, who had a change of heart and went and practiced her fingering for two hours. The focus is on the second, younger son, who saw that the lawn needed to be mown, had a change of heart, and went and did the work. And the focus is on the second set of people in Jesus' parable, the tax collectors and prostitutes, who actually had a change of heart and went and did the work.

You see, Jesus' problem was with the Pharisees who didn't think that they needed a change of heart; that they were just fine the way they were; that they were appropriately religious and they knew it. And that's the way it has always been: in the Old Testament, the time of Christ and throughout all of church history. God's people have consistently been blind to our own need to have a change of heart about doing God's work in the messed up world around us.

And so in this parable for today, Jesus is inviting you and me to have a change of heart...you and I need a change of heart...about the messed up world around us. You and I need a change of heart about the painful needs of hurting people around us...we need a change of heart about actually doing God's work of love in a messed up world. We all need this change of heart, a change inside.

One time, Jesus told a parable about two sons. I am always amazed at the spiritual profundity of Jesus' stories. They are so brilliant, so perceptive, so right on. Jesus' stories seem to reveal the very mind and heart of God. One time, he told the story about two sons. It was such simple story. The father said to one son, "Would you go and work in my vineyard today?" and the son said, "Yes, yes" but didn't do it. So the father said to the second son, "Will you go and work in my vineyard today?" and the second son said "No, I've got other things going," but he had a change of heart and went and did what the father requested. "Now, which of the two did the will of the father?" And the answer was and still is so obvious. Amen.

[Editor's Note: This is an abridged version of a sermon delivered by Rev. Edward F. Markquart from Sermons from Seattle.]

You Are The Light of the World

by Paul Estabrooks

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."
- Matthew 5:14-15

Jesus is also the great light of the world (John 8:12). Those who believe in Him are brought out of darkness into His light (Colossians1:12-13) and in turn become lights also. In essence, they live the beatitudes. What does light do?

A. It exposes dirt

If Christians live holy and righteous lives, it will show up the unrighteous deeds of others (Ephesians 5:8-14). An example is that people who take bribes feel very vulnerable if there are others that don't. Christians who work in government offices can, by their uprightness and integrity, diminish the amount of corruption just by their very presence and principles.

B. It lights up the way so that we do not stumble

If Christians walk by the principles of the Word of God, their lives take on a higher purpose and direction than that of self. This will not fail to attract the attention of a watching world. The world then is faced with a choice - to accept or reject such a model. To those who reject, that light becomes darkness. But for those who accept, that light illumines their lives and they will not make wrong choices.

C. It discourages works of darkness

More crimes are committed at night than in the daytime.

D. It dispels fear

When light shines, the phantoms of the night just fade away. People who are afraid of the dark prefer to sleep with the light on.

Light even enables discernment to be made - between friend and foe and between truth and counterfeit. It enables work to be done. Light enables plants to grow. Used in modern technology, it aids in telecommunications (fiber optics), helps to heal (lasers), and aids in publishing books.

The light of the Gospel also blesses in so many ways. And Christians who walk in it can in turn help others by sharing the knowledge they have concerning life, death, sin, salvation, God, the devil, heaven and hell. For these are the issues that plague man on a wide scale and for which they are striving to find adequate answers. The light will be recognized, not just in words, but in "good deeds" which lead others to praise our Father in heaven.

In Kumasi, Ghana, African Enterprise has been organizing city-cleaning teams. Before an evangelistic campaign, Christians often ask government leaders if they can clean it up. Then they send out teams of people with makeshift straw brooms and pails of soapy water to scrub the city. Christian workers have cleaned hospitals, city parks, and government grounds before major outreaches.

RESPONSE:

Today I am determined to shine for Jesus - the true light of the world!

PRAYER:

Lord, I want my life to count for You and Your kingdom. Help me be a lighthouse for You.

Source: Standing Strong Through the Storm Devotional. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

Obedience to the 'Heavenly Vision'

by Oswald Chambers

" I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision - Acts 26:19 "

If we lose "the heavenly vision" God has given us, we alone are responsible - not God. We lose the vision because of our own lack of spiritual growth. If we do not apply our beliefs about God to the issues of everyday life, the vision God has given us will never be fulfilled. The only way to be obedient to "the heavenly vision" is to give our utmost for His highest - our best for His glory. This can be accomplished only when we make a determination to continually remember Godís vision. But the acid test is obedience to the vision in the details of our everyday life - sixty seconds out of every minute, and sixty minutes out of every hour, not just during times of personal prayer or public meetings.

"Though it tarries, wait for it . . ." (Habakkuk 2:3). We cannot bring the vision to fulfillment through our own efforts, but must live under its inspiration until it fulfills itself. We try to be so practical that we forget the vision. At the very beginning we saw the vision but did not wait for it. We rushed off to do our practical work, and once the vision was fulfilled we could no longer even see it. Waiting for a vision that "tarries" is the true test of our faithfulness to God. It is at the risk of our own soulís welfare that we get caught up in practical busy-work, only to miss the fulfillment of the vision.

Watch for the storms of God. The only way God plants His saints is through the whirlwind of His storms. Will you be proven to be an empty pod with no seed inside? That will depend on whether or not you are actually living in the light of the vision you have seen. Let God send you out through His storm, and donít go until He does. If you select your own spot to be planted, you will prove yourself to be an unproductive, empty pod. However, if you allow God to plant you, you will "bear much fruit" (John 15:8).

It is essential that we live and "walk in the light" of Godís vision for us (1 John 1:7).

Source: My Utmost for His Highest (The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers) 1935

Holiness is more than being 'Nice.'

by Msgr Charles Pope

We live in a time that has tended to reduce holiness to merely being nice and agreeable. In this manner of thinking holiness tends to be variously thought of as: getting along well with everyone, being kind, agreeable, helpful, likable, generous, pleasant, mild mannered, amiable, good humored, middle of the road, even tempered, placid, benevolent, friendly, forbearing, tolerant, thoughtful, and the like. It can all be summed up by saying that "so-and-so" is "basically a nice person." And thus the goal seems more to be nice than holy.

If you think this isn't so, listen to how people talk at funerals. "Wow, Joe was a great guy!Ö.We're all gonna miss his jokesÖ.Joe liked everybody! Joe would do anything for you!" Now all this is fine. But did Joe pray? Did Joe raise his kids in the fear of the Lord? Did Joe set a moral example that summoned others to holiness? Maybe he did but people don't usually talk about that at the wake service. All that seems to matter is that Joe was a "great guy." But the goal in life is not just to be a great guy, it is to be holy.

Now, none of the qualities listed above the previous paragraphs are wrong or bad. But the problem is that we have largely reduced holiness to these sorts of qualities, to being "basically a nice person." Oh sure, holy people will be known to pray and that sort of stuff but God forbid that some one might exhibit righteous anger or rebuke sin. No, that wouldn't be nice at all! It's wrong to upset people isn't it? And thus we tend to limit what holiness should be like.

But true holiness, while it does not seek a fight, does not easily fit into this world's schemes and categories. It tends to run against the grain and upset the status quo. Jesus could surely be kind, merciful and forgiving. But he was also holy. And true holiness does not compromise the truth, does not go along to get along. It does not remain silent just so everyone can be happy and unoffended. Jesus did not end up on the Cross because he was "basically a nice person." He spoke the truth in love. He prophetically denounced hypocrisy, duplicity, sin and injustice. It is true he also blessed children and repentant sinners found refuge in him and a strong advocate. But Jesus was no fool, and he didn't just go around slapping every one's back and being nice. Jesus was holy. And holiness is hot to the touch. It is not easily endured by the tepid and worldly minded. They killed him for it.

Too many Christians have substituted niceness for holiness and hence endure almost no hostility from the world. Too many Christians think that getting along and being popular is their main task. Having enemies is somehow "unchristian." Never mind that Jesus told us to love our enemies (which presupposes we have some). No, having enemies is surely a sign that we are not getting along with people and that is not very nice (errÖ."holy").

Now this attitude is deadly to living a prophetic Christian witness. Of course the word "witness" is Biblically tied to the word "martyr." Martyrs do not end up dead by being nice. They usually end up dead or at least persecuted by running afoul of the world's norms and priorities. And when told to be nice and go along to get along, they declined and continued as an irritant to a world that demands compromise with evil, approval of sin, and silence about faith. But this is our call, not to be nice, to be holy. Holy means "set apart," "distinct from what is around it."

There is a place for niceness and ordinary human kindness. But the point is that holiness cannot be reduced to this. There are times where holiness demands that we speak out strongly and unambiguously. True holiness will lead us increasingly to live in a way that others will often find an irritant. Perhaps our radical simplicity and generosity will prick their conscience. Perhaps our deep devotion to God will cause them to feel uneasy. Perhaps our moral positions will offend their politics or worldly ethics. Our mentioning of a day of judgment that looms may incite their anger. And so forthÖ. We do not seek conflict, but conflict finds us. The world demands that we back down and be nice, that we get along better.

Holiness is not of this world. True holiness brings an increasingly radical transformation that makes the recipient seem to be a foreigner in this world who speaks with a strange accent and has foreign ways. He does not fit into simple political distinctions, does not conform to worldly categories. True holiness ignites a fire in the recipient and fire changes everything it touches. In the end no one remains neutral to a truly holy person. Either they complain of the heat or draw warmth, but no one is neutral.

Holiness is a lot more than being nice.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

Five Evils of a Bad Attitude

by Jen Thorn

Over the course of our lifetime we will struggle and fight against many sins. Some we will overcome easily, while others will follow and haunt us for most of our lives. I believe for some of us, the struggle to maintain a good and godly attitude in all circumstances is a problem we don't give much attention to. Is a bad attitude really that bad? I was convicted about this myself as I read a section from the book "The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment" by Jeremiah Burroughs. He explains that a bad attitude is not a small problem, but a dangerous sin that does far more damage than we imagine.

A bad attitude is evil in five ways:

1. It's unworthy of a Christian.

We have been adopted into the household of God (Romans 8:15). We have been made royal priests. We are the bride of Christ, and God paid a dear price to make us his special possessions (1 Peter 2:9). We are a people who have been guaranteed a future so glorious that we can't even begin to imagine it. Therefore it is below our station to have a bad attitude when plans don't go our way or when seasons of life are hard. If anything we end up imitating Satan instead of Christ.

"The Devil is the most discontented creature in the world, he is the proudest creature that is, and the most discontented creature, and the most dejected creature. Now, therefore, so much discontent as you have, so much of the spirit of Satan you have." - Jeremiah Burroughs

2. It has evil companions

A bad attitude is always accompanied by a number of ungodly friends. Melancholy, ingratitude, complaining, envy, jealousy, and anger just to name a few. It is a popular sin that gathers many others in its fellowship. The longer our bad attitude goes unchecked the more our sins will multiply.

3. It stems from pride

Bad attitudes flow from a prideful heart. A heart that says that we deserve for our day to go the way we had planed or for people to act in a way that we approve of and for life's circumstances to be free of hardships, annoyances and frustrations. It is foolish living and will rob us of our comfort both mentally and physically.

When we have a bad attitude we lessen all the blessings and mercies God has shown us in our lives. In the moment we live as though God has dealt unfairly with us. We momentarily forget how awesome and good He is to us.

4. It drags out your troubles longer.

The person who can accept the providence of God in their lives will be able to go about their day without worry. Joy and peace will be the character of our lives when we do not pit our desires against what God has for us.

There will be hard days, messed up plans, and difficult people but the more we fight and rail against them the harder and longer our troubles will seem.

5. It spreads to others like an infection.

Think back to a time when you were hanging out with a group of people who were complaining, badmouthing, or otherwise expressing a bad attitude towards someone or something. How easy is it to join in? This is because attitudes are contagious. They influence and rub off on people causing others to act in the same way. (1 Cor. 15:33)

A bad attitude mars Christ's likeness in us and robs us of our calling to encourage others.

Sometimes I have bad attitude. And what a bad attitude reveals is my ongoing need for Jesus. We all continuously need his forgiveness, his help, his wisdom, and his Spirit working in us to conform us more to his own image. It is impossible to do this on our own. When we find ourselves with a bad attitude we need to repent and look again to Jesus and all we have in him. There we will find joy and peace to overcome our circumstances and strengthen us as we follow Jesus.

About The Author:

Jen Thorn lives in Illinois where she serves at Redeemer Fellowship. She loves studying theology, reading the Puritans, and has a passion for all things chocolate.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

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