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

Church - The Bride of Christ

Volume 4 No. 246 November 14, 2014

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Turkey Farm in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
Turkey Farm in Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Hudson, Ohio

Turkeys are a traditional item served on Thanksgiving Day. This year, Thanksgiving Day falls on Nov 27. To contribute your testimonials on God's blessings to be included on the Thanksgiving Special of Malankara World Journal, please see the article below.

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

It is hard to miss how differently Zachariah and Mary responded to Angel Gabriel when told about the conception of John and Jesus. Mary was humble, but curious. She accepted the role God wanted her to play in fulfilling the redemption of mankind with humility and obedience. She wondered how the almighty God can come down and reside in a humble servant girl like her! She took it as a great honor and was willing to do anything God asked her to do without any question!

Zachariah, on the other hand, was a scholar of theology and a priest. He was an important man in the temple. The angel told Zachariah some amazing news. ...

This Sunday in Church

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 16)

Bible Readings For Annunciation to Zachariah Sunday

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_anunciation_zachariah.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (November 16)

Sermons For Annunciation to Zachariah Sunday

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_annun_Zachariah.htm

4. How Not to Talk to an Angel

What have we learned from Luke 1? There is a pattern: announcement of John -announcement of Jesus; birth of John - birth of Jesus. By focusing our attention on the similarities between these events Luke shows us that the sovereign God is uniquely at work now in the births and destinies of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Both births are predicted and humanly impossible. But Luke's pattern also focuses our attention on the differences between John and Jesus, so that Jesus is seen to be vastly supreme. That is very important in Luke's purpose.

From the contrast between Zachariah's response and Mary's response we learned three things: 1) Take heed lest you demand too many signs before you trust God's word of promise; 2) It is OK to want to understand the ways of God when they seem perplexing-the danger is having an arrogant or cynical attitude, not going too deeply into God's mind; and 3) We should not despair that we are cast off from God if we fall into distrusting God for a time. What counts is coming out again and blessing the Lord in the obedience of faith. "Nothing is impossible for our God." So let's trust him to do the humanly impossible for us and walk fearlessly in all his commandments.

5. Inviting Your Testimonials - Share Your Experiences of God's Bountiful Blessings on Thanksgiving Day

Malankara World Journal will publish a special Thanksgiving Day edition on Nov 27. We would like to include your "testimonial" in that edition. Think of all the times God has supernaturally provided for your own life. Take a few minutes to reflect on all the times God has miraculously supplied what you needed and for your family. Remember, we came to this world with nothing. All we have is given by God.

Please send your contributions via email to mail@malankaraworld.com no later than Saturday, November 22. Please mention Thanksgiving on the subject line of the email. ...

This Week's Features

6. Inspiration for Today: Compassion As A Way Of Life

We marvel at the ability of the Dalai Lama to treat heads of state and the man on the street with the same kindness and compassion. He's the only person we've ever seen do that!

That leads some of us to ask, "How can I create that kind of a compassionate presence when I'm with people?" ....

7. From the Heart

Once in a while, you come across a gem you wish you'd been inspired or gifted enough to write yourself. The following poem falls in that category. It was written by Michael Voris for "The Vortex", a series of 5-minute videos he produce that aims to inform and educate Christians and those looking in from the outside on the beauty of Christian faith. It is clear that Voris is driven by a passion for the Bride of Christ. This is pure poetry at its best, a love song for the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

8. St. Paul's Teachings on the Church as the Bride of Christ

Pope Benedict XVI explores St. Paul's teaching on the Church as the Bride of Christ.

9. The Church

Some people contend that the Church is not a visible institution but merely the body of believers. However, Jesus compares His Church only to visible things, such as a flock, a body, a house, a city set on a hill, and a kingdom. 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the Church is "the pillar and foundation of truth." The words pillar and foundation indicate assurance and stability, not division and confusion, as one finds among the thousands of denominations sprung up since the Reformation. ...

10. It is Absurd to Love Christ Without The Church, To Listen To Christ But Not The Church

Pope Francis said that its "absurd to love Christ without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to be with Christ at the margins of the Church." ...

11. Jesus and His Church Are One

It's one of my favorite works of art: The Conversion of Saul by Caravaggio. Saul, the raging persecutor of the followers of Jesus, literally "knocked off his high horse" by the radiance of Jesus, the "light of the world," transformed into a passionate apostle of Christ and His new Church, whom we now venerate as St. Paul.

And what question does Jesus bellow out to the shocked Saul?

"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" ...

12. Health: Tips on Eating Healthy This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away. For most of us, the holiday is marked by time spent with family and extreme overeating. Caroline Cederquist, M.D., a bariatric physician specializing in weight management, says that the holidays don't have to make the numbers on your scale climb. ...

13. Recipe: Island Bird and Island Stuffing

The Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. Most families in US will be preparing Turkey for this important day. In case you want to experiment on a new way of preparing the Turkey and impress your guests, here is a friendly twist on an old favorite. ...

14. Family Special: Six Ways to Grow Closer to Your Spouse When Busy Schedules Pull You Apart

When our fall schedules, which seem to be dominated by the demands of parenting, stretch our marriages and spiritual lives, it's time to take a closer look. It is a problem, but it's not one without a solution. Here are six things to consider to recalibrate your life, for the sake of your marriage and your walk with the Lord. ...

15. Christian Persecution: Ninety Percent of Orthodox Christians in Iraq Have Been Displaced

The Islamic State's invasion of Iraq has left 90% of the nation's Orthodox Christians displaced, fleeing religious persecution and ethnic cleansing, according to Ghattas Hazim, Greek Orthodox Bishop for Baghdad, Kuwait, and their surroundings, who must now travel into that territory and unite his congregation.

In Baghdad, he said, only 30 of 600 Christian families remain, while in Mosul, which is widely believed not to contain any Christians who are not elderly or otherwise unable to move freely, it appears that fewer than ten Christian families remain. Basra reportedly is not home to a single Christian anymore. ...

16. About Malankara World

Foreword

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

This Sunday is important for the church and for the believers. It is the first Sunday of the advent Season for the Syriac Orthodox Church.

As I mentioned in the previous issues of the Journal, the New Liturgical Year of the Syriac Orthodox Church began on Sunday, November 2, 2014. The first Sunday of the liturgical year is called Koodosh E'tho, the Feast of the Purification/Sanctification of the Church. Last Sunday (November 9) was the Hoodos E'tho Sunday, the Dedication Day of the church. So, after purified, sanctified and consecrated and rededicated herself to the Mission of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, we are now ready to go through the sacramental life of the Church, beginning with the incarnation of Jesus on Christmas Day, followed by his public ministry; the crucifixion, death, and resurrection; the ascension and pentecost and the second coming.

In Western Churches, the advent season begins on December 1. The Syriac Orthodox Church has an extended advent season stretching about 8 Sundays before Christmas (Yeldo). During this period, we recall all the important themes, events, and incidents that preceded the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

Here is how the advent season unfolds for us this year (2014):

week 1 (Nov 16) -Annunciation to Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist (about the birth of John, the forerunner of Christ)

week 2 (Nov 23) - Annunciation to St. Mary about the birth of our Lord (about six months after Elizabeth conceived)

week 3 (Nov 30) - Mary Visits Elizabeth and the Magnificat

week 4 (Dec 7) - Birth of John the Baptist

week 5 (Dec 14) - Revelation to Joseph (about the Incarnation of our Lord)

week 6 (Dec 21) - Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Dec 25 - Christmas (Yeldo) - Birth of Jesus

In the last two issues of the Journal, we have examined the foundation and the mission of the church. We learned that Jesus delegated a very important responsibility to the church, hitherto reserved for God only, viz., the binding/unbinding authority - the power to forgive sins. In this issue, we will examine the role of the Church further- the church as the 'Bride of Jesus.' This shows the love Jesus has for the church and the sacrifice He was willing to make to save and protect his bride. After you read the articles, hopefully, you will get a great appreciation for the role church is designed to play in the life of a Christian as envisaged by Jesus Christ. We are all part of the body of Jesus Christ; but church is the bride. Pope Francis says that you cannot love Jesus without loving the church. I love the article by Cardinal Dolan who says that Jesus and Church are one. He illustrates it by examining how Jesus transformed the greatest persecutor of Christianity, viz., Soul, into one of the the greatest disciples and evangelist, viz., St. Paul. It is worth reading again and again. I hope that Jesus will not ask you, "why are you persecuting me?" as he asked Saul.

This Sunday, being the fist Sunday of advent, we look at the story of the annunciation to Zachariah. It is the first story in the Gospel of Luke. None of the other gospels cover this story. It is hard to miss how differently Zachariah and Mary responded to Angel Gabriel when told about the conception of John and Jesus. Mary was humble, but curious. She accepted the role God wanted her to play in fulfilling the redemption of mankind with humility and obedience. She wondered how the almighty God can come down and reside in a humble servant girl like her! She took it as a great honor and was willing to do anything God asked her to do without any question!

Zachariah, on the other hand, was a scholar of theology and a priest. He was an important man in the temple. The angel told Zachariah some amazing news. He and his wife were praying for a child for a long time. The angel told him that God heard his prayer and is now ready to grant it. His elderly wife would have a son. It is not an ordinary child. Zachariah's son would be a great prophet and preacher, and by the Holy Spirit's power, he would persuade many people in Israel to quit sinning. He will clear the way for another very special person who was about to come - God in the form of a man!

You would think that Zachariah would be thrilled to hear this honor bestowed on him by God. How many people get a visit by an angel as a messenger from God! Unfortunately, Zachariah didn't believe what he heard because he thought he and his wife were too old to have a baby. He used human logic! They were as old or older than your grandparents! He forgot that nothing is impossible for God. (For instance, how old was Abraham and Sarah when they had Isaac? Zachariah also would have learned about Elkanah and Hannah - another childless couple. In the house of God, Hannah prayed deeply and desperately for a child. The priest of the day, Eli, declares prophetically that it will be granted to her. Samuel was born - one of the greatest prophets.). Zachariah, the scholar priest, should have believed what he heard. It was an angel who spoke to him, and that angel had just come from heaven to deliver the message from God. (If we expect anyone to disbelieve, it is Mary, as she was a simple teenager and not a scholar like Zachariah.)

God was angry with Zachariah's unbelief, so He took away Zachariah's ability to talk for about nine months! I wonder how he told Elizabeth about the coming child! (He may have written it down for her.)

We learn an important lesson from this story. God expects us to believe what He says because He never lies. He keeps all the covenants. Sometimes, it is better to say nothing at all than to say something that disagrees with what God has said. God is always right in what He says. When he answers our prayers, thank him and accept it with humility like Mary did.

Interestingly, there is a purpose behind everything God does. God awarded 9 months of silence for Zachariah.
"Be still... and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) says the Psalmist.
God loves silence. It gives a chance for us to see how God works.
Zachariah probably was confined to his house when he could not talk. So, he got amble opportunities to pray, meditate and contemplate. Slowly, God worked to change that faithful, but very perplexed priest.

The power of the Holy Relentless God had broken into his life in a way he couldn't understand. In silence Zachariah took time to learn what went wrong.

He learned a valuable lesson. He learned that we, human beings, don't have to always understand things first before accepting them.

Especially the things of God.

We need to trust God to do the right thing for us even if we cannot see the ultimate plans of God.

Sometimes we have to accept them first in faith.
Experience them first.
And then - perhaps - the understanding will follow later.

That is something we all can learn from this encounter between the angel and Zachariah.

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 16)
Sermons for This Sunday (November 16)
How Not to Talk to an Angel

by John Piper

Scripture: Luke 1:5–25

Luke 1:1–4 serve as the preface to Luke's two-volume work: the Gospel and Acts. The main point of the preface (refer verse 4) is to state Luke's aim in writing, namely, to persuade Theophilus that the Christian teachings he has heard are true. He does not want Theophilus' faith to be a leap in the dark. He wants it to be based on sufficient evidences. So Luke uses the preface to show why he should be respected as a reliable narrator of the history of Christ and his earliest church. He points out three things:

1) in verse 3, that this account is the product of thorough, careful, and patient research;
2) in verse 1, that he has many written sources;
3) in verse 2, that he has direct access to eyewitnesses to confirm his work.

Now Luke begins his story. Let's read Luke 1:5–25.

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zachariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zachariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zachariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

And Zachariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." And the people were waiting for Zachariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, "Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."

Patterns and Purposes in Luke 1–2

Luke is the only gospel writer who recounts the foretelling and birth of John the Baptist. He begins in 1:5–25 with the announcement of John's birth to Zachariah, his father. Then in 1:26–38 comes the announcement of Jesus' birth to Mary his mother. Then in 1:39–56 a connection between the two is made as Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and magnifies the Lord. Then in 1:57–80 comes the birth of John and his father's song of praise, followed in 2:1–20 by the birth of Jesus and the song of the angels. So there is clearly a pattern in Luke's presentation: announcement of John - announcement of Jesus; birth of John - birth of Jesus, with a link between the two pairs as Mary and Elizabeth, pregnant with these two unexpected children, meet each other.

Evidently what Luke wants to do with this pattern is get the reader to compare and contrast Jesus and John the Baptist. For example, both children are announced in advance by the angel Gabriel (1:11, 28); both births are unnatural or miraculous; in both cases the angel tells what the name should be (1:13, 31), and so on. But even more important than the similarities are the contrasts. John was born to an aged and sterile woman, Jesus was born to a virgin; John was given a name which means "God is gracious"; Jesus was given a name which means "savior"; John was to prepare for the Lord, Jesus was the Lord who would reign forever.

In this way Luke helps Theophilus and us to see two important truths. One is that God is uniquely at work in the birth of these two men. This is the all important thing for Theophilus to see about the history of Jesus: it originates with and is guided by the sovereign God. It was not easy for a Roman official to believe that a poor Jewish teacher, executed as a criminal, is in fact the Son of God. That such a man could be an eternal king and savior of the world was very hard for Theophilus to accept. So Luke starts at the beginning to show that this man and his forerunner were no ordinary people: the sovereign God ordained and ordered their births and their destinies.

How does Luke show this? In at least two ways. First, by describing how, through his angel, God predicted what would take place before it happened. In verse 13 the angel says, "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son," and verse 24 says, "After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived." The only thing that makes that kind of authoritative prediction possible is the sovereignty of God. He can say what is going to happen, because he controls what is going to happen. God sends his angel beforehand to predict these pregnancies rather than sending him afterwards to explain them, because he wants to demonstrate unmistakably that he is in charge here. This is God's work. These births were not unusual coincidences found by God and used. They were ordained and ordered by his sovereign will.

The other way God's preeminence and control appears is in the miraculous nature of these births. They are not just predicted; they are humanly impossible births. Verse 7 says, "They had no child because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years." But after John was conceived the angel says to Mary in verse 36, "Behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." God's purpose in bringing John and Jesus into the world through humanly impossible births is to demonstrate vividly that nothing is too hard for him; he is in control here and something unexpected and stupendous is beginning to happen in the world.

That is one of the two truths Luke wants to teach us by paralleling the announcements and births of Jesus and John, namely, God is uniquely at work here. These men are God's men. But the second thing this pattern teaches is that Jesus is far greater than John the Baptist. Even before John appears on the scene saying that he is unworthy to tie Jesus' shoes (Matthew 3:11), we see from Luke's narrative that the paralleling of John and Jesus finally serves to show that Jesus is vastly superior. As Gabriel says in 1:32f., "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 father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever."

Two Ways to Respond to God's Promise

There is another thing that I think Luke wants us to see from the contrast between the announcements of Jesus' birth and John's birth. Luke wants Theophilus to see the power of God and the preeminence of Jesus, but he also wants him (and us) to see the right way and the wrong way to respond to God's promise of power. This contrast is unavoidable when we look at how Zachariah on the one hand and Mary on the other hand respond to Gabriel's promise that God is going to give them a child and make the child great. Luke clearly wants Theophilus to follow Mary's example, not Zachariah's. Let's read both responses. Zachariah says to Gabriel,

"How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their time."

Zachariah did not believe Gabriel's promise. He was in a spot almost just like Abraham but did not respond like Abraham, of whom Paul said in Romans 4:19, "He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about 100 years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith giving glory to God." Zachariah did waver in unbelief. And I think Luke intends for us to contrast this response to Mary's faith, because Zachariah's wife (in verse 45) commends Mary in a way that sounds like a criticism of her husband's unbelief. She says, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

How did Mary's faith express itself? When the angel was finished predicting the miraculous birth of Jesus, Mary said in verse 34, "How can this be, since I have no husband?" Note the contrast: Zachariah says, How can I know this?—Mary says, How can this be? Zachariah asks for more evidence; Mary asks for an explanation. Zachariah says he can't be sure; Mary says she can't understand. Mary receives at least a partial explanation (which we will speak more of next time), but Zachariah receives a rebuke and is made dumb by the angel. Luke's point, therefore, to Theophilus is: be like Mary when you hear about Jesus, don't be like Zachariah.

Proudly Demanding Evidence

There are three lessons I think we can learn from this contrast of belief and unbelief in Mary and Zachariah. First, it is possible to demand too much evidence before you believe God's promises. It is not wrong to want evidence for our faith—that we saw last week from Luke 1:3; Acts 1:3; 17:11. Belief is not groundless. But there is an evil in demanding signs beyond what a humble and open heart would require. Luke shows us a vivid case of this later in his gospel. In 11:29–32 he says,

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."

Note well that Jesus is not belittling evidence for faith; he is exposing the hard and unrepentant hearts of his contemporaries because they cannot see in his miracles and character sufficient signs of his truth.

This is a warning to us, lest we like Zachariah demand too much evidence before we will believe God's promises. How many of us, when we are laid low by dark and distressing circumstances, cannot believe that God is working it all out for our infinite good until some ray of light, some extra evidence, shows us that it is all going to be OK? O, how often we fail to take God at his word! And if Gabriel has a right to become indignant, how much more the absolutely trustworthy God whom he serves!

Remember, Gabriel said to Mary, "With God nothing is impossible" (1:37). And it is clear from Luke's narrative that God loves to exalt his sovereign reliability by keeping his word where humans can see no possible way for him to do it. "I am an old man. My wife is barren and advanced in years. I can't believe it." Let's not be like Zachariah. God wants to teach us from this text: Trust me! Trust me! I can and I love to do the humanly impossible. Trust me! You can hear the heart of Luke going out to Theophilus: Trust him, Theophilus! Don't proudly insist on more signs than are necessary. Put your whole trust in God and in his Christ.

Humbly Seeking Explanations

That's the first lesson we learn from the contrast between Mary's response and Zachariah's response: it is possible and dangerous to insist on too much evidence before you believe. The second thing we learn is that it is OK to want and to ask for explanations when we are perplexed. Mary was not accused of unbelief like Zachariah when she queried the angel: "How can I have a son when I have no husband?" (1:34). Mary saw the human impossibility as clearly as Zachariah, but her heart did not reject the possibility in unbelief; she responded humbly and desired only to know how such an impossibility might be. I infer from this that when our heart is right, God is never opposed to our seeking to understand his ways in history and in our own lives.

We will never understand everything in this age, because, as Paul says, we see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). But the possibilities of what we can understand about the ways of God on the basis of his revealed Word are more vast and deep than any of us here has imagined. The only acts of God that we should not try to understand are the ones he has told us not to. What we must guard against is not that we probe the ways of God too deeply but that we probe with the wrong spirit. A spirit of idle curiosity or arrogant skepticism would be wrong. But a spirit of earnest longing to know more of God's wisdom and a humble readiness to be taught something new—this spirit pleases the Lord. That was Mary's spirit.

Don't Despair, Repent and Press On in Faith

There is one other lesson to learn from Zachariah's unbelief. It was preceded by a life of godliness and followed by a life of godliness. Zachariah's unbelief is in the same category with Peter's three denials of Christ: it is a temporary lapse - not a way of life. Look at the billing Zachariah and Elizabeth get in verse 6: "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." (We will come back to this in a minute to see if it means sinless perfection.) At least, this means Zachariah was not a chronic unbeliever. Not only that, verse 13 says that God was answering Zachariah's prayer when he promised him a son. So Zachariah was a righteous and prayerful man. But even the best of men fall into unbelief now and then. None of us trusts God's promises perfectly from day to day.

But thanks be to God, though we may have to endure some chastisement for our unbelief, God does not cast us away, if we repent and set our hope afresh on him. When Zachariah followed through obediently and named the child John, verse 64 says, "Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed and he spoke, blessing God." And verse 67 goes on, "And (Zachariah) his father was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied saying, 'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.'" That's the last we ever hear of Zachariah. He's there righteous and blameless, then unbelieving, then blessing God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So the lesson for us here is that we must not despair if we fall into unbelief. Instead we must repent, accept God's forgiveness in Christ, and go on blessing the Lord—even more fervently because of his great mercy to us in our sinfulness.

What It Means to Be Blameless

Now I said I would go back and ask in what sense Zachariah and Elizabeth were blameless. It would be exceedingly strange if Luke meant that Zachariah was sinless until the day Gabriel approached him, and then for the first time he sinned miserably. Walking in all God's commandments righteous and blameless need not mean sinless perfection. In Psalms the "righteous" were not without sin (Psalm 32). They were those who did not rest in their sin but repented and trusted God and on the whole made his commandments a way of life. When it says they walked in all his commandments it does not mean they never once coveted; it means this was not the normal track of their life. "Blameless" sounds very strong but probably means: they do their duties in such a way as to give no one an occasion to hold anything against them.

Paul uses this word of himself and Christians generally. He says in Philippians 2:14f., "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world." Then in 1 Thessalonians 2:10 he says, "You are witnesses and God also how holy and righteous and blameless was our behavior to you believers." Yet Paul clearly denied his own perfection in Philippians 3:12, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own." The idea seems to be one of so living as to give no one an occasion to hold anything against us, including God. This implies not necessarily sinless perfection (though that's our goal) but quick and speedy amends for all wrongs.

What then have we seen from Luke 1? There is a pattern: announcement of John - announcement of Jesus; birth of John - birth of Jesus. By focusing our attention on the similarities between these events Luke shows us that the sovereign God is uniquely at work now in the births and destinies of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Both births are predicted and humanly impossible. But Luke's pattern also focuses our attention on the differences between John and Jesus, so that Jesus is seen to be vastly supreme. That is very important in Luke's purpose.

Finally from the contrast between Zachariah's response and Mary's response we learned three things:

1) Take heed lest you demand too many signs before you trust God's word of promise;

2) It is OK to want to understand the ways of God when they seem perplexing - the danger is having an arrogant or cynical attitude, not going too deeply into God's mind; and

3) We should not despair that we are cast off from God if we fall into distrusting God for a time.

What counts is coming out again and blessing the Lord in the obedience of faith. "Nothing is impossible for our God." So let's trust him to do the humanly impossible for us and walk fearlessly in all his commandments.

©2012 Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org. Used by Permission.

Inviting Your Testimonials - Share Your Experiences of God's Bountiful Blessings on Thanksgiving Day
Thursday, November 27, 2014 is celebrated as Thanksgiving in the United States. It is the day we give thanks to God for his bountiful blessings.

The Thanksgiving goes back to December 21, 1620 - the day the original pilgrims landed in Plymouth, MA. Through the dead of winter, the colony struggled with poor and meager food, strenuous labor, a biting wind that chilled to the bone, and the ravages of disease. Nearly half of the 102 Mayflower passengers did not live to see the next spring.

But God sent Indians to help the English settlers plant, hunt and fish. The bountiful harvest they received in autumn 1621 led Governor Bradford to invite the Indians to celebrate God's goodness with the pilgrims. Ninety Indians accepted the invitation to join the Pilgrims in a feast of Thanksgiving to God for His blessings. That was the beginning of Thanksgiving.

How much will our celebrations on November 27 have to do with giving thanks? People will be too busy eating Turkey and other goodies. Some will run to shopping malls to grab the early "Black Friday" bargains.

We teach our children to say "please" and "thank you" as the rudiments of courtesy. Yet it is easy to be rude and unthinking toward God. How often we forget to gratefully acknowledge His goodness towards us. When God answers our prayers, we give credit to someone else for our blessings.

Let us make a difference this Thanksgiving.

"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord." (Psalm 116:12-13)

Let us thank God this Thanksgiving.

Malankara World Journal will publish a special Thanksgiving Day edition on Nov 27. We would like to include your "testimonial" in that edition. Think of all the times God has supernaturally provided for your own life. Take a few minutes to reflect on all the times God has miraculously supplied what you needed and for your family. Remember, we came to this world with nothing. All we have is given by God.

One thing we learn time and time again from Bible is that God is reliable, trustworthy, and true. He keeps his covenants. You have seen demonstrations of God's goodness throughout your entire life. So raise your arms toward Heaven, open your mouth, and begin to acknowledge that it's true! Then write it down and send to Malankara World for possible publication in Issue 248 to be released on Nov 27, 2014. You can write few sentences or few pages. It does not matter. If you prefer not to disclose your full identity, that is OK too; we can use your initials.

Please send your contributions via email to mail@malankaraworld.com no later than Saturday, November 22. Please mention Thanksgiving on the subject line of the email. (We will consider publishing the entries received after the deadline on a future edition of Malankara World Journal.)

Thank you for your support.

Malankara World Team

This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Compassion As A Way Of Life

by Wes Hopper

"Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things."
Thomas Merton

At the root of most of the social and personal unrest we see in society is the belief in separation. It's the illusion that what happens to others does not affect us much at all.

Out of that belief in separation we give ourselves permission to be critical, indifferent or cruel to others.

We marvel at the ability of the Dalai Lama to treat heads of state and the man on the street with the same kindness and compassion. He's the only person we've ever seen do that!

That leads some of us to ask, "How can I create that kind of a compassionate presence when I'm with people?"

We can begin by accepting the other person as someone who is doing the best they can with what they have in this moment.

Compassion starts with the realization that, "this could be me." If it was me, how would I feel? When we figure out how we would like to be treated if that was us, then we are on the road to compassion.

My experience has been that most people just want to be heard! They don't need to receive lavish support, just to be heard and understood.

If we seek a compassionate society, we look for a society that leaves no one behind unless they choose that for themselves.

We all spend time on both sides of the giving and receiving of compassion. It's how we build a strong community.

Let's not leave anyone out.

Source: Daily Gratitude

From the Heart

by Michael Voris

[Editor's Note: Once in a while, you come across a gem you wish you'd been inspired or gifted enough to write yourself. The following poem falls in that category. It was written by Michael Voris for "The Vortex", a series of 5-minute videos he produce that aims to inform and educate Christians and those looking in from the outside on the beauty of Christian faith. It is clear that Voris is driven by a passion for the Bride of Christ. This is pure poetry at its best, a love song for the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Enjoy!]

"The Church is magnificent.
She stands like a great and noble city, a sparkling jewel – splendorous.
The Bride of Christ, loved from all Eternity in the Bosom of the Holy Trinity.

Presaged by Israel with the Father, purchased with the blood of the Son, brought into visible reality by the Spirit.

Brought into being in time, her destiny is now Eternity.

What existed from all time in the mind of the Father will be alive forever in the heart of the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Church soars to the heavens in the depth of Her teachings.
She possesses infinity in a finite tabernacle.

She glories with the saints and angels in heaven even now as She lifts up her heart in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

She lives and moves and has Her Being in the Divine Majesty.
She is raised up from the dust of the earth through the waters of baptism.
She lives in perpetual virginity through everlasting espousal to Christ.

She is the delight of the Lord of Lords and is the Bride of the King of Kings.
When She speaks, her honeyed voice is truth and goodness and beauty.
When She breathes, it is the air of courts of Heaven, the intoxicating fragrance of love.

THIS is the Church.

Our Blessed Lord would prepare nothing less than perfection for his Bride, as He prepared nothing less than perfection for His Mother.

This is the Bride of Christ, and She is worth fighting for. Her sons are summoned to defend Her honour, her daughters to proclaim Her beauty.

There is nothing more noble to which man can aspire, than to sit in Her courts and muse on Her Truth.

Through the deepest reality of love that God could offer man – Himself in the form of bread, His very humanity and divinity – we have noble blood now flowing through our veins.

The very DNA of God Himself joins to our DNA, literally transforming us into Christ. For this reason a man leaves his parents and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.

This is the great reality of the Holy Eucharist: that we have the very Blood of Christ flowing through our veins. His flesh becomes our flesh. We are prepared by slowly being transformed for our Heavenly home.

The Church makes possible for us the commandment that Our Blessed Lord gave to each of us: Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.

When the apostles heard their Master's words, they were awestruck and said: But who then can be saved?
Our Lord answered them: For man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
This is why the Church exists, so that Almighty God may LOVE us into Eternity with Him.

So many people simply do not see the Church in this manner. This is a cause of continual sadness for those of us who do.

It must continue to be a source of sadness for us, so we can stay motivated and energized to pray and preach and sacrifice.

The greatest gift this side of Eternity has been handed to those baptised into the Christian Faith. Freely we have received, now freely we must give.

The Church is the door to eternal life, because it is so closely wedded to Christ Himself, as a husband to his wife, that the two have become one flesh: the same flesh.

So when Our Lord says of Himself that He is the Door, He refers also to His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He identifies with Her so closely and so freely, that He made no distinction between the Church and Himself when He confronted Saul on the road to Damascus and said: Saul, Saul why do you persecute ME?

One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism.

It is all contained in the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, fully and completely.

This Truth – it's worth fighting for."

Note:

The original version of the poem, delivered by Voris, can be found in YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUoxe_7Vm-k

Source: "The Vortex" by Michael Voris

St. Paul's Teachings on the Church as the Bride of Christ

by Pope Benedict XVI

On Jan 14, 2009 Pope Benedict XVI examined the teaching of St. Paul about Christ as the head of the Church and the Church as his Bride.

As he began, Pope Benedict explained that his reflections would focus on St. Paul’s "twin" letters of Colossians and Ephesians, which are very close in their manner of expression, vocabulary, and exposition.

Similar in language, they are unique in developing the theme of Christ as "head" or kephalé of the Church. The Christ guides and is responsible for the Christian community as its leader and its Lord… The Church is subject to Him, both to follow His superior guidance and to receive all of the life that emanates from Him.

Christ is considered as head of the heavenly powers and of the entire cosmos. Paul says that God places Christ above every principality and power. His words assure us that Christ is above every hostile power, so that if we are close to him we have nothing to fear.

In the context of the entire cosmos being subject to Christ, the Pope referred to the depiction of Christ as "Pantocrator," shown enthroned over the world, on a rainbow. This depiction indicates His equality with God at Whose right hand He sits, and hence also His unrivalled role as the guide of human destinies.

Such a vision can only be conceived by the Church, not in the sense that she wishes unduly to appropriate that which is not hers, but in another, dual, sense: both in that the Church recognizes that in any case Christ is greater than herself, because His lordship extends beyond her confines, and in that only the Church, and not the cosmos, is defined as the Body of Christ. This means we must give positive consideration to worldly things, because Christ recapitulates them in Himself, and at the same time we must fully live our specific ecclesial identity, which is the closest to the identity of Christ Himself.

Another aspect of the Apostle‘s two Letters is "the concept of mystery," the inscrutable divine plan for the destiny of mankind, of peoples and of the world. It is for this reason that one finds fulfillment in Christ.

Finally, the Pope touched on the recurring theme of "the Church as the bride of Christ." According to St. Paul, Christ has "won" his bride, the Church, by giving his life for her, "the greatest possible demonstration of love."

What greater sign of love could there be than this?. Christ is concerned for her beauty; not just the beauty acquired through Baptism, but also the beauty that must grow every day through a life of irreproachable moral behavior, without spot or blemish.

From here to the shared experience of Christian marriage is but a short step. And, in fact, it is not clear what the initial point of reference was for the author of the Letter: whether the Christ-Church relationship provided a light in which to consider the union of man and woman; or whether experience of conjugal union was the light in which to examine the relations between Christ and the Church.

These two Letters are a great catechesis, from them we can learn how to be good Christians.

If we begin to understand that the cosmos is the mark of Christ, we understand what our relationship with the cosmos is, what problems are involved in its conservation. We learn to see it using reason, but a reason moved by love, respect and humility. If we remember that the Church is the Body of Christ, that Christ gave Himself for her, then we learn to live with Christ in mutual love, a love that unites us to God and brings us to see the image of Christ in others. Let us ask the Lord to help us meditate well on Sacred Scripture, his Word, and to really learn to live well.

Adapted from a message delivered by Pope Benedict at Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Jan 14, 2009

The Church

by Sebastian R. Fama

There are those who contend that the Church is not a visible institution but merely the body of believers. However, Jesus compares His Church only to visible things, such as a flock, a body, a house, a city set on a hill, and a kingdom. 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the Church is "the pillar and foundation of truth." The words pillar and foundation indicate assurance and stability, not division and confusion, as one finds among the thousands of denominations that have sprung up since the Reformation.

It is important to note that it is not the Church that determines truth; rather God communicates His truth through the Church. All believers are a part of the Church which, though one body, has many parts, and the many parts have different functions (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). The function of the Church's hierarchy is clearly shown in Scripture. Consider the following:

Peter and the council of Jerusalem, over which he presided, taught by the power of the Holy Spirit: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…" (Acts 15:28).

All of the Churches were to abide by the decision: "As they (Paul and Timothy) traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decision reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem" (Acts 16:4).

Bishops were in authority over congregations: "For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you" (Titus 1:5). The office of bishop is spoken of eight times in the New Testament. The Greek words used are episcopos (ἐπίσκοπος), which means a superintendent or overseer, someone who visits, and episskope (ἐπισκοπή), which just refers to the office.

Presbyters were reminded of their responsibilities: "From Miletus he had the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus summoned. 'Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that He acquired with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them'" (Acts 20:17, 28-30). How do you suppose those deceivers will appear? "Even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. So it is not strange that his ministers also masquerade as ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). That is why John says, "We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit" (1 John 4:6). This is a reflection of Jesus' own words, "Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects me" (Luke 10:16), and "If he refuses even to listen to the Church, then treat him as you would a gentile or a tax collector" (Matthew 18:17).

Consequently, believers were to submit to Church authority, "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings...obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you" (Hebrews 13:7-9, 17). The word "leader" is translated from the Greek word hegeomai (ἡγέομαι) and means to lead with official authority. Similarly, in 1 Peter 5:5 we read, "Likewise, you younger members, be subject to the presbyters."

The teaching of the early Church parallels the scriptures. In the year 110, Ignatius of Antioch wrote in his letter to Polycarp, "You must be made holy in all things by being united in perfect obedience, in submission to the bishop and the priests."

Copyright © 2001 StayCatholic.com

It is Absurd to Love Christ Without The Church, To Listen To Christ But Not The Church

By Pope Francis

"It's absurd to love Christ without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church," because the "first fruit of Baptism is to make you belong to the Church" and that "membership" has three pillars: humility, faithfulness and prayer for the Church, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis was speaking about King David: a man who speaks with the Lord as a son speaks with his father and even if his requests meet with a "no", he accepts this with joy. David had "a strong feeling of belonging to the people of God." And this makes us wonder about our sense of belonging to the Church, our feeling with the Church and in the Church.

"The Christian is not a baptized who receives baptism and then goes on his way. The first fruit of Baptism is to make you belong to the Church, the People of God. You cannot understand a Christian without the Church. This is why Pope Paul VI said that it is an absurd dichotomy to love Christ without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to be with Christ at the margins of the Church. It's not possible. It is an absurd dichotomy. We receive the Gospel message in the Church and we carry out our holiness in the Church, our path in the Church. The other is a fantasy, or, as he said, an absurd dichotomy".

The "sensus ecclesiae" is "precisely to feel, think, want, within the Church". There are " three pillars of this belonging, this feeling with the Church . The first is humility" in the awareness of the great grace of being "inserted in a community":

"A person who is not humble, cannot hear the Church, they can only hear what they like. We see this humility in David, 'Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my home?' That realization that the story of salvation did not begin with me and will not end with me when I die. No, it's a whole history of salvation: I come, the Lord will take you, will help go onwards and then calls you and the story continues. The history of the Church began before us and will continue after us. Humility: we are a small part of a great people, that walks the path of the Lord".

The second pillar is fidelity, "that is linked to obedience." "Fidelity to the Church, fidelity to its teaching; fidelity to the Creed; fidelity to the doctrine, safeguarding this doctrine. Humility and fidelity. Even Paul VI reminded us that we receive the message of the Gospel as a gift and we need to transmit it as a gift, but not as a something of ours: it is a gift that we received. And be faithful in this transmission . Because we have received and we have to gift a Gospel that is not ours, that is Jesus', and we must not - he would say - become masters of the Gospel, masters of the doctrine we have received, to use it as we please".

The third pillar is a special service "to pray for the Church."

"How is our prayer for the Church?"
"Do we pray for the Church? Every day at Mass, but not at home?"
"When do we say our prayers?"
"Do we pray for the entire Church, all over the world?"

May the Lord help us to go down this path to deepen our belonging to the Church and our feeling with the Church."

Source: AsiaNews, January 30, 2014

Jesus and His Church Are One

by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan

Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio 1600-1601

Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio 1600-1601.
Cerasi Chapel, S. Maria del Popolo, Rome.

It's one of my favorite works of art: The Conversion of Saul by Caravaggio. There it is, meekly on display in the corner of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Saul, the raging persecutor of the followers of Jesus, literally "knocked off his high horse" by the radiance of Jesus, the "light of the world," transformed into a passionate apostle of Christ and His new Church, whom we now venerate as St. Paul.

And what question does Jesus bellow out to the shocked Saul?

"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

Parse that very carefully. Saul, of course, has been harassing the Church, killing the followers of Jesus.

Yet, note well: Jesus does not inquire, "Why are you persecuting my Church" or "my people" or "my followers."

No! The Lord asks, "Why are you persecuting me?"

Get it? The Lord is saying, "When you hurt my Church, you hurt me. The Church and I are one."

Jesus Christ and His Church are one.

Now, that's a revealed truth that needs repeating today.

What we've got now, if the scholarly research is accurate - and I'm afraid it is - is a growing tendency to split Christ from His Church. More and more seem to be claiming such things as:

"Oh, I've got faith. I just don't need the Church."
"Faith is great; religion stinks."
"I believe. I just don't want to belong."
"I got Jesus. Why bother with the Church?"
"I pray how and when I want. What's the big deal about the Mass and Church on Sunday?"

St. Paul would take exception. So would Jesus.

When God chose Israel, he selected not a person but a people. Faith in God is communal by its very nature.

Like our Jewish neighbors, we Christians have always believed that God chooses us and gives us the supernatural gift of faith. It's not that we decide our faith. You bet, we freely decide how firmly and generously we will live out our faith, but we are "born into" a Church. Faith is a gift from God given us on the day of our baptism into His Church.

Just like we're "born into" a natural family. We are a member of a human family. That family is often flawed and imperfect. In fact, there are times when we're angry at it and might even drift away from family events. But, family membership is in our blood.

So it is with our spiritual family, the Church. Oh, we may get upset with her to be sure; we may even drift away from her. But, she never leaves us. The Church is in our supernatural DNA.

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, writing in the Wall Street Journal about the viral video "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," concludes with this cogent thought:

"Stating that religions build churches at the expense of the poor…turns a blind eye to the single greatest charitable institution on the planet. Blaming religion for wars ignores the fact that the greatest mass murderers in the 20th century - indeed in all of history - killed for nonreligious reasons. And advocating for a kind of Christianity that is free of the 'bondage' of religion opens the door to dangerous theological anarchy that is all too common among young evangelicals and absolutely antithetical to biblical Christianity."

Speaking of Jesus and His Church, the acclaimed French theologian Henri de Lubac exclaimed, "For what would I ever know of Him without Her?"

Never give up on your family.
Never give up on Jesus.
Never quit His Church.

For, as St. Paul learned the hard way, Jesus and His Church are one.

Source: CNY.org

Health: Tips on Eating Healthy This Thanksgiving

by Caroline Cederquist, M.D., BistroMD

Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away. For most of us, the holiday is marked by time spent with family and extreme overeating. Caroline Cederquist, M.D., a bariatric physician specializing in weight management and creator of diet delivery company bistroMD, says that the holidays don't have to make the numbers on your scale climb.

"Big, abundant, sit-down dinners are likely to make their way into the schedule of even the most harried and hurried among us," Dr. Cederquist states. "Thanksgiving is a day when many of us feel the need to break all the rules when, in fact, it is possible to enjoy the feast without ruining a week's worth of healthy eating."

"Perhaps the most important attitude adjustment is to be sure that you're not thinking of yourself as a person who is trying to lose weight or avoid junk," Dr. Cederquist explains. "If you're trying to eat better and get healthy, then think of yourself as a person who eats well and makes healthy choices."

Cederquist goes on to say that it helps to be forearmed with a few defensive thoughts to call up in case someone brings that plate of cookies right over to you. Think of what motivates you to be eating better and getting healthy to begin with. "We have our patients write these out on index cards and keep their top motivations with them for quick reference in moments of temptation."

If someone is particularly insistent about trying to ply you with sweets or goodies, be ready with a polite way to decline. "But don't say, ‘I'm dieting'", Dr. Cederquist warns. "That's only going to invoke sympathy and good-natured encouragement to live a little."

One avoidance strategy she suggests is to plan ahead. "When you're faced with that big sit-down meal at Grandma's, plan to stop before you get so full that you're uncomfortable. Sure, the food is delicious and evokes all sorts of wonderful nostalgia, but you don't need to overeat to enjoy the memories. Chew slowly, savor each bite, and really appreciate those special dishes. It's a much better way to enjoy them than doing the stuff-and-suffer."

Ask for small servings or serve yourself small portions to start with. "If you're truly still hungry, go back for more," Dr. Cederquist reminds. "That way, you can leave room for seconds of the really delectable dishes."

If you're the host, one trick to help slow the overeating at your holiday party is to try for buffet serving rather than putting all the food on the dining table.

"We actually recommend this to patients year round so that when they're at home they fill the plates from the stove and bring them to the table," Dr. Cederquist says. Repeated studies have shown that if food is within arm's reach, more will be eaten. If you and your guests have to get up to grab seconds, less food will be consumed overall.

Recipe: Island Bird and Island Stuffing

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

[Editor's Note: The Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. Most families in US will be preparing Turkey. In case you want to experiment on a new way of preparing the Turkey and impress your guests, here is a friendly twist on an old favorite. We will have another recipe in the next issue. Enjoy.]

Island Bird and Island Stuffing

by Chef Alyssa

Island Stuffing

Ingredients:

3 12-ounce packages King's Hawaiian Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
4 ribs celery, diced
2 large onions, diced
20 ounces Pineapple Slices, drained and chopped
1 cup Golden Raisins
? cup Chardonnay wine
1 cup Coconut Flakes
1 teaspoon Iodized Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Parsley Flakes
2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
2 14-ounce cans Chicken Broth

Directions:

Perfect alone or stuffed into a turkey for a friendly twist on an old favorite.

Preheat oven to 325°F (160 deg C).

Dice sweet rolls into small bite sized pieces and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Melt butter in a sauté pan, sauté celery and onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add pineapple, raisins, chardonnay and coconut to pan. Sauté until most of the liquid is gone, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine sweet rolls and sauté mixture. Add spices and eggs and stir to incorporate.

Heat broth to boiling in same sauté pan used for vegetables.

Slowly incorporate broth into bread mixture. Stuffing should be moist, not mushy.

Bake in a greased 9x12-inch glass pan for 1 hour or until light golden brown.

Or, stuff loosely into a 10-12 pound turkey. Bake for 3-3½ hours or until stuffing reaches 165° and the turkey reaches 180°.

Island Bird

Ingredients:

10-14 lb. Butterball Frozen turkey
1 gallon Apple Cider
1 ½ C Iodized salt
2 oranges, halved and juiced
5-lb. bag ice
1 gallon cold water
½ C Unsalted Butter
Pineapple Juice (reserved from Island stuffing)
2 tbsp. Iodized salt
1 tbsp. ground Black Pepper
Island stuffing - see below
2 C water

Directions:

1. defrost turkey according to package instructions.

2. remove all innards from the turkey cavity and rinse with cold water inside and out. Pat dry both inside and out.

3. In a large pot, boil apple cider, salt, orange rinds and juice. set aside to cool. Pour into a clean 5-gallon bucket.

4. When cool, add ice, one gallon of cold water and then turkey, making sure to fill cavity with liquid. Refrigerate overnight.

5. Preheat oven to 325°F (160 deg C).

6. drain turkey and pat dry inside and out. discard remaining brine.

7. Arrange turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Loosely stuff turkey cavity with Island stuffing. Pour 2 cups of water in bottom of pan.

8. Melt butter in a saucepan with pineapple juice and cook 2 minutes. set aside. Add salt and pepper.

9. truss legs together with butcher's twine, then brush the turkey with the melted butter mixture.

10. Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 165°F (74 deg C), occasionally basting the turkey with pan drippings. Cover with foil when the bird starts to brown.

Servings - 12

Recipe Courtesy of Chef Alyssa, ALDI Test Kitchen

Family Special: Six Ways to Grow Closer to Your Spouse When Busy Schedules Pull You Apart

by Brent Rinehart

There's just something spectacular about fall. The crispness in the air. The crunch of leaves beneath your feet. Football. The "extra" hour of sleep that comes with the end of Daylight Savings Time. Pumpkins, pumpkin pies and pumpkin-flavored coffee drinks.

Unfortunately, finding time to enjoy all of these things as a family is usually the problem. Vying for our time are soccer practices and games, homework and class projects, school plays, fundraisers and fall festivals, on top of the everyday chores and to-do lists. As a side effect, we feel distant from our spouses – and often God – when we are pulled in a million different directions.

If you are married, you are going to have problems. You are going to have worldly pressures and anxiety. That's what the Apostle Paul promised in his writings to the church at Corinth: "Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that" (1 Corinthians 7:28). He goes on to add: "I want you to be free from anxieties...The married man is anxious about worldly things, and his interests are divided. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." (verses 32-35).

When our fall schedules, which seem to be dominated by the demands of parenting, stretch our marriages and spiritual lives, it's time to take a closer look. It is a problem, but it's not one without a solution. Here are six things to consider to recalibrate your life, for the sake of your marriage and your walk with the Lord.

It's okay to say no.

Or, as my wife says so eloquently puts it: "No thank you, in Jesus name." Most of us extend ourselves beyond capacity. That's because it can be hard to say no. Often our hearts are in the right place. We are doing good things. But sometimes we need to make sure we are saying yes to only the things that are truly important, and declining on the things that are ultimately inconsequential. This could also mean saying no to your children. If it were up to our daughter, our days would be spent hitting every playground in the Southeast each weekend.

Guard dinner time.

There should be a time each day in the life of your family that is sacred. In our house, it's usually dinner time. For many, late sports practices or games, hectic work travel schedules and more can keep this from becoming consistent. But, there's not a much better way for a family to grow closer together than to have the consistency of breaking bread together around the same dinner table.

Make Date Night important.

To remain connected to your spouse, date night has to be a priority. This can be easier said than done. It doesn't happen near enough in our house. But, I can say that we are able to get out of the house together, it's a beautiful time of reconnecting with each other. We are able to see each other as husband and wife, not the roles we play as dad and mom the rest of the time.

Conversation is king.

Any growing relationship has to be watered, and there's no better nourishment than conversation. For me, whenever I feel like I'm far from God, there's a reason. He hasn't moved, I have. I don't go to him as much. Interpersonal relationships are similar. When we lack communication, it's hard for us to truly know each other. Spend time daily conversing with God, your spouse and your children.

Be willing to compromise.

If the rule in your house is "it's my way, or the highway," then you might need to hitchhike your way to a better plan. You can't always do what you want to do. For me, it means I have to take my daughter to her friends' birthday parties when I'd rather be watching football. For my wife, it means she occasionally watches football when she'd rather watch The Notebook or Dancing with the Stars. For my daughter, it means we have to go home early from the park so her baby brother can take a nap. Compromise isn't a bad word; it's mandatory in a happy home.

Unplug.

We are so connected to the world around us, it's easy to become disconnected from the home we live in. Constantly checking our phones for new emails, updated news headlines and sports scores certainly doesn't bring us closer to God and our spouse. What we read today on Facebook or Twitter, or see on Instagram or Pinterest, isn't going to drastically change our lives for the better. Every minute I spend playing "Candy Crush" or "Words with Friends" is a minute I could pour into my wife or my kids. We need to regularly force ourselves to disconnect from the electronic devices, and connect with our families instead.

There's no doubt that family problems, busy schedules and everyday concerns can pull you away from God and your spouse. Don't let the hectic nature of life – especially during the fall when it seems to be in overdrive – lead you to burnout. There's time to course-correct before you veer completely off path.

About The Author:

Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com.

Christian Persecution: Ninety Percent of Orthodox Christians in Iraq Have Been Displaced

by Frances Maretel

The Islamic State's (ISIS/ISIL) invasion of Iraq has left 90% of the nation's Orthodox Christians displaced, fleeing religious persecution and ethnic cleansing, according to Ghattas Hazim, Greek Orthodox Bishop for Baghdad, Kuwait, and their surroundings, who must now travel into that territory and unite his congregation.

In an interview with Al Monitor, Hazim confirmed that current estimates of Christians belonging to his congregation in Iraq have reduced dramatically, with 90% of them being displaced from their homes. Islamic State terrorism and religious persecution have forced some to flee; others have begun to move, expecting their fate to be similar to those already in ISIS-conquered territory.

In Baghdad, he said, only 30 of 600 Christian families remain, while in Mosul, which is widely believed not to contain any Christians who are not elderly or otherwise unable to move freely, it appears that fewer than ten Christian families remain. Basra reportedly is not home to a single Christian anymore.

"The return of those who have been displaced back to their homes is linked to the political and security situation. We cannot urge anyone to go back now, in light of this ongoing war in different regions in Iraq," Hazim told the outlet. He himself, however, is returning to Iraq, and he promises to publicly deliver an update on the situation as he tries to contribute to the reestablishment of Christianity in a region widely considered the religion's cradle. He noted there is some hope in Erbil, Iraq--a Kurdish city home to many Christians even before the mass exodus from Mosul. Erbil, Hazim said, "welcomes our sons who move there from all over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon."

The Christian leader also expressed disappointment at what he considered insufficient effort on the part of the global Christian community, particularly those in the West, to help Middle Eastern Christians. "It is not true that the West is facilitating the emigration of Christians," he said. "I know many Christians and Orthodox in particular who went to embassies and did not get visas. Others resorted to the United Nations and other international organizations in order to emigrate and it did not work out."

The Christian communities of Iraq have been under siege since the rise of the Islamic State terror group in the nation, after a number of pivotal defeats of the Iraqi army. In July, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of the Iraqi Catholic Church warned that Islamic State violence may lead to "the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co-existence between majorities and minorities." By the end of the month, the Islamic State had captured Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, and forced all Christians to accept death, exile, or conversion.

"They took our money, gold, even the earrings from their [women's] ears. They took everything, even mobile phones. We don't know if we are going to go back," said one Christian man fleeing Mosul. "Until now we have no idea if there can be a return."

Source: Breitbart News

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