Posts From April, 2019

Social Concerns Spring Challenge

Pick Up 10 Spring Challenge
Social Concerns Spring Challenge. It’s the Pick Up 10 Spring Challenge. Please bring 10 items (see list) for a donation to the Neighbor’s Place. Drop off your items in the Narthex through June 1st. Your donation, no matter how many items, is greatly appreciated and will go a long way to helping those in need in our community. Here is a most requested item list from their website: canned foods with pop-top lids, meals in a can (soup, beef stew, chili), canned Protein: chicken, salmon and tuna, canned fruit – no sugar added in its own juice or water, low-sodium canned vegetables, olive or canola oil, spices, low-sugar whole grain cereals like oatmeal, Cheerios and All Bran, healthy low-sugar snacks (granola bars, nuts, dried fruit), 100% juice drinks, whole grain pasta and brown rice.

 

 

Sermon: Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

In the middle of the 20th century, Cyprus revolted against British military occupation. Every Eastern Orthodox priest was considered a nationalist politician and churches became a place where freedom fighters gathered. On one of the Sundays, a priest started his sermon saying “this evening, my people, we have come to proclaim the revolution! Long live the revolution!” He said it two or three times. All the worshipers were clapping and shouting. The police came forward with orders to arrest the priest. As they got close, the priest added: “we have come to proclaim the revolution against sin.”[1] Then the police froze. They stopped and withdrew, and the priest continued to preach against sin.

Easter Sunday is the beginning of the Christians revolution because Christ won the victory over sin and death. Jesus’ resurrection was not a happy ending, but the glorious beginning of a revolution in the name of Christ who defeated sin and death and offered amnesty to all the prisoners of sin.

We learned since we were children that Jesus died on the cross so that who believes in him will go to heaven. Evangelism becomes a mission to save people’s souls from hell. We grew up thinking that the purpose of the cross and resurrection is to keep our eyes fixed on heaven and discount this world. We learned since Sunday school days to wait for the second coming of Christ to destroy this sinful world and to start a new one.

Early Christians understood cross and resurrection differently. They related them to the coming of the kingdom of God. They believed that the purpose of the cross and resurrection is to destroy sin that deprived the poor of access to food and dehumanized the marginalized. The early Christians understood Jesus crucifixion and resurrection as the beginning of the revolution against the imperial powers of their time.

Rome imperial power thrived on practicing injustice and oppression. The early church recognized the cross and resurrection as the beginning of replacing the imperial power with the kingdom of God on earth. They understood their true vocation to be “image-bearers,” reflecting God’s glory into the world and the praises of creation back to God.”[2]

The church fathers like John Chrysostom, Clement of Rome and Origen of Alexandria believed that the cross and resurrection made them citizens of heaven, but they have work to do on earth. Their mission was revolutionary because they focused on implementing the victory of Jesus Christ here and now.

The early church understood its vocation to be Christ's voice in this world. They believed that the victory of Jesus over sin and death is the beginning of a new life, “new way of being human in the world and for the world.”[3] Consequently, the church became a refuge for the poor, oppressed and marginalized.

What does the resurrection mean to you? Is your hope to reserve a place for you in heaven? Joining Jesus’ revolution against sin and death means understanding your vocation in this world. Your vocation is to be Christ’s voice in every place. Christ already won the victory and granted you forgiveness. All you need to do is to implement this victory on earth.[4] Implementing Jesus’ cross and resurrection entails speaking up against economic inequality and the war industry. Joining Christ revolution means to speak truth to power, to advocate for peace, to feed the hungry, to release the unjustly convicted prisoners and to rescue our children and women from sex trafficking. In other words, we are called to transform this world and make it a better place. Christians are standing between heaven and earth.[5] We are citizens of heaven and Christ’s ambassadors on Earth. Our vocation is to help the disadvantaged to foretaste the kingdom of God on earth. We have work to do here on earth. Jesus offered you forgiveness. Enjoy Jesus' forgiveness but remember you are called to carry your cross and follow him every single day.

Do you know that you joined Christ’ revolution in your baptism? Do you know that every time you partake in his body and blood, you affirm your membership in his movement to transform the world? Jesus calls each one of us for a particular vocation, but all of us share one vocation that this “to embody the story of Jesus death and resurrection in this world.”[6]

The Anglican Bishop Nicholas Thomas Wright Invites us to “Celebrate the revolution that happened once for all when the power of love overcame the love of power. And, in the power of that same love, join in the revolution here and now.”[7] I have already joined this revolution. How about you?

 

[2] Wright, N. T.. The Day the Revolution Began (p. 357). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

[3] Ibid., 362.

[4] Ibid., IV.

[5] Ibid.,

[6] Ibid.,

[7] Wright, N. T.. The Day the Revolution Began (p. 416). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

 

Sermon: Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019, John 13:1-17, 31-35

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

This is the night of love and betrayal.

This is the night of a new commandment.

This is the night of humility and of service.

This is the night of water, bread, and wine.

The apostle John does not mention the institution of the Holy Communion. Instead, he is the only one who narrates the feet-washing story. John ties it with Jesus suffering on the cross and his ultimate love to his disciples. Jesus sets an example before his disciples on how to love and serve one another.

My mother suffers from continuous swollen feet. She can’t walk for a long distance. I always imagine myself bringing a basin with warm water and soaking her feet in a combination of lavender and Epsom salt and massaging them. Taking care of my mother’s feet is a sign of love and care. Jesus loved his disciples to the point of acting as a slave by washing their feet. In antiquity, women or slaves washed the feet of the guests, but never the host.

Jesus washed all his disciples’ feet. It is highly possible that women attended the Last Supper and Jesus washed the feet of his female disciples. But the most interesting point is that Jesus washed Judas Iscariot’s feet.

Jesus knew that Judas was planning to betray him. Despite Judas’ unfaithfulness, Jesus washed his feet. Jesus loves the unlovable, and he does not exclude anyone of his love.

Jesus accepted and loved Judas, who betrayed him, and gave him another chance. Jesus loved Judas and washed his feet even though he referred to him as an unclean person.

Imagine Jesus bending down and doing the dirty work. Imagine he comes closer to Judas and touches his feet. Give yourself a minute to imagine how they look into each other’s eyes. Imagine what they were thinking of at that moment. Jesus’ eyes were full of love, but Judas’ eyes were full of betrayal. It takes a perfect love to wash the feet of a person like Judas. Jesus is love incarnate.

By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus set to them an example of love and humility. Jesus teaches his disciples to love one another and to be humble. He says in v.15 “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” Jesus did not say, “you also should think or should believe as I have done to you.” No, he said, “you should do.” We should love our neighbor as Jesus loves us. He wasn’t talking about having warm fuzzy feelings. Instead, Jesus is talking about Agape love, the divine love. Agape means whatever you do will have your best interests in mind toward your neighbor. “Jesus is showing us that we are not to be selective with our love. We have received in abundance the boundless love of God, and so we are to shower that love on others. Regardless of what a person says or does we are to love them, never to hold back.”[1]

On this night, Jesus gives us an example on how to live as Christians and how leaders should lead. Jesus calls us to love and to be humble. Jesus’ love moved him to humble himself and serve his enemy, Judas. Each one of us is potentially a Judas. We deceive Christ in our lives one way or another. We allow our passion to control us. We allow our passion to develop from a passion to betrayal. Jesus knows your heart. Jesus knows that you are sinner, but righteous at the same time. Jesus wants to wash your feet to cleanse you from all impurity. Jesus loves the repentant. Jesus wants to be close to you and touch your hands and feet. He wants to be very close to you. He wants to touch you and feel you because you are precious in his eyes and he loves you.

Tonight, Jesus also teaches us that even our enemies are deserving of Jesus’ love and your love. Jesus sets an example for us to love our enemy, not through words but through our actions. Jesus shows us how to love one another, and he commands us to “go and do likewise.”