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4th Sunday before Lent 2019. St. Paul’s Athens. Is 6, 1-8; 1Cor 15, 1-11; Luke 5, 1-11

Revd. Canon L W Doolan

 

3 locations; 3 time zones; 1 message.

 

The three locations are a thriving cosmopolitan city with a commercial port not a million miles away from us here; a lake side in a region called Galilee; and a magnificent temple, indeed the original temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.

The three time zones, working in reverse order, are the early 50’s AD when the Apostle Paul is thought to have written his letters to the Christian church in Corinth; about 20 years prior to that is the second time zone – namely the 3 year ministry of Jesus before his death and resurrection; and the third, a long time before that is about 800BC when the prophet Isaiah was working perhaps as a priest, in the great Temple of Solomon, the Temple that was destroyed in 587BC by Nebuchadnezzar, and which was never surpassed by the 2 temples built subsequently.

 

The three time zones represent, back in chronological order, the time before Christ, the time of Christ’s ministry, and the time of the church and Christ’s apostolic command to ‘go out’ and baptize, and ‘do this’ in memory of me when you worship together.

That is the historic and topographical backdrop to our three readings this morning. 3 locations; 3 times zones; 1 message.

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Epiphany 3, Unity Sunday Athens Gospel Reading John 2, 1-11

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan

 

Before preaching this homily Fr. Leonard used a jug from Cana in Galilee to illustrate the change of water into wine.

The Church universal has designated this week, including this Sunday as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I would like to make a brief commentary on this universal phenomenon.

  • It is significant that Unity Week is incorporated into this holy season of Epiphany, following the revelation of Christ as the Son of God, when he, Jesus, is baptized in the river Jordan.
  • It is significant that Unity is considered part of the revelation of God in Christ, and that Unity in Christ is seen as God’s glory being shown forth in his Son, Jesus the Christ.
  • The gospel reading shows us that life together in Christ resembles the difference between not just the water and the wine of the great miracle in Cana of Galilee, but that simply compared to normal wine the wine transfigured by Christ is differentiated and far exceeds the gladness of the heart that normal wine brings to humanity. As the master of ceremonies says to the host – you have kept the best wine until last.

It is true that division between human beings is a sin against the image of God in each of us. It must therefore be even more of a sin when those of us who know Christ are divided, for Christ is the mirror image of the unity of God, and we as Christians are called to be Christ-like, and therefore unity must be part of our DNA as Christians.

This unity is not easily achieved by us, because it is so easy for us to conform to the likeness of the evil one, who sows the seeds of division between us. In biblical language, not always popular in our own day, the devil rejoices in our human squabbles and our disagreements, and when nation takes up arms against nation because in such division we give oxygen and energy to his divisive work. He focusses on the life of the church, and when he can create argument in the life of the church, he distracts us from our main mission in the world – our mission not only to preach the word of God, but to witness in real life in our human relationships to the Godly characteristics of love, beauty, grace, and compassion.

 

So it is indeed right, it is our duty and our joy in this Epiphany season to remind ourselves of our first calling as baptized Christians not only to have our own lives transformed and transfigured, but also to transfigure the life of the whole church, and to proclaim humanity blessed .

In 2 weeks time when Bishop Robert is with us we will have some people baptized and confirmed. In this precious sacrament we will be reminded that every human being is loved by God, and indeed crowned by God in glory. In baptism each of us is a new creation.

The miracle of water turned into wine is a type of this change that happens to us when we are incorporated into life together in Christ. That life is at its most perfect when it is lived in unity. Disunity is a sin against God, and so we must pray fervently that Christ’s Church universal can be one in him, but also that our own Christian community can be one in our relationships with each other. We are not all the same, and God preserve us from being uniform – such uniformity is not even needed in his universal church, but it is when we are united in the person of Christ that our cup will be full to the brim and running over.

 

Song: Running over, running over, my cup’s full and running over.

           For the Lord saved me, I’m as happy as can be.

           My cup’s full and running over.

Baptism of Christ Blog

Baptism of Christ, Isaiah 43:1-7; Acts 8: 14-17; Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22. 13th January 2019

Fr James Harris

 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, be sure that an illusion hides more than a million.

 Enter the fascinating world of illusion which will trick your confidence…and confuse you completely… Visit us and you will be thrilled because nothing is what it seems, especially not here!

 [Our installations are a] reminder that our assumptions about the world we perceive are often nothing but a spectre of illusions.’

 

So says the website for the new Athens Museum of Illusion which opened last September in Monastiraki and tempts you with the possibility of walking through a vortex tunnel which seems to spin you 360 degrees and an upside-down room which convinces you you’re standing on your head – whilst in both cases you actually keep your feet firmly on the ground.

 

It is a world of illusions – and all great fun, I’m sure.

 

It puts me in mind of the way the earliest Christians – in places such as Rome – prepared their candidates for baptism, for entry into the Church

Typically, having been stripped of their clothing, candidates were shoved into a pitch dark room, spun around to create a sense of complete disorientation, before being plunged into a pool of water and then hauled out into the bright sunlight, presumably spluttering and blinking, to be dressed in white robes and presented to the church with great rejoicing.

This dramatic ceremony would have been the culmination of months, possibly longer, of preparation including in-depth study and fasting  – all of it designed to rid the candidates of any notion that they were in any way capable of engineering their own salvation; to rid them of the illusion that their own strength, wealth, understanding, ability was what was important.

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Epiphany 2019

Canon L W Doolan   St. Paul’s Athens

 

It is St. Matthew alone who records the journey of the Magi to the city of Bethlehem, and to the very stable where Jesus lay.

We refer to this as the Epiphany. This we generally translate as ‘manifestation’ or in more contemporary language ‘revelation.’ I don’t need to tell most of you here that comes from the verb phanerono. Most of the ladies here will know what a diaphanous frock is, and cling film is a diaphanis membrana. This sounds so much better than cling-film!

In terms of today’s feast, through the arrival of the Magi to the stable in Bethlehem, we are celebrating the revelation of the glory of God in Jesus to the non-Hebrew speaking world, that is, to the gentiles. St. Matthew is making it clear that the birth of Jesus has an impact on Jew and Gentile alike – it is a universal event, a truly catholic revelation of God to his entire creation.

This Epiphany has been the subject of much interest, in situations like quizzes. For example, ‘name the three wise men’. We all know that traditionally they are called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

How many Wise Men were there? We all know the Quiz answer is that we don’t know, as St. Matthew mentions only three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, without revealing the number of Wise Men who brought the gifts.

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Feast of the Holy Innocents 28th December 2018. St Paul’s Athens

Rev Canon L W Doolan

 

Most of the details surrounding the birth of Jesus come from St. Luke’s gospel. However Matthew gives some additional material such as the visit of the Magi to the Christ-child; the Flight into Egypt, a much ignored little piece of information but of course the subject of much icon interest and not surprisingly of great importance to Coptic Christians in Egypt; and the story that we recount today – namely the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

Herod the Great was a wily man, and a brittle ruler – he felt vulnerable under the Roman authorities, and was jealous of his own powers. He seeks to trick the Wise Men into telling him where they find the child Messiah. They are wise before the event and being warned in a dream, the place of so much human wisdom, they return back to their mysterious homes by a different route.

Also by a dream, and not for the first time, Joseph leads his wife and child to Egypt for safety. They remained there until this crafty fox  Herod had died.

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Feast of St. Stephen 26th Dec 2018 St. Paul’s Athens.

Rev. Canon L W Doolan

 

Today is the Feast of Stephen, well known even in one of our Christmas carols, Good king Wenceslaus.

We make today a very big metal and spiritual jump. Within 24hours we have gone from celebrating the birth of the Saviour to a saint who died for his faith. On the one hand the Redeemer is born, then suddenly the cost of discipleship.

In the Orthodox calendar today is kept as a Synaxis of the Holy Mother of God. For us there is a synaxis between Jesus and suffering – we point almost straight away towards Good Friday and martyrdom. Appropriately, of course, the Mother of God is no stranger to the maternal suffering of seeing her son on a cross.

Stephen’s death is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, and so he is considered the proto-martyr of the Christian church – the first person recorded who died for his faith in the crucified and risen Lord. His death is also notable because it is none other than Saul, St. Paul, who oversees the stoning of Stephen – maybe this experience was a contributory factor in changing Paul’s mind and heart to open up towards receiving Jesus into his life.

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Midnight Mass 2018 St. Paul’s Athens

Canon L W Doolan

 

It all began even before the mists of time, if such a thing were possible. Tonight we pick up the story at a certain point. This episode begins with an Archangel appearing to a young woman in Palestine, and a conception that is a mystery, because it defies all logic. But then the Holy Trinity is not about logic.

God, in the form of Gabri-el, is present at this mystery; the begetting of the Son is taking place; the work of the Holy Spirit is at hand. This is an epiphany of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son , and Holy Spirit. This is truly a moment pregnant with grace and good news.

What originates as a mystery results in the very real evidence, proof; a baby born of Mary and placed in a crib. What could be more of a challenge to the intellect than this – God incarnate lying as a helpless baby in a crib. The first sign of breath accompanied by a cry of a tiny innocent infant, the last sign of breath on a cross accompanied by the words, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’

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Third Sunday of Advent 16th December 2018 – Preparing the way for Good News

Deacon Chris Saccali

 

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

DRIVING PAST THE APPROACH TO OUR VILLAGE a couple of weeks ago I noticed a notice board propped up at the side of the road with the words GOOD NEWS emblazoned at the top and bottom. “Great” I thought to myself, “we could all do with some of that.” Next time I passed by, I slowed down as much as I dared so that I could read the small print (always a wise move) and discovered that the good tidings were referring to upholstery covers being restored or mended! But that got me thinking on how our spiritual lives can and need to be renewed and restored in this refreshing, yet penitential advent period.

 

Today, on the third Sunday of Advent, we are thinking about John the Baptist and his message of Good News. This phrase Good News comes right at the end of this passage in verse 18 in Greek Evaggelion literally the good message/ announcement which is also the word in Greek for gospel. Originally it was used in Roman times by the town crier to announce messages about the Empire. Only later did Good News come to have a Christian connotation such as we read here in Luke’s gospel.

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Advent Sunday 2018 Athens

Fr James Harris

 

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness…

We don’t have to look far to see very dark forces at work in these days. Some recent headlines illustrate the point:

  • More people have died at sea attempting to reach Spain ifrom north Africa n the last three months than during the whole of 2017
  • 10 provinces of Ukraine are now under martial law
  • Famine in Yemen
  • Murder in synagogues; murder in embassies

I don’t need to go on – but I could.

And Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan – they rarely even make it into the news bulletins these days…

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Trinity 25, 18th November 2018: Daniel 12: 1-3; Hebrews 10: 11-14, 19-25; Mark 13: 1-8

Fr James Harris

 

I want to take you on a journey of the imagination this morning. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, we will begin…

 

Our imagined scene takes place somewhere on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the province of Judea in what today would be called the year 30 AD or what the Jews of the time might have calculated as something like the 3,791st year of the Era of the World – i.e. since Creation.

 

It’s a fertile place, not like the deserts down south; sheep and goats are bleating, the whiff of fresh fish coming on the breeze from the shoreline where the fishermen sort their catch. The small town of white, low rise buildings nestles on the hillside and this is where you, a faithful Jew, have grown up.

 

In the centre of the town is a small synagogue where, week by week, for as long as you can remember, you have seen the great scrolls unrolled and the scriptures read – wonderful, ancient, inspiring histories recounting God’s faithfulness to his people, and prophecies of the time when he will send his chosen one, his Messiah to save and to set free. Prophecies like that of Daniel who talks so powerfully of this moment when a new age will dawn for God’s people here on earth. It won’t be without drama – when is it otherwise with God? – but it will mean blessing for the faithful who endure. Daniel even talks about people rising from the dead on that day. Now that’s really weird; no other scriptures talk about that possibility. Earthly life – work, family, harvest – is where you hope for God’s blessing, not once you’re dead.

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