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Lent 1, 10 March 2019 (Lent Series on the Liturgy – 1 The Sacrament of Gathering)

Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan

 

Over the next few weeks I will be offering 5 sermons based on the Liturgy – that weekly offering of the church in which so much of God’s glory in Christ, and in us, is celebrated.

Each week the subject will be preceded by the word ‘sacrament’. I am using this word in its loosest sense because I do not want to confuse what we are doing with the 7 formally recognized Sacraments of the church.

However I am working with the basic meaning of ‘sacrament’, namely ‘the outward visible sign of a hidden invisible grace’. In other words, a mystery revealed.

Today we start at the beginning – a very good place to start – by thinking of the Sacrament of Gathering, as it is when we are gathered together we begin our worship.

When we gather together we are the church of God. The New Testament word for this is ekklesia – normally translated as ‘church’. The Greek speakers here will know that this word comes from the Greek verb ‘to call’ or ‘to invite’.

The New Testament has a number of descriptions or metaphors for the church, mostly provided in the Letters of Paul, but also in other bits of NT literature. We should note, however, that this word ‘ekklesia’ is not a word found frequently in the four gospels. Indeed Our Lord uses it only once – when he tells the Apostle Peter that he will be the foundation, the Rock.

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Journeying to Emmaus: a reflection and a rule of life

Bishop Robert – Diocese in Europe

 

The concept of a Rule of Life is a tried and tested Christian practice. Although it has its roots in the monastic life, many Christians of all traditions, (including Anglicans) have found that adopting a simple ‘rule’ can be a valuable aid towards shaping and structuring their lives, enabling us to walk more closely with Christ. In offering this pattern for a rule of life to the people of the Diocese in Europe, and in encouraging individuals to adopt it we hope to help people live out more fully our Christian discipleship and to mark ourselves intentionally as members of communities desiring to be faithful to Christ through this particular Anglican Christian way.

Journeying, and especially journeying with God, is a motif embedded deep within the biblical and Christian tradition. It runs from near the beginning of the Bible to its close. We hear of the travels of  Abraham and his descendants, of the wilderness wanderings of the people after the Exodus from Egypt, of the joyful pilgrimages made to Jerusalem for times of festival, of the anguished journey of the exiles who found – to their surprise – that God was still present with them in Babylon, followed by the ecstatic visions of the prophets who sang of the people’s return. In the New Testament all four Gospels are presented in the form of a journey made by Jesus and his followers, initially in and around Galilee, but then as a kind of pilgrimage to Jerusalem itself to meet what awaited there. After the resurrection the tale of travelling continues as the Gospel moves out from Jerusalem, crossing eventually from Asia to Europe, to culminate in Paul’s goal of reaching Rome. Even the mysterious final book of the Bible, the Revelation of John, seems to be framed as a journey of pilgrimage to the new Jerusalem.

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Ash Wednesday 2019 – Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17; John 8: 1-11

Revd. James Harris – Assistant Chaplain

 

Our gospel reading today is of dubious character – and I’m not talking about the central character. What I mean is that this account doesn’t appear in a great majority of the most reliable ancient biblical manuscripts and is not commented upon at all by the early church fathers.

 

This is not to say the passage was entirely unknown. It appears to have been referenced in passing as early as 100 AD; Saint Jerome does include it in his fourth century Vulgate edition; Saint Augustine writes about it but it’s not until we reach medieval, particularly western, biblical manuscripts that it becomes a commonplace inclusion.

 

Even today, in most modern translations, including the NRSV which we use in this church, this piece of text suffers that most ignominious of treatments – the square bracket or, worse, the footnote.

We are left to conclude then that although this probably is an authentic account of an episode in the life and ministry of Christ, nonetheless, for whatever reason, this dramatic, gritty, sensational encounter was not deemed worthy of inclusion in the mainstream biblical tradition.

Augustine suggests it was perhaps too scandalous and dangerous a topic to confront.

 

Which, of course, it is.

 

And which, of course, makes it a perfect illumination of what we might want to consider on this Ash Wednesday.

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1st MARCH WOMEN’S WORLD DAY OF PRAYER ADDRESS

Deacon Chris Saccali

 

1st MARCH WOMEN’S WORLD DAY OF PRAYER ADDRESS

  1. WELCOME TO YOU ALL, KALOSORISATE STO ST PAUL’S FROM ALL THE TEAM HERE , I AM THE DEACON OF THE PARISH, A RATHER EXTENSIVE PARISH COVERING ATHENS AND BEYOND.

 

  1. WE ARE DELIGHTED TO BE HOSTING THE WOMEN’S WORLD DAY OF PRAYER 2019. WE BELONG TO THE EASTERN ARCHDEACONRY WITHIN THE DIOCESE IN EUROPE AND SLOVENIA, AND THE SMALL WORSHIPPING GROUP IN LUBIJIANA, IS PART OF THAT SERVED BY THE CHAPLAIN IN VIENNA.

 

  1. THIS IS A HOUSE OF PRAYER; WE WORSHIP HERE SUNDAY BY SUNDAY AND DURING THE WEEK.

 

  1. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PRAYING COMMUNITY AND ONE SITUATED HERE IN THE HEART OF ATHENS?

 

  1. WELL, WE INTEND TO OPEN UP THE CHURCH ON A REGULAR BASIS RATHER AS WE DID DURING THE ATHENS OLYMPICS SO PEOPLE CAN COME IN TO SIT, PRAY, LIGHT A CANDLE OR WANDER AROUND.

 

  1. PRAYER DOES NOT HAVE A SPECIFIC TIME AND PLACE BUT A POWERFUL PRESENCE AND AN ON- GOING ONE IN OUR LIVES.

 

  1. HOW CAN WE SUSTAIN A PRAYERLIFE AND HOW DOES THAT IN TURN SUSTAIN US AS INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS, COMMUNITY AND THE CHURCH?

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Sunday next before Lent St Paul’s Athens

Deacon Chris Saccali

 

I wonder whether you have ever been electrified by a play, film or book, so stunned by the writing or acting that it leaves you mulling over the performances for a long time afterwards as well as the plot or characters and the insights it afforded ?

One such occasion happened recently when my fellow educationalist and emotional needs specialist, colleague,  volunteer at Apostoli Dilesi nursery school and integration migrant programmes and friend to this church Katia Papaconstantinou and I went to see a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime based on the book of the same name, in a theatre not so very far from here.

The book has been a favourite of mine for years and one which I read with my students. It tells the story of Christopher, a teenage boy on the autistic spectrum. I had long wanted to see the stage version which premiered in London and toured England but was not able to go. So I was delighted, if somewhat skeptical, to see that the production was being mounted here in Athens. It was not so much the language element I feared, the play was in Greek, but how the plot and script would differ from my preconceived ideas of them. Not to mention the characters.

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2nd Sunday before Lent St. Paul’s Athens. Genesis 2, 4-9, 15-25; Rev 4; Luke 8, 22-25.

Revd. Canon L W Doolan 

 

We are reminded in the first reading of how women came into being!

Genesis Chapter 2 is a salutary reminder that there is more than one Genesis narrative in scripture, and that there are dangers in taking only one narrative and being literalist about it.

I would like to focus on one aspect of this genesis narrative. It is the relationship between man and work. By this, of course, I mean men and women and work.

Passing over rather quickly the story about the woman being from the rib of the man, the writer quickly focusses on the land and its husbandry. It appears from the earliest of our beginnings that man is intended to work – whether we like it or not, work has to be done, otherwise what would things be like? What would your homes be like if the ironing didn’t get done, or the dishes were left unwashed, or the dust builds up into layers visible to the naked eye. Forgive me if I am describing how things look in your own home, but just imagine if all these tasks of domestic work did not get done by house proud men!

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3rd Sunday before Lent 2019 St. Paul’s Athens. Jer 17, 5-10; 1 Cor 15, 12-20; Luke 6, 17-26

Revd. Canon L W Doolan.

 

We have only 3 more Sundays until the holy season of Lent begins. We now call these weeks, nestled between the end of Epiphany until Ash Wednesday, ‘ordinary time’. A case can be made for turning the word ‘ordinary’ into an ‘extra-ordinary’ period of weeks, but just for today, I would like to remind us of what the ‘old’ Book of Common Prayer used to call these Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima – names that provide a countdown to the great Paschal event of Easter – 70, 60, 50, then of course 40 days in the wilderness, which we call Lent, sarakosti (Orthodox Lent)

 

During last week someone sent me an email with a wonderful poem written by John Betjeman, a poem in which he humbly praises these Sunday names, unique to the Anglican tradition.

I am quoting only a part of the poem, but the hard copy (printed version) has the whole poem. It was first broadcast on BBC West of England Radio in February 1954.

 

Septuagesima

Septuagesima – seventy days
To Easter’s primrose tide of praise;
The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc
Mean Lent is near, which makes you think.
Septuagesima – when we’re told
To “run the race”, to “keep our hold”,
Ignore injustice, not give in, and practise stern self-discipline;

A somewhat unattractive time
Which hardly lends itself to rhyme.

 

But still it gives the chance to me
To praise our dear old C. of E.
So other Churches please forgive
Lines on the Church in which I live,
The Church of England of my birth,
The kindest Church to me on earth.

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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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