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Advent 3, 15 December 2019: Isaiah 35, 1-10; James 5, 7-10; Matthew 11, 2-11.

Rev. Canon Leonard Doolan – St Paul’s Athens

 

No woman on earth has ever given birth to anyone as great as John the Baptist. I am a big fan of John the Baptist. However it is not I who grant to John this great accolade of birth, but Christ himself.

The holy scriptures reveal to us glimpses into the life of John, known as the Πρόδρομος , the Forerunner. And yet we are left thirsting for more knowledge of this man. In some ways it is a pity that we refer to him as John the Baptist, as John the Baptizer captures more accurately the dynamism of this character.

It reminds me of the rather pathetic joke: What do John the Baptist and Winnie the Pooh have in common? Only their middle name! (Think about that one).

 

The gospels build up a picture, though little more than a squint, of John. We know that he has familial connections with Jesus. We use the word cousin. On account of the journey made by Blessed Mary to her ‘kinswoman’ Elizabeth, to tell her that she is to carry the child of the Holy Spirit, we are reliably informed that Elizabeth was already 6 months into her pregnancy. Thus we know that John is half a year older that Jesus.

John’s father and mother are both known to us, and we know that the father, Zechariah, was on duty at the temple when he has his vision that he will have a child with Elizabeth who is to be called, not son of Zechariah, but John. Both John’s parents were very elderly when he was conceived. Given Zechariah’s duty at the temple we know that he was one of the temple officials, so John would have been brought up familiar with the temple – a factor that will be very significant in his future life.

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Advent Sunday 2019 , Isaiah 2, 1-5; Romans 13, 11-end; Matthew 24, 36-44)

Canon Leonard Doolan 

 

Even the most casual observer of events on the world stage must realize that, in rather biblical language, ‘the nations are in uproar’. For months now we have seen the deep discontent of the people of Hong Kong spilling out on to the streets of the city. In South America a number of political leaders have fallen from favour recently. In the city of Nazaria in Iraq there are many deaths of civilians as the Iraqi people react to corruption in high places and the lack of jobs, opportunities, and a future. Europe is not without its problems either. President Macron has declared NATO as brain dead. France had it yellow vest protests for weeks – and Spain and Italy have social problems; the cohesion of the European Union is shaky as we enter a period of change in its senior bureaucrats; and then of course there is BREXIT and the parliamentary paralysis this has created in the ‘mother of parliaments’.

 

I think we can say that we are not living in contented times. What might be the cause of this malaise? What underlies the fracturing of societies and alliances? Why are trade deals, closer monetary union, political integration, bureaucratic standardisation  from Brussels why are these not managing to bring cohesion? What is it that is missing?

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2nd Sunday before Advent, 17th Νοvember 2019 – Luke 21: 5 -19

Megan Maciver,  St Paul’s Athens

 

In the name of our loving, liberating, and life-giving God.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

In today’s gospel, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, speaks of terrifying times. He tells us about world wars, famines, plagues and – maybe worst of all – being betrayed, and handed over to persecution and death, by those closest to you, by those you love.
When we meet Jesus today, Jesus is in Jerusalem and the Passover is near. Every day he is teaching at the temple.  Just a few verses before this, he told us a story about the landowner who sent his beloved son to collect the fruit of the vineyard, only to be murdered by the wicked tenants. There are several recent mentions of all “stones being thrown down.”  Tones of
destruction and betrayal; now, there are no more stories of wedding feasts or walking on water.  And we know that these stories are some of the last he tells his disciples on earth. And to me, the stakes of these parables seem higher.

When I read today’s gospel, at first I kept struggling with how our Prince of Peace could allow these terrible things, these famines and pestilences, and terrors, to happen… Especially to his followers. Indeed many of Jesus’ disciples died horrible deaths: they were crucified, stabbed, and burnt to death; many of them preaching the good news until their last breath.  Why, we ask God, do you allow this terrible suffering, especially for those who love you; who you love? Why these times of terror and pain?

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Remembrance Sunday 2019 – Ecclesiasticus 51, 1-12; 1 Cor 15, 50-end.

Sermon preached by the Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan. St. Paul’s Anglican church Athens.

 

Today’s New Testament reading is part of the correspondence to a city not too far from where we are right now. Corinth had a primitive Christian community, but it also had diaspora Jews. It was a very cosmopolitan trading port.

His letter to the Corinthians contains some of St. Paul’s insights and theology of the resurrection. The words we have heard this morning are part of his extended reflections on this deep mystery of the faith.

As Christians, of course, the resurrection of Christ is central – central to the mystery of the cross and the new life offered in the Risen Christ. However Paul’s message is more subtle than this plain reading. Part of Paul’s hermeneutical style is to interpret the new faith in the light of the background circumstances of his listeners. At this he is a master.

So it is when he preaches at the Areopagus, here in Athens, he refers to the old pantheistic religion of the Greeks, focusing his attention on the tomb to the ‘unknown God’. He then preaches Jesus.

 

In Corinth there are community members with a Hebrew speaking, Jewish background, just as Paul had been – he is in familiar territory with this group of people.

So it is that he makes an assumption that Christians believe in the resurrection because of the resurrection of Jesus. In engaging the Hebrew speakers he goes a step further. Resurrection is already part of Jewish belief. Only the Sadducee party rejected it. So Paul adds in an interesting phrase at the beginning of his presentation on resurrection. He says this, ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.’ (1 Cor 15,13). Paul already believed in resurrection – Judaism already believed in resurrection. It is what we can call ‘a priori’ argument. ‘Taken as read’.

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Audio Sermons from St Paul’s Sunday Liturgies; Trinity 16 & 18 and Sermon preached to the Swedish Church

October 6th – Sermon preached to the Swedish Church: Luke Chapter 7, 11-17

 

 

Trinity 16 2019, Habakkuk 1, 1-4; 2,1-4;  2Tim 1, 1-14;  Luke 17, 5-10

 

 

Trinity 18 2019, Genesis 32, 22-31; Luke 18, 1-8

 

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Trinity 18 2019 – Genesis 32, 22-31; Luke 18, 1-8

The Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan, St Paul’s Athens

 

In our Liturgy this morning we are giving thanks to God for the gift of Hercules – not the great mythic character of classical fame – but the Hercules who is the beautiful little son of Evie and Christopher. Known in his Greek form as Herakles, the meaning of the name is ‘gift of Hera’ who was the mythical wife of Zeus. Herakles name is what we call ‘theophoric’ in that it is a reference to divinity.

In our reading this morning from the book of Genesis, we have another example of a ‘theophoric’ name. The setting of the story is a ford by the river Jabbok. This is where Jacob and his rather substantial family plan to cross the river, which is a tributary of the River Jordan.

A bit of a wrestling match takes place in which Jacob, it transpires, fights against God, and oddly enough it is Jacob who wins, though with a lasting injury to his hip. Having become victor in the fight, Jacob asks for a blessing from his opponent. He gets more than he bargained for – he gets a new name, in fact the name Isra-el. Any Hebrew word that includes ‘EL’ in it refers to God. This is why Jacob’s new name is ‘theophoric’. Like many Greek names, especially the Christian ones, Hebrew names have an interpretation and meaning. Jacob, now named Isra-el, carries a name that means ‘one who wrestled with God.’

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