Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Sunday, January 3, 2016


(The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara. St. James Episcopal Church,  Elmhurst, New York. 01/03/2016)

What is life going to be in 2016?  

In the Gregorian Calendar 2016 is a leap year: February will have 29 days instead 28. This happens every four years to account for the extra time that the earth orbits the sun. In other words, we shall have one more day to enjoy or to worry---whatever the case maybe.

In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2016 is the “Year of the Monkey.” According to Chinese Zodiac, this is a year of playfulness, opportunity, ingenuity, and inventiveness. So go and try new ways, be an entrepreneur. It is also a year of deception and trickery. So better watch out for clever politicians and sleek business persons. They may pull your leg in 2016!

There will be “fortune tellers” who will give you convincing human insights to the future and exciting predictions. The truth of the matter is, we do not know the future. The world holds so much mystery and life is always full of surprises and unpredictability.

So how do we journey into 2016?

First, what will happen to you begins with what happens inside you.
I’m talking about your faith, your hopes and dreams. The Bible says “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11). What is that assurance within you? What is it that you carry within you? As you journey externally, examine first your internal journey. Listen to this parable from “Your Sacred Self” by Dr. Dwayne Dyer:
 In a mother’s womb were two babies. Baby One: Do you believe in life after delivery? Baby Two: Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.
Baby One: Nonsense! There is no life after delivery. And if there is, what kind of life would that be?
Baby Two: I don’t know, but there will be more light there. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we’ll have other senses we’ve not yet known.”
Baby One: That’s absurd! Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
Baby Two: Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this umbilical cord anymore.
Baby One: Nonsense! And moreover if there is life out there, then why has no one has ever come back? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.
Baby Two: Well, I don’t know, but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.
Baby One: Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is she now?
Baby Two: Mother is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of hers. It is in her that we live and move and have our being. Without her this world would not and could not exist.
Baby One: Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exist.
Baby Two: Sometimes, when I’m in silence and really try to listen, I can perceive Her presence, I can hear Her loving voice, calling me by name. Why don’t you try doing that and see what happen? 

The lesson we learn from this parable is that if we must face the future in faith, let us learn to let go and let God. Whatever we do here now is preparation for the future. Let us trek into with courage and Mother, The Force, God will be with us! So listen to the stirring within your soul and let your spirit commune with the Holy Spirit.

Second, what will happen to you is destined by the One who is above you.
Our destiny is already written in the heavenly book. God said: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to give you a good hope and future” (Jeremiah 29:11).  St. Paul declared that God has “destined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ.” But we must learn to commit our plans to God’s plan, our dreams to God’s dreams. We must learn to acknowledge God in all our ways and God will direct our paths.

This is true in the life of Joseph, the Dreamer. Joseph’s journey had twists and turns: sold as a slave by his envious brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned, became a sought-after interpreter of dreams and finally governor in Egypt. In all his sufferings, Joseph’s dream connected with God’s dream. He became an instrument in the salvation of his family and his people Israel.

This is true with the Holy Family. With the threat on the life of the Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary fled from King Herod and became refugees in Egypt. They returned to Palestine and settled in Nazareth of Galilee when Herod passed away. This compelling image of the Holy Family as refugees continues to be played again and again in our modern world. Yes, I believe the plight of Syrian refugees seeking entry in the United States is within God’s divine plan. God continues to work in mysterious ways but in the end, God works for the good of those who love Him. 

In our world there are two words: the word of man and the word of God. The word of man will always die; but the word of God will never die. So if we are to act on the word of man based on fear, we will reject the refugees. But if we act on the Word of God based on compassion, we will offer the refugees our hospitality. No, we do not know the future but our security is anchored on our faith to know the One who holds the future.

Thirdly, what will happen to you will determined by how you integrate the
“Above You” into “Inside You.”
“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Man proposes and God disposes. Responsibility is the part of the human; sovereignty is the part of the divine. We are authors of our prayer and God is the editor. There is a sense of human-divine cooperation. If we do our best, God will do the rest.

There was a piece of land filled with weeds and piles of dirt. A boy took interest in cleaning it up and cultivating it. Then he planted roses and in a few months, the once useless land became a beautiful rose garden. An old man passed by said, “Young man, what a beautiful garden you and God have made!” The boy replied, ”Indeed! But you should have seen it when it was left to God alone!” 

Human striving and God’s grace met at the Table of the Lord. The Holy Communion is an integration of the most fundamental human culture (eating and drinking) and the most lavish love and mercy (the sacrifice of his life). At the Holy Communion, man and God sat down at the table.  At Holy Communion, we have a face to face dinner conversation with God! Mortal Bread and Wine became the sacraments of divine reconciliation!

So our future on earth as in heaven is finally determined by how we integrate this divine grace into the graciousness of our own lives. Grace is offered to us free, but it is not cheap. It is a pearl of great price. We cannot just give it to the dogs or throw it to the pigs. We have to internalize God’s grace. This is another way of saying that if God is love, then we must love; if God is peace, then we must be a people of peace; if God is compassionate, we must be compassionate.

One of the divine values that we must integrate into our human lives is Christian service. The most compelling image that Jesus showed before the Last Supper was this: He took the towel, washed the apostles’ feet and said, “As I have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” Being a servant of God in the world integrates the love, peace, compassion and humility of God.

Conclusion: A Renewal of Covenant
As we begin this New Year 2016, let us renew this Covenant of Service in Jesus Christ. As in the Covenant made with Noah, Abraham and David in the Old Testament, a covenant is an agreement between God and God’s People.  The New Testament is also called a New Covenant between God and the Church, the New People of God.

This following Rite of Renewal of Covenant was started by John Wesley of the Holiness Movement in 1781 and it has been edited, adapted and updated time and again
Leader: And now let us bind ourselves with willing bonds to a Covenant of Service and take the yoke of Christ upon us. Christ has many services for us to be done. Some are easy; others, difficult. Some bring honor, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and materials interests; others contrary to both. In some we may please God and please others; in others, we cannot please God except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is given us in Christ who strengthens us. Therefore, let us make the covenant of God our own and give ourselves anew to Him trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.

ALL: Lord God, Holy Father, since you have called us through Christ to share in this gracious covenant, we take upon ourselves with joy, the yoke or obedience. And for of you, we will endeavor to seek and do your will. We are no longer our own but yours. 

Lord, I am no longer my own but yours
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will
Put me to doing, put me to suffering
Let me employed for your or laid aside for you; exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield myself at your service.

And now glorious and blessed God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thou art mine and I am thine. So be it. The covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

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