Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

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The Church and the Bible

To know the Lord of the word, we have to know the word of the Lord. Church is, the group of believers those who follow Jesus and proclaim Him as Lord. Some people things church is the building. While the place where believers meet is called church. The real church is made of people, God’s people. When we go to church, we meet God’s people to worship and learn about God. Church is God’s house on earth. The Holy Spirit comes and takes place in the souls of those faithful who make up the church, not the four walls.

The idea of building churches starts from the beginning of creation. Adam and Eve were the first man and woman to live on earth. The ministry of Adam among his children on earth stretches from the distant past of pre mortality to the distant future of resurrection, judgment, and beyond. The book of Genesis tells us that Abel and Cane every year during the harvest season, offered burnt offerings to God.

King David after building himself a palace, wanted to build God just as nice Temple as his own house. But God in 2nd. Samuel 7 reveals to David through Nathan the profit referring to him His servant, that not him but his son Salomon will be the one to build that temple.

Solomon’s Temple, took 80,000 people and seven years to build, 46 years to complete. King Salomon knew, still it needed the presence and the blessing of God. Hundreds of priests were ready, hundreds of sacrifices offered. Solomon delivered a beautiful prayer. “O Lord, let your eyes be upon this place day and night, let your ear hear the prayers made in this place. And if your people sin and they come and pray here, forgive them their sins. And if there is a war, or famine, or any trouble, and the people open their hearts to you in this house, listen in heaven.” God answered Solomon’s prayer by sending fire from heaven burning the offering. That night God spoke to Solomon, promised to look upon that church day and night under one condition. “If my people will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear in heaven.” As long as people in the Old Testament were faithful to God’s conditions, He blessed them He was with them, and they were happy. But as soon as they forgot His conditions, pride filled their hearts, didn’t offer true prayers and diverted the church to other uses, and sought the approval of man than God, loved their sins, refused to repent, then God took away His blessings, and God left them to their own fate. When that happened, the people got into trouble, deep trouble.

HOW THE CHURCH SHOULD NOT BE
Mary was a poor old lady, and she did almost any job to be able to make living including cleaning houses even toilets. On her way home, there was a beautiful church that she admired. Many times went inside the church and wished she was a member of that church. On one occasion while in church, the priest announced registration of new members on that day after the mass. Mary was happy and after mass, she got in the line to register as a new member. When it was her turn, the priest didn’t register her, asked her to think about it and come back. He didn’t want to offend the average member that was very wealthy and high class. Because she was low class, and poor, and she didn’t smell good. The following week again same situation, and then Mary stopped coming. Few weeks later the priest sitting down at a French Café near by the side walk with some of his church members, Mary goes by and somehow she came face to face with the priest. The priest asked her; what did you decide Mary? Have you made your mind? Mary answered him by saying I saw Jesus in my dream. The priest asked her; then what happened? Mary continued by saying; when Jesus saw me unhappy, asked me the reason and I told him that I loved to be a member in your church but I haven’t been able to. Jesus answered me by saying:” Mary don’t feel bed even I haven’t been able to become a member in that church yet.” I would like to see the look on his and friends faces.

The church is for people, rich, poor, good and sinners who ask forgiveness and come together regularly to celebrate God’s love and Mercy. The early church had believers who were slaves, servants, Jews, Gentiles, men, women, old people and young people. Even now, how amazing it is that God loves and uses all these different people, bringing them together for the united purpose of worshipping and serving Him. Statement of faith, style of worship, financial ability, focus of ministry may differ from church to church, but all those differences aside, we must remember that we are all part of one big family: God’s family. Luke 4:16 says: “When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.” Jesus went to the synagogue “as usual”, even though He was the perfect Son of God, and His local synagogue left much to be desired, He attended services every week. Jesus’ example makes most excuses for not attending church weak and self serving. Make regular worship a part of your life. St. Paul said: “ Difficulties however should never be excuses for missing church services. Rather as difficulties arise, we should make even greater effort to be faithful in attendance.

Sin is a part of nature, we are all the children of Adam, born in sin, and lived in sin for thousands of years. Finally, because of God’s love for us, He gave us His most precious thing, His Son. Jesus suffered and died for us so that we would have eternal life. The sins that we brought from Adam and Eve are cleansed by baptism to His death. Baptism gives us a new birth which the mother is the Holy Spirit. When St. Paul came to Ephesus, he asked if the Christian there had received the Holy Spirit. They answered that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul then baptized those who had not yet been born again, that tiny group of people grew to become the great Church of Ephesus. There are many today who have not heard of the Holy Spirit or felt His power in their lives, and in their churches. Yet the power is there to be used. When baptized, we denounce Satan and his deeds, but as we grow older, we forget everything and start sinning again. In order to be forgiven from the new sins, we have to repent, and promise our faith in Christ. St Paul in 2nd Corinth. 5:17 tells us: “if you are in Christ, you are a new creation.” Once a year our church, on the dedication of the church Sunday, reminds us that we should dedicate ourselves, get rid of our old clothes of sin, dress up with our new clothes of righteousness so we’ll be worthy to enter the heavenly wedding banquet. Because we are not allowed to enter the banquet hall dressed in dirty clothes. That’s why we have fasting and prayers also to support us. Some people may think they are un savable, this is not true. In Ezekiel 37:1-14, God says to these bones, “I will cause breath to enter you, that you may come to life.” The dry bones represent the people’s spiritually dead condition. Some of our churches or church members may seem like a heap of dried up bones to us, spiritually dead with no hope of vitality.

FUNERAL FOR THE CHURCH
In a small town in the Midwest resided about 500 families, and they had only one church. Many priests came to serve that church, but most of them didn’t stay long and went back to where they came from. The reason was that people did not attend church services. Knowing this, a young priest volunteered to serve that church. The first thing he did, was that he visited many people at their homes, and spoke to some on the street corners etc. Many of them promised him that they would go to church. The first Sunday, about twenty people attended the services, the second Sunday about ten and the third Sunday it was just him and a deacon celebrating the mass. The disappointed priest put advertising at the local newspaper saying the church died, Sunday after mass, we will have burial ceremony. Curious residents of the town filled up the church that Sunday, to see what a dead church look like, and what kind of ceremony would be conducted. There was a cascade near by the altar and was closed. Finishing the prayers, the priest announced that: “ Now, we are going to open the cascade and one by one go and give farewell to your dead church.” Curious people went by the cascade start looking inside to see what a dead church look like. After looking in the cascade, there was a sheepish look on their face and walked away with their heads down. Because the priest had placed a mirror in the cascade and people saw their own image as the dead church.

God may restore any Church, no matter how dry or dead it may be. Rather than giving up, pray for renewal, for God to restore it to life. The hope and prayers of every church should be that God will put His Spirit into it. in fact, God is at work calling His people back to Himself, bringing new life into dead churches.

There is no perfect Christian, but we should try to be one, to receive His grace we don’t deserve. Jesus in the Bible points to some of the people He healed, and forgave them their sins. Jesus can heal everybody, if He can not heal everyone, He cannot heal anyone. Once we repent, and cleanse the temples of our souls, then the Holy Spirit will come and live within us. We then become the temples of the Holy Spirit.

“Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come to him.” May God make us worthy to be renewed and become the temples of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Aziz Hadodo

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