Tuesday, January 06, 2009

God's Garden & the African Christian Heritage

Orthodoxy has done a poor job reaching out to the African American community in this country. On the other hand, Islam has made significant inroads into a community that has a rich spiritual tradition. Islam often sells itself to African American as the religion with African roots. Christianity is the slave masters religion. This is blatantly false. Before Christianity made its way to Northern Europe, it had already penetrated Africa. Christianity has much deeper roots in Africa than many moderns understand. Black saints abound in Orthodoxy and the early church. One such saint is St. Moses the Black. This one saint is the inspiration for the life of a contemporary African American Orthodox priest with a most interesting testimony.

Excitingly, a movie is being made on the life of this wonderful man with a message toward African American and all Americans to return to their religious roots.

Below is a link to the site detailing Fr. Moses Barry and the making of the film:

Also here is a preview of the film:

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Acts 14 - In Asia Minor

Acts 14

1. Again they start in the synagogue. This stop in Iconium is typical of many of their stops. They preach in the synagogue and many of the Gentiles there convert but enough Jews remain steadfast that they oppose Paul's presence. Eventually the opposition becomes great enough that they have to move on to other areas. Miracles did occur at the hands of Barnabas and Paul in order to confirm to the people their teaching. Eventually they leave Iconium and flee southwest to Lystra and Derbe.

8ff. In Lystra, Paul heals a lame man that had been lame from birth. As a result of the healing, the people proclaim Paul and Barnabas to be gods.

Apparently, the people in Lystra had a legend that Zeus and Hermes had visited their land disguised as mortals, and no one gave them any hospitality except for one older couple. In their anger at the people, Zeus and Hermes wiped out the whole population, except for the old couple. No wonder the people of Lystra were so quick to honor Paul and Barnabas! One student in our class, suggested that the pagan priests could have co-opted this legend to protect their own interest rather than the people embracing the faith of Paul and Barnabas.

Paul obviously opposes this pagan identification and preaches to the people the Gospel. Jews from Antioch and Iconium come to Lystra and stir up the people to oppose him. The opposition becomes so great that the people stone Paul and drag him from the city. The Christian disciples gather Paul from and he recovers then leaves for Derbe.

23. This is a summary of what they had done in each city that they traveled through . They did not leave the believers to flounder but had ordained elders in each place. The word elder in Greek is presbuteros where we get the English word presbyter which linguistically became prester and then the shortened form priest.

Luke summarizes the message of Paul and Barnabas to the existing disciples. The message given was to encourage and strengthen them, but may seem contrary to our comfort loving ears. The message was "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Our culture is used to a soft Christianity that promises blessings and comforts. When these blessings are not present, one begins to question the quality of faith. God must be angry and need appeased and once again the blessings will fall. This is paganism. Christianity is the way of the cross, and to deny the cross is to deny the way of salvation.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Acts 13 - Paul's First Missionary Journey

Acts 13

This is a wonderful passage this gives us another glimpse into the life of the early church. The Antiochian church had gathered together for worship and Paul and Barnabas were sent on a missionary journey.

Several men are mentioned in these first couple verses and are identified as prophets and teachers.

1. Simeon who was called Niger (possibly Simon the Cyrene who carried the cross of Christ). The term Niger means black and it may not have been a surname but a nickname describing him. Cyrene was a town in modern day Libya.

The Holy Apostle Lucius of the Seventy became bishop in Syrian Laodicia (a former chief city in Phrygia). The Apostle Paul mentions him in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16: 21), among the other Christians whom he greets.

Manaen was courtier of King Herod Antipas as mentioned here and he died in Antioch.

2. “ministered” here is actually the Greek word leitourgia. Obviously where we get our word liturgy. As they served the liturgy the Holy Spirit spoke to them to separate out Barnabas and Saul to be sent as missionaries for the church. This looks like an ordination service and Chrysostom sees in this act as an ordination of Paul. As to evidence of ordination, from this passage onward Paul no longer go by Saul but Paul, and Chrysostom suggests that he took a new name upon being ordained. Christians from the beginning have often taken new names upon being baptized and almost always upon ordination including monastic orders.

4. Seleucia was just south of Anitoch and from there they were able to take a ship to the Island of Cyprus. Salamis is a city in Cyprus. And they began their preaching in the synagogues. This becomes typical of Paul's strategy, he goes to the synagogue first and usually attracts the God-fearers and several Jews, and he uses these people as the base of the Christian community.

John was their assistant. In other places he is referred to as John Mark, who is the Gospel writer Mark. Later on Mark causes a dispute between Paul and Barnabas. We also learn that Mark is Barnabas’ nephew.

13. Perga in Pamphylia: Perga would have been northwest of Cyprus on the Southern coast of Asia Minor in an area know as Pamphylia. John Mark leaves from here and this action will later cause a dispute with Paul.

14. Antioch Pisidia. This is not the Syrian Antioch but in the middle of Asia Minor. Again they go to a synagogue and after the Scripture reading they stand to preach.

15-41. Paul’s sermon is similar in nature to many of the other sermons seen in Acts. Paul gives brief history of Israel highlighting David showing that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic line and the prophecies. He quotes from Ps. 88:19, 1 Kingdoms 13:14 in verse 22. Then in v. 23 Paul refers to the prophecy that the Messiah would come from the seed of David. (Ps. 88:36, 37, 2 Kingdoms 7:12-14).
Other passages from the OT are Ps. 2:7, Is. 55:3, Ps. 15:10, & Hab. 1:5.

43. As a result of the sermon, it was mainly the God-fearers who embraced the message of the Gospel.

45. Obviously the word had spread about Paul and Barnabas and a large crowd gathered together on the next Sabbath. Many in the Jewish community were unhappy with the gathering of the Gentiles into their place. Paul then quotes from Is. 49:6 that the Lord would use Israel to bring the Gentiles into salvation.

48. Paul and Barnabas were ultimately kicked out of town because of the disturbance they caused. Yet not before many Gentiles were converted. Chrysostom: “This is proof that their having received these Gentiles was agreeable to the mind of God. But ‘appointed,’ not in regard of necessity: ‘For whom He foreknew,’ says the apostles, ‘He also foreordained.’”

51. Iconium: due West of Antioch Pisidia

*25-32 is used as an epistle reading during feast of John the Baptist


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