St. Peter Epistle — January 28, 2010

Preparing for Lent

The Prodigal Son

We heard the second clang of the bell last Sunday when we learned about the Publican and Pharisee in our scripture reading. The bell is telling us to prepare for Lent, get ourselves ready for this time of fasting, repentance, and giving alms.

It’s hard to run a race without warming up first. Lent is the same way. We ready ourselves for Lent by gearing up for the demands it requires. “Demands” seems like a strong word, but you don’t win a race unless you run it. Our life in Christ, says St. Paul, is like a race. It takes preparation and practice to reach the finish line.

The scriptures readings are part of that practice. They teach us how to orient ourselves on the inside. First was Zacheaus, who climbed the tree to see Christ. The second is the Publican and Pharisee that teaches about true humility. This week we read about the Prodigal Son, the son who left the father but, when he came to his sense, was received back by his father with great joy. (This should give us confidence in how much our Heavenly Father loves us.)

What do we need to do? Stay vigilant, alert, and pray. The Lord himself will show us what we need to do in our lives to draw closer to Him. Remember, Lent is a discipline, a way of learning how to draw closer to God. We adopt the discipline in the same way a runner adopts the advice of his coach. And, if he listens and applies the wisdom, he has a good chance of reaching the finish line.

Bishop Antoun visits St. Paul’s

This weekend our sister parish is celebrating their Founders Day weekend. Bishop Antoun will be attending and celebrating a hierarchical liturgy there this Sunday. St. Paul’s has graciously invited all members of St. Peter’s to attend a breakfast with the Bishop following their Liturgy.

The breakfast will be held at Heritage Bay Country Club (get map) starting between 12:00pm — 12:30pm.* The cost is $20. If you plan to attend, please send Dr. David Thomas an email at dredthomas@gmail.com.

*Sorry about the vague time, but we are not exactly sure when the Divine Liturgy will end. (We Orthodox understand this!)

Scripture readings for this Sunday

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (New King James Version)

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Luke 15:11-32 (New King James Version)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring[a] out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Hans

Bible Study starts this Tuesday

Bible Study Starts This Tuesday

Our bible study begins this Tuesday evening at 7pm at the home of Jack and Angela Long. We will hold the study every other week.

To get to the Longs: Take US 41-Tamiami Trail to Bonita Beach Road, go west to Vanderbilt Drive, go south for about 1 mile or so to the Audubon development on the right. Ask the guard for directions from there. You can also get a map.

There has been a lot of interest and everyone is invited. You do not have to be a member of St. Peter Mission to attend. Bring your friends.

Don’t forget to bring your bible!

One more reminder. If you have not pledged for 2010, please do so soon! You can print a pledge form from our website. Either mail it to St Peter’s (28679 Alessandria Circle, Bonita Springs, FL 34135) or drop it in the offering plate on Sunday.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Hans

CLARIFICATION: Theophany service begins at 7pm

CLARIFICATION: Theophany service begins at 7pm

Theophany Icon

Click the icon to have it explained

The Tuesday evening Epiphany Liturgy begins at 7pm. This is what I originally said but I also indicated that an Orthos would begin at 6pm. That was incorrect. Come at 7pm.

Again, we will celebrate Epiphany with our sister parish, St. Paul Orthodox Church (get map) on Tuesday, January 5 at 7pm.

The Appearances of the Virgin Mary in Egypt

Yesterday after liturgy Connie Yanakopulos mentioned the appearances of the Virgin Mary over the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Egypt. You can find more information about that including a Youtube video at Virgin Mary appearing in Egypt? Video.

Fr. Hans on Ancient Faith Radio

I was interviewed recently by Fr. Peter-Michael Preble on his radio program “Shepherd of Souls.” You can listen to the interview here.

May you all have a blessed Theophany week and may God be with all of us this New Year. God bless you all!

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Hans

The Sunday before Theophany

The Sunday Before Theophany

Theophany Icon

Click the icon to have it explained

The Baptism of our Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is an important Holy Day in our Orthodox Church. We also call that day “Theophany” which roughly translated means the “manifestation of God” (theos – God; phany – revealing, showing forth). On this day of Jesus’ baptism He was revealed as the Son of God first in his person (the Son), second by the “Spirit in the form of a dove” (the Holy Spirit), and finally by the voice of the father (which “thundered”) who said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

The baptism of Christ was the beginning of His public ministry. It would last only three short years before crucifixion, but then ultimately He would be resurrected.

[Read more…]

Looking Toward our Future

Where are we headed?

After considerable discussion after Liturgy last Sunday here is what we want to see happen:

Christ Pantocrator

Christ Pantocrator

Our goal is to develop a parish – by the grace of God and with His blessing – that develops in Christian community; a place where Christ can be found in our support and care for each other. The scripture is clear: In order to love God we must love each other, and in order to love each other, we must love God.

Three things we need to do:

  1. Increase our outreach. We need to invite our friends and anyone else who is seeking a place to find God. There are a lot of disenfranchised Orthodox Christians in our area. There are other people looking for a simple place of worship that is sound in its teaching and clear in its mission. Invite them to come to church with you.
  2. Start bible studies with particular attention on learning what the Gospel really says. To this end, Fr. Hans will start leading bi-weekly bible studies in both Ft. Myers and Naples (alternating the cities each week). The Naples study begins on Tuesday, January 12, 7:00pm at the home of Jack and Angela Long. The Fort Myers study is still being arranged. Details will be announced as soon as they are finalized.

    These studies are for anyone interested in learning about the bible. Everyone is welcome. A person does not have to be Orthodox or a member of St. Peter’s to attend.

  3. Build up our stewardship base. A mission qualifies to be a mission when it has at least 25 pledged members. We have 18. We are fortunate in that we have many supporters, but some of our supporters need to become stewards at this stage of our growth.

Stewardship is a private commitment between you and God for the support of his Church. A person does not have to be a regular worshipper to be a steward. We have some people who give who are not regular attendees of St. Peter but who believe in our mission and want to support it. We are very grateful for their support.

Widow's Mite

Widow's Mite

For us who attend regularly, establish your stewardship in terms of a percentage of your income. As God prospers you more, return a fixed percentage of your blessing back to Him through support of your parish. This way we grow not as a parish with a mindset of perpetual fundraising (looking to others to take of our own house), but a parish of service and outreach – and one that receives in return a greater measure of blessing from God for our sacrifice.

Some Encouragement

This is the first time most of us have been involved with a mission parish. In talking to other priests and people who have more experience with mission work however, I discover that we are doing well. It takes a lot of work to establish a mission but we have the right people to make it happen.

Unless the Lord build the house, those who labor, labor in vain (Psalm 127:1)

Our work of building St. Peter’s is ultimately (and fundamentally) the work of God. If we are faithful, He will bless it. We express our faithfulness towards God first by our support of each other and those who God brings to us. As we succeed here, God will bring others to us as well.

What do we need to do?

Invite our friends, take advantage of the bible studies being offered, and offer a stewardship pledge. You may print out a stewardship form here.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Hans Jacobse