St. Peter Epistle – July 21, 09 — Thoughts on Sunday’s Discussion

After Liturgy last Sunday, we discussed that Jesus was not the founder of Christianity. Instead, Christ enables the Gentiles (us) to enter the commonwealth of Israel. This means that the promise of God given to Abraham that through him a Savior through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed applied not only to the children of Abraham, but to the whole world.

St. Paul discusses this extensively in the book of Romans. The Church is now the “New Israel” and we look to a “city not made with hands” but to a “heavenly Jerusalem.”

A very good question was raised: how did Christianity become established? It was established through the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles. The word “apostle” means “one sent forth” with the evangelion (“good news”) – what we call the Gospel. The apostles were the original disciples.

The gentiles heard the Gospel primarily through the preaching of the Apostle Paul. Paul was not an original disciple. In fact, he was a persecutor of the Christians before encountering Christ on the road to Damascus (you can read about this in Acts 9). Paul went to the Gentiles.

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St. Peter Epistle — July 1, 2009 Independence Day

We were created to be free

Declaration of Independence

On July 4 we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a day we now understand as the founding of the United States of America. At the time, there was no guarantee that the brave men who declared independence from Britain would succeed. There were, for all purposes, signing their death warrants because if they failed, they would surely be hanged.

But they did succeed and out of their efforts a new nation was born. And this nation, despite some grave moral inequities like slavery that would not be settled until years later at great cost to itself, and despite mistakes and injustices along the way, would nevertheless rise as a beacon of freedom and hope in the world.

This call of freedom and hope rang in the ears of many of our immediate forbears. They came to America from all over the world because they believed that they might find the means to take care of their families. Many immigrated to escape war and poverty that afflicted so many other areas of the world.

Hard work, perseverance, and most of all the embrace of the right values ensured that a new life could be forged. And forge it they did. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice, and like them, we too must go forward to build on what they started.

Statue of Liberty

But America has fallen on hard times. Some of the difficulty is economic, but the more serious problem is that we have lost our moral compass. The values that guided the Forefathers were the same values that guided the early immigrants. Unfortunately they have fallen by the wayside in many areas of American life.

We don’t need to mention what they are. We already know. We worry about the moral lives of our children – what they face, the decisions they have to make. We worry about the collapse of the family. We worry that the public culture is increasingly profaned and there seems to be no way out of the moral confusion around us and the turmoil that it causes.

 

What do we do?

There is only one answer. We have to turn back to God. And the way back to God begins with us.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian author and dissident said that our social and moral crisis was because “man had forgotten God.” Only when man recovers what he called his “religious sensibility” will things turn around. And that begins with us.

This Sunday right after liturgy, we are going to do two things. First we are going to pray together for the healing of a seventeen year old boy who was diagnosed with cancer. The prayers of many people can be very powerful and we are going to ask God to bring him healing.

Second, we are going to pray for our country. We are going to ask God for His help in restoring moral clarity to this great nation that has become our home. We will be joining thousands of other Christians who are doing the same thing this Sunday. This is not a political action. This is a moral action. We will ask God to bring healing to our nation and help us recover the moral clarity America needs to find stability, purpose, and the right direction.

One final reminder

Don’t forget about the Independence Day barbecue that will be held on July 5 at St. Paul Antiochian Church (google map). All parishioners of St. Peter are invited. It starts at noon (you will have plenty of time to get there after Liturgy). Please RSVP by email (stpaulaoc@embarqmail.com) or phone (239-348-0828).

God bless you and God bless America.

Fr. Hans

St. Peter Orthodox Church featured in newspaper and website

The following article appeared on the web a few days ago. It will be published in the Estero/Bonita section of the Ft. Meyers News-Press newspaper on Friday, June 26, 2009.

Orthodox Christian church starts in San Carlos Park

Sts. Peter and Paul

BY CHRISTINA CEPERO • ccepero@news-press.com • June 11, 2009

Father Hans Jacobse welcomes all to his startup church, St. Peter Orthodox Mission, in San Carlos Park.

“Our vision is just to reach out to anybody who is interested in Orthodox Christianity,” he said. “We’re reaching out to Christians who want a more substantial and deeper faith.”

Jacobse gave the first service in mid-May. About 50 to 60 parishioners meet at 9:30 every Sunday morning at the Holiday Inn at Alico Road and Interstate 75.

He chose the central location to draw people from all over Lee County.

Orthodox Christianity dates back to the first century. It is the original church, the church that Jesus Christ’s apostles founded. It had five centers: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria and Constantinople. The Roman church split from it in 1054 and became the Catholic church, and in the 1500s, Protestant churches began forming.

Orthodox Christians in the United States have primarily identified themselves by their ethnicity, including Greek, Russian and Middle Eastern, although they all belong to the same church.

Jacobse seeks to unite Orthodox Christians.

St. Peter is the second Antiochian Orthodox church in Southwest Florida. The first, St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Naples, was founded a decade ago.

[…]

Read the entire article on the Fort Myers News-Tribune website.

St. Paul Orthodox Church invites all St. Peter friends and family to their summer barbecue!

When? Sunday, July 5 starting at noon.

Where? St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church (Google map) (St. Paul website).

Cost: Free!

What do you need to do?

Let St. Paul’s know that you plan to attend before June 26. They need a count to know how many goodies to prepare.

RSVP to St. Paul’s at: (239) 348-0828 or send them an email at: stpaulaoc@embarqmail.com

See you there!

St. Peter Epistle — June 6, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Icon of Pentecost

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost (or "fifty days") was when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. This was the fulfillment of Christ's promise that he would send them a "Comforter" who "knows all things" and would "lead them into all truth."

The icon of Pentecost shows fire above the heads of the Apostles. This image draws from scripture which says that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles like "tongues of fire." St. Luke writes:

 

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Act 2:1-4).

 

Immediately the Apostles were filled with great boldness and began to preach to the people that Jesus Christ had come to forgive sin and lead people back to God.

Remember the context. A great cosmic battle had just been fought between God and the forces of evil. Satan — the devil, the father of lies — thought he had defeated God by killing Jesus the Son of God. When Jesus rose from the dead, satan was defeated. His only power is to destroy, and by defeating death, Christ overcame satan's power and overthrew him.

The Disciples (they were disciples until Pentecost where they graduated into their apostleship — apostolos — one sent forth), were dejected at first until they met the resurrected Christ. Even after meeting Him however, they still remained fearful. It was clear to them that the elites who conspired and assented to the death of Jesus still ruled the people. The disciples were afraid.

Pentecost changed all that. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, the Disciples became Apostles. They boldly proclaimed that Christ had risen from the dead and that the power of satan had been overthrown. They worked miracles too, and their miracles confirmed their word was indeed true. We call this word the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We too have been given this same Holy Spirit. It comes to us in baptism. The problem is that for many of us the Holy Spirit does not burn like the flame of fire we saw with the Apostles, but only as a dying ember. An ember needs to be fanned to burst into a flame, and we fan that ember through prayer, worship, and most important obedience to the commandments of God.

But once fanned, life changes. We grow closer to God. The effects of life in Christ begins to manifest themselves in concrete ways. St. Paul (also an apostle) calls this the "fruit of the Spirit" and lists them for us:

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:22-26).

 

 

The Holy Spirit is the power of God. We are meant to experience and live in this power. It enables us to walk with Christ and bring His light into the world.

 

May God bless you all.