Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chriostai Notes for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (6/21/15)

Questions from Last week:

History of Church Government

AD 27 through AD 70 (120)   -   Apostles gave authority to two offices, Bishops ἐπισκοπή episkopē) and Deacons (διάκονος diakonos)  see .... the NT from Acts on.

Bishops acted in the apostles stead in new cities while the apostles were away.  Bishops included some like Timothy, Cleopas, etc. Bishops served the eucharist and preached, submitting to the apostles for leadership and authority.  Bishops had the authority to ordain and served as a shepherd to the local flock and surrounding areas.

The office of Deacon was developed very quickly by the apostles in following the most central command of Jesus (Do this in remembrance of me) because the followers of Christ grew rapidly, the Apostles found themselves without enough time to properly care for the massive number of people, to be able to travel to various areas to celebrate the eucharist and care for the needs of the poor (widowed).  Deacons were ordained to take care of the eucharist, travelling to those who were not with the bishop on Sunday mornings, delivering the pre-consecrated body and blood, disbursing the money to the poor, and generally taking care of the day to day business of the church, freeing the bishops and apostles up to care for the flock, mainly through preaching and teaching.

AD 70 - 1517

In a period from AD 70 - AD 120, we find the development of the priesthood. When the apostles (who were qualified to be apostles based on their first hand witness of Jesus' earthly ministry) were all killed or died, bishops governing the areas found themselves able to travel and preach, ordaining men and women, and baptizing them into the church.  But they were unable to be in each community each week.  Deacons were typically not pastoral, but more administrative, so the Bishops appointed and ordained qualified men to be priests, to act as the Bishop would, in preaching and teaching and celebrating the Eucharist, under the full authority of the Bishop.

This three part episcopal system continued, un-protested and uninterrupted for 14 and a half centuries.  That's six times as long as America has been a nation. It continues to be the overwhelmingly most used and most traditional forms of church government in the world today.  Almost 1.7 billion (72% of the worldwide church) Christians celebrate in churches using this form of government in 2015.

AD 1517 - present

While Episcopate forms of government continue to dominate, democratic notions of the power and authority of organizations and governments deriving from the people came into play.  When believers left or were forced to leave the Roman Church, they were left with a void.  Anglicans, who had an entire system of their own bishops, priests and deacons, simply decided to leave the authority of the Pope, continuing under Episcopate models of government, claiming a continuance of apostolic authority.  Others would continue this system of government, including Lutherans, Methodists, Church of God, Presbyterians, etc,.

It was only in America, when churches, now unattached to the churches from their source countries

tried to wrestle with the new found realities of living in a new republic society.  They adapted and changed the way that churches had functioned to match the political beliefs of the new nation.  Now, Bishops had his authority to govern, ordain and even preach, by committees and conventions, where people voted and majority rules.  The church building was no longer owned by the state or church, but by local congregations.  Priests and deacons were now hired by local board committees, with no church being an exception.  Even former Anglican congregations, now called Episcopalians, greatly limited the function and ministry of those in apostolic succession, and local church politics took most of the functional aspects of the church away from the ministers.

Today, many American churches live in a limbo, somewhere in between wanting strong spirit-filled leaders and wanting to live in a manner consistent with the idea that ministers get their authority from the people and not from God.  People are no longer loyal and submit themselves to the authority of their local church and pastor, but "vote with their feet," casting themselves in the role of spiritual expert, authority and judge. Covenantal relationships between men under God became relatively unimportant, because each man has become his own bishop.

First Reading — Job 38:1, 8-11 

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: … 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb; 9 when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” 

1. “The Lord addressed Job out of the storm.” Does God address you in the stormy times of your life? How? Do you progress, regress or just hang on for dear life during stormy times?

2. Who is in charge, in this reading? Explain. Even though it doesn’t seem so, do you think God puts limits on your “storms”?

3. How can we change, enlarge and enhance our concept of God?

Second Reading — 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. 

1. Do you think “those who live might no longer live for themselves” would make people qualify as “new creations”? Explain.

2. “The love of Christ impels us.” What does the love of Christ “impel” you to do? What actions do you perform because you love Christ that you might not otherwise perform?

2. What are some areas of your life in which you have become a “new creation” in Christ?

3. What are some indicators in our lives that reveal whether we are living for ourselves or living for Christ?

Gospel Reading — Mark 4:35-41 

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” 

1. When speaking about the disciples’ fear in the midst of this storm, and of possible attitudes in the face of difficult situations, Pope Francis says:
I fear moving forward, I'm afraid of where the Lord will bring me. Fear, however, is not a good counselor. Jesus, so many times, said: 'Do not be afraid.' Fear does not help us.

We must not be naive nor lukewarm Christians, but brave, courageous. We are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness. ... Do not be afraid and always look to the Lord!
Vatican City, July 02, 2013
Discuss the Pope’s thoughts on fear and how one could be courageous in weakness.
2. In the Luke 8:22-25 version of this story the disciples thought they were going down with the storm. Can you relate to that? Is Jesus with you when “violent squalls come up” in your life, as he was with the disciples? Does this man who shares your human vulnerability somehow also have the power of the Creator? What effect does that fact have on your storm management?

4. What lessons can we draw from the disciples’ experience?

5. What do you think would have happened if they had not taken Jesus with them into the boat? How is this applicable to our lives?

6. What have you learned about God’s love and provision through the storms you have encountered in life?

7. Identify one or two main lessons we can learn from this experience.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chriostai Notes on the Eleventh Sunday of Kingdom Time

Questions from Last Week:

What is the history of the celebration of the eucharist? How has it changed over time? How do different denominations celebrate it today?

First Reading — Ezekiel 17:22-24 

22 Thus says the Lord GOD: "I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar, and will set it out; I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it upon a high and lofty mountain; 23 on the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar; and under it will dwell all kinds of beasts; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it." 

1. What are the similarities between the “tender shoot” in this reading and the mustard seed in the Gospel? In each case, “Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.” What do you think of when you read this?

2. The tender shoot becomes a majestic cedar. In the Gospels, Jesus referred to the “least” becoming the “greatest” numerous times. How is Jesus’ own life an example of this? Can you think of others who follow(ed) this example?

3. What does this passage from Ezekiel tell us about the nature and character of God’s sovereignty?

Second Reading — 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 

6 So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body. 

1. “Walk by faith, and not by sight.” What does that mean to you? Why would we need the courage, which Paul mentions twice in this reading, in order to walk by faith? Have the men beheaded by ISIS been walking by faith or sight?

2. Is your faith constant even when the spiritual weather patterns in your life are not? Paul said, “We are always courageous.” Is that true? Are you? Always? What helps when you are not?

3. What should be the focus or orientation of citizens of the Kingdom of God? 

Gospel Reading — Mark 4:26-34 

26 And he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." 30 And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 33 with many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. 

1. What is the farmer’s job in both of these parables? What is God’s job? Could you ask yourself the same two questions about your ministry … your job and God’s job? Can you trust God to do God’s job?

2. How does what Pope Francis says below relate to the words below from this reading? “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? …  It is like the mustard seed. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. … ”
The Church, he said, is “something else.” The disciples do not make the Church—they are the messengers sent by Jesus. And Christ was sent by the Father: “The Church begins there,” he said, “in the heart of the Father, who had this idea … of love. So this love story began, a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended. We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.
… But how does it increase? Jesus said simply: like the mustard seed, it grows like yeast in flour, without noise.
Mass in the Chapel of the Casa Santa Marta,
Vatican Radio, April 24, 2013

3. What do these two parables tell you about the Kingdom/Reign of God? 

4. In what way(s) are we to be involved in the expansion of the Kingdom of God? 

5. To whom or what is the “seed” referring? 

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Chriostai Notes for Corpus Christi Sunday

Notes from last class:

Further Reading on Calvinistic Theology and Total Depravity:


A Different Older, Way of Thinking:


How are we co-heirs with Christ?


First Reading — Exodus 24:3-8 

3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

1. This reading describes an ancient sacrifice having to do with blood. What is the meaning of the term, “signing in blood”? Why is blood so significant in these ceremonies? Why was it used to seal solemn agreements? Is there a relationship between blood and life? Between blood and death?

2. What kinds of covenants or solemn agreements have you made? What do your covenants tell you about God’s covenant with the Israelites?

3. What parallels do you see between this Old Testament worship and our Mass? 

4. How do you think we can apply verses 7-8?

Second Reading — Hebrews 9:11-15 

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

1. In John 17:24 Jesus says “I wish that where I am they also may be with me. … ” In today’s reading Jesus “entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” Did he bring us along (redeemed now though his love) into the sanctuary with him?

2. St. Paul says that Jesus will cleanse our consciences from dead works in order for us to worship the living God. What are “dead works”? Are there any such things in your life?

3. What new concept have you learned that will make participating in Eucharist more meaningful?

Gospel Reading — Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the householder, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover… 22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives 

1. Can you say in your own words what happens in the Eucharist to our poverty, according to Pope Francis?
… And in the Eucharist, the Lord makes us travel his path, that of service, of sharing, of gift, and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it.

Let us ask ourselves, … Do I let the Lord who gives himself to me, guide me to come out more and more from behind my little fence, to go out and not be afraid to give, to share, to love him and others?
Pope Francis, Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi,
Rome, May 31, 2013
2. Surely the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was doing at the Last Supper, but they trusted him absolutely. Where do you go when you need help with trust? The Holy Spirit? Books? Priest? Friends?

3. Read about the Passover meal in Exodus 12. What does it foreshadow? 

4. Describe the difference between the meaning of the Passover meal as the disciples perceived it, and the real meaning, which only Jesus knew. 

5. Obviously, the depth of devotion and celebration varies for us as we participate in communion. What makes the Eucharist celebration especially meaningful for you? 

Chriostai Notes for Trinity Sunday

First Reading — Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 

32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? … 39 know therefore this day, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you this day, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD your God gives you for ever.”

1. Moses heard the voice of God from a burning bush. Where do you hear the voice of God? In friends … the poor … newspapers … Pope Francis … nature … novels … music ... your heart? Moses couldn’t imagine anything comparable to the love God had shown his people. What, in God’s plan of salvation, was Moses not aware of?

2. In this First Testament reading where do you see manifestations of God as Father (creator)? God as Son (savior)? God as Holy Spirit (sheer love)?

3. What are the promises revealed in these passages? 

4. Why do you think the Israelites’ well being and long life was directly tied to their obedience to the Scripture?

Second Reading — Romans 8:14-17 

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

1. The Spirit—besides revealing God’s being to us as endless and constantly new love—bears witness together with our spirit. How do you think your prayers of thanksgiving, petition and worship are changed when the Spirit takes them and bears witness with them?

2. “We are ... heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” What do we inherit with and in Christ? Which treasures do you want the most? Which do you need the most?

3. What does it mean to “be led by the Spirit of God”? 

4. How would you explain the significance of being heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ?

Gospel Reading — Matthew 28:16-20 16 

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” 

1. The Holy Spirit was put in our hearts that “we might understand the things freely given by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). Is the Trinity one of those things? But how can this be since the Trinity is a mystery?

2. What do you think Pope Francis means when he says below that God is the origin and the goal of the whole universe? What is the Holy Spirit’s job according to the Pope?
The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity … leads us to contemplate and worship the divine life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: a life of communion and perfect love, origin and goal of the whole universe and every creature, God.

The Holy Spirit, gift of the risen Jesus communicates the divine life to us and thus he draws us into the dynamism of the Trinity, which is a dynamism of love, communion, mutual service, sharing.
Remarks before recitation of the Angelus,Feast of the Holy Trinity, June 16, 2014

3. How do you respond to the fact that some of Jesus’ original eleven disciples doubted?

4. How do you feel when doubts enter your thinking? How do you handle them?

5. In what manner do you believe that these instructions of Jesus refer to you personally as a member of Christ’s Church?

6. What difference will it make if these instructions are viewed as having been given to each of the eleven individually, or if you view them as having been given to them collectively?