Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Celebrating the Right Christmas

Celebrating the Right Christmas

After outlining the history of the "two Christmas Days," Fr John Brian talks about how to celebrate the right Christmas in Holy Orthodoxy, using the scripture reading of St Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (3:23-4:7)

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ." 3:28

"When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son who, born of a woman, became subject to the law, to redeem them who were under the law..." 4:4-5

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, December 26, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MOVING PICTURES - THE SEASON’S VERY BEST FILMS

MOVING PICTURES
THE SEASON’S VERY BEST FILMS
By Rev. John-Brian Paprock
Originally published in the 2010 Holiday Worship Guide
Capitol Newspapers - The Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, December 19, 2010

Television has replaced the fireplace as the focal point for gatherings of family and friends. But meaningful holiday observations can happen there, too. Here are some conventional (and not-so-conventional) movies to watch during this holiday season.

These films were intentionally chosen for spiritual or moral challenges they pose. There are choices for the religious and non-religious viewer. All can deepen appreciation for the holiday season. The films are listed in alphabetic order not in order of quality or preference (my choice for the three best holiday classics have been separated at the end).

Every attempt was made to choose quality films, technically as well as artistically, so these can be considered the best. And all of the movies on this list are available through the South Central Library System which includes all public libraries in Madison and nearby communities. Enjoy.

LINKS TO THE MOVIE LISTS
Introduction (this page)

TEN RECOMMENDED FILMS - First Five

MOVING PICTURES: THE SEASON’S VERY BEST FILMS
By Rev. John-Brian Paprock
Originally published in the 2010 Holiday Worship Guide
Capitol Newspapers - The Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, December 19, 2010


TEN RECOMMENDED FILMS
contemporary
First Five

“Babette’s Feast” (Danish/French – G 1987)

This Oscar-winning film is #3 on Art & Faith Top 100 Films list and #9 on Beliefnet’s Top 10 Christian Films. This beautiful film explores the tension between the spirit and the flesh, between the fast and the feast.





“Children of Men” (R - 2006)

The story of a future without hope or children, but then hope arrives in the form of a child. This film is on several Top 100 science fiction movies lists.


“Fourth Wise Man” (G – 1985)

An excellent 1985 made-for-TV movie about a magi (Martin Sheen) who misses the opportunity to travel with the three kings following the star to Bethlehem. He decides to travel on his own, learning spiritual lessons along the way.




“Joyuex Noel” (French/English/German - PG13 2006)

Scots, French and German soldiers share a spontaneous Christmas truce at the Western Front of World War I. Peace in the midst of war is hard to maintain. Nominated for best foreign picture at the 2006 Academy Awards.


“A Midnight Clear” (R 1992)

Toward the end of World War II, Will Knott leads a decimated American squad sets up an advance reconnaissance station in a French chalet only to find Germans camped out across the road. A plan to share Christmas doesn’t turn out the way it was planned. A very good film, well written and acted, that is just a notch below Joyuex Noel.




OTHER PAGES
THREE BEST OF THE CLASSICS
FOUR WINTER FILM GEMS
HONORABLE MENTIONS TO BEST HOLIDAY MOVIES

HONORABLE MENTIONS TO BEST HOLIDAY MOVIES

MOVING PICTURES: THE SEASON’S VERY BEST FILMS
Originally published in the 2010 Holiday Worship Guide 
Capitol Newspapers - The Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, December 19, 2010

HONORABLE MENTIONS

“The Decalogue” (Polish 1989 NR not for children)


This film is #2 on the Art & Faith Top 100 Films. It is actually ten little dramas, each about 55 minutes made for Polish television by Krzysztof Kieslowski, each finding a contemporary metaphor for one of the Commandments. Most of the stories happen during winter and the holiday season.


Human Value Trilogy (French NR 1996-2005, adult themes)

The Dardenne brothers, Luc & Jean-Pierre, (Belgian) have made some of the best contemporary foreign films dealing with the value of a human being. Their intimate film style and challenging interpersonal stories explore the value of human life. Although not a formal trilogy, these three movies are excellent for the holiday season.

“L’Fils (The Son)” – This film is #5 on the Art & Faith Top 100 (2002)


“L’Efants (The Child)” – #35 on the Art & Faith list (2005)


“La Promesse (The Promise)” – #65 on the 2004 Art & Faith list. (1996)



TEN RECOMMENDED FILMS
THREE BEST OF THE CLASSICS

FOUR WINTER FILM GEMS

MOVING PICTURES: THE SEASON’S VERY BEST FILMS
By Rev. John-Brian Paprock
Originally published in the 2010 Holiday Worship Guide
Capitol Newspapers - The Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, December 19, 2010

FOUR WINTER FILM GEMS

“The Dead” (PG13 1987)


John Huston last – Irish upper class at Epiphany/Three kings feast – almost a short film - a true gem of a film, based on the writings of James Joyce, set in the early 20th century it is period perfect details all present for the time before radio, Internet and television




“Edward Scissorhands” (PG 1990)


This film is a beautiful fairy tale and story of our humanity that answers the question, “where does snow come from?”



“Ikiru (To Live)" (Japanese – NR 1952, all audiences)


Akira Kurosawa’s most loved and classic movies. This film is #37 on the Art & Faith Top 100 films. The snow fall at the end is one of the most enduring and endearing images in all cinema.





“Winter Light” (Swedish – NR 1962, adult themes)


Ingmar Bergman called this his favorite among his films. This film is #38 on the Art & Faith Top 100. It was shot during the winter 1961-1962 and is considered the best of Begman’s “Trilogy of Faith” that includes “Through a Glass Darkly” and “The Silence”










OTHER PAGES
Introduction
TEN RECOMMENDED FILMS

THREE BEST OF THE CLASSICS

MOVING PICTURES: THE SEASON’S VERY BEST FILMS
By Rev. John-Brian Paprock
Originally published in the 2010 Holiday Worship Guide
Capitol Newspapers - The Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, December 19, 2010

THREE BEST OF THE CLASSICS


“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (G 1935-2009)

This is one of the most beloved stories of Christmas ever - outside of biblical accounts, that is. Made into film many times over the years going back to 1935, the most recent version was released in 2009. The individual transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge continues to challenge the quest for wealth over the giving of joy. Sometimes called “Scrooge,” or other variations, one good version is the 1988 Bill Murray comedy “Scrooged.” The most highly recommended version is the 1951 film, which is still considered the classic version that all the others are compared.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (G 1946)

Frank Capra’s beautiful 1946 film of hope is the only holiday film to make the American Film Institute list of 100 Best Movies. It tops almost all holiday movie lists and is #45 on the Art & Faith Top 100. The film captures the importance of individual acts of goodness and the unique impact of every person.

“Miracle on 34th Street” (G 1947)

This is simply the very best Santa Claus film ever. It was remade in 1994, but that version is just not as good. The 1947 movie captures the importance of the faith of children in goodness and the skepticism of adults.





OTHER PAGES
Introduction
HONORABLE MENTIONS TO BEST HOLIDAY MOVIES

TEN RECOMMENDED FILMS - Second Five

MOVING PICTURES: THE SEASON’S VERY BEST FILMS
By Rev. John-Brian Paprock
Originally published in the 2010 Holiday Worship Guide
Capitol Newspapers - The Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, December 19, 2010
 
TEN RECOMMENDED FILMS 
contemporary
Second Five


“Millions” (PG 2004)

A brilliant British movie ideal for Christmas, destined to become a season classic. When a bag of money falls from heaven, brothers contend with saints and criminals, schoolmates and family into the Christmas season.





“The Nativity Story” (PG 2006)

Christianity Today’s #1 Christmas movie and the #4 top grossing Christian film, The Nativity Story is a period portrayal of the story of Mary and Joseph, leading to the birth of Jesus. The film succeeds in believable multidimensional characters and beautiful cinematography.



“Son of Man” (South African - NR 2009, all audiences)

What if Jesus was born in South Africa? This gorgeous film is #27 on the Art & Film Top 100. It adapts the Jesus story to contemporary issues of Africa, making a smart, enjoyable and challenging film.



“The Ultimate Gift” (G 2007)

Christianity Today’s #2 Christmas film and the #20 top grossing Christian film. This film, based on James Stovall’s best-selling novel, is about a departed millionaire who gives his grandson twelve gift-lessons before he can gain the inheritance that no other family member will get. There is an especially good performance given by Abigail Breslin as Emily, a quirky girl who helps the grandson with his lessons.

“What Would Jesus Buy?” (PG 2007)

From “Super Size Me” documentarian Morgan Spurlock, this is a documentary about a cross country mission to save Christmas from Shopocalypse. Themes include materialism, the commercialization of Christmas, American over-consumption and the business practices of large corporations.





OTHER PAGES
Introduction
FOUR WINTER FILM GEMS
HONORABLE MENTIONS TO BEST HOLIDAY MOVIES

The Promise of Peace at Christmas

The Promise of Peace at Christmas

On the Sunday before Christmas, Christ's Holy Nativity, Fr John Brian gives a homiletic sermon starting focusing on Act 3:16, where St Peter is talking about a healing miracle that just occurred:

"Faith in his [Jesus] name has healed this man who you see and know, and made him strong; it is the faith in him [Jesus] which has granted this healing before you all."

Then through other scripture readings apointed for the Sunday: Acts 3:16-26; Romans 4:13-38. And then drawing from the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1-9 where peaceful existence is described, where there is transformation not of the uniqueness of what God has created, but of the distorted animal nature. This is the promise of Peace at Christmas!

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, December 19, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FULLY ALIVE - Introduction

FULLY ALIVE
A collection of short sermons on living the Orthodox Christian life
Fr. John-Brian Paprock, 2010 - Holy Transfiguration Publications - 207 pages

INTRODUCTION

O God, have compassion on us, and bless us, and manifest Thy presence to us, and have mercy on us. Amen.

The spiritual teachings of Eastern Christianity, the rituals and the traditions of the Orthodox Church, have a transformative power. They have been repeated on every continent, every year for centuries. In some places, they’ve been repeated for more than millennia. One can see in them a preparation of the life to come, that kingdom of peace, the restoration of the garden – a homeland we spiritually long for. One can experience in them the presence of God; a healing of the spiritual woundedness that comes from a material life in competition with God’s presence.

The practices of Holy Orthodoxy have been preserved in many ethnic churches – the most ancient of those in the East, from the Caucus Mountains, along the Nile River and following the trade routes to Southern India and China. The Syrian Church followed the Apostle Thomas into the farthest reaches of the East. The Greeks, too, followed the Apostle Andrew into the Slavic lands to the North. From a small region to the east of Mediterranean Sea, this deep and abiding spirituality has been given to the whole world, including the New World.

It is this New World that has brought about modern society, a global reality of nearly instant communication and travel beyond the speed of sound. And it is in this modern time that the ideas and spiritual teachings of the most ancient church are relevant. Yet, there is a need to bring these expressions of antiquity and ethnic idiosyncrasy into modern terms for the good of all people.

The sermons and communication ministry of Father John-Brian Paprock has taken this challenge. This collection of transcribed and written short sermons is only a sample of that Christian message.

The sermons naturally flowed into four themes of the spiritual life that are reflected in the Orthodox Christian year. These are important Christian concepts for spiritual development:

INCARNATION – God becomes flesh and dwells in the world. This can also be understood to be the process for God to come into one’s life or heart; for light to be born in the darkness (see John Chapter 1).

PREPARATION – In the Orthodox Church, there are several times throughout the year intended for physical, mental and spiritual preparation for an event of epic proportions – even if the event seems to be routine. The greatest of these periods is Lent, merely called “The 40 Days” in most Orthodox Churches, being the 40 days of fasting before the death and resurrection of Christ.

RESURRECTION – The resurrection of Jesus Christ after three days in the tomb is the sublime and seminal event of Christianity and in the lives of every Orthodox Christian. It is the culmination of the transformative power of Orthodox Christian life; by fasting and perseverance, those that follow the Way of Christ prepare for the life to come.

INSPIRATION – Left in the world, the Apostles of Christ waited for the Holy Spirit to come to them as a comforter and giver of the strength and power to carry the Gospel message of Christian renewal.

By aspiring to reach the spiritual ideals and struggling to live out the spiritual principles, this is a proven path of spiritual progress toward enlightenment. In Holy Orthodoxy, this process is called “theosis.”

Theosis is not just a spiritual process but it is the realization of the fullness of God in this world, now – and in the time (age) to come. This requires personal effort in moral and practical matters, as well as discipline and practice in religious activity. By participating in Holy Church, in the Divine Services, not just attending them but learning to fully participate, it is possible to see the Spirit at work in the congregation in sometimes surprisingly physical ways. To some, it may be a light; to others, a song; and still others, a fragrance. It may in the ritual, the kneeling, the prostration, the singing, the praying – the fullness of God is there, and the Orthodox faithful are witnesses through time of the power of the Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the Triune God) and of the mystery of the redemption and salvation of all creation.

May the Lord bless and keep you, my dear one, fully alive and fully awake in His presence. May His mercy be with us all.

Pray for me, a servant
Fr. John Brian

 
FULLY ALIVE
A collection of short sermons on living the Orthodox Christian life
Fr. John-Brian Paprock
Editor: Teresa Peneguy Paprock
207 pages
Published December 15, 2010
Holy Transfiguration Publications
P.O. Box 5207, Madison, Wisconsin 53705
608-242-4244

ISBN 978-0-557-85429-5

Dedicated to all my spiritual children and all those seeking to improve spiritually in Holy Orthodoxy.

CONTENTS
Introduction

I. INCARNATION
Living as Children of Light
How Much Does God Weigh?
Baptism of Lydia
Baptizing Babies Into Full Members
God is Here, Where Are You?
All Spiritual Blessings

II. PREPARATION
The Spirituality of Lent
For God Shows No Partiality
Meaning of the Mid-Lent Cross
Prepared as Wise Virgins?
April Fools Hosanna
Preparing for Our Resurrection

III. RESURRECTION
Wholly Resurrection
Resurrection Wholly
No More Chains
Through Resurrection, Everything
Mar Thoma – Saint Thomas
The Cross is an Ascension Symbol

IV. INSPIRATION
Fully Alive
Living the Spiritual Life
Holy Spirit Compass
What is this Holy Spirit
When is a Christian a Christian
We are Called to Service
Healing and Thanksgiving

FULLY ALIVE is a collection of short sermons on living the Orthodox Christian life, spirituality and practice.

Father John-Brian Paprock is an American priest serving a multi-ethnic Orthodox Christian mission parish in Madison, Wisconsin. Holy Transfiguration mission has been part of the Mission Society of St. Gregorios of India since 2001. Fr. John-Brian also serves as a hospital and hospice chaplain at area hospitals. He is the author of several books.

OTHER BOOKS BY FR. JOHN-BRIAN PAPROCK

NEIGHBORS STRANGERS, AND EVERYONE ELSE (2009)
"... an amazing body of work -- not just the compilation itself, but the witness over a number of years that Fr. John-Brian has made to understanding and outreach as a way of life which it represents," says Alexander Patico of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship of North America.

"Fr. John-Brian is an excellent communicator. He has a way with words and ideas. I think this work, “Neighbors, Strangers, and Everyone Else,” will be a great contribution to inter-religious dialog. Autobiographical element makes it appealing," wrote John Kunnathu, founder of the worldwide Gregorian Study Circle, founded in honor and memory of H.G. Paulos Mar Gregorios, Indian Orthodox bishop of New Delhi.

LIVING IN THE EIGHTH DAY (2006)
Fr. Peter Farrington of the British Orthodox Fellowship says "What a wonderful book. I am reading through the chapters one at a time rather than reading them through all at once. I will try to integrate reading these chapters with my normal daily spiritual practices. I will certainly recommend this to others."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Question About Confession

P. F. from Palestine asks:
Father I have a question. Is it prohibited for someone only to confess himself in his heart in front of iconostas (e.g. at the steps in front of the altar) without confession to his Priest? Please, teach me. Thank you.

Rev Fr John Brian responds: 
 
Peace of Christ be with you

In Holy Orthodoxy, there are many things to consider. 

1. We should confess the truth of our sins before God anywhere and everywhere - a practice of rigorous honesty will bring you closer to God as it will remove the things that interfere with our connectedness with God. So heart-felt confessing at the iconostas is good.

2. If we are confessing our sins ONLY to be closer to God, then that may be sufficient. However, the great commandment is to love GOD and OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES. So, we need also confess to another, representing our neighborSince sin separates us from God, it also separates us from Holy Church, we will need to be reconciled by sacramental absolution by a priest.

3. If a priest recognizes the iconostas confession, he may grant absolution. In the sacrament, the priest is only a witness of your repentance and an agent of God's restoration. Some priests accept the general prayer of confession as sufficient without hearing the details of a person's sins. Others will not grant absolution without such details and, further, a commitment to follow any penance given.

4. In this case, the function of clergy (but also all Orthodox Christians) is in the scriptures: "whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven - whatever you loose on earth, is loosed in heaven."

5. In any jurisdiction, there may be reasons one cannot confess to their parish priest. The church is merciful and allows neighboring priests to offer sacraments in such cases.

So, do not feel your confession before the iconostas is not heard by God. Such prayers and heart-felt communications with God are lovingly and carefully carried by angels to Him. However, it is incomplete.

Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.

God bless you in your spiritual life here on earth as it will be heaven.

Pray for me, a servant
Fr John Brian

Monday, December 06, 2010

God Made Us All Children

God Made Us All Children

On the fourth Sunday of Annunciations in the preparation for Holy Nativity, at the birth of John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit now speaks through the once silent tongue of Zechariah, the priest and father of John the Baptist. This is also designated Children's Day.

Fr John Brian's sermon focuses on the prophecy of Zechariah, honoring his son, and the reality of growing up - in this world and in spirit, using the scriptures, especially Luke 1:57-80 and 1 John 3:1-3.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, December 5, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission
Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Spiritual Health and Women

Spiritual Health and Women


On the third Sunday of Annunciations in the preparation for Holy Nativity, Mary visits Elizabeth and the Holy Spirit speaks. How honorable and blessed are these women. Fr John Brian brings up the power of women using a verse from the appointed reading of Proverbs:
"A wise woman builds her house; but the foolish tears it down with her own hands." (14:1)

Fr John Brian further discusses how this occasion is filled with spiritual health, using the Signs of Spiritual Health attributed to Howard Clinebell, a professor of pastoral counseling. Here are the signs.

You are spiritually healthy when:
1. You feel a sense of belonging
2. You are open to awe and wonder
3. You live with an attitude of hope
4. You have the ability to trust
5. You are able to show appreciation
6. You have a sense of purpose in your life
7. You have a sense of humor

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, November 28, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Becoming As Mary

Becoming As Mary

On the second Sunday of Annunciations in the preparation for Holy Nativity, Mary is visited by Archangel Gabriel. Fr John Brian discusses the occasion with special emphasis on the spirituality of Mary.

To clarify this, Fr John Brian uses a list of the "qualities of a spiritual man" written by A. W. Tozer to help in our understanding of spiritual development by identifying qualities we may have and those we may yet lack.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, November 21, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bible Study: Epistle of Jude

Bible Study - The Epistle of Jude

An hour long recording of the bible study gathering organized by Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Parish in Madison, Wisconsin. It was led by Fr John Brian on November 17, 2010 at Holy Transfiguration Chapel.

The text was the catholic Epistle of Jude. The study started with a comparison of bibles, including various English translations and the different scriptures included in the Orthodox Bible and the Peshitta (which is the Aramaic canon of scripture).

The Epistle of Jude deals with false teaching and teachers that "creep" into the church. Then, Jude discusses how to avoid the pitfalls of false teaching and stay true to the teachings of the One True Church.

Pray for us and our mission efforts. Since this is new ministry, your feedback will be appreciated.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Inviting Angels Into Our Life

Inviting Angels Into Our Life

On the first Sunday of Annunciations in the preparation for Holy Nativity, Zechariah has encounter of an angel. Fr John Brian uses the story from Luke Chapter 1 to talk about how we invite angels into our lives. Even so, we can be startled we there is a response to our prayers.

The angels say "Fear not." Fr John Brian then discusses Isaiah 41:8-15 appointed for Sunday of Zechariah, where God speaks through the prophet three times, saying "Fear not."

"Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I have strengthened you and have helped you, yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." Isaiah 41:10

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, November 14, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Energy of God's Presence - Psalm 82

Energy of God's Presence - Psalm 82

On a Sunday of Dedication in the preparation for Holy Nativity, Fr John Brian's homiletic sermon examines the scripture lessons (Acts 7:44-53; Hebrew 9:1-14 and John 10:22-28) to discuss the reason for spiritual development and the energy of coming into God's presence.

When Jesus quotes Psalm 82 to the Jewish leaders who were questioning His divinity, only one verse is quoted but insight is gained when Fr John Brian uses Psalm 82 as a focal point in our relationship with God and His church.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, November 7, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission
Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

seraphim encounters - Isaiah 6

seraphim encounters - Isaiah 6

At the beginning of the preparation for Holy Nativity, the incarnation of God in the flesh, Fr John Brian's homiletic sermon examines the Gospel lesson from Matthew 16 (about Peter as the rock of faith and as a stumbling block) through the light of Isaiah 6 which is the prophecy reading appointed for the Foundation or Sanctification of the Church.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, October 31, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

In Whose Heart are Thy Ways - Psalm 84

In Whose Heart are Thy Ways - Psalm 84

In the last Sunday of the Cross, Fr John Brian's sermon takes into the Gospel lesson from Luke 18:18-27 through Psalm 84. He then gives us furtherance in today's lesson by an encounter with the end of 1 Corinthians Chapter 5. All in preparation for the Preparation, which is the next part of the Syrian calendar.

"Things impossible to men are possible to God." Luke 18:27

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, October 24, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission
Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Interfaith Dialogue Conference Closing

Interfaith Dialogue Conference
Closing Remarks
by Fr John Brian Paprock

With an invitation to convene in Madison, Wisconsin for the 2011 Orthodox Peace Conference.

This recording was made of at the end of conference sessions of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship-North America Conference 2010, "Interfaith Dialogue: Seeking the Peaceable Kingdom." It was recorded in the evening of Saturday, October 2, 2010 at St Paul's Greek Orthodox Church, Irvine, California (photo by Teresa and audio editing by Christo)

"The stranger that stays with you shall be to you as the homeborn among you and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Leviticus 19:33-34

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Another Burden to Carry, Then Discard

Another Burden to Carry, Then Discard

In Matthew 23, one of the last sermons of Jesus before His crucifixion, we are to obey "those that sit on Moses' seat," but not act as they act.

This works well into the Epistle reading from 1 Timothy Chapter 6, where there is a special challenge to Clergy and those that wish to serve God.

Fr John Brian uses the Gospel and Epistle appointed for this Sunday of the Cross to discuss the burdens we must carry and then discard in order and how to move into the presence of God, the good Master - if we choose to serve Him.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, October 17, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission
Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Servant Chooses

The Servant Chooses

How do we access the presence of God and show Him our love? In Luke 16, Jesus Christ answers by saying "A servant cannot serve two masters."

Fr John Brian uses Psalm 42 and the Gospel appointed for this Sunday of the Cross to discuss the choice of servants and how to move into the presence of God, the good Master - if we choose to serve Him.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, October 10, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Translucent Transitions

Translucent Transitions

During this season of the Holy Cross, the loss of a loved one can emphasize the understanding of the divine and unique purpose of each of us. Fr John Brian used a few verses from the Sunday readings and some quotes from St Ephrem the Syrian (circa 4th Century) to aid and comfort those in mourning:

Here is one of the quotes from Sunday's sermon:
"For just as in the case of the limbs of the body, their individual needs are fulfilled by one another, so too the inhabitants of the world fill in the common need from the common excess. We should rejoice in this need on the part of us all, for out of it is born harmony for us all; for in that people need one another, those in high position stoop to the lowly and are not ashamed, and he insignificant reach out to the powerful and are not afraid. Even in the case of animals, seeing that we have a need for them, we take care of them.
Clearly our need for everything binds us with a love for everything."(from Letter to Hypatius as found in The Luminous Eye - The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, 1985 by Sebastian Brock, page 167)

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, September 262010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox
Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Cross Makes All Things New

The Cross Makes All Things New

During this festival of the Holy Cross, Fr John Brian emphasized the last verses of the opening hymn from the Ma'de'dono (Book of the Church Festivals) in his sermon:

+ + +
By Your Cross everything was made new;
By Your Cross everything was reconciled;
By Your Cross everything was confirmed;
By Your Cross everything was made perfect.

+ + +
Glory to You, O worshipped Son,
Praise be to Your invisible Father,
Thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit.
May Mercy and compassion be upon us
+ + +

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, September 19, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox
Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Human Rights Are God Given Rights - An Interfaith Reflection

Fr John Brian (right) with event participants Dr Manucher Javid, MD (left) and Dr Azam Niroomand, PhD (center)
photo by Christopher River Paprock
 Human Rights are God Given Rights - A Baha'i Interfaith Event in Madison

An Interfaith Reflection Statement by
Rev Fr John Brian Paprock, director of Inroads Ministry
September 14, 2010, 7:00pm, Madison Baha’i Center, Madison, Wisconsin


Peace be with you.

As a long time member of interfaith dialogue and interfaith activity, I am honored to be here. It would be hard, if not impossible, to represent the Interfaith Community of Madison – our community is just too diverse. I am honored that the event organizers felt that I may be able to do so.

Even though I may not be qualified to fully represent Madison’s diverse religious and faith traditions, I have been involved in interfaith and ecumenical activity for more than twenty years, mostly through pastoral efforts after my ordination to the Orthodox Christian priesthood. I have written several books of interfaith topics, including “Neighbors, Strangers, and Everyone Else” which addresses topics of co-existence. I have served as a hospital and hospice chaplain, often advocating for minority faith traditions in institutional settings. I founded Inroads Ministry first as a vehicle for non-denominational retreats and then for community efforts, including Interfaith Awareness Week at the Capitol - which will be December 5-11, 2010 this year. The Interfaith Awareness Week is always schedule for the week of Human Rights Day, a day designated by the United Nations in honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This brings me to the purpose of this gathering.

The Declaration was written in 1948 and details the rights of all human individuals and directs governments to act accordingly. Obviously, many governments have not always considered this Declaration in the course of their governance. Obviously, not every group sees the benefits of human rights, especially of those deemed enemies of the state – which usually happens to be the very people the Declaration was pledged to protect. Among these are often those with differing beliefs from those in political power.

Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights
• Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

It is abhorrent to people of good conscience (that aspire to the high ideals of their faith tradition) that violations of human rights continue. People of diverse faiths have experienced prejudice and persecution; have been imprisoned, tortured, maimed, killed. Some have inherited a history of such violations. Others have personally experienced it.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian (which is not of European Western Christianity), I have inherited grievous atrocities committed against my spiritual ancestors and my religious family. Over the centuries, Orthodox Christians have had only short periods of time and isolated pockets of stability to practice their faith in true freedom. From the initial Roman attempts to wipe out the early Christians to the brutal treatment of the Ottoman Empire that stretched across the Middle East; from the genocide of the Armenians to the gulags of the atheist Soviet states; stories of rivers of blood, destruction and desecration of holy images and places continue to be vivid reminders of the roots of Orthodox Christianity, surviving in scattered minorities throughout the world. Only in the long-awaited freedom and recognition of human rights have some of the sacred places and sacred things been restored.

This history can be repeated by several of the world’s religions. And there are still problem areas in the world. Even here in the United States, we have problems of intolerance and outright aggression toward those of different beliefs.

In a few weeks, I will be participating in an Orthodox Peace Fellowship conference in California with the theme, “Interfaith Dialogue: Seeking the Peaceable Kingdom” – which an allusion to a prophecy of Isaiah.

Isaiah 11:6 - The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them

Isaiah 65:25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy…

It is clear that the peace in Isaiah’s prophecy did not require new or different animals, but that the animals were able to act differently, even against their former nature, in order to be together.

This peace is the underlying reason I became involved with interfaith work – a deep desire to bring peace. There will be no peace in this world unless we find a way to get along with those that believe differently, look differently, or act differently, from ourselves.

At the same time, we need to guard against an inherent hypocrisy which cries “we have been persecuted (killed, maimed, or martyred) in the past” then turns a blind eye when others are treated in like manner.

It is very easy to push the open persecution of a people to the internal matters of foreign states. Indeed, we need to tolerate diversity of states as much as we purport to tolerate diversity of individuals. However, we also need, in the safety of the freedoms afforded us as US Citizens, speak out against evil and dark practices wherever they exist – not to the detriment of another’s beliefs, but to the highest purposes of creation, life and liberty.

Whatever good intent we lay upon our free will decisions, we need to be cautious that we do not resemble those opposed to the freedom that will inevitably bring a seemingly greater diversity. People of good conscience are called upon by the highest ideals of their faith traditions to operate without coercion or suppression, lest by baser emotions and lesser ambitions, their practice becomes a festering form of violence, perpetuating evil and suffering in this world.

The repression or suppression of another’s faith may actually suggest an inherent weakness in our own. If our religious ideals are shown to be weaker or lesser than another’s, perhaps we need to dig deeper into our own teachings and traditions or maybe consider discarding them for a more worthy teachings and traditions.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

So what do we do when confronted with obvious prejudice and persecution? We may need to be reminded of the higher ideals of our various faith traditions.

For instance, there is a story about Muhammad, the prophet and founder of Islam. According to the story, Muhammad and a group of his followers were travelling as a funeral procession came along. Muhammad stood at attention along the road, giving respect. His followers did the same, until one of them noticed that the deceased was not of Islam.

“It is a Jew,” he said and waved off his brethren from the road, but Muhammad continued to stand in respect. This caused confusion among his followers; most of whom were already walking away.

“It is a soul,” said Muhammad, as he continued to stand in honor until the procession passed. His example humbled his followers, most of who stood with him. This is an honorable example for all of us.

Or perhaps, in the same attitude, we need to “do small things with great love” as Mother Teresa of Calcutta has said. Some of these things need to be carried through diplomats and legislators. Other things can be done locally by local citizens. Events like this can bring into focus the issues confronting the very notion of human rights, but without local acts, no matter how small, reflective of our higher ideals, events like this will echo a hollow ring rather than a call for human rights.

In this light, I read an article from the Wausau Daily Herald this morning. Here is an excerpt:

MCMILLAN -- When members of the Islamic Society of Central Wisconsin arrived at their mosque for noon prayers Saturday, a message awaited them.

It was the day after a story was published in Gannett Central Wisconsin newspapers about local Muslim reactions to the national political battles that have swirled around the religion. The hand-written placard worshippers found had a peace sign and a heart drawn on it, and the message, "You have friends in Marshfield." It was next to a pot of yellow mums.

The affirming message was appreciated.


Dr. Rezwan Islam of Wausau said he believes the sign and flowers "speaks to the country in which we live, the openness and free will of the people."

Excerpted from:
ANONYMOUS PEACE MESSAGE SENT TO MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Keith Uhlig, Wausau Daily Herald, 9/14/10

So, we need to stand with those who are persecuted, chastised or worse, due to their faith tradition, no matter how strange their beliefs or culture seem to us, no matter if they are in the majority in other places in the world where they are free to practice and live out their faith. However, this needs to balanced with a deeper understanding of our own religious traditions – a deeper look without the blinders of fear, but with open eyes and hearts that will guide us and direct us to the highest ideals we can practice and live out in this world – respecting the diversity that God’s mercy allows us in the most fundamental of human rights, grounded in each and every one of our free will decisions.

Peace be with you.
And peace be with us all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bad Bosses and Burning Books

Bad Bosses and Burning Books

As the Holy Church anticipates in the festival of the Holy Cross, the lessons for this Sunday deal with avoiding participation with evil by changing "an eye for an eye" to "turn the other cheek." Fr John Brian brings the Gospel (Matthew 5:38-48) into focus by talking about "Bad Bosses" and "Burning Books" and the basics of living the Christian life and doing good in this world.

The other readings for the day are mentioned: 1 Peter 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, Spetember 12, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Our Human Problem

Our Human Problem

As the Holy Church continues in the festival of St Mary, Mother of God, the lessons for today deals with our common human dilemma and the basics of living the Christian life and doing good in this world.

Using the reading from Ezekiel 18:21-24, a prophecy, as a backdrop for the important lesson in Orthodoxy. Then explains St Paul's epistle lesson in light of this human problem (2 Corinthians 10:1-7).

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, September 5, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who Is In Hell

Who Is In Hell

A question of salvation? A question of justice and divine retribution? Or a question of God's mercy? Do decisions of life over death become decisions of heaven or hell? These and other questions are addressed in Fr John Brian's sermon. The Sunday reading from Luke is alluded to as Fr John Brian begins with Ecclesiastes 7:1 then moves to the reading from 2 Thessalonians chapter 5.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, August 29, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Choice of God's Love

Choice of God's Love

As the Holy Church continues in the festival remembrance of St Mary, Mother of
God, the lesson for today brings the Christian back to the basics of living the Christian life and doing good in this world. It all comes down to a simple choice. Then, as Fr John Brian asks, "when are we to do the good we are created for?"

Using the reading from I Samuel a prophetic Old Testament reading as a backdrop for the important lesson in Orthodoxy.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, August 22, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spiritual Refuge is in Mary

Spiritual Refuge is in Mary

As the feast of the Assumption of Mary is about the St Mary, Mother of God, it is also about her lasting place as a refuge in Holy Orthodoxy. Fr John Brian preaches about the need for us to avoid fanaticism on one hand and secularism on the other and how we find in St Mary and the story of her assumption at her death clarity and comfort in our own spiritual development. This festival sermon is takes inspiration from the Epistle reading from Hebrews Chapter 2:14-18.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, August 15, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission
Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spiritual Transfiguration in Mission and Practice

Spiritual Transfiguration in Mission and Practice

For the feast of Transfiguration - a festival of the fullness of God - Fr. John Brian preaches about the need for spiritual transfiguration in Orthodox mission and practice. This teaching speaks about how all Orthodox Christians can look forward to being with Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor. This Holy Transfiguration festival sermon is takes inspiration from the Transfiguration story in Luke Chapter 9 and the Epistle reading from the end of Romans Chapter 11.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary for Holy Transfirguration (Koodaara Perunal) and was given on Sunday, August 8, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel (Maruroopa Palli), Madison, Wisconsin.

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Godward Hearts

Godward Hearts

Can Christian adults find the heart of a child within them? Fr John Brian examines this problem presented in Matthew 18 by preaching from Romans Chapter 10, the Epistle reading for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, August 1, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.



"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.


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Monday, July 26, 2010

U A Good Judge


U A Good Judge?

St Paul in Chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians says the saints shall judge. The saints are the full complement of Orthodox Christians, that is, the followers of Jesus Christ and members of His Church. So are you ready to judge the earth? Not so fast. Fr John Brian brings the mystical into the practical in this sermon.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, July 25, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission
Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"Thanks be to God for His incomparable gifts." 2 Corinthians 9:15

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Communion Openly


There is a scriptural reading from John chapter 6 that is the sublime teaching about Holy Communion. The Malankara-Syrian calendar also appoints a reading from Hebrew (end of Chapter 4 and beginning Chapter 5) that speaks about Jesus Christ as our high priest. Fr John Brian brings the mystical into the practical in this sermon.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, July 18, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"Thanks be to God for His incomparable gifts." 2 Corinthians 9:15

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Psalm 20 - Disciple's Psalm


Psalm 20 - Disciple's Psalm

Speaking about disciples and apostles, Fr John Brian discusses the role of the callen and anointed in the divine, mystical and wondrous works in this world. The lesson is a thread that can be seen in the Sunday liturgical readings from Matthew, Acts, and Corinthians - all leading to an appreciation of Psalm 20.

This sermon lesson uses the readings and services appointed from the Malankara Syrian lectionary and was given on Sunday, July 4, 2010 by Fr. John Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.

"Thanks be to God for His incomparable gifts." 2 Corinthians 9:15

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