"While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” [...] Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Puzzled wonderment fills the disciples hearts here on the Mount of Olives as Jesus sends two of them off to the village of Bethany to bring him a colt. Anticipation and expectations increase as they realize their master is going to ride this small donkey. Quickly, they throw their garments over the back of the animal and help Jesus get on. In no time at all a crowd gathers with palm branches. Some are waved in the air; others are thrown on the road. Activated within the hearts of the disciples is a roller coaster of emotions.
I can count on one hand the number of times Joseph—husband of Mary, carpenter, angel-dreamer, step-father of God—is mentioned in the Bible. What do we do with a biblical character who is so little mentioned, but who is so obviously important? We could study his lineage, make sure he satisfies all the prophetic requirements to be “parent” of the Messiah. We could find the literary parallels between this Joseph and the Old Testament dreamer. Once we’ve exhausted the ways of analyzing and exegeting Joseph’s story, what are we left with? Mostly mystery.
On March 7, 203, Perpetua fought with the beasts in the arena of Carthage just weeks after her baptism as a Christian. She and her maid Felicity and four companions had been arrested and convicted on the charge of being Christians. Perpetua left behind a prison diary recording the events of her arrest, trial, imprisonment, and martyrdom.[i] This diary, unusual in giving a first-person account of martyrdom, is also notable as the earliest writing known to be written by a Christian woman.
This guide is one of a column series that will invite Adventist readers to reflect on important classics of the Christian spiritual tradition. Each guide will provide 1) A brief biography of the classic’s author 2) A section on historical context 3) A short outline of the classic 4) Reflection and analysis of the classic 5) Questions for personal spiritual reflection.
1) Biography of Ephrem
O my God, without ceasing I step over the threshold of Your house;
After someone close to me preached his first sermon, he was approached by a man who made the following comment: “I work hard all week. When I come to church, I want to get spiritually fed. Your sermon did not feed me.” The man’s statement was revealing: many people come to church simply to feel affirmed and bolstered for the week to come.
“Spiritual Feeding” vs. “Bread of Life”
I propose that there are two kinds of sermons: those that simply set people at ease, and those that challenge the body of Christ.
When midnight stuck this January first, I was in a different time zone. My New Year was spent with the nuns of Carmel de la Paix in Mazille, France. There were no imacs, iphones or television sets on which to watch the big ball drop in Times Square. But there was a lot of time. The seeming surplus of it meant that hours (literally) were offered freely, generously to silence in the chapel—simply sitting, being.