A Statement from the Hierarchs in North America

قَدْ جَاهَدْتُ الْجِهَادَ الْحَسَنَ، أَكْمَلْتُ السَّعْيَ، حَفِظْتُ الإِيمَانَ،‏ َأَخِيرًا قَدْ وُضِعَ لِي إِكْلِيلُ الْبِرِّ،الَّذِي يَهَبُهُلِي فِي ذلِكَ الْيَوْمِ، الرَّبُّ الدَّيَّانُ الْعَادِلُ، وَلَيْسَ لِي فَقَطْ، بَلْ لِجَمِيعِ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ ظُهُورَهُ أَيْضًا.

A Statement from the Hierarchs in North America

It is with great sadness that we, the North American Archdioceses of the Syriac Orthodox Church, wish to inform you of the passing of His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church. His Holiness was called to his eternal rest today, March 21, 2014, following a heart attack while in Germany for medical treatment. Eighty years of age, His Holiness was born in Mosul, Iraq on April 21, 1933 and served as our supreme spiritual father since his election to the Patriarchal See of Antioch on September 14, 1980. A tireless servant of the Lord, His Holiness labored faithfully to strengthen and guide the Holy Church for more than three decades during which time he was instrumental in the establishment of new vicariates throughout the world and the construction of St. Ephrem Monastery and Theological Seminary at Ma’arrat Saidnaya, near Damascus, Syria. His Holiness was very active in the Ecumenical Movement, strengthening ties with other Christian traditions and churches. He was likewise an outstanding theologian and scholar. During the recent years of the tragic suffering in Syria and Iraq, His Holiness has been a source of consolation and support to his spiritual children both near and far.

We ask that you kindly remember His Holiness in your prayers and ask the Lord to sustain and support the Holy Church of Antioch through this time of sorrow and loss. We also request that you pray for the Church as it now seeks to select a worthy successor to shepherd the flock through the challenging years that await us. May the Lord bless you and may He grant His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas eternal peace and rest in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan, Western USA

Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Eastern USA

Mor Athanasius Elia Bahi, Canada

Mor Titus Yeldho, Malankara Archdiocese

بيان من رعاة الكنيسة السريانية في امريكا الشمالية

ببالغ الحزن والأسى تنعي الأبرشيات السريانية الأرثوذكسية في أميركا الشمالية، المثلث الرحمات قداسة مار إغناطيوس زكا الأول عيواص بطريرك أنطاكية وسائر المشرق الرئيس الأعلى للكنيسة السريانية الأرثوذكسية في العالم، الذي انتقل إلى الخدور العلوية اليوم الجمعة الواقع في 21 آذار 2014 عن عمر يناهز 80 عاماً إثر جلطة قلبية حادة أصابته خلال وجوده في ألمانيا لتلقي العلاج الطبي.

وُلد قداسته في الموصل ـــ العراق في 21 نيسان 1933، وخدم كأب روحي أعلى منذ توليه السدة البطريركية الأنطاكية في 14 أيلول 1980. كخادم أمين دؤوب للرب، جاهد قداسته في تقوية الكنيسة وقيادتها لثلاثة عقود ونيّف، أسّس خلالها نيابات بطريركية جديدة في مختلف أنحاء العالم، ودير مار أفرام السرياني والكلية اللاهوتية في معرة صيدنايا، دمشق، سوريا.

تمّيز قداسته بنشاطه في الحركة المسكونية وفي تعزيز العلاقات مع سائر الطوائف المسيحية، كما عُرف كعالم ولاهوتي بارز.

في السنوات الأخيرة وخلال الأوضاع المأساوية التي تمرّ بها سوريا والعراق، كان قداسته مصدر تعزية وسند لأولاده الروحيين القريبين والبعيدين.

نسألكم جميعاً أن تذكروا قداسته في صلواتكم، وتضرعوا إلى الرب ليعضد كنيسة أنطاكية المقدسة في خسارتها الفادحة في هذا الوقت الأليم. ونسألكم أيضاً أن تصلّوا من أجل الكنيسة لتنتخب خلفاً يرعى القطيع خلال السنوات الصعبة القادمة.

نطلب إلى الرب الإله أن يبارككم ويعطي قداسة البطريرك مار إغناطيوس زكا الاول عيواص السلام والراحة الأبدية في أورشليم السماوية.

المطران مار قليميس يوجين قبلان ، ابرشية غربي الولايات المتحدة

المطران مار كيرلس افرام كريم ، ابرشية شرقي الولايات المتحدة

المطران مار أثناسيوس ايليا باهي ، ابرشية كندا

المطران مار تيطس يلدو، ابرشية مالانكارا السريانية في امريكا الشمالية

Intro: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

These famous lines, which open A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, hint at the novel’s central tension between love and family, on the one hand, and oppression and hatred, on the other. The book suggests that good and evil, wisdom and folly, and light and darkness stand equally matched in their struggle. The book makes prominent use of “doubles” to get & keep the reader’s interest.

We have a story in the New Testament that also uses “doubles”, as it were to teach us an important lesson. Luke contrasts two sisters, Mary & Martha and their relationship to Jesus on a particular occasion. I don’t want to say that one did bad and one did good. No, I would rather say one did that which was “good”, but the other did “better” or “best”. Read passage.

The focus of our passage today isn’t that we should not be concerned about household chores. No, it is making a point about discipleship.

Prop.: Disciples of Christ need to choose the best over the good in 2012.

I. Choosing the best means being in the right place (39).

A. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.

B. Martha went to the kitchen.

The Greek word here (parakathizo) doesn’t mean to just sit, but sit near. I think it implies that she got as close to the Lord Jesus as she could possibly get. Sitting at the feet of your master was the proper place for a disciple to be. Paul said he was brought up at the “feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3). Luke 8:35 tells us the man whom Jesus cast demons out of sat at His feet.

II. Choosing the best means listening to the right voice (39).

A. Mary heard the Words of Christ.

B. Martha couldn’t hear the Words of Christ (at least not very well).

While at the feet of Jesus, Mary “heard His word”. “heard” = The Apostle Luke switches tense of the verb here to an imperfect tense which means this was a durative or a continual listening & hearing…. She listened with attentiveness to everything He said, and she didn’t tire of His voice or of His teaching…

She sat close enough to really hear what He had to say. It implies that she continued to think about them after He quit talking.

III. Choosing the best means setting priorities and watching for distractions (40).

A. Mary’s priority was being close to Christ.

B. Martha’s priority was serving Christ and others.

“But Martha was encumbered about with much serving…” Is serving bad? No, of course not.
“serving” = It is the Greek word diakonias. The feminine form of the word we translate deacon. She was being a deacon/servant. We are told/commanded that we should serve one another (Gal. 5:13). So, what Martha did was a “good” thing, so what was the problem? It simply was NOT the BEST thing to do at this point in time. We are told that Mary “chose good part” which means decided to do the “better” or “best” thing…

Mary made a choice = she knew there was other things that needed to be done, but she purposefully didn’t do those things. Instead, she went and sat at the feet of Jesus. “good part” = “better/best part” (depending on what you comparing too). I can’t think of anything better than for a disciple to be sitting at the feet of Jesus soaking up every word that He spoke, so I think “best” is the best meaning behind “good part”. Martha was “careful and troubled” by that which wasn’t best. She could have “sat at His feet” too. However, she chose to other things instead. She was busy with good things that needed to be done, just not right then. I have tried to explain the details of this rather simple story for you today.

You may be wondering why we are looking at this passage on Jan. 1, 2012. I would hope you would see some practical application that might apply for you this coming year.

Personal Application:

I will tell you it is a lot easier to be a Martha than a Mary. At least I find that to be true in my own life. I am preaching to myself today too! You may think being in the ministry would make it easy to really live for the Lord, but it doesn’t. There are always what seems like a billion things to do (sermons to study for, lessons to prepare for, people to visit, letters to write, questions to answer, phone calls & emails to make, people to counsel, trips/errands to run, materials to purchase, messes to clean up, items to repair, sheetrock to hang, etc….). I was told you can never sit down and watch a football game again without a sermon or some church thing running through your mind….

In seminary they told us if your aren’t willing work 70 hours a week we might as well hit the door. You see “ministry” & “life” can consume your entire life and the life of your family, whereby the most important things – like your relationship with the Lord is neglected..

I am trying to make some changes:

- I am letting the answering machine pickup – so leave a message…

- I am trying to really & truly put the Lord completely first, and my family second.

I am going to try to limit how much time I spend on none essentials at the church…. Even as a pastor, it is easy to get “cumbered about with much serving” or “careful and troubled” like Martha and not “sit at the feet of Jesus” like Mary.

General Application:

We need to make 2012 a year in which we “get close to Christ, sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words”.
We need to make 2012 a year in which we will set priorities in our life that will put the Lord first and be on watch for anything, even good things that might distract us from the Lord.

We need this applied in our homes & private lives:

We need to make our relationship with the Lord our number ONE priority. We need to be careful not to let “things”, “people” or “activities” get in the way of sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His words.

I sometimes see Christians who are busy as “beavers”, “bees” or “ants” or whatever animal you would like to use as an example. Many Christians are going & doing all of the time, but are too busy to read God’s Word, pray, Study God’s Word, meditated on God’s Word, attend a worship services, etc…

Conclusion: Who are your more like: Mary or Martha? How have your priorities been this past year?

Pray for me, I need to make changes in my life. Maybe you need to reassess your priorities, or get rid of some of those things that keep you so busy so you can sit at the feet of Jesus? Maybe your aren’t even sure what changes you need to make but you know one thing for sure, you have been more like Martha than Mary….