Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Eastern United States of America, 123rd Patriarch of Universal Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.


Born in Kamishly, Syria on May 3, 1965, the youngest son of Mr. & Mrs. Issa Karim, His Eminence Metropolitan Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim lost his father at an early age and was raised ,with the rest of his family, by his late and loving mother Khanema. He entered St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Lebanon in 1977, following his primary schooling in Kamishly. In 1982, His Eminence served the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria, for the next two years. From 1984 to 1988, Archbishop Karim pursued higher studies at the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, graduating with a Bachelor Degree of Divinity.

In 1985, Metropolitan Karim took the vows of a monk, and put himself in the service of the Church. He was ordained to the diaconate in Egypt, and later the same year, to the sacred priesthood in Kamishly. From 1988 to 1989, Mor Cyril served as both, the secretary of His Holiness, Moran Mor Zakka I Iwas, Syrian Orhtodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and as a teacher at St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Damascus, Syria. In 1991, His Eminence entered St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland, where he received a License of Sacred Theology Degree, in 1992, and his Doctor of Divinity Degree in 1994, following a defense of his doctoral thesis on The Symbolism of the cross in early Syriac Christianity.

On Sunday, January 28, 1996, His Eminence was consecrated as Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar to the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States, by His Holiness Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, at St. Mary ‘s Syriac Orthodox Church in Kamishly. Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim arrived in The United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed to his position at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey.

In addition to his many talents, Archbishop Karim is fluent in both Classical and Vernacular (Touroyo) as well as in Arabic, French, and English.

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….