Category Archives: Salvation

On Mark 11:17, “My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All Nations.”

Note: the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Creative Arts Festival 2017’s theme is the inspiration for this blog post. We will take a closer look at the theme, to help them to better prepare for the festival in case they participate. Whether or not they do, what we can gather from this passage of St. Mark’s Gospel is applicable to all of us, not just the children participating in the festival!

Have you ever thought about that time when our Lord went into the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers, and drove out the salesmen? Why did He do that? What can we learn from His actions? How can we apply this passage to our own life?

It all began with the Triumphal Entry, the glorious reception that Jesus was given when He arrived in Jerusalem. Even the fact that He was riding on a lowly donkey did not stop the crowd from singing His praises. But instead of glorying in that acclaim, He went straight to the temple and “looked around at all things.” (Mark 11:11) His means of entry into Jerusalem modeled humility and His choice to go directly to the temple exemplifies the priority that should be given to being in God’s house.

Something else is tucked into this passage that could easily be missed. The passage says that He “looked around at all things” but “as the hour was already late He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” This shows us something else: it models self restraint. After all, as He looked around, our Lord saw all of the greedy money-making happening in what should have been a very holy, completely God-focused place. He knew that it was wrong, and had every right to be furious about it. But instead, He left to be with His disciples, calmly choosing being with people over being frustrated about stuff.

The next day our Lord returned to Jerusalem, and went back to the temple. This time He “drove out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.”  (Mark 11:15-16) He thus demonstrated the importance of keeping what has been set apart for God free from greed and from earthly stuff.

Once the temple was restored to its intended state, it could also return to its intended purpose of worship and godly teaching. And so Christ taught the people, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” This teaching was appropriate for the people who had gotten so accustomed to seeing (and doing) marketing in the temple that they perhaps didn’t even think about how inappropriate it was. It turns out that this teaching is also appropriate for those of us living 2000+ years later. Concepts that we can take from this passage include: honoring God’s house as a place to pray; welcoming all because God’s house is for everyone, regardless of nationality; and guarding against deceit and greed that can steal us away from right relationship with God.

St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians pushes us to look at this event in an even more personal light. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reads, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” Reconsidering the account of our Lord’s cleansing of the temple from the perspective of our own body being a temple, set apart for God, offers us even more insights for our Christian life. First and foremost, we need to aim to live humbly as our Lord did, especially when things are going well and others are lauding us. Secondly, God should always be our first stop, whether we are looking for personal guidance or we are prioritizing our schedule (being in church at the Divine Services should be at the top of our list). Thirdly, we need Christ Himself to cleanse our hearts, drive away the greed and selfishness in us, and restore us to the way we were intended to be. Finally, we need Him to teach us: how to guard the holiness of His temple, keeping our bodies from being marred by greed; how to welcome all around us to worship Him as well; and how to keep ourselves pure so that we do not house thoughts and desires that steal our focus away from Him.

May the Lord indeed cleanse us, that we may each become a worthy temple that properly worships Him and welcomes others to do the same.

Here are some ideas of ways to help our Sunday Church School class (whether or not they will be participating in the aforementioned Creative Arts Festival) to learn about this passage:

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Here is a lesson plan on the personal aspect of cleansing the temple, geared to grades 3 to 6: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/youth/youthworker/resources/cleaning

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Here is a printable page full of activities for kids, related to the cleansing of the temple: http://www.sermons4kids.com/cleaning_house_bulletin.pdf

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Find an attention-getting way to teach about the cleansing of the temple in this lesson plan: http://biblelessons4kidz.com/BL4K%20Database/New%20Testament/Jesus/LSN%20-%20Jesus%20Clears%20Temple.pdf

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If your students enjoy doing activity pages related to the Sunday Church School lesson, you will want to peruse the printables (at a variety of age levels) in this pdf about the cleansing of the temple: http://freesundayschoolcurriculum.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/5/0/12503916/lesson_11_jesus_clears_the_temple.pdf

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Older elementary/middle school students may enjoy re-enacting the cleansing of the temple by reading together this play imagining what it could have been like, from the traders’ perspective, before a discussion of the event: http://www.beau.org/~vickir/drama/play1.html

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Find varied age-level (for ages 2 – 12) lessons about Jesus cleansing the temple here. Click on “Year 2: Kings and Kingdoms,” then select your age level, and go to lesson 5 in that level, “Jesus Clears the Temple.” Find lesson plans, scripts/stories and reproducible pages at each level. http://resourcewell.org/children-ministry/curriculum/

 

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On the Lord’s Prayer: “But Deliver Us From Evil.”

 

This short phrase in the Lord’s Prayer serves several purposes. It recognizes that there is evil pursuing us. It acknowledges that we cannot deliver ourselves from that evil. It affirms that God can deliver us from it. It implies that we want to be delivered from evil. It combines all of those truths into one short request. That request is one which Our Lord’s entire life on earth answers immutably with “Yes! I can and I will!”

 

Read more about this phrase:

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“I have always been bothered by the ‘but’ in the Lord’s Prayer. I have wanted to say, ‘and deliver us from the evil one.’ However, the ‘but’ is firmly fixed in the original. We are told to pray this way, to ask the Father not to lead us into temptation–with one exception. Temptation might be necessary to deliver us from the evil one.” ~ read the rest of the article here: http://holynativity.blogspot.com/2013/07/lead-us-not-into-temptation-but.html

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We ask deliverance from the Evil One or from all evil — in both cases, recognizing that Satan and his demons do attack us, and that persons who have willingly given themselves over to evil will cooperate with them and will hope for our destruction.  We ask for God’s protection, recognizing both His strength and our own weakness.” ~ https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/teaching-lords-prayer/

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“We pray also that God would deliver us from the evil one, and here we are given not an explanation but one more revelation, this time about the personal nature of evil, about the person as the bearer and source of evil. …There exists no concrete reality that we could call hatred, but it appears in all its awesome power when there is one who hates; there’s no suffering as such, but there is the sufferer; everything in this world, everything in this life is personal.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 81

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“The source of evil is in the evil person, and this means in the person in whom paradoxically and horribly evil has replaced good, and who lives by evil. It is perhaps here, in these words about the evil one, that we are given the one possible explanation of evil, for here we discover that it is not some kind of impersonal force spread throughout the world, but rather as the tragedy of a personal choice, personal responsibility, personal decision. And therefore only in the person, and not in abstract theories and arrangements, is evil defeated and goodness triumphs; which is why we pray first of all for ourselves, for each time that we overcome temptation, it is because we choose faith, hope, and love and to not the gloom of evil.”~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 82

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Idea: This activity mimics a lighthouse’s importance to a ship in safely maneuvering trouble spots. It would be fun to do with your Sunday Church School students, and is a great beginning place for a discussion on how God, our Light, delivers us from evil. http://www.christianitycove.com/bible-lesson-god-is-like-a-lighthouse/7259/

On the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25)

The Feast of the Annunciation is a very important feast of the Faith. Did you ever stop and think about why that is true? Why is the Annunciation one of the twelve great feasts of the Church? Let us take a moment to think about what happened at the Annunciation, so that we can be better prepared to teach our students about this great feast.  

When we stop and think about it, we can see that each part of this event is notable of its own accord, and together, all are essential for our salvation. It began when the Angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear His Son.The fact that this angel appeared shows that the event was significant, for he is sent whenever God has an important message to convey. God’s selection of Mary to become the Theotokos is a critical part of the event, since she was a holy young lady who had consecrated her life to God’s service. Her agreement, “Let it be to me as you say,” is a vitally important piece as well, because it simultaneously demonstrates Mary’s humility before God and her willingness to obey. Also noteworthy is the fact that this event marks the moment in history when a person became the first Christian, for after the Annunciation, the Theotokos truly had Christ living within her. But the most significant aspect of the Annunciation is in what it announces; what came about as a result of both the announcement and the ensuing humble submission to God’s will. And that is this; at the Annunciation, God Himself became human. This mystery is both mind-boggling and crucial. Christ’s taking on flesh and dwelling among us was necessary so that He could die, break the power of death over us, and rise again, raising us to life as well. What humility! What love!

After giving it a little thought, we can see that the Feast of the Annunciation is truly a big deal for so many reasons! Even the other feasts of the church year would not exist without it! In addition, March 25 falls exactly nine months before Christmas, and is therefore is the date of the Annunciation. How wonderfully not-so-coincidental it is that the date of this Feast falls right in the midst of Great Lent each year, for it reminds us of Christ’s humility and the Theotokos’ obedience. Both humility and obedience are things that we are working on in our own lives, especially during Great Lent! The Annunciation reminds us of what God can do when both are exercised perfectly. Let us teach our Sunday Church School students about this great feast, so that they can celebrate it with joy!


Today is the beginning of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery from the ages;

for the Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaimeth grace.

Wherefore, do we shout with him to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, O full of grace! The Lord is with thee.” ~ Apolytikion of the Annunciation

 

Blessed Feast of the Annunciation!

                                                                         

Here are a few ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn about the Annunciation:
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Read Luke 1:26-39 together. Encourage your students to act out the story of the Annunciation. After they act it out, encourage them to think about the story. Help them to think about how the Theotokos must have felt when she was working and suddenly there was an angel there with her. How might she have felt about what He had to say to her? How did she respond, even though she must have been feeling all of those things? What can we learn from her and her response?

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The OCA’s Department of Christian Education offers a complete, leveled series of lessons on the Theotokos at http://dce.oca.org/focus/theotokos. Lesson 3 focuses on the Annunciation, and can help parents and teachers of all ages find ways to help children learn about the Feast of the Annunciation.

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Find ideas for hosting a retreat that helps children learn about the Annunciation here: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/AnnunciationRetreat-Project.pdf
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Here is a lesson plan on the Annunciation intended for use with older children (13+): http://www.orthodoxcatechismproject.org/the-great-feasts/-/asset_publisher/IXn2ObwXr9vq/content/the-twelve-great-feasts-2-the-annunciation?inheritRedirect=false

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Invite older students to delve into St. Gregory the Wonderworker’s homily on the Annunciation. An English translation of the homily is found here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/22550. Divide the class and the homily into sections and have each group focus on one section for a few minutes. Ask each student to find their favorite part of their group’s section and be prepared to explain why it stands out to them. Then, slowly read over the homily together, discussing the parts that “stood out” along the way. Invite insights and/or connections that the students make along the way.

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Here are a variety of things to do with children to help them celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation: http://myocn.net/teaching-annunciation/

 

The Creed: Who for Us Men and for Our Salvation Came Down from Heaven

This part of the Creed states that Jesus is our Savior. What are we saved from?

“Salvation” is an interesting word. We don’t often hear it outside of church, and may not often think about needing it. Yet we call Jesus “Savior” and say that He achieved salvation for us. From what did He save us? Jesus saved us from the effects of consequence of sin, eternal death. After we have accepted Holy Baptism, and thus committed our lives to Jesus Christ, we must walk on the path of salvation that He showed to us when He became man. Orthodox Christians know that we must work out our salvation daily, as St. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Jesus took on the consequences of our sins, which is death, thereby opening the path of salvation to us. However, we must walk in the path. When we sin, we have turned from the path. When we Repent, we return to the path that leads to eternal life.

Try this: Show this episode of “Be the Bee” to your Sunday Church School students to jumpstart a discussion on salvation: https://bethebee.goarch.org/home/-/asset_publisher/gAnk4cdUihei/content/-68-salvation-in-christ

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The concept of being saved by “accepting Christ as your personal Savior” is broadened in Orthodoxy, as we continue “walking the path of salvation” after conversion. If your students have friends who are Protestant, or perhaps they have seen television evangelists who speak of a more “instant salvation,” it is especially important to discuss and better understand the Orthodox viewpoint of salvation.

Here’s one way to do so: watch this video that uses two chairs to explain both the Protestant view and Orthodox view of Salvation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WosgwLekgn8. Discuss the differing views together.