To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

Being An Ambassador for Christ: Sermon from Bishop Antonios Markos

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The following is a transcript of a sermon given by His Grace, Bishop Antonious Markos, on Sunday the 2nd of November 2008 at the Parish of St Mercurious, Sydney.

While an attempt has been made to convey the sermon as faithfully as possible, the writer’s intention is to impart the profound spirit of the sermon and humbly apologises for any deficiencies or omissions herein.

Moses did not part the Red Sea alone

I thank Father Matthew for his gracious introduction but wish to make a correction.

No one man can be credited for the work of mission that has taken place in Africa over the past thirty years.

No one person can honestly say “it was me who did this” or “it was me who did that”. But we say, and I am sure of this, that it is a Divine Power that has worked and continues to work in the African nations.

Did Moses part the Red Sea alone? No, I would say definitely not. Did he single-handedly save the Hebrew nation from slavery under the Egyptians and bring about the spectacular defeat of Pharoah’s men in one day? No, certainly not!

It was the Lord working through Moses, inspiring Moses, empowering Moses and instructing him. It was the Lord!

We, alone, have achieved nothing in Africa. Through God’s power and through His Divine Spirit, we have established a successful ministry and declare His name to the African multitudes. God is working, my brothers and sisters, in people of every creed, of every tongue and of every tribe and we are instruments of this Divine Work.

We are His ambassadors.

The whole world is our parish

In my younger years, I was very much involved in my church parish. I was very dedicated to the church services, attending the liturgies, vespers and visitations. This was everything to me and indeed my parish was very close to my heart. My church parish was my world!

This is a good thing but I want to challenge you all tonight to think of the world as your parish. Rather than thinking of the parish as your world, think of the world as your parish…

We are asked to step outside ourselves, outside of our own individual church parishes and see every man and woman as a member of a larger global parish. We are to serve them, to be true ambassadors of the Lord to them and to convey our joy to them.

We are called to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth”!! But certainly, this must take place ‘locally’ in our own families and in our own parish before it can occur ‘globally’…

Hanging by a thread

After finishing my six years of study in medical school, I decided to move to Ethiopia where I would commence my career as a doctor. I am not sure why I chose to practice medicine in Africa. Many friends asked me “Why Ethiopia?” and I answered them in all honesty, “I don’t know”. But there was a deep force, an unusual attraction pulling me to Africa, to serve these people of whom I knew little.

On the day of my departure from Cairo, I went to obtain the blessings of His Holiness, the late Pope Kyrillos VI.

I remember very clearly what he said to me on that day. He told me that the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches were tied together by 16 centuries of good relations. “But in recent times”, he said, “these relations have turned very, very bitter. Politics has taken over and the good will developed over 16 long centuries has come under serious threat!”

He then looked at me sternly and said, “But there is one last hope. There is one last thread holding our two churches together.”

He paused and said softly, “this last thread is… you!!”

This shocked me! How could I possibly be this? I was only a layman and very much involved in my medical career. How could I restore 16 centuries of inter-church relations?! I was not a politician, not a diplomat, not an ambassador but just an inexperienced, fresh-faced medical graduate! How could I do this??

Wash their feet!

I said to the Pope, “But your holiness, I am going there to work! I will be heavily involved in my medical practice. How can I be this last thread?”

Pope Kyrillos looked at me again and said, “My son, we have sent the Ethiopian people laymen and deacons, we have sent them priests and hegumens. They have tried to rule over them, instruct them and reconcile them by force,” he sighed softly, “but this has not worked.”

His holiness paused for a while and then said these words to me, “My son, to win them over, to reconcile them completely, there is only one thing you can do… you must wash their feet. You must wash their feet!”

I am convinced that Pope Kyrillos was a contemporary saint. Truly, he was a holy man of wisdom and of profound humility. He was much loved by the Ethiopians and they remember him to this day.

Wash their feet? I quickly came to realise what this holy man was asking me to do. Listen to these people, observe their concerns and complaints – put judgments and condemnation to one side. In all humility, sympathise with their sufferings, share with them in their situation and in so doing, follow the example set by Christ. This holy man was asking me to be an ambassador of Christ to these people…

I am with you always

In the Lord’s final address to his disciples known as the “Great Commission”, he commands them to evangelise. He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28;19).

The Great Commission is not a request, it is a command! Our Lord is telling us that mission is the way of discipleship, and a prerequisite for the Christian faith. It is a difficult command but without the words that follow, it would be impossible! He says, “for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.” (Matthew 28;20)

God knows how much we have endured during our mission in Africa. Indeed, we have suffered all sorts of things – beatings, starvation and threats of death on many occasions.

I will tell you one story which occurred many years ago and stands strong in my memory. One day while I was in Kenya, I was approached by a very large African man. He was visibly drunk, very angry and indeed, very dangerous, waving a long sword at my neck…

He led me to a room, threw me on to a chair and locked the door. He began to scream at me in a drunken manner, and accused me of promising him thousands of dollars. He wanted me to make him the ‘Patriarch of Africa’.

I was not scared. I told him softly that I had made no such promise. He became even more inflamed and reminded me of the sword he was holding, how sharp it was and the damage it would do. It would tear my head from my body, he screamed over and over.

I was not scared. I told him that God’s will was all that mattered. If it were God’s will that I die today, I would happily die, by whatever means.

If it were not God’s will that I die today, then should the man raise his sword against me, his arm would be torn off!

He stopped for a moment and thought of what I had said. His face shrunk and deep fear moved inside him. “Is this so, bishop?” he asked.

I said confidently, “Yes it is so!” He let me out unharmed.

The Lord has said to us “I am with you always” – just work My mission, preach My name and I will protect you, guide you and be with you in all things!!

I have come to understanding the true meaning of these words, of the Lord’s presence in all our actions. He assists us in all things.

In the words of the apostle Paul, “neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (1Corinth3;7)

Come to Africa

I invite you all to come to serve in Africa. Come and be a part of this ministry! You will be inspired and uplifted by this service.

If you cannot come, then there is much work of mission here in Australia. Never let an opportunity pass without mentioning the name of our Lord or His work.

Always remember, you are His ambassador, sent to represent Heaven and sent to spread the name of the Lord! Never forget who you are or where you are from!

Always remember, He is with you and working through you in mission.

His words are true, “I am with you always, even to the end of the ages”.

Source: BISHOY’S BLOG – MY COPTIC ORTHODOX FAITH!

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Written by Stephen

November 18, 2010 at 11:48 am

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