Our Jars of Oil

Please allow me to share with you a story that I have loved since I was child. I see it relevant to St Mark’s (or Westside as it is called) and it can be your story someday.

One day, a widow of a member of a group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.” “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”

So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.” (2 Kings 4:1-7, NLT).

In the story, our church was like the widow who was threatened by the creditor. I remembered this story on our way to the bank to open a new account in anticipation for the funds that would come out of the “Cheerful Givers” announcements. Later, I remembered the story again when we had to open two other new accounts. The new bank accounts have been for me like the empty jars of the women and her children borrowed from their friends and neighbors, in anticipation of the abundance of oil, through faith in Elisha’s words.

I am amazed of the woman and her children. Through faith they ran to knock the doors to borrow the jars, one after one, to be filled with the promised oil. They poured olive oil from their flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled. They watched the miracle happening as it is happening in St Mark’s. God has already sent over $1,000,000 for the church project in less than two months.

I have seen such faith in the wonderful children who accepted the message — that God will surely satisfy the needs of the church. Who could imagine such marathon of faith among the loving people of God the Almighty? They ran to offer from their own cheerfully, generously and even from the small “flask of oil” they have themselves. They all have been given the grace to give, from what they have given from God, and watched the increase by the blessings of God.

As the oil increased, it brought joy to the woman and her children, and so too is the joy of everyone in St. Mark Church as contributions increase week by week. This has brought to our remembrance what David said: “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad” (Psalms 126:3).

The key figure in the story of the woman is Elisha. In Hebrew, the name “Elisha, אֱלִישַׁע”, transliterated into “Eliyshaa”, mean “God Saves”, the same meaning of the name of our Lord Jesus. I strongly believe that the Spirit of God the Father who was working in Elisha, is now working mightily in St. Mark Church, through Jesus Christ. His work is not just to fill the jars with oil or fill the bank accounts with fund, but much more than that. He gives us of Jesus Christ’s fullness, and grace above grace (John 1:16).

This new building, with the story of the “Cheerful Givers”, will be as “a monument of God” (as was said by one of our youth). Through generations, it will serve as a witness for God’s glory and faithfulness in the midst of St. Mark Church.

Thank God for His amazing grace. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth” (Psalms 115:1).

Congratulations to each “Cheerful Giver”, who has been part of the story of faith by the grace of God and has become a beloved to God, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Pray for me.

Fr Abraam Sleman

frsleman@CopticChurch.net

(732) 718-4129

 

Jerusalem of North America Churches

There is no exaggeration in saying that St. Mark church, in Jersey City, to North America Coptic Churches is as the church of Jerusalem in the apostolic era, the mother church. God has used St. Mark church, in Jersey City, since its establishment in 1970, to bless many in North America in several ways:

  • God empowered Late Very Reverend Fr. Gabriel Abdel-Sayed, the first ordained priest of St Mark Church, to visit many states, serving the communities, praying liturgies and planting seeds for churches and dioceses that would be established in these states.
  • God has gifted St. Mark church to help thousands of families that have come from Egypt, to achieve a decent standard of living in USA. Many of these families have migrated to other areas and/or states looking for an even better life and have become loving members of many churches.
  • God has blessed St. Mark church to raise thousands of young adults who have become successful professionals and remained loyal and loving to the Coptic Church. These loving youth have migrated to other areas and/or states looking for an even better life and have become loving members of many churches.
  • Serving hundreds of youth through the campus ministry of the universities close to the church is a major part of the mission of St Mark Church. Many of these youth have been wonderful members and loving to their churches in many areas.
  • With technological advances, God has used the church to bless many people all over the states and the world by its live broadcast of its services and broadcasting many spiritual and biblical, prayers, praises programs through Satellite TV, IPTV and online.

To those who have been touched by the blessings of God, it is time to show gratefulness to God’s grace through St. Mark church. Such truth is encouragement to appeal to God, through His loving people, to help St. Mark Church, especially these days.

As many may know, St. Mark Church, with God’s grace, has been working on a project for a new service building. The old buildings, to be removed soon, are deteriorated and are not suitable for the church’s many services. The new building will include Sunday school classes, a fellowship hall, and a multipurpose hall for all the church services and activities. At this point in the project, the church is in need of $2,000,000.00 to proceed.

Originally, it was planned to get loan for the amount of $2,000,000.00  from a bank, but some terms, in the latest contract presented to us, are not reasonable in the light of the church’s current situation and would jeopardize the future of the church.

We believe that the financing of the new building can be easily achieved by the Almighty God through the “cheerful givers” or any other way He sees  (Ephesians 3:20; Nehemiah 2:20).

As a humble estimate, when God speaks in the hearts of 400 “cheerful givers”, and each one donates just $5,000.00, the church would collect the $ 2,000,000.00 In this case, the church would build without loan entirely. The glory would be due only to God the Almighty.

We are kindly appealing to all the loving people to remember St. Mark church in its recent needs. Any offering of love of any amount is appreciated. Remember this, a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop (2 Corinthians 9:6, NLT).

This message is intended to be as a personal message as well as special message to all the churches and congregations in North America. May the Almighty God give this message the grace and grant to St. Mark church according to His good hand (Nehemiah 2:8).

Please make your donation payable to:                    

Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark

P.O. Box 4397, Jersey City, NJ 07304

 

Online Donation:                                      

www.copticchurch.net/donate

 

الاعلان الدستوري المصري والجديد تحت الشمس


Egyptian Constitutional Declaration: What New Under the Sun

“مَا الْفَائِدَةُ لِلإِنْسَانِ مِنْ كُلِّ تَعَبِهِ الَّذِي يَتْعَبُهُ تَحْتَ الشَّمْسِ؟ دَوْرٌ يَمْضِي وَدَوْرٌ يَجِيءُ وَالأَرْضُ قَائِمَةٌ إِلَى الأَبَدِ. وَالشَّمْسُ تُشْرِقُ وَالشَّمْسُ تَغْرُبُ وَتُسْرِعُ إِلَى مَوْضِعِهَا حَيْثُ تُشْرِقُ… رَأَيْتُ كُلَّ الأَعْمَالِ الَّتِي عُمِلَتْ تَحْتَ الشَّمْسِ فَإِذَا الْكُلُّ بَاطِلٌ وَقَبْضُ الرِّيحِ” (جامعة 1).. هل كتب سليمان الحكيم هذا عن شخص بعينه بعد أن أصابه الكثير من الاحباطات؟ أم كتبه عن الشعب المصري بأكمله بعد ثورة 25 يناير 2011، ثم بعد 30 يونيو 2013؟ ما هو الجديد اذا كانت الدولة والشعب يحكمها مواد دستورية عتيقة؟

إذا كان ما تم نشره على الانترنت يوم 8 يوليو 2013 قد حدث فعلا، فالمادة الأولى من الأعلان الدستوري الذي صدر في القاهرة، ورد به: “الإسلام دين الدولة، واللغة العربية لغتها الرسمية، ومبادئ الشريعة الإسلامية التى تشمل أدلتها الكلية وقواعدها الأصولية والفقهية ومصادرها المعتبرة فى مذاهب أهل السنة والجماعة، المصدر الرئيسي للتشريع”.

في 10 ديسمبر 2012 كنت قد كتبت مقالا بعنوان “أعاصير مشروع دستور مصر”، وكان ذلك في وقت كتابة مشروع الدستور الذي تم تعليق العمل به في 3 يوليو 2013 بعد ثورة 30 يونيو 2013. وحتى لا اكرر ما سبق ان قلته – والمقال ما زال منشورا للرجوع اليه –  أريد فقط أن ألخص ما كتبته من قبل، لعله يأتي بجديد تحت الشمس، ملفتا النظر الى الآتي:

أولا: هذه المادة تتناقض مع نفسها، فهي بينما تعلن أن : “جمهورية مصر العربية دولة نظامها ديمقراطى يقوم على أساس المواطنة؟” تقسم المصريين وتغرس بذور الفرقة والفتنة والصراع بينهم، فهي مادة غير توافقية، تفرض رؤية وثقافة واسلوب حياة معين على كل المصريين غير المسلمين وغير السنيين، وتجعل غيرهم مواطنين من الدرجة الثانية.

ثانيا: لايجب أن يكون هناك أي مواد دستورية  من وحي البشر – وليس من وحي الله – لتقرر ديانة الدولة وتوجهها الطائفي وعلاقة المواطنين بخالقهم. والسؤال الذي أطرحه على السادة المسئولين: من له الحق أن يقرر أن يكون  للدولة ديانة معينة دون غيرها؟ ومن له الحق أن يقرر أن يكون للدولة مذهبا دون غيره؟ الايمان والعقيدة هو امر يخص الله الخالق وحده، وليس من قرار أي سيادة بشرية، وأي تعدي على سلطان الله مصيره الزوال.

ثالثا: أقول باحترام للجميع وبحياء شديد: هل هذه المادة هي لحماية المواطنين المسلمين السنيين دون غيرهم؟ أم هي لحماية شريعة الاسلام السني دون غيره؟ ومن هو الوصي على أي منهم دون غيرهم؟ وهل يعقل أن يحمي البشر ما هو مفترض أن يكون إلهيا أي يخص الله؟ أم نحن رجعنا لزمن تحمي فيه الشعوب الوثنية آلهتها من الدمار؟

رابعا: “مبادئ الشريعة” امر مختلف عليها بين الفقهاء والمذاهب ومتغيرة بحسب الظروف والزمان والمكان، وقد تشمل أراء فقهية بالغة التعصب ولا تناسب متطلبات العصر، وعقلاء المسلمين الوسطيين يعلمون هذا أكثر مني. وهذا يضع مؤسسات الدولة تحت ولاية الفقيه ويهدد الإستقرار القانونى والاجتماعى وهو ما يتعارض مع مقتضيات دولة الحرية والعدالة التي يحكمها القانون.

خامسا: مثل هذا النظام السياسى يهدم مرجعية الدستور والقانون، ويسمح باستغلال السلطة لبعض الفقهاء، كل بحسب رأيه وحسب رغبة السلطان فى تبرير أى قرار. ومثل هذا النظام سيؤدي أولا إلى عدم الاستقرار القانونى والدستورى، لاختلاف أراء الفقهاء والصراع بينهم، وثانيا سيؤدي إلى تكفير كل من يخالف رأى الفقيه واتهامه بالكفر والالحاد وربما بالخيانة العظمى، وسيعصف مخربا البلاد بأعاصير الطائفية التي هي أشد دمارا من أعاصير كاترين وايرين وساندي. ولا أقصد بهذه الأعاصير الطائفية بين المسلمين والمسيحيين وحدهم، بل وأيضا بين المسلمين أنفسهم باختلاف ارائهم الفقهية ومذاهبهم الطائفية وتوجهاتهم السياسية، والتاريخ يثبت ذلك.

سادسا: أعتقد أنه قد يكون المقصود من كتابة هذه المادة الدستورية هو “التهدئة” و”الموازنات”، ولكن ارجو ان نعي الدرس ولا نكرر أخطاء الماضي. لقد سبق أن علق الدكتور مرسي عن انسحاب الكنيسة من اللجنة التأسيسية للدستور السابق بسبب عدم موافقتها  أنه “أمر لا يستدعي القلق”.  ووقتها كتبت: “”سيادته يعلم جيدا أن الأعاصير hurricanes والدوامات الهوائية  tornadoes لا تميز بين رئيس ومرؤوسين في عملها التدميري… فالواقع والتاريخ يثبتان ذلك”. ويبدو أن سيادته لم يعي الدرس، وقامت اعاصير 30 يونيو لتهدم صنم الدستور والعابدين له.

سابعا: قد يظن البعض أن مثل هذه المواد الدستورية أمر لا محال منه، وأنه ليس أمام من يدعونهم “القطيع الصغير” سوى أن يخضعوا ويقبلوها. ولكننا بثقة وإيمان بالله، وباسم رب الجنود، نثق أنه لن يثبت سوى ما يوافق مشيئة الله، الذي قال: “رَأْيِي يَقُومُ وَأَفْعَلُ كُلَّ مَسَرَّتِي” (اشعياء 46 : 10)… واذا لم يكن هناك جديد تحت الشمس من عمل البشر، فسيكون هناك الجديد بقوة الرب الاله الذي وعد شعبه: “هَئَنَذَا صَانِعٌ أَمْراً جَدِيداً. الآنَ يَنْبُتُ. أَلاَ تَعْرِفُونَهُ؟ أَجْعَلُ فِي الْبَرِّيَّةِ طَرِيقاً فِي الْقَفْرِ أَنْهَاراً” (اشعياء 43 : 19)..

سيكون هناك أمرا جديدا تحت الشمس في مصر، ولكل شعب الله في كل مكان..!! نصلي للأب السماوي، باسم الرب يسوع المسيح،  من أجل سلام مصر وخلاص كل شعبها في المسيح يسوع.

القمص أبرام سليمان

frsleman@CopticChurch.net

 

Successful Revolution in Egypt, not a Military Coup

What happened recently in Egypt is NOT a military coup, but a revolution. That is greatly evident by the following facts:
1- More than 33 million in the streets have protested against the ousted regime.
2- Well respected figures shared, with the military, in planning and accepting the road map. Each of these figures represents millions of people.
3- The power has not been transferred to the military army.
4- The accounts of one year of suppression and failure of the ousted regime have been more than enough for the eruption of such great revolution.
5- It is blessed by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. He is the spiritual leader of more than 20 million Coptic Christians of the Egyptian church that have more than 2000 years of history and credibility.
Sadly, the hearts of some people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that God should heal them (Acts 28:27). We pray for the peace of Egypt in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:25).

Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

For wisdom and might are His.

And He changes the times and the seasons;

He removes kings and raises up kings;

He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding”

(Daniel 2:20-21).

فَقَالَ دَانِيآلُ:

لِيَكُنِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ مُبَارَكاً مِنَ الأَزَلِ وَإِلَى الأَبَدِ

لأَنَّ لَهُ الْحِكْمَةَ وَالْجَبَرُوتَ.

وَهُوَ يُغَيِّرُ الأَوْقَاتَ وَالأَزْمِنَةَ.

يَعْزِلُ مُلُوكاً وَيُنَصِّبُ مُلُوكاً.

يُعْطِي الْحُكَمَاءَ حِكْمَةً

وَيُعَلِّمُ الْعَارِفِينَ فَهْماً”

(دانيال 2 : 20-21)

رسالة الرئيس مرسي للأخوة المسيحيين

قال الرئيس مرسي: “نحمل للإخوة المسيحيين ودًا وتقديرًا وبرًا، نحن شركاء بلد واحدة،  أني  لا أشعر براحة كبيرة من علاقات فاترة خلف الزيارات والبروتوكلات التي تجمعنا” وأضاف: “وإن كنت أقدر حجم المخالفات الذى جعل كل ماهو إسلامي فزاعة، لكن المتديين هم أكثر الناس حرصا على بعضهم البعض وعلى البلاد.”

سيدي الفاضل: شكرا على ما قلته أنك تحمل “ود وتقدير للأخوة المسيحيين”، وان كان هذا هو حقهم… ونأسف لشعورك بعدم الراحة مما اسميته “علاقات فاترة”… ولكن، هل كنت تتوقع أن يصفق لك المسيحيون تصفيقا حارا، بينما مسلسل القتل والخطف والتدمير مازال مستمرا، دون أن تفعل شيئا؟.. وأن كان من أسميتهم المتدينون – من جماعتك ومن شابههم – هم “أكثر الناس حرصاعلى بعضهم البعض وعلى البلاد”، فلماذا هذا المسلسل البغيض؟ ومن وراءه؟

الموضوع كله هو إعلان لفشل ما يسمى “الاسلام السياسي” وعدم مصداقية الفكر الذي ورائه.!!

نصلي للآب السماوي من أجل سلام مصر وخلاص شعبها، باسم الرب يسوع المسيح..!!

Finding Refuge From Unrest in Egypt: A Christian Response

The New York Times has shared in raising awareness to the recent wave of immigration from Egypt, by publishing an article with the headline: “Refuge From Unrest in Egypt”. A version of this article appeared in print on April 21, 2013, on page MB1 of the New York edition.

The author of the article successfully portrayed some of the faithful efforts employed by one of the Coptic Churches in the U.S. in accommodating Arabic speakers fleeing from Egypt looking to find refuge in the U.S. The same can be said of the Coptic Churches in the area of Jersey City, Brooklyn and other neighboring cities.

In emphasizing the effort geared toward the Arabic speakers, the author overlooked the faithful effort to accommodate the English speakers as well, as in the case of St Mark Church in Jersey City, mentioned in the article.

Fr. Markos Ayoub, a priest of St Mark Church of Jersey City commented: “I believe this is not an accurate characterization of the Church of St. Mark. Our church fully caters to both English and Arabic speaking congregations, with a dedicated weekly Sunday liturgy service in English, and another one in Arabic. Most of all children activities are conducted in English. Other services for children & youth on Fridays & Saturdays are held entirely in English. Even for seasonal occasions… parallel services are held in either language.”

“Our church,” added Fr. Markos Ayoub, “has thankfully been and still is a pioneer in ministering to English speaking Copts who grew up here for many years as well as to the recent immigrants who are Arabic speakers. Moreover our church has pioneered using the internet and webcast/satellite broadcast technologies to minister to the broadest spectrum of Copts who live here and beyond.”

An English speaking congregant and servant also commented: “Many of my close friends comment on our English service and especially how we give the youth the big church upstairs and give them an all-English sermon. Add to that Bible Study, Sunday School, the Media team, the retreats, the new building, and on and on and on and I have no idea how someone could say that we are not catering to the English speakers.”

The author of the article may be excused for not being fully aware of the services of the Coptic Churches in the U.S. However; the article raises a serious question of how Christians in the U.S. should respond to what is so called in the article, “the sudden tsunami of new arrivals after the revolution.” It also raises more serious questions about the whole concept of church in the light of a diversifying congregation and how to teach our children to respond to it.

Christians of the U.S. should see the wave of the arrival of the newcomers not as “sudden of tsunami” but as “showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26). They deserve such honor to be called “showers of blessing”, as many of them have lost beloved ones, suffered persecution and the confiscation of their properties for their faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:34). In church history, those who survive of persecution are called “confessors”, the saints who have suffered persecution and torture for the faith, but not to the point of death.

In the First Council of Nicaea, in 325AD, many of the assembled fathers – for instance, Paphnutius of Thebes, Potamon of Heraclea and Paul of Neocaesarea – had stood forth as confessors of the faith and came to the council with the marks of persecution on their bodies. They were greatly honored by Constantine the Great. The emperor left his seat and knelt down to kiss the wounds of Paphnutius, who had been persecuted for his Christian beliefs. The influence of these marred confessors has been substantial.

In His lengthy discourse, the Lord Jesus considered the wounds, needs and the afflictions of His people as his personal wounds, needs and afflictions. It is a wonderful opportunity for blessings to minister to the body of Christ through the wounded, needy and afflicted families coming from Egypt. The Lord Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’… ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Those who leave the church, because of many of newcomers, do not realize what they are doing. They are missing the blessings of ministering to the body of Christ in the person of the wounded, needy and afflicted families. Instead of being hospitable and helping them, they desert them. The Christians of the U.S. should examine their ways of dealing with the newcomers and be more positive in helping them.

The opportunity to partake in the blessing of ministering to the newcomers is also missed by our children when they are taken away to churches where there are fewer newcomers. Failing to teach our children to love, communicate with, and minister to the newcomers is failing to teach them how to integrate and minister to the body of Christ, in the spirit of love. Difference of language is not an excuse. Christ’s love is stronger than the barrier of language.

Church history is rich with the stories of preachers, evangelists and missionaries who went out of their comfort zones and ministered to others in foreign countries. And even without going that far, in St Mark Church of Jersey City, we see wonderful and faithful English speaking servants helping, in amazing ways, the newcomers’ families and their children.

The Christians of US have to examine their perspective of what church is all about. The church is not a social setting for peers to hang out. It should not be culturally oriented or derived. In the biblical, theological and spiritual sense, there is neither an “English Church” nor “Arabic Church”. There is only the “One Only Holy Universal Church” as we recite in the Nicene Creed; one body of Christ.

The Church that is designed to be exclusively for English speakers, intentionally excluding newcomers, such would be a church that is shutting its doors in the face of Christ Himself as He said, “inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matthew 25:45). That would be a Christ-less church.

The Christian of the U.S. should learn how to integrate with people of other languages, in love, to portray the true image of the church in heaven. In front of the throne of the Father and the Lamb: “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

Fr Abraam D Sleman

frsleman@copticchurch.net

732 718-4129

 

 

 

عيد الظهور الالهي – القمص أبرام سليمان

20130119 Epiphany – Fr Abraam Sleman – Arabic
هناك كثير من التساؤلات حول موضوع عيد الظهور الالهي، ومنها ما معني “ينيغي أن نكمل كل بر”، ولماذا كانت الضرورة لحلول الروح القدس علي السيد المسيح؟ ومن هو صاحب الصوت السمائي: هذا هو ابني الحبيب الذي به سررت؟ وبعد ذلك كله: ما هي أهمية كل هذه الأمور لخلاصنا وحياتنا الأبدية. أدعوك لتسمع كلمات النعمة في هذه العظة.

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