Monday, November 1, 2010

Whose Truth are you seeking?

Conversations about “church” reveal some interesting things about people and about the age in which we live. Over the last weeks, I’ve observed a few things (they aren’t new, but I “put them together” in my thinking).

I’ve heard of a person who leads an “alternative life style” that is extremely knowledgeable in things historical and theological. This person knows the saints, can trace church history, and seems to know what is what. Further discussion reveals that this person left the Roman Catholic Church and became Episcopalian because the Episcopalians condone and endorse the alternative lifestyle.

In speaking with a visitor to our Church during Greek Fest, the conversation was amiable. She revealed some Roman Catholic background, but in further conversation indicated that she was now part of a “non-denominational Christian church.” Some of the questions raised regard how women should dress in Church, whether or not they should wear head coverings, and the like.

During a dialog during a Church Tour, the question was raised by one gentleman, “Well, how does your church deal with, well, gay rights?”

And, of course, in conversations with friends and neighbors, one will find all kinds of reasons for people being part of this or that church. Sometimes they judge that they were treated wrongly. Other times, you find that someone joined a place because that’s where the wife (or husband) went. Or it was because they had to to get married in that place.

The common thread amongst all of these? The driving force in the decisions in every case was centered on the person/s, They were seeking a “truth” that felt good, or allowed them to continue a specific behavior. In many cases, I’ve found that people look for a place where they won’t have to face up to the reality of sin in their lives.

That is to say, they are looking for “their truth” rather than The Truth revealed in Christ our God.

How many times have you heard someone say, “MY God wouldn’t do that ….!”

Our Father in heaven would have us know the Truth, the Truth that frees. “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free!” This Truth is never dependent on personal opinion or on personal likes and dislikes.

In the Light of Christ all things are revealed for exactly what they are. And in Him, in Him alone is Truth to be found and revealed.

Holy Orthodoxy takes seriously that the Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth. This Church is the one founded in Christ our God. For those seeking the Truth, she is the place to be. Christ our God, the Way, and the Truth and the Life, formed the Church. She is NOT the product of well-meaning and like thinking people who decide to gather.

Those seeking The Truth in Christ are blessed, for they receive His Grace, His Mercy, the power of the Spirit. As they seek to be joined to Christ in salvation, the Light and Truth that He is and gives does an inward transformation as those who seek Him indeed deny themselves and receive Him.

We need ask ourselves “Whose or What Truth am I seeking?” When hearing the Word, “I don’t agree” or “Iwon’t agree” give way to “Yes Lord, what you will!”

Ground in Christ our God, our discussions with other can be patient as we seek to know the “why” of their questions, and as we pray for their salvation, understanding that the Holy Spirit indeed opens hearts and minds. We also must understand that fancy arguments and debates don’t change the fact that one may say “No” to Christ and His blessing! His love continues, but one can’t have love that one rejects!

“Whose truth are you seeking?”

God grant that His light enlightens each of us, that we may bring Light into the darkness of this world and those who seek light apart from Christ!

Glory to God for all Things!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Metropolitan JONAH

Sunday, 12 September 2010, we were truly blessed to be part of a banquet celebrating 110 years of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in Madison, IL. We wanted to be there for several reasons:
First, our friends of many decades, Steve and Nancy Rydgig are members there;
Second, we know people there and it was good to be with them on such an occasion;
Third, but not least: Metropolitan JONAH was present.

His Beatitude is most certainly a blessing to the Church! As you know, his journey to his present office was a pretty quick one ... and his becoming Metropolitan of the OCA wasn't one of those "planned" things, from what I read. He is a humble man, a true shepherd.

He noted that in this parish of more than five generations, those generations were evident in the people of every age present. From wee infants to the grand parents and great grand parents of those wee ones, all were present. He spoke of family, of our union in Christ, and of our mission to welcome all to that family with open arms.

After the "official" banquet, Katherine and I were able to spend a few moments with His Beatitude. We gave him one of the pens that I turn .. .but while we were doing that he was most interested in the folk dance going on right in front of us! It was a joy to see him with the children: he allowed one young lady to thoroughly examine the large medallion that he wears as symbol of office, and he seemed to enjoy having his picture taken with children and adults alike.

It was a joyous day!

We pray that His Beatitude will have strength for his many duties, and truly give glory to God for all things!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

God in a Box

Fr. Stephen at Glory to God for All Things has written a marvelous post entitled Treasure in a Box. He has dealt with history and other issues in a way that causes me to say, "Why couldn't I have come up with that?"

Bottom line: in Holy Orthodoxy, God isn't kept in the box!

His insights describe very well things that I wrestled with for years.

Read it! It is worth it!

On another note, it seems that many of my former Luther colleagues wrestle a lot with Orthodoxy for various reasons. Benjamin Harju, a former Lutheran pastor and friend, offers "good stuff" at his blog, Paredwka: Catching the Ball.

When dealing with other communions, it is important to deal with what they actually teach, and not react to a caricature or what we think they teach!

Christ is in our midst!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Some further comments on Culture

Context is everything, isn't it?

In the previous post, "Culture as Solvent," it must be made clear that the we were speaking of the culture in which we live globally and socially. We are always in a culture of some sort ... and not every culture is destructive.

The culture in an Orthodox community is most often not destructive, although Christ our God is certainly about "dissolving" that which is evil and sinful. This is never to move everything to the lowest common denominator or to get to a point where anything and everything goes.

In the larger society in which we live, however, the idea of solvent is true. That culture, is, for the most part a godless culture, or a culture in which the god of self prevails. One could also say that there is a 'god of the majority vote.

In that culture, everything is at all times in flux.

In Christ our God, in Holy Mother Church, that constant flux is done away with as we see all things in the Light of Christ. In denying self, in following Him, we die to that which causes eternal death and are raised up to life abundant and eternal.

"It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God." (St. Paul) In this life, I don't look to whatever is a current fad, nor do I look for some sort of vague relevancy: I look to the author and perfector of life and faith.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Culture as solvent

After Divine Liturgy on Sunday 11 July at St George in St. Paul, MN, the Chanter, Steve, and his wife joined Katherine and I over luncheon. As usual, the conversation ranged far and wide because Steve and Minda are also of those lately come to Holy Orthodoxy (a decade or so, I think).

Steve and I were chatting when he recalled a statement made by a visiting speaker that came in the last year. That speaker pointed out that culture is a solvent.

Think about it, for a minute. What does a solvent do? It dissolves things, mixing them together, and eventually the unique characteristics are lost in a new amorphous thing. Add a solvent to a stain, and the color of the stain is lightened, changed, and if enough solvent is added in time, the original pigments are not visible any more. Add a solvent to some glues, and the joint will come apart because the "sticking properties" of the adhesive are removed, dissolved, and the bond is broken.

Now, think of culture and how it most often works. When I was young, divorce was not considered appropriate except in the most extreme of circumstances. Marriage was held in high esteem. Now, look at what goes on: marriage is considered by many to be outdated, divorce is extremely common … and the list goes on. What happened? Over time, our culture, a "melting pot" of sorts, acting as a solvent, dissolved what was good and proper. Now, under semblance of "being nice" or something, many things that were once highly offensive are now accepted.

Or from my background: when I was young and growing up as a Lutheran, you could go into a Lutheran Church and know that it was, well, Lutheran. The Missouri Synod's liturgy was basically the same in every congregation. If you went to an American Lutheran Church, the liturgy was the same, except for a different setting. Such is not the case today: there are some ten or fifteen formal "liturgies" amongst the Lutherans, along with blended, contemporary and who knows what else. Culture is a solvent. It dissolves things. The god of culture is what is popular, or what the majority votes on this week or next.

And even amongst those who call themselves "Christian" this continues because, in spite of protests to the contrary, God is not god, and in the thinking and analysis and so called reason of the age, the Blessed and Holy Trinity has been split up six ways from the middle.

The cultural solvent, the god of "my" reason, has and continues to attempt to kill the Killer of Death, shrouding light and beauty in grotesque shades and forms as those Gifts of God given so richly are twisted and contaminated by selfish and out of control passions and lust, in the name of some sort of "freedom" which is only really slavery.

In the midst of all this, Christ is God. The Holy Church (not all those who call themselves "church, but The Holy Church of the Apostles) remains the pillar and ground of Truth. In spite of all the attempts to dissolve this Holiness in the name of being relevant, She remains, Truth unchanged. This is why the Apostles and saints, the Elders and Monks and Nuns continue to shun the passions of this body and this world, praying mightily and seeking Uncreated Light, in order that you and I and the whole of the world might know again the peace and unity of Paradise.

And this is the reason that the faithful must never abandon the constant disciples of prayer and asceticism in the home and in the workplace, seeking always that bond and unity that come as we are joined in the Divine Liturgy into the very unity of the Blessed and Holy Trinity! Only in the prayers and hymns and Liturgy handed down and guarded and kept by faithful Bishops, Priests, Deacons and faithful are we able to receive all that the Father gives as gift and not god. Only in losing ourselves in Him do we find ourselves in life. Only in dying to self do we learn what it truly means to live.

The solvent of culture seeks only to dissolve and destroy, however inviting it may seem at times. In Christ and in Him alone do all things find their meaning.

So it is the even the Elders of our day, some of whom will surely be named as Saints in an age to come, counsel us to beware, to be cautious … even to throw out the TV's and movies in some cases. They don't do this in some narrow reaction to what is "modern;" they give this counsel because they are truly concerned for your salvation!

Beware! Watch out for the solvent that would insidiously lure you into death while promising life!

Thanks be to God that He has not abandoned us or left us to our own reason! Thanks be to the Blessed Theotokos that she continually intercedes on our behalf! Thanks be to the Apostles and Saints who lift our plight before the Throne of Grace! Ours is not the dismal end pictured in some of the "art" of our day, but Life, Life abundantly, as we grow in theosis, being joined in the paradisical union with the Blessed and Holy Trinity.

In the midst of confusion and corruption that would dissolve and destroy men's souls, we can say with St. Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!" Not only can we say, but we can live it as we deny ourselves, die to self and live in Christ!

The culture attempted to dissolve the Christ, and He dissolved it. Through our sufferings, we are perfected in Him for Life Eternal!

Glory to God for all things!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tonsured ....

On 16 May, His Grace Bishop DEMETRIOS of Mokissos, on behalf of Metropolitan IAKOVOS of the Metropolis of Chicago, tonsured me a Reader in the Holy Orthodox Church.

It was a joyous day: His Grace was present in advance of our Patronal Feast Day (Sts. Constantine and Helen, 21 May), and he also handed out certificates to our Church School children and spoke to them and their teachers.

It was a joyous and emotional event for me: hearing His Grace speak of gifts of the Church, a little of my journey, and then calling me before him was, well, something else. As he spoke the blessing and tonsured me, great joy, and a sense of great humility overwhelmed me.

I was taken a bit by surprise at the fact that as he placed the robe on me and presented me to the gathered community, everyone was invite to join in the cry AXIOS! That "capped" it, so to speak and tears filled my eyes. I had difficulty reading the short selection from the Epistle because my eyes were watery and my throat choked up. Such a blessing!

What strikes me about our Holy Church is the order that exists -- and the fact that there are so many literal blessings. My priest blesses me as I approach the Chanter's stand. A Reader is blessed, "ordained," as are taper bearers (altar boys) ... and in the higher orders, subdeacons, deacons, priests, bishops and so on. It isn't a matter of taking vows .... but of being given something. It is different from my previous experience.

In any case, I rejoice in having come home, and in the fact that Holy Mother Church would see fit to bless me to serve in this way!

I look forward to growing in ability to chant and read, and in absorbing all that is given in the words that we pray and repeat.

This simple experience is another marvelous thing that I have been given!

Glory to God for All things


Monday, April 12, 2010

Truly a divine appointment ....

For the last couple of years, we've been attending All Saints Orthodox Church in Raleigh, NC when visiting our daughter in Goldsboro. Our relationship seems to be truly blessed:

The first time we attended, we were welcomed warmly: imagine our surprise when we found that Fr. Nicholas had been a pastor in the Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod (as had I) ...

I think it was the next time that we attended, the parish was under the understanding that their assisting priest, Fr. Philip, a Marine chaplain was to be deployed. About six months later when we returned, he was still there.

About a year ago, we were present for his last Sunday prior to deployment (this time he did go).

Last Fall, we were present for the groundbreaking of the new Temple, arriving just in time for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with His Grace Bishop Antoun! (This again was "coincidence")

This past weekend, we attended once again, and were excited by the progress on the new temple, and astounded when we found that this was Fr. Philip's first Sunday back after his deployment!

I am always amazed at the grace of God and His timing, and truly blessed to be a part of this parish's history, even though I live about a thousand miles away! We

Katherine and I are hoping to PLAN a trip when the new Temple is blessed this fall.

This was truly a gift from God as we were in Bright Week after our fifth Pascha in Holy Mother Church!

Friday, February 12, 2010


In my "former life," fasting was almost a non issue. Although it was talked about from time to time, and even lauded as a worthy pious practice, few, even amongst the pastorate, fasted with any seriousness.

During Lent, for many "fasting" was a "catholic thing." Or it was practiced in name by "giving up something for Lent." Prayer and spiritual discipline were not often attached with fasting. So, for the most part, fasting disappeared from any vocabulary.

However, our Lord and God, Jesus the Christ didn't regard fasting as a "pious option." Leaf through the Gospels and you find that fasting and prayer were staples of the Son of God! In fact, it seems to have been a daily discipline! Before every major event in His life among us, we see Him retiring for a period of fasting and prayer, including the notable forty day fasts.

He passed that discipline on to the Apostles, and they to the Bishops and priests and deacons set in every place: and they in turn passed it on to the people of God in every place. Although it wasn't cast is a legalistic form, it also was not placed as merely an option!

People were admonished to fasting and prayer, while at the same time being warned against such practices done merely to fill an obligation, or done merely for show.

Fasting and Prayer are laudable and necessary in our times, too! In this hectic and fast paces culture, we are constantly bombarded by conflicting images and messages. We are worn down by subliminal advertising to the point where we don't even blink at gross immorality and the evil that surround us. Our senses and thinking are dulled to the point where, although we don't condone this or that, we also no longer are surprised at its occurrence and we sort of shrug it off.

To retreat from feasting to fasting, and to retreat from the world for increased prayer are spiritual disciplines that allow us to once again see the Light of Christ. In the quiet of the icon corner, facing our Lord, our Lady, and surrounded by saints and holy ones of God, we are able to cleanse our souls through meditation, to once again get our bearings, to focus on the one thing needful.

To treat fasting as merely a pious option is to reject a gift from God. It is to turn away from Christ, to reject one more opportunity to be strengthened in our journey.

It isn't easy to limit one's food intake. And it is even more difficult to turn from "normal pursuits" to increased prayer. It isn't easy to forsake things routine to take advantage of the increased services of this time. It is a struggle.

As we journey through Great and Holy Lent to Pascha, we reflect on the profound meaning of that appelation found almost solely in Holy Orthodoxy, "Lover of Mankind." We recall the Lenten journey of our Lord and God, a voluntary journey to the Cross, in order that He might conquer death by death, call Adam and Eve and all mankind home again. We recall the solitary hours He spent, and the times in which everything conspired to get Him to abort His mission. We join Him in fasting and prayer ... and He joins us in our journey, giving us forgiveness, light, life, now and always and to the ages of ages!

Join in the fast! Seek the counsel of our good priest! Teach your children to fast and pray!

Receive the blessings of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!