Sillyness Spelled Wrong Intentionally

Religion

Render Unto Caesar

I find the current hullabaloo around a certain Kentucky county clerk simultaneously humorous and inexplicable.

Penned 1 year ago.
It was It was 76°F in San Diego, CA and the sky was clear.
Can't Sleep Love by Pentatonix  was spinning on the ol' iTunes.

The amount of people who don't actually understand anything about their faith is simply staggering. I have become used to people quoting scriptural verses out of context, or divorced from their historical and theological context, but this is really another level of concern.

Jesus, that guy evangelicals pro-port to love, follow and model themselves after is pretty clear on this point. Additionally we have hundreds of examples from first, second & third century christians resigning from their post/job if it conflicted with their faith.

Not to mention that Paul, the Golden Boy of Evangelical Christianity literally stated:

"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.

Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor."

I quoted the whole blasted thing, so there isn't any "context!" crap being thrown around.

What this county clerk is doing is not laudable, it is unlawful. Our Lord himself submitted to the earthly authorities when he paid taxes before His ministry began, was subject to the census, and cooperated with the earthly authorities at His betrayal, judgement and subsequent life-giving death.

A government official must follow the law or resign. Doing anything else is not a "christian response". You don't get to pick and choose what laws you follow, and those you do not. Additionally you don't get to decide that federal law doesn't apply to you.

Don't want to issue marriage licenses pursuant to federal law? Excellent. Quit. Then protest, as is your right, as a private american citizen and honor your faith as is your duty as a christian.

Don't hide behind your religious beliefs to justify your disobedience. Additionally pay attention in Sunday School. Sheesh.

Religion

To Ascend

One of the questions I am asked most, once people figure out what kind of Christian I am, is what's the deal with confession?

Penned 1 year ago.
It was It was 81°F in San Diego, CA and the haze.
Roller Coaster by Dirty Loops  was spinning on the ol' iTunes.

For the most part people have a passing idea of what Confession is, due to the number of Catholics found in America, but this knowledge isn't as useful as you would like because:

  1. People don't actually understand Confession in the Catholic tradition
  2. The Orthodox practice of Confession differs in many ways from that of our Latin brothers and sisters.
  3. Very few people outside of the aforementioned expressions of the faith understand or accept the Biblical foundations for Confession.

With this being the case, I have found the best approach to take in explaining why we practice confession is to use metaphor and allegory.

Neither approach requires knowledge of ancient practice or biblical scholarship, and can be understood by the majority of people.

However if you are interested in the practice of confession in the Orthodox Church, this is a great primer found on the website of the Orthodox Church in America.

Ascending the Mountain

The goal of the Christian Life, for an Orthodox Christian is deification. The process of becoming, by grace, what God is by nature; namely perfect. This would be an impossible task if not for the many gifts that God has given us. One of these gifts is Confession.

If you think of deification as a climb up an impossibly tall mountain, our ascetisism is the well worn path we follow. It winds its way around the mountain, with each turn we find ourselves closer to the peak, closer to perfection and the attainment of all God has promised to us.

Our Sherpa for this journey is our Priest, and he has brought along all of the survival gear needed to insure we reach the top. As we climb ever higher we find camp sites and shelters where we can stop for a moment of rest and reflection. It is here that our sherpa employs one of these tools, the Sacrament of Confession.

During confession we are able to use all that we have learned thus far on our climb to take stock of ourselves, our actions and attitudes, and shed the weight of them through confession, absolution and forgiveness.

We find once we begin the treck again our packs have become less cumbersome, our way clearer and our heart lighter. With every revolution of this winding way, we are given the opportunity to once again take stock of ourselves, illumined more and more fully by the Light of Christ.

Many times we will be confronted with the same sins, giving us the feeling that we aren't really making progress, but in reality we have changed and as such we are able to look past the surface and find the real issues that lay below. What was once hidden has now been revealed and in the light of day it cannot survive.

And this is the real purpose of Confession: to give us the tools to identify and erradicate, through Grace, the things that stand between us and our God. Between us and our perfection. Between us and our Deification.

Religion

Sin as Disease

Penned 1 year ago.
It was It was 77°F in San Diego, CA and the haze.
Tunnels by MS MR  was spinning on the ol' iTunes.

This past Sunday I was asked to give the Homily (aka sermon). I thought I would post it for those of you who are religiously inclined.

Today we remember the healing of the Paralytic. Many homilies have been written on this miracle, most of them focusing on the connection between physical illness and our great enemy sin.

Today, I would like to focus on two aspects of this story, the charge that Jesus gave him afterwords, as they met in the temple and the loneliness of the man.

“See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.”

You see it wasn't enough that this man was healed by God, he needed to do some follow up work. If you will, he was given a prescription by Christ that he needed to follow for the healing to remain intact.

I think we all can relate to this. We have all gone to the doctor for some sickness or ailment and after we are diagnosed, we are given a prescription to take. This medicine is critical to our successful recovery, our successful healing. How many times have you heard a doctor admonish you to:

“Now take this entire prescription, don't just take it until you feel better. If you don't complete the course of this medicine, your sickness is likely to return, and be worse than before.”

I know I have heard this statement more times than I can count. Right now you might be asking yourself what these two things have to do with each other, and more importantly, what this has to do with our lives today.

I am glad you asked! You see, sin is a disease. It infects us after we are brought into this world, and the longer we are in it the worse it becomes.

Our Baptism and Chrismation are Holy acts of Healing that enter into our Person and attack sin, this horrible disease, and allow us to move closer to God.

But just like Jesus' healing of the Paralytic, after our grafting into the Church, we are given a prescription from our Heavenly Father. We are given the most perfect and blessed course of treatment known to man.

Services like Holy Unction are an example of this Holy Medicine. The epistle of St. James tells us of the commission to the presbyters to heal the sick:

“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (Jas 5: 13-15)

You see from this passage that the Church has always connected physical healing with spiritual healing, and we as inheritors of this teaching get to live out this truth in the present day.

And where do we find this treatment? In Christ's Holy Church. The sacraments and services of the church are the course of treatment given to us by God to combat the re- emergence of Sin in our lives, and to lead us to a place of perfect healing and cleansing.

And just like a prescription for antibiotics that you are charged to take until they are gone, the Holy Prescription given to us by our Lord must be taken in whole. No part can be removed without compromising the effectiveness of the entire treatment.

Confession leads to Communion, which leads to Prayer, which leads to Alms Giving, which leads a softening of the heart, which leads to Holiness, which leads us to God.

And just as these sacraments build on one another, and lead us to God, so to do the services.

Great Vespers leads us to the Divine Liturgy, which leads us to Winter Lent, which leads us to Christmas where we meet Our Lord God and Savior face to face, which leads us to Great and Holy Lent, which leads us to His Passion, which Brothers and Sisters, leads us to Salvation.

Christ's Holy Church is a Hospital. More appropriately, it is like an emergency room, filled with hurting, dying people. We all come here to be healed and saved. But just like an emergency room the Church can be noisy and messy.

Saint John Chrysostom whose Liturgy we celebrate today famously coined the phrase “The Church is a hospital.” Both he and Saint Basil the Great wrote prayers for healing that eventually formed the basis for the Holy Unction service.

Just like an emergency room, the church is where miracles happen and people are saved. That is why we go to the hospital when we are sick, and that is why we come to Christ's Holy Church. To be healed.

Now, we must speak of the loneliness of the Paralytic. As we are introduced to this man we discover that he has been there a long time, but with no friends to place him in the pool, he could never be healed.

In this story we discover one of the most important lessons the scriptures have to teach, us. We cannot be saved alone. Salvation and healing come in community, when friends are there to lift you up, to carry you, physically as well as emotionally and spiritually, to the pool of Christ's healing and love.

One of my favorite icons illustrates this concept beautifully. While viewing the “Ladder of Divine Ascent” icon, you see that those who are climbing the ladder to heaven alone, are being pulled down by the demons.

It is only those who are climbing, hand-in-hand, that are able to fight their way to the top. Only together can we hope to overcome Sin, Death and the Devil.

Only together can we climb the ladder to heaven. Only together can we find healing and salvation. Our ascent, and our healing continues today, as we come together as one body to celebrate The Lord's Supper.

I would like to close with a story.

I had a friend who couldn't understand why my wife and I converted to Orthodoxy, some 7 years ago. I tried to explain to him all the gifts that the church gives us, gifts that we found we needed.

Confession, communion, holy unction, the cycle of services that order our lives. I spoke to him with more emotion and love than I was aware I had for the Church, at that time. When I was done with my impassioned outburst he simply said to me:

“All those things are great, but they are crutches. You don't need them, all you need is Jesus.”

I was stunned, offended and at a loss for words. This was a friend whom I loved, opened my home to when he needed it, and he had just insulted something I loved, cherished and felt as though I was saved by.

It was horrible.

It wasn't until many months later that I realized that he was partially right. These things were crutches. But my God we need them. When you break your leg, you go to the doctor and they put it in a cast, and they send you home with a pair of crutches.

You are given these crutches because until your leg is healed, you cannot stand on your own. If you tried you would fall, and hurt yourself even worse. If you break your arm or collarbone, you are given a sling for your arm.
These things are done to help with your healing, since your body cannot do it properly on its own. For us the sacraments and services of the church are exactly the same.

We cannot hope to stand in this world of sin without the help of God, and He has chosen, in His wisdom, to give us crutches, so that we may stand while we are being healed, being made whole.
And knowing our own weakness, he has given us each other, so that we might lean on each other when times are the worst. Here in this place, we lift each other up.

Our God is a glorious God of healing and Miracles. He is the Great Physician who heals soul, body and spirit. Let us today begin again our course of healing with a renewed commitment.

Please forgive me if my words have fallen short of their mark, I am but the most sick among you, clinging to God and his healing mercy.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Religion

To Shine

Penned 1 year ago.
It was It was 72°F in San Diego, CA and the haze.
Tripolar by MS MR  was spinning on the ol' iTunes.

The simple, revolutionary, absurd idea that will change the way you think about yourself, and more importantly, those around you.

It is a familiar question for any christian as they begin their journey to adulthood. "What is God's plan for my life?" For many of us it consumed our college years. The constant nagging voice in the back of your head, its insidious whispering creating fertile ground for doubt to fester and blossom.

I, like so many others, went off to college with an immature, barely formed idea of who I was, and what I wanted to do with my life. Almost immediately upon dropping my bags next to my bed, the questioning began.

"What's your major?", "How did you know this was The Call?"

The answer of course, is that most of us don't really know. It is rare for someone to head off to college with a clear, unshakeable understanding of our God ordained destiny, as it were. And there is a very good reason for that.

Modern Christianity has conflated vocation with purpose. The idea that you have one perfect path to take that has been selected for you by God, that you must discover. This of course introduces the problem of positive identification. If I don't choose the correct path, whoa to me.

This deception of discovery creates a situation full of stress, desperation and fear where God had intended joy, wonder and miracle. It was never meant to be this way brothers and sisters.

The truth is more wondrous, absurd and ultimately simple. It is true that God has a plan for each of us. Would you like me to share it with you? Here it is:

We are meant to shine brighter than the stars. To be so filled with the uncreated light of Christ that we burn with an intensity so fierce that darkness cannot stand within its glare.

If you took every star in the night sky, and brought all their light together into one single point, one single moment, it would pale in comparison to how you can shine!

This is the plan for every man, woman and child on this earth. All those who have come before, and all those who have yet to take their first breath of air are inheritors of this plan, this destiny.

Our jobs, our vocations, can honor God and be a source of glorification, but it is not our purpose in life. The person who preaches on Sunday and the person who cleans up afterward are both fully living God's plan for their life if they are beacons of Christ's light. What they do means nothing when revealed in this light.

Of course many people are lucky enough that their vocation and their purpose coincide. To be filled with this wondrous light, and then help kindle it in others. But never despair of finding this not being the case for you.

You have a purpose and it is to shine.

Religion

Church & State

Penned 1 year ago.
It was It was 75°F in San Diego, CA and the scattered clouds.
It's Going Down by Midlake  was spinning on the ol' iTunes.

So now that the historic battle over Marriage Equality has ended, my social networks have been abuzz with people declaring why this is the best outcome in the history of judicial rulings and those who are declaring that this is the worst outcome in the history of judicial rulings.

It's all very amusing.

One of the most interesting "articles" I have seen dealt with the fact that some christians had begun seperating the legality of Same Sex Marriage with the directives given in their respective faiths, and more importantly how this shouldn't be possible, or at the very least how it signals another level of the degredation of The Faith.

The concept that one cannot hold the legality of a thing seperate from our understanding of it from a religious point of view is the meat of the problem, and honestly not a very insightful view to hold.

I am what you would call "super religious". I am deeply embedded in my faith, and try to live my life according to its dogma, tradition and theology. Additionaly the faith I hold is the oldest expression of Christianity on the planet, so I am firmly in favor of marriage not being redefined, in the context of The Church.

And that is really the main rub here. There are two components to Marriage in this country, a religious component, which is entirely voluntary, and a secular, legal component that is not.

The moment this became an issue of the Rule of Law religious opponents of Same Sex Unions lost. As they should have. We live in a country that is founded on the principle that all who live under its rule are equal. You cannot afford one group a right and deny it to another. Period.

Of course I realize that when this country was founded by our overly deified founders, they meant something very different by that most famous of lines, "All Men are Created Equal". They of course meant "All White Males Who Own Significant Tracts of Land are Created Equal". Do yourself a favor and look it up.

Just as the definition of marriage itself has evolved (B), our understanding of those famous words have evolved. We now know them to mean "All Men, Women and Children, Regardless of Color, Creed or Faith are Created Equal".

With this being the case, the outcome was inevitable. This is not a religious issue. The question isn't whether or not an LGBT couple can force a Church to wed them, but if they have the same rights afforded to them by the law, as the rest of us. And as has been made clear I think, the answer is a resounding yes.

Had this been an issue of a religious nature, I would have a very different outlook on things. Religious institutions have the right to make these decisions on their own, guided by their teachings and beliefs.

Some churches will, and many have, affirm that they support these unions and invite religiously minded LGBT couples into their flocks.

Still others will, and have, affirm the more traditional position that marriage is between a male and female. That is how our country works, if this is surprising to anyone, you should pay better attention.

And this my friends, is why the seperation of Church and State is so vitaly important.

It isn't there merely to stop the propogation of religious ideas into our government, thereby converting it from a democracy to a theocracy.

The protections are also there to stop the State from dictating doctrine to the Church.

Religious Freedom does not trump Personal Liberty, and vice versa. They are distinct, often times complimentary, aspects of our lives in America. Each one should be respected regardless of your personal opinions or bias.

Religion

Fisher of Men

Penned 5 years ago.
It was It was 82°F in San Diego, CA and the haze.
How Does It Feel by MS MR  was spinning on the ol' iTunes.

Once again I was asked to give the Homily (aka sermon) at church today. I thought I would post it for those of you who are religiously inclined.

The Scripture reading was Luke 5:1 - 11. The homily follows.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is so much truth and beauty contained in these few sentences, that to try and talk about all of them today would be impossible. So instead I am going to pull out three threads from this reading, and really focus in on them.

First I want to talk about who our Lord called to follow him, fisherman.

St. Gregory the Theologian famously wrote:

“The fisherman are Teachers of the Church, who catch us in the net of Faith, and as it were, bring us to shore, to the land of the living.”

Peter, James and John were fishermen. Not theologians, not men of learning and refinement. They were simple, honest hard working people. The phrase “salt of the earth” comes to mind when I think about them.

In short, the last people you or I would choose if we were asked who would be the foundations of our church. But they had what God always looks for. Obedience and Humility.

Once they encountered God, face to face, they were obedient to His call, and humble in His presence.

These were the types of people that Christ called to himself throughout His ministry and they are still the types of people that God calls to himself today, both to the ministry of the Royal Priesthood, like our Priest and Deacon, and those like you and I who are called to the lay ministries.

You might be wondering why this is important to us today. Each of us is called to follow in the footsteps of these fisherman. To cast our nets out into the dark oceans of the world and catch souls in them, bringing them into the light, into the saving knowledge of God.

And just like these men, we might not be great theologians, or great preachers. We might just be simple men and women, who long for salvation and want to share it with everyone around us.

Thankfully it is not by our power alone that we are asked to seek and save the lost, but with the assistance and power of God, as todays gospel so wonderfully illustrates.

When Christ called to the men on the water and told them to lower their nets, Peter, an experienced fisherman knew that it was foolish, he just knew it.

How many times in our lives have we been like Peter? How many times has God called to us, asked us to step out in faith and do something, to only have us say “No Lord, that won’t work, I can’t possibly do that.

I know from my own life, this happens all to often. To often we allow the “wisdom of the world” to lead us away from God. But there is no wisdom in the world, apart from Christ who is the Light and Word of God.

All of Peter’s experience and skill told him that after a night of failed fishing, there was no hope to catch fish now. Had he not been in the presence of God, that would have been true. But that part of Peter that longed for God, longed for healing and salvation responded to the Lord’s command, and they lowered the nets.

We all have this longing, a longing for our creator, and it is this longing that brings us to His Holy Church.

Here we learn the second lesson this reading has to offer.

When we put our faith and trust in God, the impossible becomes possible. Without God there was no hope to catch even one fish, but with God, and a simple mans faith, the nets were so full they broke, and the boats themselves began to sink from the weight of so many fish.

The faith of the fishermen was rewarded with a miraculous catch. So to is our faith rewarded when we cast our nets out into the world. With God a lame man can walk, a blind man can see and a simple fisherman can become one of the greatest of the apostles.

And just like those fisherman so long ago, we can fill our nets to the breaking point today. By simple acts of compassion, generosity and love for our neighbors we can transform the world from a cold, dark, lonely place into one filled with love, light and compassion.

Our God is a God of miracles. The Old Testament is full of them, from the creation accounts in Genesis to the parting of the Red Sea. The New Testament is founded on a miracle, the day that God took on flesh and became man, and contains the greatest miracle, the greatest moment in human history.

The Resurrection of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

And my friends, miracles did not end with the Ascension of our Lord, they continue today. From miraculous healings, to icons that weep tears of oil that heal any they touch. They happen here in this very church every time we gather together for the Lord’s Supper, for the Eucharist.

An amazing miracle is only minutes away from us, right now.

Lastly we learn of our Lord’s great compassion and love for us, for mankind. In our hymns, prayers and services we refer to Christ as “The only Lover of Mankind”, and we are so grateful that he is.

When Peter saw the great multitude of fish he fell on his face, at Jesus’ feet and despaired at his own sinfulness. During Great and Holy Lent we imitate Peter and fall down on our faces, in an act of contrition and humility before our Lord.

When confronted with the holiness and divinity of our Lord, Peter’s own sinful nature became even more apparent. Peter pleaded with Christ to “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!

But here Peter was wrong. Our Lord came to the world to save sinners. It is the sick and dying who need a doctor, not the healthy. As the Lord himself would say later in the Gospel of Luke:

“For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” — Luke 19: 1 10

Peter cried out from the pain of his own sin, but Christ being compassionate and merciful tells him “do not be afraid.” Our Lord knew Peter’s heart, his desires, his sins, his whole life.

He knew that Peter had begun a new journey, one that would lead away from sin, and towards salvation.

Peter was lost, but now he had been sought by the Lord and saved. And in turn he would go out into the world to seek and save others, as would the rest of the apostles.

It is a pattern that although began two thousand years ago, continues today. Those that are asked to take on the responsibility of leadership in the church are just like the Fishermen in todays Gospel.

They are sinners who were roaming the wilderness of the world, lost sheep that the Good Shepherd searched out and found. Once they were found the Lord said to each of them, every reader, sub-deacon, deacon, priest and bishop, “Come follow me.”

St. Bede, a 7th century Saint wrote:

“The Lord soothes the fears of the unspiritual man so that no man need be fearful in his conscience because of his own past guilt; or, confounded at the sight of the innocence of others, be discouraged in setting out himself on the road to sanctity.”

What St. Bede is saying here is that we should not be afraid to turn to our Lord in times of need, sorrow or helplessness. He will not hold our past sins against us; once confessed they no longer matter to him.

They cease to exist.

He will tell us, as he told Sts. Peter, James and John, “Do not be afraid. Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” That is our calling brothers and sisters, to be fishers of men.

To call all men to Christ, and by so doing, free them from the bondage of sin. This is the calling of all Christians, not just the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, but for each and everyone of us.

May we find the strength to set aside all those things that come between us and our healing, our salvation, so that we can follow our Lord and truly be the fishers of men he has called us to be.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.