September 2013


AP_60

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Luke 10:1-24

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:10-12

In St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sends out 70 (or 72, depending on what version of the Bible you like to use) disciples to tell of the coming Kingdom.  The disciples do as Jesus says, and do some amazing things in His name as they journey.

They are ecstatic, on a spiritual high when they return, rejoicing over the amazing miracles that they have performed and witnessed.  Jesus’s response, however, isn’t a high five or pat on the back.   He speaks to the 70, and instructs them to not get so excited over these things.

What’s He up to?  I mean, when you heal the sick, cast out demons, and experience those moments when heaven touches earth, shouldn’t we be fired up?  Dadgum, if I heal my daughters of not being potty-trained, and cast the Duggars out of my television, you better believe I’m gonna be doing some fist-pumping in my house!  Maybe even a little twerk…In the name of the Lord, of course.

forgingaswordtopWhat is Jesus doing?  He’s shaping his disciples.  Think of it this way:  In order to make a great sword, a smith allows the metal in his hand to get red hot in the fire.  When it reaches the point that it’s untouchable because of the heat it has absorbed from its maker, the smith takes it, and plunges it into a tub of ice cold water.  This gives the sword integrity and strength.  It lessens the chance it will break when pressure is applied.  It readies it to fulfill it’s purpose.

The point?  In order to become an effective instrument, one cannot function on fire alone.  You’ll eventually melt in the heat, or the fire that shapes you will fade away when the heat source isn’t obviously present and within reach.  Jesus knows he’ll be going away, and these 70 will have to be sustainable, enduring, useful tools.  He lets them get hot, then He cools them off in order to finish them into what they need to be.  In tempering their enthusiasm, he helps them to gain a bigger perspective on faith and life.

Here’s the big picture:

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Jesus is saying, “Yes, these things you have done in My name are great.  Remember, though…these things are temporary.  It’s eternal matters, the things you can’t see in front of your face, that you need to remember and focus on.”

Consider Jesus’ miracles, the tangible things that led His disciples to believe in His teachings:

– He fed thousands with a few fish and a couple of pieces of bread.  A great miracle, but…The people who eventually got hungry again.

– He healed tons of sick people.  I have no verification of this, but I’m betting a good portion of these eventually got the sniffles, diarrhea, earaches, or some kind of illness again.

– He raised Lazarus from the dead.  Poor Lazarus.  He gets sick, suffers, dies, likely goes to heaven and hangs out with God the Father, hears Jesus calling his spirit back into his stinky, rotting mortal flesh, undoubtedly looks at God with a “What the…?” glance, is suddenly alive again, then somewhere down the road….dies again.  Thanks, Jesus.  Funny joke, right?

Miracles are amazing and real.  I’ve seen cancer leave individuals in unexplained ways.  I’ve seen individuals recover from illnesses that were thought to be terminal.   I’ve seen bumblebees fly even though they shouldn’t be capable, according to physics.  I’ve watched as my daughters were born.   I’ve witnessed some amazing things.

I can’t make these things the foundation of my faith, though.  If I base my faith on what I can see, then I’ll stop believing every time I don’t hit the Powerball.

Jesus is encouraging us to focus on the Kingdom that’s coming.  Yes, there’s the hope of heaven, but we often forget that’s there’s something even greater beyond that:  Jesus is coming back.  Our King will return, and make all things new, and He’s going to make it stay that way, for all time.  Our job is to prepare this world for our coming King.  That’s the greater work that Jesus is talking about…Getting ready for eternity, and getting others ready, as well.

Of the 70 or so that were sent forth by Jesus in Luke 10, most dedicated their lives to just that purpose.  They anticipated that Jesus could return at any moment.  We would do well to follow their examples, doing good, doing no harm, loving others, and loving God.  Only one, a man named Nicolas, is none to have turned away from the faith.  They are significant figures, people worth remembering.

(more…)

 

I came across this beautiful piece of writing from Abbot Tryphon of the All Merciful Saviour Orthodox Monastery this morning while trolling Facebook.  In his words, we find some practical and convicting words about the role of the Church and the Christian.  This short morning post from the good Abbot is a masterpiece, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.  Here are some strong points I gathered from Abbot Tryphon today…points for the Church to live by, and points for the Christian to live by:

1) The Church, even in antiquity, was never intended to be a religious institution, but a place of healing for hurting and troubled souls.

2) The Church is intended fully to be a place where humanity can commune with God.

3) The primary vehicle for this meeting of heaven and earth is Holy Communion.

4) Holy Communion is the primary means by which we can receive grace.

5) Participating in Holy Communion has a fourfold impact upon us…It makes us whole, complete beings….It opens the door to God…It brings about spiritual, inward change…And it is the primary sign of corporate unity for Christians.

6) Though the Church is a unique figure, it is not intended to be exclusive.  All are welcome.

7) The Church should not judge those who are not a part of her.

8) While the Church possesses absolute truth, she is to respect the basic dignity of all peoples.

9) Holy Communion bind us together as believers; binds us together with other believers across the ages (Communion of Saints); and binds us as a corporate body to the Kingdom of Heaven.

10) The traditions of the Church have been passed down for two thousand years, and represent the truth.  The greater culture may disagree with the Church on many points, but the truth is the truth.  There aren’t many different versions of truth.  Only one.

All that being said, here’s the morning thought from Abbot Tryphon…

The Church Fathers saw Orthodoxy as a Way of Life, rather than a religion.  Although the Church has many of the same attributes as religion, this does not mean she is herself a religious institution.  Rather, she is a Hospital for the Soul, where in we can receive the healing that makes it possible to commune with our Creator.  It is within this hospital, the Church, that we are made holy (whole), making the communion possible.  The Eucharist, which is the chief vehicle by which we can receive the grace that opens the doors for communion with God, brings about spiritual transformation, and is the chief sign of our unity in Christ.

Although there is uniformity in doctrine and practice within the Orthodox Church, the unity within the Church does in no way exclude those who are outside the Church, for all are God’s children, and the doors of the Church are open wide, even to those who are blind to this truth.  The Church does not judge those who remain outside her walls, but loves them, and prays for them.  She is not an exclusive institution, but rather the living embodiment of Christ.  Her claim to divine origin, and absolute truth, in no way suggests a denial of the basic dignity of humanity as being the children of God.

The Church’s claim to divine origin is no where more clearly seen, then her celebration of the Eucharist, for this is the moment when heaven comes down to earth, and her faithful are united one to another, in the Christ Who gives Himself so freely and completely. In this way the Eucharist is the vehicle to unity in Christ, and a sign of a unity that transforms time and space. Yet without unity of faith, where each believer has received as their own, the teachings of the Church in all her integrity and authenticity, communion would simply be a common participation in a symbolic act, rather than the participation in the Divine. Our reception of the very Body and Blood of Christ, is that point in eternity that brings about transformation and holiness.

These teachings are in direct opposition to the theories and philosophies of today, for they would deny the existence of Absolute Truth. The Church’s strict adherence to the beliefs, teachings, and practices, that have been handed down from Apostolic times, are the basis for our unity, for we have bound ourselves to the unchanging Apostolic Church, and forever united ourselves to Christ.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

To read more of Abbot Tryphon’s writing, please visit his blog, The Morning Offering

Also, take some time to visit the website for the All Merciful Saviour Orthodox Monastery.  Located on Maury Island in Puget Sound (a short ferry ride from both Seattle and Tacoma, Washington), the monastery is in a beautiful setting, and is definitely another spot that is on my list of places I would love to visit.

Peace of the Lord be with you all…

cuthbertToday marks a lesser feast day for St. Cuthbert.  His primary day is honored on March 20 each year, but his life is also celebrated on Sept. 4.  Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of Northern England, and is referred to as “The Wonder-Worker of England” due to the many miracles performed by him during his life, and through intercessory prayers after his death.  Cuthbert was a soldier, monk, and a unifier of the Celtic and Roman branches of the Church.

Born in Scotland, Cuthbert lived a good portion of his life in seclusion, in a cave on what is now known as Farne Island.   If you read the lives of the Saints, you’ll find that many chose to live separate from the world; however, you’ll also find that the world was greatly touched by their faith and wisdom.  Cuthbert was no exception.  He performed so many miracles in the Name of Christ, The Venerable Bede was compelled to devote a book entirely to him, entitled The Miracles and Life of St. Cuthbert.  It’s interesting to note that Cuthbert also provided us with the first written environmental law, prohibiting the ducks on the shore of Farne Island from being disturbed.

Cuthbert passed from this world in 687 AD.  It is said that his last words were encouragement and hope that the Church would be unified, and that those who followed Christ should also remember the traditions of the Church Fathers, which had been handed down to him and others in his generation.  From all I’ve read of Cuthbert, I gather that he was a man near to God, and filled with great humility and love for Christ and his fellow man.  His remains are interred at the Chapel of the Nine Altars in Durham, England.

Here’s some excerpts from Bede to describe this great saint…

“‘He was affable and pleasant in his character; and when he was relating to the fathers the acts of their predecessors, as an incentive to piety, he would introduce also, in the meekest way, the spiritual benefits which the love of God had conferred upon himself. And this he took care to do in a covert manner, as if it had happened to another person. His hearers, however, perceived that he was speaking of himself, after the pattern of that master who at one time unfolds his own merits without disguise, and at another time says, under the guise of another, “I knew a man in Christ fourteen years ago, who was carried up into the third heaven.”‘

“SO devout and zealous was he in his desire after heavenly things, that, whilst officiating in the solemnity of the mass, he never could come to the conclusion thereof without a plentiful shedding of tears. But whilst he duly discharged the mysteries of our Lord’s passion, he would, in himself, illustrate that in which he was officiating; in contrition of heart he would sacrifice himself to the Lord; and whilst he exhorted the standers-by to lift up their hearts and to give thanks unto the Lord, his own heart was lifted up rather than his voice, and it was the spirit which groaned within him rather than the note of singing.

In his zeal for righteousness he was fervid to correct sinners, he was gentle in the spirit of mildness to forgive the penitent, so that he would often shed tears over those who confessed their sins, pitying their weaknesses, and would himself point out by his own righteous example what course the sinner should pursue. He used vestments of the ordinary description, neither noticeable for their too great neatness, nor yet too slovenly.”

“THE venerable man of God, Cuthbert, adorned the office of bishop, which he had undertaken, by the exercise of many virtues, according to the precepts and examples of the Apostles. For he protected the people committed to his care with frequent prayers, and invited them to heavenly things by most wholesome admonitions, and followed that system which most facilitates teaching, by first doing himself what he taught to others. He saved the needy man from the hand of the stronger, and the poor and destitute from those who would oppress them. He comforted the weak and sorrowful; but he took care to recall those who were sinfully rejoicing to that sorrow which is according to godliness. Desiring still to exercise his usual frugality, he did not cease to observe the severity of a monastic life, amid the turmoil by which he was surrounded. He gave food to the hungry, raiment to the shivering, and his course was marked by all the other particulars which adorn the life of a pontiff. The miracles with which he shone forth to the world bore witness to the virtues of his own mind, some of which we have taken care briefly to hand down to memory.”

From St Bede’s “The Life and Miracles of St Cuthbert”

To read “The Life and Miracles of St. Cuthbert” in full, please visit Fordham University’s Medieval Sourcebook here...

For a more complete biographical sketch of St. Cuthbert, and many other saints, please take some time to explore the Orthodox Church in America’s web page here…

Finally, take time to visit the Durham Cathedral page here.  Durham Cathedral is definitely on my list of must-sees for this life!  I’m hoping to pop in and have tea with NT Wright while I’m there…

Next Page »