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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…

benediction holy fathers

I recently posted some thoughts in Top Ten Reasons that Liturgical Worship Works (Part 2) that included a few lines on the importance of the benediction.  I have to admit, I have seen pastors pull a benediction off of the top of their heads, which far too often, sounds like they pulled it from another less polite part of their body. 

The benediction, in and of itself, is a vital part of worship.  It is a spoken blessing over the lives of the listeners, and an encouragement to go forth into the world, taking what you have heard in Sunday’s scripture readings and homily, and to put those things into practice.  Bishop Todd Hunter writes in “Giving Church Another Chance” about how we far too often treat Sunday worship like it’s the end zone in a football game, when in fact, we should treat Sunday like the huddle, where we pause to take a breath; hear reproof, instruction, and encouragement; then break apart to fulfill individual roles that will make our collective community successful.  Sunday worship isn’t the only place that Kingdom is built.  Kingdom is built in our everyday, walking, talking, going to work, picking up our kids, caring for our neighbor, praying for others, eating dinner, and kissing the kids goodnight lives.  The benediction empowers us and encourages us to put feet to our faith.

Here’s some wonderful thoughts on the benediction from a gem  of a page I found on Facebook a while back.  Please take time to check out the Holy Fathers page, which includes photos, quotes, and much, much wisdom from ancient and contemporary saints of the Church. Here’s our thought for the day on the benediction…

“Let us go forth in peace” is the last commandment of the Liturgy. What does it mean? It means, surely, that the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy is not an end but a beginning. Those words, “Let us go forth in peace,” are not merely a comforting epilogue. They are a call to serve and bear witness. In effect, those words, “Let us go forth in peace,” mean the Liturgy is over, the liturgy after the Liturgy is about to begin.

This, then, is the aim of the Liturgy: that we should return to the world with the doors of our perceptions cleansed. We should return to the world after the Liturgy, seeing Christ in every human person, especially in those who suffer. In the words of Father Alexander Schmemann, the Christian is the one who wherever he or she looks, everywhere sees Christ and rejoices in him. We are to go out, then, from the Liturgy and see Christ everywhere.”

Kallistos of Diokleia

The photograph in today’s post was borrowed from the Holy Father’s Facebook page, and is credited to Cristina Nichitus Roncea.  You can see more of her work on her blog here….

One of my favorite authors is Mike Aquilina, who has written several books on the Church Fathers, their sayings, and their history.  A particular favorite of mine is “Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians”.   Each chapter includes a reading from Psalms, a passage to focus on, and a homily from a Church Father related to the Psalm. Please take some time to check out his webpage here.

Finally, take some time to learn more about Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, or Kallistos Ware by clicking here.  The Bishop is known as the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Great Britain, and is a very accomplished author.  You can check out his books on Amazon by clicking here.