32nd Sunday after Pentecost

I had not been able to go to church for just over a week. I went to Gr. Vespers last night. The joy in my heart at being in church felt as though I was  greeting a friend I had not seen for months, not days. There is so much joy, peace, and refreshment waiting for me in church.

There was a young man there last night; attending for the first time. I’m nosy. I asked him what drew him to the church. I knew it was his first time because of how he was dressed and because he was carrying his bible. I’m not saying Orthodox persons do not, or cannot dress up for church. He just looked more like a deacon in a baptist church than an orthodox parishioner. He struggled a bit for his words when I asked him what drew him here, to Holy Theophany. I think perhaps his first Orthodox service was a bit overwhelming? What I did hear was that he was not raised in a religious family. He had not grown up going to church (so sad!). He was looking for more substance, more sobriety in worship and reverence in interaction with God (I’m paraphrasing as I do not recall his actual words but it is the same kind of thread I see running through many converts to the Orthodox faith… we’re fed up with the circus that many churches have become and yearn for piety. Piety from our leaders, piety from other congregants, piety within ourselves. More dogma, less foofoowawa.). I pray he finds what he is looking for, Lord have mercy.

Today is the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost.  One of the persons being honored today is; Hieromartyr Ignatius the God Bearer. Cool name, huh? Yeah, he was eaten by lions. Yikes!!

ignatius

http://www.holyassumption.net/files/bulletins/archive/2012/Jan-29-2012-33afpent.pdf

The link I just provided is to another church’s bulletin from 2012 explaining about Ignatius. After last night’s mini-sermon given by Ft. Moses, and seeing this icon and reading about Ignatius, I have to wonder- what do we consider to be suffering to we who are present day Christians? Fr. Moses was talking about Orthodox fathers being held in prisons and internment camps. They endured great suffering and many would have gone back (some prayed to be sent back!) so that they could continue to suffer. Why? Why would someone pray for something that seems so crazy? Suffering and persecution on purpose? They said it was because Prior to, and after their captivity they never prayed the way they prayed while in prison and felt closer to God in that setting.

When our lives are going well, how much do we really pay attention to God? When our lives are going through storms, do we not find ourselves praying more, and more fervently? I hope I never have to endure what these fathers and monks went through in order to have a deeper and more meaningful prayer life. I have, however, found comfort and encouragement from the stories of the martyrs and now, I have St. Ignatius to add to my mental library when times are tough. I’ll say, ‘hey, this is hard but at least lions are not chewing on my bones!’.

My prayer for you, for all those who are seeking something more substantial is that you will give the Orthodox church a try. At least for a year. Cycle through all the feast, and fasts. Learn about the saints, ancient fathers, martyrs, and everyone else in this wonderful, amazing mix of people who make up The Church; past, present, and those who are yet to walk through our doors but whom God already knows are on their way.

Lord have mercy.

Advertisements

Escaping the gospel of Pollyanna

One of the reasons why I ran away from contemporary (read: heretical) church, was to escape the fakey-happy-happy Pollyanna gospel. If you’ll recall, Pollyanna is a fictional girl who saw the sunbeams & rainbows in every situation, and if there were none to be had, she’d make them up. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing to do unless it creates within the person, and those around them, a total disconnect from reality.

Case-in-point. In the Pollyanna gospel, you cannot risk saying anything negative or you might curse yourself. This is NO WHERE in the bible. In fact, that sort of thinking is narcissistic and stinks of witchcraft. Jesus came to help us overcome our superstitions, and said not to practice magic and yet, here it is being taught right from the pulpit as a, ‘name it and claim it’ gospel. Or as I like to refer to it; The Pollyanna Gospel. In the Pollyanna Gospel, no one is ever sick (if they are they cannot tell anyone or they curse themselves and possibly the person to whom they are speaking) really? Is the holy spirit so weak within them that they cannot say, ‘oh, this is what is really going on in my life and I need help’ for fear of being completely overcome by their words? That is so deadly. It binds people and keeps them in prisons which is exactly what the enemy wants. He wants people to be isolated and afraid to talk about what is going on in their lives. This keeps people from praying for one another, and lifting one another up which is the true way to overcome any situation.

In this fakey-Pollyanna gospel church, no one is open and honest with each other. Everyone puts on their fake smile, lies to everyone around them for fear of condemnation & judgment, then goes home to battle their demons alone, and greatly diminished. If they had felt free to talk about their trials they could have received the help they need… with greater speed and efficiency.

The church is supposed to be a hospital, not a courthouse. Can you imagine walking into a hospital emergency room for help but then you are told by the staff that you cannot talk about your symptoms? Or, you do some how manage to talk about what is going on but then you are blamed for your medical situation because you dared to speak about it instead of keeping quiet because, ‘words have power’. Some hoe by speaking about your problems, you are laying claim to them, adopting them, and allowing them to become your demonic pets. You feed them with your words of acknowledgment. This Pollyanna gospel says that just telling someone you have a pain in your shoulder manifests it more and gives it a deeper foothold into your shoulder making it worse. Really? No, not really. This is a great example of just a taste of the heretical thinking and twisting of scripture that has occurred in modern churches over the last 2000 years. Unfortunately, this crap is preferred by many over the truth.

Galations 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of, Christ.

How can we bear each other’s burdens if we’re not allowed to talk about our burdens? I feel as though I cannot be myself around such people. If I did have a burden, how could I tell anyone? How would someone who does not understand suffering, and its purpose in the life of Christians pray for one who is suffering?

There are at least 100 verses in the bible about suffering. Not one of them says ‘don’t talk about suffering because we are not here to suffer’. No, not one.

Therefore, I continue to withdraw form the Pollyanna’s. I cannot offer them comfort by explain the purpose suffering has in their life because they are clinging to false teachings that have made them weak. They cannot help me because, I’m supposed to constantly have a smile on my face no matter what sort of trial or tribulation is going on in my life. I can’t be like that. I’m not talking about wallowing in suffering. I’m talking about being a real Christian. One who has dark days and does not have all the answers. One who does not lean on their own understanding, or that of heretical teachings.

If you have burdens that you cannot talk about with those around you, let me know. If you want to go into details you may but if you don’t that’s ok too. I’m letting you know, I’ll pray for you if you would like me to. Just put in comments, ‘pray for me’. If you want to pour out your heart, you may email me. blessings house of prayer at g mail dot com

Lord have mercy.

One Orthodox book per month

One. It’s not much but it can seem like an avalanche of reading if you have a typical American schedule. We over book ourselves to the point where we just do not have the time to read. Perhaps this year some small changes can be made to enable you to read more? One less meeting. One less activity for your children. One less thing demanding your time which prevents you from reading and advancing your knowledge and understanding.

I had planned to start off the year reading: The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios. A book about a man who dangerously dips his toes into other, pagan religions and practices before discovering, at the feet of the Elder Paisios, what it was that he had been looking for all along.

Instead, my first book of the year shall be: Community of Grace by Mary Alice Cook. It was on the ‘free’ table at church and I snatched it up. Free books, GOOD free books, are nothing to sneeze at. This book is about an Orthodox community built in Alaska. Not a monastic community. A community of believers who wished to live near one another, and the church, in order to better fulfill the tenets of the bible to, ‘love one another’.

I hope you too will read as much as possible this year. Slow down, take a breath, sit in a comfy chair and just, read…

Lord have mercy.