Does it bother you when someone says to you, ‘Do as I say, not as I do?’. It bothers me. This is just one of the things, Jesus came up against in His ministry. The pharisees were oppressing people with impossible standards while they continued to behave in a manner totally opposite of what they were preaching. They tweaked the law to feed their greed and corruption all the while they enjoyed a life filled with gifts, bribes, and treachery. Even unto their own parents.
I have had protestant pastors admit on the pulpit that they are picking and choosing which scriptures they will obey. The audience chuckles but no one confronts him on his own admission of sin and heresy. Imagine my surprise when the head priest of our local parish submits himself to the same rigors of scripture we are all trying to walk out daily.
During the annual Forgiveness Ceremony at temple, there he is with all the other priests, deacons and sub-deacons prostrating before his spiritual children, asking us for forgiveness. Our priest!! Then, the other night in class, he talks about how he is headed up to Alaska soon to help build a monastery for some nuns. This is a 50+ year old man but because he had been up there 15 years ago and they remembered him, he is going because they asked him to! I love that our parish has such an example. In Orthodox Christianity, it’s not about, ‘The Guy’. You know, who is going to be the one who preaches well, as a charismatic personality, who can get the people wound up and in a frenzy to give, give, give. No. While our head priest is gone, another priest will step in and fill his shoes, so-to-speak while he is gone. Life will go on without him because our lives are about God, not ‘The Guy’. Will Father be missed? Yes. He is part of ‘the family’. He is our spiritual father & confessor and we love him (he will come back). But that’s not the point. The point is, he gets his hands dirty, literally and figuratively. I’ve been in churches where the pastor’s anointing was carefully guarded as if he were some sort of demi-god who needed to be locked up in some protective inner chamber. Well removed from those who might sully him. Who… his congregation? Yes. He needed to be protected from his congregation. I’ve been to churches, and I have heard stories from people in other churches as well, where the pastor never interacted with the church community. They felt they only had to deliver the sermon on Sunday and they left the ‘ministering’ (praying and interacting with the congregants) up to the deacons and elders. They are not true shepherds. They are not spiritual fathers. I like having a spiritual father. Especially one who walks out the scriptures. When you have a spiritual father who sets the example, it’s hard to find an excuse as to why you’re not being obedient with what you have been given to do by the Lord. The speed of the leader is the speed of the ‘gang’. If your spiritual leaders are leaning on the shovel and not giving their all, neither will you. I believe this is part of the reason why so many churches have fallen asleep and then ended up shuttering their doors.
Physics applies to churches. Newton’s 1st law of motion; In an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a consistent velocity, unless acted upon by a force. In other words; an object in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest, unless something happens to change either attitude.
People are looking for more in their religious journey. I was, and my search lead me to the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church does its best to walk out scripture. To live in peace with those around them, to die to their passions & desires, and they take it (the Christian Way), and God very serious. Serious enough that His Word is for every member of the body in the parish, even the head priest. There is no, ‘us and them’ mentality that I have seen to date. I don’t know if I can fully express how important this is to me to see those in leadership being treated as a part of the body and not apart from the body. It fills my heart with joy to know my parish priests, and others in leadership are in the same boat as I when it comes to walking out our faith. We are imperfect, struggling and doing the best we can. Lord have mercy.