OrthoAnalytika

Bible Study #36: Ruth
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
22 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

The Book of Ruth

Ruth was a Moabite. Moabites were descendants of Lot. They lived on the East side of the Dead Sea. This history takes place during the time of Judges, about 1300 BC. Ruth, a Gentile, is the great-grandmother of David (and thus an ancestor of Jesus Christ).

Chapter One. The death of husband and sons.
St. Jerome: restrain your grief (comparison for pastoral guidance).
You call to mind [your daughter's] companionship, her conversation and her endearing ways; and you cannot endure the thought that you have lost them all. I pardon you the tears of a mother, but I ask you to restrain your grief. When I think of the parent, I cannot blame you for weeping, but when I think of the Christian and the recluse, the mother disappears from my view. Your wound is still fresh, and any touch of mine, however gentle, is more likely to inflame than to heal it. Yet why do you not try to overcome by reason a grief which time must inevitably assuage? Naomi, fleeing because of famine to the land of Moab, there lost her husband and her sons. Yet when she was thus deprived of her natural protectors, Ruth, a stranger, never left her side. And see what a great thing it is to comfort a lonely woman: Ruth, for her reward, is made an ancestor of Christ.9 Consider the great trials which Job endured, and you will see that you are over-delicate. Amid the ruins of his house, the pains of his sores, his countless bereavements, and, last of all, the snares laid for him by his wife, he still lifted up his eyes to heaven and maintained his patience unbroken. I know what you are going to say “All this befell him as a righteous man, to try his righteousness.” Well, choose which alternative you please. Either you are holy, in which case God is putting your holiness to the proof; or else you are a sinner, in which case you have no right to complain. For if so, you endure far less than your deserts.

St. Paulinus of Nola. Daughters as a metaphor for The Big Choice. Next pass with eager eyes to Ruth, who with one short book separates eras—the end of the period of the judges and the beginning of Samuel. It seems a short account, but it depicts the symbolism of the great conflict when the two sisters separate to go their different ways. Ruth follows after her holy mother-in-law, whereas Orpah abandons her; one daughter-in-law demonstrates faithlessness, the other fidelity. The one puts God before country, the other puts country before life. Does not such disharmony continue through the universe, one part following God and the other falling headlong through the world? If only the two groups seeking death and salvation were equal! But the broad road seduces many, and those who glide on the easy downward course are snatched off headlong by sin which cannot be revoked.

St. Ambrose of Milan. Ruth as an example for us in the Church. Ruth entered the church and was made an Israelite, and [she] deserved to be counted among God’s greatest servants; chosen on account of the kinship of her soul, not of her body. We should emulate her because, just as she deserved this prerogative because of her behavior, [we] may be counted among the favored elect in the church of the Lord. Continuing in our Father’s house, we might, through her example, say to him who, like Paul or any other bishop, [who] calls us to worship God, your people are my people, and your God my God.

Chapter Two. Ruth and Boaz meet.

Ruth's virtue include hard work and humility; but they worked with grace to bless her.

Romans 11:19-24. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Ephesians 2:11-16. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall[a] of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.

The Orthodox Study Bible argues that the meal Ruth is invited to represents the Eucharist (ft 2:14).

What a beautiful blessing; “And Na′omi said to her daughter-in-law, 'Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!'” Ruth 2:21.

Chapter Three. The Threshing Floor.

St. John Chrysostom. Virtue. Those things which happened to Ruth should be seen as figures. For she was an outsider and had fallen into extreme penury; but Boaz, seeing her, did not despise her on account of her poverty, nor was he horrified on account of her impiety; even as Christ received the church, who was both a stranger and laboring, in need of great good things. Ruth is not joined with her consort before forsaking her parents and her nation and her native land: never was anyone so much ennobled by marriage. Thus the church was not made loveable to her spouse before she had forsaken her prior customs. The prophet says, “Forget your people.”

Chapter Four. Happily ever after.

Ephraim the Syrian. In praise of virtue. Let Tamar rejoice that her Lord has come, for her name announced the son of her Lord, and her appellation called you to come to her. By you honorable women made themselves contemptible, [you] the One who makes all chaste. She stole you at the crossroads, [you] who prepared the road to the house of the kingdom. Since she stole life, the sword was insufficient to kill her. Ruth lay down with a man on the threshing floor for your sake. Her love was bold for your sake. She teaches boldness to all penitents. Her ears held in contempt all [other] voices for the sake of your voice. The fiery coal that crept into the bed of Boaz went up and lay down. She saw the Chief Priest hidden in his loins, the fire for his censer. She ran and became the heifer of Boaz. For you she brought forth the fatted ox. She went gleaning for love of you; she gathered straw. You repaid her quickly the wage of her humiliation: instead of ears [of wheat], the Root of kings, and instead of straw, the Sheaf of Life that descends from her.

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: 20180522-Ruth.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

May his memory be eternal!
 
Very Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, 62 of Bethlehem, PA., faithful servant of God who has fallen asleep this Wednesday, May 16, 2018, at his home.
 
Born in the Ternopil Region of Ukraine he was the son of the late Prokip Zawierucha and Jaroslawa (Drozdecka) Zawierucha. Fr. Bazyl was the husband of Anna T. (Putting) Zawierucha. He lived and studied in Rome from 1966, earning an STB at Gregorian University and SEOL at Pontificium Institutum Orientale. Entering the priesthood in April of 1981, serving as the priest of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Northampton, PA. for the past 27 years.
 
In addition to his responsibilities at Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary UOC, Fr. Bazyl held the title of Provost for St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary in S. Bound Brook, NJ; He was a member of Council of Metropolia (Board of Directors) of UOC of the USA. He held the position of Vice President of Consistory of UOC of USA, and Director of Consistory office of the UOC Relations.
 
He is survived by his wife Anna , children; Oliver, Anastasia, and Sebastian and his sister Wira, and brother Peter.
 
Memorial Contributions: May be offered in his memory to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Orphanage Fund C/O the funeral home. Online condolences may be offered to the family at www.schislerfuneralhomes.com
 
Published in Morning Call on May 18, 2018
 
Fr. Bazyl was a wonderful Christian priest and pastor, a gifted professor, a wise mentor, and a good and trustworthy friend.  I miss him.
Direct download: Panakhida_for_Fr._Bazyl_Zawierucha.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT

Homily: the Sunday after Ascension
The Celebration of First Confessions
John 17:1-13

At the end of today's Gospel, Jesus – the Son of God – tells us that He has taken all the love and teaching that His Father – God – gave Him and shared it with the people of the world so that they may have true joy “fulfilled in themselves.”

God wants to give us the skills and power so that we can be good and joyful NO MATTER WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND US. His Son had those skills and that power – He got them from His Father. He was so skilled and powerful that He held onto that true joy even through the many sacrifices He made on His heroic journey, even through His suffering on the Cross.

We need that power and we need those skills because life is hard. It's easy to be joyful, patient, and good when life is all warm and fuzzy. But what about when it's cold and sharp like needles? How long does our patience and goodness last when the thorns start poking into our skin? When the cold and wet has made its way into our bones?

It is in hard times that we learn how weak we are in goodness; we lash out at others – the ones whom we were called to help as the thorns and cold hurt them adding to the damage that they sustain – we or retreat into our shell – making the world even colder and doing nothing to heal the pain of those around us.

This is not what we were made for. We were made to be the heroes that beat back the ravaging thorns; the courageous medic – like Private Desmond Doss of Hacksaw Ridge – who continue to save those in need despite the great risk and damage to their own bodies.

We were made to have that kind of courage – that is the kind of courage the world needs to help with its groaning. The Lord wants all His children to have joy – but He sees that they suffer. So first He gave His Son the necessary skills and power – and now His Son wants to pass them on to us.

 

What are those skills? What are those powers? How can we get them?

It takes training: the continuous repetition of useful actions.

***

Part of that training is Confession. Today we welcome S____ and L____ into the Training Academy for courageous warriors and medics of virtue and power.

How does confession work? It keeps us good and healthy so that we can wield power correctly.

The body needs water to sustain itself. If that water is full of good vitamins and minerals, then it's even better.

What happens when we drink dirty water? Soldiers have to keep their canteens and cups clean and drink only potable water. Dirty cup + clean water? No good. Clean cup + dirty water? No good (the cup is no longer clean). Confession is how we keep the cup clean.

Every bit of anger, impatience, mean-ness, jealousy, laziness, and disrespect puts a chunk of dirt into that canteen. You can shake it out on your own and continue to drink from it, but you can see how that might still make you sick. And being sick, you just become more likely to get angry, mean, jealous, and disrespectful – and your cup just fills up with clumps of dirt even faster.

What would you do if your cup was so dirty it made you sick? You'd clean it.

The Lord tells us that He will give us “Living Water”. This is to drink, but it is also to clean.

Thanks to you confession, your cup is now clean. Repentance has allowed God's “Living Water” to wash it out. You can now drink that “Living Water” without polluting it. You can now resume your training, so that you can grow into warriors and medics of virtue and power.

The world needs you to be good. It needs you to be powerful. It needs you to be courageous.

God wants you to be good, to be powerful, and to be courageous.

He has given you your families and the Church to train you and give you the power and skills you need.

May God bless your service to Him for many, many years!

 

 

 

 

Direct download: 20180520-HomilyonConfession.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Sunday of the Man Born Blind (St. John 9:1-38)

Psychologists and theologians agree: In their default setting, our minds are wired not for discerning truth but social standing.  The path to objectivity involves humility, immersing ourselves in discerning communities (e.g. of science and traditional Orthodox faith), and developing a relationship with the source of all Truth, the Incarnate Logos (through whom all things are made).

Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180513-HomilyonBlindness.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:55pm EDT

Bible Study #34: Joshua and Judges
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
08 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Map of Tribal Divisions from bible-printables.com: Twelve Tribes = Twelve Sons = Twelve Places ???

Warming up with some Tidbits from the Rest of Joshua:

On the Varying Inheritances (St. Jerome)

Why did two tribes and a half dwell on the other side of Jordan, a district abounding in cattle, while the remaining nine tribes and a half either drove out the old inhabitants from their possessions or dwelled with them? Why did the tribe of Levi receive no portion in the land but have the Lord for its portion? And how is it that of the priests and Levites, themselves, the high priest alone entered the Holy of Holies where were the cherubim and the mercy seat? … If you do away with the gradations of the tabernacle, the temple, the church, if, to use a common military phrase, all upon the right hand are to be “up to the same standard,” bishops are to no purpose, priests in vain, deacons useless. Why do virgins persevere? Widows toil? Why do married women practice continence? And yet if we repent of our sins, we are all brought to the level of the Apostles.

Joshua 17:13. This is a fulfillment of Genesis 9:27 (props to St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Joshua 17:16-18 (generalizable). For if at last we come to perfection, then the Canaanite is said to have been exterminated by us and handed over to death [through the mortification of the flesh]... to clear the woodland that is in us means cutting useless and unfruitful trees out of us so as to renew it so that we can reap fruit “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mt 13:8,23) from it. (Origin)

Joshua 20:1-9. The refugee cities. The length of the sentence only makes sense as a prophecy of Christ . (St. Ambrose of Milan). St. Jerome points out that sins committed in ignorance are still sinful.

Joshua 22:32-34. The purpose of the temple is suspected, clarified, then celebrated.

Joshua 24:12. God used wasps?! (St. Augustine gives literal and symbolic meanings)

Joshua 23: 12, 13 & 16. Joshua warns the people vs. intermarriage (do you remember Balaam?).

Joshua 24: 14-28. Joshua warns the people about idolatry. What does the stone symbolize?

[A Note on Bashan and the giants of the coast? Maybe later.]

Judges 2. A summary of what is to come.

From St. John Cassius (on why the conquest was not done by God all at once).

And if we may illustrate the incomparable mercy of our Creator from something earthly, not as being equal in kindness but as an illustration of mercy: if a tender and anxious nurse carries an infant in her bosom for a long time in order sometime to teach it to walk, and first allows it to crawl, then supports it that by the aid of her right hand it may lean on its alternate steps, presently leaves it for a little and if she sees it tottering at all, catches hold of it and grabs at it when falling, when down picks it up, and either shields it from a fall or allows it to fall lightly, and sets it up again after a tumble, but when she has brought it up to boyhood or the strength of youth or early manhood, lays upon it some burdens or labors by which it may be not overwhelmed but exercised, and allows it to vie with those of its own age; how much more does the heavenly Father of all know whom to carry in the bosom of his grace, whom to train to virtue in his sight by the exercise of free will, and yet he helps him in his efforts, hears him when he calls, leaves him not when he seeks him, and sometimes snatches him from peril even without his knowing it.

Ending prayer/hymn: Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem! / The glory of the Lord has shone on thee. / Exult now, and be glad, O Zion! / Be radiant, O pure Theotokos, / in the Resurrection of thy Son!

Next Week: Let's meet some Judges!!!

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Chapter 25.

Direct download: 20180508-JoshuasTidbits.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on Sowing
St. John 4:5-42

The metaphor of agriculture.

1 (Introduction). You have to reap when the crop is ready. If it's ready and you don't reap it – what happens?

  • Something – or someone – else will reap it (e.g. birds w/ blueberries)

  • It spoils.

  • It does not make it to the reaping floor where it can be transformed into its greatest and intended use/purpose

2. (The Word) The Samaritans were a crop that was ready for the harvest.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

The spiritual sowing indicates those who tilled beforehand by the voice of the prophets. The multitude of spiritual ears is those brought to the faith that is shown through Christ. But the harvest is white, in other words, already ripe for faith, and confirmed toward a godly life. But the sickle of the reaper is the glittering and sharp word of the apostle, cutting away the hearers from the worship according to the law and transferring them to the floor, that is, to the church of God. There, they are bruised and pressed by good works and shall be set forth as pure wheat worthy of the divine harvest.

It is important to realize that if Christ and the apostles did not reap the harvest, then these people – and their souls - would be lost

  • Someone else will reap and gather them.

  • They will spoil (internal pride and imagination)

  • They will not be transformed from something transient and vulnerable into something greater (living bread?)

3. (Conclusion – the Application) The world is the field of the Lord; the Church is the place where the transformation of wheat into the Living Bread occurs.

  • To speak less metaphorically,

    • The world is full of people who were made for something better. They are finite and vulnerable; and in need of something real and truly good;

    • But they were made to be immortal and powerful; and constantly sustained and strengthened by the unending source of everything good and true and real.

    • They are ready to be transformed from children of the fallen world into the immortal sons and daughters of the perfect God.

  • Their stories are all different. They are not monotheistic Samaritans as were those in today's Gospel or pagan Hellenists like those in today's epistle. When it comes to their world-view, some are atheists, some are agnostics, but they are full of the potential, the yearning, and the readiness to changed into something better.

    • [It should noted that not all of them are ready for the transformation: they still need tending. And there are fields that have not been sown at all.  Some sow, some tend, and some reap.]

In today's Gospel, the Lord shows how this work is done. It is work we are called to. If we don't do it – if we as a parish and we as believers – don't give our time connecting with the Samaritans and Hellenists of our time – then they will be lost. And us? We will have failed in the One Thing the Lord commanded us to do and we will be worse than lost.

Let us now commit ourselves to the transformation of ourselves into the children of God so that we may become the evangelists of that transformation – the ones that plant, tend, and gather - and this parish into the place where the gathered souls are themselves transformed.

Direct download: 20180506-HomilyonSowing.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:56pm EDT

Bible Study #33: The Kherem Wars of Joshua/Jesus
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
01 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Warm up question (an old one revisited):
Why is God working through humanity to renew and spread the lost pattern of Eden? Why not just magic it back (e.g. in the Promised Land) and put them there? Why turn Joshua into a warrior of kherem (i.e. of purity)? Many would contrast the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New. We can't. Can kherem be done in love? Under what circumstances would love REQUIRE it? Take-away: God is the shepherd that loves his sheep.

Joshua 9: The Deception of the Gibeonites

St. Ambrose. Joshua was deceived because he was good. So sacred was one’s promised word held in those days that no one would believe that others could try to deceive. Who could find fault with the saints in this, namely, that they should consider others to have the same feelings as themselves and suppose no one would lie because truth was their own companion? They do not know what deceit is, they gladly believe of others what they themselves are, while they cannot suspect others to be what they themselves are not. Hence Solomon says, “An innocent man believes every word.” We must not blame his readiness to believe but should rather praise his goodness. To know nothing of anything that may injure another, this is to be innocent. And although he is cheated by another, still he thinks well of all, for he thinks there is good faith in all [he also uses it to teach that friendship with Christ generates hostility from others].

Joshua 10: Joshua Purifies the Southern Parts

Count how many places were given over “to destruction” with nothing “left remaining”.

St. Ambrose. But how brave was Joshua the son of Nun, who in one battle laid low five kings together with their people! Again, when he fought against the Gibeonites and feared that night might stop him from gaining the victory, he called out with deep faith and high spirit: “Let the sun stand still”; and it stood still until the victory was complete [he also uses this to compare Joshua to Moses].

St. John Chrysostom. Consider how great of value is the righteous man. Joshua the son of Nun said, “Let the sun stand still at Gibeon, the moon at the valley of Elom [Aijalon],” and it was so. Let then the whole world come, or rather two or three, or four, or ten, or twenty worlds, and let them say and do this; yet they shall not be able. But the friend of God commanded the creatures of his friend, or rather he besought his friend, and the servants yielded, and the one below gave command to those above. Do you see that these things are fulfilling their appointed course for service?

St. Jerome. five kings who previously reigned in the land of promise and opposed the gospel army were overcome in battle with Joshua. I think it is clearly to be understood that before the Lord led his people from Egypt and circumcised them, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had the dominion, and that to these, as to five princes, everything was subject. And when they took refuge in the cave of the body and in a place of darkness, Jesus entered the body itself and killed them, that the source of their power might be the instrument of their death.

Joshua Purifies the Northern Parts

Origin.

In prior readings, the king of Jerusalem had assembled four other kings with him against Jesus [Joshua] and against the sons of Israel. But now no longer does someone assemble four or five; on the contrary, see how great a multitude one person assembles.…

You see how many swarms of opposing powers and of malicious demons may be stirred up against Jesus [Joshua] and the Israelite army. Before the coming of our Lord and Savior, all those demons, undisturbed and secure, were occupying human spirits and ruled in their minds and bodies. But when “grace appeared” in the world, the mercy “of God our Savior” instructs us to live piously and purely in this world, separated from every contagion of sin, so that each soul may receive its liberty and the “image of God”3 in which it was created from the beginning. Because of this, fights and battles spring forth from their iniquitous old possessors. If the first ones are overthrown, far more rise up afterwards, and they unite into one and conspire in evil, always remote from the good. And if they are conquered for a second time, again a third time other more wicked powers will rise up. So perhaps the more the people of God are increased, and the more they thrive and are multiplied, there are that many more who conspire to assault.

What was the real target? Joshua 11:21–23 provides the answer.

St. Augustine. One should not at all think it a horrible cruelty that Joshua did not leave anyone alive in those cities that fell to him, for God himself had ordered this. However, whoever for this reason thinks that God himself must be cruel and does not wish to believe then that the true God was the author of the Old Testament judges as perversely about the works of God as he does about the sins of human beings. Such people do not know what each person ought to suffer. Consequently, they think it a great evil when that which is about to fall is thrown down and when mortals die.
It is asked how [it can be true that Joshua conquered all the Promised Land], since the Hebrews were not altogether able to capture all the cities of those seven nations either in the times after the judges or in the times of the kings. But one must understand it to mean that Joshua never approached any city with hostile intent that he did not capture. Or it may mean that no city remained uncaptured except for those which were in the regions mentioned above. For those regions were enumerated in which there were cities concerning which the conclusion was made: “and he captured all of them in war.”

St. Ephraim the Syrian. Whoever believes in me will also do the works which I do, and will do even greater ones. And where is this word which he said, “The disciple is not greater than his master” [illustrated]?6 For example, Moses killed only three kings, but Joshua killed thirty. [Moses] persevered in prayer, made supplication, but did not enter [the promised land]. It was Joshua rather who entered and shared out the inheritance.8 Likewise, Samuel was greater than Eli, and Elisha received a double portion of his master’s spirit after his ascension, like the Lord our Savior, for his disciples effected twice through their signs.

Teaching Point: Note what this implies for reclaiming the sanctified territory of our hearts and bodies!

Next Week: Judges!!!

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Chapter 25.

Direct download: 20180501-JoshuasVictories.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of the Paralytic
John 5:1-15

Prologue: the Gospel only makes sense within its context.

Rules for living well:

  • Do the best you can.
  • Always strive to do better.
  • When you mess up, admit it, clean it up, and repent.

The paralytic exhibits this way of life:

  • Doing the best he could, based on who he was and what he knew (doesn't mean he was doing it right!).
  • Trying to do better. Two indicators of this:
    • He had been trying for cures all his life and was still at it.
    • When he encountered a better way of doing things – the way that Christ gave him! - he took it.
  • Mess up: change.
    • His willingness to leave a routine he had been committed to is part of this, but the main indicator of this came later:
    • The Lord told Him to stop sinning or things would get even worse for him.

How is it even possible not to sin? It only makes sense within the context of Gospel: the Lord had the power to forgive sins, because He knew we would continue to sin even after He ascended into glory at the Ascension, He gave that power to the ministers of the Church;  

“Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20: 21-23).

The paralytic was doing the best he could; Christ offered Him a better way that would not only heal him, but provided for his continual improvement.

We have to follow his example. We are trying hard to live a good life, but is it really the best we can do? Christ is offering the real path – our attempt to improve our lives should include listening to Him and following His instructions. When we mess up – and we will mess up – He has offered a way for us to recover and get back on track: we have to own our mistakes, repent, and get right back on track.

Direct download: 20180429-TheWayoftheParalytic.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Bible Study #32: The Curse of Jericho
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
24 April 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Warm up question:
What is a curse? Are they real, or only as real as people think they are? Blessings have psychological and “true” effects (e.g. confession); is it the same (in reverse) for curses? Think less about the manipulation of positive and negative energies than about opening ourselves of up the grace of God and the intercession of the saints or ... the actions and even possession of evil powers.

The Curse of Jericho

Jericho 6:17-19.

From Origen. Don't Pollute the Faith.
This is what is indicated by these words: Take heed that you have nothing worldly in you, that you bring down with you to the church neither worldly customs nor faults nor equivocations of the age. But let all worldly ways be anathema to you. Do not mix mundane things with divine; do not introduce worldly matters into the mysteries of the church.

This is what John also sounds with the trumpet of his epistle, saying, “Do not love the world or the things that are in the world.” And likewise Paul: “Do not,” he says, “be conformed to this world.” For those who do these things accept what is anathema. But also those introduce anathema into the churches who, for example, celebrate the solemnities of the nations even though they are Christians. Those who eagerly seek the lives and deeds of humans from the courses of the stars, who inquire of the flight of birds and other things of this type that were observed in the former age, carry what is anathema from Jericho into the church and pollute the camp of the Lord and cause the people of God to be overcome. But there are also many other sins through which anathema from Jericho is introduced into the church, through which the people of God are overcome and overthrown by enemies. Does not the apostle also teach these same things when he says, “A little leaven spoils the whole lump”?

Notice that the “solemnities of the nations” seem to be rituals associated with old gods. The dialogue about what previous symbols etc. can be incorporated and blessed and what can't is always interesting. For the Jews there were two mechanisms involved: 1) intentionally breaking commands that *God Himself* had given and 2) doing rituals and holding onto idols of foreign gods.

A Reminder on the Concept of Herem (taboo).
A human... may not enjoy the use of an object designated as ḥērem, for this would transgress the limits between his domain, with its protective socio-legal organization, and the outside non-classificatory domain and cause disequilibrium to encroach upon the former. Should such misuse occur, the perpetrator himself becomes contaminated by the object of the ḥērem and must be subjected to the same treatment as that object in order to ward off the consequent dangers to his community... (“Taboo” by Malul, p. 826).

Joshua 7:1-5. What Happened at Ai – Episode I.

From Origin. The Tongue of Gold.
But also we should not let it be passed over without comment that by one sinner wrath comes upon all the people.…

But let us also see what sort of sin this person did. He stole, it says, “a tongue of gold” and placed it in his own tent.

I do not think so great a force of sin was in that theft of a little gold that it defiled the innumerable church of the Lord. But let us see if a deeper understanding does not reveal the enormity and severity of the sin. There is much elegance in words and much beauty in the discourses of philosophers and rhetoricians, who are all of the city of Jericho, that is, people of this world. If, therefore, you should find among the philosophers perverse doctrines beautified by the assertions of a splendid discourse, this is the “tongue of gold.” But beware that the splendor of the performance does not beguile you, that the beauty of the golden discourse not seize you. Remember that Jesus [Joshua] commanded all the gold found in Jericho to be anathema. If you read a poet with properly measured verses, weaving gods and goddesses in a very bright tune, do not be seduced by the sweetness of eloquence, for it is the “tongue of gold.” If you take it up and place it in your tent, if you introduce into your heart those things that are declared by the [poets and philosophers], then you will pollute the whole church of the Lord.

St. John Chrysostom. How Bad for Us?
Suppose any one should carefully examine all the communicants in the world, what kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? And what if he examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain? Making traffic of high places? Envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous and slaves to money?

Where then there is such impiety as this going on, what dreadful calamity must we not expect? And to be assured how severe vengeance they incur who are guilty of such sins as these, consider the examples of old. One single man, a common soldier, stole the sacred property, and all were struck. You know, doubtless, the history I mean? I am speaking of Achan the son of Carmi, the man who stole the consecrated spoil.…

On account of all these things, let us take heed to ourselves. Do you not see these wars? Do you not hear of these disasters? Do you learn no lesson from these things? Nations and whole cities are swallowed up and destroyed, and myriads as many again are enslaved to the barbarians.

If hell does not bring us to our senses, yet let these things. What, are these too mere threats, are they not facts that have already taken place? Great is the punishment they have suffered, yet a greater still shall we suffer, who are not brought to our senses even by their fate.

Sylvian the Priest of Marsailles. How the Taint Works.
The church of God is as the eye. As a speck of dirt, even though small, which falls into the eye blinds the sight completely, in the same way, if some, even though they are a few in the body of the church, commit filthy acts, they block almost all the light of the splendor of the church.

Joshua 7:19-26. The Confession and Punishment of Achen.

St. Jerome. Why so Harsh? The same reason that the nations were given over to the sword.

Joshua 8. What Happened at Ai – Episode II. They won. Completely. With tactics.
Origin. We ought not to leave any of those demons deeply within, whose dwelling place is chaos and who rule in the abyss, but to destroy them all.

Teaching Point: Do what God instructs even when the end result is not clear.

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Malul, M. (1999). Taboo. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible. Brill; Eerdmans.

Direct download: 20180424-CurseatJericho.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Ritual, Myrrhbearers, and Dealing with Insult to Injury
St. Mark 15:43-16:8

Notes (that I mostly ignored)
We have a concept: adding insult to injury. It describes how tough it is when something bad has already happened and then something happens that makes the same situation even worse.

This is what happened to the myrrhbearing women: their beloved had been killed unjustly in a ignoble and humiliating way. They were heartbroken. Then when they went to begin the time-tested rituals – mingling myrrh with tears - that would guide them through their pain into acceptance and healing... the body was gone. They were deprived even of this comfort.

This is not part of our culture, so we don't get this. We receive it as data: the stone is rolled away and the body is gone. But for them, it was much more. Not an invitation to explore the mystery, but an insult to injury.

Anointing the body was the way their culture had developed to help people to help them handle death and to work through all the emotions and temptations that the death of a loved one brings. It's not just something to do – although Lord knows “keeping busy” is useful when we are struggling with strong emotions – it's therapy. A group of friends and family tending to the body of their beloved. There is something useful to be done. All traditional cultures do things like this. To us, it sounds morbid; but to them our way of dealing with death is as impersonal as our American way of dealing with dinner (i.e. not spending time preparing it; not gathering around a table; just getting calories in while do other things). Impersonal. Clinical. Heartbreaking. An opportunity to do something well – voluntarily surrendered.

The Myrrhbearers weren't just on the way to the tomb to make sure the body was buried properly, they were participating in a cultural ritual of love. Sacrificing their time and the best that they could find to honor the life of their beloved and deepening the connection they had with him.

They had their facts wrong, but they had everything else right; and this made all the difference for them... They become the apostles to the disciples – telling them of the Lord's resurrection.

[I want you to note that the disciples did not believe them. Could it be that this was because they gathered behind closed doors out of fear whereas the myrrhbearers ignored their fear and allowed love to make them brave?

Are we afraid for ourselves? Are we afraid for the Lord? Can anything good come from fear?]

The Myrrhbearers thought they knew who their Lord was, and they were wrong – He was so much more than they could have imagined. They thought that the temple of His body was dead and empty, something to be preserved; but it was alive, not needing their care, but demanding their awe and prompting them to action. They were able to make the transition from grief to joy – from funeral dirge to alleluia (as our funeral service says) because they were there for all right reasons, even though they had the facts wrong.

We need to make that same transition, not just when it comes to death, but when it comes to our mutual life in Christ here at St. Mary's.

There is a temptation for us to believe that there is no life in Church apart from the life we bring to it; that it is in need of our care; that we must preserve it. That it will decay unless we anoint it. We have our rituals that bring us closer together as we love this, our parish, a parish that offers the fullness of the Church, the Church being the Body of Our Beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

But that is not the kind of service that the Lord requires: He is not a corpse in need of embalming; but the Living God whose very presence here demands our awe and whose love must prompt us to serve the world He died to make whole.

We are called to emulate the women in today's Gospel as they transitioned from myrrhbearers to apostles; like theirs, our tears have to change from tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

If we are afraid, we will miss the Good News of the Resurrection and will only live in fear – behind closed doors. Ignoring all the news of a better way. Insult and injury will continue to pile overtop one another as we lose the never ending battle against disappointments.

Our tithes, our work in the kitchen, our music, all the efforts that we put into our parish life are no longer done to preserve a corpse – much less a building – but given in service of the living God who is present here and fills all things. A God who cannot die. A God who has called us to join Him as He transforms this world into a more fitting place for all his children.

Let us now continue making our transition from sorrow to joy through our ritual participation in our Lord's death and resurrection, the holy Eucharist.

Direct download: 20180422-MyrrhbearersRitual.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:35pm EDT