Sun, 29 September 2019
Homily: Why We Need to Love God to Really Love Our Neighbor
Great lesson from The Teacher: “what is the most important thing ever?” Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind!
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: To love God with the whole heart is the cause of every good. The second commandment includes the righteous acts we do toward other people. The first commandment prepares the way for the second and in turn is established by the second. For the person who is grounded in the love of God clearly also loves his neighbor in all things himself. The kind of person who fulfills these two commandments experiences all the commandments. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 157–158). InterVarsity Press.
Why is it so important? What can’t we just skip to the second one, as the non-believers do? Isn’t it enough just to love?
No. We have to be intentionally connected to the SOURCE of love. It’s like how our homes need to be connected to the generators through the power grid. We might be able to create enough energy “off-grid” to power some things some of the time, but in order for it to be consistent, we need to be on the grid, and that grid needs to be connected to the generators.
Without that, our “love” of your neighbor is going to be based on how we are feeling, and that is a terrible way to love. We can see how well this works just by looking around. Everyone can be nice and sacrificial and patient when it feels right; but who is willing to do it when it is hard and unpleasant?
Loving God with complete openness, humility, and awe allows His love to strengthen us; it also grants the ability to see God in our neighbor – even our enemy – so that when we are serving them we are also serving Him and thus remain “hooked up to the grid”, so to speak.
There is another point worth making because our context hides it from us: this openness, humility, and awe – this love of God with the whole heart, soul, and mind – needs to be done in community. It is made to be done within the Church. The Church is not just for us; it is the place where the conduit of love connecting us with God and one another is the purest and strongest. It is where we learn through experience how to have that source in us and connecting us; one pure love uniting, healing, empowering, and guiding us together.
Of course we can create connections without God, playing with institutions and laws and the distribution of power in hopes of finding an optimal solution [and we’ve done a pretty good job of that in our country because we have tried to create a system where the drive to take care of the self and the family requires one to find ways to serve the needs of others and where the earnest desire to serve others is rewarded with the ability to care for oneself and one’s family]… but even so, this can only go so far.
Without the connection to God and the ability to see the image of God in all our neighbors, we are still governed and limited by our own power and our own feelings and motivations. Without reliable access to the source of Goodness, Patience, Love, and Courage, even our system will either break down into an anarchy of competing feelings or calcify into a totalitarianism where one group’s idea of love – rooted in fallen ideologies and tribal egoism – will create a hell on earth.
It is not enough to be connected to one another and to try to “be nice.” Let me give one more example before I conclude. Many of us are connected to zillions of neighbors through social media. And when it works well, it is wonderful. But have you noticed how often it sours? How, even those we love and know to be good post things that create pain and division? Even groups that are explicitly Christian can dissolve into hellish pits of division, hurt feelings, and wickedness. We’ve all seen it, it isn’t good, and there has to be a better way.
There is, and what we are called to do, that thing we called “Orthodox Christianity” is it.
Being nice is not enough. Being “Christian” is not enough. That niceness and that “Christianity” need to be continually reinforced by the grace of God. This is only done through love, and this love is meant to be cultivated, experienced, and shared within the Church and from the Church to the world.
The fullness of that Church is meant to be found here in this, our parish home. If we open our hearts and our community to God through sincere worship and immersion in the sacraments; if we open our hearts to and serve one another and the hurting neighbors in our community; the conduit of love will be opened to maximum throttle and the grace of God will light us up and turn us into a beacon of hope and security to the world.
May our light so shine among men that they will see our good deeds and be drawn to worship the God who is in heaven.
Sat, 28 September 2019
Our Faith: Orthodox Christianity
Questions for consideration: does God just work through ideas and the heart, or does He work in the physical world, too? How about mankind? Is there such a thing as a blessing? A curse? How do they work?
Mysteries (not as in “strange”, but as in the way the ineffable God is made known and accessible.
An Apology for Orthodoxy: It is radically Incarnational. It takes God’s call for us to be stewards - and annointed ones - seriously. It also takes our own incarnation (psycho-somaticism) seriously. It also takes our pride seriously.
Next week: Orthodoxy as the medicine for pride.
Sun, 22 September 2019
Homily on the first Sunday of Luke (5:1-11). The Gospel is on Christ calling the disciples to become "fishers of men." This account at the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry bookends with a similar one that occurs after His Resurrection. Fr. Anthony reminds us in this homily that we live in the joy of that second account (even when our nets seem empty). Keep fishing!
Sat, 21 September 2019
This is a recording of the talk I gave for the “Ukrainian Historical Encounters Series” special event "Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Organized Ukrainian American Community" on 21 September 2019 at the Princeton Club of New York. I represented the UOC-USA on the panel on "The Ukrainian American Community and Religious Life". The moderator was Dr. Andrew Sorokowski [Religious Information Service of Ukraine]. The other presenters were the o. Ivan Kasczak (The Ukrainian Catholic Church) and Rev. Mykhailo Cherenkov (Ukrainian Evangelic Community).
Direct download: Talk_-_Ukrainian_Organization_and_Identity_-_the_role_of_the_UOC-USA.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Sun, 15 September 2019
Every time we do this, it is different. This time, the focus is on the spiritual peace and harmony offered through the Divine Liturgy. Sorry about the audio quality; enjoy the show!
Direct download: Excerpts_from_a_Teaching_Liturgy_-_A_Meditation_on_Being_One.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Sun, 8 September 2019
Homily on St. John 3:13-17. "The Lord said... as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up ... " What's that all about? Snakes and salvation. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 1 September 2019
The Gospel is St. Matthew 18:23-35 (the wicked servant who was forgiven but refused to forgive). The Divine Liturgy was our first in our new location. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 1 September 2019
The Gospel is St. Matthew 18:23-35 (the wicked servant who was forgiven but refused to forgive). God desires that we be one as He is One; forgiveness are essential for both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of this unity. Enjoy the show!