TAX COLLECTORS & HARLOTS BELIEVED

“What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.’” (Mt 21: 28-32) How is it that the

DAILY FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION

“Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15: 12-14) We might not walk around “saying” that there is “no resurrection of the dead,” but at the same time, we might live as if we didn’t believe in it, really. How is it that we “believe” in the resurrection of the dead? We “await” it, or “expect” it, or even “yearn” for it, as we say in the Creed: “Προσδοκῶ” ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν / “expecto” resurrectionem mortuorum / “чаю” воскресения мертвых. As Chris

FINDING ALONE-TIME WITH GOD

“Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…” (Mt 14: 22-23) Did our Lord Jesus Christ “need” to go up on a mountain, and be “by himself to pray”? – As God, no, He did not have need of anything. But as far as His human nature is concerned, – yes, He did, because alone-time with God is a vital part of human being, or of being human. As Christ shows us what it means to be truly human, we see here that part of our process, of “becoming human” in Christ, involves finding alone-time with God.This summer, i

WE ARE THE LORD’S

“He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Rom 14: 6-9) How “liberal” of St. Paul, to put our minds to rest like this, not only with regard to our various traditions of fasting and feasting, but also to our various ways of “living” a

SPEAKING BY FAITH

“I believed, therefore I spoke; I was greatly humbled.” (Ps 115: 1, LXX / cf. Ps 116: 10, KJV) What a beautiful, Spirit-filled moment the Psalmist shares with us here: he’s been compelled to speak, by and from the conviction of his faith, and “greatly humbled” by that experience. When we make the “living water” of God’s word our “own,” imbibing it in faith, it flows out of us in our own words, somehow also filling us with the gentle grace of humility; with the gentle realism that is humility, and clearing up the burdensome confusion of merely-human words. Just as the Lord promises us, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will b

NOT TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE

“…And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20: 26-28) The ten disciples are “indignant” at the two brothers, James and John, because their mother has just asked Jesus that her sons be given the primary two positions in His “kingdom.” And the ten disciples are “indignant

LONELY, YET FRUITFUL

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.’ Now

WE ALL “BELONG”

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all immersed / baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were given to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (1 Cor 12: 12-14) The Body of Christ, the Church, is God’s answer to our human need, nay, our human thirst, to “belong.” And yet it seems that it is in the Church, both in our time and in St. Paul’s time, (which is why he writes the assurances he does above), that many of us, at least from time to time, quite easily come to feel that we do “not” belong. Why? As far as I’ve obs

CUT IT OFF AND THROW IT AWAY

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Mt 18: 7-9) Here the Lord is talking about the worst kinds of “temptations to sin,” – the kinds that are coming to us through something/someone important or dear to us, like one of our arms or feet

WHAT'S IN A NAME

“But Mary (Magdalene) stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.

SPEAKING FROM THE HEART

"And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” (Mt 12: 32-35) If I find myself “running off at the mouth,” or overtalking in a way that begins to burden my conscience, it’s time to examine not primarily my words

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER

“The Word of God came to Elijah the Tishbite in the third year of the reign of Ahab, saying, ‘Go, and show yourself to Ahab; and I will bring rain upon the face of the earth.’ And it came to pass when Ahab saw Elijah, that he said to him, ‘Are you he that troubles Israel?’ And Elijah said ‘I do not trouble Israel, but it is you and your father’s house, in that you forsook the Lord God, and you followed after Baal…’” (1 (3) Kings 18: 17-18) The great Prophet Elijah, celebrated this Friday (NC), speaks truth to power, – to power both political and religious. Because at that time, the king determined not only the politics, but also the religion of his people. I’m not the trouble-maker, Elijah s

ABIDING IN THE SHELTER

“He that dwells in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say unto the Lord: You are my helper and my refuge. He is my God, and I will hope in him.” (Ps 90: 1-2, Septuagint-translation) The words we choose to say about ourselves affect the way we act and are. These words of Psalm 90 paint a picture for me, of how I’d like to see myself throughout this day, “abiding in the shelter” of God’s grace. I will go about my business, doing the things I need to do and having the conversations I need to have. But all the while I will also be walking in God’s “house,” in His presence, and “dwelling” in His help. Lord, I open my heart to Your presence this mor

AVOIDING DRAMA

“Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10: 12-13) Two things the Apostle is warning us about here, whether we find ourselves in “good” times, during which we might feel that we “stand” quite tall, or whether we’re having “bad” times of some “temptation,” which is calling us to “fall” apart and away from our God-focused path to “salvation” (a “return to wholeness”). In the first, “good” case, he tells us not to make the worst

FINANCIAL CONCERNS & FAITH

“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘We brought no bread.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said, ’O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they und

THIS IS THE DAY

“This is the day that the Lord has created; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps 117: 24, Septuagint-translation) Which day is “this” day, in which I am called to rejoice and be glad? It’s today. It’s this, all-new Monday morning, “that the Lord has created” and given to me, in a beautiful city with a beautiful sunrise, in which I am given, once again, to wake up, get out of bed, and live anew. Whatever the blessings or challenges are in my life this morning, I know, in faith, that I am called to receive them not in self-isolation or fear, as if I or my “day” were divorced from the bigger picture of God’s creation. No, I receive this day, and am received, today, as part of divinely-willed

“THE DOORS! THE DOORS!”

Deacon: “The doors! The doors! In wisdom, let us be attentive (ἐν σοφίᾳ πρόσχωμεν)!”People/Choir: “I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth...“ (Byzantine Divine Liturgy) In today’s liturgical practice of the Russian Orthodox and other Slavs, or Slav-influenced churches, at the command, (originally meaning to close and/or guard) “The Doors,” the curtain of the Holy/Royal Doors of the iconostasis is drawn open, while the Holy/Royal Doors remain closed, as they have been since the end of the Great Entrance. But in Greek Orthodox practice today, nothing happens with the “doors” at this moment, as they usually remain open throughout the Divine Liturgy. And this is one e

KEEP THINGS SIMPLE

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual/divinely-reasonable worship (λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν). Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to be high-minded above/beyond what needs to be minded (μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν παρ᾽ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν), but to think with sober judgment (φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν), each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” (Rom 12: 1-3) The message I carry away fro

ST. PAUL ON VIRGINITY & MARRIAGE

“Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in his mercy has made trustworthy. I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in/of the flesh (θλῖψιν τῇ σαρκὶ), but I would spare you.” (1 Cor 7: 24-28) Differently from later Christian ascetical writers on the topic, w

I DO NOT RUN AIMLESSLY

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9: 24-27) St. Paul frequently uses athletic metaphors to describe our journey of salvation. As an effective teacher, he uses the familiar, sports, to explain the less-familiar, the mysteries of the human-divine process called “salvation,” or our “return to wholeness” or oneness with G

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