Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Have an encounter with God

God could have called from heaven, “Your sins are forgiven! You’re good to go,” but He didn’t.
God could have waved His hands from heaven, “Death no longer has dominion over you,” but He didn’t.
God could have breathed His grace upon the world from heaven, but He didn’t.
Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 6:17-23 (RSV) - At that time, Jesus stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.  And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all.  And he lifted up his eyes on His disciples, and said: "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.  Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.  Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven."
 God could have been a distant all-powerful God casting judgment down from His Throne in heaven, but instead chose to enter into creation so we could have a true and physical encounter with God. His desire for our healing, sometimes expressed in physical miracles, ultimately requires our willingness to approach Him and touch Him to be healed from everything.


Orthodoxy is about having an encounter with God. Just as the crowd “sough to touch Him,” we can touch Him through the Eucharist. We can enter His House (the Church) and set our eyes upon His Glorious Altar of Sacrifice and call upon His Name. Orthodoxy is about being healed by God, in God. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First Responders Blessing

I had the distinct pleasure today to be with more than fifty first responders from the Florence area. There is a national movement to declare September 27th as National First Responders Day. As part of this effort we invited first responders to the Church this morning for a special blessing followed by a small breakfast to express our appreciation for the sacrifice these men and women offer each day. It was a joy just being in their presence today, but there was an extra blessing being able to offer a special prayer and blessing. We even sprinkled each emergency vehicle with Holy Water while the first responders waiting by each of their respective vehicles. Here are a few pictures from the day...






Here is the service that I assembled using parts of the Small Blessing of the Waters...

Blessed is our God always, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

PSALM 142
O Lord, hear my prayer; give ear unto my supplication in Your truth; hear me in Your righteousness and enter not into judgment with Your servant, for before, You shall not any man be justified. For the enemy has persecuted my soul: he has humbled my life to the earth. He has made me dwell in darkness like dead men of old; and anguished within me is my spirit, and within me my heart is troubled. I remembered the days of old, and I meditated on all Your works, I mused on the creations of Your hands. I stretched forth my hands to You; my soul like a waterless land thirsts for You. Quickly hear me, O Lord; my spirit has fainted away; turn not Your face from me lest I be like them that go down into the pit. Cause me to know, O Lord, the way wherein I should walk, for to You have I lifted up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord; to You for refuge have I fled, teach me to do Your Will, for You are my God; Your good Spirit shall guide me in the land of uprightness. For Your Name's sake, O Lord, shall You quicken me? In Your righteousness shall You lead forth my soul out of tribulation, and in Your mercy shall you destroy my enemies; and You shall cut off all them that afflict my soul, for I am Your servant.

Priest: The Lesson from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews. (Heb. 2:11-18)

Let us attend.

Reader: Brethren, he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: "I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you. And again: "I will put my trust in him." And again: "Here am I, and the children God has given me." Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Priest: Wisdom! Let us attend! Let us hear the Holy Gospel.

Peace be to all.

People: And to your spirit.

Priest: The Holy Gospel according to St. John. Let us attend.

People: Glory to You, O God; Glory to You.

Priest: The Gospel

At that time, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and troubled the water. And whoever stepped in first after the troubling of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

For the peace from above; for the salvation of our souls; let us pray to the Lord.

For the peace of the whole world; for the stability of the holy Churches of God; and for the union of all; let us pray to the Lord.

For this holy House; and for them that with faith, reverence, and the fear of God enter therein; let us pray to the Lord.

For our Archbishop ALEXIOS, for all the Clergy, and the people, let us pray to the Lord.

For the President of the United States and for all civil authorities; let us pray to the Lord.

For the First Responders here assembled and all first responders who place themselves in harm’s way; let us pray to the Lord.

For this city, for every city and land, for the faithful that dwell in them, let us pray to the Lord.

For seasonable weather; for abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times; let us pray to the Lord.

For all them that travel by land or sea, or in the air; for the sick, and the afflicted; for captives, and for their salvation; let us pray to the Lord.

That this water might be hallowed by the might, and operation, and descent of the Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.

That there may descend upon these waters the cleansing operation of the super substantial Trinity; let us pray to the Lord.

That this water may be to the healing of souls and bodies, and to the banishment of every hostile power, let us pray to the Lord.

That there may be sent down upon it the Grace of Redemption, the blessing of the Jordan; let us pray to the Lord.

For all of them who need God to help and give protection, let us pray to the Lord.

That He will illuminate us with the Light of understanding of the Consubstantial Trinity; let us pray to the Lord.

That the Lord our God will show us forth as sons and daughters and heirs of His Kingdom through the partaking and sprinkling of these waters; let us pray to the Lord.

That He will deliver us from all tribulation, wrath, danger, and necessity, let us pray to the Lord.

Help us; save us; have mercy on us; and keep us, O God, by Your Grace.

Calling to remembrance our all-Holy, pure, exceedingly blessed glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and one another and all our life to Christ our God.

For to You do we send up all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Priest: Let us bow our heads to the Lord.

O Lord our God, Who are mighty in counsel and wondrous in all Your deeds: the Creator of all things: Who keep Your Covenant and Your mercy upon all those who love You and keep Your commandments: Who receive the devout tears of all that are in distress: for this cause did You come in the similitude of a servant, scorning not our image but giving true health to the body and saying, "Lo! You are healed, sin no more." And with clay did make man's eyes whole, and having commanded him to wash, made him by Your word rejoice in the light, putting to confusion the floods of passions of enemies; and drying up the bitter sea of life of the same, subduing the waves of sensual desires heavy to be endured: do You, the same Lord and King Who loves mankind, Who has granted to us to clothe ourselves in the garment of snowy whiteness, by water and by Spirit: send down on us Your blessing, and through the partaking of this water, through sprinkling with it, wash away the defilement of passions.

Bow down Your ear and listen to us, O Lord, Who deigned to be baptized in the river Jordan, and there sanctified the water. Bless us all who by the bowing of our heads do show forth our apprehension that we are Your servants. Grant that we may be filled with Your sanctification through the partaking of this water, and let it be for us, O Lord, for the health of soul and body. For You are the sanctification of our souls and bodies, and to You do we send up all glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Priest: Glory to You, Christ our God and our hope, glory to you. May Christ our true God, who rose from the dead as a good, loving and merciful God, have mercy upon us and save us, through the intercessions of his most pure and holy Mother; the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honorable, bodiless powers of heaven; the supplications of the honorable, glorious prophet and forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious, and praise­worthy Apostles; the holy, glorious, and triumphant Martyrs; our holy God‑bearing Fathers; the holy, and righteous ancestors of God Joachim and Anna; of Saint (of the day) whose memory we com­memorate today, and all the saints.
Priest: Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.
People:Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Beyond Our Comfort Zone

Every now and then there comes a time in our life when God
calls us to reach out of our comfort zone and trust that He knows our abilities
and has our best interest in His mind. At those moments, it doesn’t do us any
benefit to look back at our failures but ahead to God’s glory and promise for a
blessed future. Too often our fears and lack of confidence take control and we
refuse to trust that God indeed knows what He is doing.