Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Role of a Disciple of Christ

Moments after Saint Andrew, the First-called Apostle, encountered Jesus Christ, he ran home and told his brother the Good News. “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1.41) The news traveled throughout the city as Simon Peter told Philip, who told Nathanael. Good News is hard to keep quiet.

When Jesus Christ sent His Disciples out share the Good News (Gospel – Ευαγγέλιον), He gave a simple commandment. “Go therefore and make disciple of all the nations.” (Matthew 28.19) Saint Andrew traveled to a small port-town called Byzantium, which would later become the center of the longest lived empire in world history. While there, Saint Andrew obeyed the commandment of Jesus Christ and shared the Good News about the Savior with the city, and made disciples of Christ. And what did they do? They traveled throughout the known region and shared the Good News they had received with others, because as we know Good News is hard to keep quiet.

Just over two hundred years ago, Russian Orthodox Missionaries arrived on what would become “American soil” and shared the same Good News with the Native Peoples of Alaska. Around the same time, Greek Orthodox faithful arrived on the East coast in Florida and later in New Orleans to continue the history of making disciples of all the nations. Today there are more than 500,000 Orthodox Christians living as disciples of Jesus Christ. Now it’s our turn to share the Good News, and bring Orthodoxy to every corner of this great American Nation. It’s the role of every disciple.

Trust Leads to Peace

In the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12.16-21) we witness the result of a life void of peace. Rather than trusting that God would provide for his family, the rich farmer panicked, tore down his already filled barns and was about to build new larger barns when God called him. When we are unable to trust in God’s willingness or abilities to provide for the needs of our family, we run the risk of living in fear rather than peace. God has given us numerous reasons to trust Him, even offering us the chance to test our trust in Him. This week’s episode offers a chance to learn to trust God, and experience for yourself, that trust leads to peace.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When Politics Becomes Spiritual

There is a temptation in American politics to separate our spiritual lives from our political lives. It is growing ever popular to hear self-proclaimed devout Christian politicians championing policies theoretically in opposition to their personal spiritual beliefs. There is no limit, politically speaking, to this trend as it exists “on both sides of the aisle” of Washington, D.C. But have you ever wondered what would happen if politics DID become spiritual?

Realistically speaking it is impossible for our spiritual journey NOT to interfere with our politics, but political hypocrisy may not be as rampant as some may think. Every human struggles with the same fallen reality, and the temptation to please the self rather than God and others. It is why Jesus Christ commanded us to deny ourselves if we desired to follow Him. Until we can stop the focus on ourselves, we cannot begin to focus upon Him. The “self” is where ALL POLITICS is spiritual.

Politicians are nothing more than a skilled sales force, and the product they are selling, is power and control. Everyone seems to want it, and will do anything to get it. So, when a politician offers it, the votes just come rolling in. Who could blame a sales force for altering the sales pitch if product isn’t moving off the shelves? And who would blame a manufacturer for making changes to a product to keep it “fresh” in front of the consumer. Shoe styles change, so why shouldn’t political styles. Sales is sales.

Over the years certain products “go out of fashion” and are ultimately removed from the marketplace. When was the last time you saw a LeCar driving down your street? The consumer is in total control over what product remain popular. The more the consumer wants to buy, the more items are made. They call it supply and demand in business school. THAT’s where you and I come in...

You are I are the consumers of politics. If the sales force is successful in moving product, it is because we are the ones buying it. Consider the last the political movement that you purchased. Was it not in some way a bit of control and power over something or someone? And this is why politics is spiritual...

Since we continue to struggle with our fallen condition, and serving our selfish desires, what we “buy” in politics is integral to our spiritual journey. If we seek power and control, we will purchase more of it from the “sales force” offering more of it on the ballot. Every candidate is selling it, so what brand we purchase makes little difference to the sales force. Of course, every sales pitch comes with incentives. Power and control with a bit of “cash back” thrown in, and the shelves empty - the trifecta of politics.

As Orthodox Christians currently in the Nativity Fast, and with Thanksgiving just a few days away, we should take more seriously our spiritual struggle of selfish desire. This is the perfect opportunity, through increased prayer and fasting and serving to poor, to work to defeat our selfishness rather than sell it to the nearest politician. Something to think about during the Fast.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Greed is Spiritual Cancer

In the parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus teaches us the deadly result of a greedy heart. Faced with full barns and a banner crop, the Rich Fool panics because he has no place to store his growing wealth. “I will do this,” he says, “I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” (Luke 12.18) Unfortunately for the Rich Fool, that was the night he would die and face judgment for the condition of his heart.

Greed is a cancer that eats away at our heart, one dollar at a time. Each of us has been blessed with material gifts from God. Each of us is faced with considering how we will make use of the wealth that God has given us. Will we panic and attempt to store our wealth for tomorrow thinking we will enjoy comfort for years to come? This was the mistake of the Rich Fool when he said, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12.19) Will we be grateful for the blessings that God has given to us and use them for His glory helping and serving others?
Greed is a cancer that turns the heart inward toward darkness rather than upward toward the Light of God. Once our heart has been affected by this cancer, it begins to spread to every other part of our body. A greedy heart fills our minds with hate for our fellow human beings. A greedy heart recognizes only cold, hard cash rather than the warmth of fellowship. A greedy heart sends the cancerous poison of selfishness to our minds, hands, feet, and eventually our very soul dies in darkness.

“So is he who lays up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12.21) Lucky for us...we still have time to be thankful. Something to consider this year for Thanksgiving.