Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Last Night’s Prayer at RNC by a Greek Orthodox Bishop Didn’t Give Me “Warm Fuzzies”

As I watched the formal benediction prayer led by His Eminence Metropolitan METHODIOS of Boston at the Republican National Convention last night, I was left with a simple reaction….too bad. I won’t comment here on the content of the prayer since I am in no position to question the words of a senior hierarch of our Church. I have much respect for His Eminence having served for 18 months as his deacon while I was in seminary. My feeling of “too bad” was not about his character nor were they about the prayer. My reaction was because I see so little fruit from decades of so-called national spotlight. What do I mean?

National divorce rate…

National poverty level…

National domestic abuse rate…

National abortion rate…

National crime rate…

National debt…

National homelessness rate…

National “you fill in the blank” rate…and these are just the National statistics.

How about Orthodoxy?

A recent census of Orthodox Christianity has revealed a MUCH smaller presence in America than we had been “taking credit for” in recent decades. Our Churches remain ¾’s empty on most Sunday. On average only ¼ of all known Orthodox Christians are in Church on a given Sunday. At least in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese we have experienced an actual decline in membership and attendance in the past 25 years when you consider birth rate and compared to attendance.

So why the “too bad” you may ask? How can we have so much pride that a senior hierarch of our Church, and therefore our entire National Church, is honored to offer the benediction during a live televised national program when we as a Church have so little affect on the moral standing of our nation?

I’m not suggesting that the Church is to blame for society, but we haven’t made things better by participating in these events as the late Archbishop IAKOVOS suggested we would unless you use the excuse, “well it could have been worse." Actions speak louder than words, and I’m afraid our American Government and society at large have given us a lot of words without turning their hearts to Christ.

How many decades more will we as Orthodox Christians be lulled to sleep thinking we are having an impact “just because” we have a bishop on TV? The time has come for us as Orthodox Christians to REALLY make a difference and LIVE Orthodox Christian lives.

National divorce rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to our friends and family in struggling marriages and offer assistance and counseling.

National poverty rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to our neighbors with food and clothing and assistance to help get people back on their own two feet.

National domestic Abuse rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to our neighbors and family and friends and support struggling families to deal with the stresses that lead to violence.

National abortion rate? It’s time for US as individuals to teach and rededicate ourselves to a life of sexual purity where we no longer are forced to consider “unwanted pregnancies” and their impact on young lives.

National crime rate? It’s time for US as individuals to reach out to all people with a message of love and humility where people are not forced to consider crime as “the easy way out” but will consider the advice of Saint Paul “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3.10)

National debt? It’s time for US as individuals to live within our means and realize that we just can’t have everything we want.

National homelessness rate? It’s time for US as individuals to love our neighbor as ourselves and established more places where the poor can rest without fear of become themselves victims of crime.

You get the point….none of these requires a bishop on live television. Each of these requires that we live as faithful Orthodox Christians – dedicated followers of Jesus Christ.

As for the prayer? You can read it for yourself or watch the clip  below (compliments of CSPAN)

Let us pray,

"O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of truth Who is ever present and fills all things, the Treasure of all blessings and source of life, we beseech you to dwell in our hearts"[1] as we hold in prayer our brethren who suffer the ravages of Hurricane Isaac. Embrace them in your love and keep them safe. Enable us to reach out to them in acts of philanthropy and generosity.

As we close this evening's program, we pray that You bless and inspire the delegates of this Republican Convention to be your devoted servants and dedicated citizens of our great country. They have nominated two of your faithful sons, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, to serve the highest offices of this beloved land, a nation which has always opened its embrace to welcome "the tired, the poor and the huddled masses, all the tempest tossed to breathe free"[2] a nation that has always been a model of peace, justice and the rule of law. Shine in the hearts of the nominees of this convention the radiant light of Your divine will.  Imbue them and Chairman Reince Priebus, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with insight, wisdom, and boldness, with courage, compassion and competence.

Tonight, we remember the intrepid members of our armed forces who place themselves in harm's way in defense of our freedom, and like our Founding Fathers, are steadfast in keeping America the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

May every American be more sensitive:

To the neglected and forgotten

To those who have been victims of discrimination and crime

To those who are hungry and homeless

To those with no jobs and little hope
Help us, Lord, to break down the walls of enmity and distrust, and show us the way to a new era of peace, equality and opportunity. Strengthen the hand of America as it reaches out to clasp the hands of our brethren throughout the world to build bridges of understanding. May we rediscover the path that leads one to another, and all to You. Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What’s in a Translation?

Translations of Holy and Sacred texts are not to be taken lightly especially if we are to gather some level of truth from our reading. Too often I come across individuals who not only discard the issue as being unimportant, they pretend our Orthodox position is triumphal and arrogant. I could not disagree more with this position. (Obviously I am an Orthodox Christian Priest)

Today I was reviewing a new application for my iPhone (also available online) and I began to perform some of my routine translation tests.

2 Thessalonians 2.15 «Ἀρα ουν, αδελφοί, στήκετε και κρατείτε τας παραδόσεις ας εδιδάχθητε είτε διά λόγου είτε δι επιστολής ιμών.» (Greek New Testament – Published as Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament and confirmed quickly by myself using two liturgical resources)

2 Thessalonians 2.15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (NKJV – Published as Orthodox Study Bible by Thomas Nelson)

2 Thessalonians 2.15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (NKJV – as listed in my new eBible application)

So far…so good!

Then I went to Genesis. I recently remember a comment by Saint Basil regarding the Creation story. Saint Basil made a point of commenting on Genesis 1.5 by emphasizing the use of “one day” rather than first day. Here is how THAT test went..

Genesis 1.5 «Και εκάλεσεν ο Θεός το φως εμέραν και το σκότος εκάλεσε νύκτα, και εγένετο εσπέρα και εγένετο πρωί μία.» (Greek Old Testament – Published by Αδελφότης Θεολόγων «Ο ΣΩΤΗΡ» in Athens, Greece 1984)

Genesis 1.5 “God called the light Day; the darkness He called Night; and there was evening and morning, one day.” (SAAS – St Athanasios Academy Septuagint – Published as Orthodox Study Bible by Thomas Nelson USING NKJV as basis with modification to align with Septuagint)

Genesis 1.5 “So God called the light Day, and the darkness He called night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” (NKJV – as listed in my new eBible application)

WAIT JUST A MINUTE! Is it “one day” or “first day”?
Saint Basil seemed to think it was important. He says: "Why did Moses say 'one' and not 'first?' For someone who was about to speak of the 'second' and 'third' and 'fourth' day, would it not have been more consistent to call the day that preceded the others the 'first' day? Nevertheless, he called it 'one'...He named the summation of time not 'first,' but 'one,' so that by its name it may make clear its relation to the unending age...the great and pre-eminent day of the Lord...the day without evening and without succession, which the Psalmist has also named the 'eighth day' because it is outside of our seven-day cycle of time. Thus, if you say a day or an aeon, you express the same meaning". (Hex., Hom. II, 8)

In fact the eBible application has the following footnote:  “Lit. And evening was, and morning was, a day, one.” This supports both the Greek Old Testament and the Orthodox Study Bible which is based upon the NKJV. I should note that the Orthodox Study Bible and the eBible application are both from Thomas Nelson Publishers and yet they present the same text with different translations.

Translations are important. Sometimes I find Bibles that are so loose with translations I wonder what agenda was behind their publication. If we are seeking the Truth that IS God and we are using His sacred texts, shouldn’t we be all reading the same thing? And yet….we do not.

In the Orthodox Church, translation of Holy and Sacred Scripture is not to be taken lightly most especially because Doctrine is defined using the words of the Holy Scriptures. If we are loose with the translation, then we might become loose with the Doctrine.

The moral here?????? Beware of your translation! It ALWAYS matters! If you are considering the purchase of a new Bible or acquiring a new eBible application like I did today, consider who is producing the text and who is translating the text. In the end, it’s much safer to stick with a text that has been reviewed by the Church for accuracy.

And remember….your salvation depends upon it!

When Loving God Causes Others to Think You’re Crazy

In this morning’s Gospel according to St. Mark we hear, “Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” (Mark 3.20-21) This should be read in context with the next verse (to be read tomorrow) which says, “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebub,’ and, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’” (Mark 3.22) Later we hear Jesus’ family had actually come to escort Him away from the growing crowds.

In the Light of God’s saving mercy and Love, even those close to Him did not always understand who He really was.  There will be times in your life, as there were in Jesus’ life, when your closest friend and confidant will wonder why you are “acting so religious” and insisting on talking about Jesus all the time or “always wanting to be in Church.” What will you say?

Even as a Priest I get this response from some of my friends. You might expect a Priest to always be talking about Jesus. Some even suggest to me, “Why don’t you get a hobby?” As if spending so much time with Jesus, talking about Him, praying to Him, or sometimes just being with Him in His Church, is somehow dangerous…

It might be considered dangerous for those whose guilt may run so deep that your devotion provides a witness to their lack of devotion. That’s just when it grows ever difficult to maintain friendships with non-believers. The closer you grow to Jesus Christ the less you have in common with non-believers. The really difficult part is when your friends (or family) ARE believers and still they accuse you of spending too much time being religious.

Let’s set the record straight….IT IS NEVER DANGEROUS TO SPEND TIME WITH GOD and it is IMPOSSIBLE to be too religious. So what will you say when your friends accuse you of being too religious? I have some suggestions…

1.       I’m not too religious; I just enjoy spending time with God.

2.       What does too religious mean?

3.       Are you jealous? (Use this one only if it’s a really close friend)

4.       Why do you care how I spend my personal time?

As for hobbies, I think they can be a very positive addition to life. I like to garden. I’m not that good, but I like to spend time in my garden planting seeds and nourishing the plants and, quite literally reaping what I sow. The truth is that many hobbies such as gardening ALLOW for prayer. I spend my time in prayer in the garden. That way I can spend time in prayer, get some fresh air, and get some physical exercise, all with the benefit of eating fresh chemical-free veggies from my back yard. Of course there are hobbies not so conducive to Christian living. Anything that takes us away from our constant consciousness of God’s presence should be avoided, but that is the subject for another day.

And just in case your family (and/or friends) come looking to take you away from another Church service, remember what Jesus said, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?...Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.’” (Mark 3.33-35)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Getting to Root of Your Heart; The Invitation to Enter into Eternal Life

Getting to Root of Your Heart; The Invitation to Enter into Eternal Life

“What good thing must I do to enter into eternal life?” This sounds simple enough…but don’t be fooled by Christ’s response to, “Keep the commandments.” Just when we think we may have done enough, Jesus calls us to dig deeper into our heart and reveal our true desire. If we truly desire to follow Him, we will not only keep His commandments, we will be willing to leave everything behind just to follow Him. Take a few moments this week and prepare yourself for the new Ecclesiastical Year by evaluating just how far short you may have fallen in your journey to be with Christ. It might seem impossible, but with God all things are possible.


This week’s sermon will air DAILY AT NOON on Transfiguration Radio or you may download it directly using the links below…


Transfiguration Radio

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Food for Thought - Heaven or Hell?

A question came up last night during Bible study about heaven and hell. Someone asked whether or not Hitler would be in the presence of God with us. The question comes from the prevailing Church’s teaching that hell is more of a state of our heart rather than a physical location of torture chambers and boiling oil and fire. So I try to remind people that we will ALL be with God when we die. If we love Him it will be heaven…if we don’t love Him it will be hell. If we love Him, then seeing Him love others will be heaven. If we don't love Him, then seeing Him love others will be hell. The question was more of a statement, “that doesn’t seem fair….” On the drive home, as happens so often, the answer came to me….

It isn’t about fair; it’s about God’s universal love for ALL people, sinners and non-sinners.  The Lord said,

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.' So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 'Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.  'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen." (Matthew 20.1-16)

Our reward (call it heaven if you wish) will be given to us based upon how WE respond to how God has promised US. If we can’t get past how He will reward others with the same reward as He gives to us, then our reward will seem like torture and hell.

Is there judgment? Yes!

Is God the judge? Yes!

Will some suffer? According to His own testimony…Yes!

Will WE suffer? That depends upon our hearts.

Is it fair? If you consider there is nobody who is without sin, where should God set the boundary to heaven….just beyond of “those” sinners or “us” sinners?

Food for thought…

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Have You Taken Up Your Cross Today?

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9.23

The call of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to each of us to take up our cross daily is a call to a life of sacrifice and service to others in the Name of Jesus Christ. It is also a foreign call for us in America – a society built upon freedom and self-promotion above all others. How can we reconcile the call of Christ to take up our cross with living in America? This is a call to martyrdom in a contemporary setting of skyscrapers and internet cafes.

Each year in September our Church calls our attention to the Cross of Christ as a symbol of life. The cross has been a source of confusion for many, and some even refuse to display it because they see only death rather than life. For us Orthodox Christians it is a sign and source of life. On September 14th each year the Church celebrates the Elevation of the Life-Giving Cross found by Saint Helen in 325AD. According to Church history, Saint Helen, in search of the Cross of Christ, found it lying among debris. It was found along with two other crosses causing Saint Helen to wonder which the Life-Giving Cross of our Lord was. Inspired by Saint Makarios, Archbishop of Jerusalem, a woman at the point of death from disease was nearby. Once the woman touched the Cross her health was restored, revealing not only that this was the true Cross of Christ but also revealing its healing powers bestowed by God. It was in response to this miracle that Saint Makarios elevated the Cross in the Church for all to see – thus the Feast’s name “Elevation of the Life-Giving Cross.”

This is the same Cross that Christ asks each of us to take up daily for Him. We are expected by our Lord to die to the world in order that we may live with Him in Heaven. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, will find it,” says the Lord. (Matthew 16.25) How do we lose our life for Christ in 2012? The answer is simpler than you might imagine…

To take up our Cross for the Lord is to crucify our will for His will. Every time we act; every time we think; every time we speak; we are called upon by God to act, think and speak according to God’s will rather than our own will. Does God desire for us to bring our tithe (10% Stewardship) to the Church? (Matthew 23.23) Then we should obey Him. Does God desire for us to care for the poor and needy? (Matthew 25.35) Then we should obey Him. Does God desire us to worship Him and pray to Him without ceasing? (1 Thessalonians 5.17) Then we should worship and pray at every opportunity. Does God desire for us to be reconciled with each other? (Matthew 6.14) Then we should obey Him. And He expects us to do this DAILY if we want to follow Him to heaven.

Do you want to follow Jesus Christ to heaven? Then obey Him and take up your cross DAILY and follow Him. Please join us in worship on Friday, September 14th at 9am for Divine Liturgy in honor of the Feast of the Elevation of the Life-Giving Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is also a day of strict fasting and prayer.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

We Cannot Play Hide-and-Seek with God

“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” (Matthew 18.23) In any moment on any day the Lord is going to return and settle accounts with us. Will we be ready for Him, or still trying to hide our hearts from His all-seeing eyes? If we do not find a way to forgive even the smallest sin against us, the Lord will hand us over to be tortured for all eternity. Don’t waste another day! Call someone today and settle your accounts before the Lord calls out, “Ready or not here I come.”

This Week’s Sermon will air each day this week at 12NOON on Transfiguration Radio (link below) or you can download it at

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Life isn’t a game…it’s about forgiveness

When we were children we played games like hide-and-seek. The “seeker” would count to ten and call out “ready or not, here I come” and then rush out to find those who were hiding. Once the “seeker” reached “10” there was no chance if we had not found a place to hide. Our best chance was to outrun the seeker to “base” and hope we could avoid being caught. Games are fun….but they aren’t life.

There are several times in the Gospel when Jesus tells us exactly what is going to happen when He returns to judge the world. “The Kingdom of heaven is like…” and Jesus clearly describes what will take place. This week He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” (Matthew 18.23) We can almost hear Jesus calling “Ready or not, here I come.”

Obviously life isn’t a game, and once Jesus returns to judge it will be too late to make good on all the promises we have made to forgive and love others. In the Gospel the master, “was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.” (Matthew 18.34) Just how do we think He will deal with us?

When Jesus returns to judge the world we each will have to give an account of how we have forgiven others who sin against us. If we refuse to forgive others who sin against us, then the Father will not forgive us. He says very clearly, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18.35)

Life isn’t a game…it’s about forgiveness.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Greek Orthodox Church sponsors conversation on faith and science

Greek Orthodox Church sponsors conversation on faith and science


(Florence, SC – August 2, 2012) For centuries the Christian Church peacefully coexisted with the pursuit of science, at times even entering into conversation over the newest knowledge of our natural world. But something changed in recent centuries as science has seemingly taken a position of antagonism toward faith and faith toward science. But it wasn’t always the case. In recent centuries, some think, there has been a battle between faith and science and in recent years this battle has reached dangerous levels of rhetoric with “both sides” demonizing their opposition.

“The Orthodox Christian Church, understanding the call of God to be stewards of creation, has never been afraid to engage science in conversation to better understand our role as human beings,” said Father Athanasios C Haros, Pastor of the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence. “This is why we have invited Dr. Daniel Buxhoevden of the University of South Carolina to enter with the Church into a conversation on faith and science.”

Dr Daniel Paul Buxhoeveden, Research Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina, received an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, a PhD in biological anthropology from the University of Chicago, and a JD from Loyola University. The last few years have been devoted to religion and science with emphasis on Orthodoxy and science. He formed and is the director of the religion and science initiative at the University of South Carolina and received a grant to study science and the Orthodox Church from the John Templeton Foundation as well as the Virginia Farah Foundation. He currently teaches honor’s college classes on religion and science and evolution and Christianity.  Last fall he edited a book with Gayle Woloschak entitled “Science and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The “Conversation on Faith and Science” will include a synthesis of past centuries’ attitude of the Ancient Church toward science in general and a brief overview on the Orthodox Christian Church’s position on Creation. Following the formal presentations, an informal question and answer session will take place allowing members of the audience to interact with the presenters.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Do I Want What God Wants?

When a man brought his ailing son to Jesus for healing because the Disciples couldn’t heal him, Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” (Matthew 17.17) After Jesus healed the son, He then turned His attention to His Disciples who asked why they couldn’t heal the son. Jesus said, “Because of your unbelief.” (Matthew 17.20)

Many of us would hear these words as scolding because we are not accustomed to hearing Jesus call His Disciples unbelievers. They were following Him from town to town through deserts and wilderness. One would seriously doubt Jesus thought they were faithless. So what really is Jesus trying to tell us today in this Gospel passage?

Most of us like to think we are believers and followers of Jesus Christ, but when we are challenged by something not going as we would prefer, we question why we didn’t get what we wanted. This reflects our selfish desires rather than our faith in God. For many of us, so long as God wants what we want, we are willing to believe Him. But when He wants something we don’t want, instead of changing our desires, we question Him, “Why?”

Any parent has heard this question a thousand times so we can appreciate what God must be going through when He says, “How long am I to be with you?” But unlike us, God remains patient and calm, and sometimes stern, as He continues to teach us to desire what He desires.

Something to think about this week…. “Do I want what God wants?” If not, who should change?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Supplies Needed for New Zealand and Fiji Mission

I have mentioned before that Be transfigured! Blog supports the mission of Father Paul Patitsas and his family to New Zealand and the Fiji Islands. They are in need of spiritual books and supplies for the mission work. Specifically they need:

Bibles ($600 per case for Orthodox Study Bibles)

Prayer Books

Liturgical Books

Please DO NOT SEND BOOKS as they are too difficult to ship from Florence. Please consider making a donation using the link to the right and support the mission work in New Zealand and Fiji. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. All donations (less PayPal and credit card fees) are used directly for the support of the mission in New Zealand and the Fiji area.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Obedience Requires Faith

When Christ needed to spend some time in prayer and solitude, He “made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.” (Matthew 14.22) I doubt the disciples would have anticipated the challenge to their faith in Jesus Christ that was about to take place. The Gospel says, “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” (Matthew 14.24) The waves were so strong and the disciples were so afraid that when they saw Jesus coming to them, they thought it was a ghost and they “cried out for fear.” (Matthew 14.26)

Many times we find that being obedient to Jesus Christ comes with a challenge to our faith. And it sometimes brings a bit of fear that we will not survive the storm of life. It wouldn’t be faith if we knew without doubt in our own abilities. Ever since God’s created humanity He created us to be in a community as a help for each other, both physically and emotionally or spiritually. But just as in the Garden, humanity can fall away during faith challenges in a community just as easily as to remain faithful.

In the face of a great storm Saint Peter was able to walk on water because He had faith in Jesus Christ. As long as he remained focused upon Jesus Christ, he was safe. It was only when he took his eyes off of Christ that he began to sink crying out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14.30) The same hold true for us. We are a community, established by God more than 50 years ago to assist each other in our daily struggles and faith challenges. They won’t always be easy, but when we remain focused upon Jesus Christ, the storm will subside and we will find ourselves safe in His loving embrace.

Join Saint Peter today and take a leap of faith in Christ. It may be a bit scary, but in the end you will find yourself safe and sound in Christ’s loving arms.