Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sharing Fruit

There are many examples in the Gospels where
Jesus warns about not bearing fruit, but in the Parable of the Vineyard in
Matthew 21.33-42, He teaches about not sharing fruit and what happens to the
wicked and greedy stewards when the King returns. The Church is the Vineyard of
Christ, and if we refuse to bear fruit, or unwilling to share the Church with
others, then we risk the Church being taken away from us and being given to new
stewards who will be willing to share the fruit when the time comes. The wicked
and greedy stewards were kicked out of the garden. Before we find ourselves on
the outside looking in, Jesus has given us another opportunity for repentance.
With the beginning of the New Ecclesiastical Year starting, it is a perfect
opportunity for a fresh start and look forward to sharing our fruit with the

Friday, August 28, 2015

Beware, Lest the Church is Taken Away

The Gospels are filled with moments when Jesus warned the Jews that if they were not willing to bear fruit for God, He would remove them from the Church, and invite others to enter the Kingdom. As Christians, we are thankful that God has invited us to enter into His Church to become the New Israel, and receive the adoption as sons and daughters of God. But we should be careful not to become too comfortable with our entrance into the Church.

In the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21.33-42), after the continuous actions of greed and violence toward the King’s servants and the His Son, Jesus said, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” (Matthew 21.41) It has always been understood that Jesus was speaking about the unfaithful Jews and the invitation of the gentiles to enter the Church. But He was also speaking to the Church of today.

If God was willing to take His Church away from the Jews, His chosen people, because of their cold hearts and refusal to bear the fruits of faith, He will surely do the same for us in the Church today. As Saint Paul said, “Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.” (Romans 11.20-21)

It is never too late, to repent and begin to bear fruit of faith for the glory of God. As the Bishop’s prayer during the Divine Liturgy reminds us, “Lord, Lord, look down from heaven and behold the vineyard which Your right hand has planted.” May our hearts never grow cold, and may the fruit of our faith always glorify God.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Crowning the Year with Goodness

Christ our God, Your kingdom is an everlasting one, and Your lordship is over all. You have made all things with wisdom and have established proper times and seasons for our lives. We give thanks to You in all circumstances and for all things. Lord, bless the beginning of our Church year with Your goodness. Grant that this liturgical year be for all of us a year of grace. Make us worthy with purity of heart always to praise You. Lord, glory to You!

Each year the Orthodox Christian Church begins the New Church Year with this prayer. September 1st, as the first day of the Church Year, is also a day in which the Orthodox Church commemorates and celebrates God’s creation, which He gave for our salvation. In creating the Universe, God established the way we could find Him, and live in communion with Him. His creation – the birds of the air, the fish in the sea, the animals on the earth, and the vegetation that feeds the world – are all given to us by God for one purpose, to find Him.

The created world, which the Church also uses during each of the Mysteries (Sacraments), has been created to bestow God’s grace upon humanity through His Church. He created us in His Divine Image, so that we could grow into His Divine Likeness. By celebrating, honoring, and blessing His creation, we are offering it back to Him in thanksgiving for the many blessings He has given to us in our daily struggle to grow closer to Him.

When the Church asks God to bless the year with His Goodness, we are expressing our total dependence upon His loving mercy and guidance. Without the created world, we would not know God. In each and every miracle He performed, it was THROUGH His creation that He revealed His power and love to the world. And it was THROUGH His creation, becoming PART of His creation, that He ultimately saved, saves, and will save us.

I invite you to take the opportunity this year to make a new commitment to Christ. I invite you to make the time each week to include time with God in His Church, surrounded by others in His creation, to grow closer to Him. I encourage you to invite Him into your life, and to ask Him to crown your year with goodness and mercy.

If you want to grow closer to God, His has given His creation and His Church to assist you. May God crown your new year with goodness, mercy and blessings.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Good Thing Must I do to Have Eternal Life

It is a question we all ask, but are we really interested in
the answer? “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” These were the
words of a rich man, who THOUGHT He wanted to go to heaven. But when he heard
what would be required of him, he went away sorrowful. When pushed for an
answer, Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, sell what you have, and give to
the poor, and follow me.” If we cannot bear the idea of living in complete
poverty; if we cannot bear the idea of leaving “it all” behind, then we will
walk away from God full of sorrow. If we really to follow Jesus into heaven,
then we will live the life of the Church, which He established to lead us to
heaven. What good thing must you do? Live the life of the Church and you will
find your heart with Jesus and you will follow Him into heaven.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Words Mean Something

When a certain young rich man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19.16) Knowing the condition of the young man’s heart, Jesus asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Matthew 19.17) The truth was, the young man didn’t really look to the Lord as either Good or a teacher. He was more interested in keeping hold of his wealth than to be guided by Christ. As the Gospel says, the young man, “Went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19.22)

When what we feel in our hearts does not match the words that come from our lips, we cannot experience the joy that comes from knowing Christ. When we speak words we think the other wants to hear, we cannot even begin to have an honest relationship with each other. If our words do not express our heart, we are not only lying, we are denying ourselves the opportunity of having any type of relationship, and we walk away sorrowful.

Some might think it simply isn’t possible to always ‘mean what we say, and say what we mean.’ The Disciples thought the same thing when they heard Jesus say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.... ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."” (Matthew 19.24-6) And Jesus always means what He says!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Registration is NOW OPEN for this year's Weekly LIVE STREAM Bible Study on the Book of Acts. By registering online, you receive weekly direct links to watch AND participate in the LIVE STREAM Bible study. You will also receive links to our weekly study guides to assist you in preparing for each session. Registration is FREE, so what are you waiting for?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Your Account Has Come Due

When Jesus speaks to us about forgiveness, He
uses the image of financial debt and the emotional burden of greed that goes
along with finances. In the Gospel story of about forgiveness, Jesus offers the
parable of a king forgiving a debt that could never have been paid off, but was
forgiven. The greedy servant, rather than being thankful for the mercy shown to
him by the king, immediately demanded his fellow servant to “either pay up, or
go to jail,” even though the debt was a mere 100-days pay. Greed had created a
cold heart on the part of the servant, so the king sentenced him to prison.
What does this parable have to teach us? Jesus warns, "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) Your account has come due, and
Jesus is willing to forgive the debt of your sins. In return, He asks you to
open your heart to those who sinned against you, and forgive them, just as He
has forgiven you. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What Good is Prayer and Fasting?

I hear it all the time. “I prayed really hard, and STILL God
didn’t answer my prayer.” This sense of frustration is common especially during
times of serious illness and death of our loved ones. The Gospel tells of just
this sense of frustration in the father who had a son so ill that even the
Apostles couldn’t heal him, and Jesus said, “This kind does not go out except
by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17.21) What was Jesus talking about?

Friday, August 7, 2015

What is Gained by Prayer and Fasting?

Shortly after He was transfigured on Mount Tabor, Jesus was met by a father who had a sick child. Nobody had been able to cure his son, not even the Disciples. The man said to Jesus, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” (Matthew 17.15-16) When Jesus challenged the man to believe, the man said, “I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9.24) Neither the faith of the Disciples NOR the father was strong enough to cure the boy of his epilepsy. So what did Jesus say?

“If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move....However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17.21) Jesus knew their faith needed to become stronger, so He reminds them of the power of prayer and fasting. Their faith could not grow so long as they remained focused on the physical world.

This story isn’t about physical healing, but about faith. Jesus was not promising us that we will always be healed when we pray and fast. He was telling us that when we pray and fast, our faith grows stronger; and when our faith grows stronger, we are able to better understand the illness that affects us. Without faith, we will remain spiritually paralyzed. With faith, “nothing will be impossible.” (Matthew 17.20) What does Jesus mean when says, “nothing” will be impossible? With a stronger faith, we will realize that life isn’t about physical health and comforts, but about uniting ourselves to God through Holy Communion and His Church.

Are you praying and fasting? Your faith will grow strong when you do.