Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Long ago, barrenness was always seen as a curse. In ancient times progeny was a sign of blessing and a hope of establishing the parent’s memory beyond the grave. So to be childless was to be feared. Barrenness humbled to the lower rungs of society.
Such a woman was Hannah. She was the wife of Elkanah and shared him with a second wife. Elkanah's second wife bore him children, but Hannah remained barren. Hannah was ridiculed by the other wife because of her childlessness.
The family took an annual trip to the Israelite place of worship. During this trip, Hannah cried out to God in her sorrow, and begged for her humiliation to be removed. Her weeping was so deep that her lips moved before God but no sound was heard. This display caused the resident priest, Eli, to accuse her of drunkenness. She revealed her heart to Eli, and spoke of the prayer and vow she had made to the Lord. She had promised to give the child back to God, if He would give her a boy.
Returning home, she soon was with child. The son that was born would be known as Samuel and he would be a great prophet among God's people. After he was weaned, she took him back to the temple to be given into the care of the priest Eli.
Her return to the temple was accompanied by song. And it is this song in 1 Samuel (1 Kingdoms) 2:1-10 that becomes Ode 3 in the soundtrack of the Church.
The Church in her writings and humility draws 5 ideas from this hymn.
1. No one is Holy but God (vs. 2). No where is this more present than the Ode 3 hymns of Holy Week. For God alone can do what man cannot. He descends into the grave and destroys death.
When it saw you, who had hung the whole earth freely on the waters, hanging on
Golgotha, creation was seized with great amazement and cried, ‘None is holy, but You, O Lord.’ –Holy Friday Hymn
You opened out your palms and united things that before were separated, while by being closed in a shroud and a grave, O Savior, You loosed those who were fettered. None is holy, but You, O Lord.
2. God strengthens the weak. God strengthens and establishes those with no power, but to cry out to Him.
3. God exalts the humble. This phrase is common throughout Scripture, and presents a truth that is paradoxical. We are all weak in the presence of God, and that awareness brings God’s exaltation. A simple shepherd, considered the runt of his family, became
Only the prayer of Hannah, the prophetess of old, who brought a broken spirit to the Mighty One and God of knowledge, broke the fetters of a childless womb and the harsh insult of one with many children.
4. God makes the barren fruitful. The impossible becomes possible through the power of God. He is the God of the unexpected. Not only does Hannah image this, but multiple images throughout Scripture proclaim this truth such as Aaron’s rod that budded.
The rod of Aaron is an image of this mystery, for when it budded it showed who should be priest. So in the Church, that once was barren, the wood of the Cross has now put forth flower, filling her with strength and steadfastness. –from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
5. Life comes through Death. Only He, who was Holy, could destroy, and by doing so, He brings life, and forges a way through death to life. This gives humility its power, because it joins man to the Crucified One. On Easter, we sing of barrenness that became life-giving.
Come let us drink a new drink, not one marvelously brought forth from a barren rock, but a Source of incorruption, which pours out from the tomb of Christ, in whom we are established.
Humility is the major theme of this hymn. It the humble that God exalts and transforms through His power. Humility is the way of the Cross, and only through the Cross is resurrection possible.
Have you been humbled by life? How did God offer you hope? What do you do to stay humble?
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Unto ages of ages.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Of all the odes in our Biblical Soundtrack, this one only gets played during Great Lent, because it is primarily a song of repentance. It is harsh and painful to read. Your mind starts swimming with images of judgment, death, and failure. Fear grips your heart at the abject failure of man and his continued rejection of God.
Moses is preparing for death, and the people he has lead for 40 years are standing on the precipice of taking the land of promise. This land was their place of dreaming while slaves in
Miracles abounded throughout the journey from
Yet out of their failure comes hope, because in spite of everything man does God returns again and again to restore and enact vengeance on behalf of those damaged, disabled, and hurt by their own hand.
Several themes arise from this song of penitence:
1. God is more committed to His people than they are to Him.
2. Destruction, pain, and death are always the natural consequence of sin and rejecting God.
Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rejection of any physical law brings harm to us. No one would dare reject the law of gravity, jump from a high building, and expect to fly. In the same way, sin is a rejection of life, and the willing ingestion of poison. No other outcome, but sickness and death could be expected.
3. God will always come to the aid of those suffering under sin and death and take vengeance.
Clement of4. The memory of God’s faithfulness and goodness to His people provides a way of escape from the destruction of sin. Moses recalls what God had done for the people as a way of reminder that God is always faithful and willing to forgive. It was memory of the father’s house that brought the prodigal son out of the pigpen and to a path of restoration.
“For where the face of the Lord looks, there is peace and rejoicing; but where it is averted, there is the introduction of evil. The Lord, accordingly, does not wish to look on evil things; for He is good. But on His looking away, evil arises spontaneously through human unbelief. “Behold, therefore,” says Paul, “the goodness and severity of God: on them that fell, severity; but upon thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness,” Alexandria
We all know stories of friends or family intent on their own destruction. You may have reached out to help only to be hurt in the process. We are that person. God pours out grace and love to us to rescue us from our own selves, but we reject the lifeline He offers. This shower of love continues throughout our lives, and repentance is our recognition of the snares we have created and our holding out our hand to be pulled from danger into life.
This is our life, but He is a good God and loves mankind.
Monday, April 18, 2011
The Locus and Economy of Community (The Transfiguration of Place, Part II)
Globalization: An Impediment to Salvation (The Transfiguration of Place, Part III)
Thin Places (The Transfiguration of Place, Part IV)
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Theophan the Recluse: The Kingdom of God is within us when God reigns in us, when the soul in its depths confesses God as its Master, and is obedient to Him in all its powers. Then God acts within it as master "both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil 2.13). This reign begins as soon as we resolve to serve God in our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Then the Christian hands over to God his consciousness and freedom, which comprises the essential substance of our human life, and God accepts the sacrifice; and in this way the alliance of man with God and God with man is achieved, and the covenant with God, which was severed by the Fall and continues to be severed by our willful sins, is re-established.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Cradle Orthodox don't leave Orthodoxy for no faith but for an American faith. Orthodoxy's journey to America was a blessing from God. However, we have struggled to incarnate the body of Christ in American clothes. Our people have become thoroughly American in character. Outside of the Church they act, think, and speak like Americans, but their life inside does not reflect this transformation. This is our great challenge. We must answer the question, "What is America?", and incarnate the body of Christ in American clothes if we are to impact the nation where we have been planted.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Orthodox in America and around the world often gets criticized for lack of evangelism and missions. In some ways this is fair. In the US, we have often created insular communities with little organized community action.