The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 1 year ago

Innumerable Miracles | Saint John the Theologian

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The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a four part lecture series by Father Josiah trenum entitled God's Prodigal Prophet, an exposition of the prophecy of Jonah. This text is found amongst the minor prophets of the Old Testament and is much beloved by believers, not only for its Christological typology, in which it sets forth the death, burial, plundering of Hades and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also because it is simply packed full of spiritual themes like obedience, repentance, sinful nationalism, God's call, Timission, the enlightenment of the nation's Brokenness, rebellion and grace, the love of enemies and much, much more. For these and other available titles, visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trennem the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. A blessed Lord's Day to all of you, brothers and sisters. I hope you have a quiet and soft heart this morning to hear the Gospel and a magnificent epistlelescent and perhaps a few words from your old priest in the sermon I have entitled my homily. Innumerable Miracles, but listening to the chanter chant the Troparian, to St John, the apostle, especially because in that Traparion we pray to him and ask him to assist us in dissipating the persistent cloud of the heathen. I thought of preaching on the persistent cloud of the heathen, because we have a persistent cloud and the apostles are greater than...

...any heathenish clouds and can help us dissipate it. But no matter. I've learned to contain myself. Innumerable miracles. If you listen to the Gospel Text, you heard these beautiful words. There are many other things that Jesus did which, if everyone of them was to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Can you imagine what what a tea's saying? John is to write that at the very end of his Gospel, a gospel of such wonders, of such high theology that our heads have been spinning and the heads of Christians have been spinning for twenty centuries, and then he's going to say that I'm stopping here, but if we rote down everything that Jesus did, the entire world couldn't contain the books. Can you imagine what it's kind of statement that is. The world's a big place. Can hold a lot of bookshelves, but not enough to document the innumerable miracles that simply poured out of our savior as a torrent. And that's just talking about Jesus's miracles that he did in his earthly ministry. What about all the miracles that he did through the apostles, a tiny fraction of which we know, and through the early Church and through his people down to this very day? What about those? We would need, I guess, several parallel universes to put the book shelves of the Miracles in proper order. Even a casual observation of our saviors earthly ministry sees that he was an unstoppable miracle worker, raising the dead, casting out demons, healing the blind and the lame,...

...touching the lepers and making them whole, all of the sick, walking on the water, calming the storms, multiplying the lobes, withering the fig tree, and on and on and on. Of course that's great. Of all those miracles were and as incredible impact they had on people whose hearts were open to him, the greatest of all miracles was Jesus himself, he who was more than a man, the panthropost in the flesh, God become man walking in our midst. His death and resurrection from the dead, together with his incarnation, are the greatest miracles that any human eye has ever witnessed, every any human heart ever believed. When the Lord ascended to Heaven, he didn't cease doing miracles. In fact, he said something extremely shocking to his twelve. He told them that they would do greater miracles than he did. I'm going away, but you will do greater works than these. What a shocking statement. When he ascended, his miraculous works increased in multiplied as the apostles dispersed throughout the world. This is why St Paul writes to the Corinthians and he says this. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. In Paul's minds, that constant miracles, signs and wonders, simply was the proof that someone was really an apostle, really was chosen to be an apostle by Christ. And of all of those apostles, perhaps St John's life, because it was the longest, was most filled with the most outrageous miracles, wonders and science. St...

John outlaughed at all of the apostles. He died in past the age of one hundred. St Paul's life was cut short by martyrdom, by beheading in Rome. Saint Peter's life was cut short by crucifixion upside down in Rome, but not seeing John. St John continued to work incredible signs until his last breath as an as a centenarian, his own personal transformation from someone who, when he was a young disciple, just a junior in life, he was ambitious, and not in good ways. Sometimes he wanted to be first amongst the apostles. He had great zeal. Christ called him a son of thunder, but sometimes his zeal was misguided and it wasn't resting on a bed of the love of God and being held by him in humility. So one time, when a village didn't receive Christ correctly, he thought it would be appropriate to pray and ask that fire would come down from heaven and consume them all like he was another prophet. Elias and Jesus said, you don't know what kind of spirit you're talking about. I didn't come here to destroy men's lives, I came here to save men's lives. John, who was so zealous he himself is a miracle, his own personal transformation into a Zelt, from a Zealot, into the father of love, the great paternal force in the Church for a fifty years before he died. You Know, the Gospel of Matthew Uses the Word Love Eleven Times. The Gospel of Mark Uses the love...

...just five times. Uses the word Love, Luke uses it twelve times. The Gospel of John Uses the word love and twenty one chapters thirty times. And in his first epistle, that's small little letter, it only has a hundred and five verses, he uses the word love thirty six times every three verses. This is what he became, this is the miracle of his own personal transformation. In following Christ, he became the living apologetic. This is why for the Gospel, this is why he won so many people to the faith. Christ meant something other than ideology. For him, his whole life was turned upside down and he became someone if you read the closely, his role in the acts of the apostles in the early chapters, when he came to Samaria, that place authentic Jews despised, he went there and he called down not fire from heaven but the Holy Spirit in another pentecost for those people, and this is what he did throughout the rest of his life. The innumerable miracles that Christ does and continues to do through the church, but did especially in the apostles, was also manifest in Saint John's ministry in Asia Minor. You know, when the apostles gathered together to draw lots to see who would go to what part of the world. John's lot sent him to Asia Minor, to what is now mostly Turkey. He went and spent a lot of time in one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire, the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was a port city, a massive trading center and the center of the Great Pagan cult of Artemis, or, as she's otherwise known, Diana. In fact, her temple there in Ephesus was one of the seven ancient great wonders of the world, and when Saint John went.

Guess what he did? He went right for it. He went right in to confront the priest. He stood on the hill above the temple and preached day and night. I wonder if he would have been told to stay out of politics. I wonder. You know, it wasn't so clear in the Roman world. Religion and politics were completely wrapped up together. They didn't have the separation of church and state. John was not interested. He was interested in one thing and that was winning the hearts of the people to Christ. He performed so many miracles, he won so many people in Ephesus that he even came to the attention not only of the governor. In fact, he raised from the dead the son of the governor of that province. His son had died in a terrible, terrible way, and then he had a heart attack upon learning of his son's death. So he raised the governor first and his son. This was Saint John. The Emperor Domitian got word of John and John Perform. Had performed so many miracles and one so many people that Domitian concluded that John was a demigod on the earth, and a nasty one at that, and a dangerous one. Nothing that he tried to do to kill John worked. He tried numerous means of destroying him. Put Him in boiling oil. He came out like he had taken in a marvelous bath. So finally the emperor exiled him to the island of Patmos. But exiling him to Patmos was just a prelude for the greatest miracles of John's life, when...

...he wrote his Gospel there under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and then had his apocalyptic visions what would become the last book of the New Testament, the revelation. He outlived the Emperor Tomisian into the reign of Emperor Trajan, and then went back to ephesus and then, with his timing, the timing that God had promised him, he died. He had his disciples dig a grave in the sought in the form of a cross. He climbed into the grave, he had the dirt be brought up to his waist while preaching, then up to his shoulders. Then he breathed this last and they covered his face. This is how set John Died. Never has the world seeing miracle workers like the Holy Apostles, but even brothers and sisters, after the Apostolic Age, innumerable, innumerable miracles, remains our way of life. This is the church life, this is the Christian life we are experiencing, and everyone who lives their life in the church experiences the living miracle of union between God and men right here. This place is full of penitent believers whose lives bear witness to the miracle of grace led by bishops and priests who pray and serve mysteries that are themselves impenetrable, mysteries and miracles that Nourish a union of the Lord God. Together with this people, here, you hear the word of God and you let it have its way. The sacraments and the word of God in your own life are miracles and they do things to you that can only be explained by the presence of God in your life. We have saints on our walls who are even called, though, Maturghi, workers of wonders. Some saints continue that Apostolic Disposition. We have one in San Francisco,...

St John Saint Nick Tario's saying biocios. These are all recent saints and they were known for miracles just pouring out of their lives. I love telling the story of St John To catechumans. I love it. I almost used to do it as a rule. Usually I'm talking to Catechumans, I'm in my I'm in my last meeting with inquire an, inquire a couple. In fact, this happened several times this week. You'll see them in five minutes. I was at the end of a conversation and I always ask them the same questions. Do you know that this is a lifetime decision? There's no going back. Once your Orthodox, will be Orthodox the rest of your life. Wherever you may live, you'll go to the local Orthodox Church. Yes, they say no, they don't become catechumans yet. They need a little more time. And then I ask them the second question, which is, do you have any religious association? Is there anyone who has you on their membership list? You know? Are you registered in a Buddhist temple? Are you part of a Protestant church, or is there some pastor who is still thinking, even though you're doing this, that you're his? Because we have to clear that up in case something should take place in your life, some tragedy, and you should lose your life during catechism. In that case the Church would marry you. We've had that happened twice, by the way, in our history, sadly, two of our catechumens who unexpectedly passed away. And then I tell them the story of one of them, late Adam Diaz, who was on his way to see St John of San Francisco, the great wonder worker. This is the entree that I have. And then I tell them the story of St John, of all the miracles that he that he...

...performed in Shanghai, in the Philippines, in Western Europe when he was the bishop of that area, and then when he came to San Francisco. I tell them that the number of miracles that he performed increased after he reposed in the Lord in Nineteen Sixty six, on July the second, and from nineteen sixty six until nineteen ninety four the number of miracles just exponentially increased. So much though, that when I became a priest in nineteen ninety three, just the year before he was glorified as a saint, I had already heard tons about his life. In nineteen ninety four, the church glorified him as a saint and they shut down five blocks of San Francisco and carried him on on our shoulders. And when he was when he was first exhumed, he was he had been buried in the crypt underneath the Cathedral in San Francisco, was a beautiful chapel crypt, and when his coffin was opened it was all a tatters and a mess because it had been oxidized for those twenty eight years. His vestments were also in pieces and his body was perfect. No embalmbing, no nothing, but new vestments and love and a cloth to wipe him. This is us, brothers and sisters. This is the life of the church. The life of the Church and we believers who live in the church is a life of innumerable and perpetual miracles. This is how we live. Not just shocking miracles like our wonder workers do, but the miracle of to come to everyone who prays. Ask and you receive. See, can you find? Knock and the door will be open to you. Prayer is a constant miracle and exchange between us and God. Just this week I heard this is one of the great things about being a priest of courses. You get to...

...hear all the cool stories. People get to tell you things, which is wonderful it makes up for all the this. Won't talk about that all the other stuff. But this year, this week, St Funurios did another miracle for someone. I'm he just never stops. He never stops. I heard another miracle about some travelers who and how close God was to them because they were in a very frightful situation in a foreign country and they felt God so close, as we all do when we're in fragile situations and we have to depend upon him by prayer zealously. Then he shows us how near he is and works numerous wonders for us. This is one of the reasons that I've loved to go on pilgrimage my whole Orthodox life. I've loved to go places that I wasn't certain about. I didn't know the way. Many Times in the twenty or so years that I traveled to the old country with my spiritual father. On principle, we usually had no plan at all. We had the saints we want to see, but we didn't know where we were going to stay or with home, exactly how we were going to get from point a to point B. It was a principle that we learn from making from the first time, just not doing it and then finding out how close God was to us and how incredible it was to be guided by his providence in a vulnerable circumstance like that. They were like, why in the world will we plan everything? His plan is so much better. We live in a sea of God's wonders and the most important of all, brothers and sisters, it's not the miracle of that I might call physical. It's not the healings, as wonderful as there are. Those are. It's not the tangible things...

...from the outside it's it's the miracles of the soul. You know, this distinction between the miracles of the body and the miracles of the soul is something that's made by the fathers one of the Great Metropolitans of the twenty century, Metropolitan Augustinos Contiotis from Florida in Greece, who was just a stalwart defender of Holy Orthodoxy in the Twentieth Century, through horrible times in Greece under the Nazis and through World War Two and others. He wrote an entire book on Miracles and in this opening chapter he makes this distinction between miracles of the body and miracles of the soul, and he quotes the fathers to explain that the greatest miracles are those that are miracles that take place in your own mind and heart. The miracle, for instance, quoting St John Krassost and the miracle of deliverance from slavery to a partition, particular passion. Chry system says that to uproot a passion from your heart is a greater miracle than uprooting a demon in casting it out. Just imagine the impact on seeing all the demon screech on people when they when the Lord was doing so many exorcisms. C system says it may be impressive to people, but it's not impressive as impressive to the Lord as uprooting passions from our hearts. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our life is constantly working. This the birth of a new virtue in us, especially the acquisition of more love, which is the greatest game changer in our lives. This is a resurrection, the establishment of a marriage to people who have different personalities, different interests, each who have particular weaknesses and sins, able to live together in peace, to grow to love one another, not just tolerate each other, but truly love each other, one on one another, this, dear ones, is the miracle of the propagation of the...

...church. Christostom says that is creating a domestic church and making your marriage the the residence of the Holy Trinity. This is a miracle and it's a practical miracle that wins people. You know, one of the reasons that we have so many darned catechumens in this church is because you're struggling to love your spouses. Yes, you're struggling to be faithful to your friends. You're seeking the miracle of more love every day. Believe me, if people came here and they saw us not trying to do that, if they came here and what they saw was bickering and fighting and trying to become first or always wanting accolades, you know it means something when you come in this church and you don't see plaques all over saying given by so and so. Excuse me while I puke. I know you wouldn't need I'm literally I've never even had one of you ever asked me for that. I've never even had to say to you. No, never've been raised. Thank God for that. And it's not just our marriage is is not just our widows. It's not just our young people struggling to love God. It's not just the friendships that were crafting. You know, some of the greatest miracles of this church has been the call of are young people to become monks and nuns, saying Theodore. I kissed him this morning. He's the second one. St John of Damascus is on the pillar right there, and then saying Theofan, the recluse, and then saying Theodore of studium. Do you see him? He was one of the greatest monks of the ninth century. His monastery in Constantinople. The walls of his monastery are still there. The Turks have these massive gates around them.

You can't, unfortunately, go into the monastery grounds, but he had. He was the spiritual father of hundreds and hundreds of monks and his monastery was called the studium. Was An incredible theologian and a great defender of the holy icons and a great zealot. Listen to what he says about miracles. He says perhaps one thing. He says, perhaps one thing. Is Marvelous being holly and having miraculous powers that expel demons, that sure the blind, that cleansed leppers, that raise the dead, that affect nature, that move mountains, that turn the seas into land, or do things like these. Certainly there's are great miracles in these are marvelous wonders. I, however, do not think that this is as miraculous as is this, that people from different places and lands, different races, languages and ages come together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and become united and joined as one multi sould multihearted body, with one mind and one heart, not to do evil, but to do the will of God, to venerate and worship the holy Trinity, which no one, no ruler nor authority, no king, not even the champion of the demons himself, has the power and the strength to overcome. This is what he thought was the Greek miracle, he says, the monastery, in which there is no this is mine and this is yours, is...

...never heard in the monastery. It is never heard this language. The monastery is one of the greatest miracles of divine grace. It defeats the selfishness and the self interest of men. You know, we've seen a lot of miracles here. So and was sharing with me a healing they received when the skull of St Luke, the physician, came here from the Ukraine, but a little over two years about two years ago, I guess now. And of course lots of you had wonderful things. Happened when we had the vire on Mike Monet icon of Our lady from Hawaii come here and she just wept her eyes out here in our midst. We've had, we've seen a lot of beautiful things, for sure, but don't miss, dear ones, the greater miracles that are all around you. Don't Miss what the fathers consider the even mightier wonders this ocean in which we live. You know. So I was reading a marvelous article this week. It comes from a collection of C S Lewis's lectures. It's called God in the dock and it's a chapter on miracles and he he poses the question why is it that it appears in the West that miracles appear to have declined so rapidly? Any points out the obvious that with the increase of materialism, with a functional worldview in which the unseen world isn't acknowledged as even real by many people, it put certain lenses into your mind that you have to use whether you know it or not, to interpret reality. And he mentions us a funny circumstance in his own life. He said in all his life he only met one person whoever saw a ghost,...

...and it was a lady friend of his, and she had this incredible vision of a ghost in her house and she described it to him how this ghost appeared. I mean, no question, there's the ghost. He said that's the only woman he's ever known who any purse, only person he's ever known who saw a ghost, and then she told him, but I don't believe it existed, because I know that ghosts don't exist. She was a materialist. She was a materialist and for this reason, even though she had this incredible experience right there before her eyes, she reinterpreted the entire thing according to her bogus world view. Why do you think that Emperor Domitian could be in front of St John, seeing all of these wonders and hearing all these testimonies and not become a believer? The father said because in his mind, the idea that there was one God was absolutely fanatical and nuts. This man had to be wrong and couldn't be this godly miracle worker because he was preaching something totally false, and he had a bad heart too, and he didn't want to live the way this John was asking him to live. The combination of that bad thought and that bad heart kept him from being able to believe. Why did the Jews surrounding our saviors, so many of the Jewish leaders surrounding our saviors, seeing his miracles, not believe? Jesus said very clearly, if you don't believe what I'm saying, at least believe the works that I'm doing. And they still wouldn't believe. He said, you don't believe because your children of the devil. You say, your children of Abraham. If you're the children of Abraham, do the deeds of Abraham. Abraham never tried to stone me to death, like you're contemplating doing right now. Jesus was touching a part of their heart that they didn't want touched. He was calling...

...them to a revolution and living that they didn't want, and the result was Jesus is miracles made no impact upon them. Why do atheist not see any miracles? Because, on principle they can't. It would be the destruction of their whole fundamental presupposition of life. C S Lewis says, the material lift can see the full panoply of the apocalypse, and full before his eyes. He can see the heavens rolled up, he can see the great white throne appear right in front of his eyes. He can even sense in his own body being picked up by the angels and hurled into the lake of fire, he said. But even then, while burning, he'll say to himself, this is all a very bad problem of my psychosis, and this is clearly evidence of a cerebral pathology. He'll just deny that it exists. This is the poison of materialism. We know better, dear ones, we know better. Let's give thanks to God for knowing, the God of Love, who is a god of wonders. Let's say what the PSAWMISTS, open my eyes, O Lord, that I might see wonderful things. Then we hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by patristic nectar publications, a non profit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications. Please visit our...

...website at W W W dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's W W W dot patristic nectar dot org.

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