The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Learning to Trust God When You Feel Helpless

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God's mysterious Providence, he arranges circumstanceswhich are beyond us in order to change us, in order to expose usto our need for his help, to call us to a greater faith inhim. How will we increase our faith, brothers and sisters, if we're notregularly in circumstances that demand more than we have? Ancient Faith Radio andpatristic nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenem. Father Josiah is the pastor of St Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside,California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organizationcommitted to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers.For more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dotpatristic nectar dot org. And now, Father Josiah and the name of thefather and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Brothersand sisters, I had lunge this week with a very fine riverside pastor namedRaoul Diaz. Pastor Diaz oversees the Ulan shelter where we serve the homeless inour parish, as well as many other churches in riverside as he also overseesa number of transitional homes, working on the ground in a very beautiful anda successful way with people who have run...

...into very difficult days, helping themto put themselves back on a road of stability personally and their families with theirjobs, helping them to connect to God through the midst of it all.I admire him and one of the reasons I met with him was to besidesto build a network for mutual encouragement, was to process my own angst asa pastor, because one of the great challenges, one of the most challengingparts of the pastorate is living through difficult circumstances and feeling inadequate, feeling thatyou are not able to address the need that is before you. Sometimes Ifeel that way. Just this week this was manifested in the irony of thecircumstance was Poignan. I was approached by one of our parishioners who is tryingto help a friend get out of the gang life, a life of violenceand a life of drugs and of instability, and we were discussing could this personcome here? Could this person make a successful transition, if he desiredit, to Find Holy Orthodoxy at St Andrew? We were discussing this.I wasn't certain. Neither was the person with whom I was speaking. Wewere discussing what the best way to go about this was. What was thebest way for us as a parish and myself as a priest to minister tothis person. Could we actually do it? Do we have that breat yet ofdiversity so that we can minister at the same time to the educated andthe uneducated, to the stable and the...

...unstable, to those who come tothe church perhaps from a different religious background but with their spiritual life intact,and those who really are in a wretched condition? Can we do this?There's no easy answer to that. This is something we're growing into and Ithink the more our parish grows in soul, in love, in diversity that Godprovides, the more we can share that kind of grace to help.But I wasn't really sure. I wasn't really sure. I feel very pleased. I'm rejoicing at the fact that the Lord is the center of our parishand that allows us to unite around the faith people who normally would not betogether. But this is asking. What I was contemplating is something much moreserious, much more serious. So this is on the one hand, thissame week I was blessing a house and a story was related to me fromthe exact opposite angle. I was blessing this house and one of our parishionersrelated to me a very sad interaction that she had had at one of oursister parishes. While at this parish. She was discussing with one of theparishioners there why they attended that parish instead of our Paris, St Andrew,even though geographically we were closer, and she heard something she never dreamed shewould ever hear, and I'm embarrassed almost to say it from the pulpit.The person looked at her and said, I'd like to come to St Andrew, but you have too many blacks and Mexicans. My scandalizing you? Ihope not. I hope you all know that the church is very big,very big, and a great field that...

...has in it both the wise andthe foolish, both the smart and the idiots. Yes, this kind ofsatanic racism is frightening even to mention. I think I'd rather be an addictand in a gang then a person who looks upstanding but in his heart isa man hater, depending up on the color of one's skin. How uncomfortablethis person will be in the Kingdom of Heaven, where there will be personsfrom every tribe, tongue, people and nation there as a marvelous collage ofthe Lord God's creative work. But my point is this. It's not justthat you can never win for losing, which is exactly how I felt.I thought, on one hand, we're not diverse enough yet to be ableto address all the ministry needs that are potentially before us, and on theother hand, where too diverse for some. Can't win. Can't win, butat what it left me feeling was US somewhat paralyzed. I felt verymuch like the apostles in the account today. The apostles had been given the powerof Christ, they had been given his word, they had been givena charge to heal, who raise the dead, to cast out demons,to cleanse lepers, all in the name of Christ, and they were aboutdoing that. Until today, until they met this grieved father who had ason who was a lunatic. It was demon possessed and he was ill andhe was on the verge of death, constantly being thrown into fire and throwninto water. And the apostles met this...

...man and they were ineffective. Theycould not help him and they were distressed by this. The father said toJesus, I brought my son to your disciples and they could not cure him. And the disciples didn't dispute this, but they later asked the Lord Lord, why could we not cast this out? And the Lord let them know thatit was above them that they were facing, at that time in theirlife, a ministry that they could not execute. They did not yet havethe faith or the asceticism that was necessary to effect the Cure. Their faithwasn't large enough and they weren't fasters and prayers in sufficient zeal, with sufficientzeal to accomplish this work. They couldn't defeat the devil in him. Thisleft them feeling undone, undone and confused. You know, to have the priesthoodis one thing. To have the faith to exercise the priesthood fully,this is something else. Anyone who has read the life of Saint John ofKranstad knows that to possess the priesthood is one thing and to live it infaith is something else. To read his life, to read that life ofthat humble priest from Kranstad who's accomplishments in good deeds can't even be numbered,they can't be listed. His own autobiography is this Thick Im. I've readaccounts of him entering into people's homes to do a normal house blessing. Hewent into people's House to do a house blessing, but it would there wasnothing routine about his house blessings. You absolute had no idea what he wasgoing to say to you, what he...

...was going to do, what posturehe would ask you to assume on the floor before the icons? Was Hegoing to ask to prostrate? Was He going to ask you to go getyour neighbor to visit their house, the person who was sicking the door?He was a man who was living by faith, who saw the power ofGod and the potential to live his priesthood beautifully in the fruit was immense.The fruit was immense. It is very challenging, not just for pastors butfor all of us, to find ourselves in difficult and painful circumstances that sometimeswe can't do anything about. We find it ourselves over our heads. Thisreality faces us in our families, it faces us in our relations with ourneighbors, in our businesses. Sometimes we want to be of assistance and wecan't be. We ought sympathized with the father. He deeply loved his son. His son was so tormented, so near death. Can you imagine anymore miserable condition than wondering every day if your child would die? The childwas literally thrown into flames and into pools of water constantly. Every parent hasa collection of memories, maybe two, three, four, hopefully not morethan that. Every parent has a collection of memories of near death experiences fortheir children where they almost were lost or almost run over by a car.Some of US carry even more grievous memories in which it actually happened. Thisman lived at every day. That's how miserable he was. He was livingat every day in this kind of fear. Outside of Hell. I don't thinkthere's a greater misery to see our children in Satan's grasp like this,captives to do his will. We can...

...sympathize with him and if it's notpossession like that, maybe we don't have that same kind of demonic possession soobvious today, although we certainly have some. But slavery to Satan can show itselfin a lot of different ways, especially amongst the young, through abandonmentof any regard for character, for holiness, for the church, for the family, for one's name, a disregard for health, a disregard for thenormal use of time for work and sleep, of reputation and a sudden a refusalto take wise counsel, instead, a jumping into drug use or sexualproflicacy, or in a complete enslavement to doing one's own will at every moment, the worst kind of slavery. We see this kind of satanic slavery allaround us, brothers and sister, all around us. We can mourn withhis father as we feel so helpless, but I want you to see inthis account what this is really about. You know, our Lord engage thisman and his son just after coming down from the Mount of transfiguration. It'svery similar to what happened to the prophet Moses was and he was on thetop of Mount Sinai he went up under the top of Mount Sinai saw thebeauty of the Lord himself, participated in the uncreated energies of God, wasradiant and then came down the mountain to what unbelief and idolatry. So grievedwas he that he broke the commandments into pieces. The Lord did the samething. He was on the top of the mountain, he came down themountain and this is what he confronted. He confronted disciples who didn't have enoughfaith to exercise their gifts and a man...

...who didn't have enough faith to trusthim to heal his son, and Jesus exclaimed one of the few places inthe gospels would you see a an expression of exasperation from the Lord like this. He says, Oh, you of unbelieve, how long must I putup with you? This gospel account seems to be about a son, butit's not really about a son. The son is the occasion for the meetingof the disciples and the father with Christ and for the revelation of the realissue, and that is that the providence of God is behind all of thecircumstances in our life. Every suffering, every difficulty is in the hand ofGod, and what we're called to do is to aim engage in every oneof those circumstances in faith, to trust with full confidence in the Lord's planfor our life, regardless of what we see in front of us at thatmoment. This shows us that the process of transfiguration is a process of selfdiscovery. If we want to shine, we have to discover ourselves. Wehave to embrace the humiliation that comes from challenging circumstances of everyday life leaving USgrasping. We have to acquire a profound sense of inadequacy in our own strength, our own power and our own abilities and, through this grasp, relyon the Lord, confidently that he will take us through, he will beour strength, he will grab our hands, pull us through the challenging circumstances inwhich we feel helpless and put us on a solid rock, lift usfrom the ABYX and affix ourselves to himself. It looks like the accounts about ason, but it's not really about that. It's about the father andit's about the disciples, and it's about...

...both of their lack of faith andlack of trust in God. This is often the case with us God's mysteriousProvidence, he arranged his circumstances, which are beyond us, in order tochange us, in order to expose us to our need for his help,to call us to a greater faith in him. How will we increase ourfaith, brothers and sisters, if we're not regularly in circumstances that demand morethan we have? We can allow the cloud of despondency to lay on ourheads because we feel like we can't do anything, or we can take thatcloud and we can turn that cloud to spiritual progress. Oh Lord, increasemy faith, build confidence in my heart in thy workings. He allowed allof these things to encourage asceticism. Did you notice what he said to thedisciples? After he revealed their lack of faith and he told them to justtry to get a little solid, true faith? He then told them,and this kind you really want to be serious, this kind only comes outby prayer and fasting. That was a word to encourage the disciples to evaluatetheir enemy more seriously, and that is a word we need, brothers andsister, to take our enemy more seriously, to a praise who were fighting againstwith greater soap, sobriety and to recognize that we need to engage inthis war more wholeheartedly. When we run up against the wall and you werenot able to push through, maybe it's time to dedicate special prayer, notjust our normal prayers, not just asking...

...father to pray. Maybe it's timeto dedicate special prayer. Maybe it's time to fast. Not when the churchasks you to fast. There's nothing special about keeping that fast. That's normal, but when we face unique circumstances that are greatly challenging us and we feelthe presence, we see that demon, maybe it's time to fast and tosay no so that we can concentrate our powers and our strength on this problemand seek the help of God. The Gospel record ends with a beautiful statementfrom Jesus that shows that he's not just talking, he's not just trying totell us have faith, trust me in the mysterious circumstances of your life andengage the enemy seriously. He modeled it for us. He modeled it forus. The end of this account, it says Jesus told his disciples thathe would be betrayed into the hands of men, he would be killed andhe would be raved again on the third day. And then it records andthey were all deeply grieved. They were all deeply grieved our savior was livingit. He himself was embracing the will of his father, the circumstances whichappeared too much for him, so much that he, when he was onhis knees and get Semity, wanting to escape his fate, filling the cloudof despondency fall unto his head. When he had to look at the cupthat he was going to drink for our salvation, he pushed himself like hewants us to push ourselves. He turned that cloud into prayer. He turnedto his father and he said, father,...

...grant that this Cup might pass meby, that I might not drink this cup, but not my will. THY will be done. This is the example that our savior provides us, not just in his teaching brothers and sisters, but in his life.God help us to be people like that, people who have the faith to endurewith confidence in God through all of the challenging circumstances that often make usfeel so powerless. God strengthen us in faith on them. We hope thatyou have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation. Offered to you byPatristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with thesweet 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 visitour website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dotpatristic nectar dot org.

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