The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 years ago

Learning to Trust God When You Feel Helpless

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God's mysterious Providence, he arranges circumstances which are beyond us in order to change 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 our faith, brothers and sisters, if we're not regularly in circumstances that demand more than we have? Ancient Faith Radio and patristic 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 organization committed 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 dot patristic nectar dot org. And now, Father Josiah and the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Brothers and sisters, I had lunge this week with a very fine riverside pastor named Raoul Diaz. Pastor Diaz oversees the Ulan shelter where we serve the homeless in our parish, as well as many other churches in riverside as he also oversees a number of transitional homes, working on the ground in a very beautiful and a successful way with people who have run...

...into very difficult days, helping them to put themselves back on a road of stability personally and their families with their jobs, 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 besides to build a network for mutual encouragement, was to process my own angst as a pastor, because one of the great challenges, one of the most challenging parts of the pastorate is living through difficult circumstances and feeling inadequate, feeling that you are not able to address the need that is before you. Sometimes I feel that way. Just this week this was manifested in the irony of the circumstance was Poignan. I was approached by one of our parishioners who is trying to help a friend get out of the gang life, a life of violence and a life of drugs and of instability, and we were discussing could this person come here? Could this person make a successful transition, if he desired it, to Find Holy Orthodoxy at St Andrew? We were discussing this. I wasn't certain. Neither was the person with whom I was speaking. We were discussing what the best way to go about this was. What was the best way for us as a parish and myself as a priest to minister to this person. Could we actually do it? Do we have that breat yet of diversity so that we can minister at the same time to the educated and the uneducated, to the stable and the...

...unstable, to those who come to the 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 I think the more our parish grows in soul, in love, in diversity that God provides, 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 parish and that allows us to unite around the faith people who normally would not be together. But this is asking. What I was contemplating is something much more serious, much more serious. So this is on the one hand, this same week I was blessing a house and a story was related to me from the exact opposite angle. I was blessing this house and one of our parishioners related to me a very sad interaction that she had had at one of our sister parishes. While at this parish. She was discussing with one of the parishioners 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 she would 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? I hope 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 and the foolish, both the smart and the idiots. Yes, this kind of satanic racism is frightening even to mention. I think I'd rather be an addict and in a gang then a person who looks upstanding but in his heart is a man hater, depending up on the color of one's skin. How uncomfortable this person will be in the Kingdom of Heaven, where there will be persons from every tribe, tongue, people and nation there as a marvelous collage of the Lord God's creative work. But my point is this. It's not just that 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 able to address all the ministry needs that are potentially before us, and on the other hand, where too diverse for some. Can't win. Can't win, but at what it left me feeling was US somewhat paralyzed. I felt very much like the apostles in the account today. The apostles had been given the power of Christ, they had been given his word, they had been given a charge to heal, who raise the dead, to cast out demons, to cleanse lepers, all in the name of Christ, and they were about doing that. Until today, until they met this grieved father who had a son who was a lunatic. It was demon possessed and he was ill and he was on the verge of death, constantly being thrown into fire and thrown into water. And the apostles met this...

...man and they were ineffective. They could not help him and they were distressed by this. The father said to Jesus, 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 that it was above them that they were facing, at that time in their life, a ministry that they could not execute. They did not yet have the faith or the asceticism that was necessary to effect the Cure. Their faith wasn't large enough and they weren't fasters and prayers in sufficient zeal, with sufficient zeal to accomplish this work. They couldn't defeat the devil in him. This left them feeling undone, undone and confused. You know, to have the priesthood is one thing. To have the faith to exercise the priesthood fully, this is something else. Anyone who has read the life of Saint John of Kranstad knows that to possess the priesthood is one thing and to live it in faith is something else. To read his life, to read that life of that 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 read accounts of him entering into people's homes to do a normal house blessing. He went into people's House to do a house blessing, but it would there was nothing routine about his house blessings. You absolute had no idea what he was going to say to you, what he...

...was going to do, what posture he would ask you to assume on the floor before the icons? Was He going to ask to prostrate? Was He going to ask you to go get your 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 of God 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 but for all of us, to find ourselves in difficult and painful circumstances that sometimes we can't do anything about. We find it ourselves over our heads. This reality faces us in our families, it faces us in our relations with our neighbors, in our businesses. Sometimes we want to be of assistance and we can't be. We ought sympathized with the father. He deeply loved his son. His son was so tormented, so near death. Can you imagine any more miserable condition than wondering every day if your child would die? The child was literally thrown into flames and into pools of water constantly. Every parent has a collection of memories, maybe two, three, four, hopefully not more than that. Every parent has a collection of memories of near death experiences for their 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. This man lived at every day. That's how miserable he was. He was living at every day in this kind of fear. Outside of Hell. I don't think there'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 not possession like that, maybe we don't have that same kind of demonic possession so obvious today, although we certainly have some. But slavery to Satan can show itself in a lot of different ways, especially amongst the young, through abandonment of any regard for character, for holiness, for the church, for the family, for one's name, a disregard for health, a disregard for the normal use of time for work and sleep, of reputation and a sudden a refusal to take wise counsel, instead, a jumping into drug use or sexual proflicacy, 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 all around us, brothers and sister, all around us. We can mourn with his father as we feel so helpless, but I want you to see in this account what this is really about. You know, our Lord engage this man and his son just after coming down from the Mount of transfiguration. It's very similar to what happened to the prophet Moses was and he was on the top of Mount Sinai he went up under the top of Mount Sinai saw the beauty of the Lord himself, participated in the uncreated energies of God, was radiant and then came down the mountain to what unbelief and idolatry. So grieved was he that he broke the commandments into pieces. The Lord did the same thing. He was on the top of the mountain, he came down the mountain and this is what he confronted. He confronted disciples who didn't have enough faith to exercise their gifts and a man...

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

...both of their lack of faith and lack of trust in God. This is often the case with us God's mysterious Providence, he arranged his circumstances, which are beyond us, in order to change 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 our faith, brothers and sisters, if we're not regularly in circumstances that demand more than we have? We can allow the cloud of despondency to lay on our heads because we feel like we can't do anything, or we can take that cloud and we can turn that cloud to spiritual progress. Oh Lord, increase my faith, build confidence in my heart in thy workings. He allowed all of these things to encourage asceticism. Did you notice what he said to the disciples? After he revealed their lack of faith and he told them to just try to get a little solid, true faith? He then told them, and this kind you really want to be serious, this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting. That was a word to encourage the disciples to evaluate their enemy more seriously, and that is a word we need, brothers and sister, to take our enemy more seriously, to a praise who were fighting against with greater soap, sobriety and to recognize that we need to engage in this war more wholeheartedly. When we run up against the wall and you were not able to push through, maybe it's time to dedicate special prayer, not just our normal prayers, not just asking...

...father to pray. Maybe it's time to dedicate special prayer. Maybe it's time to fast. Not when the church asks 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 feel the presence, we see that demon, maybe it's time to fast and to say no so that we can concentrate our powers and our strength on this problem and seek the help of God. The Gospel record ends with a beautiful statement from Jesus that shows that he's not just talking, he's not just trying to tell us have faith, trust me in the mysterious circumstances of your life and engage the enemy seriously. He modeled it for us. He modeled it for us. The end of this account, it says Jesus told his disciples that he would be betrayed into the hands of men, he would be killed and he would be raved again on the third day. And then it records and they were all deeply grieved. They were all deeply grieved our savior was living it. He himself was embracing the will of his father, the circumstances which appeared too much for him, so much that he, when he was on his knees and get Semity, wanting to escape his fate, filling the cloud of despondency fall unto his head. When he had to look at the cup that he was going to drink for our salvation, he pushed himself like he wants us to push ourselves. He turned that cloud into prayer. He turned to his father and he said, father,...

...grant that this Cup might pass me by, 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 endure with confidence in God through all of the challenging circumstances that often make us feel so powerless. God strengthen us in faith on them. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation. Offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit 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 www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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