The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Living as a Christian in a World of Misery

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Raising the widow's son at Nain. Learn more about Patristic Nectar Publications.

Ancient faith. Radio and patristic nectarpublications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah Trenem patristic nectarpublications invites our listeners to visit our website for our newest offering, four hundredtexts on love by Saint Maximus the confessor. This offering four hundred texts on loveis the second installment in the PHILOCALIA project and is the most famous ofthe works of Saint Maximus the confessor. Here, Saint Maximus expounds the veryessence of the Christian life, the way of love. He provides soul nourishmentand direction in the imitation of Jesus Christ for both novices and the most experiencedbelievers. This text in the Philocalia has been cherished by believers for over amillennium and is offered with a special introduction by His grace, Bishop Maxim,hierarch of the western American diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an internationally renownedpatristics, scholar and maximologist. And now he years father just sign the nameof the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. When I look out at you, brothers and sisters, I'm intentionally notlooking at our treasurer or at our stewardship coordinator because I am going to passon preaching on perhaps the best text in the New Testament on the subject ofstewardship that you found this morning from to Corinthians. I'm going to pass.So I'm asking for forgiveness and I'll just look avoid this area over here.Instead, I would like to preach to you this morning on this magnificent Gospeltext, the miracle of the raising of the widow son at that sorrowful funeral. You know, we orthodox have a way of speaking that it's very sacredand precious. We have so many customs. Are Parents and grandparents and forefathers inthe faith have taught us how to think about life and how to interact. One of the things that we do when we see each other and weask each other about our welfare, we say thank God. We say thatit's very important exchange. It tells us and the person to whom we're speakingwhat really matters, and that is,...

...regardless of what's happened to me today, good or bad or indifferent, I thank God there is a God inthe heavens who's worthy of praise, worthy of our love and admiration and honorand worship, and let's just keep it at that. That's what we're sayingto each other when we say things like that. Thank God. Now,the downside of that is that we can say thank God no matter how weare. We might be in the clouds, we might be in the gutter,and we can say thank God and the person to whom you're saying itis not going to know any more about your internal condition then they knew beforethey asked you. That may be okay, but if it's a friend or aloved one or a family member, we're going to have to say morethan thank God. A lot of times when we say thank God, wedon't feel we're not feeling great. This week has been a very, verychallenging week for me, with lots of sorrows on every hand, and Iwas comforted listening to the services this morning and I was thinking about this greetingjust in the psalms that we heard this morning, in the six psalms ofor throos and Psalm fifty, King David, the sweet psalmist, reveals his innercondition and pours it out in prayers to God and these beautiful psalms,in many ways that we can find ourselves in, just as I wrote downa few, a few that more accurately represent my interior condition and perhaps yours, at least sometimes for us. First, in the pre communion prayers, StJohn Chrysostom, this is in his first prayer in the precommunion prayers,before we've even started or throws, St John krassostom describes are us, allof us together, as desolate and in ruins? Desolate and in ruins.This is a prayer that we're making to Christ, saying that we know thatreally it doesn't make sense for him to come inside of us in holy communionbecause inside we're all desolate and in ruins. How would you like to answer someonethat way when they said how are you desolate and in ruins? Thatmay be true, that may be more accurate. In the six psalms thatwe start or throws with. In the second one of those Psalm thirty seven, King David says my heart is troubled, my heart is troubled. That's agood response to I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly. Or how about this? My Enemies live and are made stronger than I am. Hm, thisis from some eighty seven. I am...

...in troubles, from my youth,or the end of the sixsalmsum one hundred forty two. My spirit within meis become despondent. Within me, my heart is troubled. So here youbegin the six psalms with an affirmation from King David saying that my heart istroubled, and we end this six psalms with an affirmation that my heart istroubled. These are honest and then some fifty gives us the reason. Mysin is ever before me. My sin is ever before me. Brothers andsisters, these are the size of the Christian's heart. Maybe you can findyourself there. If you can't find yourself there this morning, you will thisafternoon, I promise you. And if not today, you will tomorrow,because that is what this life is. Don't fall to the fantasy that youcan acquire a life through some job, through some relationship, through some geographicalplace where you want to live, through being a certain age where your lifewon't be a serious mix of joys and sorrows. There is no such lifeon this earth. This week tears were brought into my house through friends andfriends of friends who took their lives. Two suicides this week. Misery,misery, misery, misery. One man who had lost his son and wasoverwhelmed with sorrow walked into the train here in Riverside. Another who was sufferingfrom a debilitating illness, the brother of one of our former parishioners, wasmoved away, grew weary of the struggle, grew tired of the debilitating illness andbecame convinced, through the tricks of the evil one and lies, thathe could end his cross, put a bullet in his chest and go tothe Kingdom of God. Tremendous sorrows. These hit me like a ton ofbricks, especially since we had already had a couple deaths this week in theparish. Mothers of two of our parishioners passed away. God be with themand give them the kingdom. But they hit me like a ton of bricksand I thought to myself, as I was reading the Gospel lesson this weekand preparing my homily, how much of life is this? A good portion? A good portion is sorrow o sorrows enjoys. They intersect in our lifeand they move into our life like waves...

...move on to the ocean, SandyBeach. That's what happens. They come, sometimes unpredictably, sometimes predictably, butsometimes they amass themselves into a great set of waves and they just crushon you like mighty breakers and they leave you on the ground crying, likeDavid did, about being continually afflicted and humbled exceedingly. And then we cryout that our enemies are alive and are stronger than us, or we sayin another place, in the six psalms, I was exalted and then brought todistress. This is why devout believers, experienced believers, our holy fathers,teach us to be very careful and sober about our inner disposition. Whenthings are wonderful, rejoice, but be sober, keep your feet on theground, and when things are terrible, mourn, but not too much.We have to be careful and keep a close watch on our hearts, becausewe know that where there is laughter and rejoicing, soon there will be tears, and where there are tears, soon there will be rejoicing. You knowthe Thomas Says Right, he who scatters his seed in the night with tearswill be found in the morning with rejoicing carrying his sheaves. We learn tostick to God and to keep our cells close so that we don't end updestroyed. The Gospel Lesson this morning describes just such a mournful, awful,pathetic, depressing, grief stricken situation. As our Lord comes upon this funeral, he meets it at the gate of the city Naine, and it's ahorrible thing because it's the funeral of a young man. No one wants togo to the funeral of a young person, and it's the funeral of a youngman who is the only son of his mother. That's doubly a reasonto mourn. Her only son is dead. And Tripoli mournful. It's the deathof a young man, the only son of his mother, who wasa widow. It couldn't have been worse. Now she's without support, she's leftalone in this misery and our savior comes upon this scene. There isno escaping it, brothers and sisters, and it doesn't do us any goodto say, why has God allowed this? Why has God not stopped it?That just doesn't do. That can be an understandable question for a teenagerwho has not thought very deeply about his or her faith, and that canbe an important question to ask and answer. But, brothers and sisters, forus, for we who are not teenagers, that is not an acceptableresponse. We know where this has come...

...from. We know that it isnot God's will that men die, that men suffer illness and tragedy and allof these miseries. We know exactly where it came from. We know thatthe Lord Made Us Upright in paradise and we spit in his face. Weknow we did that. We know that, according to Saint Paul, that deathcame from sin. So, all of the thanks that we feel,all the desire that we feel, that sometimes temps us to say, whyhasn't God stopped this? Why didn't God take that person and make their handnot able to be moved when they wanted to pick up that gun? Whydidn't God allow that man's legs not to work when he wanted to walk infront of that train? Think of what you're asking. It may be thathe sent his angel a hundred times it maybe to distract him, and maybethat he blew beautiful thoughts into that person's mind a hundred times. We thinkthis because we know he's done it to us so many times. To changeus from a funk, to pick us up, that's one thing, butto ask God to violate us, to ask God to turn us into hisrobots so that nothing bad ever happens, so that we never do anything terribleand no terrible consequences can flow to others from our actions, is asking Godto do something he cannot and will not do. He loves US, hefashioned US in his image with freedom, and he respects it as the essentialcondition for any meaningful life, any meaningful love at all. The sad partis that we sometimes misuse this freedom. The solution is not to wish itaway. The solution is to bear our condition patiently until the end. Thisis what we have to do, brothers and sisters. We have to acceptwhat we've caused, what we've created, even our part in it, andwe have to bear up under it, because this is the path of deliverancefrom sorrows. He who endures until the end will be saved. There's noprofit in kicking against it and fighting against it. There's certainly no profit inlaying the blame where it doesn't belong, at the doorstep of God. Instead, let us hut the blame for such misery where it rightly belongs, atthe doorstep of sin. Let us decide that we really hate it and everytime we feel so miserable and we come...

...into contact with such measure of humansuffering that we develop within ourselves a greater contempt discussed, abhorrence of sin andwickedness, because that is the cause of human misery. Why do we playwith it like it's a plaything when it has caused so much misery in ourlife? Why do we twist sin around our finger? Why do we reconcileit, dance with it, justify it, when we should simply hate it andhold it in contempt? God forgive us for loving it, loving ourchief enemy, dreaming about it, excusing it and making peace with it.God help us to abhor it. Our Savior walked up into this misery anddid something marvelous, really marvelous. He looked at the funeral procession of Naine, much like he looked at Canan Abel after Abel was dead on the ground, much like he looked at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He lookedand he was moved in the bowels, deep in his stomach. He Uwas moved and without being solicited, without anyone in the funeral procession saying hey, Jesus, come over and help. No one said anything to him.The text doesn't say anyone looked at him. Completely on his own initiative, bearingwitness of the will of the Holy Trinity to act for men's help andmen's salvation, he interceded and he walked up to the funeral procession and hestopped it and he took his life giving hands and he put them on thebeer of the young man and the man was raised from the dead on thespot. And you imagine the mother's heart, the explosion of joy that must havecome into his mother's heart when she saw her son in the midst ofthe funeral procession, thinking that she's just a few minutes away from putting himunder the earth to have him back in her arms kissing her face. Whatdevotion that family must have had to our savior for the rest of their days. This is the triumph of the Gospel. This is the solution for our misery, brothers and sisters, is to accept the Lord's healing touch. Wecan make it through. We can make it through a Baiale of tears.If WE HAVE THE TOUCH OF CHRIST, we've all experienced it in our soulsand we are you're here today because you want it. That same hand,that same life giving flesh which raised up this man from death you are drawingnear to this morning. That same flesh you want inside yourself, in theChalice of Holy Communion. You want to...

...receive him into you, to killdeath and to strengthen you through this veil of tears, through this interplay ofmisery and joy, until you yourself are delivered completely from everything that threatens you. This is what our Savior has done. You know, every priest I knowhas a little spiritual pharmacy in his office or in his altar. Ihave a little I have a little Chinese styled altar in my office. Itholds my prayer books on the top and a Seven Day candle and a prayerrope, some things that people give me, some sacred rocks and things. Butwhat most of you have never seen are the drawers underneath the little Chinesestyle altar in my office. Who drawers full of bottles? Yes, infact, holy water from every place in the earth, the oil of StDemetrius, the merged Tumer of St Nicholas, oil from St Herman's Tomb, onand on and on. I remember one year, one summer, Ihad one of our interns make a list so that I could keep track ofthis extensive pharmacy, because it was getting it was overwhelming me. These littlebottles are little tokens, little blessings from the Lord God y after day.Was a big anniversary for these little tokens. It was the fifth anniversary of themiracle of the Mer streaming icon of the Virgin Mary, the Evron iconthat started weeping in Hawaii five years ago yesterday, this outrageous miracle, thisicon that is so simple and yet weeps rivers of Holy Mer to encourage us. It came to this church, you might remember, so many of youwere here for that anointing. Yesterday was the five years these little tokens.All across the United States, Western Europe, Hawaii, people now have little bottlesin their in their house, full of the tears of the Virgin Mary, these beautiful tears that come from her face, designed to strengthen US andto give us grace and encouragement. You know this practice that I'm telling youabout we got it from God. King David says, and I leave thiswith you as a consolation, King David says that in his life of troubles, his consolation was that his tears were collected by God in to two places. This is the fifty five psalm, or the fifty six if you're readingin western a western Psalter, and the fifty five psalm. He says thatmy tears are collected by God in two...

...places, in his bottle and inhis book. And you imagine the Lord God collects our tears and notes themin his book. Such is his concern and such is the God that weserve. So be encouraged, brothers and sisters. Though we live in alife which seems like we're scattering seed everywhere with tears coming down our cheeks,in the morning of the Kingdom of God we're going to be carrying our sheavesand we will be rejoicing. We hope that you have enjoyed and have beenedified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organizationcommitted to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers.Until next time,.

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