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 nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah Trenem patristic nectar publications invites our listeners to visit our website for our newest offering, four hundred texts on love by Saint Maximus the confessor. This offering four hundred texts on love is the second installment in the PHILOCALIA project and is the most famous of the works of Saint Maximus the confessor. Here, Saint Maximus expounds the very essence of the Christian life, the way of love. He provides soul nourishment and direction in the imitation of Jesus Christ for both novices and the most experienced believers. This text in the Philocalia has been cherished by believers for over a millennium 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 renowned patristics, scholar and maximologist. And now he years father just sign the name of 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 not looking at our treasurer or at our stewardship coordinator because I am going to pass on preaching on perhaps the best text in the New Testament on the subject of stewardship 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 Gospel text, 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 sacred and precious. We have so many customs. Are Parents and grandparents and forefathers in the 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 we ask each other about our welfare, we say thank God. We say that it's very important exchange. It tells us and the person to whom we're speaking what 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 in the heavens who's worthy of praise, worthy of our love and admiration and honor and worship, and let's just keep it at that. That's what we're saying to 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 we are. 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 it is not going to know any more about your internal condition then they knew before they asked you. That may be okay, but if it's a friend or a loved one or a family member, we're going to have to say more than thank God. A lot of times when we say thank God, we don't feel we're not feeling great. This week has been a very, very challenging week for me, with lots of sorrows on every hand, and I was comforted listening to the services this morning and I was thinking about this greeting just in the psalms that we heard this morning, in the six psalms of or throos and Psalm fifty, King David, the sweet psalmist, reveals his inner condition 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 down a few, a few that more accurately represent my interior condition and perhaps yours, at least sometimes for us. First, in the pre communion prayers, St John Chrysostom, this is in his first prayer in the precommunion prayers, before we've even started or throws, St John krassostom describes are us, all of 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 that really it doesn't make sense for him to come inside of us in holy communion because inside we're all desolate and in ruins. How would you like to answer someone that way when they said how are you desolate and in ruins? That may be true, that may be more accurate. In the six psalms that we 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 a good response to I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly. Or how about this? My Enemies live and are made stronger than I am. Hm, this is from some eighty seven. I am...

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

...move on to the ocean, Sandy Beach. That's what happens. They come, sometimes unpredictably, sometimes predictably, but sometimes they amass themselves into a great set of waves and they just crush on you like mighty breakers and they leave you on the ground crying, like David did, about being continually afflicted and humbled exceedingly. And then we cry out that our enemies are alive and are stronger than us, or we say in another place, in the six psalms, I was exalted and then brought to distress. This is why devout believers, experienced believers, our holy fathers, teach us to be very careful and sober about our inner disposition. When things are wonderful, rejoice, but be sober, keep your feet on the ground, and when things are terrible, mourn, but not too much. We have to be careful and keep a close watch on our hearts, because we know that where there is laughter and rejoicing, soon there will be tears, and where there are tears, soon there will be rejoicing. You know the Thomas Says Right, he who scatters his seed in the night with tears will be found in the morning with rejoicing carrying his sheaves. We learn to stick to God and to keep our cells close so that we don't end up destroyed. 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 a horrible thing because it's the funeral of a young man. No one wants to go to the funeral of a young person, and it's the funeral of a young man who is the only son of his mother. That's doubly a reason to mourn. Her only son is dead. And Tripoli mournful. It's the death of a young man, the only son of his mother, who was a widow. It couldn't have been worse. Now she's without support, she's left alone in this misery and our savior comes upon this scene. There is no escaping it, brothers and sisters, and it doesn't do us any good to 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 teenager who has not thought very deeply about his or her faith, and that can be an important question to ask and answer. But, brothers and sisters, for us, for we who are not teenagers, that is not an acceptable response. We know where this has come...

...from. We know that it is not God's will that men die, that men suffer illness and tragedy and all of these miseries. We know exactly where it came from. We know that the Lord Made Us Upright in paradise and we spit in his face. We know we did that. We know that, according to Saint Paul, that death came from sin. So, all of the thanks that we feel, all the desire that we feel, that sometimes temps us to say, why hasn't God stopped this? Why didn't God take that person and make their hand not able to be moved when they wanted to pick up that gun? Why didn't God allow that man's legs not to work when he wanted to walk in front of that train? Think of what you're asking. It may be that he sent his angel a hundred times it maybe to distract him, and maybe that he blew beautiful thoughts into that person's mind a hundred times. We think this because we know he's done it to us so many times. To change us from a funk, to pick us up, that's one thing, but to ask God to violate us, to ask God to turn us into his robots so that nothing bad ever happens, so that we never do anything terrible and no terrible consequences can flow to others from our actions, is asking God to do something he cannot and will not do. He loves US, he fashioned US in his image with freedom, and he respects it as the essential condition for any meaningful life, any meaningful love at all. The sad part is that we sometimes misuse this freedom. The solution is not to wish it away. The solution is to bear our condition patiently until the end. This is what we have to do, brothers and sisters. We have to accept what we've caused, what we've created, even our part in it, and we have to bear up under it, because this is the path of deliverance from sorrows. He who endures until the end will be saved. There's no profit in kicking against it and fighting against it. There's certainly no profit in laying 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, at the doorstep of sin. Let us decide that we really hate it and every time we feel so miserable and we come...

...into contact with such measure of human suffering that we develop within ourselves a greater contempt discussed, abhorrence of sin and wickedness, because that is the cause of human misery. Why do we play with it like it's a plaything when it has caused so much misery in our life? Why do we twist sin around our finger? Why do we reconcile it, dance with it, justify it, when we should simply hate it and hold it in contempt? God forgive us for loving it, loving our chief enemy, dreaming about it, excusing it and making peace with it. God help us to abhor it. Our Savior walked up into this misery and did 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 looked and he was moved in the bowels, deep in his stomach. He U was 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, bearing witness of the will of the Holy Trinity to act for men's help and men's salvation, he interceded and he walked up to the funeral procession and he stopped it and he took his life giving hands and he put them on the beer of the young man and the man was raised from the dead on the spot. And you imagine the mother's heart, the explosion of joy that must have come into his mother's heart when she saw her son in the midst of the funeral procession, thinking that she's just a few minutes away from putting him under the earth to have him back in her arms kissing her face. What devotion 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. We can 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 souls and 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 drawing near to this morning. That same flesh you want inside yourself, in the Chalice of Holy Communion. You want to...

...receive him into you, to kill death and to strengthen you through this veil of tears, through this interplay of misery 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 know has a little spiritual pharmacy in his office or in his altar. I have a little I have a little Chinese styled altar in my office. It holds my prayer books on the top and a Seven Day candle and a prayer rope, some things that people give me, some sacred rocks and things. But what most of you have never seen are the drawers underneath the little Chinese style altar in my office. Who drawers full of bottles? Yes, in fact, holy water from every place in the earth, the oil of St Demetrius, the merged Tumer of St Nicholas, oil from St Herman's Tomb, on and on and on. I remember one year, one summer, I had one of our interns make a list so that I could keep track of this extensive pharmacy, because it was getting it was overwhelming me. These little bottles 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 the miracle of the Mer streaming icon of the Virgin Mary, the Evron icon that started weeping in Hawaii five years ago yesterday, this outrageous miracle, this icon 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 you were here for that anointing. Yesterday was the five years these little tokens. All across the United States, Western Europe, Hawaii, people now have little bottles in their in their house, full of the tears of the Virgin Mary, these beautiful tears that come from her face, designed to strengthen US and to give us grace and encouragement. You know this practice that I'm telling you about we got it from God. King David says, and I leave this with 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 reading in western a western Psalter, and the fifty five psalm. He says that my tears are collected by God in two...

...places, in his bottle and in his book. And you imagine the Lord God collects our tears and notes them in his book. Such is his concern and such is the God that we serve. So be encouraged, brothers and sisters. Though we live in a life 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 sheaves and we will be rejoicing. 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. Until next time,.

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