The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 1 year ago

Ministry and the Devil | Sunday after Theophany 2022


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 theological foundations God, man and the world in Genesis one through three a ten lecture series. The opening chapters of the Holy Bible provide the fundamental elements of the Christian World View. There we learn about the one true God, the human being fashioned in God's image and God's meaning infused creation. These texts, which have always formed a central element in the Church's catechetical ministry, present the most important of Christian convictions. These chapters are particularly relevant today, as secularism has suppressed these essential truths from the Western mind and priests can no longer assume that these basic theological affirmations are believed by those coming to the church or raised in the church. These lectures are presented as an aid in the formation of catechumens and as an effort to set forth the transcendent beauty of the glory of God, of the human being and of God's magnificent world. For these and other available titles, visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now on the arena with Father Josiah trennam in the name of the father, end of the son and of the Holy Spirit. A blessed Lord's Day to all of you, brothers and sisters, and a very happy fourth day of the Great Feast of Theophany. We've gone from the joy of celebrating the Nativity of our savior to the great joy of celebrating his baptism, and the great mystery that was revealed in silence has now become very public can vary revealed to the world. I hope in these days you have been constantly giving thanks to God for the significance of why Jesus was baptized. As I've been going around the houses doing the house blessings, participating in this sacred custom of the church, which is universal and ancient, I've been asking the kids especially, why are you happy that Jesus was baptized? No one's actually got the answer yet and there's been a lot of houses. No one's got the answers. I think it's because the we need to increase maybe our our educational work around the Feast of Theophany. The usual answer from the kids is because he was baptized. Yes, answering a question with repeating the question as a non question is not answering the question. But why is that special, since his baptism is so unlike ours? We're so thankful because that Jesus was baptized, because he is so humble to identify with our sins. We already saw in Christmas his humility to enter into our estate, to take on humanity, but today, in the celebration of Theophany, we see how willing he is to associate with sinners, how willing he is to bear our sin and to present himself as a repentant sinner. At the waters of the Jordan, John was completely nonplost blown. What are you doing here? You should be in my place and I should be in your place. John, said the humble one. We're so thankful that our savior was willing to identify with us as the sinners that we are, to put them on his own back. We're so thankful that he...

...was willing to go into the water and to reopen paradise, which had been shut because of our sins. He showed us not just his identification with our sins, his willingness to bear them, but also what the consequence of that would be, and that is that the heavens would open and part as a result of him bearing our sins into the Jordan. We're also thankful that he was baptized because he called the Holy Spirit down upon the waters and sanctified all of the waters and, through them, all of creation, so that those cleansed waters could perform the miracle of sanctifying us and purifying us when the Holy Spirit descends upon the waters and the sacrament of Holy Baptism. He wasn't baptized because he needed the water, he was baptized because the water needed him. Can you find a way to say that in kid language, in your parental and grand parental and God parental wisdom, and teach our young people about why it's so wonderful? The little ones need to know why it's so wonderful that Jesus was baptized and why we celebrate it in the church. We also rejoice in the theophany because the light which came in manifested itself in Bethlehem under the cloak of darkness is now manifest for everybody to see. Now the father has spoken and the son has been baptized and the Holy Spirit has descended. Now the great brilliance of the Holy Trinity is manifested to everyone and we see the invasion, as you heard in the Gospel, just around those who sit in the darkness have seen a mega false, a great light. Christ today, after Thirty Years of obscurity, of humility, of hiding, has now come to spread the light, to enlighten the world, and we see that he does that. Every one of you has a story. Every one of you has a story of how he's come for you, of how his light invaded your darkness. Every one of you could tell it, perhaps not as gloriously as St Paul could tell it, when he saw the light of Christ at Noonday and it made the Noonday Sun Look like a flickering candle, but everybody could say it. Everybody can say it. This whole week I've been thinking, as I've been meditating on this feast, about my own my own little life and how much, as a young man, I've never been able to stop thanking God for without being asked in any way. Shame on me, shame on me, without being asked in any way, just invaded me, just invaded my darkness, came into my life in His light and very much connected to the scriptures, which are a light to the world and a lamp for our feet. Everybody has this story, and that's what theophany is all about. It's about the light of God conquering the darkness, not being content with the mystery of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Sat Gregor, the theologian, who is, of all the fathers, the most famous for his meditations upon Theophany, his majestic oration on both the baptism of Christ and on baptism itself.

He writes this, he says, as an exhortation to us. He says, let us not remain what we are. Let us not remain what we are, but become what we once were. Let us purify ourselves and be initiated into the word that we may work the most good possible for ourselves. You that language. It's amazing language that should resonate with let with Americans, work the most good possible for ourselves. Well, what is that greatest good possible for ourselves? Let us be initiated into the word that we may work the most good profitable for ourselves, making ourselves deaform, holding him fast the word Christ, and manifesting him to others. This is the greatest. The greatest is to obtain him, become deaform, let his shape become your shape. Then hold fast your whole life on the Christ and, in the process, manifest him to other people. This is how the light grows, this is how the life spreads. What a great time it is today. I've entitled this Homily Ministry and the Devil, and you may be thinking, father, you're preaching on theophany. I am preaching on Theophany, very much I am. But if you listen to the readings, you would have heard the epistle from St Paul's letter to the Ephesians, which is all about ministry. Christ ascending on high and giving gifts to men, leading captives out of hell, spreading his gifts throughout the church, making some apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, to the upbuilding of the body of Chrift. Until we all reach maturity. In Chrift, they become a perfect man. It's an incredible text on ministry. And then you would have heard also the text from the Gospel Matthew, which follows, of course, chapter three in Matthew, which is all about Theophany, Chapter Four is Christ moving into the Galilee of the gentiles and going to copernium and bringing to the people who were outcasts and who are alienated from the truth of God, bringing them, bringing the gentiles the Megaphos, the great light, his own ministry. He launched his own ministry today. You heard it, his first public preaching and his first words out of his mouth repent for the Kingdom of God has come near. The Kingdom of God is here. This is why I'm preaching on Ministry. In the devil, you see the common theme of Ministry and the Gospel and the epistle text. Where did the devil come from? Well, it's that portion of Matthew that separates what we read on Theophany and today, this week. What did Jesus do after he was baptized and before he launched his public ministry? He went into the desert to confront the devil, and I want to say a word to you about that. How about why Jesus did that and what it has to do with ministry? You no doubt know the details of Jesus's temptation in the desert, the three great temptations he faced, his utter, complete dominance over Satan himself, his refusal to give in to any of the temptations and his Driving Satan away by his faithfulness. Sirach in the...

Old Testament says this. This is chapter two, verse one. He says, my son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, think if I come forward to ministry, prepare yourself for temptation. If you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation. Set your heart right and be steadfast, cleave to him and do not depart, that you may be honored at the end of your life. Except what is brought to you and the changes that humble you. MMM, MMM, except what is brought to you and the changes that humble you. Be Patient, for Gold is purified in the fire and acceptable people in the furnace of humiliation. Trust in him and he will help you. This is it, dear ones. Jesus is modeling for us the reality that every person who would try to serve him, every servant of the Lord, would experience, and that is, if you're going to serve God, there's only one way, and that is to successfully pass through temptation and to have your relationship to the devil right. It is impossible to serve God, absolutely impossible to serve God successfully without having your orientation to the devil fixed. And this is what Jesus is teaching us. Before he began his public ministry, and remember this is a ministry in which he literally tortured the devils just by his presence. He would just get near them and they would shriek in terror. This is how absolutely gloriously victorious our Savior is over the demonic realm. But he went into the desert to meet the master of all darkness, and the master of all darkness met him, and Jesus had nothing to say to him except these words. It is written. That's what he said to the first temptation, and then he quoted the passage of scripture showing that the devil was going down the wrong course. To the second temptation, he said it is written. To the third temptation, it is written. He shows us that the way to overcome temptation is to have your heart, your very being, fixed to God, so that his words are everything to you, his opinions are everything to you. God's judgments are what you care about and nobody else is. And when you're confronted with somebody else, even the devil himself. You choose to say faithful to God. That is the presupposition, that is the necessary qualification to do anything for God, to do any ministry at all. You know, we make this very clear in the church at the very beginning through the prayers of exorcism that we offer to Catechumens, to the call to catechumens to purify their life so that they're fit for illumination. Then in the baptismal right itself, which is all about having a right orientation to the devil so that you can have a right orientation to Christ, we make you face west, we make you renounce him, we make you spit in his face, we ask you to do the most provocative action possible against the devil and then we orient you to Christ and... make your sacred vows of fidelity, of allegiance, of love for the rest of your days. This is the beginning of Christian life. This is the necessary presupposition for ministry. Some, in many ways, I could say all of us, fiddle with that orientation. We fiddle with it because just because we've renounced him doesn't mean he's renounced us. Right are renouncing of him, often as a provocation. It's a test to see if we're serious or not. After baptism he's going to come to us to see, well, did you really mean that? Or what? If we work a deal? What if we work at deal? Okay, I don't have to be King, just let me in a little bit over here, all of his trickery, all of his lies. If you intend to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation. That orientation that we take is an orientation that we have to reaffirm day by day, by day by day. This is why St John Craysostom says when you leave your house and you go through the door, spit to the West and renew your renunciation of the devil, because you're going into his realm. The whole world lies in the power of the evil one. St John says in his first epistle. If you're going to live, leave you're saying to fied house, which probably you're getting blessed this year. I would expect so, since I saw the very long lists that my most dutiful secretary has presented to me. Your House is holy. He has no business there, he has no place there in your house. But when you go out of your house. If you're going to have a successful day, you have to have your orientation right. Jesus is teaching us this. Every day has to be a day to seek virtue. Every day has to be a day to strip off any association with him and, in seeing Gregory's words, be fully initiated into the word, hold fast to him so that you can manifest him to others. Every day we try to be purified. We tried to grow. You know, one of the greatest things about our country's history, one of the things I love the most about classical America, and I love to say beautiful things about our country, because everybody's beaten her up like crazy. These days, all we do is talk about our vices. One of the greatest things about America is the universal American interest in virtue. You know, one of the greatest books from the from our early days, was the odd little biography of Ben Franklin, one of our great founding fathers. I love the man. The man had so many incredible interests and had so many unbelievable insights. By the way, he was also a leading abolitionist, fighting for freedom and the opposition of slavery. One of the things he did when he was young and he maintained throughout his whole life was he decided when he was young that he was going to try to become the kind of person that God expected people to be. So he wrote down the thirteen top virtues that he found in the scriptures that he thought you needed to be and then he took the year, the fifty two weeks of the year, and he divided them into for so for series of thirteen, and then he devoted his attention every day for a week to each of those thirteen virtues, week after week after weeks. So every year he would give attention to cultivating those...

...thirteen virtues four times a year, and he did this for his whole life, constantly studying the virtues, constantly trying to acquire them. He writes about this in detail in his autobiography. In fact, that autobiography, he may say, well, why is that so great about America? It's been Franklin. It's not just been Franklin. That was one of the most popular books read by Americans. It was published in seventeen ninety one. By eighteen fifty it had gone through one hundred twenty printings. That's how interested Americans were in this virtues, labor, patience, forgiveness, honesty, on and on. This is what we have to be dear ones. If we stop fighting the devil, if we change our orientation to him for one day, that day is done. He will spring into action and he will seduce us and we will regret it. Let me end with a word of about ministry, your thoughts about ministry. I'm telling you, we have to imitate Jesus in making sure our orientation to the devil's right to engage in service to God and others. Saint Paul says very clearly in this incredible text from a Fesian for that for us, the Christian life is not just about salvation. It's about salvation and service. Were literally saved to sir, of any concept of salvation that is just individualistic and that isn't in the context of the church and living in the church and serving God in the church is a focus concept of salvation. We're safe to serve. That's obvious in the actual act of baptism and Chrismation, because you're actually given gifts. You're given a spiritual gift, at least one, in the act that gift is given you to utilize, to invest for the upbuilding of the church. You heard it. So many people think that ministry is what priests do. I reject that one hundred percent. It's what we do. Yes, there is a priesthood and the priesthood is responsible for equipping you. That's the language equipping you. The priests are those to stand before you, to encourage you, to instruct you, to blast you, to you not you to God in the mysteries and to stand next to you in a common service to help you on the way. Priests are just gifts from Christ, and priestly priest too. By the way, the ministry is everyone's. The matter of fact, Paul says that we're the equippers and the work of the Ministry is done by the Faithful to equip the saints for the work of Ministry, to the UPBUILDING of the body of Christ. I want you to think this way. You're in minis history. If you're not, you're going to be found to be one of those people who buried his one talent in the ground. That what are you going to say on the last day when the Lord says, at least you could have invested it in the bank and giving me some interest. You are the ministry workers. I want you to think for a second about your job, whatever it is, and I want you to think that your job is also your ministry. Whatever...

...that job is. There's innumerable ones in this parish. Whatever that job is, think about it as a ministry. Step back and ask yourself, okay, am I doing this and what I do, the things that I do, could I say that this is a ministry? You know my grandfather, my mom's dad, my maternal grandfather. You've heard me talk about them. I think you've been around for any length of time, a lot. It's name was Ruby Green, got rest his soul. He had a plaque in his office in Kirksville, Missouri that I used to see every time I would visit him in the summer and I've never forgotten and I see it in my eye right now. It says this. Every job for a Christian is a Christian job. It's what I said. Every job for a Christian is a Christian job. This is the mentality that my grandfather had. I am who I am, I'm strift's and if I'm doing that job, I have to do it as Christ's. That means. Whatever I do it, I do it with him in mind. I do it with his goals in mind, I do it no matter what, with it is written in mind. As temptation arises in the job, we look at it me say, well, it is written this or that. This is how you can make your job a ministry. Dear ones, try, try this year to inject more ministry into your job, whatever your job is, and also I want to talk to you about your ministry outside of your job. Some of you are very comfortable with the idea of your job being a ministry. I'm happy about that, but that is not what Paul talking about. Paul talking about the work of the ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. You have a ministry also in your job, in your office, in your school, in your homeschool or whatever you're doing. You have a job there too that you need to ministry make into a ministry. In need to glorify it, for sure as you can. But what about the ministry apart from your job? What about the ministry apart from your job? What about specifically building up the body of Christ? You know, dear ones, our success, our success as believers in our success as a community, as St Andrew Parish, this year, come November it's thirty year anniversary. It's our thirty year anniversary for US expanding our ministries. God's asking us to do this. There's only one way to do it. When you hear those words expanding ministries, don't think about me when you if you're going to think about me, think of more services, think about more preaching, think about more standing next to you in confession. That is not what I want you to think about when you're thinking about expanding ministries. I want you to think about you. You know, just take the amount of time that you give to the build, to the service of the church. Take it in your mind. Nobody's watching Save God. Take that, take that and ask yourself the number of f the hours that I give to the church every week. If everyone in the church serve that number of the hours, would our parish be stronger or would our parish would be weaker? If you say stronger, then stop thinking this way and never think about that again. But if the answer is the church would be weaker, do something about it this year. Invest Yourself this year,...

...ask God what he wants you to do and then do it. The idea that the same names should be ten years on, doing the same ministries, on the same people on the Parish Council nomination list, the same people running this ministry or that ministry, fully on that idea. That is complete nonsense. You know, I'll tell you one thing that we're going to be faced with soon. We have seventy three catechumans. Guess how many godparents go seventy three catechumans need? They need at least seventy three. If you get one of the opposite sex to that could be a hundred, forty six. Okay, so what's going to happen? What's going to happen? It can't be a person who already has. I was talking to I've been asking people, Hey, are you willing to be a godparent? You willing to be a godparent? We only have so many more months. I have someone the other day. They said, well, I could father, but I have twenty one like never mind, never mind, twenty one enough, twenty one enough. No, dear ones, please think this way. Set your heart on serving God. Expect temptation, but hold fast to God so that the end of the life, at the end of your life, people will honor you. Christ will honor you and he'll say well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord. Amen. 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 petristic nectar dot org.

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