The Arena
The Arena

Episode 573 · 6 months ago

Split Devotion | 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Saint Matthew 6


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 the proceedings of the twenty twenty two annual P and p conference entitled Holy Orthodoxy, presenting the Christian faith. This seven lecture series is designed to present a broad exposure of the contours of the Christian faith, both to prepare inquirers and catechumens for holy baptism, as well as deepening and renewing the faith of believers. These lectures are delivered by a collage of Catechists, for by the deeply respected petrologist are commandright Maximus Konstas, with additional single lectures by Father Josiah Trenam, Father Bogdan Bukur and doctor Tkon Pino. For these, as well as other conferences and available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah trenor. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, blessed Lord's Day to all of you, brothers and sisters. Before I begin my homily, I want to make just a few reflections on the DIASS in parish life conference that I've just returned to from last night. I thank you for your prayers for myself and those parishioners who traveled up to Santa Clara. It was a big blessing because we hadn't been together for three years as a diocese like this. We had done little, you know, online zoom things. That's a lot different than all of us being together for the service and being able to receive the blessing of our father and God, Metropolitan Joseph, being able to fellowship together. There was a lot of sweet fellowship. You know, we've had so many parishioners moved so many places uh over the years that this is one of those areas, one of those times what I get to see former parishioners who are now coming as part of a delegation from their own parish to the Paris Life Conference, which is a great joy for me. We had great preaching. The theme was unless you become like a child, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of God, and so all the of the lectures were given on what it means to be like a child. Several of the homilies just left me completely undone. They were just magnificent. We also had all of our ministry meetings, which were wonderful. I was able to attend a new ministry in the diocese actually is taking place across the country and I find its creation fascinating. I'm mentioning it because I'm hoping it will take some sort of parish expression here, and that is a new men's ministry. Everyone knows about the Antiochian women. The Antioch Women Do Things Everywhere. They are the philanthropic powerhouse of our arts diocese. Every parish and mission has an Antiochian Women's group and we know about the teens, we know about the young adults, and those are common ministries, but we've never succeeded here in our parish. We've had it for a couple of years, many, many moons ago, a men's group, a men's group. But now uh driven really by young men who have been pouring into the church for the last five years across the country. It's a universal phenomenon. It's not just here, but across the country young men have been coming to embrace holy Orthodoxy, which is really distinctive. It's a it's a phenomenon that has been noticed and pointed out by those who are observant as a matter of fact, the person who has been put in charge of the Antiochian men for the time being to help get it going as a ofstice and ministry in the West, is our own father, John...

Mafus. Many of you know Father John. He's my spiritual son. He used to be a parishioner here when he was in graduate school or at school at u c R. He's now the pastor of St Matthew's down in Torrance. A real love that man. He's also a sheep stealer. He'd steal the choir, he'd steal the secretary. He Martha thinks I don't know all the Times he calls her and has her do stuff for his office. She she thinks that somehow the wall protects her from my knowledge of all of the things he's getting her to do for him. Anyway, I don't want to get distracted, but father John said something fascinating and he talked about when he was a young man. He's now getting up there in his thirties, late thirties, and when he was a young adult he said it was mostly young women everywhere and very, very few, uh, compare actively young men at these kinds of conferences and he says it's completely switched today and so many young men are coming in. So I'm hoping. I'm telling you that not just because it was a great encouragement to attend that meeting. I did. I spent a long time in that meeting listening to these young people talk and listening to men talk about what they were hoping would take place and what is happening on a diocesan level. As a matter of fact, I hadn't left the conference before I received a call from uh, the Antiochian men, the leader of the Antiocan men in the diocese of the southeast, asking if I would come speak at a conference from them. I've never spoken at an Antiochian men's conference because there never has been an Antiochian men's conference and this is the the first time that it's is happening. I'm hoping that we can develop some men's ministry here in line kind of with what's going on across the arts diocese. So anyway, it was a great blessing. It was a great blessing and thank you for remembering me, and I'm planting the seed in your head. Next Summer's Paris life conference is going to be hosted by our mother church, St Luke, and it's going to be hosted at the same hotel, the Irvine Marriott, where we hosted in two thousand fifteen the Paris life conference when we were the host. So please keep that in mind for next summer and let's help our mother church put on a fantastic conference for our whole diocese. Now to my my sermon today from the Gospel. I've entitled my homily Split Devotion, split devotion. The Gospel Comes from Matthew Chapter Six and Matthew Chapter six this smack in the middle of the sermon on the Mount. It's the heart of the heart of Jesus is teaching his most famous sermon. The sermon on the Mount is chapter five through seven. Chapter Six the Gospel text for today's right in the middle of that. Jesus begins his sermon with the beatitudes blessed are the poor and spirit and then he goes through the eight B attitudes describing the character of his followers, the heart disposition of his followers. After he establishes what kind of people are his what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He then dedicates four verses to our relationship to the world, where he unpacks the concept that his followers are salt and light to the world. We are the ones responsible to eradicate the darkness, first in ourselves, then our families and the world, and also we are to retard the corruption. We are to give the flavor of life, like salt does, to the world. Then he spends the rest of Chapter Five, from Verse Seventy Eight, describing what righteousness means, what it means to be righteous, what it means to be truly pleasing to God, and he emphasizes two things that all righteousness has its Orient. It's it's eat in the heart. It's...

...not an external thing to follow. Christ is not about externals. It's about the renovation of the interior man. And he says it culminates in a righteousness which exceeds everything that any human being has ever conceived. Every religious concept of righteousness has blown to pieces by Jesus is teaching. Even the Jews had no content that was similar to what Jesus lays out as the goal. What true righteousness is is in fact perfection. Coming to be like God. Be You perfect, he says in the last verse of this section. Be You perfect, as my father in heaven is perfect. Come to the fullness of God's character in your life. This is what he's doing for us, this is what he's changed, how he's changing us. This brings us to our chapter, Chapter six, and chapter six Jesus. After laying out how to what to be like, he presents two terrible threats in chapter six to us and to our faith. The first threat is hypocrisy, and he dedicates the first eighteen verses of chapter six, which describe the fundamental virtues of prayer and fasting and almsgiving, our way of life, and he says, don't be like the hypocrites. He repeats that over and over and over again as he discusses these the way of practicing our faith. We're not external, we're not about image, we're not about being seen. Everything we do to please our heavenly father with an eye to our father. We go into our room so that we can be with him and even if we are literally in our little room, everywhere we are we're in the heart, it's room. We're trying to do everything to please God. And the second threat that he addresses, whereas is where you find our gospel reading today, is the threat of anxiety. The threat of anxiety both hypocrisy and anxiety. You may not think this right away, but they both have a common root, a self focus, being concerned about yourself and not trusting in God, which is what he addresses right in the middle of his teaching versus nineteen to thirty three, in chapter six, about learning to relate to God as your father, who loves you, who will care for you, who knows your problems before they greet you, who has solutions for you and is just waiting to cooperate with you, to take care of you in your life, and is even going to take care of you when you don't know and when you don't see. Right in the middle of that, Jesus says this. You cannot serve God and Mammon. It's this text that I've drived my topic, my title, from Split Devotion, the problem of shaky allegiance, or divided love or split devotion. We either trust God, dear ones, or we trust money. You can't do both. Greed, service of Mamon is a massive threat to our life. All of our fundamental texts, the text that our fathers have given us, that interpret the Scriptures for us, that guide us in the Christian way. They all address this question of greed or avarice or the place of money in the Christian life and they don't do it a little bit. You know, our wondrous text, the averget Nos, the Avergettin Nos, is a four volume collection of the sayings of the Desert Fathers, our great holy fathers and mother there's of the desert who teach us how to love God. Greed and...

...the danger of serving money when you think you're serving God figures prominently in the teaching of the ever Gettinos. In fact, in the fourth volume, in the third hypothesis, there's fifty hypotheses in each of the volumes, two d total, and the ever gets two hundred fiends that are addressed about the spiritual life by the desert fathers. In the hypothesis three of the fourth volume, we read this the passion of greed is the most destructive of all the other passions. Unquote. That's how dangerous greed is. It's the most destructive of all the other passions. It is a lack of trust in God that he will take care of us. God himself is simple in essence and he loves simplicity, and he loves those who live simply. That's the ever get, you knows. How about the ladder of divine assent? Let's choose another central text. Uh. Chapter sixteen and Seventeen are both dedicated to the issue of money. Chapter Sixteen on the love of money, chapter seventeen on non possessiveness, how to have things and use things without being attached to things. And in that chapter, St John of Sinai, the author of the ladder, he calls greed, quote, a one thousand headed demon. Unquote, a one thousand headed demon. St John Cassian, in his famous institutes on the virtues and the vices, he warns against the love of money by pointing out three important figures in the scriptures, all who had different relationship to money, but we're all destroyed by money and their love of it. He starts with Ghazi, the Great Servant of the Prophet Elishah, who had the incredible sing of being his cell attendant. Wouldn't you have wanted to be the cell attendant of the Prophet Elicia? Wouldn't you have wanted to be by his side when he picked up the mantle of the Prophet Elias and said where is the God of Elias, and struck the Jordan's and it divided him to two and he walked through it as all on land. Wouldn't you have liked to be with him when he saw so many things in the spirit, when he saw the Syrian king's military plans and his military tent with his captains hundreds of miles away, and then wrote down them down over and over and over again on a piece of paper and passed it to the Israelite King, telling the king where to meet those Syrian soldiers and slaughter them so that they wouldn't destroy God's people? Wouldn't you have liked to have been with him when he raised the dead, when he caused an iron axe head that flew off the handle of one of his disciples when they were building the dormitory at the prophetic seminary, and it fell into the water and Sun and he just took a little piece of wood and he dropped it in the water and up came the iron axe. said, wouldn't you have a lot like to be his? I think so. What an honor this man had, but rather then giving feints, rather than rejoicing and telling himself I have riches that can never be measured. I have learned what it means how to stay near God, how to be so close to God. My master communes with God face to face, and I get to stand right next to him. No, it wasn't enough foras, and so when Elisha the prophet healed the commander, Nayman, of the Syrian army who was covered with leprosy, and his little believing slave girls said, after he had tried every type of cure and didn't get better, she said, if only you were with the Prophet in his real you'd be healed.

And so here he came with all his soldiers to see the Prophet Elishah, and Elisha, being a man close to God, knowing his own riches, though, of this great man was outside, didn't even come out and greet the man. He sent a message. You said, you want to go, go better. Go Dunk yourself in the Jordans seven times and you'll be cured. And finally, after getting over his offense that no one the great prophet didn't come out and pay him any respect. He didn't wave his hand or make some sort of incantation, all the things he thought were appropriate. He just sent a message without coming out and greeting him. He finally was convinced by one of his humble servants just to go do it, and he did it and he was completely healed and he came back with the skin of a newborn baby. And then he offered to give the Prophet Elisha heaps of gold, and Elisha said, do I want that? For? What does a man who communes with God like that need gold for? And the man said, at least let me take some dirt from your land so that I can carry it with me and worship the Lord God in my pagan country. Can you imagine? And so he ran away and hazy, gripped with greed, overcome by the sin of Avarice, said, Oh, my master should have taken his gold, he should have taken at least something. So he made a lie and he ran after naming and he stopped his chariot and he said two poor servants of the prophets have just come to visit my master, and he asked, will you please give them some silver and some changes of clothes, and he took those things and he went and hid them in his greed and he came back and the Prophet Alliesha looked at them and he said, where have you been, my son? Was I not with you when you stopped the chariot? Was I not with you when you lied? Was I not with you when you took that gold and buried it? Now the leprosy of namen will cling to you the rest of your life. WOOF poor Ghazi. He was so blind to what God was to him, to the riches he already had, and so he fell for some earthly riches that have no future at all. St John Cassian says beware of losing your contentment. Like Goazi, Ghazi lived simply in dispossession with his master, and he grew discontent. Cassian also points out not just goazy but this story of Judas. Judas was a person who renounced all of his possessions and then began to pine for them again. And instead of continuing in his dispossessive state with Christ and the other apostles, he began to plunder the alms back that he carried for the apostles, and then finally he sold his own soul for thirty pieces of silver and ended up a suicide. We have one leper due to averice and one suicide the third that St John Cassian points out is the story of Ananias and Safia from acts chapter five. Here's a wonderful couple. They know the apostles, they've received the Gospel. They become members of the body of Christ. They're in the community that was growing and multiplying, literally by the thousands. What more would you possibly want in life than that? Thousands had converted and didn't want to leave Jerusalem, and so they needed money. So our brothers and sisters started who lived in Jerusalem, started selling all their properties. Barnabas led the way, the son of encouragement. He sold his his properties and he gave the proceeds to the also. Some put them at their feet.

Antonias and Cebra were inspired. They thought we'll do the same thing. But they couldn't part with it all, which is fine. Just to sell it. What a virtuous thing to do. No one even asked them to, they just were moved to do it. If they had sold it and moved to a house half the size and given half of the money to the apostles, what treasure in heaven they would have stored up. What incredible blessing. Even if they had sold it and only given ten. No one was asking them to do anything, but they sold it, and then their love for it and then their vanity, they decided to lie and to tell Peter that this was the entire proceeds. They had sold their house and this was the entire proceeds, while they kept some back and in lying to Peter, Peter said to them you have lied to the Holy Spirit, and they both dropped dead in his presence. And we're taken out and varied. These are three powerful examples, dear ones, of our Savior's warnings. We cannot serve God and money, lest we end up like Ghazi, Judas or Anonias and SAPPHIRAH. God forbid. It's a thousand headed demon. Indeed, it can come at us from many different ways. We either trust God as our father with our life and then receive the resources that he gives in a disposition of trust, or we don't. We either trust that he's going to take care of us and that we don't have to sin to take care of ourselves, or we don't. Christ is asking us to serve God and serve God alone. We can't serve him and anything else or anyone else. And there are many illegitimate masters vying to rule us. Many illegitimate masters, not just money. Perhaps today, in the day of the great autonomous individual, in the day of self centeredness and the Selfie, perhaps the greatest illegitimate master is ourself. I think so. I think the most dangerous threat about serving and not serving just God as our Supreme Lord is that we serve ourselves, will serve the Lord Up unto the point where we think it's serving us, but not farther. This is why Jesus affirms that the first step in our service to him is to renounce ourselves, to completely reject ourselves and being autonomous, self ruling individuals. This is why he says, if you wish to follow me, deny yourself. First step. You cannot serve yourself and God anymore than you can serve money in God. Yes, not possible. Even our legitimate masters, our bishop, our own pastors, are spiritual fathers, are parents, our bosses, our civil authorities, all of these have legitimate claims over us for service. Even all of those legitimate blessed leaders in our life. We serve them under God. We serve them as a way of serving God, and no further. How do you know if you're serving your bishop or...

...your priest or your parents or your boss or the civil authorities or whoever. The right way is that in everything that you do for them, you're doing for Christ's sake, you're doing it in his name, for his glory, and never would you do anything against the will of God or in contradiction to the Commands of Christ, even if a legitimate master asked you to, because you're serving Christ and everyone under him for his sake. This is the path to the Kingdom of God, and that is to seek, first and above all, sincere service to the Lord. Trust in God as our father, living as his devoted servants in a way that's free of hypocrisy and free of anxiety, being God's true servant. This is what Jesus has called us to and this is what we can do, and when we do, we have no worries. We belong to him. He'll take care of everything that we need, for he loves US more than we can measure, and his inheritance, which is laid up for us, can't be grasped beyond our minds. Trust him, trust him, don't doubt him, don't be anxious on it. 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 of a doble 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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