The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 4 months ago

The Bridegroom and His Friend | Beheading of the Forerunner 2021


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 a four part lecture series by FatherJosiah trenum entitled God's Prodigal Prophet, an exposition of the prophecy of Jonah.This text is found amongst the minor prophets of the Old Testament and is muchbeloved by believers, not only for its Christological typology, in which it setsforth the death, burial, plundering of Hades and resurrection of our Lord JesusChrist, but also because it is simply packed full of spiritual themes like obedience, repentance, sinful nationalism, God's call, Timission, the enlightenment of the nations, brokenness, rebellion and grace, the love of enemies and much,much more. For these and other available titles, visit our website at patristicnectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trenem. In thename of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, ablessed Lord's they to all of you, brothers than sisters. To Day isthe feast they of the beheading of Saint John The baptist, glorious they forus and also a fast. They even though it falls on a Sunday andwe would never lea never normally fast on a Sunday. We're fasting today werewith wine and oil in honor of and remembrance of St John, the forerunnerand his valiant witness. I also thank God for you on this morning,dear ones, for your devotion. I thank God for all of you whocame yesterday to receive our father and God, Metropolitan Joseph, who hadn't been withus in two and a half years and came to celebrate a most glorioushierarchical liturgy and to tonsure a reader and to make a sub deacon into orDaina Deacon. was three and a half hour service challenged your kind of orthodoxmetal, for sure, but to see your beautiful faces here this morning afterpraying yesterday, makes me feel like my Labor has not been in vain.For you. I can imagine some thinking, well, I prayed on Saturday,I'll just sleep in this morning on Sunday, as though going to churcheslike some minimum thing you're supposed to do so you can feel good about yourself, like and think that you're righteous, Blas Blas all over that coming tochurch as the greatest honor any person can have, to come into the Houseof God, to be invited by the King of Heaven into in his innercourts, into an intimacy with him, to receive his own son's body andblood. What an honor, what a glory. I thank God for yourmaturation. You know, I know I'm I'm not going to live forever.I'm going to close my eyes and I want to make sure I when Iclose my eyes for the last time, I want you to be yourself.I want you to stay yourself. I want you to be faithful until theend, until the Kingdom of God is upon us, until we see ourSavior's face together in his glorious kingdom which is coming. I've entitled this homilythis morning the love between the bridegroom and his friend. The love between thebridegroom and his friend. I want you to reflect with me for a minuteabout the interaction between Jesus and John The baptist. The interaction in the Gospelsbetween Jesus and the forerunner is brief but... precious. The words that theyeach said about the other are absolutely moving words that just drip with love,fidelity and admiration. Amazing. I'll start with John's opinion of Jesus and whathe said. Just put yourself in John Shoes. John, who had spenthis life in the desert in communion with God, who was invited by Godinto this prophetic counsel. He got to stand in the presence of God,though he didn't speak to men, he knew angels and he spoke to Godface to face. And then, when it was time for him to fulfillhis public ministry, he came back from the desert into the concourse, thebusyness of men, and he remained who he was. He dressed the sameway, he ate the same way. His radical thirst for God remained evenwhen he came back into the cities and he began to prepare people to meetthe Messiah, and large, massive crowds gathered around him and he taught themrepentance, he taught them the law of God, he taught them who Godwas from what he knew, and he amassed a massive disciple group. Shortlyafter doing that and after baptizing many, many at the Jordan River, theLord Christ appeared and all of his disciples, one by one. John sent themaway. Those who were his spiritual sons now found the one of whomJohn had been speaking, and they made a very important decision to remove themselvesfrom the inner circle of John and to fasten themselves now to the one ofwhom John was speaking. You might think, at least if it was me oryou, that that might be a very painful process, losing all ofyour spiritual sons, seeing all of the people leave you to go to Christ, but not for John. For John It was delight and joy. Hesaid to them, I have to decrease and he must increase. He embraceddecreasing for the sake of Christ and in that, just like the mother ofGod, he is a tremendous example. That's the heart, by the way, of every true Christian. I must decrease, he has to increase.When he began to speak to the crowds about Christ, this man, thisincredible man, who had labored for God like no one else, he saidconcerning this man, I have no worthiness at all. I am so unworthyof him that I am not even fit to grovel at his feet and undohis sandal strap. This is what he said. I'm not even worthy todo that. That's how much he admired, worshiped, adored the Christ and howhumble he was when he met Jesus actually at the Jordan, when theLord actually came to him, he was completely undone. The the turgical textsay his hands shook. This man was afraid of no one, as yousaw today. No one, not even the great man of the Earth whoheld his life in his hand, did he give anything for. And yetin Jesus, his presence, he was shaking. And what did he sayto Jesus? I have need, Lord,...

...what a thing to say. Thisman apparently needed nothing. He didn't need a house, he didn't needclothes, he didn't need friends. He had great power in his union withGod. He didn't need, from our perspective, anything. But when hesaw Jesus, first thing he says, I have need, Lord, Ihave need to be baptized by you. That's what he wanted. In thepresence of Jesus, he felt his the weight of his own sins. Ifwe were around them, we'd probably say what sins? What are you talkingabout? Sins? What have you ever done? And then he says thesebeautiful words. As people were coming to him and and saying, Oh,everyone's going after the Christ, they're all going to him. He said,I rejoice greatly, my joy is full to stand near the bridegroom and tohear his voice. I am not the Christ, I am the friend ofthe bridegroom. What a beautiful thing for him. It was the height ofhis happiness, the fullness of his joy, to be able to stand next toChrist, to be able to bring all of the spotlight of the wordof God on to Christ. This is the intimacy that John, the forerunner, had with our savor. This is how much he loved him, thisis how much he adored Christ. He says he comes from above. Hespeaks of what he has seen, and the father loves the son and hasgiven everything into his hands. And so John Loved the son and gave everythingof himself into Jesus's hands. And, as a example to us, hejoined his love with the Father's love for Christ and responded to it. Nowlet's look at Jesus's opinion of John. First, Jesus shows his unbelievable lovefor John by going to John and asking him to do the unthinkable. Herevered him so much that he actually went to John and asked John to baptizehim. He said it must be done. And then when Jesus heard people talkingabout John, he said what do you say he is? Do yousay he's a prophet. And frankly, that was the highest thing that youcould call someone. To be a prophet set you in a little, tinyclass of people who are close to God and intermediaries between God and you,whose words guided your life. Obedience to those words would bring you confidence whenthe Kingdom of God came. Disobedience would lead you and your family to bescattered across the earth. Was An incredible compliment. And when Jesus asked them, what do you call John A prophet? He Says No, no more thana prophet. Jews had no concept for that. What do you meanmore than a prophet? It's incredible affirmation. Jesus went on to call him severalthings. He called him the voice, he called them the forerunner, mymessenger sent to go before me to prepare the way, and he calledhim the new alias and then the capstone,...

...the greatest man ever born from awoman. This is what Jesus thought about John The baptist. This isthe devotion and respect that our savior had for John the Baptist, and allof that Love was especially shown in our saviors life for the forerunner when theterrible event that we commemorate today took place, when John was arrested, Jesus wasdeeply grieved when he was actually taken in to custody by a wicked ruler. Christ removed himself and he devoted himself to prayer on a mountain, andwhen John was killed and the news was brought to our Lord, he immediatelyceased what he was doing and went into seclusion. This is how moved theLord was, how concerned Jesus's response to Herod's violent opposition. I think it'sa beautiful picture, a beautiful picture to see the the sensitive and incredible mutuallove between the two. John's murder has been commemorated in the church for manyreasons. We never forgive forget about it. You know, every priest, everybishop, every person who's given the gift of prophecy and is expected touse it by God, he has to have two things. He has tohave a good reputation with people. He has to be respected by people.This is, in fact required by Paul in his list for qualifications for ordination. You can't even be ordained if you don't have good reputation, and notjust in general. It has to extend so far, Paul says, agood reputation with those outside the church. Not just to be respected. Ofcourse you had to be respected. The people have to say what you somagnanimously said yesterday when you screamed Oxeos and you almost blew the bishop's ears off. For Jason, he was amazed. He was amazed. The priest needsnot just an oxeos from the congregation, he needs the respect outside the church, Paul says. So you need that on one side. That comes fromcharacter. You can have all the prophetic gifts in the world, but ifpeople don't trust you, if people don't respect you, they're not going tolisten to you and it's going to be in vain, which is why somany who held these little signs and run around saying things. You know,hell is coming, hell is coming. Well, Yam yeah, it is, but the potency of that depends upon who's actually holding the sign. I'mnot saying that we shouldn't have some signs. Maybe so, maybe so. Oneof my new dear friends who some of you have met. This niceyoung man who I catechized via zoom two years ago during Covid, when covidbroke out and he was a seminarian up in Minnesota. He ended up takinga shorter degree than he intended and moved home to Tennessee where he finished hiscatechism and was received into hold the orthodoxy. And he was here a couple monthsago for our conference when Bishop Eron a came. He sent me apicture recently and he says I had just sent him some very scary plan parenthoodbillboard or something on that's that I saw... our on our freeways, somehorrid billboard and I sent it to him and he goes, that's California.He let me show you what what Tennessee is and it was a massive signthat said Jesus is Lord and beautiful. It was just massive side right onthe road. Praise the Lord and call this number if you need prayer.Nice sign, nice sign. Character matters, but you also have to have somethingelse, and John the Baptist had it. He had incredible respect fromthe people. He put his life where his words were. He was amodel of thirst for God a model. When he spoke about God, theylistened because they saw him living to be near God. But you also haveto have an absolute fearlessness of criticism and a total disregard for being judged bymen. You have to have that and that. You have to have ittogether. You have to remember those words that Jesus said if you're going tobe prophetic, if you're going to speak the word of God, you haveto work. Remember that woe when Jesus said, woe to you when allmen speak well of you. How many of us would think that that's awoe? We'd pay for that, most of us, wouldn't we, ifwe could save ourselves from the sting of criticism, if we could escape,in this social media age, of those bad comments in, you know,texting or whatever it is. Woe to you when all men spell speak wellof you. This is the mentality that John the Baptist had. He keptkept these together, which is why he was able, with virtue and love, to stand before the most powerful men and to tell Herod. You muststop to tear tell Herod, who was publicly defying God, who was publiclyattacking the sanctity of marriage. He took his own brother's wife because he wantedher and she wanted him. It was against God's law, it was offensiveto every person who had religious sensibility. It was perverse and John would nottolerate it. Now I think most of US probably would not have been happy. You know, maybe over the dinner table we'd say, oh, that'sso gross, but if Herod was walking by, we choose not to speak. If Herod and his soldiers were going by our and, you know,Delhi, in downtown Jerusalem, I don't think we'd stop the horses and thenpoint at Herod and say stop doing what you're doing, you're disgracing God andyour insulting the integrity of our people. That's exactly what John the Baptist did. He called him out. Herod liked to listen to John the Baptist.That's a counsel that we have to avoid. The text says that Herod Actually Loveto sit in John's presence, that he knew he was a holy manand that he actually, quote, took delight in his preaching, except whenit touched his own sin and it was asked to repent. This is exactlyhow what we must escape. Their ones is the heart of Herod we haveto love preaching, the when we hear the word of God. We haveto love it, when we hear it..., when we hear it preach, we have to love it, and especially we have to love it whenit touches a sore spot in us and it hurts. That's when we haveto say thank you, Jesus, thank you, do your work, performyour surgery, administer the medicine that I need for the salvation of my soul. You believe that, don't you? You're listening to the Gospel and tomy preaching because you want to be saved by it. Right, I don'tsee any head nodding yes, AH. If you're here to listen just becauseyou want to hear something else about someone else, you're ruining yourself. Don'tdo that. Don't come to feel good, come to hear the word of Godand to stand in the presence of the word of God is not asafe place if you're trying to keep your image together, if you want tohave a high image of yourself, this is the wrong place to be.That's not why we're here. We're here to be actually refashioned into a newimage. And in order for that to happen, we have to have ourown self image completely broken into pieces. We have to be able to honestlyhear the word of God which is brought to us because God loves us somuch and he wants to free us from our own weaknesses so we don't endup like this horrible man. Saint John Chrysostom, in his commentary on thispassage, he says, besides calling us to imitate John and loving the Lord'swords, cherishing his law and fighting for it, defending it. There's lotsof applications for that in our society, specially marriage, Huh, specially fightingfor that. But CHRISTOSTOM says, and he makes an interesting application, heapplies the text and this murderous scene to wedding receptions. Yes, let me, let me do the same. I know this makes me very, veryunpopular. I hear the ladies laughing. Yes, I understand and I don'tcare. I really don't. Chris is them applied it to wedding receptions.Why? Because the raucous nature of the party that was being celebrated. Itwasn't a wedding party, but it was all about being wed to someone.He wasn't supposed to be WED to. It was actually his birthday party andthere was drinking and there was dancing, very lascivious dancing, and Chris Sisdomsays, quote, where there is that kind of dancing, there is thedevil. Unquote. Wow, when there is that kind of dancing, thereis the devil. He applies it to wedding receptions because at that time,in the fourth century, evidently there was a significant chasm between the sanctity ofthe Crowning Service and the celebration of it. And forgive me, brothers and sisters, it still exists. It still exists. I'm not trying to criticizeanyone or any recent weddings or any future weddings, but I've been a priestlong enough to be at so many weddings that I had to leave from soquickly. Why in the world would pious, God loving people create any scenario inwhich their bishop or their priests would be uncomfortable? If you want tolisten to rock and roll music and you want to drink too much and youwant to dance like barbarians, there are so many places to do that.I'm not encouraging you to do that, but that's not what a wedding receptionsfor a wedding reception is for the celebration...

...of a mystery, that Christ hasappeared and joined two into one and the three have become one. The bridethe bridegroom in Christ himself, and the party that is celebrating this mystical transformationthat we've just witnessed is celebrating this mystery, this sacrament. That should determine who'sthere, which is why we bring our grandparents and if we have greatgrandparents, we bring them. We want we weren't. We don't just wantpeople who are our age. We bring everybody together. We bring the peoplethat are important in our lives. We bring our bishop, if he cancome, we bring our priests, and usually multiple priests, and we bringour Dickens and it's a holy celebration. We should be able to go awayfrom the wedding reception with smiles and everybody there should be comfortable not having togo see the the doctor to help fix our ears because they were so pummeled, completely destroyed by the level of the music. You know what loud musicmeans? That you don't respect conversation. That's what loud music means. Ifyou're going to blast music, you're guaranteeing that the people who are there tocelebrate you cannot have any sort of reasonable conversation at the table. And unlessthey know how to do the kind of dancing to the super loud music,why would they stay? Why would they stay? So, because you're piousand I know you listen, I am saying these words to give us avision for a healthy and holy wedding receptions. For the most part I've been I'vebeen pretty happy. For the most part I've been pretty happy every year. I think it gets better and better, I really do, and we're becomingmore Orthodox, I would say, in many ways. Lastly, Iwant to encourage you, dear ones, based upon what happened to John,not to look for your reward in this life. Think of how honored Johnis now and how honored he will be at the resurrection, the greatest manborn of woman. Look what he got in this life. Nothing. Nothing. He had no banquets honoring him. He got a banquet to kill him. He didn't get a nice little twenty five, you know, banquet likeI got three years ago. It was the most loving thing you ever did. And probably the most poisonous thing that ever happened to my soul to listento all those nice things be said about me. It's extremely loving on yourpart, but certainly John the Baptist didn't have anything like that. I cantell you that don't look for your reward in this life and don't think ifit doesn't come in this life that's not coming. I promise you it's coming. Every effort that you make, every sacrifice you make for Christ's sake willbe rewarded down to a little cup of water. Jesus said no one whooffers a single cup of water in my name aim will lose his reward.I promise you what's coming. Don't look forward in this life. Remember insteadwhat Paul says. Momentary, momentary light affliction is providing for us an eternalweight of glory far beyond all compare. Momentary light affliction is preparing for usan eternal weight of glory far beyond compare. On them, we hope that youhave enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by PatristicNectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to...

...nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweetteachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles orif you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our websiteat www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot petristic nectardot org.

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