The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 11 months ago

The Bridegroom and His Friend | Beheading of the Forerunner 2021

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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 Father Josiah 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 much beloved by believers, not only for its Christological typology, in which it sets forth the death, burial, plundering of Hades and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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 patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trenem. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, a blessed Lord's they to all of you, brothers than sisters. To Day is the feast they of the beheading of Saint John The baptist, glorious they for us and also a fast. They even though it falls on a Sunday and we would never lea never normally fast on a Sunday. We're fasting today were with wine and oil in honor of and remembrance of St John, the forerunner and his valiant witness. I also thank God for you on this morning, dear ones, for your devotion. I thank God for all of you who came yesterday to receive our father and God, Metropolitan Joseph, who hadn't been with us in two and a half years and came to celebrate a most glorious hierarchical liturgy and to tonsure a reader and to make a sub deacon into or Daina Deacon. was three and a half hour service challenged your kind of orthodox metal, for sure, but to see your beautiful faces here this morning after praying 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 churches like 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 to church as the greatest honor any person can have, to come into the House of God, to be invited by the King of Heaven into in his inner courts, into an intimacy with him, to receive his own son's body and blood. What an honor, what a glory. I thank God for your maturation. 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 I close 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 the end, until the Kingdom of God is upon us, until we see our Savior's face together in his glorious kingdom which is coming. I've entitled this homily this morning the love between the bridegroom and his friend. The love between the bridegroom and his friend. I want you to reflect with me for a minute about the interaction between Jesus and John The baptist. The interaction in the Gospels between Jesus and the forerunner is brief but...

...so precious. The words that they each 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 what he said. Just put yourself in John Shoes. John, who had spent his life in the desert in communion with God, who was invited by God into 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 God face to face. And then, when it was time for him to fulfill his public ministry, he came back from the desert into the concourse, the busyness of men, and he remained who he was. He dressed the same way, he ate the same way. His radical thirst for God remained even when he came back into the cities and he began to prepare people to meet the Messiah, and large, massive crowds gathered around him and he taught them repentance, he taught them the law of God, he taught them who God was from what he knew, and he amassed a massive disciple group. Shortly after doing that and after baptizing many, many at the Jordan River, the Lord Christ appeared and all of his disciples, one by one. John sent them away. Those who were his spiritual sons now found the one of whom John had been speaking, and they made a very important decision to remove themselves from the inner circle of John and to fasten themselves now to the one of whom John was speaking. You might think, at least if it was me or you, that that might be a very painful process, losing all of your spiritual sons, seeing all of the people leave you to go to Christ, but not for John. For John It was delight and joy. He said to them, I have to decrease and he must increase. He embraced decreasing for the sake of Christ and in that, just like the mother of God, 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, this incredible man, who had labored for God like no one else, he said concerning this man, I have no worthiness at all. I am so unworthy of him that I am not even fit to grovel at his feet and undo his sandal strap. This is what he said. I'm not even worthy to do that. That's how much he admired, worshiped, adored the Christ and how humble he was when he met Jesus actually at the Jordan, when the Lord actually came to him, he was completely undone. The the turgical text say his hands shook. This man was afraid of no one, as you saw today. No one, not even the great man of the Earth who held his life in his hand, did he give anything for. And yet in Jesus, his presence, he was shaking. And what did he say to Jesus? I have need, Lord,...

...what a thing to say. This man apparently needed nothing. He didn't need a house, he didn't need clothes, he didn't need friends. He had great power in his union with God. He didn't need, from our perspective, anything. But when he saw Jesus, first thing he says, I have need, Lord, I have need to be baptized by you. That's what he wanted. In the presence of Jesus, he felt his the weight of his own sins. If we were around them, we'd probably say what sins? What are you talking about? Sins? What have you ever done? And then he says these beautiful 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 to hear his voice. I am not the Christ, I am the friend of the bridegroom. What a beautiful thing for him. It was the height of his happiness, the fullness of his joy, to be able to stand next to Christ, to be able to bring all of the spotlight of the word of God on to Christ. This is the intimacy that John, the forerunner, had with our savor. This is how much he loved him, this is how much he adored Christ. He says he comes from above. He speaks of what he has seen, and the father loves the son and has given everything into his hands. And so John Loved the son and gave everything of himself into Jesus's hands. And, as a example to us, he joined his love with the Father's love for Christ and responded to it. Now let's look at Jesus's opinion of John. First, Jesus shows his unbelievable love for John by going to John and asking him to do the unthinkable. He revered him so much that he actually went to John and asked John to baptize him. He said it must be done. And then when Jesus heard people talking about John, he said what do you say he is? Do you say he's a prophet. And frankly, that was the highest thing that you could call someone. To be a prophet set you in a little, tiny class 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 when the Kingdom of God came. Disobedience would lead you and your family to be scattered across the earth. Was An incredible compliment. And when Jesus asked them, what do you call John A prophet? He Says No, no more than a prophet. Jews had no concept for that. What do you mean more than a prophet? It's incredible affirmation. Jesus went on to call him several things. He called him the voice, he called them the forerunner, my messenger sent to go before me to prepare the way, and he called him the new alias and then the capstone,...

...the greatest man ever born from a woman. This is what Jesus thought about John The baptist. This is the devotion and respect that our savior had for John the Baptist, and all of that Love was especially shown in our saviors life for the forerunner when the terrible event that we commemorate today took place, when John was arrested, Jesus was deeply 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, and when John was killed and the news was brought to our Lord, he immediately ceased what he was doing and went into seclusion. This is how moved the Lord was, how concerned Jesus's response to Herod's violent opposition. I think it's a beautiful picture, a beautiful picture to see the the sensitive and incredible mutual love between the two. John's murder has been commemorated in the church for many reasons. We never forgive forget about it. You know, every priest, every bishop, every person who's given the gift of prophecy and is expected to use it by God, he has to have two things. He has to have 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 not just in general. It has to extend so far, Paul says, a good reputation with those outside the church. Not just to be respected. Of course you had to be respected. The people have to say what you so magnanimously 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 needs not just an oxeos from the congregation, he needs the respect outside the church, Paul says. So you need that on one side. That comes from character. You can have all the prophetic gifts in the world, but if people don't trust you, if people don't respect you, they're not going to listen to you and it's going to be in vain, which is why so many 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'm not saying that we shouldn't have some signs. Maybe so, maybe so. One of my new dear friends who some of you have met. This nice young man who I catechized via zoom two years ago during Covid, when covid broke out and he was a seminarian up in Minnesota. He ended up taking a shorter degree than he intended and moved home to Tennessee where he finished his catechism and was received into hold the orthodoxy. And he was here a couple months ago for our conference when Bishop Eron a came. He sent me a picture recently and he says I had just sent him some very scary plan parenthood billboard or something on that's that I saw...

...in our on our freeways, some horrid 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 sign that said Jesus is Lord and beautiful. It was just massive side right on the road. Praise the Lord and call this number if you need prayer. Nice sign, nice sign. Character matters, but you also have to have something else, and John the Baptist had it. He had incredible respect from the people. He put his life where his words were. He was a model of thirst for God a model. When he spoke about God, they listened because they saw him living to be near God. But you also have to have an absolute fearlessness of criticism and a total disregard for being judged by men. You have to have that and that. You have to have it together. You have to remember those words that Jesus said if you're going to be prophetic, if you're going to speak the word of God, you have to work. Remember that woe when Jesus said, woe to you when all men speak well of you. How many of us would think that that's a woe? We'd pay for that, most of us, wouldn't we, if we 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 well of you. This is the mentality that John the Baptist had. He kept kept these together, which is why he was able, with virtue and love, to stand before the most powerful men and to tell Herod. You must stop to tear tell Herod, who was publicly defying God, who was publicly attacking the sanctity of marriage. He took his own brother's wife because he wanted her and she wanted him. It was against God's law, it was offensive to every person who had religious sensibility. It was perverse and John would not tolerate 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's so 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 then point at Herod and say stop doing what you're doing, you're disgracing God and your 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 Love to sit in John's presence, that he knew he was a holy man and that he actually, quote, took delight in his preaching, except when it touched his own sin and it was asked to repent. This is exactly how what we must escape. Their ones is the heart of Herod we have to love preaching, the when we hear the word of God. We have to love it, when we hear it...

...read, when we hear it preach, we have to love it, and especially we have to love it when it touches a sore spot in us and it hurts. That's when we have to say thank you, Jesus, thank you, do your work, perform your 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 to my preaching because you want to be saved by it. Right, I don't see any head nodding yes, AH. If you're here to listen just because you want to hear something else about someone else, you're ruining yourself. Don't do that. Don't come to feel good, come to hear the word of God and to stand in the presence of the word of God is not a safe place if you're trying to keep your image together, if you want to have 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 new image. And in order for that to happen, we have to have our own self image completely broken into pieces. We have to be able to honestly hear the word of God which is brought to us because God loves us so much and he wants to free us from our own weaknesses so we don't end up like this horrible man. Saint John Chrysostom, in his commentary on this passage, he says, besides calling us to imitate John and loving the Lord's words, cherishing his law and fighting for it, defending it. There's lots of applications for that in our society, specially marriage, Huh, specially fighting for that. But CHRISTOSTOM says, and he makes an interesting application, he applies the text and this murderous scene to wedding receptions. Yes, let me, let me do the same. I know this makes me very, very unpopular. I hear the ladies laughing. Yes, I understand and I don't care. I really don't. Chris is them applied it to wedding receptions. Why? Because the raucous nature of the party that was being celebrated. It wasn'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 and there was drinking and there was dancing, very lascivious dancing, and Chris Sisdom says, quote, where there is that kind of dancing, there is the devil. Unquote. Wow, when there is that kind of dancing, there is 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 of the Crowning Service and the celebration of it. And forgive me, brothers and sisters, it still exists. It still exists. I'm not trying to criticize anyone or any recent weddings or any future weddings, but I've been a priest long enough to be at so many weddings that I had to leave from so quickly. Why in the world would pious, God loving people create any scenario in which their bishop or their priests would be uncomfortable? If you want to listen to rock and roll music and you want to drink too much and you want 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 receptions for a wedding reception is for the celebration...

...of a mystery, that Christ has appeared and joined two into one and the three have become one. The bride the bridegroom in Christ himself, and the party that is celebrating this mystical transformation that we've just witnessed is celebrating this mystery, this sacrament. That should determine who's there, which is why we bring our grandparents and if we have great grandparents, we bring them. We want we weren't. We don't just want people who are our age. We bring everybody together. We bring the people that are important in our lives. We bring our bishop, if he can come, we bring our priests, and usually multiple priests, and we bring our Dickens and it's a holy celebration. We should be able to go away from the wedding reception with smiles and everybody there should be comfortable not having to go 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 music means? That you don't respect conversation. That's what loud music means. If you're going to blast music, you're guaranteeing that the people who are there to celebrate you cannot have any sort of reasonable conversation at the table. And unless they 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 pious and I know you listen, I am saying these words to give us a vision for a healthy and holy wedding receptions. For the most part I've been I've been 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 becoming more Orthodox, I would say, in many ways. Lastly, I want to encourage you, dear ones, based upon what happened to John, not to look for your reward in this life. Think of how honored John is now and how honored he will be at the resurrection, the greatest man born 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 like I 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 listen to all those nice things be said about me. It's extremely loving on your part, but certainly John the Baptist didn't have anything like that. I can tell you that don't look for your reward in this life and don't think if it 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 will be rewarded down to a little cup of water. Jesus said no one who offers 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 instead what Paul says. Momentary, momentary light affliction is providing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all compare. Momentary light affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond compare. On them, 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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