The Arena
The Arena

Episode 580 · 5 months ago

The Damnable Gap | 11th Sunday after Pentecost | St. Matthew 18


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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Heaven Our True Home | 7 Lectures

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a seven part lecture series by Father Josiah Trenham entitled Heaven, our True Home. One of the most shocking realities of the preaching and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ to his early first century Judean audience was his fervent, expansive and repetitive teaching on Heaven. Heaven literally permeates the sermon on the mount and our Savior's parabolic instruction. The Holy Apostles received this single eyed focus upon the next life from the Lord Christ and passed this teaching on to their disciples in the early church. Sacred tradition has vivified and animated the discipleship of Christians in their race toward heaven ever since. In these lectures, Father Josiah opens the scriptures and the writings of the church fathers on the subject of Heaven in an effort to plant a deep impression of the future life for God's children and to stir up a great desire for obtaining it. For these and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar dot org and now the arena with Father Josiah Trenham. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, a blessed Lord's Day to you, brothers and sisters. I am enthused to preach, especially after last week's homily by Father Jason, which was such a blessing glory to God. I have prepared a homily for you on the Gospel text, but during Arthros and just now listening to the epistle, I'm greatly uh pulled to preach instead on the epistle because as the...

Resurrection Gospel in Orthros, together with the epistle lesson that you just heard, both have a common theme, which is the priesthood, the shepherds of the church and their responsibility to feed the flock. The Resurrection Gospel was the meeting of Jesus with Peter on the beach after the resurrection. Peter still carrying the wound of his triple denial of Christ. Jesus allows him to affirm his love three times for him and then fixes Peter and all his successors, all the bishops and priests of the Church down to this day, with a paradigm of love. That paradigm of love is that bishops and priests will have their love for Jesus measured on the Day of judgment by their devotion to the flock. He says, Peter, if you love, feed my sheep. This is how priests particularly demonstrate their love for Christ. And when you want to nourish someone, you have to make a good meal, you have to serve with reverence and piety the Eucharist itself and you have to study the word of God Day in and day out in order to bring that word, the nourishment of the souls of God's people, into their life so that they can live by the word of God. Paul takes that theme up again in the epistle lesson that you just heard. It wasn't just in the Resurrection Gospel in Orthros, and he talks about the ox and how you should never muzzle the ox when he's threshing. And then he said as God talking about ox and he's talking about us. He's talking about the bishops and priests of the Cherish, the successors of the apostles, who should be cared for materially by the parish so...

...that they can then tread the grain and feed the people and devote themselves to the word of God and prayer for the upbuilding of the people, and I must say this parish has always allowed me to tread without muzzling me. This parish has always supported my ministry and Father Paul's before me, and Father Joseph too, and Father Jason now. You've always done this and it's to your benefit, not just as it obedient to the apostolic word, but it's the way that you yourself get nourished. Priests who are burdened by cheap parishes such that they have to go outside of their ministry in order just to support their families, and there are far too many Orthodox priests in the United States who have to do that, far too many. The consequences are drastic for the people. How can a priest take care of a flock of any size if he's spending forty hours of week out working at the electric company or whatever he's doing? I love this image of the OX. It's always been precious to me, and I should tell you, maybe just for my own fund Um, I should tell you there's a proverb that impacted me deeply when I was in college and it has helped me work out my salvation as a teacher in the church, as a preacher in the church, and it's this beautiful proverb. It comes to mind because, of course Paul is using this image of the priests and bishopes of the Church as oxen, and there's a proverb that says where there is no ox, the manger is clean, but much increase comes from the strength of an ox. The image of how you can apply that to preaching is if you want, if you want everything to be nice,...

...if you want uh your priests and your bishop always to say things that are going to make you feel good, you want to have your manger clean, so to speak, you can, but you have to throw any ox like people out you can't bear them. Plenty of priests have been thrown out of their parishes by their godless people over the centuries, without question. Without question, but much increase comes from the strength of an ox. If you want to get some plowing done, you want to grow some fruits and some trees, you want that soil to be turned over in your heart so that you can prosper and that word of God, as a seed, will grow deep and then yield the great fruit. Then yield to the ox and to the mess that comes. Just accept the mess, especially it's easy to do that when the OX is part of the mess and he knows it and he's willing to scatter that, you know, that plow job in his own life first. This is what we're supposed to do. I'm not going to preach about those subjects. I'm not going to preach about those subjects, even though I really would like to. I've entitled my real sermon the damnable gap, the damnable gap, and it comes from the Gospel Account. This week, a few days ago, we celebrated the translation of the relics of a marvelous saint named St Dionysiakos Zakian Phos is in the western part of Greece, the Peloponnese. He lived and died in the late sixt early seventeenth century. I think he fell asleep in the Lord in Sixty two. He's very famous. He was at one time the bishop of the island of Aguina, which, of course, today is even more famous as the the place of St the...

...repose and the Monastery of St Nictario's, who died in ninety. And as much as Saints Die, St Dionel sells was the bishop there before he returned to his monastic quiet his EC here in Zakimhos, and served his people there. He was a wonder worker. He was a model of true faith, authentic Christian living, the true appropriation of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ in his life. This is what he was known for. He's especially known for modeling forgiveness, which is why I'm bringing him up this morning, because the Gospel, as you heard, was about forgiveness. St Dionysius is famous for an account in his life when a mob arose on the island and they were chasing down a murderer and, like you might know, sometimes when you're fleeing from the law, you run to the church, you take refuge in the monastery, and that's exactly what happened. The mob was coming to kill this murderer, who was a guilty, guilty, guilty, and he came to the monastery and St Dionysius greeted him and welcomed him and hit him and then he went and greeted the mob and the mob came to him and they said have did the man come here? And he said no, who are you looking for? A murderer? Well, who did he murder? And they told him and it was his only brother, St Dionysius, his own brother, and he said, oh, that's terrible, that's terrible, but he's not here. So he sent them, the raving mob, up, on their way. Then he went and found the man and he spoke with him and he revealed to him God's love for him and told him the man you killed was my other he brought the man to repentance and he sent him...

...on his way. This is Saint Dionysius, this is forgiveness, the model of forgiveness in the Gospel lesson. Today you heard the very opposite of St Dionysius. You heard the opposite of what it means to be an integrated Christian, a person WHO's trying to actually work out the teachings of Jesus. Were confronted with a man who has a Lord who is exceedingly gracious, and this man has personally benefited from this graciousness beyond measure. He had a debt of ten thousand talents and innumerable sum and when he asked for forgiveness, the Lord forgave him everything. Nonetheless, the man had no interest in personally conforming to the character of his Lord. He liked his Lord's benefits but had no interest in imitating his Lord's character. This Gospel today is perhaps the most grotesque scene in any of the Gospels. I really think so. I think this Gospel is worse than the Gospels with demoniacs screaming in them. I think it's worse than Gospels with lepers crying out for mercy. I think it's worse than the despairing paralytic. It is grotesque. The Gospel sets forth today a man who simply will not forgive, even after he himself has been forgiven. And, dear ones, if there's a massive gap between what we have been given and what we ourselves give, between how we have been treated by God and how...

...we treat others, make no mistake, dear ones, that gap will be our damnation, in Jesus's words. You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you besought me. Shouldn't you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger, his Lord delivered him to the jailer's until he should pay all his debt. So also, my heavenly father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. Beware, dear ones, of the damnable gap, the gap between what you want from God and what you're willing to give to others. Flee with everything you have a life in which you seek one thing for yourself but are unwilling to give it to someone else. I'm not saying it's easy. I'm not saying that we have to learn the Christian life. We have to learn to like it and love it. Insist on integrating the Gospel into the fabric of your own life, into your deep heart. Do not allow yourself to remain on the shallow level. Demand of yourself that those particular aspects of life that Jesus Christ, your Lord and your master, demands that you learned in practice, but you yourself find particularly grievous, and there's no one in here who doesn't have some aspects of what Jesus is asking us to do to that we find particularly grievous. Demand of yourself that you will learn to love these very things that make you uncomfortable, or else, I promise you, you will regret it. Avoid the mistake of...

...this awful man in the Gospel, who delighted in the generosity of his Lord but had no intention of becoming a generous person. He wanted his Lord's gifts, but not his Lord's character. Woe to us when we think this way. Instead, we should become properly formed Christians. Dear ones, insist that your Christian faith be definitive of your outlook in every matter. This last week was the beginning of the second year of the Saint Andrew Academy and we are, as a parish, beginning to have a greater sense of wholeness, a greater experience of integrity, I think, in our parish ministry. If you have ears to hear, then you have certainly heard about the centrality of Christian education from the beginning of our parishes existence. And we're going to be thirty years the St Andrew Day formally established as a mission thirty years ago this November. Our Successive Patriarchs, Patriarch ignacious, under whom the first twenty years of our Paris existence took place, and then Patriarch John The tenth, under whom the last ten years have taken place, are both and have been both deeply educated men and have both promoted extensively Christian education nonstop, and when I mean say that, I mean these are founders of Christian educational institutions in two thousand ten I had the privilege of being in Syria, in Damascus, at the patriarchate and having a personal audience with Patriarch ignacious. I knew I had to choose my questions carefully. I knew I wouldn't have much time, and I...

...asked him about what he would suggest for the prosperity of the Church in America and especially for our parish. Without hesitation. He said, you must establish a Christian school without hesitation, without hesitation from the early years of our parish life we mapped out a three phase initial vision to guide us these last decades. To obtain land so that we could build a multi use hall. Initially. That's how we got our first two acres. That's why we built our hall and used it for prayer six and a half days a week, and then we had a little portal wall that would extend itself so that we could use two thirds of the hall for Fellowship and meetings and those types of things. Then, secondly, to build the Church temple in Magnificent Way and by the grace of God, we were able to obtain this land and to design and build this church temple as a true expression of our hearts desire to have worship as the supreme priority of our life. Individually, each of us had the parish, and then the third phase was to build the Christian Education Center, the academy. We're going to celebrate these things this November, this St Andrew Day and banquet, and we'll celebrate the completion of our founders initial three full vision and we'll talk. No doubt will begin the discussion about God's calling for us for the next segment, if there is a next segment of life. We'll discuss that. The St Andrew Academy is a sapling and it will need extra special care for several more years, make no mistake, but we're... our second year and the first year was blessed. We have planted the flag for Christian Education St Cosmos Atolos, the great equal of the Apostles and modern evangelist, whose feast we celebrated on Wednesday. This great evangelist was a promoter of Christian education. He himself oversaw the beginning of two hundred Christian schools during his ministry and he described the success of Orthodoxy in any location as a three legged stool. He said, if you want to stand upright and prosper for the Kingdom of God, you need three things. You need the devoted church life, an active worship parish life, you need families that are working out their salvation, domestic churches, turning their homes into domestic churches, and you need Christian Christian school those three things, those are the legs that support the stool. He set forth this vision throughout Greece and Macedonia and Albania until his martyrdom. By the grace of God, we have affixed this stool in the ground here in Riverside and we intend to remain upon it for the rest of our life, until our savior returns in glory. Are Devoted parish educators, are devoted parish homeschoolers, our academy faculty and staff and those children in our academy have one central goal. This goal is the integration of the Gospel into every aspect of life and the eradication of the damnable gap that you see in today's Gospel, this nasty gap between what we want and what we are, what we want God to give us and how we're going to be. We persecute that gap. This is the purpose of education. We're trying to...

...eliminate the difference between how God treats us and how we treat each other and others. This is why Christian schooling is so taxing. It's not like secular schooling, too much deeper. What we're trying to accomplish here is not what the public schools are trying to accomplish their ones. That doesn't just explain the difference in curriculum, but the whole ethos. That's why we start every school day here. We draw near to God, we pray, because we have an incredible task forming human beings, fashioning the Christian heart. That's what our educational labors are about. We're laboring to destroy the compartmentalization of our lives into the sacred and the secular, the fragmentation of our existence in our church way of life and our way of life when we're away on the church. We don't like being two people. We're opposed to it on principle. We want to be one, dedicated to God and to people. We seek one way and we're devoted to persecuting ourselves for our hypocrisy until no room is left in our lives, no dark corner anywhere, for a way of life that isn't integrated and informed by the Gospel, by how God treats us. We're resolved, all of us, old and young, were resolve to learn to love the things that should be loved, no matter what this requires of us, and it's not easy. This year, in preparation for the beginning of the new school year, our headmaster reader Dionysius, he sent out to all the faculty and staff a beautiful little article, it's only ten pages long, by an Orthodox Christian young scholar, or in classical educator. His name is Joshua...

Gibbs, and this little article is entitled so your parents are thinking of sending you to a classical Christian school, Unquote. It's written to kids, to students, to explain the logic of the way that we do school. This essay sets forth the reasoning behind traditional Christian education. It shows that education is about the heart, it's about learning to love what should be loved. and Mr Gibbs. Mr Gibbs points out that it's easy, really easy, to like cool things. Emphasis on like to like cool things that are popular. This last week I had coffee with my Godson down in San Diego, one of my godsons. We met halfway a mirror and had coffee to catch up. He has a lot of kids and I was asking him about their schooling and he was telling me about uh, a charter school that he had several of his kids in. It was called the classical charter school. I said, Oh, that's a nice name. He goes. It's a lie. I said, what do you mean? It's a lot. He goes. You want to know how many books they read in their literature class? I said yes, he said this many. They did not have a single book. Not only it's not that they were reading bad books. They didn't read a single book because the organizers of the charter school think the books are passe. They think that they're too old and that the kids won't read them, and so they only read things that were online, online blogs, short accounts. This type of thing called the classical harder school. Oops. Oops.

It's easy to like cool things but quite unimportant sense, most of those cool things aren't going to be cool for very long. It's much harder to learn to love substantial things, things that previous generations have loved, that our people have loved forever, that the saints have loved, things that are old, classic and beautiful. Many of US know, Mr Gibbs says, that we should love them. So we might open up something and read it a page or two and God and say something like I wish I knew how to enjoy this, or listen to some great music and say, I know this is good, I just wish I liked it. Right, many of us know that we should love these things, but we really don't know how to, since it isn't a simple thing to learn, learn how to love good things. Mr Gibb ends his article by positing and answer answering this question. How do you learn to love truly beautiful things? Think of those aspects of prife teaching that you have a hard time loving, even though you know they're beautiful. Maybe it's the one that we're addressing today, which is forgiveness. How can you actually learn to love forgiving people who have offended you? That's a very important question and there is a definitive answer to that. Here is his answer, Mr Gibbs's answer. He says, imagine that you have a long loft uncle who is wildly successful as a coffee merchant. You know almost nothing about this uncle until he dies and his lawyers contact you and invite you to a reading of his will. In the will, you find out your uncle...

...has left you his entire coffee empire, which is worth tens of millions of dollars. Sounds extremely tasty. However, there is a catch. You cannot receive the inheritance unless you can honestly claim that you love coffee. The lawyers are going to give you a lie detector test wherein you must say out loud, quote, I love coffee, coffee is delicious and I deeply enjoy drinking it, and you have to not set off the lie detector alarm. The problem is you hate coffee. You have always hated coffee, from the first SIP that your father gave you when you were four years old, up until today. But then the lawyers tell you that even the catch has a catch. If you cannot honestly claim that you love coffee today, you may return in exactly one year and take the lie detector test again. You tell your lawyers that you'll see them in one year. In the meantime, you have one year to learn to love coffee. How would you do it? When I have offered Mr Gibbs says, when I have offered this same scenario to my students and ask them how they would learn to love coffee, they have given some very fine answers. They say that they would begin by drinking coffee every day, not buckets of coffee, but a few cops every morning. They would begin with lots of milk and sugar and then slowly decrease the amount of milk and sugar so the flavor of the coffee began to take over. If you want to love something, you have to know all about it, they say, and so they would learn as much as possible about coffee during that year. where it's grown, how it's grown, who grows it.

There must be many different kinds of coffee as well, they say, and so they would not drink only one kind of coffee, but coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya, Hawaii, Honduras, Ecuador, Sumatra and other places, and they would learn all the many ways that there is to make coffee. Pour over French Press, Arrow press, Moka Pot Siphon. They say that it's easier to love something if you're surrounded by people who love it, and so they would pass the year in cafes and coffee shops, watching people enjoy their coffee, talking with them about why they love coffee and what coffee they like best. As the year carried on, we can imagine slowly developing a tolerance for the taste of coffee, and then a begrudging appreciation, a few moments of pleasure here and there, and then, perhaps towards the end, a real, unfeigned enjoyment. This, dear ones, is how we learned to love, not just classic books. This is how we learned to love the Christian life. Learning to love God and his life is the very purpose of our existence and the most important tasks that we're called to do today. Our Lord in the Gospel calls us to learn to love forgiveness. Cultivate your love of generosity and graciousness, dear ones, so that you never are thrown into the hands of the jailer's practice your faith, study it. If it's hard today, that doesn't mean it's going to be equally hard tomorrow. Accomplish this. Insist on integration in your life. Insist if you do this, if you cultivate your graciousness, you won't be thrown into the hands of the jailers. Your character will reflect the character of our gracious and Man Loving God.

To him be glory and honor forever 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 patristic nectar dot org. No.

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