Monday, April 23, 2012

Community - that's where it all started.

     One week after celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.. how do you feel?! All churched out? Giving yourself the extra notch on your belt from all the food? Yes, I feel a little similar as well :) How should we really feel? The whole pinnacle of our faith is based on this event. St Paul says, "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" 1 Cor 15:17.  St Gregory of Nazianzus calls it the "Feast of Feasts". What do you call it? Or better yet, how do you live it?
     A big emphasis I keep trying to focus on is living the true Christian life.  The reason I'm doing so, is to help remind myself of things I need to do and focus on, as well as help my brothers and sisters who are in the same boat.  St Athanasius emphasizes that a spiritual life without a liturgical life is lacking much, and a liturgical life without a spiritual life is just rituals.  They can't be separated, and the Orthodox Church really puts a big emphasis on this in many aspects - liturgical worship, communal prayer, fellowship, and community.  Community is something that seems so easy to have, but if not taken care of, will reveal the opposite of what it should be!
     I am really excited about the new St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church starting this weekend in Arlington, VA - Fr Anthony Messeh discusses it here. This church, as well as every other, should be a welcoming home for any person.  I'm not talking about the building, I'm talking about the 'Church' that Christ is the head of - yes, us. We must be able to really represent the body of Christ, which He gave for all. My favorite contemplation on the Cross is that Christ was nailed with His arms wide open, just to emphasize the fact that everyone is welcome, unable to pull it closed.
     St Athanasius in one of his Festal Letters that is sent out every Resurrection Feast, says "For this is the marvel of His loving-kindess, that He should gather together in the same place those who are at a distance; and make those who appear to be far off in the body, to be near together in unity of spirit." I love that! We all know the CEO Christians (Christmas Easter only), so did St Athanasius.  That is exactly why he chose this to be part of the message to be delivered on the Feast of Resurrection - to emphasize that community is an essential part of the Feast. It all started when Christ took our flesh to be among us, it all started with community.
     With that being said, let's do something about it. I function well with having deadlines and goals, so maybe it will help a few others, too.  During these Joyous Fifty Days of Resurrection, let's put an emphasis on the Community in our Church (whether it be actual church or yourselves), to make us more welcoming and loving to all, which will in turn create a whole new congregation - and even generation of a place where anyone can look to us and say "I want what they have." - because we have Christ in us. And the best thing about it, is we can give what we've freely received.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Too old for Dr. Seuss?

"UNLESS, someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Dr Seuss, The Lorax

So last week, I got a chance to see Dr Seuss' The Lorax.  I am a sucker for these kinds of movies - and I'm not ashamed! Once on a plane ride, I was watching Dr Seuss' Horton hears a who - only to find a 10 year old girl next to me crawling up to tell me she didn't know 'old people' liked Dr Seuss. (I am NOT old!)

The quote that was the foundation of the movie should not be overlooked.  We've all heard a million times that one person can make a difference, and we even tell it to our young ones - but do we believe it? "I'm not gonna vote, one vote won't make a difference." "It won't matter if I attend this youth meeting, or go to this liturgy, or just stay home". Guess what? It matters.

In the course of history we've seen many people leave big impacts, yet we still find it hard to be one of those people, why? History doesn't remember groups of people, but rather the individuals behind certain movements or regimes.  We hear of both good and bad, Ghandi and Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr, Michael Jordan, the list goes on. Also in the Orthodox Church, we have great Saints like St Athanasius and St Cyril who helped shape Christianity for almost every Christian denomination today.  Billy Graham said it best, "Jesus Christ is the only person who walked across time and history." Can you believe that? We hear these great names, and sometimes may forget the ones from a few hundred years ago, but the only name that has resonated through history with such great effect, is that of Jesus.

Can we do the same? Of course we can! St Basil, in Gateway to Paradise, writes "He heals the sick and revives the dead.. if He finds a tax-collector He makes a disciple; if He meets a fisherman He produces a theologian; if He find a persecutor He makes an apostle who can spread the faith.  Through the working of the Spirit, the weak can escape the strong, the poor become rich and the ignorant surpass the wise."

That's what I love about God, He takes what we think can be worthless and non-contributing (like ourselves) and does crazy things and wonders with it. All He needs is a little sign of approval from our part to be willing to allow Him in. Do you ever feel a burden inside you towards a certain group that needs help, or a cause, or something? That's God hinting at you to tell you, "Hey, that's where you can make a difference!" All we have to do is recognize it, and allow God to turn us from water into wine... are you willing?