The Stones Will Quiet Down (Palm Sunday Reflections)

ImageFierce. Noble. Honorable. Strong. Sacrificing. Marks of a true King. Through-out history we have told stories of kings who are strong and powerful and even willing to die with their men. Kings like King Leonidas who stands up with his small army dead around him, and he himself has arrows sticking out of his body as he takes a final stand against the evil of the Persian king as arrows rain down on him. For many of us, this is what a king looks like!

We see in Leonidas how a king who is of this world behaves. Today, I want to talk to you about a King not of this world.

St. Luke tells us:

“After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. ‘Go into that village over there,’ he told them. ‘As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, “Why are you untying that colt?” just say, “The Lord needs it.”’

So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said.  And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’

And the disciples simply replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’ So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.

‘Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!’

But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, ‘Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!’

He replied, ‘If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!’”

Have you ever pondered why Christ came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? Have you ever thought about what He was trying to show us about Himself? Have you thought who is Jesus Christ? Maybe these lyrics by The David Crowder*Band say it all: “Here is our King. Here is our Love. Here is our God whose come to bring us back to Him. He is the One, He is Jesus!”

In Luke 19:28-40 we see Christ reveal Himself as King by outright referring to Himself as Lord right after telling a parable about the Kingdom of God and the rejection of its Ruler. And we see Him reveal a prophecy by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, a humble and lowly animal. We also see that Christ is worthy of praise and does not stop the people from praising Him. If they do not the rocks will.

 

First thing revealing Himself as King: His humility.

Christ refers to Himself as Lord (vs. 30-31).  “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.”

As Christ approaches Jerusalem with humility riding a donkey (vs. 35-38), he fulfills a prophecy foretold in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  J.D.M Derrett says since the donkey had yet to be ridden suggests strongly that it was for royal usage.

Are you and I being humble like our King? We are called to be Christ-like, but are we approaching others in grace and humility with gentleness? How are we doing with what St. Paul writes in Philippians 2:1-4:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I recall a lesson in humility from my days at Mt. Mission School, where I attended high school:

One particular quarter I was given the lovely and aromatic job of emptying the trash cans on the hall. I was quite upset that such an injustice had occurred. That job was usually reserved for the “bad boys” on the hall. Now, I was bad, but not to the degree that I would be given trash. Everyday I complained about doing that job. Then the day came that Mr. Hertzog Jr. gave me a job failure. He said I wasn’t doing my job correctly. So from that point on he and I argued every morning about how to do my job. In my infinite knowledge, I was convinced that my way was the correct way, and he didn’t know what he was talking about.

About a week later he and I got into it really badly one morning, and I disrespected him and didn’t do my job. Well, I went to school that day feeling proud that “I showed him.” We got out of school that day, and I couldn’t wait to get upstairs so I could sleep or listen to music in my room. The hall was opened, and I walked to room five, my room. The door was closed so that should have made me suspicious since the room doors are always left open because the supervisor checks them after we leave.

Well, I wasn’t suspicious. I opened the door and looked at the last side, my side, and found trash dumped all over my room. Ramen Noodle wrappers everywhere, a banana peel under my bed, some kind of sticky liquid all over the floor, and a ton of other things I can’t remember. I was quite upset by this as you might have guessed. Well, I thought about just leaving it there, but I have a mild form of OCD so that wasn’t going to go down so well. Mr. Hood was on the hall, so I had him open the mop room so I could clean my room.

While I cleaned it I noticed Mr. Hood watching me from his table. I had no beef with him for I thought Mr. Hertzog had done this dirty deed (no pun intended). So I wrote Hertzog a little letter about how I was the immature one, not him. I explained how upset I was that he had come down to my level. Later I asked him if he had gotten the letter. He said, “Yes,” and that he wasn’t the one who threw the trash there. He told me it was Mr. Hood. I was shocked! I thought to myself, “What a sneaky guy.” He was watching me the whole time knowing that he made that dirty mess. He had to be laughing hysterically on the inside while he watched me clean up the mess.

So unlike how I was being in that short story about the trash, the first thing we see revealed about Christ is that He is the humble King promised long ago.

Second thing revealing Himself as King: He’s praiseworthy!

Christ is praised by the disciples and people of Jerusalem (vs. 37-40). The people shout in praise, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’”

St. Mark’s description reads, “Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’” Hosanna is a Hebrew word meaning save.  God’s promise to David that his throne would rule forever is fulfilled, and now Christ the King has come to save us.

Christ declares He is worthy of praise as the Promised King (vs. 39-40). The Pharisees try to rebuke Jesus for the people’s praise, but Christ declares He is a King worthy of praise because if the people do not praise the rocks will. He said in response to the Pharisees, “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” You and I were made to worship Christ the King, are we shouting out in praise not just with our worship, but with our lives?  St. Paul encourages us to make music in our hearts to the Lord (Eph. 5:19). David Crowder*Band express this kind of worship when they sing, “Turn your gaze to Heaven and raise a joyous noise. Oh the sound of salvation come. The sound of rescued ones. And all this for a King. Angels join to sing ‘All for Christ our King!’ Oh praise Him. Oh praise Him. He is holy! He is holy!” Are our lives shouting out in praise to Him?

We see from this Gospel reading Jesus Christ revealing His identity as the King of all creation:

  1. By demonstrating His humility as the Promised King and
  2. By declaring that He is a King worthy of all thing’s praise, including our own.

Under Christ’s kingship we are called to be humble servants. Praising God is more than just singing songs, it’s about the lives we live and the actions that pour forth from our hearts. Are we living our lives in ways that declare that Christ is our King? Are we living a life that this stone is crying out louder than we are in praise to our King? Or are we living a life that can allow us to say to the stones, “You can quiet down, we got it?”

“Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.”

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Save Syrian Christians Bishops and Clergy Men

ImageWe the Syrian Christian expatriates in the USA, urge our government to interfere on behalf of all the innocent christian civilians, and clergy in Syria.

Two of our most beloved bishops (Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi) were abducted recently near Aleppo while undertaking a humanitarian mission.

While the lives of many civilians (christians and non christians) are under constant threat and warrant equal concern; these two bishops were providing help and guidance to many.

We plead with you to exert pressure and influence to free them.

May God Bless you in your efforts.

Please sign this petition: 

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/save-syrian-christians-bishops-and-clergy-men/Nqrb3cv1#thank-you=p

Ancient Jewish Icons

The Orthodox Life

Ancient Jewish synagogues were filled with icons. While Scripture required the inside of the Jerusalem Temple to display icons of angels, the icons in Jewish synagogues depicted numerous scenes from Scripture, including:

The Early Church emerged from Israel, and we inherited the Israelite’s ancient love for icons.  Like the early Jewish synagogues, the catacombs and the most ancient Christian Churches were filled with holy icons.

Nearly 1800 years after these Jewish icons were originally painted, a number of people are…

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Celebration of Discipline (A Reflection on Disciplines and Richard Foster’s Book)

ImageDr. Gupton said, “Spiritual disciplines are activities we do to cooperate with God’s work to transform us into the image of Christ.” As a firm believer in the Doctrine of Deification being the point of Christianity I thoroughly agree with Dr. Gupton.

He pointed out in class one day that we cannot look at the spiritual disciplines without first knowing that God is a HOLY God. It is from that holiness, as Doc Reece says, that all concepts such as love, justice, grace, peace, and mercy flow. So if we are to be conformed to the image of Christ and “put on the Divine Nature” as Saint Peter says then we must first recognize and accept that God is holy. God after all did say, “Be holy as I am holy.”

That is how I have come to understand the disciplines through this book. I am horribly wicked, but I have been regenerated. I am called to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and to partake of the Divine Nature. The way I see the disciplines is a way, a vehicle, to take along the road of Deification. My main problem with implementing the disciplines is being disciplined enough to do it. I took an online test that also said I have an over-extended lifestyle too. It comes down to my unwillingness at times to give God control over my life and to give Him sufficient time.

Chapters two through five deals with the Inward Disciplines, which are Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study. Out of all these I have found some common ground except fasting.

I have only fasted a couple times in my life. My biggest discipline that I am drawn to would have to be that of prayer. Being an Orthodox Christian, I firmly believe in “Lex orandi, lex credenda,” which means “the law of prayer is the law of belief. As we pray we believe. Prayer is very important to the Orthodox because in it our whole worldview and theology is expressed. Prayer is a very important discipline both individually and corporately.

Chapters six through nine deal with the Outward Disciplines, which are Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service. Out of all of these the one that is newest to me, and the one I took the biggest interest in is that of Simplicity. To me this chapter really stood out because it directly challenges this notion of individualism and materialism found not only in our society but also in our communities and country. This discipline is the antithesis to that lifestyle, and I find it to be a great substitute to the way the world lives. We do not need all this stuff to make us happy. This discipline is about becoming content in all circumstances and with what you have.

The blessing of being a poor college student is that we learn to live poorly, and we can carry that frugal spirit over with us when we start making better money. I think it was one of the Wesley brothers who lived at a basic lifestyle even though their income increased throughout their life. They continued to give money away and to help people. I would like to be able to live simply so I can simply live.

Chapters ten through thirteen deal with the Corporate Disciplines of Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration. The one I had not seen as a very valuable discipline from a corporate standpoint was that of Guidance. In this point of my life I am very torn about my future and where I’ll end up serving in His Kingdom. As I learn and grow in Orthodoxy this is a good discipline to have. 

Fasting can be done for seeking God’s guidance. Fasting can heighten the spiritual senses of a believer and make one keener to the Spirit’s leading, which is something we all need in our lives.

I agree that fasting is so often overlooked in our society where we are afraid to deny ourselves of anything. Yet, Jesus said to deny that which is the hardest to deny: the self, the sarx as Doc Reece always states. We are to deny ourselves DAILY in some fashion. I think I resist this one the most. I find it hard to do and even during Lent I find it even harder to fast. I think that just getting started is the hard part. I do not know why I resist this discipline the way I do, but it is something I want to explore. I find it harder to fast from stuff like Twitter and Facebook than from food and such. This is also the one that is most neglected in my life along side of, oddly enough, prayer and confession.

As I have stated before the importance of prayer to an Orthodox Christian is very very high! Prayer is the law of belief. I think  I am attracted to prayer because it is a very communal discipline, but also a very personal discipline as well. Prayer is what unites us as Orthodox Christians around the Lord’s Holy Table. That unification should carry over into our homes and private lives.

The Quality of Our Thoughts and the One Thought That Really Matters: The Fathers and the Baylor Report on Mental Health and Religious Beliefs

Ancient Christian Wisdom

A recurring theme in Ancient Christian Wisdom as well as throughout this blog concerns the fact that our private thoughts about our selves color our emotions, shape our behavior, and set an indelible mark on our character and ultimately our lives.  In developing this thesis, I explored Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy in the light of the teachings of the ancient fathers. According to Dr. Beck, “cognitive therapy is a system of therapy that attempts to reduce excessive emotional reactions and self-defeating behavior by modifying the faulty or erroneous thinking and maladaptive beliefs that underlie these reactions.”  According to the ancient fathers, the quality of the thoughts occupies a central place in the spiritual life and their change or re-ordering can lead to healing and transformation.  As I write in ACW, “the saints have also found that selfish thoughts, left unchecked, lead a person to sinful acts, passions, habits…

View original post 1,061 more words

The Quality of Our Thoughts and the One Thought That Really Matters: The Fathers and the Baylor Report on Mental Health and Religious Beliefs

Ancient Christian Wisdom

A recurring theme in Ancient Christian Wisdom as well as throughout this blog concerns the fact that our private thoughts about our selves color our emotions, shape our behavior, and set an indelible mark on our character and ultimately our lives.  In developing this thesis, I explored Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy in the light of the teachings of the ancient fathers. According to Dr. Beck, “cognitive therapy is a system of therapy that attempts to reduce excessive emotional reactions and self-defeating behavior by modifying the faulty or erroneous thinking and maladaptive beliefs that underlie these reactions.”  According to the ancient fathers, the quality of the thoughts occupies a central place in the spiritual life and their change or re-ordering can lead to healing and transformation.  As I write in ACW, “the saints have also found that selfish thoughts, left unchecked, lead a person to sinful acts, passions, habits…

View original post 1,061 more words

If We Are Children of Wrath Then Whose Wrath Are We Under? (Some Thoughts on Ephesians 2:4-2:7)

ImageLet’s read Eph. 2:3 in its immediate context with the verses that preceed it and proceed it starting with 2:1 and ending with 2:7:


“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.


4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (I’ll leave the numbers for our benefit here).


Okay, what we see St. Paul, in his awesomeness, doing here is painting a beautiful compare/contrast between two different kingdoms, both of which are spiritual in nature, put their image on their adherents, and require strict loyalty and obedience. of course, as these verses point out, they are complete opposites.


Let’s begin with what we read in 1-3. This is the kingdom of Satan clearly, a created being. His domain is the air (verse 2), he is not fully of earth nor of heaven. He authored disobedience (verse 2). His rule begins in spiritual death, which is highlighted by verse 1. Those who adhere to his rule and follow are filled with lust, of the flesh and of the mind (verse 3) and the deeds they bring to bear are trespasses and sins (verse 1). And here we arrive at the point you raise. The result of this reign is, as verse 3 says, wrath, thus eternal death.


Note that not once does St. Paul mention 1) the Atonement, 2) the Crucifixion, or 3) Jesus’ sacrifice in any way at all. Not in any of these first 3 verses.


We are not under any wrath of God. We are under the wrath of Satan’s reign, which is death and sin. St. Paul does not paint any sort of picture here that indicates anything about God’s wrath (note: that isn’t to say that God does not have any). The wrath spoken of is that of being out of communion with God, of failing to be priests and to offer to God what is His. When we fell out of right relationship with God we brought upon ourselves this wrath mentioned. Sin and death brought about by Satan.


God, the uncreated all holy being, is the King and ruler of this other kingdom (verse 4). His realm is the “heavenly places” (verse 6). In verse 4 we see that He rules by mercy and love. The beginning of this rule, which is seen in the completion of Christ’s ministry, is reversing this theme of death and sin brought about by the Fall and by Satan’s rule; it’s the beginning of redemption to eternal life (verse 5). As his subjects and worshippers, we desire to offer thanks (eucharist in Greek) and glory to our Creator and Redeemer. Our needs are to be filled with righteousness since we reign with Christ and live in Him (note on my blog. His throne is the Cross, from which He reigns. it is powerful to say we reign with him in this because we are commanded to put to death our sarx, Gal 2:19-20. just a really cool thought.We reign from our own crosses with Christ. I digress). This rule He does brings about kindness and riches (verse 7) and thus eternal life. The COMPLETE and TOTAL antithesis of the other Kingdom.


We’d say that that is what these verses speak of. It’s a s-t-r-e-t-c-h to say that these verses in context have anything to do with Atonement being that 1) St. Paul never mentions it and 2) the compare/contrast theme is so clear. If one isolates verse 3 and prooftexts it then of course it supports PSA. This is one reason why PSA fell apart for me early on in my theological journey as I began to explore and open myself to ancient Christianity.


It’s a big burden of proof on the PSA adherent to show how these verses tie in with the Atonement in any way, shape, or form.

A fellow Orthodox Christian and I discussed this privately and he took a different route with the “children of wrath” verses. He had this to say:

“I’m not really sure if this reading can be sustained from the text. It certainly seems to me that the wrath in Ephesians is the wrath of God, as that is the way the word “wrath” is usually used. As noted above, that’s not really the question. When we sin, we miss the mark, and we actually cause a spiritual reverberation throughout the creation, as we, the Image-Bearers of God, have been committed the care of the creation by God. We become “objects of wrath” because we are creation-destroyers. It is perfectly just (meaning right) for God to destroy us in order to save the creation. However, God’s wrath is not removed from us because it is poured out on another. This wouldn’t solve anything in itself, as we would still be creation-destroyers. The key is that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are able to be transfigured into His Image and thus participate in His redemption of the creation. We are saved from the wrath of God not because someone else takes it on himself, but because through Christ, we are made into that which is no longer an object of wrath.”

I think both readings are valid readings. I tend to agree with the commentary from the Orthodox Study Bible, which guided my reading of the text, which I put in my own words with each point made about each Kingdom.

So there you have two readings, but neither make the Atonement and wrath connected. So we are children of wrath indeed, but the question is whose wrath?

What do you think?