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This past Sunday, we remembered both Joseph of Arimathea, who asked for the body of Christ, and the Myrrh-Bearing women, who went to the tomb to anoint the body.  Both these stories are a test of sorts The real question is: did they pass the test, or did they fail miserably? 

In today’s episode, we find out who walked the Way and who didn’t.
What does the Kingdom look like? How does it treat people. Have a listen to St. John's homily and find out!
Anchored in Place

Anchored in Place

2022-04-0810:27

Life, in general, is full of ups and downs. But, what happens when our spiritual life is also full of ups and downs?

 Is this normal? Should we expect this? Or should we be concerned?

 Today, we learn about the “desert” experience and how we are firmly anchored in place.
At the midpoint of Lent, Orthodox Christians are reminded of the journey they’re on: the Way to resurrection by Way of the cross.

 As a part of this mid-Lent celebration, we sing a hymn about that cross which goes, in part, like this: “Save, O Lord, Your people and bless Your inheritance, granting victory to the faithful over the enemy …” 

But, if you know Greek and you’ve seen the original hymn, you know that this hymn is purposely mistranslated! There’s something hidden.

 Today, we’ll discover what this hymn actually says, and we’ll learn a bit more about how the meaning of the cross was purposely flipped for early Christians.
On the second Sunday of Lent, the Orthodox Church celebrates St. Gregory of Palamas, a 14th-century bishop of Thessaloniki. 

 St. Gregory taught that God is truly present in the world, especially through silent prayer.

 Also on this Sunday, the Orthodox Church also reads the Gospel passage about the paralytic who is lowered through the roof of a house so that Jesus can forgive his sins.

 But, what does the celebration of St. Gregory have to do with this paralytic?

 As we’ll see in today’s episode, walking the Way is not only about understanding the connection between the two, but it's about living in trust.
On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we remember the Triumph of Orthodoxy over Iconoclasm. 

 Many of us like to celebrate this event by parading around the church holding our icons. We imagine we’ve won a great victory for truth over lies. 

But, how, exactly was this victory won? Does it look like other victories? Is is the same sort of victory that the Emperors won in battle?

 As we dig into this celebration, we may be surprised by our discovery, and how we’re supposed to walk the Way in light of this “triumph.”
An Acceptable Debt

An Acceptable Debt

2022-03-1113:07

Our world is built on credit, which is, essentially, building a life on a mountain of debt. 

 We go to school and accumulate school debt. We graduate and buy a car. Now we have a car loan to pay off. If our job doesn’t support our lifestyle, we don’t hesitate to build debt on our credit card. When the time comes, we look to buy a house and we go deeper in the hole with a mortgage. And, if you’re like most Americans, you’re probably in debt due to medical costs.

 While there are ways out of debt, there is one debt that St. Paul says is acceptable. In fact, it’s the one debt we need in order to walk the Way!
The Freedom to Love

The Freedom to Love

2022-03-0411:01

There’s an old saying, “You are what you eat.” But, during Lent, the Christian tradition is to fast from meat, wine, dairy, and oil. Is the Church worried we’re going to become chunks of meat and blobs of oil?

 Today, we learn about how fasting is connected to freedom and love.
If you’re like most kids, you probably had arguments with your parents when you were a kid, and I bet those arguments intensified when you became a teenager. 

 As your blood boiled in frustration, I bet your teenaged-self wished your parents were dead; then you’d be free. Out of anger, you may have even vocalized this thought out loud. If you did say it out loud, how did your parents react? I bet it wasn’t pretty.

 When the prodigal son asked for his inheritance early, he was basically telling his father that he wished his father were dead. But, instead of getting angry, the father appeased his son and gave him the inheritance he asked for. 

In the end, however, the inheritance was a curse for the son who would soon learn that walking the Way means that his father doesn’t treat him fairly!
In America, we have a saying, “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” This saying encompasses the attitude that one will get ahead in life through education and a good hard day’s work.  But, what if this saying was a complete outright lie? Our fallen world may work this way, but the reality of the Kingdom is very different. In order to walk the Way, we need to have a completely different understanding of how we become successful in the Kingdom.
It’s one thing to be rejected by a stranger, but it’s another thing entirely to be rejected by a friend or a family member. It hurts. But what happens when you’re rejected by the Son of God! Is there any hope for you after that? In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus rejects the Canaanite woman. What happens next and what we’re supposed to learn from this passage will cause us to walk The Way in an entirely different way.
Living according to the instruction of the gospel is always hard, especially when that instruction challenges our way of life or our perspective of the world.
"Thank you, O Lord!"

"Thank you, O Lord!"

2021-11-2603:10

As many of you probably know, one of the most famous Orthodox theologians of the 20th century was Fr. Alexander Schmemann. He was dean of the seminary I went to (St. Vladimir's), and his life's work was to teach about the Eucharist (which means, "thanksgiving"). He died on December 13, 1983, but his last liturgy was on Thanksgiving Day. Since Thanksgiving was this week, I thought it'd be appropriate to recount his words here. It was entitled, "Thank you, O Lord!"
This week, the Nativity Fast began for Orthodox Christians around the world. This 40-day period, is a time in which we prepare for the Nativity of our Lord according to the flesh. But, as we watch our diets and take meat out of our lives, an important question comes up: is the impossible burger permissible? It’s not technically meat, but it looks, smells, and tastes like meat … So, does it fit the fast? The Bottom Line: when we fast, we have to be sure we don’t miss the forest for the trees.
If I were to ask you what feast Christians celebrate on January 6th, what would you say? It probably depends on which Christian tradition you were brought up in. If you are a western Christian, you’d probably say “Epiphany.” But, if you’re an eastern Christian, you will probably respond “Theophany” instead. Now, they are the same feast and, at the same time, they aren’t. There are some major theological differences in the emphasis between east and west, but, I’m much more interested in the difference between the words. What exactly does “Epiphany” mean and what exactly does “Theophany” mean? And, what does the difference in definition tell us? The Bottom Line: Our 4th type scene is “Theophanies,” which is a revelation of God.
In the Gospel of John, we hear the story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well. Most sermons focus on the foreignness of the Samaritan woman: her identity as a “Samaritan” is contrasted with Jesus’s identity as a “Judean.” This then leads the preacher to speak about the inclusive nature of the Gospel. However, this scene is a type-scene, one that goes back to Genesis. So, if it’s a type-scene, we must ask: what is the hearer supposed to recognize about this scene? Well, the answer is that we’re supposed to recognize that two future spouses are meeting. This is their introduction to each other, an introduction that’ll eventually lead to wedding bells. Now, this story—about Jesus and the Samaritan woman—just got interesting. If this scene is really an “encounter with a future spouse,” what then is John trying to say? What’s his point? The Bottom Line: When two folks at a well meet, their just might be wedding bells about to ring!
One motif that appears over and over again in the Bible is the image of the barren woman. All the matriarchs of Genesis had problems having children: Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel; and
 the motif appears again in the New Testament: St. John’s mother had a hard to time having children too. Why would this motif appear so often in scripture? What literary purpose does it serve for the authors of scripture? What’s the spiritual meaning? The Bottom Line: The motif of the barren woman reminds us that it’s God who bestows life.
If you could go back in time and speak with a 1st-century Roman about crucifixion and how the empire used them, what would they say?
 They might say that "... By [the cross] barbarian nations are subdued, by it the scepters of kings have been secured …" Or, they might say that the cross, “"... grant[s] victory to the faithful over the enemy …" If they had said either of those things, they would be absolutely correct! The cross was an instrument of torture that the Romans used to keep subjected peoples—such as Galileans, Judeans, and other nations—in line. The Romans wanted to instill fear to prevent uprisings and revolts against them. But, isn’t that we Christians also say about the cross? That it grants victory and subdues barbarian nations? Yes … yes it is. So, how can both the Romans and the Christians say the same thing about the cross? After all, one put people on crosses while the other hung on them. The Bottom Line: For Christians, God’s victory comes through defeat!
One of the first type-scenes, or conventions, in scripture that we’re going to look at is Annunciations. “Annunciation” is a Latin word that essentially means, “announcement.” But, for the original biblical readers, what would they have expected when an announcement was made to someone from a messenger of God? What would they have expected the message to be? To whom and for what purpose would they have expected the message to be delivered? And, do we get “announcements” from God today? The Bottom Line: In understanding Annunciations, we may realize that an angel is making an announcement to us as well!
We all know that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and, if we want to understand the Bible, we either need to learn the original languages or find a translation we understand.

 But, far too often, we think of translation and understanding in a much too narrow way. We limit “translation” work to translating the actual words.

 What we don’t think about is translating context. 
Surprisingly, this context includes reoccurring scenes that become a pattern. The original biblical readers would be expecting this when hearing scriptural stores.

 The Bottom Line: Understanding type-scenes in the biblical literature will enhance our understanding so that we can walk the Way.
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