Plenty of Time

This past week Matushka and I were able to get out of town for a short bit and spend some time away from all of life’s troubles and distractions.  We were blessed to get to spend a day on the beach, my wife’s happy place. Friends had been telling me that we should take a break and get out of town, a time to get away from all the responsibilities we have shouldered, a time to take a breath and an opportunity to take time for our marriage, team Weller!

Time is such a precious thing for us. I think it is the most valuable choice our Creator has given us and we have total free reign how we choose to spend it. As we took some time to walk on the shoreline in the splendor of His creation, we noticed that the tide had washed up a large amount of shell fragments. There were all shapes, sizes and colors but all the shells were small pieces of what they once were. I guess they too had been caught in the essence of time, losing control and being tossed to and fro and spit out of the ocean and onto the shore. Time was up for them as they continue to fragment and now find themselves out of the water and baking in the hot sun.

As I reflect upon the readings this morning time comes to my mind again. I bet these two Gentiles that were fiercely possessed wish they had some of their lost time back. The demon possessed men in the Gospel of Saint Matthew had lost control and the demons were calling the shots and occupying their life. “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of God? Art Thou come here to torment us before the time?” [Mt. 8:29] St. John Chrysostom enlightens us that the demons were speaking of the final judgment, they thought they had more time to torment these helpless men, it was way too soon for their confrontation with Christ! (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 28.2) We don’t know how these two men came to be enslaved to the demons but by the teachings of the church that had obviously not taken time to know God and to make His priorities their preferences.

It seems that the further we get away from the church in our inattention and listlessness, the less aware we are of our vulnerabilities. St. Sebastian said it like this: “If you continue to drowse, you will imperceptibly (unnoticeably) fall under the influence of the evil spirits.” (St. Sebastian Dabovich) You see, our precious time has limits! St. Macarius the Great explains it this way: “When the soul of a man departs from the body, a certain great mystery is there enacted. If a person is under the guilt of sin, bands of demons and fallen angels approach along with the powers of darkness which capture the soul and drag it as a captive to their place. No one should be surprised by this fact. For if, while a man lived in this life, he was subject to them and was their obedient slave, how much more, when he leaves this world, is he captured and controlled by them?” (St. Macarius the Great, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 22)

I know that some of us have been crushed and fragmented by the currents and crashing waves in life but I pray that before we too are out of time, we can come back to the Omnipotent Potter and surrender to Him all of our broken pieces that have washed up on the shoreline. “Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand,” Thus saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 18:6) For only He can restore life and free us from all of this bondage if we only surrender to Him our most precious time!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-21-2019

Are You A Believer?

Are you a believer?? I ask this question today as we remember the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. As we read about the lives of the Apostles we can easily see that these men were dedicated men. They were changed by the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus.

So I ask: Have we changed? How many of us have given up everything and fully embraced the mandate: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?” (Matthew 28:19) Or how about: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him?”(Matthew 4:19-20)

When we chose to fail in our attendance, our fasting, our prayer life, and our love of His creation I have to wonder, are we really believers? If what our Savior has to offer is so much greater than the worldly money, priorities and distractions, where are we now and what pagan has a hold of us? We all make excuses for our lacking.

The Holy Apostles were committed fully! Some of the records account that Apostle Paul was beheaded, Peter was crucified upside down, Andrew was crucified, Thomas was spearedto death, Philip was cruelly put to death, Matthew was burned alive, Bartholomew was crucified and beheaded, James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded, Simon the Zealot was crucified, James (son of Alphaeus) was crucified, Matthias was stoned and beheaded, Jude was crucified, John was cast into boiling oil but managed to escape.  

And yet I here I am, a man full of excuses who says I am a believer but has not fully let go of the world. Maybe with prayer and the grace of God, I will one day fully embrace the offer that Christ has made each and every one of us and be a true follower of our Lord and not just a man full of excuses! Pray to God for us Holy Apostles!!!

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-12-2019

Independence Day

Independence Day for us American’s is a time of reflection, a time of celebration of our freedom and time to remember the cost of that freedom, some gave all! Today, most of us are given a day off from labor and we can easily find celebrations to attend usually ending with a grand display of fireworks. This tradition seems to have begun on July 4, 1777 where the festivities of the day were concluded with cannon fire and rockets launched into the darkness of the sky exploding into brilliant light.

Massachusetts delegate John Adams penned a letter to his wife, envisioning the festivities: “I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival,” he wrote. “It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews (shows), Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

I hope everyone had a great and festive 4th of July! Our country has indeed fought great battles for our freedom and continues daily to keep a careful watch of our liberty. There is great another battle going on daily in our lives and it is a strategic conquest for our soul. Within our personal internal darkness there is also hope of independence. If we commit ourselves to “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty” an explosion of light will illumine our path on the narrow, hard-fought road of salvation. We fight for freedom from the slavery of sin (John 8:31-36) and dependence on God alone. And there is quite a joyous celebration in heaven happening every time a sinner finds repentance and loosens his independent will and becomes more dependent and ever-trusting in God. (Luke 15:10)

St. Philaret of Moscow said: “True freedom is the active ability of a man who is not enslaved to sin, who is not pricked by a condemning conscience, to choose the better in the light of God’s truth, and to bring it into actuality with the help of the gracious power of God. This is the freedom of which neither heaven nor earth are restrict.” ( St. Philaret of Moscow, Sermon on the Birthday of Emperor Nicholas I, 1851)

We can win the liberating battles in life if we commit our lives to being an arsenal of prayer. Prayer displaces evil in our hearts. Abba Pimen was one who struggled for piety and purity of heart. He taught us: “As long as the pot is on the fire, no fly nor any other animal can get near it, but as soon as it is cold, these creatures get inside. So it is for the monk; as long as he lives in spiritual activities, the enemy cannot find a means of overthrowing him.” (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 154)

Holy Apostle Mark recorded our Lord saying this: “In my name shall they cast out demons” (Mark 16:17) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner! Recitation of this powerful prayer will stoke the fire that illumines the depth of darkness in our soul with a brilliant uncreated light. Fight the battles day by day and make every day a day of dependence on God and a day independent from the tyranny of sin and death.  

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-7-2019

FISHING, not CATCHING

It has regrettably been awhile since I have taken time to go fishing. It is not the cheapest hobby to have with the cost of licenses, tackle and bait, and then not to mention my precious time! But it is something I enjoy and find relaxing. And now that I am Orthodox, I have plenty of reasons to eat fish!

In the past I have fished the ponds, lakes and rivers around where we live and taken a trip or two out on the big pond out of Oregon Inlet where the fish and waves are bigger as well as the cost. I have had the opportunity to fish with a lot of different folks over the years and you gotta know, being outdoors is much better than staring at a flat screen or being at work!

Some of the expeditions I have been on we have been “skunked” or fishless! We had the tackle, bait and the time but we didn’t catch a thing. After all, that is why they call it fishing and not catching! Now we may have had a bite or two and maybe even cranked one into the shore but the slippery thing got off the hook and swam away or the fish was too small to keep. And so it is with fishing, but each cast brings a new adventure and new possibilities!

Jesus is calling all of us to be good WILLING fishers!  Not the fish in the waters but His fish in the streams of life where you frequent. Look down and where your feet are planted is in His stream; and that is where you should be fishing! Some folks struggle to remember scripture and therefore believe they can’t fish, they pull their feet up out of His stream and try to blend in with the dumb rocks or the dry shore, sort of a camouflage in life, wasting precious harvest time. But how wrong they are!

Some folks continue to reflect upon their own failures and think they shouldn’t be fishing at all. But humility is a great asset to a fisher of men. And the greatest bait we have been given to attract all of these schools of fish, is love. Help people, invite folks to church, and pray for everyone you meet! Most folks are slippery and clever and only one thing will keep them coming back into the net of salvation, and that one thing is love. We’ll do the fishing; He’ll do the catching! The sacraments will help do the cleaning with through the work of the Holy Spirit!

We heard in the Gospel this morning at the doorway of the Apostles fast: “And He saith to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [Mt. 4:19] We should not be disappointed when folks jump out of our boat or discouraged when we think the hook is set firmly and yet they somehow swim away wagging their tail as they spit out the hook. That’s why they call it fishing and not catching! After all, they are His fish and He alone can grant them salvation. If they chose to swallow the bait and swim safely into His net, the church, they are on their way to salvation and will through growth, become a keeper.

Looking around I notice that we have plenty of room here in His net for more fish! Take some time this week to help with the harvest and cast some bait into His stream wherever you are, and know that you are never fishing alone. Hs is with you and will help you attract fish, even the slippery ones!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-30-2019

FRIED TATERS

When I was of the age of being indestructible, I needed plenty of fuel to burn in my human high-output, workhorse engine. The fuel that seemed to make my engine run at its peak performance was any kind of meat and of course, fried potatoes. We had a rule at the farm table; you take it, you had better eat it! And most of the time, the serving bowl didn’t make it around the table twice! So when the serving bowl came around, I heaped it on! I was of the age where I could out work anyone and everyone, and still have a little throttle left to kick in if the need be. Being last was never in my wheelhouse and eating more than my share of fried potatoes was an extremely common occurrence.

Perhaps by God’s design as I have aged I have been less concerned about being first and maybe more concerned about just finishing as my high-performance human engine is showing signs of wear and tear. The view from the front seems to limit the view of those behind you and those who are struggling or less able, or those whom wounds continue to bleed and need binding. Over the years my priorities have changed from comfort to being un-comfortable. If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would be in a position to love and teach about God’s love I would have called you a liar! There was no time for that! I had to want and care about others salvation as I trained to express how great the love of God is! As we heard in the Gospel this morning: “But whosoever shall deny Me before men.” [Mt. 10:33] Something this good has to be shared! Nonparticipation, results in denial of Christ!

 

But it is that simple! Do you know that everyone is struggling? The weakest link in the chain needs reinforcing not isolation! “And whosoever taketh not his cross and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me. [Mt. 10:38] How can we love God and decide to ignore some of His creation, you know the folks that are BIG sinners and HELL-bent? Those who are not here with us today and maybe never will be or maybe we just have been too selfish with our hoarding of those fried potatoes and not cared enough about others? The serving bowl of opportunity only comes around occasionally for most of us and we should make that effort to care, deny ourselves and pick up our cross! I truly believe that there are no single passenger vehicles on the highway to the bosom of Abraham, but only high occupancy vehicles full of self-less souls. Less of my needs and more of others is that narrow path that leads to salvation.

“And everyone who leaveth houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, on account of My name, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit life everlasting. But many who are first shall be last, and the last first.”  [Mt. 19:27-30]

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-23-2019

EXACT REPLICA

Some years ago in my early teens, we had recently moved into a rental with a large yard of grass that always needed mowing. That was my job; I was the guy who could keep the push mower running in the humid beach weather and let me tell you, grass grows quickly in that climate! Granddad told me he had an old 5 hp Simplicity riding mower he would give me if I could make some repairs and get it running. After spending a number of days fixing it and just when I had things running as smooth as a used-car salesman’s tongue, the main drive pulley guide broke. I didn’t have the money to order a new one and I was really frustrated. Granddad said: “Why don’t you make one?” Now this part was made out of heavy 8 gauge wire with several bends and 5/16 bolt eyelets on each end.

Make one? Me? “There is no way one can be made” as I snapped back at him. I was leaving that weekend heading back home and had really hoped this 5 hp Simplicity riding mower was going to be a blessing in that large field of grass. After my snappy response I heard the screen door shut and saw Granddad heading out and I was thankful he didn’t thump me on his way out the door! Some two hours later, much to my disbelief, Granddad returned to the house with this belt guide he had made with his old arthritic hands, an exact replica!

Here in the Gospel this morning we hear another story about someone who can make the impossible, possible. We know that “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground.” (Gen 2:7) and it was from this dust that the blind man was thus healed, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return!” (Gen 3:19) St. Basil the Great wrote: “We should understand in the creation the original cause of the Father as a founding cause, the cause of the Son as a creative, and the cause of the Spirit as an implementing one.” Thus God the Father is the “Creator of all things”, the Son is the one “through whom all things were made”, and the Holy Spirit is the one “in whom are all things”. “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.”(Gen. 1:31) “First He conceived, and His conception was a work carried out by His Word, and perfectly by His Spirit.” Now after his encounter with Christ, the man born without eyes gained vision and recognized Jesus the Nazarene carpenter as truly the Son of God.

Now days, folks whose eyes seem to be functioning in this world are still blind from the eyes of their soul. When we see ourselves as inclined towards sin and everything in the world as God’s creation, our eyes are rinsed in the “pool of Siloam” [Jn. 9:7] and our soul gains a glimpse of light! If we fully acknowledge that we are need of repentance and act in love towards others as Christ has shown us, the Divine carpenter can bend and mold us into an exact replica of the One who walked on Earth and made the impossible, possible! Christ Is Risen!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-2-2019

A STITCH IN TIME SAVES NINE

Some of the great saints of the church have taught us correct theology and true worship. Some of the great saints have sacrificed their lives for others. Some of the great saints have been brutally tortured and executed for being a follower of Jesus the Christ. What kind of a saint do you hope to become? I ask this question as we all wonder how great our faith is. Of course we reflect upon our failures and laziness as we stand in the midst of these mighty saints and all that they have offered but sometimes forget the little things in life we do or need to be doing.

Today the first church remembers the death and very vaguely the life of one saint from many years ago, Saint Tabitha of Joppa. Saint Tabitha did not teach, she did not challenge the heathens with her great knowledge, she was not tortured for her faith; she simply lived day by day sewing, giving alms. And so it was that when she died the woman of the village wept. And when Apostle Peter came to see he heard of her great almsgiving and saw the widows weeping for their great loss and he said: “Tabitha, rise up.” And she opened her eyes. [Acts 9:40] She was no doubt, well loved! She helped others by using what talent she had for God’s glory, the glory of loving by helping others. She took time to make time for others!

My grandmother Hazel was also a good seamstress and she took time to help others. As a young boy I remember my grandmother telling me I needed to fix my holes in my jeans before they became unusable. She would say: “A stitch in time, saves nine!” Repairing the little holes and tears would prevent larger holes that would need a more lengthy repair or cause the garment to need to be discarded, beyond repair! My clothes were filled with patches and I did not see them as identifying me as poor boy, but as a hard worker who was tough on his clothes. Growing up poor, repairing clothes was necessary. So in this, we all know how much St. Tabitha helped those poor folks in the village of Joppa who could not afford new garments.

As far as helping others, I usually plan my day and know which things I want to get done. Each day for me is a task of finishing my list with my talents and not letting my hands be idle. This usually gives me a bit of tunnel vision and I sometimes miss the helpers God sends my way to help me with my list or to divert my efforts to another task that may be a greater need than the ones I had planned myself. Maybe by allowing a diversion I would be sewing a stitch in time that would save us from an enormous failure or obstacle later on.

The church wants us all to become saints! That is why she teaches us how to pray, how to fast, how to love God’s creation more than ourselves. We hear again and again the great teachings of Christ and all these things are stitches holding our garment of salvation together. And when we fail, as we all do, more stitches of confession are necessary as we mend our wounds, closing the hole of the evil ones opportunity that would deem us useless, beyond repair. And it is preciously this that our Lord is the greatest seamstress of all in that His love can mend and repair the greatest of rips and tears we have allowed in our garment. Those wounds that we think have made us disposable and unwanted when repaired with His touch are as good as new, ready to return to work in His vineyard.

Becoming a saint is not always about the big things so much as it is about being willing to stitch up our rips and tears every time we fall, and helping each other with their mending instead of ripping them to shreds. A great saint is one with many patches and repairs on their garment, which is exactly what faith is. You must believe that God loves you so much that He is waiting to help you fix your shredded and torn garment. Rise up from the death of sin and stitch on. Christ Is Risen!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-19-2019

Are You A Myrrh-Bearer?

The MyrrhBearing women after the Sabbath day had passed, bought sweet spices and headed to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ. They sacrificed their money, time and even their safety to love Christ, to properly attend to His dead body.(Mark 16:1-6) And we hear the story proclaimed in the troparion today: “The angel came to the Myrrhbearing Women at the tomb and said: Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown himself a stranger to corruption! So proclaim: The Lord is risen, granting the world great mercy.”

A women’s love has no boundaries just as the Myrrhbearering women were not frozen in grief and fear, their love took the form of action. Their actions were fueled by an uncreated love that exists within them, reflecting the love of our Creator! Their myrrh was more than the sweet smelling spices the women had purchased to cover the stench of decay; their myrrh was the living flow of love that saturates life and death.

Where did these sweet spices or myrrh come from? Both frankincense and myrrh are derived from the gummy sap that oozes out of the Commiphora flowering trees. The leaking resin is allowed to harden and scraped off the trunk in tear-shaped droplets; it may then be used in its dried form or steamed to yield essential oils. The sap in live trees functions to transport vital mineral nutrients and sugars to all living parts of the tree. During the growing season, water continually flows from the tree’s roots, up through the xylem and to the leaves. But not all tree sap is myrrh or frankincense. Some of the sap in our local trees is used for making maple syrup and sap is also used in food, medicine and industrial products.

But as for myrrh, I have had the blessing of venerating many icons that were oozing Myrrh in a liquid form. Myrrh-streaming icons are a mystery. Since the icon is written on a piece of dead wood or on a piece of paper, there is no root system or way for sap to flow up through the wood. Some of these myrrh-streaming icons ooze myrrh for years. It is a mystery! God’s love is alive, the tree is dead! Everything that is, is His!

Your love and actions when deeply caring for one and another is bearing myrrh. You may be dead in sin, grief or anxiety but when you let the living flow of God’s love surface, His Icon is alive in you! Sometimes with that kind of love, you will even have to go into the tombs where sin has brought about death and stench, and the evil one falsely seems to be triumphant! When you love God’s creation more than yourselves in prayer, in action, and in sacrifice, you are truly a Myrrh-Bearer? Christ Is Risen!!!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-12-2019

UNBELIEF

In the midst of trials and tribulations I reflect upon the plea of the father we heard today in the Gospel: “I believe, O Lord; help Thou mine unbelief.”[Mk. 9:24] We exist here on this Earth for a very short time. We are perishables! Maybe Tupperware, refrigeration or vitamins may help preserve our human bodies but our time here is limited. Some folks desire to spend their time enjoying all the world has to offer and neglect preparing for the judgment which follows our Earthly death. After all, how do we who are so hell-bent have hope for salvation? How do we who do not know God well enough to make Him our priority, have hope?

You know that even as a child when I screamed and cried I was fed or my britches were cleaned or whatever I needed was attended to. I depended on others but now, I am independent. Every day I decide how I am going to spend my awaken hours and my somewhat limited amount of energy. Every day I decide either to be distracted from my salvation or attracted to my Creator.

The pure Virgin chose to be obedient to God! “And Mariam said, “Behold, the slave of the Lord; may it be to me according to thy word.”[Lk. 1:38] We see today in the Feast of the Annunciation that God made the impossible possible because He has not given up on us! We see how Genesis 3:15 comes to life in that the head of the evil snake will be crushed by the seed of this obedient Virgin, death to the world through the life blossoming from the blood stains of the Holy Cross.

The head of the deceptive Satan is also crushed by our acts of humility as we put others needs ahead of our own. The serpents head is crushed when we make it a priority to attend church, pray, repent and confess, offer our tithes and talents every day and every week. Be obedient, there is nothing in the world that is worth losing our soul for. Lord, help our unbelief!

We find our hope in the very way God came into human-form, lived His life, suffered and died on the cross, descended to Hades and freed the captives and rose again on the third day. It is never too late to unlock the chains of sin and be obedient to His needs!

When you leave here today we may never see each other again, things happen, life happens! Are you ready? Are you still a dictator or are you a true slave of God? Do you believe in only tangible things, things you can create or touch with your own hands or see with your own eyes? What is it going to take to surrender all that you are for all that He is? Become dependent on Him as a child in need! Lord, help our unbelief!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4-7-2019

Go Around!

Many times as we are traveling we are asked to go around an obstacle, whether it is a fender-bender, road construction, stalled vehicle, loose cattle or whatever. In order for us to get to where we need to be, we need to detour a bit before we can get back on the path that leads to where we really need to be.

On this the second Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of the healing of the Paralytic. Not all the healings of our Lord were written about because there were so many, but this story was deemed important enough to be heard again and again. The paralytic wanted to be healed but there were obstacles in his way. Fortunately he had surrounded himself with like-minded folks going the same way and willing to help.

Many times as I try to move closer to God obstacles spring up from out of nowhere like Spring Daffodils in March! Some of these derailments seem to be life itself but many are the choices I have made. Sometimes the obstacles in our way can be seen more clearly when we gaze into the mirror and see the greatest obstacle, the one standing there looking back at us, the great stained image of lacking. This lackey is one lacking to love God more than self and laziness or allowing stuff to obstruct us on our path, the only bridge across the great divide; the road to salvation. (Zechariah 14)

St. Gregory Palamas taught that our soul or nous has an appetite directed towards God “the only good one, the only judge, the only one who provides pleasure unmixed with any pain. “But when the nous is in the unnatural state, when it departs from God and is darkened, then desire is dispersed into many self-indulgent appetites: “drawn on the one hand towards a desire for foods that are not needed, secondly towards the desire for unnecessary things, and thirdly towards the desire for vain and inglorious glory”.

Where is it that we really need to be? Listen to St. Gregory: “We who are in Christ’s ranks should long for the world above. Let our desire be directed towards the kingdom He promised us. Let us shun enjoyments which drag down our soul, fear the hell-fire with which pleasure-lovers are threatened, flee self-indulgence, drunkenness, fornication, prodigality(extravagance), greed, injustice, vanity, pride, hatred, anger and inhumanity. These are the things which give the evil one power, alas, over ourselves and the world. We should escape from the world’s deception and from its prince, and show through our good works that we are the work of God’s good hands. By so doing, we shall make best use of the present, and enjoy the promised eternal benefits when the time comes.” (St. Gregory Palamas – Homily 33)

Which path are we on? The crippled paralytic knew the path to take. With each step we take and each detour we make we should constantly be checking our compass as we head towards the Eastern Gate and the return of our Savior. May the prayers of all the Saints and the Blessed Theotokos help and guide us on our journey. Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-24-19