Sin- Smorgishboard

buffetI am overweight. My physical body has ingested too many carbs, too many complex sugars, and too many deserts! The only exercise I am getting is pushing the buttons on the remote control and turning the steering wheel to the right and left! I seem to only find time for my definition of survival in this world. But worse than that, I am suffering from another weight problem that is different than my love-handles! I am weighted down with sin!

It only makes sense if you recognize that my failure to maintain my body as a temple carries over to my failure for my mind to pursue holiness! I am glad that I am an Orthodox in progress! Years ago when I entered the Holy Church, I could not fast! My body convinced me that it could not live without Wendy’s or steak, and eggs, and bacon and…. My sugar level would swing and my grumpy face would overcome my ability to smile and my ability to appreciate God’s creation! Now during the fast, peanut butter and jelly becomes a tiresome norm for lunch and snack and trail-mix packed full of nuts and berries remedies my body’s dips in energy. The fast creates a change in diet but if we prepare, we can be successful. But is also important to recognize that our bodies all have chemical differences and some may need to choose other areas of their lives to fast from. Apostle Paul echoes this in his letter to the church in Rome in chapter 14 verses 1-4: Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.  For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.  Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.  Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

I love to unwind by playing computer games. During the fast, I refrain from the computer games. And they’re other areas of your lives that you can make a conscience decision to abstain from. It is important for us to reshape our behaviors during fasting times. Calling on our minds to make conscience decisions to do without, strengthens our ability to consciously say no to sin! Sin is heavy baggage that prevents us from reaping all of God’s rewards!

St Theophan the Recluse says: (The Path to Salvation, pg 129)  “that our soul is covered with layers of habits and inclinations that imprison a person in sin. The first layer is self-deception, insensitivity, and carelessness. This is the layer that blinds a person to the danger of his condition and reduces his will from wanting to change. The outer layer consists of instruments that magnify and support our sinful condition. This layer consists of absent-mindedness and much-caring and worry. The body burdens the soul with scattered thoughts and concerns. So we must apply ascetic practices such as restricting indulgences, decreasing the usual amount of food, or lengthening our time in vigil or prayer”.

Now remember, not all are called to be monastic, I repeat, we are not all called to be monastic, but we are all called to overcome our sinful fallen nature and this requires re-training our mind and body to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. The saints did not reach sainthood overnight so we too must be patient and yet diligent as we surrender our will and become stronger in the faith.

But know thou this, that in the last days difficult times shall set in; for men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, incontinent, savage, not lovers of the good, traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of piety, but denying the power of it. Turn thyself away from these. [2 Tim. 3:1-5]

As Oliver Cle’ment wrote in his book titled The Roots of Christian Mysticism: “The purpose of ascesis (effort/exercise) is thus to divest oneself of surplus weight, of spiritual fat. It is to dissolve in the waters of baptism, in the water of tears, all the hardness of the heart, so that it may become an antenna of infinite sensitivity, infinitely vulnerable to the beauty of the world and to its sufferings of human beings, and to God who is love, and who has conquered by the wood of the cross.” Let us take this upcoming fasting time to reshape our priorities and reconnect with the Orthodox weight loss program.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-2009

 

Death of a Salesman

This past week I found myself at a convention for my secular job in electronic security. One of the seminars I attended was taught by Tom Hopkins, a pioneer in training a sales-force with millions of successful folks trained here and abroad. Speaking on various topics including his latest book entitled When Buyers Say No, I began to not only think about how some of his methods could improve sales in my secular business but also how these skills could help us all to increase Christianity in our day to day relationships.

"Hee Haw"Junior Samplescirca 1980© 1980 Marv NewtonA good salesperson works hard practicing their skills and they set a goal for themselves. We as Christians should also continually polish our skills by embracing everyone with love, reading our Bibles, practicing forgiveness, being patient and tolerant of God’s creation, and setting our goal on Christ and His Kingdom.

So, how can we all build the Body of Christ? Tom Hopkins says: “You begin by always expecting good things to happen.” That sounds good for Christians as well! We all need to possess a positive attitude about our relationship with God, don’t we? If we are not happy and rejoicing in our confidence that Christ died for our sins and loves us even though we are all flawed, how can we be positively contagious?

Similar to my secular job in electronic security, our relationship with God is a relationship of trust, security, value, confidence, peace of mind and a better quality of life. These items I am speaking about are not just secular but eternal! I know that I want a better quality of life in Christ, don’t you? Things of this world can only offer temporary pleasure, but true value can only be found in seeking the Kingdom of God first, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21)

Another quote from Tom Hopkins is: “Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you.” That sounds like “Again and Again in Peace” which we continually hear in the litanies and also the many repetitions of prayers we are taught to say at home and in unison here at church. “Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you!”

Folks, we only have a limited amount of time on this Earth, have we met our quota yet? After all, we have set our goal on salvation haven’t we? Our Lord loves us so much that he became man and taught us how to live and believed in us so much, that he gave His life so that we may live and share His love, just as the father overflowing with joy and love for his son whom was lost in the bowels of the world came home empty handed and repentant. But thou, be watchful in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. [2 Tim. 4:5] God loves you and wants to spend eternity with you, share His love!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-8-15

Tainted Water

After the heat of the day, my wife instructs me to water the thirsty flowers that surround our deck. The water where we live is known to be some of the best water in the Valley. But on occasion, I like to give these plants a little bit of a boost by adding miracle grow to the watering can, conforming the water to living water or water with nutrients. This added substance increases the flowers blooms which brings joy to my wife! Happy wife, Happy life!

Adding miracle grow to the watering can is easy! And we Americans like big rewards with little effort. I consider us to be the drive-through-remote-control generation. This new found comfort is in contrast with my upbringing of being a paperboy, farm hand and apprentice brick mason! In all that early formation, I learned that with much labor came big rewards.  

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus says: “The one who believeth in Me, even as the Scripture said—rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly.” [Jn. 7:38]  Do I believe enough to have living water flow from my belly? Jesus said: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.  [Jn. 14:15]  By that measure, water pollutionI know that I fail keeping His commandments and therefore allow tainted water to flow from my belly, poisoning those around me!

And then there is this church thing, sometimes I focus on my needs instead of coming to the worship service to serve, and I find ways to criticize others! “Jesus saith to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonas, hast thou affection for Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Hast thou affection for Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I have affection for Thee.” He saith to him, “Be feeding My sheep.”   [Jn. 21:17]  Again I fail! I water His sheep with tainted water, water that has the stench of sin! And I fail to quench His thirsting fruit because of my polluted selfishness. “Every tree which produceth not good fruit is cut off and cast into the fire. Then surely by their fruits ye shall fully know them.”  [Mt. 7:19-20] Forgive me a sinner!

On this day we remember the birth of the church. It was a time when people risked their lives for their faith! Saint Chrysostom writes: “What is this Pentecost? The time when the sickle was able to be put to the harvest and the in-gathering of fruits was made.” [Hom. 4, P.G. 60:32 (cols. 41, 42).]  What is our mission? By the example set by Christ, it must be service to others first and then our church will be set on a firm foundation!

Well then, how will the church meet my needs? Our Lord answers this very question: For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye need all of these things. But be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” [Mt. 6:32-33] The comforter has come to perfect our love! So, how do we love?       

Feed My Sheep!”

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-2014

Holiday Gathering

The holiday season always takes me back to fond memories of gatherings at my grandparents’ home. All of my cousins and aunts and uncles would come to the farm where their young roots were once nourished. We kids keep busy while the vittles were being prepared by playing softball, card games, mother-may-I, carom and checkers, and listening to the family story tellers recap tales of the old days. As one of the youngest in the group, Grandma would often prescribe God’s cure for a young lad with ADHD, which was to go outside and play! Grandad RufusGrandma usually had to repeat this treatment to calm my high energy level. And when the meal was ready we all gathered for a prayer of thanksgiving and then filled our plates with home cooking. The food was so good it made my tongue slap my brain around trying to get at it!

The holiday season has changed for me and reinvented itself over the years. Some of the pillars of the family are now gone and new folks have been added. New memories are being created and the food is just as good, although I now need to limit how much I eat. Some folks say “blood is thicker than water.” Maybe that is based upon a responsibility we feel for our names sake and the love we have for each other. We are family!

Here at Holy Myrrhbearers, we too participate in a holiday gathering. If you think about it, we spend holidays together at Vigil and Liturgy. We share meals together, prayers of thanksgiving, and stories and happenings that are current in our lives. We weep with each other in times of trials and of triumphs. And we count on each other and remember each other in our prayers. This tends to prove the “blood is thicker than water” declaration, for it is by His blood that we share and care for each other.

Our church family is anchored by a genuine love for us all. We here in the book of Psalms: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50: 10-15)

I am thankful for such a loving Father. In the Gospel of John we read: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were begotten not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” [Jn. 1:12,13] My brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are family!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/1/13