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

CAR-WASH

I felt the need earlier this week to wash my car unknowingly just days before our next winter weather event. It had warmed up outside a little, the early spring birds had been chirping in the morning hours and the grey days of winter seem to be loosening their grip a little. I chose the automatic bay as I swiped my frequent washers card only to be rejected. I had no available credit left so I used another piece of plastic and into the wash I went, minus nine plastic dollars. It is nice to have a clean car but it is also important to wash away all the abrasive ice-melting chemicals that have attached themselves to the sensitive metal parts of my vehicle. Those chemicals are great for melting ice but really bad for rotting away metal. So without leaving the comfort of my heated seat, the exterior of car would be cleaned! And then when I got home with a little effort, I used our shop-vac that sucked out all the loose dirt and debris on the inside of my car.

I got on this topic of clean because this upcoming week is clean week for the Orthodox. We begin clean week with a time to ask forgiveness of our church family and friends. Lent is a spiritual growth time of self-examination, and it usually is a struggle with our pride, anger and at times our health, as we try to navigate the waters where we deny ourselves of our usual worldly habits and make more time for Him.

All of the Orthodox Lenten practices are done to help us grow closer to God and give up a little more of our control by changing our usual routines. Hopefully we will increase our Orthodoxy during this Lent and continue even when meat and cheese becomes our staples once again. We begin clean week with a wash-cycle of forgiveness. Blasting away at these sins that cling onto our hearts and rot away our love of Creation by showing great mercy on each and everyone, just as your Father has shown great mercy on you! Or as St Paul says: “Carry one another’s burdens, because it is the way in which you will have fulfilled the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)

It takes an effort, rather than choosing the auto-wash where we sit on our butts instead of taking action with a scrub brush of prayer, repentance and forgiveness. We see in the writings from the prophet Joel: “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” (Joel 2:12)

The word “lent” is derived from the Germans and means “the beginning of life.” And so it is with us that just as a rose bush must be pruned before spring removing all the dead wood we too must sever our magnetic hold on the world and our love of ourselves! In order to love God intensely we must learn to love all of His creation. Not the kind of love where we have to agree with everyone and their choices but the kind of love that hopes for eternity for everyone.

And as for my clean car, of course it snowed once again and I will need to return to the car wash this week. Just like the dirt on my car, Lent it is a constant practice to clean ourselves. We have so many opportunities over the next several weeks here at the church to help us get clean, check out our calendar. Identifying as a Christian is not so much a word as it is a plan of action.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-10-2019

OLE GOAT

Who am I? My love-of-self tells me I am a knight in shining armor and should be very comfortable with my efforts thus far! But in reality, I am an ole goat! Let me take a moment to explain how I came to this rationality!

When I was a young man, I had land that was overgrown and out of control and so I purchased a young nanny goat that we named Geraldine. Geraldine became a pet and would follow me around like a dog and even go for a ride in my Ford Escort. As she grew older she became less of a pet and more like a goat. The overgrown lot was more than she could handle so I traveled to the stock sale and bought a Billy goat that we named Geronimo. As they grew I quickly learned not to turn my back on them, especially Geronimo, as I seemed to be invading his space. The Billy wreaked havoc on my brush and outside my fence line at the neighbors Christmas tree farm. Geronimo and I became a bit unpopular with the neighbors, although his efforts while he was inside the fence did clear the lot. The goats loved all the wild vines and shoemake trees, and of course the neighbors Christmas trees! Sorry Harry Lee, the Christmas tree farmer.

Now sheep on the other hand tend to stick together and follow their leader. There is strength in numbers where as my goats never backed down from anything and were very independent. Many times Geronimo would be standing on top of a stump like he was the king! I tried to negotiate with him and explain his place in life and in the pecking order of things but he was only listening to his own drummer. He became more and more hard-headed and eventually Geronimo and I took a ride back to the stock sale due to his neglect of my fence, his love of evergreen needles and his dominance over everything and everyone.

Well, this ole goat tends to be a bit like that hard-headed Billy goat that used to deny my fence and savor Christmas trees. We heard in the Gospel reading this morning about the sheep being on Christ’s right and the goats on His left. “Then shall the King say to those on His right, ‘Come, ye who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [Mt. 25:34]

As a goat, I tend to neglect the needs of others because I am too busy with my own stuff. Archimandrite Thaddeus of Strabulovich said:”There are no atheists! They do not exist. Even the enemy believes and trembles; only he does not do good!”(Archimandrite Thaddeus Strabulovich of Vitovnica)

Righteous Martyr Maria, an Orthodox nun who helped many needy folks in Paris during WWII, including saving many Jews, was herself arrested and imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp because of her acts of love. Before she died, she stated: “At the last judgment I shall not be asked if I was successful in my ascetic exercises or how many prostrations I made in the course of my prayers. I shall be asked one thing: did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners; that is all I shall be asked.”

As the church moves into the nurture of lent, let us be more about seeing and helping with each other’s needs, performing acts of kindness, practicing patience and forgiveness and be about following the examples Christ gave us, and in that we will become more like a right-sided sheep and less like an independent ole hard-headed goat!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-3-2019