TAGGED

Many years ago I attended a weekend men’s retreat back when I was a protestant. I was encouraged to attend by my pastor Don Skinner. He knew I was struggling and life had been beating up on me. I was reluctant but thirsty for our Lord because something in life needed to change, so I went. I was a very inward man, hiding behind my pain. I kept my guard up to protect my heart and had felt a huge distrust for folks. Everyone seemed to have a selfish agenda, is that love?

Father John Moses was serving as a Methodist pastor at a local church in Mt. Crawford and was the spiritual director for that weekend retreat. It was then that I met him. He was an open book and jokester and I soon lowered my guard just enough for him to give me glimpse of what I was thirsting for. Fr. John had a taste of Orthodoxy when he was studying Methodism in England and baptized into ROCOR soon after this weekend men’s retreat.

Many years later being dissatisfied with Protestantism I too became Orthodox and I traveled a good bit with him on mission trips and spiritual retreats. Fr. John would be napping, telling jokes or on the phone with someone seeking his help as I navigated him on his missions. As we traveled up and down the bland highways of asphalt, concrete and steel the roads were dull and dreary. Every now and then as we traveled under a bridge we would notice someone had tagged or spray painted something onto all that dullness. It may say “Class of 1980” or “Bigfoot Lives” or maybe even tagged by a gang member”PG-13” or whatever they identify as. Now rest assured I am not encouraging defacing public property in anyway but I am drawing attention to the bright colorful paint that pierced through all that blandness.

Back at that weekend retreat while binding my wounds and trying to blend into the wall, I met Fr. John. He joked with me and showed me warmth. And when I lowered my guard just a wee-little bit, he tagged me like bright spray paint on a dull concrete wall. And the words he wrote were: “I LOVE YOU”. He didn’t say it from his mouth; it came noetically from his soul, I sensed it, it seemed foreign. I immediately challenged it because what I had experienced of love thus far as a man caused concern for the safety of my heart and I also certainly didn’t deserve God’s love either. But you see the LOVE he was sharing with me was a perfect kind of LOVE that can come only from God. We humans are broken and wounded and struggle to love as our Creator Loves. God’s LOVE is perfect and Fr. John has some to share.

Archpriest John wasn’t a perfect man, he struggled just like you and I. And as a child he was severely abused, as a young parent he struggled with his children’s illnesses, as a shepherd he loved deeply and selfishly struggled and wept as folks moved or left the church, and in these later days he struggled with his own infirmities hiding most of his struggles from all of us. But every day he prayed. He prayed for all of us, day after day. And he worked on his salvation day after day, amidst the storms of life!

As I look around this room and across the world of social media I can clearly see many other folks with Fr. John’s brilliant spray paint tagged on their hearts as well. And perhaps there are some folks still safely hiding behind darkness and afraid to trust. That darkness is a cancer that will rob you of your precious time here on this Earth. Fr. John didn’t know the exact time of his repose. He was walking into the kitchen with the TV remote in his hand and probably heading to the fridge to get a Diet Coke. But if you hear or read these words you still have time! Come to the Lord in repentance and allow the Great Physician to cut that deathly painful cancer away that is keeping you from LOVING others as a true servant and that darkness that is separating you from the warm chalice that contains the most precious healing body and blood of our Risen Lord, the Great Physician.   

Our church is a hospital full of broken and wounded people including me; I am still working on my own healing. At Holy Myyrhbearers we lift each other up and practice serving one another. And here at our infirmary we have plenty of beds available. We have available beds in the emergency room, in the psych ward and plenty of vacancy in the maternity ward as well! I don’t know whatever it is that is keeping you away, I don’t know what ugly dreary roads you have been traveling down or whatever it is that you are ashamed of and hiding behind, or what raw cancer is eating away at your salvation. But I do know that if you hear or read these words, you still have some time. Don’t wait, come. Won’t you come! We will be praying and waiting! When you let go completely and surrender your life and all of your will to the one who formed you in His hands and breathed His breath of life into you, it is then that you too will experience true LOVE and be able to share it, just like Fr. John!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-28-2019

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