1, 2 Skip a Few

I think one of the greatest inventions in the last decade has been spray paint! I probably have six or eight cans myself just waiting for the next project! Spray paint arrived on the market in 1945 by the hands of Ed Seymour in Sycamore, Illinois. It is a faster way to paint with less cleanup time, although it seems to be a bit thinner and may require a second spraying but I think spray paint is an important product for most folks. Paint can be used to help prevent decay and weathering from the natural elements. Some people put a new coat of paint on something they are preparing to sell so that it sells easier and real estate agents will tell you, a home with fresh paint sells faster and for more money.

I have also seen some folks misuse spray paint by covering up problems before they sell their item or home and hide defects or rotten wood, or as we say around here, they put lipstick on a hog! Instead of doing the work and making the necessary repairs, they spray over it, masking over the defects and taking advantage of any potential new owner, buyer beware!  

I am writing about spray paint today because it is just as easy for us to spray over weathering and rot as it is as we sometimes do the very same thing with the Law of God. For starters, our Good Lord has given us 10 Commandments to live by. Over the years, I have heard them referred to as the 10 suggestions and I can only imagine that these folks own a lot of spray paint as well. I think if you struggle like me, you are a gold-medal holder on most of the Commandments but struggle with one or two! And it is easier to see other folks failing as if we have masked over our sinfulness like spraying paint over our imperfection so we appear flashy of almost sparkling new.

The young man in the Gospel reading this morning seemed to be masking over the commandments. The young man saith to Him, “All these I kept for myself from my youth; what lack I yet?” [Mt. 19:20] And our Lord quickly points out his attachment to gluttony as he has starved the poor with what he was entrusted with. St. Basil writes: “But now your money sticks to you closer than the limbs of your body, and he who would separate you from it grieves you more than someone who would cut off your vital parts. For if you had clothed the naked, if you had given your bread to the hungry, if you had opened your doors to every stranger, if you’d become a father to orphans, if you had suffered together with all the powerless, what possessions would now be causing you despondency?” When wealth is dispersed, in the way the Lord advises, it naturally stays put; but when held back it is transferred to another. If you hoard it, you won’t keep it; if you scatter, you won’t lose. For (says the scripture), “He has dispersed, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” [Ps 112:9]. (St. Basil the Great: Sermon to the Rich)

Our Creator has given us rules to live by that are for our own benefit. We can freely choose another path in life if we want, but those other paths do not lead us to Him. With our limited view of our life and the future awaiting us, there are consequences for our choices. Who do you trust? The next time I reach up on the shelf for a can of spray paint, maybe I will reflect upon my choices of masking over my sinfulness because skipping over one or two leads to more than a few as the door of sin if opened, the deceiver will usher many more demons in. Sin loves company or as it is written in Proverbs: A violent man entices his neighbor, And leads him in a way that is not good. [Proverbs 16:29] We were not created for Earth, but for heaven.  I need to stop masking my shortcomings and work harder on my salvation! Please forgive me a sinner!

I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me (Ex. 20:2–3). You shall not make for yourselves a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them (20:4–5). You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain (20:7). Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work (20:8–10). Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you (20:12). You shall not kill (20:13).  You shall not commit adultery (20:14). You shall not steal (20:15). You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (20:16). You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s (20:17).

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-30-2020

Closed FOR GOOD!

Driving around town this week, I am deeply saddened to see businesses closed and some of these businesses are closed for ever! I have enjoyed our variety of choices in places to eat and places to shop. I have enjoyed the many choices we have had for entertainment. I have enjoyed the choices of buying from the big corporate chain stores and I have enjoyed purchasing from the small local businesses that more reflect the heartbeat of our community.

The effects of the Rona of 2020 will be felt for decades. The decisions made right and wrong have had a huge impact on all of our futures! The depth of anguish and despair neighbors are suffering from is new to our generation. And still even in the midst of this great dilemma, we as an American people are still greatly divided. Instead of coming together as a nation as we did during previous epidemics and hardships, we have separated even more. There seems to be no sign of forgiveness and trust, as billionaires jockey for control of the greatest asset this country has, the heart and trust of the American worker, farmer, mother and father, business folks, educators, and service persons. Because of what folks have been through or the way they or their families were treated in the past has caused their distrust of everything and everyone to be nakedly exposed! Forgiveness has been forgotten as we substitute our own vanity ahead of loving our enemies. (Matt. 5: 43-48) Their hearts may be closed for ever!

Our great nation once dedicated to serving God has now been diffused into serving a bunch of little popes chasing a paper dollar, with their own little pope understanding of how people should live and how things should be. People not fearing God that put individuals’ perverted rights to choose higher than the laws of God, are in positions of leadership and masking the voice of Holy Scripture! It is truly a misunderstanding of the love of Jesus, who loves all and wants salvation for us all. Salvation is not accepting sin as normal but loving folks struggling to survive in this shattered world and loving people who are deeply hurt and confused. It means loving folks enough too still say no, this is not good for your salvation, but I love you, for I too have my own heavy cross to bear! These demonic choices separate you and me from the pure love that is available to us all. Quit settling for deceptive love that will rot you in the box, where the worms never cease! (Mark 9:48) It is NOT okay!

The actions of some people seem to highlight that they too are also closed FOR-GOOD! Our great nation of people has forgotten how to forgive. It seems as though we are encouraging each other to be little popes, making our own rules based upon our own wounded and lustful mindset. We have become our own traveling circus, while yet expecting someone else to clean up behind our asses and elephants! Who will you serve? You simply have to believe in something. Through our own limited understanding or the teachings of evolving science, we choose to accept only what our pee-brain analysis can conclude. And if something doesn’t fit into our four cornered box of understanding, we distrust it. In these choices we have become enslaved and our master is the great deceiver! Living on our own perception instead of trusting the One who created us all, we lack faith as death comes knocking upon our door!

Saint Paisios writes: “The Church is suffering today because Divine illumination is missing and people understand things as it suits them. The human element gets involved; passions are arouse, and then, the devil comes and thrashes about. That is why people who are governed by their passions should not seek to govern others.” (Saint Paisios the Hagiorite +1994)

“O thou and evil slave” who then will you serve? (Matt 18:32)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-23-2020

I’M A MIRACLE!

As a young boy, I was quite a little dare-devil! I pushed my physical abilities to their peak or at least red-lined all of my safety gauges. After all, there was nothing that Mercurochrome and a band-aid couldn’t fix! And let me tell you, I wore my orange Mercurochrome paint like a badge of courage! Thus being said, I am a miracle! By the grace of God, I am still here with time to become more of a Myrrhbearer to the world, and much, much less of a dare-devil!

Folks that turn their back on God are still acting like little dare-devils, testing their physical and mental abilities against their Earthly existence! Maybe it is time to put away the Mercurochrome and Band-Aids and be about our Father’s business. (Luke 2:49) Maybe it’s time to recognize that we too are miracles and spend the rest of our Earthly time seeking divine grace. Maybe it’s time instead of participating in chaos we oozed myrrh to the broken world through our love and actions! You too are a miracle, get busy!

This morning in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we here of yet another miracle performed by Christ. (Matt 17:18) But we also remember the times people ridiculed Christ demanding He come down from the Cross and save Himself. And the time the Pharisees and scribes asked for a sign or a miracle on demand and our Lord rebuked them saying: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 12:38-40)

Then there are some folks say they have never seen a miracle, well here I am! Even before my existence in conception, I was a miracle. The Creator knew me before the womb (Jer. 1:5) and still has high hopes for my outcome! As long as I obey His commandments, his grace sustains me. Listen to the words of Saint Nikodemos: “The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him.”(St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, Christian Morality)

The grace that God gives us is also a miracle. How can we then get more grace? We remember in Saint Paul’s letters to the Ephesians: “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Grace and salvation are connected at the hip! The Church Fathers teach that grace is the very life that flows naturally and eternally from God. It is the real, life-bestowing power that brings us into communion with Him.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read about the story of the woman with the issue of blood. We know her as Saint Veronica and she daringly touched the hem of Christ’s garment in faith. The Lord knew she touched Him because, because He said, “I perceived power going out from Me” (Lk. 8:46). This power is His divine grace or His energies.

Grace is the energy that allows us to participate in God’s life, to become more like Christ. It is as real as the light and warmth of the sun by which we truly experience the sun. It is present every day but we must participate and leave the darkness and seek after the Light! But unlike the created energy of the sun, God’s energies (as grace is called by the Fathers) are uncreated. God’s uncreated energies allow us to participate in Him and to know Him. St. Basil the Great wrote: “It is by the energies that we can say we know our God.”

The Church Fathers use the comparison of iron and fire. When a rod of iron is placed in fire for a time, it takes on the properties of the fire, it becomes red hot. It doesn’t become fire itself, nor does it cease to be iron; rather, the iron participates in the properties of fire. In a similar way, our humanity can participate in God’s grace (not His essence) because of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. This is the undeniable “good news” of the Gospel and the goal of every Orthodox Christian. This is the purpose for which we were created. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20)

St Ephraim writes: “According to thy mercy, pour out upon me, who am miserable, at least one small drop of grace to make me understand and be converted, that I might make at least some small effort to correct myself, for if thy grace does not illumine my soul, I will not be able to see the carelessness and negligence that the passions have produced in me through my apathy and recklessness. (St. Ephraim the Syrian, “69: The Wiles of the Enemy and the Resources of Sin,” A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-16-2020

DON’T LOOK AWAY

In today’s life, most of us seem to be so easily distracted. Some of us spend too much time with our artificial intelligent devices. For instance, my Samsung S9 normally tells me I have spent two and half hours staring amusingly at the screen or chatting with someone on the phone each and every day. Okay, let’s be honest, if you truly know me you know my phone conversations are mostly very brief as I am a man of few words and many distractions, so that means my eyes were most likely memorized by the glow of my “smart” phone screen, okay GOOGLE! Wait just a second, let me check my messages! Now for a reality check, just how much time did I spend in prayer or reading the scripture today? How much time did I spend helping folks? If you too are experiencing the same distractions then you and I both have taken our eyes off of Christ and looked away!

I have to pick on the Apostle Peter today as he once again was distracted. In the Gospel reading this morning, his connection waivered with Christ! [Mt. 14:30] I tend to see a lot of my choices are similar with this great Apostle. I convince myself I am going to “step up my game” or maybe to better define my thought I will say that I have good intentions on being more active or being more saintly, and then I briefly look away, and the rooster crows thrice! It is almost like a reflex or a twinge that constantly pollutes my heaven-bound intentions. Are my reflexes reacting to the distrust I have for mankind and its broken deceptive love or do I have a longing to be hell-bent?

And then there are those times I cast my cares to the world because I am overwhelmed or tired. I simply revert to carrying my cross alone amongst my hospital of woundedness and lack of trust of a love Divine. Seems like if I truly believed I would have completely surrendered years ago! Okay GOOGLE?

Am I that damaged and beyond repair? Do we all need constant distractions from our daily lives as we suffer from our corral of choices and lack of forgiveness? Is the life we are living really that bad? Do we think our answers are going to be found in the distractions of life instead of in the Creator of life?

“But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me.” [Mt. 14:30] What’s it going to take for us? We all see glimmers of hope in the midst of our struggles and yet we constantly put distractions ahead of our Risen Lord! Are you sinking?

Don’t look away as the world is only going to use and abuse you. There is nothing of pure substance that it has to offer. The world gives you empty campaign promises as it separates you from the flock where the evil one waits to consume you! “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be Sober; Be Vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” [1 Pe. 5:6-9]

Turn to the Lord! Don’t look away! “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10 Look to Him with an emptiness needing to be filled! Look to the Creator of intelligence to find your answers. Look to the One who gave His life so that you and I could live! Look away from the distractions and slowly retrain that mind of yours to be steadfast in things that will not perish. Lord, save me, I pray!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-9-2020