I LOVE PIE!

My favorite dessert is pie. I love pie! Of all the different varieties of pie, I Camp Pie1prefer some type of berry although there was a time when you couldn’t pull me off of a piece of chocolate pie! However too much pie, in general, is not a healthy staple for my diet but it is certainly acceptable as an occasional treat!

 
Nevertheless, there is one kind of pie that is very healthy but I rarely consume it even though I recognize that a large and frequent helping of this dessert would increase my health and even improve my social behavior! The only drawback is that this type of pie has a bitter taste and it is very messy!

 
This healthy pie is known by its name, Humble Pie. Most folks are like me and don’t seek it and they are more than satisfied with overlooking that bitter flavor on the menu! A piece of humble pie takes some work to digest and doesn’t melt in my mouth like a berry pie. No matter how much sugar you add, humble pie does not attract folks and it is not a popular choice.

 
Now I am usually a much focused man. That is partly so I can accomplish many things even when my mind tends to wonder, and now as I struggle with Some-Timers Disease, my centered focus even helps me complete a task before I forget what I was supposed to be doing! I tend to shun distractions to stay on task. I usually do not have time for a piece of humble pie!

 
In our Gospel reading today, our Lord says: “I say to you, this one went down to his house having been justified rather than that one; for everyone who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and the one who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” [Lk. 18:14] If I continue in life loving my tasty desserts and myself and ignoring my surroundings and actions, I will be rejecting Christ! And by rejecting Christ and not loving my neighbor I will continue to add pounds of unhealthy weight to my stressful body that is supposed to be a temple and not a storehouse of gluttony, selfishness and denial!

 
How can we improve our health and humility? As we start our day, we must all admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior! We must seek God in all our daily choices! As our Father told the prophet Isaiah, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

 
Perhaps Humble Pie should not be left to be last as a dessert but moved to our appetizer selections in our daily choices in life. And although Humble Pie may taste bitter at first, I know the aftertaste is divine and quite a life-saver!

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 2/21/16

 

 

Can You Keep A Secret?

Some folks have said that they would lay down their life for their best friend. What is the definition of a best friend? Is it someone who enjoys the same best friendsthings as you? Is it someone who is has always been there for you? Is it someone who can keep a secret? Or is it someone who will try to defend you against insults? Perhaps an inclusive definition of a best friend would be someone who loves you and truly cares about you?

 
At a time when being a follower of Jesus was not popular and accepted, Christ charged his friends with the following command: “The harvest indeed is great, but the workers are few. Entreat therefore the Lord of the harvest that He would send out workers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves.” [Lk. 10:2,3]

 
Today, your good friend Jesus is asking you to share His love with others. But not only that, He has asked to you leave your walls of protection behind, lay aside your body piercing armor and go as a defenseless sheep amongst the starving unbelievers, the clever protesters and the infidels of deception. Everything you need will be provided! Christ is your great Shepherd and He says: “I will be with you and aid you, and deliver you from all evil. I will tame the savage beasts; I will change wolves into sheep. I will make the persecutors become the helpers of the persecuted….For I will make and unmake all things, and there is nothing that can resist My will.” [Saint Kyril: Hom. 61, Commentary, Ch. 10, 264.]

 
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). A true friend is someone you will share a secret with. As we share our woundedness and failures and our living faith with someone it will create a bond and allow Christ-like love to blossom. My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) St. John Chrysostom says: “That is to say, it is I that have made you to be what ye are.”

 
If you have felt the love of Christ, you cannot keep it a secret! Our faith walk in life must be shared! There is so much brokenness and suffering in this world and the great Sheppard needs you! A sheep by itself is vulnerable to the trickery of the savage beast so it is important that we all cling together. A good sheep follows his Sheppard, giving up this life in the world for the everlasting life in Christ!
How many best friends do you have? Perhaps the measure will be how many friends we have, not on Facebook, but friends recorded in the Book of Life!
He said to him, “Feed My Lambs.” He said to him, “Tend My Sheep.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My Sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-17-16

NEXT OF KIN

family2Folks say that blood is thicker than water. I am reminded of this with each feast day or each holiday as we gather with the fruit of our an
cestor’s lineage. As branches of our family tree, we are here today because of the successes and failures of our kinfolk. We are connected and bound to their history and in the old days even our surname identified us as having a skill or a particular lifestyle.

 
And as we near the manger the church reminds us of where this Child, this Messiah, this King, this Great Servant of all came from. Today, the Apostle Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage with a focus on His Jewish heritage. This lineage includes kings, scholars, prophets, warriors, and patriarchs. But His kinfolk also include prostitutes, fornicators, murderers, liars, and charlatans. Much of Jesus’ next of kin loved God and God’s mercy and grace was bestowed upon them.

 
The infant was born in a town named Bethlehem and its’ name was derived from Arabic meaning “house of flesh.” This week, we will travel vividly chanting and reading the Holy Scripture with Joseph and Mary to this town of Bethlehem where once Samuel anointed (1 Sam. 16:1-13) Israel’s first kings, Saul and David, (1 Sam. 9:1; 1 Sam. 16:1-13) who were born there, and this town where Jacob’s wife Rachel was buried.

 
Our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem in meekness. His family tree was not one full of nobility but one balanced with folks that struggled in life just like you and me. He was not born in a castle fit for a king but rather in a cave where animals lived. He was bound in swaddling clothes instead of fine silk and laid in a manger, used to feed the animals.

 
An obedient lowly virgin had a temple formed in her womb. This temple encompassed the Alpha and the Omega! Our Creator was contained in the “house of flesh” and then thrust into the darkness of the night and into the world strangling in the darkness of sin. Our Light and our salvation were born unto us!

 
And as for your next of kin, every saint has a past and every sinner has a brighter future! The salvation of mankind cannot happen against our own will. It cannot be forced upon us. But when we allow Christ to dwell in our hearts, He cannot be contained. Just as yeast rises, our hearts overflow with radiance and love oozes out and consumes our surroundings! Our future becomes brighter and the darkness of our past is loosed and by the birth of this little one, we have inexhaustible hope! We are loved! God has chosen you, won’t you chose Him? Glorify Him!!!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1/3/16

An Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

We’ve all heard the phrase “a nut doesn’t fall far from the tree” or “an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”! I guess you chose which cliché you want depending on if you are dealing with fruits or nuts! This truism means that we often see the fallen-apples-in-grass-112940814212gpsame behaviors and choices in our children as in choices we have made in the past. We have all heard; you’re just like your Father or your Mother because in some way, we remind folks of our parents. Although some fruits and nuts to tend to roll downhill from the tree!
We humans tend to also mimic behaviors of those folks we spend time with. As we socialize, we try to fit in with family, friends and coworkers by our choices and our demeanor. We hear in the Gospel reading today: “All things were delivered to Me by My Father. And no one doth fully know the Son, except the Father; nor doth anyone fully know the Father, except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son is willing to reveal Him. [Mt. 11:27] Through Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, we come to know the Father.

 
Coming into the Orthodox Church way to far west of reality, it has been a struggle to reprogram my understanding of God, the Father. We all know the scriptures about the suffering Job was allowed to endure. And let us not forget about Noah and the flood and then the purging of Sodom and Gomorrah. So, is God a parallel to us all being in basic training with God being a punishing Marine Sergeant wanting to kick us out of boot camp?

 
In today’s Gospel reading we hear a contradiction to that western image of God: “And no one doth fully know the Son, except the Father; nor doth anyone fully know the Father, except the Son.” The Father had delivered into Christ’s hands all power, authority, and judgment. God took the form of man to show us how to love each other and how to love our Father. By His actions and His demeanor, mankind with their very own eyes could witness the fruit of God the Father.

 
By this example, we all can become more like our heavenly Father! And Orthodoxy has made for us all a formula with tools to help us become more like Christ. Just as an infant must develop into an adult, we Christians must also mature in our life struggle to choose Him instead of the death the world has to offer.

 
I pray that one day folks will see in us a likeness of God by our choices and actions. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful statement for us if we heard someone comparing us to the examples of Jesus? So, at the foot of the cross, the tree of ever-lasting life, which one are you, a fruit or a nut?

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-6-15

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Sometime before the wooden cross was erected, by the deceit of the devil, man was exiled from the garden. It was in the garden that man dared to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Through the fruit of the wood, the Devil subjected us to exile, and through the wood of the cross we were nourished and the Most-High King declared us heirs to his kingdom and freed us from the bondage of sin.
And in ancient times, it was on a piece of wood that Moses lifted up the serpent of bronze when the Lord commanded the people to look upon it and be healed (Numbers 21:4-9). In doing so, Moses gave us a sign to remember when the one true cross would come and heal us of our brokenness; it is a sign that the Lord has promised never to abandon us if we place our trust in Him.
Moses also recounts in Genesis the instructions to Noah: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood.” By following our Lord’s instructions very vigilantly, wood was used to build an ark and sustain mankind from the deep turbulent waters of sin and death.
I have always had a fascination with wood. I have watched since my eyes were opened the use of wood in the construction of furniture, homes, fences, and barns. At an earlbent-naily age, I was given a hammer and some nails and instructed to practice hitting the nail on the head with only the head of the hammer. Of course granddad gave me 10 penny spiral nails to practice with that were hard to bend. And he was wise enough to give me a hammer with a fiberglass handle which was resistant to splitting when I missed the nail head and struck the nail with the hammers’ handle.
I have also spent time in the old barns studying how the huge wooden beams were joined together and attached with wooden pegs. They look strong and more than able to carry the enormous amount of weight from the lofts full of hay and the dead weight of the snow as it gathers in the winter months!
However, those huge beams holding the barn and its’ heavy load are merely toothpicks when compared to the wood of the ancient cross. Of course, the barn beams are more massive in girth and length but you see, the wood of the Holy Cross sustains an enormous amount of weight! Upon our wooden cross rests the weight of all humanities sins.
Just as my Grandfather knew I would on occasion miss the mark and jamb the hammer handle onto the nail head, our Father knows that we too will miss the mark of perfection and through His bountiful love, we can be renewed by means of the Holy Cross. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”(Psalm 34:8)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-27-15

I OWE, I OWE, IT”S OFF TO WORK I GO!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAInto this world I was born free from debt and when I leave this scorched earth, my debt will cease or in other words, you can’t get blood from a turnip! Now rest assured, as long as I continue to pay my life insurance policies my estate should be settled and my financial debt will be put to rest. But there sure seems to be a lot of “ifs” in life!

I am sure that when I left the hospital in a swaddling diaper there was money owed for my entrance into this world but this was not my debt but that of my parents. But after sometime on this earth I have accumulated debt and the amount owed is increasing every day and with every breath I take. After all, there is a tax burden and a cost to exist, so is death the only thing that will free me from servitude?

There was time in my life when I was overwhelmed with debt. But this particular debt was not the normal monetary type of liability but an even heavier burden that reached far beyond the tomb. I am indebted to others for my sinfulness and I am indebted to God for paying my debt at the cross with love. This debt I preserve in my heart and it makes my heart like an Oreo cookie, it is hard on the outside and soft and yummy in the middle! The outer layer is hardened and frightened and yet by the mercy of God, the inside is soft and slowly moistening the outer calloused layers. It takes a little work to get to the soft center but there is a great reward waiting there.

To be free from debt or blessed by a debt means that we must fully free those whom have harmed us and embrace the image of God that at times is hidden in them and at times is hidden in each and every one of us! Our blessing from God is achieved when we realize that we must forgive in order to be forgiven. The hard layer of our heart must subside and allow the soft creamy yummy part, oozing with love, to embrace others.

If we do not forgive our neighbors and family, our debt builds and increases with every breath we take and the outer shell of our heart grows hard and callus. Carrying this bad-debt is an emotional burden and sin and it only separates us from the loving embrace of Christ. “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.”(Matt 23:35)

Yes, we have all been hurt and mistreated and there is only one excuse for this abuse, it is called sin! And each and every one of us has this sinful ingredient within and each and every one of us must combat these temptations and not allow ourselves to seek comfort on the island of seclusion, where there is no one else to love. We must die to our selfishness to eliminate our debt.

We owe God a debt of love and we owe everyone else that same debt. Since we too have not reached perfection, we must pray that God will forgive them for they know not what they do, and to work daily on freeing ourselves from the enormous yoke of our own sinfulness and pride. And as we remember the love that Christ demonstrated in His short time here on the sands of the earth, we need to chip away at our outer harsh shell and share the soft delicious center with others! I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8/16/15

Pentecost

white water raftingI have always had a great respect for water. It started at an early age for me at the Boys Club in Norfolk where I was abandoned in the indoor pool in an effort to teach me how to swim. And then about that same time I witnessed Hurricane Camille and Agnes as they swept ashore in Tidewater with their flooding waters and fierce winds, and then even more recently I experienced the great forces of water as I helplessly tumbled around in a hydraulic on a white water rafting trip on the gorge on the New River in West Virginia. Water is a mighty and powerful creation!
We here today on the feast of Pentecost many references to water, “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink” [Jn. 7:37] and “rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly” [Jn. 7:38]. Water is a very universal part of our faith! We are all baptized in water; we consume water with the Blood of Christ, and throughout the year we are sprinkled with water and our homes are even blessed with water. Water is a very important element not only in our worship of a loving God but also in our very earthly existence.
Water is such an important necessity of our lives. Our body is made up of 60% water and our body uses it to regulate our temperature, cushion our brain, spinal cord and fetuses from shock trauma and water helps keep our joints moving. Water is vital to our existence and scientist say that we can only live 3 days without it.
But we cannot live without Living Water as well. The Holy Spirit is our living water. “But whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give him in no wise shall ever thirst. But the water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing into eternal life.” [Jn. 4:14] Our Lord chose to use water as an image because we cannot exist without it. And you see, without the Holy Spirit, we can exist on this earth but not in eternity! We will not live a life in abundance without the outpouring of love flowing from a heart that is full of the Holy Spirit and a life without God is not truly living but merely temporarily existing.
We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit after our Baptism after we put on Christ at our Chrismation. Our forehead is marked signifying the sanctification of the mind and thoughts. The anointing of our chest signifies the sanctification of the heart, or desires. The anointing of our eyes, ears, and lips signifies the sanctification of the senses. The anointing of our hands and feet seals their sanctification to good works and walking in the way of His commandments. We were given all that is necessary to conquer the demon!
May mighty and powerful rivers of living water gush forth from your belly like a white water rapid helplessly entangling everyone you meet in the apostolic fishing net of Divine love!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-31-15

The Invisible Man

We recount the story today of Christ healing the blind man. I can only imagine that once the man’s vision was restored, the explosion of beauty must have overwhelmed him, adding another dimension to everything he encountered!
Having lived my life with vision, I struggle trying to fully comprehend what living with blindness is really like. All of my senses work together in everything I stumble upon and if my eyes fail me, I will have to learn how to adapt. Things would now be invisible to me, although I may here a noise or inhale a fragrance that could help me identify who or what I am cautiously approaching!

 
But there are some ways I am already practicing blindness. For instance, I choose to turn my head and ignore my own sinful habits. I choose to rot in the world and all it has to offer instead of sharpening my eyesight in the depths of spiritual fruit. I choose to be invisible to someone in need and focus straight ahead on my own greed. I choose to hide my sins instead of exposing them to the Healers touch.

 

invisible-manAt times in life, I have wished I could be invisible, just like the invisible man. Everybody would not be able to see me and I could hide from a situation or avoid a reprimand for my actions. Of course, I would never choose to be invisible around dinner time!

 
It is certainly a blessing to be able to use our eyesight but we also must be alert and not let our eyes seek unholy things. “The lamp of the body is the eye. Whenever, therefore, thine eye is sound, thy whole body also is full of light; but whenever it is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34) Since all our shortcomings are visible to our Lord, He holds us accountable! May the One who gives us vision intensify in us the quest for holiness and all its’ splendor!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5\17\15

“X” MARKS THE SPOT

old treasure map

As a young lad, I had quite the imagination. Being influenced by stories about “Huckleberry Fin”, “Peter Pan” and “Treasure Island”, you might find me looking for treasure maps and digging holes in the back yard. Although, I think our dog was usually blamed for the holes in my empty searches. But I could easily imagine how my life could be so much greater if I could only uncover the hidden treasure buried somewhere beneath the earth in my numerous searches. And I still today occasionally ponder about all the gold and jewels that were hidden by the pirates and has that plunder been accounted for? I have a shovel; does anybody have a treasure map?

Today I want to speak about a different kind of fortune. It is a treasure from God. It is the story about how our Creator loves us so much, that he sent his Son to show us how we should love by his actions, and then showed us how much our Father loves us by his Son’s death! It is so hard to comprehend that kind of love when our love for each other is so corrupted by vainglory, anger and pride.

Since the fall of Adam, mankind has perfected deception, self-love, sexual perversion in many shades of grey, and hate for all God’s creation. How can a vessel that was created by the very hand of God become so worthless? It is simply by our choice, for it is much easier to be carried down-stream by the flooding rivers of this fallen world than to cling to the olive branch of hope and fight the mighty currents of our perverted humanity.    

We must cling to the mighty words of wisdom found in the arsenal of Orthodoxy. When anger and resentment take root in us, we can look to our great Desert Father, Abba Dorotheus, who says that we can be healed of the sickness of resentment “by prayer right from the heart for the one who has annoyed us. We can pray such words as, ‘O God, help my brother, and me through his prayers.’ In this,” says Abba Dorotheus, “we are interceding for our brother, which is a sure sign of sympathy and love, and we are humiliating ourselves by asking help through our brother’s prayers. [7]”

We alone can only make these changes by seeking assistance from above. And we can find help in these times of fasting as we voluntarily make small sacrifices and spend more time seeking God. By removing ourselves a little bit more from the world, we can spend more time in reflection and prayer, asking forgiveness for the many short-comings we have and “bearing with one another, and graciously forgiving one another,” (Eph 4:32) just as Jesus bore our sins on the wood of the Holy Cross.

St. John of Kronstadt wrote:“Glory, O Lord, to the power of Thy Cross, which never fails! When the enemy oppresses me with a sinful thought or feeling, and I, lacking freedom in my heart, make the sign of the Cross several times with faith, suddenly my sin falls away from me, the compulsion vanishes, and I find myself free… For the faithful, the Cross is a mighty power which delivers from all evils.

Here, on the Cross of Christ lays your life preserver. When the muddy waters of life are consuming you, reach for the Cross. The Cross bears our life-blood. All our passions can be cleansed away at the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. Saint Irenæos wrote: “He destroyed the handwriting of our debt and fastened it to the Cross, so that as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, so also by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.”

Fellow treasure hunters, my youthful exploration for hidden treasure has finally come to fruition.  I have followed all the clues and finally found my riches! The precious fortune that I have discovered will not perish and will not waiver in the plunging markets of life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life. [Jn. 3:16]  I have found my treasure, and the “X” of the Cross marks the spot! Glory to Thee; Oh Lord, Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-15-15

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