WHAM!!!

My first job after electronics servicing school was at Marvel Turkey Processing Plant. I was a young buck, just full of vinegar. I had been hired on to troubleshot the electronic things that had just started to evolve into the workplace, after all, we were just barely leaving the years of vacuum tubes and huge relay clusters. One day I was shadowing one of the chief maintenance mechanics who was troubleshooting the new pride and joy of the processing plane, the turkey sausage maker. The machine had some glitches and was delaying the product from going to market.

 

One of the problems with this machine was that it was equipped with a metal detector that would shoot out any meat with the tiniest bit of metal in it, and it continually thought it sensed metal, stopping production. The plant manager with his new white lab coat walked into the room to check on our progress when don’t you know it, the metal detector thought it sensed a metal particle in the meat, and WHAM, the ball meat shot across the room and splattered all over the plant manager, from head to toe. His lab coat and face were peppered with pink tidbits of turkey meat. I cast my eyes downward to hide my face as it wanted to bust out in laughter. He was my boss and he had a bit of an attitude about him, but his expression was now one of humility, mixed in with a little anger. In turns out the machine was false alarming due to moisture in the pneumatic source input.

 

I was reminded of this story as I was thinking this week it sure would be nice if my body had a device similar to that metal detector. Every time a sinful thought or action entered into my day, WHAM, it would remove it. Well, you know we sort of do! Yes, I am speaking about our conscience and repentance. I think every time I let a thought dance around in my mind criticizing someone I am actually trying to hide my own sinfulness, I have looked inward and repented of my surplus of shortcomings! I always try to negotiate with my conscience rationalizing my course of action. I might think: Well, at least I didn’t do that; or, this choice is not as evil as…, WHAM!

 

An Orthodox Christian conscience is created by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ acting within us. Saint John tells us: “If anyone should say, “I love God,” and be hating his brother, he is a liar; for the one not loving his brother whom he hath seen, how is he able to love God Whom he hath not seen? (I John 4:20) Saint Mark the Ascetic writes: “Rain cannot fall without a cloud, and we cannot please God without a good conscience.”

 

Here the words of Saint Andrew in his great cannon: “There has never been a sin or act or vice in life that I have not committed, O Savior. I have sinned in mind, word and choice, in purpose, will and action, as no one else has ever done. Therefore I am condemned, wretch that I am, therefore I am doomed by my own conscience, than which there is nothing in the world more rigorous. O my Judge and Redeemer Who knowest my heart, spare and deliver and save me, Thy servant.” (The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Mon 4.4) There are a lot of “WHAM” moments in the cannon of St. Andrew!

The season of lent is slowly shadowing our daily life. Will you choose to clothe yourselves in a white untarnished lab coat and waste yet another golden opportunity of being a Christian, imitating the One who gave His life for others? Or will you look inward and rid yourself of another sinful selfish behavior separating you from the life hereafter? It takes a little work but the task can be accomplished one day at a time, just look at our cheering section of saints who breathed the same air you and I do! I pray you will attend most of the Lenten services, especially if you are truly interested in salvation and remember: “for everyone who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and the one who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” [Lk. 18:13-14]

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-13-2022

 

BLUE ROOF

What a blessing it is to have our deep blue roof installed on our new church building. It may be raining and snowing outside, but inside it is dry. Now work can begin to build out this space as we continue to push ahead, transforming this new building into a temple of the Almighty God! May the Most Holy Theotokos cover us with her veil of prayer!

 I was thinking quite a bit about the roof this week as we hovered over the roof in the basket lift installing board and baton siding, and I was reflecting on the story of the centurion in Matthew with his words he gave our Lord: “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.”(Matt 8:8) I hope and pray that we as a church family will continue our struggles against the world and our demons so that this house of worship will offer constant praise and thanksgiving to the Alpha and the Omega. Yes, it is hospital full of very broken and ill people that are here to escape their tormentor and reflect inward on their thorns that have caused deep infections. We look to the Book of Proverbs to hear: The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous. (Proverbs 3:33)

Press on brothers and sisters and build His church, we need it for our salvation! Press on and stay the course of finding healing for your sinful diseases. I continue to remind everyone that we eat an elephant one bite at a time and we will continue to build His church by taking one small bite at a time. And in this process we will also work on our healing. We will strengthen our family and add more members in need of salvation, one bite at a time!

We heard in the Gospel reading this morning the story of Zacchæos and the Sycamore tree. (Luke 19:1-10) He was the chief tax collector and he was cheating everybody. When he climbed that tree to see the Lord, he repented and made right his wicked ways. Our Lord saw him and said: “Zacchæos, make haste and come down, for today it is needful for Me to stay in thy house.” [Lk. 19:5]

Press on, come and heal thyself and look forward to that Mansion in Eternity where your Lord is preparing a place for you! (John 14:2).  Saint Paul tells us in his letters to the church in Corinth: For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

Saint Kyril of Jerusalem explains it this way: “Be of good cheer, but work, strive earnestly; for nothing shall be lost. Every prayer, every psalm you sing, every good deed, every fast, every marriage duly observed, continence kept for God’s sake is recorded,…for you shall rise clothed with your own sins, or else with your righteous deeds.” [Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XV(23, 25), in Nicene, 2nd Ser., VII:111, 112.]

The roof you install over your bodily temple cannot be full of holes and allowed to leak in the tears of the violent storms, but should be a bodily temple of righteousness. St. Kyril continues: “For if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able to converse with the angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body fit to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign either state, for we do nothing without the body.” [Ib., Lecture XVIII(19), VII:139.]

Press On!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-6-2022

 

GIFT FOR YOU

With all the busyness I tend to get involved in each day, several weeks ago I stumbled on a gift card receipt from the previous year that was going to expire very soon. As it so happens, I needed something from that particular store to help with the church build we are currently involved in. It was a blessing to add that monetary plastic money to the payment for that piece of equipment that I now needed.

Now I had somewhat forgotten and misplaced that gift card with my some-timers memory, and it was for a store I didn’t frequent and actually had never visited at all. But now I had a need for something they sold and with this receipt, it would be an even greater value to me. I knew just about where I had stored that gift and it merely took a couple of minutes to find it. Glory to God the gift receipt was still valid!

This is after all the season of gifts. This is the time of the year when we take a break from all the hustle and bustle of life to spend time with our family and re-center our lives upon what really is important in this life. And yes we exchange a gift or two as well. As we age, we all agree that our time here on this Earth is very short. It is so hard to believe that I have been filling my lungs with this American air for nearly sixty years now and my time here is surely drawing nearer, but for all of us, we never know when that time is coming. My time here has been a gift. There have been some days and weeks I would have liked to exchange as they were too small or much too big or didn’t fit at all but I pray I have grown from those experiences and moved closer to God! But the season of gifts is a reminder of the greatest gift given to mankind, the birth of our Savior!

So why are we so distracted when we are amongst this miracle gift? When it comes down to it, what is it in your little personnel world that really matters? Let me tell you what is really going on behind the scenes; we have become enslaved to the one who lost his keys to the prison door. Little “he” entices us to stare at social media screens and slips pornography in when our guard is down, and we listen to noise to drown out our thoughts. Maybe we intended to look for fulfillment for just a glance or two, to relieve us of our wicked thoughts and selfish memories, as we slip ever so slowly away from this miracle, from this great Gift, into the distraction of hell one second at a time. And all around us, global chaos continually erupts from shore to shore reminding us of our uncertain grasp of life. And this meaning of life is being forced into a choice that is not and never has been ours. Life comes from God! Can He have yours?

We make excuses to not read our bibles and not come to church and much, much worse, we deny the greatest Gift known to mankind, For unto us a child is born (Isa 9:6). For unto you a child is born! Did you hear me? Quit trying to fit your belief into the church and instead, fit the church into your belief, it has not changed! Don’t base your belief of salvation on a distorted path, to a temple of destruction. The Christ-Child is here, are you?  Did you come early? Did you come last night? Why not? Why are you so distracted?

Don’t you understand? This GIFT is for YOU! Time is short! You don’t need to look for it, and there is no expiration date, it simply waits for you too slow down and get yourselves right with God. Why are we keeping ourselves so busy with things that really don’t matter? He knows what you have been doing. He knows how you have been abused and neglected. He knows your deep sadness and loss. He knows each and every choice you have made, and know this; after all that mess, He is still yearning ever so deeply that you will choose Him. Please, won’t you come? Won’t you receive His precious Gift?

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-9-2022

THANKFUL?

All I want for Christmas is… a thankful heart! Well of course I also have a list on Amazon and then there is the health and safety of my loved ones to consider, and it would be great if my monetary debts were erased and the government didn’t tax me for the air my lungs inhale! And also if the stoplights all turned green when I approached would just be fantastic, and also if I was able to sleep a good night’s sleep each and every night! And then of course most certainly I would simply love it if gravy was not fattening and a fresh piece of cherry pie awaited me each evening! Where does my list end and my thankfulness begin?  

In our Gospel reading today we are told about ten men with a terrible contagious disease. (Luke 17:12-19) All of these men were cured when theyasked for mercy but only one was truly thankful! Jesus heals them of their disease but some chose to keep their hearts hardened. The others probably blamed God for having leprosy in the first place and refused to show humility to the Almighty! Saint Bede writes: “This one who went back giving glory to God is a figure of the one Church, in devout humility before Christ.” [Ib.]

The great saints of the faith remind us over and over again to give thanks to God in everything. Every challenge is an opportunity to detach ourselves from being in complete control of everything earthly and letting God be God, thankfully trusting in Him for everything. St. Nicholas of Myra directs us this way: “Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. (St. Nicholas of Myra, The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints by St. Demetrius of Rostov) We all need a thankful heart!

If you are still here breathing in, the invisible air that sustains your existence, you still have time! It will take some practice. Always remember it can always be much worse and always look for a glimpse of peace in the thunder of the mighty battle. And you parents remember that your children are God’s first and foremost. We are here to nurture them and accidently mess them up a little, after all, there is only one perfect Parent!! We all know that every parent tries to do a little better job than their parents, but let’s remember we are in a fallen world and we are infected with sin! Christ is there to bind our brokenness.

How is being thankful amidst suffering and persecution possible? I found time this week to watch “Man of God” about the great saint, Saint Nektarios of Aegina. He was greatly persecuted and humbled. “Thanks be to God” were the words that rolled off his tongue in the midst of trials! He is quoted as writing: “We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This cannot all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong because they have received the force of habit. Only with the passage of time and with fervor will they be conquered. Don’t let anything deprive you of hope.” (St. Nectarios of Aegina)

Count your many blessings; thank God for another day to diminish your passions; and remember that everything good comes from above, and you dear ones were created to do good!! Your time here is limited! Thanks be to God in all things, all the time!!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-19-2021

What Is Your Interpretation?

We folks with our attempt to live a righteous life are inclined to use our understanding of God’s Law and how it currently applies to us at this particular time on earth and in the history of our existence. As we know, God created in us the longing to do good, but within the painted lines of the ever-inclining highway to salvation we all read the road signs differently.  What does “Slow Down”, “Men Working” or “Speed Limit 65” really mean? How slow do we need to slow down to and how quickly, and I see one man working and five watching and of course then the speed-limit sign suggestion! Our brain takes all these things into consideration and helps us apply them to our individual daily drive based on what we have learned in the past! But, we should always be open to a more beneficial understanding as we travel on this path.   

Even in the beginning in the luscious garden, man tried to apply the rules as he wanted to understand them. It was very simple back then, don’t eat the fig!! (Gen 2:17) But of course mankind wished to be god and live by his own interpretation of what was best for him on his daily drive. And we see those choices continue to occur throughout the teachings in the Bible and if we look closely, we will see choices in some of our decisions we make throughout the normal day in life here in our little bit of paradise as well.

Our Gospel lesson today happens to center around the fourth commandment (Exod 20: 8-11) which was given to mankind as a helpful guide on our path to salvation some time much later after we had already failed to follow the just one simple rule entrusted to Adam and Eve in the garden. Today’s lesson reads: “Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work,” (Ex 20:8-10) what does that mean for you today? In my personal kingdom I prepare and attend church, I go to church the evening before liturgy, as all Orthodox Christians do! I prepare to receive the most precious Body and Blood of our Lord and I try to spend some time with my neighbors here at the temple. I don’t go home and mow, weed eat or fire up my chain saw as I try not to disturb my neighbor. This was greatly influenced on me by my grandfather Rufus who let his farm rest on Sunday with the exception of animal care. But today I fail in spending time reading self-help books about saintly teachings as I nap to the sounds of entertainment coming from my flat screen piercing my brief glimpse of silence. And I on occasion on my path to or from church, I will need to stop and refuel my gasoline horse. What is your definition of “holy”?

For some folks, they spend time Saturday preparing to live more simply on the Sabbath by fueling their vehicles and preparing food in advance. They don’t eat at a restaurant or go to COSTCO or do things that would require someone else to break their Sabbath, however the hospital and fire stations are open if they are desperately needed!  These same people turn off the world and its’ lying serpents and rest on the Sabbath, as they prepare to re-center themselves for the upcoming week to the glory of our Lord. Well anyway, that is their understanding of the road signs, and after all, they don’t have to work that day as their job does not require it or they have chosen a different path with a set of different signs that allow this way of life so they can set aside the Sabbath day as holy!  

Our Gospel reading disturbs many religious people’s rubrics as Christ heals the woman infirm for eighteen years; after all, it was the Sabbath! Saint Theophylacyt teaches that: The woman suffered from this affliction as a result of demonic assault, as the Lord Himself says, This woman,  whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years. Perhaps God had departed from her on account of certain sins, and as a result Satan was punishing her. For Satan is in part the cause of all the hardships which afflict our bodies, when God on high permits him. From the very beginning it was Satan who brought about our fall by which we lost the incorruptibility in which we had been created; it was Satan who caused us to be bound to diseased bodies prone to suffering, symbolized by the garments of dead skins in which Adam and Eve were wrapped (Gen. 3:22). But now the Lord, with the majestic voice of the Godhead, full of power, drives out the infirmity of this woman. He places His hands on her, so that we might learn that His holy flesh imparted both the power and the energy of the Logos. For His flesh was His own, and not that of some other human person alongside Him, separate from Him in hypostasis, as the impious Nestorius thinks. So great is the goodness of the Lord, Who in this manner took mercy on His own creation. But Satan, who had bound the woman in the first place, was vexed at her deliverance because he desired her continued affliction, and so he bound the ruler of the synagogue with spite, and through the mouth of this man, Satan reviled the miracle. This is how he always attacks the good. Therefore the Lord uses the apt example of irrational animals to rebuke the man who was indignant that a healing had taken place on the Sabbath. And thus not only this man, but all the other adversaries of Jesus as well, were put to shame by Christ’s words. For it was insane to hinder the healing of a man on the Sabbath using as a pretext the commandment that the Sabbath be a day of rest. So it was, that even while the people were rejoicing at the Lord’s deeds, His adversaries were put to shame by His words. For these adversaries, instead of joining in the jubilation which followed His work of healing, burned with rage that He had healed at all. But the multitude, because they derived benefit from His signs, rejoiced and took pleasure in this healing. You must also understand these miracles to refer to the inner man. The soul is bent over in infirmity whenever it inclines to earthly thoughts alone and imagines nothing that is heavenly and divine. It can truly be said that such a soul has been infirm for eighteen years. For when a man is feeble in keeping the commandments of the divine law, which are ten in number, and is weak in his hope of the eighth age, the age to come, it can be said that he has been bent over for ten and eight years. Is not that man indeed bent over who is attached to the earth, and who always sins in disregard of the commandments, and who does not look for the age to come? But the Lord heals such a soul on the Sabbath in the assembly of the synagogue. For when a man assembles together within himself thoughts of confession (Judah means “confession”) and keeps the Sabbath, that is, he rests from doing evil, then Jesus heals him, not only by word when He says to him, Thou art loosed from thine infirmity, but also by deed. For when He has placed His hands on us, He requires that we accept the energy from His divine hands to do in collaboration with Him the works of virtue. We must not be satisfied to receive only that healing which comes by word and by instruction. (From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria)

So for us inhabitants, the Sabbath is a day that needs to be set aside and made different than a normal work day. Ask the Lord for direction and He will convict you as to just what is most beneficial for your salvation now and in the future. As we hear from the Apostle Matthew:  “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17) Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:19) We must always remember that even the great Creator of this world rested, are you greater than He? Make the Sabbath day a day of worship and rest so that you may a solid part of the foundation of our new church and a most valuable worker in our Lord’s vineyard!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-12-2021

When is Enough, ENOUGH?

In these times of economic instability and the constant insistence of doom and gloom, the question arises as to when have we put away enough to keep and protect our families for the future? I see many seniors that worked hard all their lives now struggling to survive. We see inflation exploding and the uncertainty of our economic retirement plan, social security, being there when we need it. Health care costs and the expense of aging continue to climb. And while we are still able, we contribute to our IRA’s and retirement plans or make investments in property or collectables with the hope that they will increase in value faster than what it is going to cost to live. So I ask this question that is entertained on everyone’s mind, when is enough, enough?  

Should we fear tomorrow and what will come in the next decade and should we hoard our monetary earnings in preparation for the future and everyone we have been entrusted to care for? Our Lord gives this reminder today in the Gospel of St. Luke: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” [Lk. 12:19-20]

You see, the greatest thing of value you own is not gold or your stock portfolio, it is your time and how you have spent that time! We hear it week after week after week, love thy neighbor! Although love of neighbor is not becoming an enabler, because an enabler can harmfully disable someone, which is another question we humans struggle with, just where is that line of help versus abuse that we shouldn’t cross. Love is not always giving blindly; it is taking the time to care enough to get a glimpse of how we can truly help, and usually not just a short term fix!  If your favorite reclining chair is well broken in like mine, then maybe you too have built some bigger barns and not given enough of yourself to your neighbor. (Luke 12:18) Well, that is real hard for an introvert but a necessity for salvation. Less of me, more of Him! Maybe your open wounds are continuing to ooze and you feel insecure about afflicting them with more traumas; try binding your wounds tightly with the burial shroud of Christ and fear not. Love thy neighbor!

Saint Basil gives us these helpful instructions on living the Christian way: “Do not sell at high prices and take advantage of those in want. Beware of waiting for a famine before you open up your storehouses. Do not look to famine to make money, nor to the common want for your private gain. Do not become a dealer in human misery. Do not try to make money out of the anger of God. You with your eyes ever on money, do you never take a look at your fellow man? You know well the face of a coin, and you can tell a true from a false one, but you know not your brother in his time of need.” [Ib., III:328, § 3.]

There is no sin in wealth but there is a sin in being a stingy, self-centered miser, blinded of thy neighbor in need. There is also a sin of trusting in oneself more than the Creator. YOU ARE NOT god; QUIT BEING STINGY WITH HIS STUFF!  In the parable of the talents our Lord tells us to invest wisely. If we can be entrusted with wealth and use some of that wealth to care for the folks in need, He will increase us. (Matthew 25:14-30) After all, everything that is, is His!!

The Apostle Luke directs us in this way: “Cease being afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. “Sell your possessions and give alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not become old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief draweth near nor moth destroyeth; “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Lk. 12:32-34]

 

Are you building a much bigger barn and if so, when is enough, enough? Let me end with this reflection from St. Theophan the Recluse: “Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour.” (St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain- Unseen Warfare)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-5-2021

Christmas Decorations Already?

We now find ourselves ever so slightly over the line passing the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. As I drove around this week from the northern border of Tennessee to snow flurrying fields near Jordanville NY, I noticed Christmas lights already up and glowing into the night, disturbing the ever so consuming darkness. Of course our retailers started the transition into the holiday season at the end of August, pushing the line ever so slightly earlier and earlier each year, but for me it is the homes and their decorations that begin to center my attention on the Nativity and the birth of our salvation.

Well brothers and sisters, so it is too at our cabin on the mountain. My wife loves the season. Our family likes to start to decorate the twelve foot tall Christmas tree at Thanksgiving. Everyone that can be is there and the grandkids like to help! It is a joyful time as we reflect on the birth of Christ as we begin to navigate into the Nativity fast.

With the struggles we have all been through over the past years, it seems as though people want to start this season earlier this year, after all, a love so Divine is greatly sought out and in great demand. And especially in this season we can also find the worst and the best in all of us! For those who get caught up in the pressures of life and the failures of living the American dream of consumption, are too busy to see the wounded and the hungry. With great mercy our Creator sent His Son to tend our wounds and feed our souls. St John of Kronstadt said: “It was by reason of a supreme, inexpressible mercy toward His creation on the part of the Master, Who could not bear to see the entire race of mankind – which, He, in creating, had endowed with wondrous gifts – enslaved by the devil and thus destined for eternal suffering and torment.”(St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Nativity of Jesus Christ) We were all made in His image but have allowed evil to prosper and choke out the treasured fruit. The fruit of mercy is much needed in this confused nation where evil has been disguised as good and good has been redefined as hate.

How do we Christians act in this world being steered by hate, hate of God and His teachings? St. Basil instructs us: “He who loves his neighbor, fulfills the love he owes to God; for God accepts this love as an act of love offered to Himself. ‘For I hungered and ye gave Me to eat; I thirsted and ye gave Me to drink…[Mt. 25:35]’; and then He goes on to add, ‘insofar as ye did it to one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it to Me.” [Mt. 25:40].’” [Ib., III, 1, in Toal, IV: 39.]

Saint Kyril of Jerusalem reminds us: “Human beings choose their own way of life and are entrusted with the reins of their own intelligence, so as to follow whatever course they wish, either toward the good or toward the contrary. But our original created nature has implanted in it a zealous desire for whatever is good and the will to concern itself with goodness and righteousness. [Eph. 2:10.]  For this is what we mean by saying that humanity is in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26], that the creature is naturally disposed to what is good and right.” [Doctrinal Questions and Answers 2, Select Letters, 188, in ACC, VIII:135.]

It is the excitement of the coming season that reminds us of His great mercy. And in that mercy we need to show the sick, the suffering, the hungry, the lost, those afflicted and even the wicked an unquenchable magnetic light, disturbing the darkness, offering hope and love beyond the barriers and limitations we have placed in the way! And empowered from the words of Christ: “Go on thy way, and be thou doing in like manner.” [Lk. 10:37]

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-28-2021

LEFTOVERS

This morning, I wanted to talk a little about Crumbs and leftovers. The Gospel reading speaks about “crumbs falling from the table” and I wanted to share a few of my crumby experiences with you. (Luke 16:21) Now, back in the day, the mice rarely found a crumb in our home! Growing up poor, I can assure you that I also never let leftovers go to waste, with the exception of Brussels sprouts and liver with onions! But that is not the type of leftovers I wanted to focus on this morning.

Back in the early 90’s I started my own business. This was before Orthodoxy got a hold of me, but I was at that time a faithful church going father. I was always putting a twenty in the collection plate when it came by, helping to keep the lights on and the such. Now there were a couple weeks when I didn’t get paid but the business eventually slowly began to increase and start paying down its debts. After about two years, I hired a helper who had just graduated from the community college with the same focus that I had in electronic servicing. In my business, we install and service electronic burglar alarms, fire alarms, camera surveillance systems, electronic locking access control systems and poultry environmental monitoring systems.

Well one day I sent my helper down to Page County to install a system at a chicken farm. As he was driving there, a nice looking Ford pickup truck passed him with a for sale sign on it. The truck slowed down and pulled into the turning lane and this young technician tried to get the phone number from the for sale sign hanging in the back window. While jotting down the phone number, he failed to see that the stoplight had turned red and he plowed through the intersection t-boning a Chevy conversion van and then running off the road. The conversion van was occupied with a mother and her two young children. Thanks be to God that everyone walked away from this crash but the two vans were totaled. The mother had sprained her ankle as she jammed the brake pedal to the floor and the son sitting in the front seat was hurled into the windshield bruising his head, and my helper was shaken but not scratched.

My vehicle insurance took care of the vehicle losses. But a couple of months later I was notified that I was being sued for 3 million dollars! By the way, that is a three with six zero’s behind it! Well at that time, a half million was the normal amount of insurance a business carried so where was the rest of the money going to come from. The business was already in the hole forty thousand the first two years from start up costs and I couldn’t even cover that! My bank then informed me they no longer wanted to honor my business loan and I needed to find a new bank. We had been unprofitable!

Six months went by and the stress level I was under was enormous! I was able to find a new bank but I didn’t know if I was going to continue to be in business or if my family was going to lose their home and the shirts off our back! It was then that I finally surrendered and prayed that God’s will be done. I’ll serve YOU first from now on!! Everything that is, is His! I had been putting other things ahead of Him, like family, work and everything else.

You see, I had been in charge and only been giving God what was leftover or barely the crumbs falling from my table of gluttony!  I started to set a budget for my family’s income which had my tithe offering as the number one priority. The truck payment, house payment, utilities and everything else was less important than church! At that time we were barely tithing at 2% and I was determined to somehow make it 10% as God commands. So each year I increased the percentage and each year our needs were mystically met! The Apostle Luke records: “And ye, cease seeking what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, and cease being anxious. For all these things the nations of the world seek after; and your Father knoweth that ye need these things. But be seeking the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”  [Lk. 12:29-31]

I am reminded of this story this morning as the Gospel writer describes just how rich the beggar really is. (Luke 16:11-19) However, the guy wearing his wealth who was used to the finer things in life was spiritually broke. Saint Kyril writes: “The poor man, He says, was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom, but of the rich man there is nothing of the sort, but only that he died and was buried. For those who have hope towards God find in their departure from the world a deliverance from anguish and pain….The rich man was going from pleasure to torment, from glory to shame, from light to darkness.” [Hom. 112, Commentary, Ch. 16, 455, 456.]

Life is simply about priorities. There can only be one number One! Set a budget and make sure that you tithe, it will help free you from this world. It needs to be your first and best fruit. (Ezekiel 44:30, Prov 3:9, Exodus 34:26)If you don’t, you will basically never ever have enough! In conclusion I want to leave you with this wholesome truth taken from the Holy Profit Malachi that will save your very life: You simply cannot out give God! (Malachi 3:10)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-7-2021

Does Your Definition of Wrong Make It Right?

I’ll start today asking the question: Why are you Orthodox? Before I found the Orthodox Church, I was being pulled into the ministry. I found myself in a seminary class amongst a host of folks from other western faith traditions. We spent a good bit of time studying scripture and its origin. Time and time again, backed by different interpretations of the original text, we argued as to what the writer originally meant. After all, the belief that the Word of God is living and adapting to the changes in the world was prevalent in that setting. We were all seeking the same thing, weren’t we? Or were we trying to prove our limited understanding within the confines of our little pea-brains and find divine acceptance for the crooked path we were on? We remember St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all be speaking the same thing, and that schisms may not be among you, but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same sentiment.” The early defender of the faith from the fifth century, Saint Vincent of Lerins is quoted: “The apostle says, ‘God set for Himself some in the Church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers [1 Cor. 12:28].’… Whosoever, therefore, shall despise these, who had their appointment of God in His Church in their several times and places, when they are unanimous in Christ, in the interpretation of some one point of catholic doctrine, despises not man, but God, from Whose unity in the truth, lest anyone should vary, the same apostle earnestly protests. ‘I beseech you, brethren, that ye all be speaking the same thing… [1 Cor. 1:10].’ But if anyone dissent from their unanimous decision, let him listen to the words of the same apostle: ‘God is not a God of confusion, but of peace [1 Cor. 14:33]. [A Commonitory, Ch. XXVIII(73) in Nicene, 2nd Ser., 11:153.]

I ask these questions because if you are totally okay with the person you are right now and see no need for improvement, you’ve come to the wrong hospital! You have a contagious deathly condition better known as MTIG or Me-Thinks-I’m-Great. People inflicted with this type of virus quit coming to the clinic and are usually a self-made authority on their definition of life and faith and everything in between. Their definitions or understandings may contain some truth but it misses the mark or at the very least one tire is in the ditch on the narrow road to eternity.   

Now believe you me, we all run off the eternity road every once and a while but this MTIG virus is deeply rooted in the evil one and it deplenishes your energy to do good and causes a momentary or extended loss of the divine light that normally illuminates the path on the narrow road to salvation. Perhaps a simpler way of defining this condition is to ask this question: DOES YOUR DEFINITION OF WRONG MAKE IT RIGHT? If so, you are showing MTIG symptoms!

Let’s hear how St. Maximus the Confessor draws our attention to this condition: “As man I deliberately transgressed the divine commandment, when the devil, enticing me with the hope of divinity (cf. Gen. 3:5), dragged me down from my natural stability into the realm of sensual pleasure; . . .” (Philokalia II, p. 167) Yes, the MTIG virus is drowning in self-pride, after all we are justifying our actions as if we were the great Creator! And we then read St. John Climacus [of the Ladder] who writes: “Pride is denial of God, an invention of the devil, the despising of men, the mother of condemnation . . . the cause of falls. . . .” (p. 138).  And then St. John goes on to tell us” Where a fall has overtaken us, there pride has already pitched its tent: because a fall is an indication of pride.” (p. 139). This condition left untreated leads to this deathly disease.

As a Christian battling the many voices blowing in the wind, sometimes it is hard to discern which voice smells like wolf breath. The wolf is clever and cunning and attacks a good Christian lamb like you and I by suggesting a slight deviation from the teachings of Christ; after all we are to love our neighbor, hugs and kisses, warm and fuzzies  and everything is great! [Lk. 10:3] However true compassion does not couple or encourage choices or behaviors that stray from the exact teachings of Christ! Sin is sin! Only deep repentance can help cure the Me-Thinks-I’m-Great virus.

It is also important to know that we are all made in the image of the Creator and have a great value. But we must realize every hour of every day that are two paths in life, the straight path of inclination and the crooked path that many times leads us around in circles chasing our tail like a dog impressing his master. The wolf is the master of the crooked path leading us to the slaughter, and the Great Sheppard is the Lord of the Straight and narrow path that directs us towards salvation. Listen to the instructions from St. Kyril: “How can a sheep prevail against a wolf? How can one so peaceful vanquish the savageness of beasts of prey? ‘Yes,’ He says, ‘for they all have Me as their Shepherd—small and great, people and princes, teachers and taught. 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.’” [Hom. 61, Commentary, Ch. 10, 264.]

So, does your definition of wrong make it right? The answer is definitely “NO”! But through self study and surrender, repentance and confession and loving God more than who you have become, healing can be found in the Chalice.

Glory To God!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-24-2021

CLICKY

It seems that we naturally migrate towards like-minded people. At an early age when we strayed away from our support peers we felt out of place or someone would notice our differences and make a comment or an unfriendly glance. It sure is safe and warm when we find ourselves nestled in our bed of comfort with our peeps!

Back in the late 70’s at my high school we had groups or clics of like minded people. We had the jocks, the preps, the snobs and the stonies and so on. Iwas in the band, although on the much cooler spectrum of that clic! I played the bari-sax in marching and concert band. Mr. Gonano also included me in the stage band. The bari-sax was big and heavy and did not fit on the school bus, which limited my practice time at home. However Mr. G had after school practices very frequently which explains how we won so many competitions.

Within the corral of my mind, certain personality people played certain instruments. They had their own group within the confines of the larger group of band members. Yet, when we all came together in some kind of harmony and under careful direction, our music was might near flawless and moving. We worked together and had the same goal. Our differences made us complete. In that setting it was not about our individuality, but about achieving the same goal which usually meant a trophy or an award or at the very least an “A” on my report card amongst a loud chorus of “C’s”! If nothing else, we identified with our school mascot. We were the “Patriots” and I am still am!

Our Lord instructs us in Luke 6 to spend time out of our clic or comfort zone: “And if ye should love those who love you, what kind of thanks is there to you? For even the sinners love those who love them. [Lk. 6:32]  Instead of noticing differences in people and sheltering within our fortress of contentment, we need to be looking for our next opportunity to help someone. And then our Lord goes on to say: “Therefore keep on becoming compassionate, even as your Father also is compassionate. [Lk. 6:36]

Just how do we love our enemies and forgive those you harm us? St. Silouan teaches us that at least we must not hate our enemies curse them or snub them, but we should refuse thoughts of anger against them. In that way at least progress is made towards love. For St. Silouan, in love of our enemies one supposes that they forgive them their offenses and pray for them. Yet forgiving is not yet loving; prayer can precede love and not yet be a manifestation of love: “When I was still in the world I liked to forgive with all my heart,” he said. “I forgave easily and I liked to pray for those who had offended me, but when I came to the monastery, while I was still a novice, I received a great grace and it taught me to love my enemies.”

St. Silouan goes on to explain: “The Lord teaches us to love enemies in such a way that we will feel compassion for them as for our own children.” We must, says the Saint, be compassionate not only for our own enemies and the enemies of truth, but for the demons who suffer infernal pains for turning away from God and denying Him in their voluntary denial of heavenly goods, their refusal to love God and to be loved by Him. “Taught by the Holy Spirit, one will feel compassion even for demons for they are separated from goodness, they have lost humility and God’s love.”

“The Spirit of God teaches us to love all that exists, and the soul feels compassion for each being, and also loves enemies and pities demons, because in their fall they were detached from the good.” Compassion makes no exceptions! “There are people who wish damnation and the torments in the fire of hell for their enemies or enemies of the Church. They think in this way because they haven’t learned from the Holy Spirit to love God. He who has learned love, weeps for the whole world. You say: ‘Let him burn in the fire of hell!’ But I ask you: ‘If God gave you a good place in Paradise and that from there you could see in the fire the man to whom you wished this torment, wouldn’t you feel pity for him, whoever he is, even if he is an enemy to the Church?’ Or do you have a heart of metal?” “We must only have one thought,” says St. Silouan, “that all be saved.”(1)

It simply begins and ends with prayer! Practice, practice, practice! Prayer is the peaceful harmony you all are seeking!

Glory to Thee who has shown us the Light!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-17-2021

 

 

 

(1)https://www.orthodoxpath.org/saints-and-elders-counsels/but-i-say-to-you-love-your-enemies/