July 12, 2012

Wheat and Weeds

We all harbor the desire that the Church—meaning the church we actually live with day to day, with real people, challenges and temptations—would be perfectly good, peaceful, loving, joyful, simple and uncomplicated. Something like the early Jerusalem community. “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). Alas, that didn’t last long even then as you can see from the rest of Acts. But it remains an ideal, and St Basil the Great took this model literally when he wrote about the order of monastic communities. But everywhere and at all times we also come up against the realities that Jesus spoke of in today’s gospel. The community is not a field of perfectly growing stalks of wheat. In among the wheat are nasty weeds, “tares.” But the roots of the weeds are so closely intertwined with the growing stalks of wheat that pulling them up will also destroy the wheat. Not to complicate the image, but sometimes we might be wheat and sometimes tares. And those we now label as tares may later be wheat that God will gladly gather in. Or perhaps they are not weeds at all in God’s eyes. Jesus lets the weeds grow alongside the wheat for now, and God will sort it out at the end. So it behooves us to be patient and merciful with the community, as they will need to be with us. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

To do this, St Paul reminds us that our thinking needs to be reshaped. “If any one among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of the world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:18-19). This requires constant attention to the garden of our own mind. We need to reshape our basic attitudes, thinking, prejudices according to Christ and not according to all the forms of wisdom and knowledge we have otherwise acquired and the world most values today: commercial, legal, academic, psychological, medical, political, journalistic. Of course this doesn’t mean we jettison these forms of thinking, only that they are put in perspective by the mind of Christ. 

Conferences and Webinar

In the midst of changes at the top in the OCA, and all the administrative and communication ripples (waves?) that is causing, “normal” life continues as conferences are being planned and announced.

Today, at St Luke’s parish in McLean, Virginia there is an all-day meeting to plan for a parish ministries conference next summer. It will be held exactly a year from now (Wednesday-Saturday, July 10-13, 2013) at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. The departments of Christian Education, Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid, Liturgical Music and Translations are organizing the event that will include keynote speakers, workshops and a divine liturgy at St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington DC.

The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion [OCAMPR] will sponsor a conference on “The Child Conceived: Considering Infertility, Miscarriage, and Early Child Loss,” at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, Friday and Saturday, November 2-3, 2012.

And next week, “The Unchurched: How to Reach the Lost, the Lapsed and the Letdown” will be the theme of a webinar conducted by Archpriest Jonathan Ivanoff, Director of Mission and Evangelism of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, at 8:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 18, 2012.