June 13, 2012

Trusting God’s Promises

Saint Paul continues to speak about faith. This is not mainly about believing certain tenets. It’s about trusting God’s promises as Abraham did. Despite appearances, “no distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do as He had promised” (Rom 4:21). Last week I saw the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a good story that takes place in India. One of the repeated lines in the film is, “Everything will be alright in the end. So if it is not alright, then it is not the end.” Christians live by faith, looking to the End, trusting in God to keep His promises, no matter what the present circumstances.

On today’s gospel reading: it’s remarkable that one could be a prophet, do miracles, cast out demons—and still not be fruitful in God’s eyes. Our liturgizing is not an automatic pass either. As God warns through Isaiah “I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly…Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:13, 16, 17).  This is a constant theme in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. Paul as well warns Christian communities not to be overconfident in their divine election and liturgical fullness. The Israelites in the desert were chosen too, they had supernatural food and supernatural drink (1 Cor 10:1-13). But that didn’t keep them from worshipping the golden calf, displeasing God and being overthrown. “Therefore, let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). 

Diaconal Training and Domestic Violence

Diaconal Vocations

Some 25 or so deacons and deacons-to-be are finishing their annual liturgical practicum today at St Vladimir’s Seminary, beginning with a hierarchical divine liturgy celebrated by Metropolitan Jonah. Yesterday I looked on as they learned from Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov and Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak the finer points of vesting a bishop, including the mysteries of the omophorion. This is an interesting group of men. Spanish teacher in a state prison system. High school French teacher. Physician. Historian. A lawyer and social workers dealing with child and adult protective services. It is remarkable who God is raising up to serve His Church. Deacons from the beginning have had a major role in social ministry as well as liturgy.  I introduced them to the OCA’s child abuse and misconduct policies and to the resources available from the Faith Trust Institute, a leader in training churches on these issues and on domestic violence. 

People who come to church are often hurting, and sometimes the hurt is from domestic violence (it occurs in some 28% of marriages). This can include not just overt physical and sexual assault and attacks on property and pets, but psychological battering: isolation from family and friends, forced financial dependence, verbal and emotional abuse, threats, intimidation and control over where the partner can go and what she (or he) can do. The more we as clergy and parishioners are aware of warning signs, the more we may be able to help hurting people in our midst.