Overcoming Trials

MP3 Audio: WWS_30004_Fr-Michael_Overcoming-Trials.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, August 17, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Fr. Michael Keiser.

Transcription by Katie Gleason.

~

Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God is One.

From today’s epistle, which is out of Corinthians:

“Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such is as common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it.”

I offer this mass this morning with a bit more of joy and relief then I sometimes do. Since we got the word yesterday that Metropolitan Joseph had blessed the ordination of Deacon Joseph to the priesthood, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

We’ve had a hard slog, and as a community we have been tested and tried by disagreement, by discouragement, by frustration, by anger, and by the sense of wondering if this thing’s going to make it at all.

The thing we keep forgetting in this, as with everything else, is that God is in control. Whether this community stands or falls is not my responsibility, it is not his [Joseph’s] responsibility, it is not your responsibility, it’s His will.

Now, we are required to do the best we can, with what we got, and I’ve got to tell you we’re doing that. You know, we’ve still got more things to learn. The fact that he’s ordained doesn’t mean I’m going to disappear from your midst, however much I would like to take you off the tight schedule, because he’s still got training to do, liturgically. We’ve still got, you know, chanting and that sort of thing.

But when I heard the psalms being chanted this morning, by not a couple of chanters back and forth, but by the entire congregation, when I hear the canticles and the hymns sung, when I hear a mass sung in Gregorian chant, to a large degree by children, more certainly enthusiastically by the children — you know, you need to work on volume control a bit, but you know — you know there’s a living breathing real community here. The fact is, things come and things go. That’s life.

It occurred to me as I was traveling up here this time, and it has only occurred to me — which indicates how slow I am sometimes — talking about my own situation back home, we’ve gone through so much, you know with my son’s death, and you know, family going off and doing whatever. And now I realize I’m sitting there and watching my wife die daily. Not physically. In fact my big fear is that she’ll last another ten years, frankly. But mentally, a piece falls out almost daily now. She is dying to the life that she and I have had for forty-six years. She doesn’t remember.

The other day I got a email from my sister who lives out in San Francisco, who was laid off over a year ago and has been in a state of depression and anxiety and panic ever since — San Francisco is not a cheap city to live in — that she had gotten a job. It wasn’t a great job, but it was a job with a paycheck, and there were other things she could develop from that. And I told Angie, I said, “Janet’s gotten a job.” And she said, “Janet?” And I said, “My sister.” She said, “What sister?” I’ve got two, and she does not remember them at all. My mother is dead and has been five years; she thinks she’s still alive. And so I sat there for about twenty minutes and tried to reconstruct my family for her. ‘Cause sometimes that helped, we strike brains somewhere in the conversation, and it didn’t. And there are mornings where I think, “God, if its better to take her now, take her.” And they texted me Saturday morning and said, “We’re taking her to the hospital by ambulance.” I said, “I didn’t mean it literally, you know.” She’s doing ok. She’s fine.

Yeah, you reach that point, as individuals. Churches can reach that point — if you allow that to happen — because sometimes it does seem like one bloody thing after another, both in life, and in the life of the community, and in the world which God knows I increasingly understand less and less. I really don’t know whats going on out there.

I’ll tell you why I feel that everything’s okay now. We’ve been tested again, just recently, and there was no group panic. There was no great group anxiety. I mean, there’s disappointment, there’s love for people we care about, but there was no knee-jerk reaction. There was frustration, but nobody’s mad. Everybody’s grieved, but hey, it’s what happens in churches, and what happens in families. And we will work very hard to restore anybody we need to restore. But I knew when not everybody freaked, that we had turned the corner in this community. Whether you see it or not, I do. During the last four years there has been a lot of growth. Now, you needed a lot of growth. You still need a lot of growth. But there has been a lot of personal, and for lack of a better term, community growth, spiritually and emotionally, that we can build on in the future.

That is why you have to “Take heed when you think you stand, lest you fall.” Joseph is going to be greatly tempted, during the period between now and his ordination. You people, are going to be greatly tempted in this period now, before he becomes your resident priest. That’s simply the way of it. The reason so many Christians fall, is that they didn’t count the cost of what following Jesus means. There are people in Syria who can explain that to you, there are Christians in Iraq who can explain that to you, there are Christians in Egypt who can explain that to you, because they have already given up their lives, because they professed Jesus Christ.

We get disappointed if there’s only decaf at the coffee hour. But we have not yet been tested, as it says in Hebrews, “with the shedding of blood.” None of us have had, you know, blood. — Well, I almost did when I fell in the bathroom yesterday, but that was not . . . — We really do need to get sense of perspective here people, you know, we really do. So between now and his ordination, there well be more attacks by Satan. Not big, horrible ones, because those usually don’t destroy communities. I don’t know if you’re aware of that or not. But most big church fights begin from something very small, from literally something like only having decaf at the coffee hour. And so we have to be sober and watchful, and prepared and forewarned.

If you’re going to follow Jesus Christ, you’re going to be tempted, sometimes very subtly, and very creatively. Sometimes those who are closest to you will provide the greatest temptation to frustration, to anger, to resentment, to a desire to strike back, or as in my case, though their gradual debility in which, yeah, there are times when I want to grab her, shake her, and say, “Snap out of it,” but for her there’s no rolling back. For others of us, there is.

We’ve got to be willing to walk that road, we’ve got to be willing as in the parable of the prodigal son, if we see someone who is the son for us, coming down the road to us, what does the father do? He doesn’t wait for his son to get back; he runs to him. Now, imagine this. A Jewish patriarch, you know, an honored wealthy man in the community, sees this son who was made a absolute fool of himself coming back, rehearsing a speech, “Father I have sinned against heaven . . . “

Yeah, yeah, yeah. He doesn’t wait for any of that. He runs. He runs from his house, he runs through the village, past the women at the well, through the marketplace, he runs to his son and brings him back to himself.

This must be your way, this must be the way of the this church in any and other circumstance, to bring people to Christ, to his healing, to his acceptance. Most people in the world don’t care about ecumenical councils. They want to know, “Does God love me? Will he accept me? Will he forgive me?” And to those questions in our own actions and in the life of this church we say, “Yes, yes, yes.” That’s how we take heed that we don’t fall when we think we’ve made it — “We’re okay now. It’s going to be smooth sailing.” — No, it’s not going to be smooth sailing. On the Christian walk it is never smooth sailing. But there is — if we seek it — joy, peace, and love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, God is one, Amen.

~

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, August 17, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Fr. Michael Keiser.

Transcription by Katie Gleason.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, 2014 Homilies, Fr. Michael Keiser, Orthodox Homilies. Bookmark the permalink.

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