The Bitter Pill That Heals

mp3 Audio: 2015_05_02-Fr_Joseph-The_Bitter_Pill_That_Heals.mp3

This lesson was taught by Father Joseph Gleason on Saturday evening, May 2, 2015, at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services

Christ is Risen!
-Indeed He is Risen!

Oh, my. This is the eve of the Third Sunday after Pascha. So that means we’re still only halfway into Paschaltide. We’re about halfway towards the Ascension.

The Right Medications

There’s something I want everybody to imagine:

How many here have ever worked in or near a hospital? Half the hands are going to go up. I want you to imagine that all of your patients have been wonderful to deal with. It’s just the work that’s hard, right? The people are just cool all the time, right? Not really? Some of them are difficult?

So I want you to imagine a patient that’s more on the difficult side. You know exactly what you need to do. You know what needs to be done, but the patient is just difficult. You go in the room, you look at the chart, and you say, “Okay, this patient needs some blood pressure medications.”

You go over to the patient, and the patient has sneaked in some medications that they want to take on their own because they don’t trust the hospital to take care of things. So you see the patient just taking a couple of Excedrin. Okay, they took some headache medication. Okay? But, you know, that has aspirin in it, so you know that’s going to mess with the blood a little bit.

And you look, and you say, “What are you doing?” You see that they’ve also popped a couple of diet pills. So, okay, now the heart rate is going to go up a little bit. It’s going to do some things a little bit there.

Then you look, and they just took a swig of Nyquil. And you know that Nyquil has alcohol in it and all kinds of other stuff, and there’s Tylenol in that. You’re just saying, “Okay, look. You’re not supposed to be taking any of that. You don’t have a cold, so you don’t need the Nyquil. You don’t even have a headache, so why are you even taking Excedrin? You need to take your blood pressure medication. You obviously like taking medication, so just take this.”

“No. I’m not taking my blood pressure meds.”
“Why not?”
“I… I don’t have a problem with blood pressure.”
“You don’t have a headache either, and you just took some Excedrin.”
“That’s why I don’t have a headache because I’m always taking Excedrin.”
“But you don’t even have a cold. There’s no congestion.”
“That’s why I always take Nyquil. It keeps me from ever getting a cold.”
“Look. Just take. . .”
“I’m not taking that. I don’t want that.”

Is this person’s blood pressure going to get better because they took all of this other medication? I mean, they’re taking three times as much medication as the guy in the next hospital bed over. Why isn’t this one going to get better? He’s not taking the medicine he needs.

So you get very frustrated with this patient. You pass it off to another nurse. You go to the next person. You say, “Okay. This is going to be a lot easier. Now, this person – this person – they’ve been complaining all day of a really bad headache. So I’m going to give them 800mg of ibuprofen.”

You pull it out, and they say, “I’m not taking that.”
“What do you mean you’re not taking it? You said you had a headache.”
“I’m not taking that because that’s not going to help my headache. I’m going to take these.”

And you look, and it’s a couple of blood pressure pills. So they pop some blood pressure medication.

You say, “That’s not going to help your headache.”
“I’m not taking the ibuprofen. I’m not going to do it.”

How frustrating would it be to you as a doctor, or as a nurse, or as a medical assistant if you had all of this medication, and you took it to each patient, and every patient was willing to take lots of medications except the med for whatever they were sick with? Would that be frustrating to you? Would that be bizarre? Would that be weird?

Then don’t ever go into the ministry, because that’s what the ministry is all about.

The Church is a Hospital

All of us, myself included, we’re all sick. Right? The Church is a hospital. You’ve heard this before. But think it through.

Take pride for example, which is the root of every sin. Have you ever heard the saying that arrogance and pride are that strange sickness that makes everyone sick except for the person that has it? Have you ever heard that? It’s true. Right? If somebody has really pronounced arrogance, if they’re just full of themselves, that person himself is not upset about it. Is he? He doesn’t even notice it. He makes everybody else sick. Everybody says, “Man, that person needs some more humility.” And what’s the last thing that person’s going to want help with? His pride.

You might get him to admit he needs help with this, or that, or the other. He might enjoy studying the Bible. He might enjoy doing all these other things. He might do prostrations. He might do Bible studies. He might take the sacraments. But that? Oh boy.

But it’s not just that sin. It’s every sin that’s like that.

Calvin, if I walk up to you, and I say, “Calvin, I’ve got to tell you something.” Now, imagine that you haven’t joined the Church just yet. You’re still looking into Orthodoxy. Okay? And I say, “Calvin, I’ve got to shoot straight with you. If you come into the Orthodox Church, no homosexual activity.” How difficult would that be for you? Would you be able to go along with that? No problem? Okay. That wouldn’t be a stretch. Okay. Well.

[There is laughter.]

What if I said, “In the Orthodox Church, we’ve got to warn you, you have to be faithful to your husband. Sorry, but you’re stuck with him the rest of your life. That’s just the way it’s going to be”? Would you have said, “Oh darn! I’m not going to become Orthodox”? No. Not at all.

Denise, you’re looking into Orthodoxy. You’re trying to decide, and somebody says, “Now, there’s a lot of stuff you’ve got to believe if you’re going to be Orthodox, a lot of stuff you’re going to have to believe. One of them is that Jesus is God! He’s not just good. He’s not just a prophet. He’s not just wonderful. He’s God! He created the whole world.” Would you be cool with that? Is that one of the barriers to coming into Orthodoxy? Not really. Alright?

These are easy things. And that’s the way most of us are because nobody is sinful in every single way.

I know a person, just chatted with her yesterday, who has a real problem with the doctrine of the Trinity. For her, that would be a hurdle to overcome before she could come into the Orthodox Church, before she could become fully Orthodox.

There are some people out there who have a real problem with the Church’s stance rejecting gay marriage. They can say, “Man, I could become Orthodox. I could join the Church. I could believe everything the Church teaches. But that. . . I just. . .” They don’t mind the icons. They don’t mind the prayers to Mary. They don’t mind the incense, and the Liturgy, and the deity of Christ, but, man, they just really think that we’re mean to gays.

That’s the way the devil gets us. It’s very rare that he makes us sick at every single point. It’s the rare person you meet who is simultaneously an atheist, and a homosexual, and has children but doesn’t take care of them at all, and is lazy. I mean, you know, there [are] a lot of hard-working people that are atheists. There are a lot of Muslims who love their wives and children.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

What’s my point in all this? My point in all of this is: A lot of the doctrine of the Orthodox Church and a lot of the medicine of the Orthodox Church doesn’t bother people for the most part.

I could go to almost any Protestant and show them a bunch of things that the Orthodox Church believes and they’d say, “Hey! I believe that too. That’s good stuff.”

I could go to a Muslim and pick out certain things that the Orthodox Church believes and show it to them and say, “Oh! I believe that too. That’s good stuff.”

I could go to a Roman Catholic and show them a lot of things that the Orthodox Church teaches and say, “Oh! I believe that stuff too. That’s wonderful! Let’s all be brothers and sisters and get along.”

What makes you Orthodox, fully Orthodox, is when you accept everything. You say, “But none of us –  unless you have reached theosis and uncreated light is coming out of your fingertips – none of us are there yet. Are we?” Is there any one of us that, perfectly, has got our heart, and our mind, and our beliefs, and our practices fully Orthodox? Are we there yet? Have we arrived? I haven’t. God help me if I stop trying. God help me if I don’t try to do better tomorrow at it than I am today. But, in all honesty, no, I have not arrived yet. I have a lot more climbing to do before I reach that point, and that’s the nice way to put it.

If you haven’t arrived yet, what that means is that some sin remains. Some sin remains! [Does] anybody in this room deny that? Do we need to argue that point? Does everybody recognize that, when you look in the mirror, you look at somebody that has sinned over the past 24 hours?

Now, it would be a heresy if I said that that’s unavoidable. It’s avoidable. You can stop! You don’t have to keep sinning. But with most of us, God doesn’t show you every dirty closet in your life all at once and overwhelm you. He goes [through] one door at a time. You invited Him into your house. He’s been cleaning out your house and blessing your house, but there [are] still a few rooms He hasn’t gotten to yet. When He gets to those rooms, it’s going to be like a mini conversion experience all over again.

Can any of you relate to what I’m talking about? What was your conversion experience like to begin with? Did you look at your life and say, “Man, it’s squeaky clean, so God let me in!” No. You looked at your life and you saw, “Oh! I hate to admit it, but there is some bad stuff here. Some of it . . . I know it’s bad, but I kind of like it, and I don’t want to give it up.”

Then you’re convicted. You pray. You decide that you love Christ more than you love your sins that you’ve given up. It’s washed away in baptism. You go to confession. You take the Eucharist. You’re chrismated. You get all these different sacraments [including] the sacrament of healing. As time goes by, you’re already in the Orthodox Church, and then, you realize, “I just. . . There’s still a certain sin I’m dealing with. I need to get rid of that. Oh! But I like that! I don’t want to get rid of that one.”

Then you decide, “Okay, I love Christ more than I love this sin. So, yes, Lord, you can clean that one out too.” Then He goes on to the next room. Can anybody relate to what I’m saying? Is this your experience? Is this your walk, or is this just me? Is this everybody? Okay.

That being the case, even though we’re already Orthodox, even though we already do believe in Christ, even though we already do believe in the Teachings of the Church, we shouldn’t be surprised when the old man tries to pop up whenever we’re dealing with some new sin that we haven’t fully repented of yet. Maybe up until now we didn’t even know it was a sin. But that next closet, that next door of your life is opened up, and, all f the sudden, it’s pain again. It’s like, “Am I going to have to change my beliefs on that? Am I going to have to stop doing that? Am I going to have to sacrifice that?” It’s just like the person at the hospital that’s taking all these different medications except the one that they need.

What do I mean by that? Let’s say you have somebody that struggles with the sin of lust. Now, for whatever reason, let’s say that God has cleaned out some other rooms in that person’s life first. Okay? So that person used to be completely selfish with their money [and] wouldn’t tithe a penny. But the Holy Spirit convicted them, and they submitted their finances to God. Now they tithe regularly. Every check that comes in, they’re giving some back to God because they recognize that that’s His.

Well, that’s medication. That’s humility of finances. Let’s say that’s written on the little pill: Financial Humility. So they’re taking that medication. Okay, they’re taking that medication.

Let’s say another sin that they used to deal with was gluttony. They weighed 350 pounds [and] had five meals a day. They never stopped stuffing their face. They realized that was a sin. It was hard work, but over a couple of years, they dropped most of that weight. They’re down to a decent size now. They faithfully keep the fasts. They’re not perfect yet, but they’re making good traction on this. They’re really doing well at food humility. So there’s medicine number two: Food Humility. Alright I’m taking that medicine.

And there’s other medicine that’s more obvious like the Eucharist. There’s a medicine that you take every week. Now, I’m taking that medicine. You take the medicine of the sacrament of confession. You take the medicine of the sacrament of healing. You take the medicine of daily family prayer. There’s another pill that you’re taking daily: Praying together with you family in the presence of God.

So you’re taking all these medications. And then [screeching noise], it’s like one of those terribly squeaky doors in an old haunted house. It’s so dark, and dusty, and musty, and you’re so scared to even step into the room because you don’t know what’s going to jump out at you and get you. You look into that dark and filthy room, and it has all sort of unspeakable, filthy pictures, and videos, and activities in it.

The Lord says, “You’ve got to clean this room out. In fact, you’ve got to let Me clean it out. This is horrible, and, if it stays like this, I can’t live here.”

You say, “No, no, no, no! Don’t go in that room! Any other room in the house. Don’t go in that room. Don’t take away that mess. Don’t take away that website. Don’t take away those movies. Those songs? Don’t take away those songs! And also, the. . . You know the. . . Well, I don’t really talk about it, but don’t take that away either.”

“It’s got to be cleaned out, or I’m leaving. The Holy Spirit can’t live in a house that has this in it.”

We all know what the right answer is. Don’t we? The right answer is [to] let Him clean it out. We also know what the frequent answer is. The frequent answer is, “Can, can you come back tomorrow? Can you just help me clean out this other room? Look, look Lord! Look at how many other rooms of my house are cleaner than the house next door! In fact, look at all the houses in town. Nobody has as many clean rooms as I do.”

“Yeah, but this room needs to be cleaned.”

“Yeah. Okay, I know it needs to be cleaned. So, I’ll tell you what. We’ll compromise. I’ll throw away these magazines, and I’ll get rid of these movies, and the rest of it. . . We’ll wait on that.”

“The whole room needs to be cleaned out.”

And it’s like pulling teeth! The person is taking their spiritual medicine in about eight or ten different ways. They’re popping all these pills. But the pill of chastity, the pill of purity – oh! That’s the one pill they don’t want to take. And guess what? The one pill they don’t want to take is what? The one they need.

But it’s not just lust, is it? For some people, that scary, filthy, dusty room that nobody gets to go into, the one room they hope Jesus will just leave alone is called the Room of Obedience to Parents. “Yeah, Lord. I’ll go to church every day, pray every day, follow the fasts, take the Eucharist, read my Bible. But are You saying if Mom tells me to clean my room, I’ve got to do it now and without an attitude? I just don’t want to take that pill! The medicine of obedience, ugh!”

They’ll take all the other medicine, but they just don’t want to take that one medication. What’s the thing about that one medication? That’s the one they need!

For some people, it’s “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.”   It doesn’t just say “Love your wife in the kitchen and in the bedroom.” It says, “Love your wife as Christ loved the Church.” How much personal sacrifice and discomfort was Christ willing to go through for the Church?

C.S. Lewis said that the marriage that most perfectly mimics the picture of Christ and the Church is the one which feels the most like [a] crucifixion.[1] That wouldn’t go over real well on an A&E special about a wedding. Would it? But the marriage in which the husband sacrifices himself for life, to the bitter end, suffers, and finally even sheds his blood in death just to save his wife: That’s what we’re called to, folks!

So, if all you have to do is go to work a measly 40-80 hours a week to put food on the table, or all you have to do is fix some plumbing, or help out with some dishes and dirty diapers, or spend lots of time having heart-to-heart talks with your wife until you help get her on the straight and narrow path spiritually . . . Whatever it is, it’s nothing compared to what Christ did for us, and that’s what we’re called to do.

There are a lot of men who are willing to study the Bible for thousands of hours, but they’re not willing to sit and have a loving conversation with their wives for one hour. There are men who are willing to pray every day and take the Eucharist every week and be in church twice a week, but they won’t cancel their bowling night or their hunting trip so that they can hold their wife’s hand, and speak kindly to her, and treat her like a queen. Show her that she is still loved by you. You can take all the medicine in the world except the one pill you need to be taking.

There’s another room in the house called “Wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord.” It doesn’t say, “Submit to them as unto your boss or your job.” It doesn’t say, “Submit to them as unto somebody that you happen to agree with.” It says, “Submit to him as if he’s God.” If you think I’m putting too fine a point on it, read 1 Peter 3, it says, “Even if he’s an unbeliever,” in other words, even if he’s a spiritual loser, you call him lord. If you don’t believe me, read 1 Peter 3. You submit to your husband even if he’s not a spiritual leader at all, even if he doesn’t believe in God. Do like Sarah did, calling her husband lord.

Have you ever met any ladies that need that room in their house cleaned out? In this country, they’re not hard to find.

One that I’ve been wrestling with with somebody that is not here tonight. . . It has to do with the relationship of the Orthodox Church with other churches. He says he loves Orthodoxy. He loves this faith. He thinks it’s the fullness of the faith. But it just rakes like fingernails on a chalkboard. It makes him want to scream whenever you suggest that anybody outside the Church is not really a Christian, that we not only shouldn’t be but really can’t be in unity with Roman Catholics, Nazarenes, Wesleyans, Pentecostals.

His argument is, “Look. They love Jesus. They believe in Jesus the same as we do. They have the basics. We have the basics. Now,” he said, “I’m not saying that they’re right about everything. No. Our doctrine’s better. It really is. We really should baptize babies, and have icons, and have incense, and have bishops, and priests, and deacons, and all of this stuff that we do. It’s wonderful. It’s truth. It’s the fullness of the faith! But the Protestants and the Catholics – they still have the basics. They still have the minimum needed. Why can’t we just lay down our arms, lay down our shields and our swords, and just love each other? Why can’t we just realize that we’re all Christians, we’re all one church, we’re all one faith, and just pray for God to bring unity to the Church?”

Some of you know which guy I’m talking about. I love him. I think he’s a good guy. And if it remotely mattered what I liked or what I wanted, I’d just agree with him. If my druthers counted for anything, I would just agree with him and say, “Yeah. That sounds way better to me.” Honestly, Henry David, wouldn’t it be easier to talk to your family if you could just tell them, “Look, I go to my church. I think they do stuff better, but your church is fine too.” If you could say that honestly, wouldn’t that make things just a little bit easier?

[response unclear]

Exactly. You nailed it. I mean, I wasn’t going to put words in your mouth, but. . . It would make things easier, but then you wouldn’t be Orthodox anymore. The very moment you say that, you cease to hold to everything the Orthodox Church teaches.

Ironically (I love irony. I don’t love ironing shirts, but I love irony!). . . The irony of this is that I am going to quote a Protestant pastor, something that my dad used to quote years ago. Have any of you ever heard of Uncle Bud Robinson? Now, he’s heterodox. He’s not Orthodox. I’m not saying that he is, but he said something that’s true. He said something that was quotable. He had a really bad lisp. He talked “like thith” all the time, but he was very famous about a hundred years ago. And he’d preach whole sermons “jutht like thith.” But people would really listen to him he was very [engaging].

Some people were talking to Uncle Bud Robinson saying, “We just need to get together with other people. We just need to have unity.” And you can get that, right? At Protestant churches, don’t you hear people saying, “Oh, we just need to stop calling the Mormons heretics, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses heretics. We just, we all love the Lord. The Mormons, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Nazarenes, and the Orthodox – we all just need to have a nice bit schmooze-fest. We need to have unity. Let’s just get together and put our differences aside.”

Anyway, do you know what Uncle Bud Robinson said? He said, “You can get two cats,” (you know, meow?), “you can get two cats, and you can tie their tails together and throw them over a clothesline, and you’ll have union, but you sure won’t have unity.”[2] Now, you tell me: What would those two cats do to each other once you tie their tails together and hang them over a clothesline?

[Someone says, “That would be mean!”]

Yeah. It would be very mean. I don’t recommend doing this. Do not try this at home.

But think about it. If we took. . . What is it? Beanie and Lightning? I just saw one of those cats chase the other one up about twenty feet in a tree in our backyard, and they were like this far from each other. They were just clawing at each other.

So, if you tied their tails together and threw them over a clothesline, would you have union? They would be together. That’s about as close together as you can get. Their tail is tied to another cat. But you would not have unity. They would tear each other apart.

So it is when you take Orthodox doctrine and Roman Catholic doctrine, or Orthodox doctrine and Nazarene doctrine, or Orthodox doctrine and Pentecostal doctrine, or Orthodox doctrine and Anglican doctrine. They’re fundamentally opposed. It’s like matter and antimatter. You can’t put it together in the same room without – BOOM! And I’m not just talking about the people. I’m talking about the people. I’m talking about the beliefs themselves, the faith itself.

Is it possible, at the same time, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son? Can those things both be true at the same time – a true teaching about the Trinity and who God is, and a false, heretical teaching about the Trinity and who God is? Can we just match those up and said, “Oh, it’s true. It’s fine”?

I have a friend of mine who I think is in his fifties. He’s a Nazarene, and he has a friend who really, really likes him. She doesn’t believe in the Trinity. For him, this is one roadblock. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know. I think things may happen, but the Trinity thing is a little rough for him to get by.

On the phone with him, I’ve said, “Modalism is a heresy. Her rejection of the true teaching of the Trinity: That’s bad. That’s wrong. It’s serious.”
He said, “I know. I know.”
I said, “And as you’re talking to her about it, just as hard as you are on her about the importance of getting the doctrine of the Trinity right, you need to be just as hard on yourself because the church you’re in does not teach the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.”

He’s a Nazarene pastor, and the Nazarene church teaches the same doctrine of the Trinity that the Roman Catholic Church teaches which is not the same Trinity that is taught by the Orthodox Church. [They include] the filioque. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Now you say, “How can just a little thing like that make that big of a difference? I mean I paint my car red. You paint your car red and blue.  What’s the big deal?” We’re talking about the origination, or the source if you will. And it’s much easier if we start with Jesus.

Who is the source of Jesus? Who has begotten the Son? The Father, right? And we know that giving birth is something that a mother does, but begetting is something that a father does. So a father begets children. But instead of focusing on that, I am going to turn over to the mother just to make a parallel that we can focus on.

You know that a mother gives birth to a child. Right? Alright. Ruth, did you give birth to this subdeacon over here? He lived inside your body for months, and then you gave birth to him. Do you remember that day? It’s painful at first, but then it’s awesome. Isn’t it? It’s just an unbelievably amazing thing. What if we just made a tiny change in that day? I don’t mean like change your fingernail polish or change your hairstyle. Just a little change. Instead of Jeremy being born from your body, instead of you giving birth to Jeremy, just a minor change. That day, what if, you and Calvin gave birth to Jeremy? What if he came out of both of your bodies at the same time?

Can you imagine what that would be like? Honestly think. Can you imagine how that could even be? Can you . . .  How many years have you been a nurse? Since 1968. Have you seen some weird things in your time? Have you ever seen that? Have you ever seen a baby come out of a woman and a man at the same time? It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? That’s not a minor change, is it?

How different would our entire universe have to be for it to be normal for a human baby to come out of its mother’s and father’s body at the same time so that, whenever you give birth to a child, it comes out of the mother and the father? It would just be a different world altogether. It would be a whole different society. We would be diffeent creatures. It’s just so much of a radical change that we can’t even imagine it. Right?

So going from, “I give birth to my son” to, “I and my husband give birth to my son” – those are two radically different things. As a parallel, would you agree that it would be a radically different thing if we say, instead of saying, “Jesus is the only-begotten Son of the Father;” what if we change that to, “Jesus is the only-begotten Son of the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Holy Spirit both have begotten Jesus”? Do you think that’s a small, insignificant change? Or would you agree that would be a huge change to our faith?

So it is with the Holy Spirit. It’s a major, significant change to switch from saying, “The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father” to saying, “The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.” By parallel, can you see what a radical difference that is? It matters.

Another thing: How important is the Eucharist to you? Do you just say, “Eh. I take it or leave it.” Everybody here, is that pretty much your attitude towards the Eucharist? “Eh, I take it if I can. It’s kind of nice.”

[response unclear]

Yeah. You’re exactly right. It says in Scripture [that] it’s such a big deal that if you partake of the Eucharist unworthily, God may make you sick or put you to death because of it [cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30]. But if you partake worthily, how big of a deal is it? What did St. Ignatius call it? The medicine of immortality.[3] He used the hospital analogy too, the medical analogy. He said [that] The Eucharist is the medicine of immortality which is the cause of us not to die.

Is it a little thing, or is it a huge, enormous, big thing if a church says, “That’s not the Body and Blood of Christ. It’s just bread and juice, and it just reminds us of Jesus, and, you know, you really don’t need it every week. We’re just going to have it, oh, I don’t know, three or four times a year. Three or four times a year, we’ll take the bread and juice, and we’ll think about Jesus. But it doesn’t really do anything. It’s just bread and juice.”

Do you realize what kind of blasphemy that is? And it’s ironic once again. In their case, they’re actually right. It is just bread and juice because they don’t have a priesthood. In the Orthodox Church, it’s the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Nazarene church, in the Pentecostal church, in the Baptist church, it really is just bread and juice because there’s no priest there to pray for the Holy Spirit to come down and make it into anything else.

When you have gutted the worship of God from the Eucharist, what’s left?

Think about it. What if I said, “I have an announcement for everyone. From now on, we’re still going to have incense, and icons, and chanting, and I’ll do preaching every Sunday. But, just FYI, from now on, we’re never, ever going to have the Eucharist”? How many of you would be here week after week for that? But isn’t this way closer than driving to Royalton or Evansville? Why would you go that much farther for church? Are you telling me you don’t like the rest of the service here?

[Subdeacon Jeremy: I’m not saying… No, I’m not telling you that.]

You’re saying, just that one little tiny thing. I mean, how big a part of the service . . . Honestly, how long does it take for everybody to come forward?

[Subdeacon Jeremy: Five minutes.]

Five minutes. I’m only going to change just five minutes. That’s all.

[response unclear]

Yeah, but we can go through that, but just, if I remove that five minutes, and nobody actually eats the Eucharist, you’re telling me you would leave this church and drive twice as far just to get the Eucharist?

[many responses at once, affirming that they would do so.]

It’s not the only medicine that we receive here because it is medicinal to hear the Psalms, to hear the preaching, and to have the fellowship. But if you remove the Eucharist, you remove the central medicine. The main thing that we come for is to eat the Body and Blood of Christ. And are we going to go to an Assembly of God church, or a Nazarene church, or a Baptist church and say, “Oh sure! You have gutted Christianity of its central act of worship, but [it’s] no big deal. We’re all still basically the same”

“But we still believe in Jesus.”
“Really? Do you believe Jesus when He says that unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you? ‘He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.’ You say you believe in Jesus. Do you believe Him when He says that?”
“Well, that was just a metaphor for faith in Christ. That’s all that was.”
“Oh. Okay.”

I’ve only scratched the surface. I’ll leave it to you to go farther with this. I’ve only scratched the surface, and I’m not going to keep you here another hour. But that’s how long it would take. That’s honestly how long it would take.

Does anybody remember Subdeacon Jeremy’s message [The Original Gift]? The Orginal Gift versus the box full of rocks. It’s not just some minor things that we differ with with the Catholics and that we differ with with the Protestants. It’s fundamental after fundamental after fundamental after basic after basic after central thing one after the other. It’s like, “We’ll get rid of that. We’ll get rid of that. We don’t believe in this. We don’t believe in that.”

Just one more example that I can’t leave out: If you’re going to be Orthodox, is it kind of important for you to believe in the seven Ecumenical Councils? Can you just say, “Eh, the seven Ecumenical Councils – they’re okay, but . . .”? Is it okay to do that? No.

According to the 7th Ecumenical Council, what did the 7th Ecumenical Council in the Orthodox Church say about people who believe that Jesus is God, who believe the He became incarnate as a man, who believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as taught at the Council of Nicaea, who believe that we should have bishops, priests and deacons and apostolic succession from the Apostles, people who believe that Scripture is the inspired word of God, people who believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ? So far, who does it sound like I’m describing? All this is spot on, right? Spot on. Central basics. They believe all of that, but they just aren’t really big into the icons. That’s it. That’s the only thing.

“I’ll take everything else. I believe that Jesus became incarnate, that He is God, that He’s the only way to Heaven. I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. I believe in bishops, priests, and deacons. I believe in the Eucharist being the actual Body and Blood of Christ. I believe in baptism of regeneration. I believe my sins are washed away in the waters of baptism. I believe that, when I am chrismated, the Holy Spirit is imparted and goes from being outside of me to actually dwelling within me. I believe all of that, but I just don’t want to have anything to do with the icons. I don’t want to bow to them. I don’t want to kiss them. I think it’s wrong to ever burn incense before an icon. I don’t want to see or kiss a relic. That’s the only thing I’m not comfortable with.”

According to the 7th Ecumenical Council, what does the Orthodox Church say about those people?

Anathema. Cursed. Thrown out of the Church. Recognized as being outsiders, outside of the Church, enemies of Christ.

They agreed with us on every single point of doctrine except one. The only difference was that they just said, “You know what? We don’t want the icons. We think it’s wrong to burn incense to them. We think it’s wrong to venerate them, kiss them. We think it’s wrong to honor relics.” And for that one thing, the Ecumenical Council says they are anathema, cursed, outside the Church.

We have a couple of options with that. We can accept it, and that might be a hard pill to swallow. I know it is for that friend of mine who I’ve been talking to. But whatever pill is the hardest to swallow is probably the medicine you need to be taking. Whatever part of us is sinful, whatever part of us is not yet fully Orthodox, that’s the very part of us that is still clinging to our sin. And that’s the very part of us that is not going to want to take that medicine.

At that very moment that somebody tries to get us to take that medicine, we’re going to point to the other fifteen or twenty pills that we’re already taking, and we’re going to say, “Oh! No, no no! We’re fine. We’re already taking lots of medicine. There’s already lots of rooms in our house that are clean. I’m already taking my Nyquil, and my Excedrin, and my Tums. I’m taking some cough syrup.” Yeah, but you need blood pressure pills. You need this medicine right here because it deals with that sin right there.

So, whatever it is – if you still struggle with lust; if you still struggle with loving your spouse; if you still struggle with submitting to you spouse; if you still struggle with obeying your parents; if you still struggle with gluttony; (if you still struggle with he’s not here tonight, but) if you still struggle with this idea that the Catholics, and the Baptists, and the Nazarenes, that they’re not one with us, that they’re not part of the Church with us. Whatever medicine you’re having trouble taking is probably the medicine that you need most, and you can’t get out of it by taking ten other kinds of medication.

You can’t get out of cleaning that room in your house just by pointing to all the other rooms in your house that are clean. If Christ has come to this closet, and this closet is filthy, you’ve got to let Him clean it out. You’ve got to let Him give you this medicine.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen


[1] “The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church and give his life for her (Eph. V, 25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is – in her own mere nature – least lovable. For the Church has not beauty but what the Bride-groom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence. As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs. He is a King Cophetua who after twenty years still hopes that the beggar-girl will one day learn to speak the truth and wash behind her ears.”

Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. Glasgow: Collins, 1973.

[2] A common Irish and Southern American colloquial expression.

No source was located for Uncle Bud Robinson using this expression, but this type of colloquialism is characteristic of his preaching style.

[3] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians. Edited by C. Douglas. Honeyford. 1933.

This lesson was given by Father Joseph Gleason on Saturday, May 2, 2015, at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services. Dormition Text Services provides full service secretarial support (including transcription and publishing services) to Orthodox clergy and parish communities.

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 Defending the Faith, Ecumenism, Filioque, Filioque, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Heresies, Humility, Miscellaneous, Pride. Bookmark the permalink.

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