Thursday, May 31, 2007

Big, Small - It's All Relative

A local pizza parlor was offering free drinks with your pizza order on Sunday, so we stopped by after church for some pizza. I told the teenager, who looked like he was actually happy to be there, that I wanted a large Coke. He had to sadly tell me that only the small drinks are free. Since his fun-loving attitude was infecting my own mood, I said, "OK, then I'll have three small drinks in a large glass!" He grabbed a large glass, filled up a small glass three times and emptied it into the large glass, and handed it to me saying, "Here you go, sir - three free small drinks." Gotta love those creative teenagers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Act of Divine Love

Incense still hangs in the air as candle flames flicker in a moment of profound reverence as the priest approaches the altar offering prayers while holding the Body and Blood of Christ. The worship service, known as the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church, has been leading up to this eternal act of love – Christ being offered on the altar, and we, standing in the 21st century, are connected to this continuing act of God’s great love and forgiveness for all. We can do nothing but stand in awe. We can offer nothing except that which God has given us through Christ, so we offer up the Lord’s Prayer. Much has been said about this beautiful prayer, and I don’t believe I can add anything to the centuries of great quotes regarding it, but praying it in this context, in the context of intensely focused worship, I am changed. I identify deeply with what is happening at the altar. I can see clearly the place Christ has in this world and the next. I see heaven and earth meet and kiss at this table of divine love as the life-blood of the eternal God who created all things shares His life with me. The Lord’s prayer goes up in unison in anticipation of connecting to Christ’s Body and identifying God as our Father as Jesus also did. He is in heaven, and we on earth as we pray to have His will permeate this world as it does His world. The Bread of Life is set before us as we pray for our daily bread, and this Bread is offered on the altar as a slain Lamb, the crucified body of God Himself offered for our forgiveness. So too we pray that we forgive others in this divine light of dramatic revelation. As Christ destroyed the power of the evil one through His shed blood, we ask for deliverance from our temptations as well knowing He has already defeated our enemy. This is His kingdom, this is His glory and this is His power stunningly displayed and received in faith, at His altar, where heaven and earth meet and kiss in an act of divine love.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Struggle

I am certain I am not the first Christian in history to be confronted with a daunting challenge from God. The Bible is full of such characters, such as Noah being asked to build an ark in the middle of dry land, and Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac, or Moses challenging Pharaoh to free the Jewish slaves. I don’t even come close to these spiritual giants, but my challenge is nevertheless a formidable one. I feel the Lord has compelled me to become an Orthodox Christian. For some, this would not be that big of a deal. For me, it is the most challenging thing I could do in my walk with God. My greatest experiences with God have been in contemporary, mainstream, evangelical Protestant churches whose worship is free-flowing and who are part of the culturally Christian norm. My wife and I were married in such a church and have been training our children in that context. Now, what I feel is in obedience to God’s leading, I have radically changed the rules for all who know me. I am more than likely perceived as going off the deep end. I feel the pains of those biblical characters who by faith moved forward despite the reactions of those around them. I can say that what was once a fairly comfortable and contented walk with God has been ruffled by my decision to become Orthodox. I am being stretched by a different style of worship. I am being challenged by a different understanding of the faith. I am being tested in my relationship with my wife and children and with all of my friends as I move ahead in what I feel is the right thing to do. Yes, it is now more than ever a faith walk as I relearn nearly everything I thought I already knew. I am looking forward to how it all will pan out in the years ahead as I march ever forward in the divine light of God’s eternal life in Christ.