What's missing from ministry (and why it's undermining the Church's witness)
1) Thank you!
2) I'm also recommending Dr. Geleris's book.
3) Re: your reflection - You've not even touched upon the most fearful part (for me, at least): that the Lord repeatedly declares that He will be the advocate/protector of the widowed, orphaned, poor, and stranger. When we ignore or harm those who have no earthly advocate, they receive the Heavenly Judge as their defense.
Outstanding, Steve. By way of agreeing, I can add a story about a Metropolitan in the GOA who pointedly told the flock in my parish that the Government was responsible for almsgiving. He was responding to a question about the lack of hospitals, medical aid, and formal assistance by the GOA to the unfortunate among us. Even though the GOA is by far the wealthiest of the Orthodox dioceses in America. Each parish does something or other, some usually through the Philoptochos. And that's about it.
If you haven’t read it, there’s an old article of Fr. Alexander Schmemann from 1965 in the St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 9 , #4 entitled “The Spiritual Problem” that you might enjoy. You should be able to find it in the Internet Archive. A little excerpt:
“In fact not only do we have nothing to satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of a human person, but we react to them as something almost abnormal, as disrupting the well-oiled routine of "parish activities" tailored for the average "member in good standing" and aimed at keeping him smiling, happy and "proud of Orthodoxy." In reality we encourage him in his secularism for the religion we preach to him is in no way incompatible with his "way of life," is literally a cheap religion: it does not cost much money and certainly not much effort.”
And another piece since I can’t resist quoting the spicier part:
“Finally the Orthodox parish became what it is today—an end in itself, an organization whose whole efforts and energies m-e [sic] directed at forwarding its own good—material stability, success, future security and a kind of self-pride. And it is no longer the parish that serves the Church, it is, indeed, the Church that is forced more and more to serve the parish, to accept it as its "goal" so that a priest, the last sign and representative of the "Church" in the "parish", is considered good when he entirely subordinates the interests of the Church to those of the' parish.”
It is. According to Fr. Clapsis', heresy is the "absolutization of any one truth."
Another home run, Steve. I'm always amazed at the equivocation of American preachers (it isn't only the Orthodox) around Jesus' clear teaching about wealth. Especially, some of the attempts to make it seem not so hard to thread a camel though a needle's eye are incredible.
Hi there! So glad you are writing about all these issues Steve. And perfect timing with this one. I was upset all week about our parish council asking for ridiculous amounts of money to cover expenses such as new wifi system for this year's festival when I cannot even afford to go there and get a plate....
So many people suffering with rising cost of everything right now. And we do absolutely nothing.
Finally emailed my priest and said I would like to do a food drive this Lent to help the local Baptist church with their amazing food pantry.My silent protest, haha:)
Wow. I don’t want to judge (and I hope I’m not), but just reading your reflection on the sermon you heard, it makes my heart ache. There is a very good book that came out last year, “Money and Salvation” by Dr Andrew Geleris. I have attended a couple of retreats led by him on the topic of almsgiving and the role of money in our salvation. Now I am trying to come up with a series of sermons and articles for my parish because, like you said, almsgiving is not even an ideal for us. And that includes, first of all me. Christians brought the whole empire to the Lord by the way they lived, not the way they talked. We need to rediscover that way of life. Thank you, Steve, for being one of the voices that tries to speak honestly and openly.
That’s so heartening to hear - simply to know we are not alone because there are so many poor messages on this Sunday in particular. We could quote St John Chrysostom saying “to amass wealth is to steal from the poor” and let that stand as the entire sermon.
In the Antiochian archdiocese we are making a focused effort to collect for relief to victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and that also could have been a message during the sermon this morning, but we didn’t hear it.
If we are not talking about the practical ways in which we serve the poor, and only talk about the Last Judgment in a theoretical sense, aren’t we saying that we are only “theoretically” saved? And how are the young adults in our churches supposed to find their path to salvation if it’s only a theory and not a practice? I was asked exactly that by a young man just today…