I MUST PreachFr. Barnabas Powell
At a recent clergy retreat we priests were confronted by our retreat leader with a stunning article from the January 2013 issue of Boston Magazine. It was entitled “Losing Our Religion” and the article begins by telling the story of a mother and her 9 year old son watching a procession of the faithful from the Greek Orthodox church across the street from their home on our Great and Holy Friday. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but I wanted to show you this part of the conversation between this 9 year old boy and his mother:
“What are they doing?” my son asked.
“It’s some kind of ritual,” I said, dimly realizing it must be their Good Friday.
“Why don’t we do that?”
“Because we’re not Greek Orthodox.”
“What are we?”
I thought of the candy and plastic trinkets I buy for him and his two sisters for Easter every year, of the baskets I place in their rooms as they sleep—and I realized that these things, along with my strained attempts at an indoor Easter-egg hunt in the afternoon (we don’t have a yard), are all that my children know about what is arguably the most sacred holiday in all of Christianity, the religion in which I was raised.
Outside our window, the priest read a long passage aloud, and the crowd sang something in response. After a few more prayers, the congregation made its way down the block and into the church.
Turning from the window, my son repeated his question: “So, what are we?”
I looked at him and felt my face flush.
In today’s Gospel Lesson our Lord Jesus is at Simon Peter’s home and He is doing what He normally does: He’s healing the sick and changing lives forever. After ministering to the people into the night, the Lord get’s up the next day and retreats to a “lonely place” but the people follow Him wanting more! read the whole story in Luke 4:38-44.
Here’s the portion of the passage I want to focus on this morning: And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them; but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:42-43
The faith always dwindles and becomes mere nostalgia when the people don’t hear the Truth proclaimed. We are reduced to repeating “old” words out of habit rather than the life-giving faithfulness of a purposeful Orthodoxy. To be sure, even faith as mere habit is a solid foundation to build upon, but the natural tendencies of we humans to not stay long in merely hab it mode before we see the next generation less faithful, and then the generation after that less faithful still. We need the natural practice of the Faith to be rekindled in our lives and that always occurs when the “fathers” of the faith follow the wise example of their Master and proclaim and call the faithful to a purposeful practice of the Faith.
Today, he who has ears to hear, let him hear: Our faith was meant to be a light to everyone around us. Our faith is meant to transform our daily lives so that those who wander, those who are “nothing” can find their true selves in the gift of our faith. You were meant to be a part of that Divine rescue mission to your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors so that never again will a 9 year old boy here these heartbreaking words from his mother: “We are nothing.”
O sweetest Lord Jesus, give us the grace and the faith to repent for our silence, for our timidity, for our fear that has brought us to the place where the glorious and blessings laden Orthodox Faith is hidden under a bushel and left our generation thinking of themselves as “nothing!” Forgive us Lord, and stir our hearts to repentance by Your preaching!
P.S. Thanks for everyone who joined me last night for Faith Encouraged LIVE. We had a great show! If you want to learn more about what our Orthodox Church teaches about the Rapture you can hear the archived recording of last nights’ program here: