22 September 2008

Walking on water--more thoughts, on my 52nd birthday

Our parish is looking at buying land for a permanent temple. God has blessed us with a wonderful building; but we sit on less than an acre and that's not enough room to do the things we need to do (e.g. have a cemetery).

Land costs money. Some can be tempted to shrink from the challenge--especially in this time of financial crisis. But I keep reminding the people, "God made the land. If he wants us to have it, he will provide the green paper to buy it. Just seek his will." (I'm not really talking to them. I'm talking to myself.)

Our generation has feared poverty; we have built all sorts of levees to protect ourselves from it. But the sea of our passions and greed has overtopped the levees, and only God knows whether we are about to face a Katrina-like deluge of trouble.
Those who contemplate coming to the Church must face squarely the issue of how we value money and security--and anything else--over against truth and the will of God. Last evening the wife of another priest told me of a family that was contemplating the Church. She said they told her they were subjected to horrific demonic attack. They pondered pulling away, returning to the place they were coming from. But they kept praying, "Lord, have mercy. Help us." And it was made clear to them, "Don't worry; you are not alone."
A dear bishop once told some Lutherans, "You must not impoverish your family to become Orthodox." It is true that the Orthodox Church has, for those who come, much in the way of good will, but little in the way of resources. But I would make bold to amend that bishop's words.
When it is not clear to a man that the Orthodox Church is the truth, he is not yet ready to come. He would be foolish to put family at risk in such a case.

But when it is clear, when the questions have been answered to such a degree that his heart says, "Yes, this is the Church"--then truth tips the scales. He may wait for a time, to try to help spouse and children come to the same conclusion. But once it is clear, he must obey the truth. "Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice." (St. Mark the Ascetic) This is the true theology of the cross--not the theoretical, but the practical denying of oneself and taking up suffering freely and willingly for Christ's sake. Surrender to Truth is made without terms and conditions. "I will follow you, but first..." someone said, and Truth replied, "Let the dead bury their dead..."

It takes no faith to walk on water when it's turned to ice.

That is why I ask your prayers, all you (?both of you) who read these scribblings. I am Orthodox in name. I wish to be Orthodox in truth--to abandon my thoughts, my will, my dreams, and follow after Jesus Christ. Please, in God's name, pray for my conversion.


Dixie said...

First of all, dear Father...congratulations on your 52nd birthday. May God grant you many, many more!

Your post brings up so much for discussion...too much for a combox...so I'll have to be selective and brief.

Our parish is really struggling financially. It is very stressful and most difficult. But we pray and our prayers are answered. It probably isn't a bad thing that we are struggling. God uses that for our good as a community...to learn to love in the midst of the struggle and to trust in Him. And I am pretty certain if anyone could have foreseen this future...our building would not have been built and we would have been the poorer for it.

But I have heard more than one spritual father give the caution to wait about something if it would mean the person/family would become a financial burden to someone else.

So many of these things are situation dependent and the spiritual father is aware of the situation and can give good counsel but I don't think there is a one size fits all solution...not that you are suggesting there is.

I know of a situation where my priest was given the same instruction...to not become a financial burden to another. He was in seminary at the time and believed he was being called to sell everything he owned to give to the poor...and of course that would mean he would have to leave seminary. Fortunately...the dean got wind of his plan and the rest is history.

How can we know if it is time to face the challenge in faith or be patient and hold back? Well, that's why we have you spiritual fathers to turn to!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Thanks, Dixie.

There is, of course, a third option between remaining where one is, and becoming a burden to others: to work oneself, to act with all deliberate haste to obey what one knows to be right.

Struggle isn't bad. To a large extent, it's the point. "Violent men take the Kingdom by force."

Dixie said...

Oh yes...remaining where one is...good point. You know, from what I have read...and I have tried to read much on the subject...this is what Jaroslav Pelikan suggested he had done in error. I can't help but think once he wriggled himself free of that stagnant position, he regretted not having done it sooner. Those of us who have a little age on us tend to be sensitive about time lost.

And struggle certainly isn't bad...we just don't like it!!!