Orthodox Christian Faith and Our Culture

I think there is a fear (and a legitimate one) that the Orthodox faith will be coopted by people for political purposes. The Orthodox faith tends to restrain and anchor liberals among us and kick conservatives in the pants. It is not something that can be tamed to fit in one political camp or the other. There are horrors that are justified by both extremes of our political spectrum.

We need to have an Orthodox conversation about the things that are done in our society. We should be a prophetic voice to our culture. Instead we are remixing various protestant criticisms of our culture. Thus we find ourselves in camps where we condemn one kind of sin and find justification for why another is not worth condemning. By re-running poorly thought out heterodox issues that were really designed to polarize our political landscape (yes, deliberately designed) we have lost our unique calling of mankind to be transformed and reflect the Image of God in Whom we are created. — Fr. Steven Clark

Rich Young Man comes to Christ

Sermon 12th Sunday after Pentecost


AMEN, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

A rich young man comes to Jesus with a mixture of honest seeking and with a certain amount of pride. He sees the Kingdom of God as something he can earn through a good act of his own. Jesus cuts him short and points him to the 10 commandments. In Mark’s account of this, the young man comes and kneels before Jesus when he asks this question.

Jesus in pointing him to the decalogue invites him to look closer at his life: You shall not kill — but who have we killed through slander? through dispiriting others in our desire to win? in our ignoring the needs of the afflicted? You shall not commit adultery — but though we may be faithful to our spouse, have we been unfaithful to friends, to our commitments, unfaithful to God? How have we let our lust for power wound others? You shall not steal — but how have we taken from others, joy, fellowship, or even the basic needs that we enjoy and they may be in want of? You shall not bear false witness — but how have we deceived others; how have we deceived ourselves? How have we dishonoured those in our family? How have we not loved our neighbour as ourselves?

Though this young man is honestly seeking, he is not able to honestly looking at himself. But even though he is not able to be honest with himself, he senses a lack in himself. Jesus has pointed him to the commandments that help us not destroy our lives. Interestingly He says “if you would ENTER life”, not if you would HAVE life; for life is not in the law. The Law is an introduction to, an instruction in life, but it is not that Life itself. Though the young man is not able to look at himself honestly and thoroughly; he cannot search himself with rigour; yet, he still senses, and confesses his lack.

St. Augustine here notes the question implied: “What good does it do you to follow the Law, and you do not follow Me?

The young man deemed himself not to be a thief, yet at his young age he had amassed great wealth. His desire to do good conflicted with his desire to hold on to his goods.

We are all here today as a statement of our desire to follow Christ. When we sing the Symbol of Faith: “I believe…” in both Greek and Slavonic it is Faith as a verb: “I Faith in one God…” It is not enough that we have a rational structure about God; we must follow Him.

The young man goes away sorrowfully. Part of him wants to follow the path Jesus has set for him. But he is unable, or unwilling to let go of the one thing that rules his desires. He is not yet mature enough spiritually to desire above all else the Word of God that he encounters.

Whether we take the Greek “camel” or the Aramaic “rope” (rope and camel are a pun in Greek) … whether we take a camel or a rope through the eye of the needle, or if we understand it as a metaphor for the surgeon’s needle that must bind up our wounds, what must be accomplished in us for our salvation is accomplished by God.  St. John Chrysostom enjoins us not to feel that since it is God Who accomplishes this, that we can just relax and let Him do it. NO; this is a rigorous contest, and we must call upon God and cooperate with Him.

So the dilemma of the young rich man can point us to healing if we will let it. Just has he did not understand how short he fell in his attempts to follow the law, so we too all have areas of our life that we just have difficulty looking at honestly. We all have areas of our life where we only look at the surface; we all have areas of our life where that we attempt to justify to ourselves. Jesus invites us to set those aside and follow Him.

To whom be glory honour and worship, now and  ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.