Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

It is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. Time to look at Pride and humility. Time to get ready for that time that we spend getting ready.

So, . . a tax collector and a Pharisee walk into a temple. . .

The phrase that leaps out to me this year is a warning in the words of the Pharisee.

“O Lord, I thank Thee…” and words of madness, as we will hear St. Andrew declare to us in just a few weeks.

Who are those people for us? For the Pharisee it was the Publican

O Lord I thank Thee that I am not like that Publican.

Who do we hold as people we might thank God we are not like?

We could reverse it: “O Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like that Pharisee.”

We could find some person to look down on: “O Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like that homeless man.”

We could ascribe it to our enemies: “O Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like that bad person.”

We could choose a supervisor, a fellow-worker, a politician,

We can even choose a member of the clergy: “O Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like that priest/bishop/preacher/deacon.”

Whoever we pick, it is pride, deadly pride.

For whatever person we might choose, we have to own that the very things that annoy us to no end are in someway within us, and we are just as capable of doing and being that person we may thank God we are not.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.


Orthodoxy and Phyletism (Ethnicity): Revisited

Orthodoxy and Phyletism (Ethnicity): Revisited

I grew up in the South. In the South that I grew up in, one of the most segregated times of the week was Sunday morning. People in many white churches would be (and were) aghast if someone from another race showed up on Sunday morning. It was made plain to them that someone from their race was not welcome. My own father (a Baptist minister) ended up having to leave his pastorate because he integrated the church kindergarten. It seemed that some of the deacons were afraid of a 4 year old black girl. My father and I were the rare white folks who would go across the lines. Fortunately people in the local black church were more welcoming. My uncle (also a Baptist minister) was forced to leave two different churches because he did not allow his daughters to go to the segregated white private schools that were set up to get around desegregation. What my baptist fathers taught me was that if someone were not welcome to a church because of his race, that Jesus was not welcome there either.

At the first Orthodox Church I walked into after graduating college I was asked why I was there; I was neither Greek nor Russian. It probably delayed me becoming Orthodox by many years. I was the wrong ethnicity.

Now I have been Orthodox for almost half my life now. I have noticed that this is not just a problem that inquirers face. It saddens me when even faithful Orthodox people are treated like Rats and discarded by clergy. These are people for whom Christ was Incarnate and gave Himself up; these are people who have been faithful through adversity, people who have endured much. Excluding them because of their ethnicity (or lack thereof) is no better than how I was treated when I walked into that Church.

A clergyman is responsible to God for all the souls he has been privilege to lead. He cannot divide between this ethnic or that ethnic or no ethnic. He must minister to all of them. He must minister without regard to race or ethnicity. If he excludes based on race or ethnicity, he excludes Christ who comes to them in the “least of these”

To exclude based on Race or ethnicity, or lack thereof is to wound. And after the racial or ethnic cleansing has occurred, the wound does not just go away because we pretend not to see; for by wounding, the wounder is also wounded. But it is not just for race and ethnicity that people are wounded. People who speak the truth, who sound the alarm, who hammer out “DANGER” are also wounded. This is nothing new. Killing the messenger is a time honoured solution to pretending it is the messenger’s fault and thus we don’t have to do anything. But the wounding wounds the wounder. Jeremiah had plenty of experience with this:

For from the least to the greatest of them, every one is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest every one deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly , saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not ashamed; they did not know how to blush. (Jeremiah 8:13-15)

People are excluded, wounded and left to wither; or worse, they are thrown under the bus. The indefensible is defended; the wounded are told they are not wounded. And we wonder why some are leaving the Church.


On Communion

Communion was inaugurated with the Kingdom of God. If our proclamation is to be the Kingdom of God, it is realized in this worship, which God Himself has left us. (full disclosure- I was born baptist and am now Orthodox)

God is eternal, so our worship of Him needs to follow in that. Worship should appeal to every part of our humanity (our seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching) but not our passions. I think that this communion being so much like the last time and the time before that is part of the message of the Kingdom of God and that it is eternal. I am most glad that it is ever the same and ever new.