Peace, and the Rich Fool

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 


For He is our peace, Who has made us both one.

   Jesus Himself took on our flesh, and in His circumcision he became a Jew; and in His death on the Cross he took upon Himself the curse of our mortality and became as One outside the law, as One Whom the law condemned, that He might unite all mankind in Himself, both Jew and Greek. And He didn’t just change us so that we might be new and improved Jews; He created us a new man, breaking the fragmentation that divides us from God, and from each other — not just bringing the enmity to and end, but KILLING IT.

   And He proclaimed Peace to those who were far off and Peace to those who were near. We see this even in His Nativity, where it is announced by the angels to the shepherds — those near, and by a star to those who came from a distant land. 

   And we are made fellow citizens with the saints. We are being built into a holy temple in the Lord; a tabernacle, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We are given citizenship in the Kingdom of God. We proclaim it in this Divine Service; we participate with it in communion; we live it in our day-to-day lives. 

   He is our peace, having made us one: Male — Female, Jew — Greek, English — Russian, White — Black … HE has made us one; reconciling us to God, making us Fellow-citizens of the Household of God. It spite of our differences, God has called us together to stand as members of His house as we worship Him together. He has called us to be His body through communion. We may get on each others’ nerves from time to time; but God is building us into a community of His Body, here in Silverdale, here in Central Kitsap County. not as another organization, but as an organism, a living, breathing microcosm of Christ’s Body; to incarnate His Body in our lives, and His ministry in our encounter with others. 

   And we do not figure all this out on our own by reading about it — our foundation of faith is in the Apostles and Prophets. The foundation is in both the Old and the New Covenant. We must be obedient to the teachings of Christ, the Apostles, and the Prophets. Those teachings are not easy to do; those teachings constantly challenge us to live a life of repentance. 

   Christ Himself is the cornerstone, and we are His temple being built together. Sometimes we irritate each other; sometimes we rub each other the wrong way. Yet we are being built into His dwelling. In our worship we humans stand with the angels, offering up the noetic worship which is offered by the angels at all time, and we this morning come together to offer it with the angels.  And we live our lives from this offering — offering ourselves as a living sacrifice — our reasoned worship.

   We together are the Temple of God. We can’t do that alone. We need each other, to pray for each other, to love each other, and yes, sometimes to annoy each other and learn to overcome our differences so that we realize His unity in us. 

   We must do this together. It is for this purpose that God has called us here. 

  Therefore we must bear one another’s burdens. For just as we are in need of healing, so all of us are. In bearing our own burdens and the burdens of each other, we fulfill the law of the Kingdom of God. 

   And Christ heals us; He restores us to the likeness of His Image in Whom we are created, if we will let Him; if we will cooperate with Him. 

   Let us use this time of the Nativity fast to cleanse ourselves of bitterness, anger, falsehood, impurity, uncleanliness, and covetousness. Most especially in this time of year, when commercial interests want us to be greedy and consume more, we must guard ourselves in moderation, for our soul is in this battle between virtue and vice — and there are many who want to make money on our vices. We are to give thanks in all things and be grateful. Which brings us to our Gospel. 

   The Gospel reminds us of this as well. The parable tells us the man had more than enough. The Rich Fool is only concerned with himself, and how things effect him; he does not look at how his behavior affects others. He only considers himself, and what life can give him. He is like Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”; he only looks out for himself and his own petty concerns. 

   Instead of building bigger tables to share his wealth, he decided on bigger barns – barns where his harvest would accumulate, and spoil. 

   He seems to think that he is the owner of his soul and that he is in charge . . . of everything! 

   Jesus then continues the parable, deliberately using the line “Eat; Drink and be merry.” He knew that those listening to Him would recall how that line from Isaiah continued: “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”

   St. Basil the Great says of this very Gospel: “if you fill these larger ones, what do you intend to do next? Will you tear them down yet again only to build them up once more? What could be more ridiculous than this incessant toil, labouring to build and then labouring to tear down again? If you want storehouses, you have them in the stomachs of the poor.” 

   The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor.”

   On this same passage, St. Leo the Great points out that this passage should read: “Fool; in this night they demand your soul from you.” These things that you own, now own you. Many of the fathers remind us that the only thing we get to take with us to the grave is whatever virtue we may have acquired in this life. 

   And so the Rich Fool dies without learning mercy and generosity. And the wealth of his harvest is left to rot. 

   We must guard our relationship to the many things our world tells us we MUST HAVE, especially this time of year. We have only to look at the average relationship with the smart phone to see how easy it is to be owned by our things. 

   As we are now in the Nativity Fast, let us guard against the noise of acquiring. And when we find ourselves having a surplus, let us find a way to build a table that invites others to partake of our good fortune. 

   So, let us guard our souls in sobriety, and turn down the volume of the noise from the world through prayer, fasting, and alms. And, let us not get so involved in whether our particular political side won today that we ignore the friends and family that we have. Let us spend less time on the internet, and more time loving the people whom God has given us. Let us not fall for the desires to have things that are very loud right now (Black Friday seems to have lasted two weeks this year). Let us rather BE . . . together . . . with those people God has given us and put in our lives. And with the current pandemic, we must find more creative ways to do this. As St Paul reminds us, we must bear one another’s burdens. 

To Him Who gives us all good things in due season, be all Glory honour and worship. Always now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen

Prayer for Peace

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, ruler of the Universe Who comest to heal us. Now visit us in this time of trouble and heal our iniquities and forgive our sins. Heal also the transgressions of our enemies. May we all come to dwell in Thy Kingdom.

Grant that we may see our transgressions and offer them to Thee in confession.

For Thou art our God and we know none other than Thee, we call upon Thy Name. Deliver us from our own sicknesses, and the sickness of our enemies.

Raise us up to glorify Thee: the Father without beginning, with Thy Only begotten Son, and Thy all holy and life creating Spirit; now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen

O Lord, guide our nation through the storm that lies ahead. Though the times are uncertain, and those who would bend that path to their own ends ask us to listen to our fears, may we rise above those short sighted forays into self enrichment, and rise above our fears and walk in faith, and work together for the good of all people. O Lord grant our leaders wisdom, discretion, and discernment. Grant our civil authorities to fulfilled their offices with integrity and the knowledge that they labour for something greater than narrow concerns that some seek to impose upon them. Grant unto our people strength to weather the hard times, wisdom to see not just for ourselves, but also our parents, our children, our grandchildren; and Grant us vision that we may restore our nation to integrity and not get stuck in repeating the mistakes of the past.

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst command us to love our enemies, and those who defame and injure us, and to pray for them and forgive them; Who Thyself didst pray for Thy enemies, who crucified Thee: grant us, we pray, the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, that we may heartily forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offenses of people with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbour. We further beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. And help us repay evil with goodness, and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil and from all the perils which threaten us, in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen.

Reader Steven Clark (2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq) 

All Saints

Sunday of All Saints


In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 


   Today is the Sunday of All Saints — ALL Saints, whether known or unknown. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Today’s Gospel starts with Jesus telling us that if we acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge us; if we deny Him, He will deny us. 

How do we acknowledge or deny Jesus before men? Sometimes we see this as a manipulative meme on social media to get us to copy and past someone else’s post. How do we acknowledge Christ? We must do so with our heart, mind, words, and deeds. For if we only think about God, but do nothing about what we think, then we are engaging in mental manipulation. If we do nothing about our thoughts about God, it means nothing that we think of God. This is the trap of the “spiritual but not religious”. I understand why some must say that — some have been traumatized by religious people; but it has become the number one cop-out (yes, I’m old enough to say “cop out”) The number one cop-out for not following God. We must acknowledge Christ in deeds, words, mind and heart. We cannot leave part of that out without turning our faith into an obscure meaningless mental exercise. 

   And how do we put our thoughts into action? We must realize that everyone is our neighbour, even those who we find annoying. Every human is created in God’s Image — how we treat them is how we treat God. St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris said: At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked if I fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and the prisoners. 

   Jesus tells us that He has come not to bring peace but a sword. How do we understand this when so many other places He has said “Peace”?

   What is this Peace that Jesus brings us? It is not like what the world offers. We Orthodox, above all, are rightfully wary of making a peace that betrays our faith. This is not the peace that Jesus offers us; yet it is often the peace the world offers. And such is a peace that Jeremiah warns us against: “They have healed the wounds of my people lightly, saying: ‘Peace, peace’ And there is no peace. Were they ashamed to commit their sin? No, not ashamed at all; they did not know how to blush.” Such a peace puts a band-aid over a gushing wound and ignores it for as long as it can until it erupts. Then we wonder, “What happened?”

   Christ offers us a peace that heals our soul and body and mind and heart. How can we have peace if disease ravages our body, our soul? Yet what our culture offers us often is full of noise and disquietness, and disease. 

   Peace — We hear among our society that we should respect peace above our faith. “Don’t make audacious claims for Christ.” To them it is better to get along. And we also see the actions of some who claim to be of faith, but their actions reveal envy, jealousy, strife, anger. They seek to use religion to justify greed, murder, slander, lies and ultimately IDOLATRY. But that some abuse religion doesn’t mean that our faith must be watered down to accommodate the fears of others. Peace with righteousness is a good thing. Being at Peace with evil is a horrible thing. We regularly see people insisting on peace with a system of bigotry, racism, and inhumanity. There are many things that are going on in our society today that are an abomination: things like abortion, the traumatizing the children of immigrants, the deliberate making of the lives of the poor more difficult, the cold blooded murder of people of colour.  . . These are the sorts of things that the Kingdom of God overturns. These are the things that Jesus tells us He has come to address. We cannot make peace with the evils of our society in order to “get along”. 

   Our loyalty to God must come before our loyalty to jobs, friends, even to family. God created us. God is saving us. Our friends and family can be part of that, or they can stand against it. 

   This is the choice that the saints made time and time again. They chose Christ over getting along. They chose Christ over their own family. They chose Christ over the temporal gains of greed and the other passions. They chose Christ over monetizing their own Life. We are invited by our culture to monetize our life, to chose the right career path, to accumulate the right stuff. It is slavery. We cannot allow this — we must not let anything come before Christ. The millions of new-Martyrs of Russia would not betray the Faith to a godless government. The betrayals our culture asks of us are much more subtle. 

   This is the choice that the saints of the Old Testament made without even being able to see the result of the promise —  as the epistle said “of whom the world was not worthy”, Yet without us, their witness is not complete. In the reading last night from Isaiah, God invites us to be His witnesses. In Christ, the promise they hoped for comes to fruition. This is the choice that a disciple of Christ makes. 

   As we celebrate ALL the saints today, whether known or unknown, yet known unto God, God calls us to become saints, to become holy ones. You; me; all of us: God calls us to follow Him and become His saints — become more than we are comfortable with — become the humans that God created us to be. 

   And there is a sense that we owe it to the Church and to the world to strive to be saints. Our faith came to these parts through the work of God’s saints: St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent of Moscow (our patron), St. Sebastian of Jackson, who was the founding priest of many parishes in the Pacific NorthWest (who is our spiritual great-grandfather), St. Tikhon of Moscow who laboured in this vineyard before he went back to become Patriarch during the beginning of the Soviet era in Russia, St. John of Shanghai and San Fransisco who reposed at the Cathedral in Seattle escorting the Kursk Root Icon from that very place in Russia that has blessed our mission so richly. These saints brought us the Holy Orthodox faith.  We owe it to them, and to our children to work to plant the cross here in Kitsap County, and in our own hearts. 

To Him be all glory honour and worship, now and ever and unto ages of ages. 



Musing with a couple of cups of BishopBlend™ …

The world is noisy lately. Revolutions happen. Inevitably Revolutions seem to increase both good and bad things happening in society. People who we call “crazy” because we cannot imagine “why?” they would do it, decide to take innocent lives.

Parents do terrible things to their children. We try to understand, “why?” because we cannot imagine ourselves doing the same things. Tragic accidents or illnesses snuff out the life of our children of promise, and we don’t understand, “why?”.

When things like this happen our minds grasp at tying to find an explanation. It is our paltry attempt at making ourselves feel safe in a world full of chaos. We grasp at restoring the illusion of safety. When we offer our illusions to those who are in the midst of the chaos, we are surprised that they take no comfort from our illusions.

There are no easy answers, and as uncomfortable as it is to acknowledge, our world is full of chaos, some of it self inflicted, some of it imposed from without.

Into this chaos, Christ comes to heal our infirmities and show us a way of offering this world back to Him as our priestly office. While we cannot control the chaos from without, and we cannot will the chaos from within to be still, yet Christ shows us a way through repentance to heal that chaos in ourselves. But it is hard. There is no prepackaged formula for repentance. There is much more to repentance than saying, “OK, I’ll repent.” While much of me is tired of the chaos and its price on my life, there is part of me that delights in chaos. It requires me to know myself and to be watchful over the invitations to chaos in my life. This is a part of me that most needs God’s healing.

The world’s chaos can be healed as well. This is something we must do together, as a community. And I can start healing the world’s chaos by looking into and allowing God to heal my own chaos. As St. Seraphim famously said: Acquire a spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved. So, my project for world peace must begin with me.

May the Lord God have mercy on us all.