Displaying episodes 31 - 60 of 79 in total
Have you ever said something that you wish you could take back? I bet the moment you said it—right away—you knew you shouldn’t have. You could see the shock, hurt, and pain of your words on faces of your loved ones. Perhaps, you started apologizing in the hopes that you could, somehow, swallow your words as if they had never left your lips. But, it was too late. Your friendship, your reputation, was broken. If only there was a reset button. The Bottom Line: Our fallen human nature is like those words we shouldn’t have said, but scripture tells us that by hearing the words of Jesus, are relationship with God is recreated.
If you read church news or online blogs, it’s easy to get disillusioned: there’s so much bad news. Combine this with a bad experience with Christians or a church and it’s no wonder that over 50% of Americans no longer affiliate with a Christian denomination. After all, the church seems to have proven itself to be full of hypocrisy and self-aggrandizing. But, did you know that the criticism leveled against the modern church were first leveled against us by the Bible? The readings from these past few Sundays serve as a warning for us today that we have to walk the Way or else we’ll become just like the religious authorities of Jesus’s day who turned the Temple into a den of thieves. The Bottom Line: The Good News is that even when institutions go bad, the message of Christ’s resurrection still breaks out!
As I thought about the theme of one of the Easter Sundays, the Myrrhbearing Women, I wondered: what’s the deeper symbolic meaning that the first witnesses of the resurrection were female? Then, the answer came to me through the movie Shrek.
The Bottom Line: It isn’t the appearance of Jesus to us that saves, but our faith in what has been written by John that saves
The Bottom Line: no matter how hard we try to monetize the Good News and lock it up so that only we benefit from it, it’ll break free of the sealed tomb and the locked room!
In anticipation of Passover this Sunday, when we will celebrate the rising of the Anointed One from dead, here is the Passover homily read at every Orthodox Church around the world in the early hours of the morning. Blessed Resurrection to you all!
As we read the concluding words of Jame’s letter, we hear about sickness and healing, confession of sins, the prayers of the righteous, and bringing people back to the Way. But how should we understand all this? Is anointing related to the modern day service of unction? If so, how? And, are we to really expect a sick person to become well through prayer? Also, is James’s confession of sins to one another the same as modern day confession? If so, how? Finally, is there a connection between unction and confession? Is so, what is it? The Bottom Line: Jame’s Christian vision is one where there’s power in community, so much so that it leads to our salvation.
Life isn’t fair. We all know it—we can see the unfairness around us. But, why is it that some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth while others are born into abject poverty? And, why is it that some people, who should know better, go out of their way to make our lives miserable? Well, James doesn’t address the “whys” of our questions, but he does give us advice as to how to deal with these matters of inequality and injustice: we must be long-suffering like Job and the prophets. But, that doesn’t sound like any fun. Well, it isn’t However, there is Good News. The Bottom Line: Christ is standing in the doorway as the one who can set things right, and he is compassionate and merciful to those who are long-suffering.
Translations are good in that they help us read something we wouldn’t otherwise have access to. But, unfortunately, they can sometimes be misleading. Previously, we talked about how translators can impose their will on the text by what words they chose to use. And, as we’ve seen, this sometime obscures connections the original text was trying to make. However, there’s another problem with translations that we haven’t dealt with yet. What happens when the translator choses the right word, but our understanding of word’s concept is different than the original author’s? Today, James hits hard on the “rich.” But, do we understand being “rich” in the same way they did in the first-century? The answer is “no.” And, what about being “poor”? What does this mean? The Bottom Line: understanding the biblical text is more than just learning languages—it’s also diving into the culture of the ancient world.
One of the tricks to hearing and understanding scripture is to be able to hear it as a unified whole. In other words, it helps to have a macro understanding of what’s going on. When we understand scripture in this way, we can see connections between different passages. Those connections give us insight, and, when we see those, scripture has deeper meaning. Today’s passage from James is full of connections: to both the Old Testament and the New Testament. And, those passages illumine what James is saying, and, in turn, James reinforces what they are saying. And, today, we also have some fun with languages: Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac! The Bottom Line: the self-referencing nature of scripture gives us a single message—we are called to walk the Way!
In her second Harry Potter Book—Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets—J.K. Rowling wrote, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” If I were to insert this quote into the 4th chapter of the Epistle of St. James, you’d think it had always been there. James completely agrees: it’s our choices that show us who we are. Our choice, as Christians, is to either be a friend of the world and an enemy to God, or to submit ourselves to God and resist the devil. The Bottom Line: Only by humbling ourselves before God can we chose the way of Life.
When it comes to Paul and James, we often believe they are at odds with each other. In one corner is Paul, who stresses salvation by faith and says that, “… all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.” And, in the other corner is James, who says, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” So, which is it? Are works a part of our salvation or not? Martin Luther was so frustrated trying to figure this out and reconcile the two men that he thought it was best just to delete the Letter of James from the New Testament. However, I think Luther got it dead wrong. I believe the two men are very compatible. The Bottom Line: James and Paul are on the same page, so much so that I argue that James is even borrowing Pauline concepts as he writes his letter.
Commenting on the importance of teachers, Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” And, Bill Gates once said, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids to work together and motivating them, the teach is the most important.” There’s no doubt that teachers are essential in our society. They impart our values, cultural norms, and teach skills needed for living in society. It’s teachers who contribute, in large part, to the develop of our youth into fully grown and mature adults. They have a lot of sway when it comes to showing others how to walk the Way. It’s for this very reason that James says that God will be a harsher judge to teachers than to the rest of us! The Bottom Line: Because teachers play such a vital role in helping people walk the Way, their words ought to be words of blessings instead of curses.
When tragedy strikes, we like to send the suffering our “thoughts and prayers.” It’s almost as if we think our prayers are magical wishes. By saying a few words, God will appear out of a bottle and make things right. But, in reality, sending “thoughts and prayers” does nothing but make us feel better. It boosts our own ego and doesn’t really help those facing the tragedy. But, we’re religious, you might say, praying is what we do! Well, James doesn’t agree. For him, being religious is putting your faith into action. It’s walking the Way by being merciful to those who are in need of mercy. For James, faith alone is not enough. It’s faith with works that counts. To truly be religious, we have to understand what is meant by “faith” and by “works.” Whereas some Christians may thinking it’s a boxing match between the two—and they’re placing their bet on a knockout by faith—James shows us that they must co-exist. The Bottom Line: Faith without works is dead.
Have you ever tried reading the original King James Version of the Bible? Let’s give it a try; It’s in English, so what could go wrong? Here’s verse 30 from Genesis, chapter 43: “And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.” Ok … I know food, especially if it’s gone bad, doesn’t always sit well in our stomachs, but I feel really badly for Joseph’s brothers. Wait! What’s that you say? That’s not what that means? Elizabethan English is misleading us? OK, let’s take a look at that verse in the New Revised Standard Version, which is in modern English. “With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep.” Oh! If your “bowels yearn,” it means you’re “overcome with affection,” it’s a good thing. I guess words and phrases change meaning over time. Well, that’s the case here as we continue our exploration of the Letter of James. We may think we know what being “rich” and “poor” mean, but is that what James means? The Bottom Line: Understanding James in context shows us what it truly means to “love our neighbor.”
If you had to define what it meant to be religious, what would you say? Would you talk about going to church, making the sign of the cross, or prayer? And, if you were asked about “freedom of religion” in our society, what would you say? Would you talk about the separation of church and state? Or, perhaps, would you say that the religion is being persecuted during the pandemic because churches are closed or the services are limited? For most of us, “religion” is about the ceremony. But, as we see in today’s passage from James, religion has nothing to do with ceremony. The Bottom Line: True religion is about how your walk the way by helping those in need and not showing favoritism within your community.
In our day and age, it’s popular to say that you’re spiritual but not religious. Often, what is meant by this phrase is that you’re against organized, institutional, or a hierarchy that give structure to religion and spirituality. In today’s episode, we continue our exploration of James, and we discover what James means by “being spiritual—that is“true religion.” Bottom Line: Being religious means that we have to walk the Way by being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
We all know life is unfair. Some of us suffer more than others. Some of us endure more trials than others. Sometimes these trials are temptations are so persuasive they get us into trouble. James has said that these temptations test our faithfulness. And, as a result we should learn endurance and, eventually become mature. Where do these trials come from? Is this God’s way of “pushing us” into maturity? Well, not exactly, says James. The Bottom Line: Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, but we should learn from our mistakes.
Whereas Jesus may have literally flipped the tables in the Gospels, James flips the spiritual tables of our lives. And … he hits us where it hurts the most: our pocketbooks. This week, as we take a look at James 1:9-11, we get into what James has to say about being rich and poor and who is elevated as a result.
In today’s podcast we take a look at wisdom and faith. What does James mean when he says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God?” What does he mean by the word “wisdom?" Where does it come from and where can it be found? And, if we ask God for it, how does he bestow it to us? James also says we should ask “in faith.” What does this mean? If we simply believe ‘hard enough,' will that suffice?
Today the Way Podcast takes us to the Letter of James. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a look at this challenging, yet often overlooked letter. And it doesn’t take long for it to start challenging us. As we discover in the opening verses, temptations and trails may not be a bad things. In fact, James believes they are needed for us to grew and mature. They are needed in order for us to walk the Way.
I had already recorded this week’s podcast when the unimaginable happened: domestic terrorists, at the encouragement of the U.S. president, stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Now four people are dead. In light of this, I thought it was appropriate to re-record this week’s podcast. This senseless violence, during what should have been a procedural session of congress, shocked a nation … I take that back; it shocked the world. The country that is usually held up as a standard of freedom and democracy in our time descended into chaos and destruction. As I watched the horrifying events unfold this week, I noticed something that brought tears to my eyes. Some of these terrorists were holding flags that said “Jesus” on them. Others were holding the universal “Christian” flag. If we are to understand this symbolism correctly, these terrorists wanted to us to believe that God was on their side. They wanted us to believe that they were doing “God’s work.” Is this true? Where is the Kingdom of God in all this? And, does it have anything to do with the feast we celebrated this week?
The lectionary readings around Christmas are fascinating, especially this year. Every year for the Sunday before Christmas, we read the genealogy from Matthew. This reading forces us to consider the entirety of the Old Testament—especially in light of Christ’s upcoming birth. Then this year for the Sunday after Christmas, the church has us celebrate St. Stephen. (Normally, St. Stephen is celebrated 2 days after Christmas, but this year, that also happened to be the Sunday after Christmas.) But back to our topic … the lectionary reading for St. Stephen comes from Acts, where his story is found. In that reading, we hear his speech to the Judeans, which is, essentially, a summary of the Old Testament. So, for two Sundays in a row, we’ve heard summaries of the Old Testament. This is a reminder that Jesus can never be separated from the Old Testament.
Christ is born! Glorify Him! On this special Christmas episode, we take a look at the mystery of the Christmas story. Am I referring to the virgin birth? No, not that one. This mystery is so mysterious, I bet you’ve never even noticed it … until now!
No matter how you spin it, you can’t avoid the fact that an English speaker is always one step removed from the the Bible—at least by one step. Translations are always an interpretation; they often depend on the theological leanings of the person doing the translation. So, to read the actual words of scripture, you have to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. But, even if you learn Greek, you’re still a little bit removed from what the Bible is actually saying. The genealogy in Matthew, chapter 1, is a perfect example. The names of Jesus’s ancestors are in Hebrew; those names have actual meanings, but you only have access to those meanings if you understand Hebrew.
In my parish, we recently celebrated the service of unction. This service is a sacrament of healing. Though this service can be celebrated at any time during the year—after all, people usually don’t schedule their illnesses—In Greek practice, it’s usually celebrated on Holy Wednesday. However, that didn’t happen this year, because, at that time, we were only allowed 4 people in church. Now, though, we have procedures in place to protect people, so we thought it would be nice to celebrate this service as approach Christmas. After all, COVID is still ravaging people’s lives all over the world. I can think of no better way to prepare for Christ’s nativity than to ask God for healing. And, you know what? That’s exactly what we see in this past Sunday’s Gospel reading: Jesus healing. But, when he heals the crippled woman, he does more than heal her disease. He also heals her illness.
We all had our favorite Christmas movies while growing up. One of mine favorites was, Home Alone. The movie opens with 8-year-old Kevin and his family preparing to go to Paris for Christmas. However, Kevin just keeps getting in the way. It seems he can’t do anything for himself and he’s afraid of everything. He is a child, after all. But, when he accidentally gets left home alone while the rest his family flies to Paris, Kevin has to learn to face his fears—head on. In order to grow up and reach his full potential, he has to give up his attachments to his childish ways. In this sense, Home Alone has hit the nail on the head.
One American holiday you don’t want to forget about, or you may be in a lot of trouble, is Mothers’ Day! This holiday is a recognition of everything mothers do for their children, beginning with giving them life! For most of us, who have grown up in American schools, we can recall sitting at our desk in elementary school and our teachers walking us through some a craft project—a homemade gift we could give our mothers on that special day. With our tongues sticking out in deep concentration, we carefully cut out shapes from construction paper, and meticulously selected which colors we wanted. We navigated the world of popsicle sticks and glue. And, in the end—and after a lot of hard work for an elementary school kid—we had a project ready to present to mom. For most of us, our mothers were our world as kids. And, when Mothers’ Day came around, we wanted to present our best. No effort was too small … even if we were still small. If I were to sum up this mood in biblical lingo, we wanted to offer our first fruits to our mothers as thanks for everything they’ve done to us. The biblical world has the same expectation for God. We should always offer our best to God. We should offer up our first fruits to him. This is also a key concept for us as finish our journey learning about servant leadership.
There’s a famous story about a young man who went to confession right before Pascha. Confession is an important part of our tradition, and Orthodox Christians try to at least get to confession during the fasting periods of the church. So, this young man was doing his religious duty … what was expected of him. The priest and the young man stood before the icon of Christ, and after the introductory prayers, the young man began to list his sins. All was well until he started to brag. “Father,” he said, “I have to confess that I’ve followed the Lenten fast perfectly! I haven’t eaten any meat, I haven’t drank any wine, I’ve been skipping my normal egg breakfast, and I’ve learned to cook without oil.” As the young man continued, it became clear to the priest that this young man felt he was deserving of some sort of works-righteousness. If this confession had been a Facebook post, it would have been #blessed! However, God’s grace and mercy doesn’t come to us by any efforts of our own. And, being religious is not about putting yourself up on a pillar. The priest decided to correct this young man and show him that boasting in the fast was actually the sin of pride. So, after confession was over, the priest took the young man to McDonald’s and forced him to eat a Big Mac … meat and all. What the young man learned that day is that what God requires of us is to love others, especially the “least of these.” And, performing religious acts, just to “feel good,” isn’t being loyal to the Bible.
After I had told my priest that I was thinking about seminary, he put me in the altar. He thought that this would be good experience if I was considering the priesthood. It so happened that I was helping my priest at the Agape Vespers when he noticed that one of the young teenagers wasn’t acting appropriately for church. Since he couldn’t leave the altar, he quickly called me to himself and said, “See that person over there? Please tell them how to act appropriately.” He then motioned to a young teenager sitting in the front pew. It was clear what the problem was—I’ll spare you the details so as to not embarrass anyone—but, like a lot of people, I was weary of confrontation. After all, that person wasn’t bothering me! Plus, I didn’t want to cause a scene, or create any hard feelings between me and the parents. The best case scenario, I figured, was that the young person would probably be embarrassed by being called out in front of the entire congregation. The worst case scenario? We could have a complete meltdown on our hands. In, the end, I spoke to that young teenager, who quickly corrected their behavior and that was that. Despite my dread, I had kissed the priest’s hand and accepted his blessing when I had asked to serve. So, I was under his authority … willingly. It was up to me to carry the instructions he had given me. As Christians, we are all under an authority … that of Christ, who is revealed to us through scripture. We willingly died to ourselves and “put on Christ” in our baptisms and, so, we are in his house. Jesus is our Lord. To lead, we have an obligation to be loyal to the one in whose house we dwell.