I made my tenth visit to an Orthodox Church last Saturday night. (And it was great to be back after a two week absence- Labor day weekend and some family obligations made my absence regrettably necessary). I walked in (in uniform because I came from performing my two week annual tour) right around 7pm and sat in the back left side. Of course, I venerated the Icons first but the seekers way- cross myself, quick silent prayer and a bow- no kiss.
Immediately, I began being plagued by annoying thoughts. You see, I am reading a book by Frank Viola and George Barna called “Pagan Christianity” which debunks the whole idea of the Institutional Church as being legitimate in terms of worship and practice because, not only does it depart from the New Testament model, but it actually adopted pagan ideas and rituals from the very beginning. Of course, I know all the arguments against this line of thinking and if I were in a discussion around a cup of coffee with an evangelical I would be able to soundly refute “all the charges” but while in the midst of Worship, these thoughts bombarded my mind. I am happy to say that I combated these thoughts by totally ignoring them and attending to Worship which is why we gathered in the first place.
Fr Gary gave a homily about our need to show Christ to the outside world. This we did by the special events of the last two weeks. (40th anniversary of the parish and 9/11 commemorations). It was an Evangelical message using Orthodox terminology.
As I was leaving to pick up my son from work, Bill the altar server whom I gave the military New Testament to, talked to me right after I was mulling about in the vestibule. “I am not allowed to let you leave until my father talks to you.” You never want to go against the orders of an altar server, so I hung about a minute until Deacon Ken could come to the vestibule. As I saw him, I said, “Are you okay?” because before, as he was serving with Fr Gary, he fell after losing his balance arising from a prostration. He said something that I want to put into my book of quotes- I will have to ask him if it’s original or if he got it from someone else – “You can’t learn humility unless you are humbled.” Now that is pretty profound, only because it is so simple!
Deacon Ken immediately produced not one but four books for me to read! It was almost as if the Holy Spirit was saying to me, “I noticed you were troubled by something you were reading, try these.” I started reading one called, “Cloud of Witness” which is a short introduction to the development of Christian Doctrine. By the way, it does mentions pagan influences on the Church but when you think about it, “God is everywhere present and fills all things.” so why shouldn’t He use whatever He wants to? And thinking about it, isn’t the idea of the Logos, mentioned in the Gospel of John, a Pagan notion? Please correct me, dear blog reader, if I am wrong.
I have every intention of finishing the book “Pagan Christianity” (recommended to me by a Nazarene Pastor), even though it will probably get me mad when I get to the chapter on the Eucharist but now I have four books to edify me on my journey towards Orthodoxy. I will be making special blog entries on my thoughts as I read these books.
As I was walking to my car, rushing to pick up my son – Reader John had detained me for a bit because he was anxious to tell me about the special events of parish mentioned above- and I love him for it because he really wanted to share a part of his life with me!- Anyway, as I walked to the car, I saw this girl run past in the parking lot, she was wearing a Life Guard T shirt and, I guess, shorts and I for the life of me have no idea where she came from. She climbed into this big box truck, started it up and drove away. I wonder what that was all about?