It is always good to step into Church, smell the incense, see the Icons and know that for the next hour I shall be focused on, as much as possible in my limited attention span, the Risen Christ and the worship due Him. I felt that way as I arrived early (for a change) for Vespers. I greeted Tammy and grabbed a service book before I entered inside. It was only after I sat down I realized that the book, although the same color as the regular Vespers service, was actually for Burials. I thought, that is an odd theme for the season of Pascha. When I returned to the nave where Tammy was still straightening things out and asked her about it, she said that there had been a funeral here earlier and these were left out by mistake. So I grabbed the correct service book and returned to my seat as I awaited Father Gary to open the doors. Tammy, in the mean time, scurried to a side door in the front, with a bunch of the burial books, apparently putting them in it's proper place.
The choir was uplifting, the prayers, although very familiar by now, were uplifting and the Vespers service progressed as usual. Hymns were sung about the healing of the blind man, entreating God to heal us of our spiritual blindness. During the homily at the end, Father Gary read a "sneak peak" from Sunday's reading from the book of Acts where a demon possessed girl followed the Apostle Paul around shouting positive things about Paul - "They are preaching the Good News," or something like that - Father Gary said about the demon possessed girl - right message, wrong source! Father Gary applied that to Harold Camping, who predicted the end of the world on May 21st (and was wrong, of course). It is true that Christ is returning but when you are outside the church, there is no telling what nonsense will come out of a person's mouth. (That's my paraphrase of a more sophisticated, nuanced homily).
Deacon Ken was anxious to speak to me about my last blog post. He had read about breakfast with Pastor Del and wanted more details. It was good to be in conversation with Ken. I especially liked when the conversation took little turns into his work as a funeral director or the very good movie by Robert Duval called The Apostle. Then the conversation would come back to my present status as a seeker. I asked his advice about "what I should do" and he encouraged me to continue as I am. I am going slowly, not wanting to "rock the boat" too much at home since my family is less than thrilled with me embracing Orthodoxy. (As a quick aside, I wonder how they are going to like it, when I set up an Icon corner on the East wall of the dinning room?)
I have been on this journey now for about three years. It started solely as an internet preoccupation and then my study of Orthodoxy turned from academic to practical when I finally got the nerve to walk into an Orthodox Church a year ago. I am at the point where I am feeling less and less comfortable at my protestant church, knowing it doesn't have the fullness of Orthodoxy, even though they are godly, holy people, and I long for more of the Church, knowing, if I may put it crudely as I did in my conversation with Deacon Ken, that the Orthodox Church has better tools for my spiritual growth then what I am experiencing at my Nazarene church. It is good to know that my protestant pastor has encouraged me to go where the Lord is leading me and it is also good to know that Father Gary is there to help me on that journey. After Vespers I went home to my computer to find that Father Gary sent me this short email, after reading my last blog post:
Christ is Risen!
I will be happy to meet with you anytime, anywhere (IHOP inclusive). Good to see you tonight.
So I guess the answer to the question I asked in my last blog post, I wonder if Father Gary likes IHOP, is yes.
This Thursday is Ascension Thursday. That is my liturgical anniversary because it was the first Orthodox service I attended a year ago. I will not be able to go to Vespers this Wednesday night because my wife and I are driving south to pick up my daughter from college. Now that will be a good thing and I am looking forward to spending time with my wife but, sadly, I will miss Vespers Wednesday. Sometime when I get back I will give Father Gary a call and set up a breakfast or something with him.
I think we have a lot to talk about.