Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hearing about Preparing!

The tables are all set up for today's festival
Worship- my 110th time - at Vespers was beautiful as always. Really enjoyed the Kathisma (Psalm 2) plus the choir sounded especially good tonight!

Fr. Gary's homily was all about preparation. He remarked about how, for a long time now, people of the parish have been preparing for the ethnic festival taking place today. He mentioned how, as Orthodox, we are always preparing. Whether it be Great Lent or some other way, we are preparing for something. The great job of our life, he says, is to prepare for our death. That is something that will happen to all of us and we want to make sure we are prepared.  Sometimes we feel like we are prepared and sometimes we feel we are not.  May God help me always to be in a state of preparation.

Yes, today is the ethnic festival and Tiffany texted me saying "Even Nazadox's can go" (Ha ha ha - that would be me- half Nazarene/half Orthodox) I would like to go but I do have a busy day planned so I am not sure. Although, having some summer borscht sounds good!

Hey, if you are in the neighborhood, stop by. I heard rumors that Jim and Tiffany will both be manning the beer tent.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Showdown at Mt Carmel!

Last night at Vespers was all about Elijah! Anyone who criticizes the Orthodox Church for not preaching the Bible enough, would be silenced by last night readings.  All of them from the the Book of Kings in the Old Testament and the readings were LONG! But I am not complaining, although I am ashamed to say that the melodic chanting of the long Scripture readings plus the fact I was tired from having mowed the lawn in 95+ degree weather, was a sure recipe for me falling asleep.  How embarrassing! I guess I should have been more Russian and just stood for the entire service, instead of sitting down for the readings like everyone else did.  ☺ But hearing all the details about Elijah and his protégé Elisha was a spiritually edifying experience and a nice way to spend this my 109th time at an Orthodox Service. Really, had I not been nodding off, I wouldn't have even needed the sermon that Fr. Gary preached at the end because so much detail was given in the stories and the Scripture speaks for themselves! Well, Fr. Gary did preach, though, and he mentioned that it being a Friday night and if you wanted to rent a movie, you wouldn't get more action than what we just heard from the readings.  That is true! I think one of my favorite recollections was Elijah on Mt. Carmel and I especially like how he taunts the prophets of Baal! He makes fun of them and their god. In the end, of course, the Fire from heaven which consumes the water-laden sacrifice proves who is God! And, it being the Old Testament and all, the prophets of Baal are summarily slaughtered after they lose the contest.  I guess you could say the prophets of Baal, had a bad day.

I was very glad that we had Vespers last night because tonight, I will be going out with my wife since today marks 28 years of being married.  We will be double-dating with her parents and that's fine with me. They are really great people and we get along so well. Today, before we go out, we will probably walk on the beach.

Holy Prophets, Elijah and Elisha, pray for us!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Kiss of Peace ~ Everyone's doing it!

kiss of peace
The Kiss of Peace
photo by Bowie Snodgrass, used under the creative commons license
check out more photos at:
So last Saturday marks the 108th Worship Experience (as I heard one protestant church call it, which totally turned me off because it took the focus off of God and on to myself)....Let me rephrase that - So last Saturday marks the 108th Divine Service I attended in an Orthodox Church. Now, that sounds better! One of the first things I thought of is how people will venerate the icons while the prayers are being said. I have said this before but that doesn't sit well with my Western mindset.  The grandmother (sans the toddler) arrived just as Fr Gary was announcing "Blessed is the Kingdom." She waited till he sensed all the Icons and stood in front of the doors, leading in the petitions. Then she went, with two candles in hand, made her rounds to the Icons. I noticed she was completely engrossed in the veneration, and, yet, she kept herself aware of what Fr. Gary was doing, pausing her veneration and candle lighting, when appropriate. I admit I was jealous of her ability to not be self-conscience in her Worship.  I also admire how she kept herself aware of what was going on so as to not be a distraction but yet gave herself completely to veneration. Someday, I hope, I too, can be that focused.

Earlier in the week, Tiffany had sent me a text, asking me if it were true that Hostess Twinkies were coming back. I said yes but it wouldn't result in a job for me. I must have remarked about Twinkies - although delicious, weren't good for you anyway, because she sent me a text back which said, O Most holy Theotokos, save our waistline. So you know when we got to that part in Vespers, that is what came to mind. I haven't decided if it were the devil trying to distract me or some less devious power trying to help me laugh a little.In any case, I made sure to thank Tiffany after Vespers.

Fr. Gary was away last week in Indianapolis. He said in his homily how even though we are all One Church, different parishes do things a bit different. Local customs, if you will. One such custom was during the kiss of peace in the Indianapolis parish, the entire congregation and not just the clergy, exchanged the kiss of peace. He said, it seemed like Liturgy stopped for a while so that all could greet each other. This used to happen to me when I was in a Lutheran parish (for ten years.) The Pastor would have a bit of difficulty reigning everyone back in.  I think I like the way the Roman Catholics do it. They shake hands with their immediate pew mates and say, Peace be with You and it's not much of a distraction and the liturgy resumes.  Of course, I would conform to the local customs of any parish I was in. How about you guys? Do you all exchange the Kiss of peace?

As I was leaving, Jim Martin joked that there was a pool to see when I'd turn Orthodox. He said his vote was never so could I please hurry up and die so he could collect his money. Don't worry, he smiled when he said it and Jim and I go back a long way so I was in no way offended! One thing is for sure, I hope and pray that Jim never wins that pool!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Falling asleep in Church...No, not me!

Day of Rest
sound asleep in church
photo by Michael Sean Terretta, used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos here:
The 107th time I've walked into an Orthodox Worship Service and it's still great!  I arrived just before 7pm and I heard singing. I thought, Man, I'm not late, why'd did they start without me? As I venerated the icon of Peter and Paul in the Narthex I realized what Fr. Gary was doing was switching the icons on the main table in the nave.He was replacing the old icon (Ascension?) with the new (All Saints!) And. of course, everything done in Orthodoxy is with a song so that is why they were singing.  Moments later Fr. Gary started with "Blessed is the Kingdom....." and I knew Vespers had begun.

I got this real sense of freedom within worship.  People, without drawing attention to themselves, were doing different things: Diversity into Unity!  Some people momentarily raised their hands, some did a deep bow, others were crossing themselves- all at different times, moved by different parts of the service.  How different this was compared to past experiences in different churches. When I was a Pentecostal, they used to measure how spiritual you were by how loud you were. Here, during Vespers, there was none of that going on, just people worshiping individually and yet in unity. That sense of Worship is why I keep coming back!

The grandma with her grandson sat in front of me. You might remember I blogged about her here. The little boy was all excited about lighting the candles and moments later he was sound asleep in the chair.  I remember thinking of kids sleeping in church during revival services during my Pentecostal days (Don't know why I am thinking a lot about that lately) and I remember thinking, wow, these  kids don't know what they are missing! I was referring to the lively preaching of "the Word of God" (as I would have called it in those days.) The Pentecostal preachers made it sound like God was doing a new thing RIGHT NOW in this church and we all better be a part of "God's mighty moving of His Hand." Yes, it was very parochial in it's thinking- God was moving among us and it was implied He wasn't  moving anywhere else.  I thought, These kids who are sleeping in the pews are missing out of God's blessings.  How foolish I was! I thought that God could only bless those who could understand with the intellect.  I am so glad that in Orthodoxy I have learned that Jesus has a blessing for everyone.  Those sleeping in children in the pews at the revival service where under the protection of Christ. And this little boy, asleep during Vespers, enjoys that same protections. At the end of the service, when we were all making our rounds to venerate the icons before we exited, Matushka Mary pointed the child out to me and said, "Isn't that precious." I said, "Yes, it is!" He has been sealed with the waters of baptism and bathed in the prayers of his grandmother!

I didn't make it to Peter and Paul Vespers last Friday. I had a planning meeting at my protestant parish. (Yes, I confess, the fact that they had delicious ribs there as well, guided me in my decision to go....Lord, have mercy!) This is what is tough about "being in two worlds." Keep me in your prayers.

Have a blessed day!