My church looks more like an Erector Set with icons. Our choir director, Chuck Simerick doubles as the lead contractor leading the Saturday building sessions and weeknight work. It is amazing to see how we have gutted the place and put up these metal studs. After a while, there will be some drywall up as well. We have all been busy giving our hands in labor. This certainly is not an overnight process. In fact, we won’t be finished for a few months still. But, nothing worthwhile takes place in an instant. Try to microwave a 4 lb. Boston Butt and smoke another for an hour per pound at 250 degrees and see which one is edible. In speaking of new structures, the Virginia Chapter of the Brotherhood of St Moses the Black will hold its First Symposium on Saturday, September 4th at 4 pm! I am excited that my church will be hosting the event in spite of our work. In fact, I think it is symbolic that this movement to introduce the ancient faith to African-Americans, which is a work in progress, is having its first event in a work in progress. I am also excited that Sub Deacon Paul Abernathy of FOCUS Pittsburgh and the St. Moses Mission will be the guest speaker. This brother is articulate, inspiring, and filled with the grace of God! Don’t take my word for it. Check out the speech given a couple of years back. Better still, meet with us at Hampton for the symposium! Meeting Bishop Thomas last year, he said he’d be interested in an informal meeting with my (then) congregation and others in my area. I am still very interested in forming this structure; a bridge of dialogue between the African-American Baptist and the Orthodox Church. A Pentecostal Apostle and and Orthodox Archpriest in New York have done that with two East-West Meet & Greet sessions. Perhaps in October, I can bring this idea up again. We will see if God is willing. Yet, as their is a need for some new structures, I am glad to experience something that is (and should be) without change. I remember on first Sunday mornings how my grandfather prepared the communion. Deacon Joseph (“Daddy Joe”) didn’t say much when he did it. It seemed that he had his mind fixed on the task at hand. He cut the crust off of a few slices of bread and cut them in what seemed to be perfectly measured little squares. Daddy Joe had a glass bottle with some sort of bulb and tube thing on it where when he squeezed the bulb, the perfect amount of grape juice came out into each cup. Though a symbol of the body and blood to the Baptist, he prepared the Lord’s Supper with reverence. With no iconostasis blocking my view, I got a chance to watch Fr. James prepare the Eucharist. It was as if the spirit of my grandfather was right there as Fr. carefully prayed the prescribed prayers in preparing the body and blood of our Lord. The bread came from the oven of one of our members and was broken with the name of each one of us in mind and a few for any visiting Orthodox guest. The wine and water mixed appropriately as prayers were constantly offered as part of the process. Bishops and priest have been preparing the Lord’s Supper in the same spirit of reverence since the days of the Apostles. There is no Eucharist, Communion, or Lord’s Supper without reverence from the one who prepares and the one who receives. It is better not to take it at all than to take the literal (or even symbolic) body and blood of Christ with an attitude of spiritual complacency. These are holy gifts which should not be taken lightly. That we are able to serve (ordained clergy) and receive them is of the great grace of God. When we cheapen them by having the wrong frame of mind; we cheapen grace, ourselves, salvation, and God. May this not be so with us. Please, be in prayer before, during, and after partaking of this meal. As we say in our Divine Liturgy, “The Holy Things Are For The Holy.”
Guidelines for Witnessing to Your Orthodox Friends
1. Remember that salvation does not depend on works or on your association with a church. It depends on a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship comes through faith (see Eph. 2:8-9).
2. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit to reach the hearts and minds of those who are lost with the gospel message.
3. Share your testimony. Many Orthodox have never experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Your testimony of what Jesus has accomplished in your life could have a great impact on them. Keep your testimony short. Avoid using terms that are unfamiliar to Orthodox, such as: “walked the aisle,” “got saved,” and “born again.”
4. Explain that you are certain of your salvation because of God’s grace. Make sure that you communicate that your assurance is derived from God’s grace and not from good works or your ability to remain faithful (see 1 John 5:13).
5. Give them a copy of the New Testament. Lead them to texts that explain salvation.
6. Avoid issues that are not central to salvation.
7. Keep the gospel presentation Christ-centered.
Taken from “4Truth.net” http://www.4truth.net/Eastern_Orthodox/
I have to thank my friend Sabrina Messenger for alerting me to yet another reason why I am considering converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. Arrogance has to be one of the worst traits of the Baptist denomination (Q: How do you tell a Baptist? A: You can’t tell a Baptist much). While not all of us are narrow-minded toward other faiths, there is a tendency among our leaders to act as if everyone else is wrong without entertaining the idea that we could be wrong. I find this attitude very disturbing when it comes to Orthodoxy. How do we have a nerve to try to teach the Gospel to the church who put the books together and canonized them for us? Are we to correct the likes of Ignatius and Polycarp about church doctrine when they were trained by the 12 Apostles? Which Southern Baptist Convention president or National Baptist Convention USA Inc. (?) preacher gave the opening address at any of the Seven Ecumenical Councils? We Baptist are products of the radical reformation, rebels against the first rebels (the classical reformers), against the most successful rebel (the bishop of Rome). Having been so far removed from the foundation of the church, us criticizing Orthodoxy is like a junior high school basketball team playing against the Miami Heat. So please, my Orthodox friends, be patient with us. We have little exposure to you and too many of us already “know” that we are right.
Guidelines for Witnessing to Your Baptist Friends
- Remember that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). Jesus requires disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him (Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:22-26), which clearly calls for disciplined effort.
- Pray and trust the Holy Spirit will guide you to people who are sincere about learning Christian history and spirituality and will listen (Acts 8:26-39, John 6:66-68). Have confidence in God when some people reject the truth (Matthew 13:14, 15, Mark 4:10-12, Luke 8:9, 10, Isaiah 6:9, 10)
- Let them see you work out your salvation in the model of Christ (Philippians 2:1-16). Many Baptist have never befriended someone who prays The Hours, fast, and venerates icons. The example of your lifestyle will have a major impact on them. Don’t force them to kiss a large icon of the Theotokos. Share with them basic examples of prayer that do not conflict with Baptist doctrine and practice.
- Explain to them that salvation is not to be taken for granted and that we must be mindful of how we live (Matthew 25:1-46) and that God can reject even those who have been called if they try to come into the kingdom on their terms instead of his (Matthew 22:1-14). This is why Orthodox Christians observe the traditions of the church fathers handed down orally and written from the apostles as well as the Bible (2 Thessalonians 2:15, I Corinthians 11:2).
- Explain to them that the church existed 300 years before the Bible came into being and that it was the Orthodox fathers that finalized the canon. Ask them to compare your Orthodox Bible’s Old Testament to theirs (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
- Be humble toward them (Matthew 20:24-27).
- Remember, God alone judges a person’s confession (Luke 23:39-43).