I was blessed to preach the Gospel last Sunday, July 28th and focused on the need to be in the presence of Christ. I got my traditional Baptist preacher three points across and called it a day. Our clergy and laity thought it was a good homily and appreciate my public speaking ability. All was successful, glory and praise be to God.
Yet, a couple of items on Facebook woke me up to the fact that I still haven’t quite moved, or am not moving as I should from my paralysis. Yesterday, an article from the Orthodox website Pravmir described how St Timon and generations of Middle Eastern Christians (I am in the Antiochian Archdiocese) have taken that Gospel message to rise up and walk to love their neighbors despite the brutal persecutions they have gone and still go through. Not an hour later, Fr. Barnabas Powell posted, “‘Your sins are forgiven’ – Jesus Christ. So, what’s your excuse now?”
In a way, I haven’t quite been sitting on my spiritual butt. I have been reading a passage from The Art of Prayer once, and sometimes, twice a day and done a couple of other things to add to my prayer rule in the mornings. I even chant in Byzantine tones during the first, third, sixth, and (when I’m not rushing to leave work) ninth hours. My walk is not perfect. But, by God’s grace, there has been some growth.
I think a post from a friend and seminary classmate may have hit the nail on the head, “‘Whoever desires to eliminate future tribulations must bear the present tribulations with joy’ – St. Mark the Ascetic.” I bear a good deal of bitterness and discouragement with my struggles. Finances, health issues, my wife’s health, car and home repairs; like everyone else, I have a grocery list of trouble and woe. When we let our problems overshadow our recognition of God’s presence, they distract us from spiritual growth and, often, lead us into sin. I have forgotten this way too many times.
So, I’m using this year’s Dormition Fast to better identify and struggle against crippling attitudes and inactions. Along with following the Church’s dietary restrictions, I’ll be tweaking some things in my prayer rule and, perhaps, pick up a book to help me along the way. Actually doing something outside of my normal comfort zone is in the cards as well. Where the Holy Spirit leads, I will follow.