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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Theological Lectures

Thank you to Tad Dryden for filling in for me this past weekend. Hopefully, I won't have to travel for a while.

Our class will be sponsoring coffee hour the Sunday before Christmas (Dec. 24). Anyone who wants to participate, please let me know.

Tad went through Philippians 3:1-17 and I should be posting notes shortly.

In the meantime, here is something new I found online. I found some Orthodox lectures on various topics. If you don't listen to the all make sure you listen to the lectures by Fr. Roman Braga. Parishoners at St. Michael's may know him. He is the priest at the Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Mich. Fr. Roman spent many years in a Communist prison in Romania. This experience transformed him and gave him wisdom that has become precious to the American church.

Here is the link to the lectures:

http://neopa.net/inbn/inbnfiles/

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Philippians 2:19-30 Two Faithful Men

Paul sends Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippians. Because Paul is not able to physically visit the church that he loves so much, he sends two trusted men back to them. Timothy is somewhat his representative and Epaphroditus is returning to his home parish of Philippi.

This passage tells us a lot about these two men, but from these examples we can gain insight into a model for ministry in our time.

19-24 Timothy

Timothy is the son of a Christian parent and a non-Christian father. However, it is apparent that he gained much from the influence of his mother and grandmother. It was from them that he received his Christian faith and instruction in the Scriptures.

Paul discovers him on one of his missionary journeys and takes Timothy with him to be his partner in ministry. Timothy becomes a “son” to Paul as Paul mentors him in the faith.

One characteristic of Timothy that we see throughout the NT, is his youth. He apparently was pre-30’s when he was ministering throughout the Pauline mission field. Paul encourages him many times because of this seeming “inadequacy”.

Timothy later settles as bishop of Ephesus after the death of Paul. He ultimately becomes a martyr himself in Ephesus.

In this passage, Paul sends Timothy in place of himself to minister to the Philippians. Here are some criteria that Paul has chosen in order to minister effectively: like-minded with Paul and he sincerely care for the Philippians. Paul also commends him because he does not seek after his own needs (such as those chided in chapter 1), but he seeks only to glorify Christ (21).

25-30 Epaphroditus.

From what we know of Epaphroditus he was a presbyter (priestPhilippiipppi or perhaps the bishop of the city. It does appear that later he becomes bishop of the city. He had come to Rome bringing gifts from the Philippians, and had gotten stuck in Rome due to sickness. He is the one who is carrying the letter back to the Philippians. Paul seems to be consoling the Philippians that Epaphroditus did not abandon them but was delayed in returning due to sickness.

Paul speaks highly of Epaphroditus and by extension is praising the virtues of the Philippian church. Paul introduces liturgical language once again into the letter in verse 25. He says that Epap. ministered to his needs. The word for ministered comes from the root word “leitourgia” where we get liturgy. By using this word, Paul frames Epaphroditus’ ministry in the context of an priest making an offering to God. This means that Epaphroditus’ act is not mere service to the apostle Paul but an act of worship to God. This fits our understanding of the sacramental priesthood in that when the priest makes the offering of bread and wine to God in the Liturgy he is doing it as our representative. In him, we the church are participating in the offering. The Philippians in this example participated in Epaphroditus’ offering to Paul. This also describes accurately every Christian’s role as a member of the royal priesthood. Every time we perform ministry it is an act of worship as we offer something to God.

Another characteristic of Epaphroditus is that he risked his life for the Gospel. Christ was first and he was second. In verse 30, Paul says that he risked his life. This term is a gamblerÂ’s term for rolling the dice with the chance of winning (Farley). He was willing to role the dice with his life for the sake of ChristÂ’s glory.

In class, we discussed these two men as model for us in ministcharacteristicsracterisitics stood out that both these men possessed and we should as well to be faithful ministers.

1. Obedience. Both were obedient to Christ and His authority in the church. They laid down their will at the feet of Christ.
2. Loyal. Paul could trust them due to their loyalty.
3. Their lives were role models for other Christians.
4. Care and love for people.
5. Their motives were to glorify Christ.

Anything else? Please comment below.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Preparing for the Nativity

Today is an important day for Orthodox. It is the beginning of the Nativity Fast. This fast is similar to the Lenten fast in that it prepares the heart for the coming feast. This is a 40 day fast that will last until Christmas liturgy. Of all our fasts in the Church this one may be the hardest in our culture today. In American culture we tend to celebrate Christmas from November to Christmas day, then all is forgetten as the boxes and trees hit the garbage dumps. The Church prods us to be counter-cultural. Prepare, confess, fast, give alms for the next 40 days, then celebrate. Our celebration should last until January 6--the feast of Theophany.

During Sunday's class, we had a guest speaker--Prof David Drillock. Dr. Drillock is a retired professor of liturgical music at St. Vladimir's. He was at our parish to lead a choir retreat. During Sunday School, he gave a talk entitled, "Preparing for the Nativity of Christ in Orthodox Worship". Below is a copy of his outline and notes that I took during his lecture.

I. The beginning of the Christmas fast
a. Commemoration of the Holy Apostle Philip (Nov. 14)
b. The calling of the disciple -- Come and see!

II. The Entrace of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21)
a. The 3 year old Mary is offered to the Temple by Joachim and Anna.
b. Mary is praised as "the living temple of the holy glory of Christ our God."
c. The singing of the Odes of the Christmas Canon begin:
"Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ comes from heaven go to meet Him!
Christ is on earth, be exalted! Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and praise
Him in gladness, O People! For He has been glorified."

III.The Feast of St. Andrew, the first-called (Nov. 30)
a. Andrew is told by Christ to "come & see!"
b. Special hymns at Vespers
"Tell us, O Joseph, how you led the Virgin into the Bethlehem cave. After
searching the scriptures and hearing the Angel, he says: I am certain that
Mary will wondrously give birth to God Whom the Wise Men from the East will
worship, offering to Him their precious gifts."

IV. Commemoration of St. John of Damascus (Dec.4)
- St. John is a poet, hymnographer, and theologian and author of the Christmas
Canon.

V. Commemoration of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6)
"Holy Nicholas, sacred herald of Christ, you are a great and fervent helper for
those in dangers, those on land and those who sail, those far off and those
nearby, a most compassionate and mighty intercessor. Therefore assembled
together we cry, 'Intercede to the Lord that we may be rescued from every
calamity'.

"Adorn yourself, O cavern! Make ready, O manger! O shepherds and wise men, bring
your gifts and bear witness. For the Virgin is coming bearing Christ in her
womb."

VI. The Three Holy Youths (the children in the fiery furnance)

VII. St. Romas the Melodist - the Kontakion for the Feast of Christmas.
"Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a
cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels, with sheperds, glorify Him! The Wise
Men journey with the star! Since for our sake the eternal God was born as a
little child."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Philippians 2:12-18 Offering with fear and faith

Phil 2:12-18

In the previous passage, Paul has held up Christ as an example of humility, now he calls them to holiness and perseverance.

12. Paul commends the Philippians for their obedience to his teaching, not just in his presence but in his absence as well. This is instructive for us. It is important to be faithful, but to be faithful when no one is watching is more honorable.
In order to encourage their growth in Christ he offers the following advice: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. The word suggests accomplishment. Paul even uses it in Eph 6:13 in a military context to accomplish heroic feats (Farley). Christ has provided salvation and we are to live up or fulfill what He has accomplished. Paul then adds “fear and trembling”. This is to remind us that we accomplish this task in humility knowing that we are unworthy of such a great salvation.

13. The Orthodox NT does a good job with this verse: “for God is the One Who energizes in you both to will and to energize for the sake of His good pleasure.” The energies of God are His grace. Members of the body consent to cooperate with this energization and our works are transformed by God’s energies. Our works open us up to more of God’s grace (John 1:16). In a sense because what we do is being energized by God, our works become Christ’s works.
Chrysostom: “Mine object in saying this, says Paul, is to relieve your anxiety. Both the eargerness and the working at it are a gift; for if we have the will, the He energizes the willing, He increases our willing…He does not deprive us of free will,…but He shows that by being rightly purposed we receive more eagerness in the will…For it is His will that we live as He desires we should; and if He desires it, He Himself both energizes in us to this end, and will certainly accomplish it.”

14. Immediately Paul warns of grumbling and disputings. Why does Paul warn against this? How does it affect working out your salvation? Does it affect God energizing us? As one person said in class, this voids out everything that has been accomplished in us. We quench the Holy Spirit. We may obey but do so grudgingly not with fear and trembling or humility. Paul warns against this often and is usually suggestive of the attitude that Israel had when wandering the desert. The constantly murmured against the God ordained authority in their lives. It is the rebellious questioning of God’s goodness (Farley), or obeying but grumbling the whole time (Chrysostom).

15. Here Paul gives us the result of “working out our salvation”. The words blameless, unsullied, and without blemish are words of worship and sacrifice. The offerings of the OT were required to blameless and without blemish. Our lives are offerings to God. We are constantly to offer ourselves to God without blemish. This stands in contrast to the world around us.

16. Paul encourages them once again to hold onto the Gospel. This is probably an encouragement to not to apostatize, but to continue the process of “working out your salvation”. Apostasy in the face of persecution was a deep fear and concern of the early Christian. This healthy fear often motivated their Christian life, for they were not only preparing to meet the Lord but perhaps to meet their executioners. They prepared their hearts so that they would stand firm if they were called to witness to the death.

17 & 18. Again the words of sacrifice and worship. In the OT one of the sacrifices was drink offering and it was poured out upon the altar of God. (Num 15:4-5 & 28:7) The Philippians are the sacrifice and Paul is the drink offering completing the sacrifice (Farley). Again, the life of the Philippians is spoken of in terms of worship: sacrifice and service. Service is from the Greek “leitourgia” where we get our word for liturgy. Sacrifice characterizes the nature of true worship. For worship is ultimately offering “myself” to the “Father”. The result of worship is found in vs. 18---rejoicing.
This whole passage because of its worship language gives insight into worship as a paradigm for our lives. One member of class brought this example of the Divine Liturgy to our attention. We prepare ourselves with humility and repentance; our hearts our open as we hear and receive the Word of God; we offer ourselves and the whole world to the Father; we receive Christ’s body and blood with fear, faith and love and our transformed by God’s grace; we go forth rejoicing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Byzantine History Podcast


Today, I ran into an excellent teaching resource. I travel a lot and I am always looking for new and free stuff to listen to in my car. I am linking a series of lectures I found on Byzantine History. Everything is approximately 17 minutes in length, and the author does an incredible job summarizes long periods of history. I have only made it through Julian the Apostate, but so far so good. His decription of Constantine is a bit rough, so you may want to double check his characterisation.

Here's link and I hope you enjoy:

Byzantine Lectures

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