In the 70’s there was a man named George Price, a man famous in the circle of theoretical biology, who wrote an equation to try and explain the biological drive of altruism. There had been one already written, and it explains that we love our neighbors because it helps to further our gene pool. According to scientists, the same thing that drives us to be nice can also be the same thing that would drive us to be totally cruel. In other words, there is no such thing as selfless altruism.
This drove George a little crazy. A materialist and devout atheist, reportedly selfish to the core, George immediately became a Christian and set himself to being altruistic without gain. He gave away all of his money, distributed keys to his flat so the homeless could come and go. He did everything he could to give to others, even to his own detriment! He lost his life, penniless, with few possessions, in an abandoned house.Continue reading
Yesterday we commemorated the beheading of St. John the Baptist, the patron of our parish. I’ve been preaching on St. John for the last two days and since today is called the apodosis, or leave-taking, or giving-back of the feast, I’d like to take some more time to preach about him.
John is the greatest of all our prophets, because he was sent by God to announce the coming of Christ. In the Gospels he says to ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’. He’s saying ‘Get ready, guys. Get yourselves in order because the Lord is coming’ and having people make confessions of their sins and receive baptism. It was of grave importance to him that everyone understood that they were soon to meet the Lord. And now, even as at that time, we 21st century Orthodox Christians, every Liturgy, will meet our Lord, mystically present in Eucharist, and it’s just as important to be prepared.
In June of this year an ISIS jihadist converted to Christianity. His story goes that he was quite comfortable and willing and happy to be killing Christians and Muslims alike, until he began to have visions in his dreams of a man in a white robe telling the ISIS man that he was killing all of his children. Then, the next day, he was given a Bible from a Christian he was about to martyr, read it, and then, being disgusted by his actions, converted. This is exactly what St. Paul was doing, as he referenced himself in today’s epistle about Christ revealing himself. He was murdering and persecuting Christians, on behalf of Jewish leaders. He says that by the grace of God is he is what he is, and that grace working in him inspired him to work harder. St. Paul here was reconciled to Christ’s body through repentance and metanoia, a change of action, a change of mindset to bring about better behavior. We’ve talked a lot about forgiveness over the last few weeks, dealing with one another gently and always expecting best intentions, but today I want to talk about reconciliation. It’s different than forgiveness, because you can forgive someone, but you might never try to reconcile! And if St. Paul can do it, so can we! What do I mean by this?
The Gospel on Sunday was the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor. If you’re unfamiliar with the parable you can follow the link and read it. It’s pretty self-explanitory; if you’re not forgiving people then you shouldn’t expect to be forgiven by God in your own life. There’s no clever way to skirt around it. In order for us to receive forgiveness (and grace, and charity, and so on) in our lives is to in turn take those freely-given gifts and practice them towards others. As Christ says in the Gospel of Matthew when we do these things for others we are doing them to Christ.
Since I’ve been training to try a Strongman competition, but I’m also trying to lose some fat, I have to exercise self-control. I have to eat x amount of protein, fat and carbs. I have to follow particular exercising programs. When I wake up in the morning I eat a certain amount of protein, three hours later a little something else, something before I lift, while I lift, etcetera. I couldn’t do this all at once (I’m still not doing it all at once!) and so I started slow and have been gradually working my way up. I’ve seen the programs of Olympic athletes and their schedules and programs are insane!Continue reading
I’ve mentioned before that the Church, in her wisdom, will sometimes designate particular Gospel and Epistle passages for feast day that are different than what they may usually be (like, for example, if the Transfiguration falls on a Sunday). You may have noticed that since Pascha we haven’t been reading Epistles but the Acts of the Apostles. This book tells the story of the early Christian Church, especially about the ministries of the Twelve and St. Paul’s conversion and work. In the Paschal season we’re reminded in these readings the missionary efforts, the great work, and unflinching faith of the Apostles, a small, fledgling group of men and women dedicated to the Glory of Christ. This month will be my twelfth month here at St. John; I think we’ve accomplished a lot! And as we continue moving forward we’re excited wondering what else we can do. Where can we go over the next three, five, ten years? What are our values here at St. John the Baptist? We can use the Apostles very example to shape our own mission and vision for this parish community. These are the acts that built the Christian Church!
How many of you here are familiar with the show Undercover Boss? I admit, it was a guilty pleasure of mine. For the uninitiated: Undercover Boss is a show where CEOs of companies such as 7-11 and Roto-Rooter completely change their appearance (with hair dye, a dashing beard, or temporary tattoos) and, under the guise of a trainee, interact with the hourly workers who keep their corporate machine running. There they hear the struggles and hopes of their workers all while participating, some who are living in homeless shelters, who can’t afford to pay for babysitters and college so they can rise up. After prodding they often say things like ‘if our CEO was here I’d say x’. At the end of every show there are three or four people who get called to the corporate headquarters, where the company bestows on them a gift of some sort; a scholarship, luxurious vacation, franchise opportunities, and in one case, $250k to get a family out of a homeless shelter and into a house! Pretty fantastic, yeah? But what if one of these folks who got a huge college scholarship decided a few days later that though the scholarship would help eventually, really a large cash donation would have been better, and that person became embittered and angry? Kind of crazy, isn’t it? Continue reading
When I was 19 I, along with two others, was promoted to the illustrious position of shift manager at the local Hy-Vee food stores. We got a fancy title for what was basically middle management, kind of like stock boys but with salary. Two of us were constantly worried about our performance; making sure things were stocked, organizing pallets in the back, while the other did a lot of showy stuff, parading himself around the upper managers in order to make himself look wonderful and making attempts to set himself above the rest of us. But what he did was alienate himself; he turned the store manager against him in his showmanship. He was so busy promoting himself and basking in his accomplishments that he failed to be aware of his other deficiencies.