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The Lords Prayer part seven: Lead us not into temptation (1 of 2)

This request always struck me as odd. We are told not to “tempt the Lord thy God,” but here we are, it would seem, asking God not to tempt us. First let’s take a look at the Greek. The word temptation is πειρασμός. 

Strongs gives us a definition: a) trial, probation, testing, being tried, (b) temptation, (c) calamity, affliction.

Another word used is “experiment.” 

Passing over the interesting connotations that might bring (cf. Job,) I’d like to focus on the trial, and calamity aspect. 

It would seem that we are requesting deliverance from trying times. I think in terms of those moments when we are pushed to the brink. Rather like Jesus in the desert after 40 days, or perhaps hanging on the cross screaming to the heavens.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Mat. 27:46 KJV


When I was younger, I often misunderstood the scripture as requiring us to ask of God not to tempt us to sin. Asking God not to give us opportunity to “miss the mark.” Now I am wondering if Matthew had more in mind when he  wrote πειρασμός. I think perhaps he is also referring to the many times we as human beings are on the edge of life and death call them both spiritually, intellectually, and or physically.

I am also led to this interpretation via the completion of this verse:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…

Mat. 6:13

In part two I would like to delve into this image of deliverance from evil.

One final thought: it seems with this last couplet in the Lords prayer, we are reminded that the Father is well aware that life is often trying. So he urges us to remember that his son knows this deeply. So have no fear but simply ask to be spared from temptation, from trials, from the times of tribulation. We are asking for God to prevent us, or go before us. And that’s when we are reminded: The God-man Jesus did.

The $20 Pay It Forward

doorA good friend of LOTW recently had his house broken into. Many of his family’s valuables were stolen, such as their TV, computers, and cameras. This is the story of how in a time of distress he was still able to see God in a stranger and help them out. Can we do the same for him? Read the story below, and click on the link here if you would like to help offset the expenses of cleaning up and fixing his home.

It is Friday – for that I am thankful. It has been a rather long week. Monday I came home to find the front door kicked in, all of the electronics along with my guitar and a handful of personal affects stolen…and every closet, cabinet and drawer spilled all over the floor – the house, with the exception of my daughters’ room and my icon/prayer corner were completely ransacked.

It was a very long night that first evening. The police spent some time at the house and after they left, I had to secure the front door for the night until it could be permanently fixed. The girls were scared and they did not sleep well. They both woke up in the middle of the night several times as I slept beside them. At one point, they were crying and I took them in my arms and told them, “I love you and I am not going to let anything happen to you. We are safe and God is with us.” Then I prayed over them and they fell asleep in my arms. I remained vigilant through the night.

The next day, I had a monitored alarm system installed in the house using my employee discount as I work for a security company. I really should have had that done when we moved in last year.

I also took an inventory of the things I knew were stolen for certain: The TV, my electric guitar, BluRay player, Google Nexus tablet, Atrix mini-tablet, iPod touch, cell phone, my desktop PC, the laptop, my daughter’s laptop, my coin jar, my CRKT Kit Carson knife, my DSLR camera and lenses. We didn’t have much, but they took what we did have. To add insult to injury, they trashed nearly the entire house and the clean-up is still ongoing. I rent the house and sadly I had no renter’s insurance – I am in the process of remedying that now.

On Tuesday, I went to WalMart to get some blinds for the windows and some opaque curtain panels for the back door. We have sheer drapes which are wonderful for letting the light in, but we had no blinds which meant that at night, anyone could come to the back and side of the house and see everything in the living room and kitchen.

As I wandered the aisles at WalMart, I began to lament this entire thing. I was tired and sad that this happened and especially that my daughters were scared and that their things were stolen. We do not have much, but we were very thankful for what we did have. So as I felt a bit of sadness creep in, I began to think about how it was going to be a very long time before we could ever replace such things. We were already trying to save up for a new bed as ours is small and old and is hard to sleep in. How was I going to replace the things that were stolen – now my daughters weren’t going to be able to do one of our favorite family traditions – Movie Night – where we all sat on the couch and watched a movie together – or hopped on the bed and watched a movie on the computer while we all cuddled together.

As I pulled out of the parking lot at WalMart, I saw a woman standing at the end of the side road – she had two small children with her about the same age as my daughters. She held a cardboard sign which read: “Running out of food. God please help us” – I had a $20 bill and that was about all I had left. I pulled out thinking that someone was surely going to help this woman and her kids. And as soon as I thought that, I instantly turned my car into the small parking lot next to where they were standing. I got out of my car and walked across the street and handed her the $20 bill. She said, “What? Are you sure?!” I said, “I just had my house broken into last night and they took so much of our stuff and they trashed the place. I have two daughters about the same age as your kids. When we get home tonight, the one thing we have is food. When we run out of food I can get more food. They never go hungry and they do not have to worry about going hungry. We will not be able to watch TV or get on the computer because those things were stolen. But my children will have food tonight and so will yours. I was feeling sorry for myself and asking God why this happened. Then there you were with your children standing here asking God for help because you were running out of food. I am selfish way too often…and I almost passed you all by. But I do not want your kids going hungry. I wish I could do more, but I hope this helps a little.”

She began to cry and said, “Why are people so mean to each other? Why would someone do that to you and your girls? I am so sorry. What is your name?” I said, “My name is Matthew…and it’s ok, we are all safe and it’s just stuff.” She said, “Matthew, my name is Sarah and I am going to pray for you guys.” I said, “Thank you, Sarah (then I got a bit teary eyed). We are going to pray for you all as well.”

We hugged and I said, “Never forget that God loves you and your children. And there are resources and place you can go for help so you guys do not have to be hungry.” Sarah said, “We’ve been to a couple of those places but right now I do not have a car and I don’t want to lose my kids. But I will go there if it gets really bad.” I drove home feeling foolish for being despondent about what happened to us.

After I finished installing the blinds and curtains, I took a small break to have a bite to eat. As I was looking at my Facebook, I saw a message from a friend – it was time-stamped a few hours earlier – at the same time God put Sarah in my path, a friend sent me the following message:

“Would the girls like my Kindle Fire? It’s a couple of years old, but I don’t use it very often. It might as well be loved. and we have a small flat screen tv around here somewhere we want you to have once we find it. Ian is digging through the basement right now. Also, while we’re at it, might you like a dog, three cats, and a bunny? “

You see, we met some wonderful people in our catechesis classes a few months ago – Amy and Ian Henry. And Amy had sent me this message. What they saw as a way to help by giving us some small things they weren’t using, I saw as a gift of love that is beyond price. Sarah and her children were asking for God to help them as they stood on a corner in the cold hoping somehow…some way…to be able have food that day. I was sullen because my material items…luxuries all…were stolen and my sense of peace was violated and my girls were scared. And Amy and Ian were at the very same time showing us an act of friendship and love and answering a prayer I had prayed for my children. How moving it is that the love of God is manifest in often beautiful and mysterious ways.

Thank you to Sarah and her children, for being vessels of God’s love – I am praying for you and your children wherever you may be. Thank you to Amy and Ian and their family for loving us and for the precious gift of their friendship. I am forever thankful to God for all of you – my dear family and friends, not just during difficult days, but during the days of happiness – regardless of circumstance, I appreciate and love all of you.

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An American Saint Faces the Communists

F-barnabas

Bishop Barnabas (Varnava Nastich), was born in Gary, Indiana in 1914. In the nine years he lived there, he gained an outstanding appreciation for our love of freedom. Eventually, he moved to Serbia, from where his parents had come. In Serbia, St. Barnabas worked diligently against the Communists regime and was eventually brought to trial in spite of his position in the Orthodox Church. Here is part of the transcript of his interrogation for allegedly spying for the United States. Try to imagine yourself in the courtroom.

‘Q. What do you have to say?

A. All your accusations are inventions and false. I tell you, I am not afraid. You may kill me, but that is not important. The Serbian people are against you and all the civilized world despises you. You have already lost the war.
(The courtroom cheered the prisoner.{!!})

Q. You are reported to have said that the regime in Yugoslavia is atheistic, that violence and crime have the upper hand and there is urgent need for action to remove the tyranny. Did you speak in this manner?

A. Yes, and more than that. I have spoken what all the people are speaking, feeling and desiring.

Q. Do you believe that Americans will come to overthrow the present regime?

A. I believe that quite positively. And I know that our people will meet the Americans with cheers as a liberating army.

Q. Did you speak to the farmers that they will be better off when the Americans come?

A. In substance I did say that to them. And the same I say to you here and now.

In a long question the bishop was charged with being in contact with anti-Tito Chetniks in the hills of Praca and Rogatica.

A. Not a word will I say about those brave men in the free hills who are ready every moment to lay down their lives for their ideals and those of their people.

(The approving uproar was so great that the judges ordered the courtroom cleared.)

The prosecutor produced a letter, purportedly written by the bishop, in which it was stated that 1,300,000 Serbs had become innocent victims of the hammer & sickle.
Q. Did you write this letter, and do you think this statement is true?

A. With my own hand I wrote it. The only thing that might be incorrect in that statement is the number of victims. For, since I wrote that letter, you have killed very many more people. Therefore, I say, only the number might be incorrect.’

In the end the bishop’s legs were manacled, and, clanking his new chains, he was taken off to eleven years of labor in the prison ironworks of Zenica. St Barnabas was released in 1951, eight years early – though he always remained under government surveillance. He “died suddenly,” some say poisoned, on November 12, 1964, aged just 50.

I have always wondered what I would do if I were to be challenged as such. Like St. Polycarp, would I bless my tormentors? As my beloved St. Fevronia, would I curse them, demanding to meet my Lord? Or here, as is the case with St. Barnabas, would I stand tall, filled with the Light among the darkness, and proclaim the Truth? This is what it means to be a martyr in today’s world. If we keep current with today’s events, we see our brothers and sisters faced with this same challenge day in and day out in Ukraine, Egypt, and now in Iraq and Syria with ISIS/ISIL/IS, just to name a few. (I’ll leave the non-fatal persecutions up to the reader to piece together.) And they are answering the call many times over, while we sit here reading our books, watching our screens and playing our games. How do we show that we care? Can drawing a ‘nun’ on our house or changing our profile picture on social media sites change the course of history, or is it merely a soon-to-die fad? We are called to walk with the Lord, our God, and we must be willing to die in order to do so, like so many before us. In fact we MUST die daily.

Holy Saint Barnabas, the New Confessor, pray to God for us! And may the Lord bless all those who stand firm in their faith when it is surely death that they face.

This post originally appeared on Death To the World

Page Divider for Author Bios

Jared Hall is a convert to Orthodoxy and a struggling sinner. He is married to a wonderful, natural-minded, woman and together with their two toddler boys, they are trying to make sense of this world. For this reason he chose St Brendan as his patron. He is a blue collar libertarian and passionate about birth rights, raising backyard chickens, a good scotch, and great conversations. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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The Start

imageI was not raised in the Christian faith. My mother can take an online quiz and it tells her that she is “a believer.” And to this day, I have no idea what my father believes about religion in general. As a child, I read the nativity story on Christmas as we sat around with extended family. This only happened a few times. And other than that, my early childhood was pretty devoid of religion. I recall dabbling in Fellowship of Christian Athletes when my club wrestling coach discovered Christ and became a born again evangelical. Dabbled. That can pretty much describe my late teens to mid-twenties; in and out of “Christianity”, atheism, agnosticism, and back to Christianity. I lived a fairly drunken haze. Spent most of my time at concerts and at friend’s parties, trying my hardest to not grow up. My then-girlfriend belonged to an Assemblies of God church and had attempted to break up with me because ‘we were unequally yoked.’ Being the intellectual I was, I used scripture to inform her that it was me that had to break up with her for that reason. After much deliberation, suffice it to say, we ended up getting married.

imageI had made a conscious decision at this point in my life that yes, I did believe in Christ, and yes, I did consider myself a Christian. I can remember my future in-laws inviting me over to discuss marrying their daughter. They had asked me to describe my relationship with Christ. I sat silently for a while, and the only thing I could muster at the time was to say that it was personal. They took this to mean that it was private and I didn’t want to talk about it. Looking back on it, I could have answered in a better way, but I honestly don’t think I understood my relationship with Christ. I probably still don’t either.

So we were married. We couldn’t agree on a church to attend; my wife having issues with the church she was raised in, me having no idea what I was truly desiring in a church. We had church-hopped to a few local churches, visiting a few times. We finally settled on what would later in its life become an Acts 29 church in a town an hour away. The people were nice. The sermons were nice. The open communion-at-will was nice. It was simply nice. We stopped attending the church when the pastor told me via email that he would not baptise me because we lived an hour away and were not really part of their church because we couldn’t attend any of their ‘missional communities.’ My mother liked to joke that this all sounded like a cult. And you know what? I kind of agree, on some levels. Eventually, we tired of a Christianity based off emotionally driven highs. My wife likes to say that as a kid, her church was a place to get drunk off the Holy Spirit. Which is why she always went back during the week. We wanted more. Something that we could grasp at all times. And at home.

So, how did I become Orthodox? We were friends with a married couple who was going to the Orthodox church in town. They were going originally to prove somebody wrong about the Church, only to decide for themselves that, yes, this was The True Church. The husband told me once that Protestantism teaches you what you have to do to go Heaven and that’s it; Orthodoxy gives you all the tools to succeed. They’d all talk to us when we would go over for parties, or they’d come over for parties, or we’d eat dinner. Pretty much we’d all sit around in the dining room, listening to one person tell us about Orthodoxy. I was also reading a lot of Russian literature. I like to joke that it was Anna Karenina that finally sealed the deal for me. The footnotes told of so much beauty in the tradition and Tradition of the Russian Orthodox culture that I wanted icons right then and there. I had also stumbled on the Death to the World website and quickly grew to love the articles they had published. It was through them that I started to learn about many of the early Fathers and martyrs of the Church and started to develop relationships with certain saints. Our friends became catechumens and we had become more and more interested in going too. But we always made an excuse. Usually because we were really just too lazy. And perhaps a little scarred. My wife was pregnant with our first child and gosh, 10am was just too early. Even after our son was born, we still missed the Chrismation of our friends for these reasons. But, FINALLY, we went to a service. We walked in and were taken back by the incense and the icons. The priest came out and introduced himself (only then did it hit him that he knew me as a child). We felt at home. It was beautiful. The people were wonderful. The choir was glorious. I could go on and on. But I’ll save you all. Just going to that first service took us more than a year, but as my wife and I drove home, we turned to each other, and almost instantaneously, we both proclaimed that yes, that was home. That was what we had been searching for. My wife will tell you now, that the Church is sobering. And I cannot agree more

An original version of this post was published on the Death to the World website. Thanks to them for also playing a part in my conversion.

Page Divider for Author BiosJared Hall is a convert to Orthodoxy and a struggling sinner. He is married to a wonderful, natural-minded, woman and together with their two toddler boys, they are trying to make sense of this world. For this reason he chose St Brendan as his patron. He is a blue collar libertarian and passionate about birth rights, raising backyard chickens, a good scotch, and great conversations. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Come Forth!

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Renewing Eve

Some Reflections on Lazarus Saturday

There are so many beautiful services in the Orthodox Church during Great Lent, but there is one in particular that has pierced my heart more than any of them.  It is Lazarus Saturday, where we commemorate Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead.  At first, I wasn’t even sure why it made me feel the way that it did.  The story from John, Chapter 11 has always been one of my favorites.  As I reflect on its history in my own life, I am beginning to understand more about how the beauty of Christ’s own humanity has made it possible for me to become fully human again.  When I say “fully human,” what I mean is that it is possible for a Christian to live a life so surrendered to Christ, that His image in them is fully realized and can be restored to what God…

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Lenten Piety: A Meditation on Matthew 6:1-18

902795_574077585957262_1181938794_o“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”  – Mat. 6:1

This must be the character of our Lenten practice. Not showy or self-aggrandizing, but humble, secret. Note the term “in secret”, it will be repeated and form a kind of theme.

 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – ibid., vv. 2-4

The giving of alms is a physical fulfillment of the second part of the great commandment “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) To use the vernacular we “put our money where our mouth is.” Charity is central to Christian practice, but how we give alms is just as important. Humility must permeate our almsgiving. Humility is how we should approach God and our fellow man. The Lord not only cautions us against pride and seeking praise from others, but also self praise saying “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Note again that this is “in secret”.

 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” – ibid., vv. 5-8

This I take as an image of the practice of hesychasm, the prayer of the heart, the Jesus prayer. The room with the door shut is the heart shut off from the chaos of temporal life – the secret place. There God meets us – “our Father who is in secret.” The secret unknowable Trinity is made manifest in the prayer of the heart. Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy on me a sinner. Not many words. Not an empty phrase.

Pray then like this:

1932164_10202537268569571_1732409600_nOur Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.”

– ibid., vv. 9-13

Volumes have been written on The Lord’s Prayer. I will not attempt to meditate on it here. Perhaps another time. Just not the communal interpersonal aspect of prayer. We not only pray in secret, but we pray together.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – ibid., vv. 14-15

The Last Sunday before Lent is Forgiveness Sunday. Forgiveness begins of our journey to Pascha.

“And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – ibid., vv. 16-18

Fasting like charity is a given in Christian practice. Our mode of fasting is what concerns our Lord in this passage. Again humility is the setting for fasting, and again “in secret” is the image used.

Note the structure of these verses, how they image the threefold path of our Lenten journey. Prayer both in the heart and in community is at the center supported by Charity and Fasting. These three pillars must be practiced in the spirit of humility. “Not seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

30th Anniversary of the Repose of Fr. Schmemann

1513201_690005781039477_1523525934_nToday we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the repose of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann. This short meditation will not be about his life. It will not try to expound on the man’s legacy or attempt to contextualize his importance within the Orthodox Church. In honor of Fr. Alexander, let us instead speak of Liturgy and the Eucharist – the center of Christian Life and Worship

In his book For the Life of the World Fr. Alexander writes, “The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom… [Our] entrance into the presence of Christ is an entrance into a fourth dimension which allows us to see the ultimate reality of life. It is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.”

The Divine Liturgy opens with the words “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!” In the Eucharist we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven – the perfect Kingdom – made present here on earth in the Church by the presence of the crucified and risen Christ.

We are formed by entrance into the Kingdom to be temples of God celebrating the Heavenly Liturgy in the holy place of the heart. In eating the Body and Blood of Christ the new Adam, offered up in Thanksgiving on behalf of all and for all, we become truly human. The life of the true human, the redeemed human, is to give praise and thanks to God. In the words of Fr. Alexander, “The only real fall of man is his non-eucharistic life in a non-eucharistic world.” (ibid)

The Divine Liturgy is a synergy between the three churches – the three kingdoms. The paradigm – the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church – the community of the faithful, and the person – the temple and alter of God. Brothers and sisters, it is not enough to ponder on this. We must gather as church and enter into the kingdom. Let us offer praise and thanksgiving – the Liturgy.

Ponder the words of John the Evangelist in the context of our meditation and see how the scriptures may be illumined through the Liturgy:

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” John 14:16-20

– שְׁמוּאֵל