Go To Church!

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In one of my retreats that I give around the country, I have a particular presentation about how to heal the weaknesses of our modern age. I use examples from sociology, psychology, science, and even religion. But then I get down to the timeless and purposeful answer from Orthodoxy: GO TO CHURCH! It usually gets at least a smile from folks, but it’s meant to be a wake up call for us all.

You see, the timeless faith of Orthodoxy has been making saints for centuries. The methodology isn’t complicated but it isn’t easy either. Before there was Sunday School. Before there was multimedia presentations. Before there was an internet or sound system or videos or other technological marvels. Before there was any of the modern conveniences of transportation and communication; there was the constant method of shaping persons into God’s eternal companions: The rhythm of the Church! The Church Year, a robust liturgical schedule, and the intentional community of people being committed to one another in good times and bad times that shaped men and women, boys and girls, rich and poor, into being “like” Christ!

In other words – Go to Church!

Look at Luke 5:12-16:

At that time, Jesus was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one; but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.

Jesus heals a man from leprosy, but He doesn’t send him home. He sends him to the Temple. And that is exactly right because being healed from a horrible disease must be recognized by the Community! Why do you think God gave these regulations to Moses for the People? Because we need the Community to be fully who we are! “Lone Ranger” spirituality always leads to weak theology. Always. We need the Church to be fully Christian. As St. Cyprian said “He cannot have God as his Father who does not have the church for his Mother.”

This is why every time gathering together wanes among us Orthodox, all manner of spiritual illnesses grow! A recent study found that less than 25% of all Orthodox Christians attend liturgy weekly! That’s why it’s silly for us to decry our kids disconnecting from the Faith when they are simply following the example left for them. But, when Church attendance increases, all manner of spiritual growth occurs. In the same presentation I mentioned above, I give folks the three main reasons for growing Orthodox parishes in this country and two of the three reasons are 1. Lot’s of Church Services, and 2. Lot’s of Religious Education! All of that translates into going to your Church building a lot!

Today, is your occasional Christianity letting you down? Don’t be surprised! The spiritual leprosy of our hearts can be cured by God’s grace, but never forget He will then turn to you and send you to His Church for that healing to grow and be maintained. The three word answer to most of your spiritual challenges today is simple (not easy): GO TO CHURCH! It’s the ONLY way to be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Thanks so much to the wonderful community of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans! We had a great time and I look forward to being with you again soon! Do you need a retreat speaker for your community or organization? All you have to do is go to our Speakers Page at FaithEncouraged.org and find out more! Our next event is in Elmhurst, IL!

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6 comments:

  1. Another great teaching! Church as community. Isn’t that what most people are searching for? What I love about the church is that we can have little “communities” within out church community: Church School, Choir, Altar servers, Women’s group, Council, etc. All working together for the glory of God.

  2. Father, your article is completely correct but it does deserve a follow-up question.

    I agree that Liturgy is essential for our growth but if the Church really does believe that why do so many Orthodox Church hold services in language that is not understood by the people.

    Can we really communicate and live the faith in America if the Liturgy is in Liturgical Greek?

    Why does the Church consistently use so much of this ancient language in its liturgical life when it is not even a spoken language? How does this help people understand the faith? How does it help our children learn and live a liturgical faith?

    From a pastoral perspective, what is the reason so many Church’s worship in language people do not understand? Sometime, I think this serves as a silent barrier that tells people keep out!

    1. Andrew, the liturgy is work. It’s in the very meaning of the word itself. It is labor. And if that labor includes a language that is difficult that’s just one more “ascesis” to be followed for the glory of the Eucharistic life!

      Now, having said that, I also believe that using the language of the people is vital to giving people an opportunity to pray with their minds as well as their hearts.

      But the “easy” answers to this issue from all sides is a symptom of our own challenges. As usual, the best answer is challenging, and asks great things of us. But our age demands ease rather than labor. So we fall prey to either nostalgia or self-centeredness, both of which lead us to spiritual poverty. It is a labor, but, as it should be a labor of love, that motivation should guide us beyond our mere desire for nostalgia or ease. Beware the easy answers.

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