Today is the Feastday of St. Spyridon, the Wonderworker, and I always love the common scripture passages the Church gives us during these commemorations of the heroes of our Faith. Mainly because I get to learn about the saint remembered and I get to revisit familiar scriptures in light of the life of the saint! Because we must ALWAYS REMEMBER that the wisdom of scripture is always about how it forms and shapes our everyday living, our choices, our priorities, our thoughts, and our attitudes. The mere gathering of interesting information has some value but it is never enough. Our lives must be shaped and influenced by the wisdom of the Church. You gotta live it if you say you believe it.
And St. Spyridon lived the wisdom of the Faith. He was a widowed bishop and had a daughter named Irene. He attended the First Council of Nicea and, with his simple words about Christ, he put to shame the heresy of the ones who were trying to say Jesus was just a creation and not God in the flesh. He was used by God to do so many miracles, we gave him the name “Wonderworker.” This man LIVED the scriptures, and not just read or know the scriptures! And he used the plain, and simple words of wisdom to instruct and confront wrong beliefs!
Look at our lesson today in John 10:9-16:
The Lord said, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”
Our Lord Jesus knew His words were going to be misinterpreted by His hearers. He knew they were going to be scandalized and even offended by His declarations. And He said these words anyway.
Please notice some stark and plain claims Jesus makes in today’s lesson:
- I am THE door – Jesus doesn’t suggest He is one way to wisdom, but that He is the ONLY way to wisdom and life. He compares Himself to the “Thief” that comes only to steal, kill, and destroy people. Jesus comes to give life, abundant life, overflowing life, and real life to you and me.
- I am the Good Shepherd – Our Lord says He is THE Good Shepherd. The claims of exclusivity are plain and challenging. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He compares His Good Shepherd to the “hireling” that only pretends to care for the flock. The Hireling cuts and runs when danger comes. The Good Shepherd lays His life down for the sheep.
Our Lord Jesus cares for everyone, even those whom He knows will reject Him and even crucify Him. But that doesn’t make the Lord reject them because they reject Him. He loves them, and us, enough to speak the Truth to us regardless of our reactions or even misunderstandings. He does this because, all too often, it’s the stark and disturbing Light of plain truth that has the best chance of waking us up from the stupor of our own self-centeredness.
No wonder the Church moves us to these passages when we approach the wisdom of the normal Orthodox disciplines of the Faith – Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. It is these wise seasons of the Church Year that invite us to the regular and necessary “spiritual spring cleaning” we, who live in a fallen world, desperately need to keep paying attention to our deepest reason for living! Too many times we are lulled to sleep by the desire to be liked or popular or relevant when the Truth is we endanger ourselves and others by accommodating a “tamed” Faith that only leaves us too weak to “hear” His Voice and then miss His direction.
Today, I know it’s hard to hear the plain truth, and there is always the temptation to misunderstand. But our Lord Jesus loves us and only desires our salvation and peace. His devotion to you today means He speaks plainly for your good. And when you love others like He loves others, your willingness to speak plainly to others is sweetened by that loving concern. So, don’t be afraid of plain talk. Embrace it and risk being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, please give me the humble courage to hear and speak the truth motivated by my love for You and all who bear Your image. Give me the grace to maturely realize that most of the time, the truth is going to cause me to experience the growing pains of following You and Your disciple. Fill me with the confidence that this pain is not just worth it, but a great gift to form me into the person You have called me to be. Amen.