A pastor in the UK wrote me asking, “What is worship for?” He said that his denomination was encouraging pastors to make worship more “user-friendly” in order to attract new members, and that this initially seemed to him a reasonable evangelistic strategy. A scripture cited in support of this approach was Acts 15:19, “We should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.” But as he read this scripture in context, it looked to him like it was written of people who were already Christian believers, and would not be required to accept Jewish practices. It didn’t address the case of people entirely outside the faith. He wrote to ask, “Who are church services for? Believers or unbelievers?”
[Holy Cross Orthodox Church; November 22, 2009] This weekend we are remembering the repose of Fr. George Calciu, who died on November 21, 2006, just two days before 81st birthday. He died of pancreatic cancer, a fast-moving and painful cancer, and had barely survived long enough to complete one last trip to his homeland, Romania. The news reached us on a Sunday evening that he had taken a turn for the worse. Father Gregory and I were hosting a gathering for Orthodox young people at our home that night, but I left our guests and went with Chris Vladimir to the hospital.
[from A Faith and Culture Devotional, Zondervan, 2008] When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”( Revelation 6:9-10) During the first centuries of Christianity, the church was battered within and without. Pseudo-Christians distorted the faith and misled the faithful, while the powerful Roman Empire persecuted Christians with torture and death. When local church members were able to gather the remains of their fellow-believers (often, this was forbidden), they lovingly interred these broken bodies beneath their altars, a reminder that the blessed departed are invisibly present to join us in worship. St. John writes that, in his vision, he heard the voice of the martyrs crying out from under the altar.
[Ancient Faith Radio; October 30, 2008] We’re back with another episode of “Why CS Lewis is So Irritating!”. And the reason that CS Lewis is so irritating, if you’re a writer, is that he already said everything. He could have left some stuff for me to come up with, but no, it’s all right there, and it’s beautiful, it’s elegant, it’s concise, it’s zing!, it’s just teriffic stuff. But he wasn’t very generous, he didn’t leave stuff over that I would eventually think of one day.
[Ancient Faith Radio, October 23, 2008] Today’s podcast is going to be one that I expect will be a continuing topic here, “Why CS Lewis is just so irritating.” Why CS Lewis *is* just so irritating is because, he already said everything. And he said it better than I’ll ever say it. I find when I read him that I’m simultaneously just delighted and thrilled because he’s just put it perfectly, and it’s such a wonderful, original thought, and it’s even a little deeper, and then I think, darn it, if I’d had enough time I could have come up with that! Curses! Foiled again! I just have to not read him, because I just get so frustrated, because he says everything, and he says it better and more concisely and more delightfully, easier to grasp, and all that. I think this is probably similar to the scientist who thinks, Darn it, if Einstein hadn’t said E=MC2, I would have thought of that! Just give me enough time!
[Beliefnet.com; October 21, 2008] So you think that the existence of suffering proves that there is no God. But can I ask a question? How would you eliminate suffering? What would a world without suffering look like? You have free rein-make it any way you like. Why don’t we start with something specific. People often cite the story told by the character Ivan in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: parents punished their little daughter for bedwetting by locking her in a frozen outhouse. Ivan cannot accept a God who would let that happen. OK, how would you prevent it? Can you imagine a world where there is no child abuse? Not just that one awful case-there’s no point in stopping only one act of abuse. How would you stop child abuse entirely? Would you make it so that an angry parent could not think of any way to hurt a child?
[Ancient Faith Radio; October 9, 2008] Frederica Mathewes-Green: I’m in the nave of the Church of Holy Ascension in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina on Route 17, just north of Charleston. I’m talking with the pastor, Fr. John Parker. Tell me a little about your journey to Orthodoxy, Father, as we get started. Fr. John Parker: Sure. Well, it all began during my Episcopal seminary experience in Ambridge, PA, when the library there had a sale on duplicate books. So they were 50 cents for paperbacks and a dollar for hardback books.
[Ancient Faith Radio; August 21, 2008] I am in Anchorage, Alaska, a beautiful beautiful place, attending the Eagle River Institute. I am one of the speakers here, along with Fr. Michael Dahulich, who is the Dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary. And this is sort of a series of study days that begins every year on August the 1st, and runs through August the 5th, and culminates with the feast of the Transfiguration. After that, many people go down to Kodiak to venerate the relics of St. Herman, and if the weather is fortunate, if the weather is agreeable, also to make a pilgrimage to Spruce Island. So we’re hoping that the weather will be with us and that my husband and I will be able to make that pilgrimage as well.
[Ancient Faith Radio; May 28, 2008] Today I wanted to touch on a couple podcasts from the past, one recent, one a little longer ago, because I’ve had some other interactions since those podcasts were posted, and it’s given me some more to think about. One is the very recent one, about light and darkness. I got an email from someone who said, You know, I always pictured that before creation, God was in darkness; that darkness came first, because after all, it says that when God was creating the heavens and the earth, in the beginning of Genesis, Genesis 1: “The earth was without form and void, darkness was upon the face of the deep, God said, ‘Let There be Light’, and there was light”. I always thought that since he had to create light, that the first thing was actually darkness.
[Again; Spring 2008] Back when I was attending seminary—this was an Episcopal seminary, in Virginia—every time I went to chapel I’d see this Scripture painted on the back wall around the window: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” I had plenty of time to study those words (especially when the sermon was boring). As I read and reread that saying of Jesus, I thought about what it takes to spread the Gospel. What tools do you need? First, obviously, you need to know what you’re talking about. You must be thoroughly familiar with your faith, with its teachings and practices, with the Scriptures. You need information, knowledge stored up in your head. As St. Peter says, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the faith that is in you” (I Pet 3:15).