Rising Victorious

[Atonement Anthology, 2006] Jesus is standing on the broken doors of hell. The massive portals lie crossed under his feet, a reminder of the Cross that won this triumph. He stands braced and striding, like a superhero, using his mighty outstretched arms to lift a great weight. That weight is Adam and Eve themselves, our father and mother in the fallen flesh. Jesus grasps Adam's wrist with his right hand and Eve's with his left, as he pulls them forcibly up, out of the carved marble boxes that are their graves. Eve is shocked and appears almost to recoil in shame, long gray hair streaming. Adam gazes at Christ with a look of stunned awe, face lined with weary age, his long tangled beard awry. Their limp hands lie in Jesus' powerful grip as he hauls them up into the light.

Christ’s Death: A Rescue Mission, Not a Payment for Sins

[Beliefnet, January 10, 2005] An excerpt from “First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty-Day Journey Through the Canon of St. Andrew” Every day, Christians pray “deliver us from evil,” not knowing that the Greek original reads “the evil,” that is, “the evil one.” The New Testament Scriptures are full of references to the malice of the devil, but we generally overlook them. I think this is because our idea of salvation is that Christ died on the cross to pay His Father the debt for our sins. The whole drama takes place between Him and the Father, and there's no role for the evil one.

Stepping Out In Faith

[Kairos Journal, November 17, 2005] In 1991, my husband I made a difficult decision to leave our denomination for theological reasons. It was, for us, a matter of integrity. Bishops were denying the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, and other basic tenets of the faith. After twenty years in the Episcopal church, first with both of us in seminary, and then with Gary serving as a pastor, we knew it was time to look for a new church home. What Gary discovered was the Eastern Orthodox Church. The most striking thing about this church was its determination to adhere to the faith and worship of the early Christians.

Orthodox Controversies?

[Beliefnet, August 2005] “What are the controversial issues in Orthodoxy?” This question, recently posed on a Beliefnet message board, is the dandelion in the lawn of Orthodox inquirers. It's the question I kept asking, fifteen years ago, when my family was deciding to leave our mainline denomination. If we became Orthodox, what would we be getting into? Was it going to be the same heartbreaking arguments and debate - just over pierogis instead of doughnuts? Well, there are controversies in Orthodoxy, all right, but they're not *those* controversies. You can find people on the internet arguing heatedly about whether churches should follow the old or the new calendar, or whether Orthodox should participate in any kind of ecumenical dialogue. But the fierce internet debates don't seem to come up much at the parish level (though you'll find garden-variety power struggles, nominal faith, and other frustrations that plague any church).

Orthodox-Catholic Unity?

[Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2005] “The need is felt to join forces and spare no energies” to renew dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Christians, said Pope Benedict XVI. In comments to delegates of the Patriarch of Constantinople on June 30, the pope explained that “the unity we seek is neither absorption nor fusion, but respect for the multiform fullness of the Church.” Outsiders may wonder: Why don't those two venerable denominations just kiss and make up? From the outside, they look a lot alike. Each church claims roots in earliest Christian history. The dispute that split them is a thousand years old. Isn't it time to move on?

Understanding Icons

[Included in The Sacred Way by Tony Jones, Zondervan, 2004] The first thing we sense about an icon is its great seriousness. Compare an icon in your mind a great Western religious painting, one that moves you to deeper faith or even to tears. You’ll notice that there is a difference in the *way* it moves you, however. A Western painting—which is undeniably going to be more accomplished in terms of realism, perspective, lighting, anatomy, and so forth—moves us in our imaginations and our emotions. We engage with it like we do a movie or a story.

Elder Care for Jesus’ Aging Mother

[Beliefnet, August 13, 2004] My mother lives far from me. It’s about a thirteen-hour drive to get there. She is in pain frequently now, though she brushes it off; her thinking gets confused, though she is always cheerful, in the wry and whimsical way I remember from childhood. I hear her faint voice on the phone, but she usually says she can’t hear me. I rely on my sisters, who live closer, to manage most of her daily needs. Excellent doctors, pharmacists, and in-home caregivers help to make long-distance parental care possible, if not quite perfect. Care of elderly parents has been a burden throughout human history.

Autonomy for the Antiochians

[Christianity Today Online, July 26, 2004] On July 16, delegates to a special convention of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America met in Pittsburgh to adopt a constitution that will usher in a new era of self-rule. Those who find the workings of the Orthodox Church already Byzantine will be further confused by this action. Is it an act of rebellion, as if the Catholic Church in Ireland broke away from Rome? No. It's actually a movement toward unity.

Orthodox Tradition, Yesterday and Today

[Again, Summer 2004] The very title of this talk—the term “Orthodox Tradition”—is one that would confirm the worst fears of my Protestant friends. I have spent a lot of time in Protestant circles, and one thing they’re touchiest about is what they call “dead tradition.” They will quote the line from St. Paul, “See that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men.” (Col 2:8). From that perspective, most of what we do looks like “empty tradition.” The Divine Liturgy we had this morning would be horrifying to them. All that pomp and circumstance, and surely it’s meaningless, right? We’re just going through the motions, hoping to buy God’s favor by repeating the correct formulas.

The Problem with Women’s Ministries

[Beliefnet, July 6, 2004] There are lots of things I like about my church, but you know what I like best? None of that stupid “women's ministry” stuff. No simpering “gals only” events advertised in voluptuous purple italics and threatening to do something to your heart (open, touch, heal, re-calibrate and change the filter). No color-saturated photos of beaming, hefty middle-aged gals (gals who look like me, that is, but with a dye job and a whole lot more makeup). No unique opportunities to Explore God's Precious Promises in an environment that offers all the sober tranquility of a manic-depressives' convention. And the hugging! Well, actually, I don't mind hugging. It's hugging in front of a convulsively applauding, tear-spattered audience that has me groping for the Pepto-Bismol.