Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thinking

Yes, thinking. Thinking about unity. Thinking about the Church. You know I am an Orthodox Christian, a Greek. You may also know that I really love this ‘flavor’ of Christianity because it keeps alive the language of the Greek Bible. Yes, I am ‘an original languages Bible man,’ and I am always on the lookout for anyone else who can find inspiration and spiritual strength from going into the storehouse of God's Word, to bring out things new and old.

Why am I thinking about unity? Well, because the Orthodox Church in America thinks that it needs to be united. United? In what way that matters is it not united? Εις κυριος μια πιστις εν βαπτισμα, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5), isn't that enough for us? And what's more, we are millions of Christians who with the rest of the Orthodox world confess One God in a Triad of Persons: heavenly Father, only-begotten Son, and Spirit holy.

Then, there's the Symbol. What symbol? The Symbol—yes, I know, most Christians call it the Creed, but I prefer ‘Symbol.’ Why? Because ‘creed’ instantly cages in one's thoughts and makes one a prisoner of ‘religion,’ but this is no mere religion. It's not about what I believe, but in Whom I trust—πιστευω, I trust—which includes but goes beyond mere belief. It is the Person of Jesus Christ, not ideas about Him, that saves. Well, He saves those who trust Him.

So what is this unity that we lack? I am at home in my Greek church, and receive the Holy Mysteries there. And I am at home in the American church, and receive them there too. And when I worship with the Eritreans, swaying and praying with them as they beat drums and shake sistrums, I am at home, and if I am prepared, there too I partake of the Mysteries. I am at home in the church of Antioch, and the Serbs, Romanians, Ukrainians also welcome me among them. Everywhere I go, He is there, and we break bread together.

Home is home, and there is only one Church, and within her the many mansions manifest even in this world that the Lord promises to prepare for us in the world to come. I think sometimes that bishops, priests and deacons think that the unity of the Church depends on them. Well, in a way it does. They are ikons of our unity. They provide a focal point for our meetings in the Lord, for worship, for instruction, for philanthropy, for mercy. But they cannot add anything by pronouncement or jurisdiction to that which Christ already provides to those who trust Him.

‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight… But now my kingdom is from another place,’ says Jesus Christ to those who like Pilate would ask Him if He is a king. ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’ (John 18:36-37). Sometimes I think Christians feel they must present a ‘united front’ to the world, so that they can make an ‘adequate response’ to the challenges the world throws at them. Yet Jesus says, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight…’

Human nature, even when it is tamed and has begun to change into the Image that it reflects, still labors in a weed-ridden field. None of us is infallible or beyond failure to grasp the most obvious truths. The more we exalt ourselves or let ourselves be exalted, the greater the danger that we may fall prey to illusions. Having received in full measure the grace of God in His abundant mercy, we think we have to strive and labor to purchase for ourselves what He has given us free of charge. Unity in the Holy Triad is one of these gifts. Not recognizing Divine Unity we may overlook it as we hurry to achieve human unity.

There is nothing systematic about unity. When it is real, it just happens. The Church stays together because it wants to be together, and it does not do this to please, or to threaten, the world. How will the world know—and know for sure—that the Orthodox Church in America is united, is one? Not because we are all under a single hierarchy in chain-of-command jurisdictional formation. Not because our ‘spokesmen’ can pronounce and pontificate on current events and issues. No, the world will know that we are one in the way that Jesus Christ says it will.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
John 17:22-23

1 comment:

David Dickens said...

Men have plans. God has given us, not a plan, but a way. Still men make plans. They hope in them, instead of in Him. But strangely they seem disappointed in Him, when the plans fail.

I, too, am at home, where ever hospitality will have me.