Saturday, July 18, 2015

A place of mercy

Speaking of priests and ministers, a sister said,

‘Some of them, unlike Chrysostom, cannot even preach a good sermon but tell little stories which, I guess, they think the average person can relate to. Sometimes, I wish I could go home and read the Bible....’

A few years ago, we had a priest who was very eloquent but actually almost never said anything at all useful or edifying, just a vague mixture of story-telling and New Age philosophy. I always brought my Jerusalem Bible with me to church, and whenever he would start his sermon I would listen until I saw where he was going. Then, I would open my bible and bury my face in it as I read it, sort of dropping out of sight.

Once, after the service, the deacon came over to me in the fellowship hall and scolded me for reading my bible during the sermon instead of paying attention. He said it was disrespectful and giving the people around me a bad example. I told him that I listen to the sermon as long as what I hear is the voice of the Shepherd, but when I hear the hireling, I turn away and read the Bible to stay safe. As for the people, I said, well, I am a sign to them too, because they know me better and longer than they've known this priest. If they see me reading the Bible, they know why.

That priest is no longer with us, nor is he still a priest. The deacon who scolded me and told me I should support this priest even if I didn't agree with him, whenever the ex-priest is remembered in conversation, speaks of him with thinly veiled contempt. He knew the man was a fraud, not even a Christian let alone being Orthodox and a priest as well, yet he supported and even promoted him out of churchly protocol.

This is why the Church must be a place of mercy at all times, because we are all deceived, even all hypocrites, at one time or another. We are God's work, though an unfinished work, and it helps no one to be confrontationally judgmental. All we can do when faced with evil within the Church enclosure is to try to get even closer to Jesus, stay with Him, and do what we see Him doing.

Yes, love covers many offenses.

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