Archive for May, 2014

I Am Arius

May 31, 2014



Does it really matter if Jesus is God or not?

Couldn’t God have just picked a man and made him a savior or a messiah? He did it before with Moses and the Prophets. Could he not have accomplished the same if he had made Jesus a great spiritual guide like Buddha, or a man of peace and action like Gandhi?

I know it sounds like a shocking question coming from an Orthodox priest, but I am not the first to ask it.  Among the first to ask this kind of question was a man named Arius. To Arius, it seemed absurd to think that God who is eternal, invisible, inexpressible, and unattainable would appear on earth as a man.  So, Arius held that God created Jesus and so Jesus, being a creature, was not God or equal to the Father in anyway.

Of course, the 318 Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council understood that the divinity of Jesus absolutely mattered. The life of Jesus revealed something about God that we did not know before, something that is a great mystery-God is One, but He is also One in Three Persons.  This revelation of the Trinity was so profound that the Fathers knew that it was crucial to our salvation.  What Arius proposed broke this unity of God and separated the persons of the Godhead.  They labored in the Creed to say that Jesus was fully human, but also fully divine. Jesus was two persons in one without confusion.  So, the doctrine of the Trinity was preserved. Why did the Fathers think this was essential for our salvation?

First, when I meet Jesus, I need to know that he is human. I need to know that he has experienced the struggles and the temptations of life.  The Ascension of Jesus tells me something that no other religion has proposed –that a human being went to God, to sit on his right hand. In doing so,  he bore in his body the marks of his crucifixion. The struggles of humanity sit next to God!  Remarkable!!!

Then, when I meet Jesus, I need to know that he is God. Gregory Nazianzen said – “What Has Not Been Assumed Has Not Been Healed.” The thoughts of wise men and women can do a lot to help me, but if I want to be healed, to be fully saved; only God can do that.  He took upon himself my sin and brokenness and nailed it to the Cross.  He rose from the dead so that I too can rise from the dead.

So, I understand why the Fathers were so anxious to refute Arius. It is said that St. Nicholas was so anxious that he slapped Arius! It is more than just an obscure theological point. It is a huge pastoral issue that speaks to salvation.

The problem is that while I believe in Jesus as God and man, I am also Arius.  If I truly honored Jesus as God, I wouldn’t do half of the things I do and I would do more than what I do.

When I am lax at prayer, I fail to honor Jesus as God and treat him like a man.  I am Arius.

When I am lax in my attendance at church, I fail to honor Jesus as God and treat him like a man. I am Arius.

When I am unforgiving to someone, especially my Orthodox family, I fail to honor Jesus as God and treat him like a man. I am Arius.

When I cannot take a moment to read the words of Jesus and contemplate his wisdom, I fail to honor Jesus as God and treat him like a man. I am Arius.

When I make no attempt to be a disciple of Jesus, I fail to honor Jesus as God and treat him like a man.  I am Arius.

When I do little or nothing to build His Church, which is his body on earth, I fail to honor Jesus as God and treat him like a man. I am Arius.

Jesus is God.

I am Arius.

Somebody slap me!


Kodak moments

May 20, 2014


For the youthfully challenged, there was a time when the Kodak company ruled the world of photography. Cameras used something called film which captured the image and then had to be developed by a professional or by mailing it in to the company. The company was so dominant that the phrase “a Kodak moment” entered into the social lexicon.  I still hear it used now and then but it is becoming a bit old fashioned.  Still, a Kodak moment  is a special moment that should be remembered and memorialized – things like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc.

Kodak may no longer exist, but with cell phones and digital cameras, we continue to memorialize the important moments in life. Now, instead of cabinets filled with pictures we rarely look at, we now have computers and memory sticks loaded with pictures; and again, we rarely look at them. We even have the Cloud and websites that will keep our pictures for us. Funny, but I don’t think I’ve been in the Cloud for a long time.

We all have people and events that we hope we will never forget, and we hope people won’t forget us. Even after someone leaves us in death, we try to remember their birthdays and anniversaries and the other meaningful times we shared together. We do this because of love and we are grateful for what these people meant to us and what they gave to us. They really made a difference in our lives.

The Orthodox have Kodak moments. We take pictures when there is a baptism, wedding, or some special congregational or church event. You can find pictures of these pasted all over the social media. For our church life, there are some moments that are most important. We call these moments feast days.  We remember the Kodak moments in the life of our Lord Jesus. You may be familiar with the two big ones – Nativity and Pascha, but there are many others like Ascension, the Lord’s baptism, Transfiguration, the raising of Lazarus, and so on.

Many churches  study these events, but few celebrate them. Why do we make such a big deal about not only remembering these events, but celebrating them? Simply, Jesus was God incarnate, and this truth alone means that every thing he did or said matters-everything! Every event should be remembered, celebrated, and contemplated because it changes us and challenges us. Every moment of his life was a Kodak moment. So, how should we go about celebrating the Lord’s Kodak moments?

The Orthodox  join together in Church to chant the Vigil and celebrate the Eucharist. We hear the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testament chanted, and we are confronted with the truth and glory of the event.  One of the great fears of the Old Testament is forgetfulness of God. “Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”    -Deuteronomy 6:12 Given the demands and distractions of the modern world, we need these Kodak moments, or we will practically forget God.

There is no other place for an Orthodox Christian to be when these Kodak moments occur than in Church. When we unnecessarily absent ourselves, we are saying that these moments don’t really matter much. It would be like having our mother celebrate her 100th birthday and we don’t show up because something else had a greater priority. Can you imagine such a thing? And yet, Feast after Feast, the Orthodox are absent from Church. While legitimate hindrances can rise up from time to time, some have made non-attendance a habit and a lifestyle. Of course it is considered to be rude or judgmental to point it out.

I suppose that all I can do is end with the words of the Lord: “That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which hath sent him.”                                                                                                    -John 5:23

Forgive us, Father, for the lack of honor that we show to You and to your Son. We truly don’t know what we are doing. Lord, have mercy on us.