Touching Jesus

And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!” But Jesus said, “Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and  falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”    (Luke 8:43-48)

 Must we see Jesus? More than that: we must touch Him. “Which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled, of the word of life…,” writes the apostle John. The woman afflicted with an issue of blood declared that if only she could touch Jesus’ garments, she would be healed. She touched timorously, from behind, Jesus’ tunic; and she was cured of her illness. I ask that no day pass without my being able to touch at least the fringe of Jesus’ garment without a power going out from the Savior which will be unto me a pledge of salvation.  We must touch Jesus in secret conversation with Him, in contact with the human members of the Body of Christ which is the Church, in the mystery of Lord’s Last Supper. We must not suppose that we have touched Jesus because we have drawn near to Him. But there are privileged moments when a kind of ineffable shudder, a sort of irresistible evidence (which, if authentic, cast us into the depths of humility) make us cry out: “I have touched Jesus,” or better, “Jesus has just touched me.”  Lord, I am not worthy to lift my eyes towards You. Be merciful to me, a sinner.”  (A Monk of the Eastern Church, Jesus: a Dialogue with the Savior)

Annual Parish Meeting: It is What is New At St. Paul’s

As our parish convenes its Annual Parish Meeting this Sunday, November 8, I have in mind three pastoral thoughts.  All of these are ideas which have come to me recently as our parish leadership has been working on vision and strategic planning and which I have expressed to our parish community in one form or another:

1)      Loafers to bakers    In the life of many Orthodox Christian communities, the majority of parishioner arrive at the Sunday Divine Liturgy in a fairly passive state – if they are ready for anything at all, they are ready to receive Holy Communion, the proclaimed Word of God, the homily relating God’s Word to the present moment.   They are ready to get something out of the Liturgy.  They come expecting there will be someone who has baked the bread for the Eucharist, someone has prepared the bulletin, someone who is prepared to read the Scriptures, some who have prepared the food for the Fellowship hour, some prepared to sing, usher, collect the offering, clean the church, serve at the altar, preach the sermon, teach the lessons.     They come ready to receive rather than ready to serve.   When I peopleliturgythink especially about the baking of the prosfora bread for the Eucharistic offering, I realize we are so passive and so expecting others to do the work of the community.   In Christian community, we must convert ourselves from loafers into bakers.  We must all come prepared to serve as Christ demonstrated to us when He the Lord and Master washed the feet of the disciples.   Or as St. Paul says to us in 2 Timothy 2:15  we all must come prepared for  “rightly handling/dividing the word of truth.”   Though the Orthodox Liturgy applies this phrase to bishops, St. Paul applied it to all believers.  All who are baptized into Christ and who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Chrismation are called and empowered to serve not just to receive.   Our word “Liturgy” in its origins meant “the common work of the people.”   We come to the Liturgy to be numbered among those who labor.  We all need to rethink our roles in the parish as bakers not loafers.

StPaulPlay2)    Continuing Our Mission Parish Council together with the Vision/Strategic Planning Committees have been working on both short and long term goals and projects for the  parish. “Continuing Our Mission” seems appropriate for us as we commemorate our 25th Anniversary as a Parish in 2010.   In 1985 we began as a mission with the goal of establishing a church.  Now we are a church (gifted with wonderful church facilities) and need to re-establish our mission!      We are now ready for our next 25 years of parish life and we are to begin this next phase with what one member calls H.O.P.E. (Helping Orthodox Parishioners be Effective).     

FishersofMen 3)    Tradition: It is the sail not the anchor of the ship of salvation Tradition is to be the sail of the ship which catches the breath/wind of God – His Holy Spirit.  And when we use Tradition to catch God’s breath/wind, the Church is launched on its great spiritual sojourn.  We have to stop treating Tradition as an anchor tethering us to the past and realize its dynamic nature as it propels us into the future.   In St. Paul’s words, “Brothers and Sisters, … one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”   (Philippians 3:13-14).