"On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." - St. John 7:37-39
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." - St. John 14:15-17
My family and I were received into the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church by Chrismation on Saturday, 19 December 2009 at St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We received the Holy Eucharist for the first time at the Divine Liturgy celebrated the same day.
Glory to Thee, O God.
Glory to Thee, O God.
Glory to Thee, O God.
God has been very gracious to us. A year ago our world was falling apart all around us. Yet, as blessed King Hezekiah prayed famously in the canticle Ego dixi, "it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; but You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back" [Isaiah 38:17]. No one chooses his own cross, but God lays it upon a man that He may redeem him from futility and beating the air [1 Cor. 9:26] and bring him into the blessedness of His Kingdom, where dust and ashes are healed and raised to become partakers of the Divine Nature [2 Pet. 2:4], through Him who humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross [Phil. 2:8]. We are exceedingly thankful for being grafted into the Fullness of Him who fills all in all [Eph. 2:23].
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. — Ephesians 2:13-14
Friends and Sponsors
We were also blessed to have many friends in attendance. Rev. Fr. Anthony Michaels is the priest of St. John Chrysostom. We are thankful for his priestly care and friendship toward us. He arranged and directed the Chrismation and Divine Liturgy. Rev. Fr. John Fenton of Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Church of Lincoln Park, Michigan anointed us with Holy Chrism, and Rev. Fr. Gregory Hogg of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church of Dorr, Michigan assisted with the sponge of warm water.
Fr. Gregory has honored our family by serving as my daughter's sponsor,
and Fr. Fenton likewise as our son's sponsor.
He was an unwilling participant in the pictures. We were lucky to pull him out from under the chairs. My son, not Fr. Fenton. :-)
I cannot say how grateful and thankful I am for Anastasia Theodoridis. She has been a pure gift from God throughout my entire journey to Holy Orthodoxy. I am humbled to have such a sweet lady as my Godmother.
I think the same should be said for Rosemarie Lieffering, whose benevolence toward my wife and our family has been amazing. Emily is unbelievably blessed to have Rosemarie as her Godmother.
James Childs and I have known each other since college and seminary. He and Sarah made us really happy by standing with us as we were sealed.
Lutherans No More — In the Church Restored
Nearly everyone who traveled to celebrate this day with us is a former-Lutheran. Fr. Gregory, Fr. Fenton, James, and I are all formerly Lutheran pastors. Having now come into Holy Orthodoxy, this seems like a lifetime ago or like having woken long ago from a strange dream. Be that as it may, I think we all still carry this past with us in one way or another. Like any dream its presence is evermore fleeting; the incorporation it has in your fibers is washed out more and more in the fullness of the Today we wish not to waste nor its rest fail to obtain (Heb. 4). Yet it is still there and always shall be.
This is not so bad. We've taken some lumps. We tried and failed in various ways. We've played out our idealism for Christianity (which seems silly now compared to the real thing). And we have been taught to desire our Lord Jesus Christ above all things. For this I am grateful to have once been a Lutheran. But the road of Lutheranism ends at the Church - or perhaps just before it. Lutheranism does not retain the faith once delivered to the Apostles, but merely some of it. The same is true of its practice and its dogma. The Church God instituted through Christ in the Spirit - the Church of Peter and Paul, of Ignatius, of Irenaeus, of Athanasius, of John Chrysostom, of Augustine, of John Cassian, of John of Damascus, and of saints innumerable down to this very day - is found in its fullness in what the world calls the Eastern Orthodox Church. Our longing was kindled among the Lutherans, and it is fulfilled in Holy Orthodoxy. And by God's grace it will be consummated at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The separation of the two in my mind and heart - i.e. Lutheranism from the desire for the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ - was hard to go through. I think I'm safe in saying it was for all four of us in our own ways. Speaking for myself, there were lots of temptations along the way to devalue Christ's call into participation in His fullness. Putting off Christ in His fullness always seemed necessary and excusable because I had some other work that I was doing for Him. Sometimes I was plain willful and refused to allow Christ's pleading to have an effect on me. Sometimes I was lazy and fearful and gave in to paralyzation.
But then at some point I realized something dreadful: that I could undo all of this – by searing my conscience with a hot iron I could close off my soul to Christ in just this one way. Then I wouldn't have to deal with all this stuff anymore. It was a temptation to fool myself into thinking that I could or should control and contain Christ by force of will, limiting Him to those chambers of my being that I had decorated for Lutheranism. This is the reverse of the blessed Virgin. While God had made her to contain in her womb the uncontainable God through her acquiescence, I was tempted for a moment to try to contain Christ as a prisoner through my desperation for dominance and subservience to fear. These are not of God, of course, but of the Evil One. And as such, of course, giving into this would mean a kind of spiritual death, a willing movement backward from redemption into the company of fire-bound spirits.
This kind of temptation is like trying to blow out only part of a match. Usually you blow, only to snuff the fire out completely, leaving you without light. But sometimes you can blow out part of the fire on a match-stick. Then the part that remains quickly burns towards your fingers and you are quickly burned before the fire departs. And lost in this futile struggle is the point of it all: the fire struck on the match-stick was supposed to be kindled, so as to provide illumination and warmth.
God forbid that we should try to extinguish the work of Christ in our hearts! Some people have suggested that there is something brave or courageous about what we have done in leaving ministry, synod, and all the rest. Nothing could be further from the truth. Speaking for myself, I simply refused to sear myself with that hot iron. I was faced, then, with the experience of the Living God who holds me in His hands, rather than me holding Him compact in my mind and security. The Living God seems unpredictable to the man who prefers a religion mediated by his own will, and it is this feeling of unpredictability that was so different and maybe scary. I believe, though, it is not that the Lord is unpredictable, but that He loves like a flaming fire, jealous to save man and bring him into union and fullness, into goodness and Life, into conversion and wholeness. I know I was not courageous. I was simply blessed to be destroyed by God's mercy, that I might be saved and healed and redeemed and hallowed by His love for mankind. And today God has granted my family and I to become participants in the fullness of Jesus Christ our Lord, that Body with such a diversity of members, that one pure Bride of Christ that shall remain with her Lord unto the ages of ages.
We are not the last to take up the spiritual exodus from the Lutherans. There will be more and more, and this story will play out again and again and again. Each story will be as unique as the persons involved, but the exodus is the same exodus for us all. And as each of us who have entered through those blessed and hallowed and joyous gates will tell you, though the exodus comes to an end, the journeying continues every day until our Master appears and says to His faithful, "Come you blessed of My Father; receive the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." May the Lord grant us to be found on His right side through His great mercy, and not on the left.
Of David. A psalm.
1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.