We Are All Brothers in Christ…

Posted by on Nov 17, 2010 in Featured Category, Outreach Messages | 0 comments

Orthodox Bishops

“…Orthodoxy is a celebration of diversity in unity, and unity in diversity…in our one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… our one Orthodox faith and our …commitment  to living the truth…as Christians…not to live according to the spirit of the world, … to our passions, … the desires that flit through our minds and lead us into all sorts of trouble, but to live the truth…

And, our diversity is something we celebrate, not of lifestyles, but that reflects the whole spectrum of our community, people of all races, all colors, from a multitude of different ethnic backgrounds.  And yet, there is another thing that unites us here as well: we are all Americans.  We are a single community of Orthodox Christians, and we are the local church in Dallas, the local church in Northeast Texas.  It doesn’t matter that we have all these various administrative jurisdictions, ultimately, because we gather together as one body, to pray with one mind and heart, celebrate the same Eucharist, come to the same chalice. It doesn’t matter if we are eastern rite or western rite, doesn’t matter the language in the service is, but that we are one indigenous Church.

But who are we really? …There are Americans who have been born and bred in this land who have embraced the Orthodox faith, who have come over here – fleeing communism and/or Islamic domination, and oppression. …our church here has this rich diversity but we all share a common identity.  It doesn’t  matter what language the services are in, we appreciate them all.  We appreciate the Arabic and Romanian and Slavonic; we appreciate the Georgian and Albanian and who knows what else.  But we also have to appreciate the English and the Spanish and the French, just as we have to appreciate the Klinkit and the Aleut, the Upik and the Athabaskian, who are the true indigenous Orthodox Christians of our land.

…we are a Church, albeit with separate administrations, that has a common value of determining our own destiny, dedicated to the conciliar process, which does not ignore the voice of the laity, of the priests, a church which is united in its common commitment. … We are Orthodox because we have chosen to be Orthodox…committed our entire life to Jesus Christ and the Gospel… and to bring our brothers and sisters in our land to that same commitment of Jesus and His Gospel, not some kind of alien ideology, some nationalist or imperialist ideology from some forgotten empire, not an imposition of foreign customs and submission to foreign despots… so the efforts and the labor and sweat and blood and tears of all those who have gone before us to establish the Orthodox Faith in America for over 200 years now, 215 years to be precise, is not wasted. For it is upon these people’s sacrifices, martyrdoms, sanctity… that our Church here is built. 

There are those who say that there was no canonical Orthodox Church in the North American until 1924…Excuse me. The Russian Orthodox Church established a missionary work here in 1794.  It established English-speaking churches where priests were trained to speak, serve the liturgy, teach the Gospel, and to bring faithful people into the Orthodox Church, from 1857 in San Francisco.  They say our unity in America was a myth at  the time of St Tikhon.  Well yes, there were a few dozens of churches that  were not part of it…  What about those 800 churches that may have had Russian clergy or clergy trained by the Russians, but were composed of Greeks and Serbs, of Arabs, of Romanians, of Bulgarians, and of converts, who have stood for the the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the integrity of the witness, the missionary outreach which is essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  These stood not to make people Greeks or Russians or Arabs, but to simply bring the gospel to this land, in its wholeness and its completeness, as it  was preached by the holy Apostles, in the fullness of its integrity…

It is imperative for us to come together…not  for all the other churches, Antiochians and Serbians and Bulgarians and Romanians and everyone to join the OCA, but to come together in a new organization of Orthodoxy in North American that brings us all together as one Church…so that all the Metropolitans get together on a special Synod or something like that. So we can continue our relationship with the Mother Churches, a relationship of love and support.  Firm in our own identity as Orthodox Christians and making our witness to protect them from whatever evils confront them, whether it be an aggressive Islam, or Communists who now call themselves democrats (and I’m not talking about Washington by the way, not at all.)

…It’s the same thing with the churches in the Middle East.  How many hundreds of thousands of faithful Iraqi Orthodox Christians are living as refugees in camps in Jordan and Syria, ignored by the world. We need a united, powerful witness…that  will not only bear witness to the unity of … our common …Faith in Jesus Christ, the one Lord. We need to bear witness as a united Body to those issue that affect all Orthodox Christian throughout the world. …There has been no Orthodox voice, save one lone Serbian bishop, during the American aggression in Kosovo.  There were so many hundreds and thousands of Orthodox Christians who suffered and died at our hands, and the hands of our government and our voice was muted.

We have to come together as one united Orthodox Church in North America in order to truly show people that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic Church… constituted by the Apostles of Jesus Christ.  And, there is only one way to show that – not  by self-righteous proclamations or condemnation of non-Orthodox Christians, but by showing people how we love one another, we forgive one another. …The Orthodox way of life is the way of the healing of the soul and way of salvation.  …We have to come together.  The Lord Jesus Christ is calling us together to be one Church in America, composed of all Americans, no matter where they came from, no matter how long their ancestors, or they themselves have been in this land. The Church was planted by our Fathers in the faith generations ago, on this continent.  It has grown and bears fruit.  And, it subsists out of our common sacrificial commitment to Jesus Christ.  Let  us give thanks to God for our unity and for our diversity. 

God Bless you.
(transcribed from Metropolitan Jonah’s Sermon at the St. Seraphim Cathedral, April 5, 2009)

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