Ancient Answers

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Keys and a Sword

June 29th is the feast-day of Saints Peter and Paul, the two most renowned of the apostles. In the Orthodox tradition there are three primary icons of the two apostles. The first shows Peter and Paul together supporting a model church building:



The second family of icons shows Peter and Paul in closeup, embracing each other:


The two icons represent important truths, not only about Peter and Paul, but about the church. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that he confronted Peter over matters of the Jewish law and accused Peter of cowardice and hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). Peter had already been instructed by a vision from heaven (Acts 10:9-16) that in God’s eyes all are clean, nothing is unclean. It was a clear command that the Law of Moses would no longer be an obstacle to the mission of the church. But it seems that on occasion Peter forgot the vision or gave in to the pressure of other visions, and hence the confrontation with Paul at Antioch. The icon of embrace shows the reconciliation of the two apostles.

The two icons go together. They remind us that in the church competing opinions and visions are always present and sometimes come into conflict. But the Church is built on forgiveness and reconciliation. And that brings us to the first icon above. Peter and Paul are shown supporting the church jointly. Their reconciliation makes it possible to draw this icon.

The third icon is less common. It shows Peter and Paul side by side – Peter holding some keys and Paul holding a sword at his side:


In the Gospel reading for June 29th (Matthew 16:13-19) Jesus gives Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul encourages his readers to put on the “whole armor of God.” The final piece in the armor is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Peter is given the keys, while Paul wields the sword of the Spirit.

The keys and the sword go together, they complement each other. And they too, need reconciliation, just like the apostles themselves. Keys unlock something that is closed. The apostles were commanded to unlock the kingdom of God. But how is the kingdom unlocked? By preaching the word of God – but not just words; rather words that cut like a sword with the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Hebrews 4:12 we read: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” In Acts chapter 2, the apostles receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and Peter stands up to deliver the first sermon of the newly born church. At the conclusion of his sermon (verse 37), “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'”

The power of the Holy Spirit is in that question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” The word of God, when it is preached with the power the Spirit, requires a response. If there is no response, then it’s just words, preached without power, without the sword of the Spirit. The word of God cuts through our defenses like a sword and opens our hearts and minds to the riches of the kingdom. The keys and the sword go together. Peter and Paul are honored together. They need each other. The church continues to have the keys to the kingdom, but only through the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


Still preparing the Way

Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner. He is called “Forerunner” because he appeared before Jesus Christ, to prepare the way of the Lord, in the spirit of what Isaiah had spoken: A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LordMake straight in the desert a highway for our God.” He was a voice crying out in the wilderness of human society, preparing a people’s hearts to receive the coming of the Lord. Two thousand years later, I venture to say that hearts are still not prepared for the coming of the Lord; the way still needs preparing. The world is still a desert, a “highway” for God is nowhere to be found.

There are churches, cathedrals and monasteries all over the world that claim to have his belt or some other garment of his, some piece of his body or even his head! But nowhere is his spirit to be found.

John was a rebel even before his birth. The story of his conception and birth is told in the first chapter of Luke. He was conceived by divine intervention in a manner similar to the birth of Samuel a thousand years earlier. After the birth of Samuel, his mother Hannah prayed a most remarkable prayer, a prayer far from what we might think would be normal after the birth of a child. But these were revolutionary times.

“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
    because I rejoice in thy salvation.

“There is none holy like the Lord,
    there is none besides thee;
    there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea…” The times of John’s birth were also times of unrest and evil; they were revolutionary times, when God’s new acts were imminent, in the air, in the daily talk of the people. And angel appeared to the priest Zechariah and told him that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son, who would “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And… he will go… in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” 

Six months after the angel appeared to Zechariah, another angel went to a young woman in Israel and told her she would be the mother of an even more remarkable baby. Mary was the woman, and a relative of Elizabeth. When she heard the announcement of her miraculous, divine birth-giving, she spoke these words. Note the remarkable similarity to Hannah’s prayer:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

Both Hannah and Mary spoke of justice – justice for the poor and hungry, justice that would overturn the high position of the rich and powerful. God’s values were always the opposite of man’s values, regardless of whether you are speaking of ancient Israel or the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time… or today.

St_John_BaptistJohn’s appearance was offensive to civil society. He told people to repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand – not the kingdom of man, not the kingdom of Rome, not the kingdom of the IMF or any other worldly power then or now. The Church calls him a saint – but by doing so, have we managed to lose the bite of his existence? Have we domesticated this wild man who lost his head to a king? Did the kingdom of God prove powerless after all, to save him? And did the kingdom of God fail to save John’s cousin, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose way John prepared?

Ah, but the story is not over. The kingdom of God is still coming, the way is still being prepared – if not by John, then by those who choose to go against every institutional restriction, who refuse to be brainwashed by the mighty who still sit on their thrones. Christianity has always lived among those who prefer the wild ways of John, not among the comfortable. If your Christian faith makes you comfortable, you really need to go back and open the Gospels, especially Mark, Luke and Matthew.

John walked in the spirit of Elijah. We are called to walk in the spirit of John, to prepare a way for the Lord, to make a highway for him in the desert of the world’s spiritual emptiness. We are also called to speak with Mary, to dream with her. We sing the words that Mary spoke at every Matins service in the Orthodox Church. We sing them. Perhaps we need to speak them instead – speak them to each other and to the powerful who think they own the world and all that is in it.

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The Undivided Life

Few Gospel texts arouse as much reaction as today’s reading (Matthew 6:22-33). It would seem that every “starving sparrow” contradicts Jesus; every famine and every war; the text appears to be extremely simpleminded and naive about economic problems; and it appears to encourage laziness. All these are questionable criticisms, but understandable if you only take this text at face value and not dig deeper.


Jesus is not naive about economic needs; he understood perfectly well how the world functioned. His purpose in this section of the Sermon of the Mount was to encourage an unconflicted, undivided existence. The key word in the Greek text is for they eye to be ἁπλοῦς. The usual translations, “sound” or “healthy”, don’t do it justice; they sound too medical, as if you need contact lenses or new glasses. The more important meaning of the word ἁπλοῦς is “simple,” “single” as in “being motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and aboveboard, single, without guile, sincere, straightforward i.e. without a hidden agenda” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition).

The two words Διὰ τοῦτο connect the statement about the ἁπλοῦς state of being to what follows. One writer calls it “intentional Jesus language” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1-7, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, 2007). It is indeed, very intentional language that Jesus uses – always. To read the statements about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field out of context, separately from the words about the ἁπλοῦς eye is to miss the whole point! And finally, “Seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness,” and everything will fall into place. Your work, your planning for the future, your ability to face each day’s challenges – you will have the clarity of mind and calmness of heart to choose priorities and make decisions. Far from being naive, Jesus is acutely perceptive and psychologically accurate. Flowers and birds are images of undivided holistic existence. Even the “kingdom of God” can be seen as a symbol, an image of something beyond conception. Flowers and birds are only images and symbols, just like fish and sheep that I spoke about last week. Don’t let these images blind you to the message. But perhaps that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Perhaps it is our distance from nature that creates such conflicted priorities in our lives!

And here is something else to think about. The tragedy in Charleston this past week has raised many troubling issues. Much attention has focused on the shooter’s posing with the Confederate flag that continues to fly in the State House of South Carolina. But there are also photos of the shooter burning the American flag. Even though Jesus did not have flags and racist shootings in mind, his teaching is very much applicable to what happened in Charleston. South Carolina can’t have it both ways. Flying the US flag with the Confederate flag is a contradiction; those two flags don’t go together, they stand in opposition. The shooter made his choice. He chose the Confederate flag that represents racism, slavery, and a nation torn apart. And he burned the US flag. He made his choice. South Carolina has to make a choice. Is it part of the United States? Then fly the US flag and take down the Confederate flag! That now is becoming a campaign, and even presidential candidates from both parties are joining their voices to the public outcry. Symbols have meanings. What symbols do you choose for your life? There’s a good question for self evaluation for all of us.

Divided loyalties don’t work in personal life. They don’t work in civil society. This little corner of Jesus’ teaching can be applied to practically every aspect of human life. Did you notice the Pope’s brilliant encyclical released last week? How he connected climate change and environmental issues with economics and social justice? That’s how the teaching of Jesus works – has to work! Everything is connected because everything revolves around whether or not we seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.


In the name of freedom

Jesus called fishermen as his first disciples and instructed them to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Does this mean that people will be forced to be followers of Jesus, caught in nets that they cannot escape? It depends on where you put the emphasis – on the fish or the fishers. Jesus clearly used the metaphor of fishing because he was speaking to fishermen. The metaphor has nothing to do with trapping/deceiving/manipulating people into believing. Those are the methods of cults and other religions, including fundamentalist versions of Christianity.


Fishermen worked hard, very hard – they still do. Jesus is telling them that they will have to work even harder to bring people into the kingdom of God. Human life is messy. The world is a complex place. Don’t believe anyone who tells you Christianity is simple. It’s not simple, because life isn’t simple! The demands of Jesus are not straightforward. His use of metaphors like fish and sheep to describe the people who follow him does not mean that he wants us to be mindless, unquestioning followers. Jesus only desires people who will follow him freely, without coercion or deception. Jesus does not look for blind faith. He himself welcomed dialogue and debate. He faced the questions of people who didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand him; and he questioned them right back. The four gospels can be read as a series of dialogues and explorations with Jesus. Today, too, Jesus looks for people who will enter into dialogue with him. That’s where true faith is found, in that dialogue!

To more fully understand the kind of faith that Jesus looks for, let’s read  the earlier part of chapter 4 in Matthew. This is the scene of the “three temptations” that Jesus faced after his baptism in the Jordan. Here is how Matthew describes the scene. Notice how this too, is a scene of dialogue, debate and exploration of the meanings of scripture. Jesus confronted the devil in the same way as he confronted all challengers: through dialogue and argument, not force or manipulation. This is the way of Christian freedom.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 

But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” 

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 

Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.

There is no better explanation of the three temptations than Dostoyevski’s parable of the Grand Inquisitor, which occupies an entire chapter in his great novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoyevski was a devout Orthodox Christian, but was very honest in his views of the church and Christianity. And honesty is essential when you think about the church. I love the hymn that we sing every year at Holy Friday evening at the Lamentations: Τέξασα ζωήν, Παναμώμητε ἁγνὴ Παρθένε, παῦσον Ἐκκλησίας τὰ σκάνδαλα, καὶ βράβευσον εἰρήνην ὡς ἀγαθή. We sing to the Theotokos, the Mother of Christ, to “stop the scandals of the Church”! Right there, in the middle of one of the most popular services of the year, we acknowledge that not everything is right with the church. It’s one of the most honest hymns we sing all year!! The Grand Inquisitor represents the greatest scandal: when the church of men of the church presume to know better than Jesus what human beings need.

The Grand Inquisitor is a parable told by one of the characters in the Brothers Karamazov. The parable takes place in the 16th century, during the time of the Roman Inquisition. Jesus appears in Seville, Spain, and the crowds recognize him and throng to him. The Cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor himself, appears and immediately arrests Jesus. He then confronts Jesus in prison and accuses him of getting it all wrong about human beings. Accusation after accusation is thrown at Jesus by the old man, and Jesus listens without speaking a word. The Cardinal uses the three temptations to prove his central message – that Jesus was wrong to trust in the freedom of human beings. Here are a few select quotes from the Ignat Avsey translation published by Oxford University Press in 1994. Notice the sheer arrogance from the very first words that come from the Grand Inquisitor’s mouth.

“Is it You? You?” There being no answer, he adds quickly, “Don’t answer, remain silent. After all, what could You say? I know only too well what You would say. And You have no right to add anything to what You have already said. So why have You come to disturb us? For You really have come to disturb us, and You know it.

Freedom of faith was dearer than everything else to You then, fifteen hundred years ago. And didn’t You Yourself say so often, ‘I want to make you free’? Well, now You’ve seen them, these ‘free’ men. 

The terrible and clever spirit, the spirit of self-destruction and annihilation,” the old man continues, “the great spirit spoke to You in the wilderness… Those three temptations combine and predict, as it were, the whole future history of mankind…

That first temptation in the desert… You rejected in the name of freedom, which You elevated above everything else.

You knew that Your glorious deed would be recorded in the Scriptures, would reach to the depths of time and to the furthest limits of the earth, and You hoped that, in following You, man too would remain with God without need of miracles. But You didn’t know that as soon as man rejected miracles he would also reject God, for man seeks not so much God as miracles.

You did not come down from the cross when they shouted at You, mocking You and ridiculing You, ‘Come down from the cross, and we shall believe that it is you.’ You did not come down because once again You did not want to enslave man by a miracle, and You thirsted for a faith that was free and not inspired by miracles.

Why did You refuse that last gift? Had You accepted that third suggestion of the mighty spirit, You could have provided all that man seeks on earth— that is to say, someone to worship, someone to take charge of his conscience.

You would have founded a universal kingdom and brought universal peace. For to whom is it given to rule over men, if not to those who rule over their conscience and in whose hands is their bread?

When the Inquisitor stops speaking, he waits a little while for the prisoner to answer him. He finds His silence disconcerting. He has seen the captive listening all the while quietly and attentively, looking him straight in the eye, and apparently not wishing to respond. The old man wants Him to say something, no matter how unpleasant and terrible. But He suddenly approaches the old man in silence and calmly kisses him on his bloodless ninety-year-old lips. That is His only response. The old man shudders. His lips quiver; he goes to the door of the cell, opens it, and says, “Go and don’t come back any more… never… never, never!” And he releases Him into the dark backstreets of the city. The prisoner walks away.’

It is a devastating chapter, and it can be read by itself without the rest of the Karamazov novel – although you would then miss out on one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. The Grand Inquisitor represents a vision totally contrary to that of Jesus. It’s a vision that has no room for human freedom – the freedom for which Jesus died, the freedom that is yours today. Be alive in Jesus!



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“Average Healthy Human”

I will always remember the summer of 1967. I was only 14 years old and blessed to reside in what was then one of the great cities of the world, Montréal, Canada. The city was experiencing a revival and huge building boom, including what was then the most modern subway in the world, the Metro. Riding on the Metro every day was fun, but the most exciting thing about Montréal that year was the World’s Fair, Expo 67. During the six-month duration of the exhibition, more than 50 million people visited the site, with its one hundred pavilions. Many of the earth’s nations participated, as well as many large corporations. And there were several pavilions that expressed different aspects of the overall theme, Terre des Hommes (“Man and his World”). It was an amazing expression of humanity’s greatest achievements and hopes, a true humanist masterpiece. With my summer passport that cost only $35 if I remember correctly, I spent that entire summer at Expo 67. It was my first experience of global consciousness. And Buckminster Fuller was one of the architects of my dawning global consciousness.

It was the time of the Cold War. In a brilliant stroke of genius, the pavilions of the US and the USSR at Expo 67 faced each other across the St. Lawrence River on the two islands that made up the exhibition site. People commented on the huge difference between the two pavilions. The USSR pavilion pulled all the stops in its ambition to show the industrial, technological and space achievements of Soviet communism. The US pavilion  featured some space exhibits, but most of all it was an expression of down-home Americana. People made fun of the contrast between the Soviet displays of technological propaganda and the Americans displays of antique dolls, Hollywood and pop-art posters, and Elvis Presley’s guitar! Only an old Gemini capsule and its parachutes competed with the Soviet displays of space achievements.

The Soviet pavilion with its sloping roof and faceless exterior sits across the water from the US geodesic dome.

The Soviet pavilion with its sloping roof and faceless exterior sits across the water from the US geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.

The architecture of the two pavilions also demonstrated a profound difference. The USSR pavilion was a mammoth, utilitarian building, perfectly in keeping with the contents chosen to maximize the impact of Soviet propaganda. The American pavilion was a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. The contrast couldn’t have been greater, as the two pavilions faced each other across the water.

Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was one of the great Americans of the 20th century, a genius and true renaissance man: architect, inventor, environmentalist, futurist –  a true thinker and doer! He was awarded the 10917195_10153058756768586_2766082641245548571_oPresidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan in 1983. The geodesic dome that he designed for the US pavilion remains to this day the most lasting legacy of that summer.

Fuller was also a philosopher, with a positive vision of human life on earth. His geodesic dome at Expo 67 best expressed his global thinking. Here he is shown in front of the US pavilion shortly before Expo 67 opened its doors on April of that year. The quote is typical of the man’s vision. (Click the image to enlarge it.) But it’s a vision that seems even more remote today, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and war is everywhere. Daily images of terrorist acts and refugees risking death to escape hopeless existence remind us that we are very far from Fuller’s optimism. And yet optimistic we must remain. Giving in to despair will only increase the forces of evil.

The dual mission of the Christian church is simply stated: We are here to present a message of hope; hope rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ and his vision of a renewed human existence. But alongside this message of hope and optimism we are also to openly confront the evils that are all around us, with boldness and honesty, with anger but not with guns and hatred. Our message of hope does not close our eyes to the evils that afflict human existence.

Near the end of his life, Buckminster Fuller summarized the essence of who he was: “I am now close to 88 and I am confident that the only thing important about me is that I am an average healthy human. I am also a living case history of a thoroughly documented, half-century, search-and-research project designed to discover what, if anything, an unknown, moneyless individual, with a dependent wife and newborn child, might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity that could not be accomplished by great nations, great religions or private enterprise, no matter how rich or powerfully armed.”

I love his phrase, “average healthy human,” and what such a person can achieve that nations, religions and corporations cannot. Throughout most of its history, the Christian church has behaved like a great nation, a great religion, and, in more recent times, like a great corporation. This is a fact, uncomfortable perhaps but impossible to refute. The early Christians confronted the evils of the Roman Empire with the gospel weapons of truth and hope. They were average, healthy human beings, and the church was made up of such as these. Their quiet resistance to the Roman Empire brought something totally new to the world. As soon as the Emperor Constantine won his military victory under the “sign of the cross” the church began its long trek as a nation, a religion, a corporation even. Contrary to the common view of history, I say that it wasn’t Constantine’s conversion that defeated the Roman Empire, but the quiet witness and resistance of those humble, healthy men and women. They are the “cloud of witnesses” that the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:1) speaks of.

Paul Farmer, founder and chief representative of Partners in Health, is one of the great men of today. I love what Tracy Kidder wrote about one of his books. These words should be said of everyone who considers him/herself a Christian: “This is an angry and a hopeful book, and, like everything Dr. Farmer has written, it has both passion and authority.” Do you see how these go together: anger and hope, passion and authority? Christians get angry about all the wrong things and our hope is usually tied to outmoded ways of thinking. We have no passion for the things that God is passionate about, and hence we do not speak with authority and no one pays attention to us. Hard truths, but truths nevertheless.

Fuller saw himself not as a great inventor and architect, but as an “average healthy human.” And I’m sure Paul Farmer thinks of himself in those terms as well. Average, not mediocre; healthy in mind and body, working for the spiritual and physical health and wellbeing of the world; human, human enough to care for the humanity of others. I read these words and I see a good summary of what my own life should be. I see what the church should be. The church is made up of us, so if more of us strove to be average, healthy and human, perhaps the world would be a better place. Let’s stop supporting the cheap celebrity culture; let’s stop trying to turn the church into another celebrity. Let’s honor the great cloud of witnesses of the ancient past; and let’s honor the great cloud of today’s witnesses who strive to be average, healthy and human. It’s the way of Jesus.

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The Connected Life

Every once in a while I have the urge to talk about my favorite conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler. I love what Daniel Barenboim said about him: “He understood that music is not about statements or about being. It’s about becoming. It’s not the statement of a phrase that is really important, but how you get there  and how you leave it and how you make the transition to the next phrase.”

When you listen to Furtwängler conduct you feel that the music is being worked out in the performance. He takes you from the silence before the first note to the silence at the end after the final note in a way that can’t be described by any exact terms.


You can say the same thing about the Christian life, or the Christian life as it is lived by the masters of living… by some of the saints, for example. This life can’t be described by formulas, or by any do’s and don’ts. The Christian life at its most authentic is a life that is being worked out in the process of living. It’s all about becoming. It’s a life of connectedness.

Chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews names many saints of ancient Israel and concludes with these amazing words:And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Apart from us – apart from you, apart from me! – they are not made perfect. That’s the connected life. The saints of the past are connected to us and we are connected to them. 

A month ago I had quoted an article from the Washington Post about what millennials look for in churches. One millennial was quoted saying: “At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.” An ancient-future community! That’s about the most genuine description of what a church ought to be.

We Orthodox are good at the “ancient” part. We’re good at honoring the saints and feeling connected to them and the glorious history and theology of the church. We’re good at that. What we’re not so good at is the “future” part of that “ancient-future” continuum. Is that because vision is lacking in our churches? In our leadership, in our clergy, in the people who come to Liturgy as passive participants?

Perhaps the key is to acquire this sense of connectedness – not only with the past, but with our daily lives, and our hopes and aspirations. Is the Liturgy an isolated moment of inspiration, a spiritual high in our weekly routine? Or is it part of a connected life? A life in which every hour of the week becomes liturgy, becomes a vision of our connection to Christ! That would be a start toward becoming an ancient-future church. Remember, the church is people, not an institution.

Every single one of us is an essential member of this mystical organism called the church. Let us practice connectedness with each other. Let us practice connectedness in our own lives. Let us begin to heal the disjointed life that has become normal for most of us in this disjointed world. Let us see the worth of our existence and find the light of Christ’s presence in everything we do. Let the Liturgy be a guide for the whole week, not simply the spiritual hour of our weekly routine. Let each of us visualize his or her life as a symphony!

No one conducted the great symphonies like Wilhelm Furtwängler did. He was a master in the art of connectedness and transition. His was the art of becoming. And that is also the art of the connected life. Here is a powerful performance of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the “Eroica” recorded live in 1952. Furtwängler conducts the Berlin Philharmonic in this live performance, and I’m so glad that no applause was included at the end. The silence at the end is the gift of perfection. In every performance of this symphony I look forward to that dionysian moment in the final movement where the music simply takes flight. Furtwängler is quite magnificent in that moment, which starts around the 46:10 mark and takes off at 46:40. But the entire performance is an amazing demonstration of connectedness, the mystery of becoming. Let us strive to become that ancient-future community that some people are looking for. Let it be a project in which all of us participate. Let us start building the “future” part of that “ancient-future” vision.