There’s a famous story about a young man who went to confession right before Pascha.
Confession is an important part of our tradition, and Orthodox Christians try to at least get to confession during the fasting periods of the church. So, this young man was doing his religious duty … what was expected of him.
The priest and the young man stood before the icon of Christ, and after the introductory prayers, the young man began to list his sins. All was well until he started to brag.
“Father,” he said, “I have to confess that I’ve followed the Lenten fast perfectly! I haven’t eaten any meat, I haven’t drank any wine, I’ve been skipping my normal egg breakfast, and I’ve learned to cook without oil.”
As the young man continued, it became clear to the priest that this young man felt he was deserving of some sort of works-righteousness.
If this confession had been a Facebook post, it would have been #blessed!
However, God’s grace and mercy doesn’t come to us by any efforts of our own. And, being religious is not about putting yourself up on a pillar.
The priest decided to correct this young man and show him that boasting in the fast was actually the sin of pride.
So, after confession was over, the priest took the young man to McDonald’s and forced him to eat a Big Mac … meat and all.
What the young man learned that day is that what God requires of us is to love others, especially the “least of these.” And, performing religious acts, just to “feel good,” isn’t being loyal to the Bible.
We’ve been looking at what is means to be a Christian leader, a servant leader. We’re now on step 4 of our journey and I hope you can see how it all flows together. How one step builds to the next one.
- Firstly you have to become biblically literate.
- Secondly, once you’ve done that, then you can cultivate a watchfulness of what the Bible says and how you're living your life. Do they match? Or, is there’s a mismatch?
- Thirdly, you have to willingly place yourself under the authority of scripture. If you’re going to lead as Christ did, then we have to be willing to do as scripture says.
Most of us have preconceived ideas about what it means to be Christian … or what it means to be religious. And, often, these ideas inform us about how to “be” church.
But, our ideas of what God wants from us don't always match what scripture is asking of us.
This isn’t new. It was the same for the Old Testament folks as well.
They thought being religious was about making the right animal sacrifices in the temple.
They thought being religious was saying the right prayers and being seen praying those prayers.
They thought being religious was eating the right foods: keeping kosher.
They thought being religious was keeping the feasts.
And, they thought that being religious was fasting by the rules.
But, what they weren’t doing was listening to what God wanted. And, what God wanted was to for them to love their neighbor.
- Isaiah 1:11-20
- Isaiah 58
Isaiah’s condemnation of Israel is the same condemnation that Jesus gives to the Pharisees
- Matthew 23:25-32
- We’re concerned with whether we’re fasting correctly
- We’re concerned with festal celebrations, services, and rubrics
- We’re concerned with praising the saints
In short, we often ignore the Bible’s command to care for the least of these … the very thing God punished Israel for not doing.
And, unfortunately, we have no excuse. Israel and the pharisees serve as a warning for us. We’ve seen how God hates such hypocrisy.
But, by becoming a servant leader, we can step up to walk The Way and care for the "least of these."
I encourage you to check out the website of the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative. You'll be glad you did!
What is The Way?
Fr. Dustin Lyon explores scripture to rediscover Christianity so that we can walk in the Way of the Lord.