Entries with tag live orthodoxy .

A New Way to Learn the Bible

Do you ever struggle to understand the Scripture?

The Church has a rich tradition that can help us understand the Bible (after all, the Church wrote it). Yet, for many of us, the Scripture seems inaccessible and hard to connect with.

Be the Bee” helped people engage with the deep and profound theology of the Church. And now we’re back with a new weekly series to help people connect with Scripture: “Live the Word.” 

Every Monday, we’ll cover the following Sunday’s Epistle and Gospel readings. We’ll end each episode with three challenging questions to help you work through what God has for you, in your life.

Every Thursday, we’ll post a short response to these questions, offering a vulnerable and personal look into how we struggle to know Christ and live Orthodoxy.  

We’re also posting short intros to each New Testament book, to help guide your reading. For example, we’ve released videos on the Gospel according to Saint Luke and Paul’s 2nd Epistle to Timothy.

These videos are the perfect resource for youth and young adult groups, Bible studies, and family devotionals. They’re a great way to help you and the people in your life wrestle with Scripture and open your hearts to God’s guidance and grace. 

And best of all, these videos will reflect on God's Word as we hear it proclaimed in the Sunday Divine Liturgy.

Thanks to “Be the Bee” and “The Trench,” Christians of every generation connected with the Church’s theology like never before. Many converts even joined the Church because of the series!

We pray that God will bear even more fruit through our new series: “Live the Word.”

New episodes premiere every Monday and Thursday. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and turn on notifications so you never miss a video.

Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM.

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Orthodox Christians, Politics, and Life After Election 2016

With every election, there are winners and there are losers. Naturally, we may be frustrated if our candidates lost or if the vote went the other way on issues we supported or were opposed to. We may still struggle to find hope in 2016. We might even need to be reminded of how to respond and to love those who have hurt us.

 

But besides the joy or despair we may feel after last week’s election results, we need to reconsider our personal priorities as being both Orthodox Christians and citizens. How do we balance our Orthodox Christian faith and our political ideals? How can we move on after the results of this year’s election?

 

1. Jesus is Lord

 

“God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us!” we hear every Orthros service. We repeatedly say, “Lord have mercy” during all of our liturgical services, and we receive the Eucharist as the “servant of God (name).” Over and over we remember that "for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor 8:6). If Jesus is our Lord, then we are His servants. We can have no other Lord before Him.

 

Jesus Himself was condemned in part because His authority as Lord threatened the worldly authorities. Early Christians were a threat to the Roman Empire because they refused to adore and worship the Roman Emperor as their Lord. These Christians were killed for their faith and are the martyrs we commemorate nearly every day.

 

Our faith is built upon the witness of these martyrs, whose very witness to Jesus Christ as Lord helped to spread our faith. The martyrs lived their lives (and gave of their lives) with this in mind: no earthly authority is the Lord of a Christian. So how do we live today? Is our trust in our government or in the Lord? Do we have more passion when speaking about an election or about Jesus?

 

2. Obedience to & prayer for political leaders

 

Once we are firmly established in living our lives in obedience to our one Lord, Jesus Christ, our second role as Orthodox Christians is to be obedient to our earthly leaders. Both Scripture and the divine services of our Church direct us to be obedient to and pray for our leaders.

 

If our Lord is risen from the dead and reigns at the right hand of the Father, then our “Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Until we go to be with our Lord in the Kingdom, we are to live lives that honor God and yet to “trust not in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3). In other words, we are to be good citizens, not giving dishonor to the community or to God, and yet not living as if this world is our focus. We are but pilgrims and exiles in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

 

St. Paul directs us to be obedient to our political leaders. "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God...Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed" (Romans 13:1,7). St. Paul goes on to say “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people" (Titus 3:1-2).

 

In addition to being obedient, St. Paul urges "that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Tim 2:1-2). During the Divine Liturgy, the priest says, "Again we offer You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and for those living pure and reverent lives. For civil authorities and our armed forces, grant that they may govern in peace, Lord, so that in their tranquility we, too, may live calm and serene lives, in all piety and virtue." At another point, we hear this petition: “For our country, for the president, and for all in public service, let us pray to the Lord.

 

We are to be obedient to those in authority over us, and to pray for them both in personal prayer and as a community. Do our lives reflect a trust that we are only passing through, or do our political discussions reveal that our hearts are more concerned with this world than the Kingdom of God? Do we pray for our leaders in our personal prayers as much as we do for our family?

 

3. Living out our faith

 

During the election campaign, we heard a lot about people who feel forgotten or who are suffering either economically or socially in our country today. What are we doing to reach out to those who are hurting? "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27).

 

If our Church – and indeed the Gospel – teaches that life is sacred from conception to natural death (and beyond), how does this inform our daily living? If we do not support abortion, what are our communities doing to support single mothers? Do we visit prisoners on death row? And closer to home, we know many people today are scared about the future. They’re anxious and worried what the USA will look like for their children. As a consequence of the presidential election results, some are scared they are no longer safe.

 

As Christians, it is not our place to argue whether someone’s emotions are legitimate or not. This isn’t our role. Our role is to bring Christ’s loving presence into the lives of those around us. We are to bring His peace into moments of tribulation, to be a listening ear to those who need to share what is on their hearts, even to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). The time of arguments over this election have passed, but the period of figuring out what this means to people will take some time. We Christians need to provide the space for our friends, family, and for our fellow citizens to mourn and to voice their concerns. We need to live out our faith after the election.

 

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We know that God will provide, but that knowledge does not take away people’s fears or anxieties. We know that Christ is risen, but we must first experience Him risen in our hearts and live our lives with this hope before we can expect others to understand the same in their time of isolation.

 

If we are happy about the results of the election, it is not our place to gloat or assume that any one man or party will be our saving grace. If we are in shock and mourning, we will have to navigate these emotions too. But either way, we have one Savior, and His name is Jesus Christ. No election can change this. As Orthodox Christians, we are called to be obedient to our government and to pray for our leaders. We can live out our faith by reaching out to those in need, and by being a silent witness to the peace and joy of Christ.

 

How does your life reflect a faith that Jesus is Lord? Do you pray for our president and our president elect? How are you bringing the presence of Christ to those around you after Election 2016?

 

 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Finding Ourselves Within Tradition - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

I recently binge-watched the ABC musical comedy, Galavant. The show begins when the show’s eponymous medieval knight’s ladylove, Madalena, is forced to marry the evil King Richard. As Sir Galavant rushes to her rescue, attempting to stop the wedding dramatically, Madalena tells the romantic Galavant that she actually is now choosing to marry Richard, largely because she desires to be wealthy, powerful, and live in a castle.

Distraught, Galavant turns to drink and becomes a has-been hero.

The story is thus about Galavant’s return to being a hero and his desire to win back the heart of Madalena and overthrow the King. Of course, I don’t want to give too much of it away as there is a lot of fun to be had, but I highly recommend it to anyone who might be amused by such thing.

The show itself is very clever. It is a lot of fun, heart-warming, and delightfully silly, full of dancing knights and the like. What is most enjoyable, however, is that this show has quite intentionally chosen to place itself within a long tradition of musicals and other knightly stories.

Without taking itself seriously (whatsoever), the show makes unapologetic references to all kinds of stories: West Side Story, Les Miserables, The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones to name only a few. By doing this, the show has no pretense at all about being some kind of unique story, unique offering to the world of television, musicals, or medieval lore.

But in so doing, it actually emerges triumphantly as an entirely original and marvelously enjoyable show. It borrows (and some times flat out steals) from other stories, but Galavant nonetheless succeeds not only as an entertaining way to spend half-an-hour, but also as another comedy, musical, and knightly tale.

As I reflected on this, I considered the ending of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, in which he writes, “In literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”[1]

Here, in Galavant, this proved to be entirely true. Galavant not only didn’t seek to make itself unique, it intentionally paid homage to the other stories it was almost exactly like. In so doing, it showed itself to be entirely original.

I think this rings true with our lives as well. Unfortunately, we so often spend our energy trying to be unique individuals, trying to express ourselves or live authentically. We don’t want to be “fake,” so we go to extensive lengths in order to “live our own truth.”

Usually, this involves deciding what kind of person we want to be, and then doing the things that kind of person would do, and so:

We shop at Abercrombie.

We only eat organic.

We start CrossFit and then never stop talking about it.

Yet a great irony occurs here: that by trying to be unique we actually end up being just like everyone else. We are not truly being ourselves, we are buying ourselves from people who want to sell our selves to us.

In trying to find ourselves, we lose ourselves – I think Jesus may have said something like that (Matt. 16:25).

Rather, instead of just trying to express ourselves, trying to be unique and individual, if we saw ourselves as being placed within a larger tradition of saints and sinners, people who have been brought to new life in Christ, we would see that we, too, might find a way to newness of life.

This is why it’s amazing to note that there have been all kinds of saints: doctors, lawyers, warriors, teenagers, married, monks…really, the difference among the followers of Christ is far and wide, while those of us who pursue authenticity according to our own desires, according to what we think makes us original end up looking like carbon copies of one another.

We may feel that following Christ is “boring,” or something that we resist because we don’t want to be told what to do. But if we seek originality by our own judgments, we are still likely to fail to achieve uniqueness as we are simply being branded by companies that want our money.

If we follow Christ, however, if we lose ourselves by following Him, by throwing it all in and giving ourselves to the long tradition of those who have come before us, we may be utterly delighted when we discover that by giving ourselves away in service, we find who we really are: persons made to reveal the image of God uniquely.

And since I’ve tried over and over again to write a brilliant (original) conclusion to this and have continually failed, I’ll let C.S. Lewis close for me:

Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.[2]

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1980), p. 226.

[2] Ibid., p. 227.

 

Photo Credits: Depositphotos

 

 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Friendship Goals: All of the Orthodoxy

A few days ago, thoughts that I had been dodging for quite some time finally caught up with me. For lack of a better description, I broke down. I must have subconsciously known what I needed, because out of all of the people in my contacts, I decided to call an Orthodox friend.

 

It was definitely the right decision. My friend guided me through the actions that had gotten me to this point, asked why I was feeling the way that I was, and gave me very sound, Christ-centered advice. I don’t think that anything else would have done the trick at the time besides thinking about Christ’s mercy. I so needed to remember Christ and receive guidance from someone who knows Him.

 

Last week, I wrote about how my friends who aren’t Orthodox have helped bring me closer to Christ and how my love for them helps me become more Christ-like. But I sometimes take for granted the people who are Christ-like, from whom I take my examples and who give me strength when I’m feeling down.

 

Because there are instances in which I need to be reminded of Christ’s presence in my life, and that is where people who are close to Him come in. When I started practicing my Orthodox faith, it was my Camp Saint Paul friends who led me to Him. I still find them being the ones I go to not only when I need to talk about God (because, really, I can do that with anyone), but also when I need to be reminded of God’s presence in my life. And I need that reminder way more often than I’d like to admit.

 

There is something different about the way Orthodox Christians interact with each other and the perspective on life they share that can’t be found just anywhere. There is a connection between Orthodox Christians that is really indescribable. Because we commiserate and celebrate with each other, we teach each other, and we pray for each other, when I’m having a real spiritual crisis, my Orthodox friends are the ones I trust to guide me.

 

Of course, any friends, Orthodox or not, will let you down, just as you will let them down. That’s why I’m thankful for everyone who puts up with me as their friend, because I know that I’m not a perfect friend. I know that I don’t deserve people who go above and beyond, who go out of their way for me, who answer the phone for me when I’m hysterically crying on a Thursday at 11:00 pm and who somehow say exactly what I need to hear.

 

When I receive love from a friend so unconditionally, it makes me realize how undeserving of Christ’s love I am, and yet He continues to love me and show me that love through my friends who follow Him. Sometimes I’m simply dumbfounded by it.

 

Image credits: Depositphotos

Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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3 Things LOST Taught Me: Pop Culture Espresso Shots

As you read our new blog series, Pop Culture Espresso Shots, expect a lot of spoilers. I mean, it’s hard to talk about pop culture artifacts in any meaningful way without talking about the plot.

But LOST went off the air in 2010. I think we’re reached the spoiler statue of limitations (it's a thing). 

So yes, there is a smoke monster.

Yes, they were all dead at the end.

No, they were not dead the whole time.

And yes, the Island was real.

The end of the series received a lot of mixed reviews. Some hated the ending, while others, like myself, loved it. And in the end, I realize that LOST was actually an extremely valuable show that taught me three important lessons:

1. Mystery Matters

One of the most popular mantras amongst jilted LOST fans is, “We deserved answers!”

To this I respond, “No. You didn’t.”

That’s the whole mystery jam.

Besides, what super great answer were you expecting?

Did that bird really say Hurley’s name? Why was the Dharma Initiative doing experiments on polar bears in the first place? Why did Jacob’s brother turn to smoke just because he went down a waterfall?

I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. The point is, we are all actually probably a lot happier not having an answer to these things.

Don’t agree? I have one word for you.

Midi-chlorians.

When George Lucas decided to include a pseudo-scientific grounding for the Force, he helped destroy the Star Wars prequels by sucking the mystery right out of them. He reduced the depth and beauty of the Force to something simplistic and bland. 

When the Force became something we could define and understand, it ceased to be interesting.

Some things are simply better when shrouded in mystery because, paradoxically, that shroud helps reveal something. That some things – things like human beings and love and art – can’t be reduced to simplistic explanations; to even try would miss the point entirely.

The same goes for God, to an even greater extent.

If we can’t accept that some things in a fictional (that is to say, PRETEND) world just are what they are (i.e., a smoke monster), even if we can’t fully understand, then how can we possibly ever come to accept the reality of God existing in the real world?

Shows like LOST present us with valuable opportunity to practice the humility needed to embrace the mysterious. It’s fine to have questions. But the joy of being human in this world means sometimes having to live with questions that have no clear answers.

Embrace the mystery, folks. The alternative’s pretty boring.

2. It’s All About People

If you were too busy grumbling at the unanswered questions of LOST, then you missed out on the real point of the show: the people.

In the end, the show really has nothing to do with the smoke monster, the polar bears, or anything else on the Island. If the Island were the important thing, then there would be no need for flashbacks.

This is also why each episode in season one begins with a close-up of a character’s eye. We are being brought into their story, to see the world from their perspective.

We get glimpses into the characters’ lives because LOST is about them.

While the mystery of the Island and the larger cosmic questions surrounding LOST are interesting (and sometimes crazy), to miss out on the characters is to miss out on the whole purpose of the show.

And it’s deeply relevant for how we live our own lives. We can either get stuck in wondering why so many terrifying and strange and mysterious things happen to us…

Why did my parents divorce?

Why did I get let go from work?

Why didn’t I into the college I’ve been planning to attend since I was a kid?

…or, we can lean into the circumstances and simply embrace the people in our midst.

To quote Christian Shephard in the final moments of LOST:

“Everything that’s ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church: they’re all real, too…The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them. And they needed you.”

It’s all about people.

3. People Really Can Change

Spiritual transformation is the name of the game, folks, both in the Christian life and in LOST.

Each of the characters arrives on the Island with a past that haunts them. They arrive with the possibility of starting over. It isn’t long, however, before old patterns return, and people’s true colors emerge.

Criminals are still criminals. Drug addicts are still drug addicts. Control freaks are still control freaks.

But they are given the opportunity to battle themselves and, in many cases, they end up making remarkable changes. Some even sacrifice their lives to save their friends (“Greater love has no man than this…”).

In LOST and in our lives, the most unfathomable mystery is that of the human heart and its capacity for both great goodness and great evil.

And we see that, despite their past, people can become something new. People can be remade.

People can be saved.

And the key is love. It takes love and belonging, being part of something bigger than oneself.

It takes sacrifice. It takes giving the self away for the sake of other people, even to the point of being willing to die.

It’s hard.

But people can change.

Often, I find myself tempted by despair, standing on the edge of a precipice, looking into the darkness of my soul, wondering, “Am I going to be this way forever?”

Shows like LOST remind me that I don’t have to be; that there is hope to be found in Jesus Christ.

Sure, Christ doesn’t really play much of a part in LOST, but He’s there (“filling all things”) whether I realize it or not.

LOST wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever is.

Christ alone is the end of our longing, but until I see Him face to face, I will simply be grateful for shows like LOST, which help me see Him just a little more clearly.

Photo Credit:

LOST Title: Wikimedia Commons

Dharma Van: Doug Kline via Compfight cc

Mountain: anthony_goto via Compfight cc 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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For more on Pop Culture from Y2AM, check out Pop Culture Coffee Hour, Y2AM's new podcast with Steve Christoforou and Christian Gonzalez!

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