Entries with tag ministry ideas .

Seeing God

It’s easy to see the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, celebrated on Feb. 2, as a lovely scene of domestic bliss. Joseph and Mary bring the newborn Jesus, now 40-days-old to the Temple. Our attention is on the family. Because the Orthodox Christian practice of the 40-day blessing of a newborn is rooted in the Feast, it’s very easy for us to make this connection. When a newborn is presented in our parishes today, all our attention is on the “beautiful baby” making his or her official first entrance into the church.

The Feast also is a significant reminder that the incarnation of the Lord, celebrated at Christmas, overturns the nature of our relationship with God Himself. At the Feast of the Presentation, we remember Simeon, who was promised by God that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, the Savior of Israel.

Many figures in the Old Testament prophets asked to see God.  Look up the following passages (or have your students look them up):

Genesis 3 – Adam and Eve could only hear God’s presence as He moved about in the Garden.

Exodus 33:18-23.  Moses, the Great Moses, was denied his request to see God. The Lord said to him, “man shall not see me and live.” But God allowed Moses to see his back as He passed by.

1 Kings 19:9-13 – Elijah experiences God in the “still small voice.”

Isaiah 6:1-7 – Isaiah has a vision of God on His throne and realizes that he is a sinful man.

In the Incarnation, at the Nativity and now in the Feast of Presentation, Wise Men, Shepherds and now Simeon and Anna see the Lord face to face. And Simeon holds God incarnate in his arms.  What a reversal! What a paradox!

From this moment on, it is possible to say we have seen God "face to face." --- in the icons, in the Scriptures, in the kiss of peace in the Liturgy, in Holy Communion, and as Christ Himself would eventually teach us, in our neighbor, in the "least of our brothers and sisters" (Matthew 25:40).

After Graduation

After the Graduation Party

As a little tangent from our Lenten reflections, I'd like to pass along an idea that was shared with me recently (thanks to Kay Nicolakis of Peabody, MA for this one! She posed the question and we thought about it together over coffee).

Over the next month or so, seniors will be graduating from high school. By now, many have already selected their next steps: college, a year off to do community service, training into a trade, the military, or other options. They may already know if they are staying home or moving away. All of these transitions can cause excitement and anxiety. What can they expect there? What will living away from home be like? What will all this independence mean for me?  Also, young people will begin serious reflections on the directions that their lives may take, far more serious than at younger ages. Issues of career and vocation; lifestyles, dating, courtship, and marriage and sex; what is my future place in society? and how can I live out my faith away from home, away from parental influence, and become an "Adult Orthodox Christian"?

Might the Church have something to offer at this moment to share?

Gather up the high school graduates. Meet for three or four times as a group. Equip them for the transition.
Discuss the questions.  Put a few books and resources into their hands - a Bible, an intro to Orthodox Christianity, links to good sources, apps and the like.
Provide the names of local OCFs, local parishes, military chaplains, all with contact information easily obtained online. 
Put this information into the hands of someone on the other side, to the local OCFs and parishes, saying "Jim X will be moving to your area to attend Y College." Please have someone look him up.

Let these young people know that even though they may be away from home, moving into new roles, they are still part of the Church and the Church still cares about them.

Other than a few instances, we are probably talking about no more than half a dozen young people per parish. Shouldn't be too hard or too costly.

Then.... while they are away....  Plan for their return. At Thanksgiving. At Christmas. Most are home, wanting to reconnect with friends. Create an event.   Network these young people into and through the parish for summer jobs and summer internships. 

Don't just send them off, hoping for their continued involvement or return.

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