Several years ago when I was still serving in the Russian Church Abroad, Fr David Moser invited me to deliver a presentation at the Southwest Deanery Clergy Retreat in San Francisco, entiled: “American Converts and the Pastoral Issues They Bring to the Church”. What a glorious trip & experience that was! I visited the grave of Fr Seraphim Rose in Platina and got to spend almost a week by the relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco there in the Cathedral. I also got to meet some top notch clergy — one of whom is a blogger, Fr John McCuen.
God willing, I’ll eventually get this talk published. Though appropriate (regardless of jurisdiction), I don’t think a publisher is going to go for my title (listed at the head of this post). Below is the CRTL plug. Enjoy!
8/20/2004 The Weekly Newsletter of the Orthodox Christian Network
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firstname.lastname@example.org This week’s message from Father Christopher Metropulos
IF I HAD IT TO DO AGAIN, WOULD I?
“If I knew then what I know now…” ever said that? Have you ever wondered if you knew the hurdles you’d have to overcome to achieve certain goals if you’d do it again? Are some victories worth any price?
There is an Orthodox convert I know who’s faced unbelievable challenges since he converted to Orthodoxy and I asked him once if he thought it had been worth the effort to actually leave the church he was pastoring, deal with the misunderstanding of friends and family, and answer all those questions over and over again. He said “yes” it was worth it, and if he had it to do all over, he’d do it again. “Why?” I asked.
He then quoted a scripture to me. “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68
Jesus had just finished telling the crowd gathered around Him “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (John 6:53)
The crowd gathered around Jesus because He had just fed them miraculously. They were drawn to Him because their bellies were full, not because they were spiritually hungry. And when Jesus confronted them with a “hard saying” they left Him. As the crowd dispersed, Jesus asked His disciples if they too would leave Him and Peter answer “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
This convert had learned a lesson about truth, and about being a true disciple of Jesus: Truth doesn’t mean ease, but it does mean peace.
The fact of the matter is that we are all really converts. All of us, especially those of us blessed by God to have been raised in an Orthodox home, have to make the faith our own. We have to come to grips with the claims of Jesus to be the Lord of our lives and not just a cultural security blanket.
We have to learn the lessons of converts.
First, conversion isn’t a one time event. To be sure, there are times in our lives when we make that first committed step of faith, but I pray it won’t be our last step. In our own lives, there are times when we have made a strong commitment to develop our faith and those times are precious to us, but we can’t sit on past events. Our spiritual journey is to be an ongoing growth in the life God has given us in His Son. As St. Paul said, we are to move from “glory to glory.”(2 Cor. 3:18)
Second, conversion costs. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, and that is especially true of spiritual growth. We live in a world where it is easy to live a selfish life and hard to swim against the tide of “me first.” Jesus told His disciples “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it– lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:27-30)
If we place value on our spiritual maturing and spiritual growth, we’ll come to expect that our growth probably will cost us in time, effort, and even hardship. When we commit to growing in our faith, we face the opposition of the Evil One, the world around us, and even our own laziness.
Finally, conversion is worth it. You’ve heard me quote over and over again that we will “reap if we do not faint.” There are so many things in this life that try to draw your energy, things that, in light of eternity, just don’t deserve the attention and time we give them. But this is never true of the efforts we expend to grow in our faith and develop our spiritual selves. With all the wisdom and beauty preserved for us and available to us as Orthodox Christians, we can see our lives truly “converted” to that new life Christ gave the whole world on that first Pascha morning. It’s your birth right. Don’t forsake it for that which can rust and turn to dust.
This week we visit again with Fr. Joseph Huneycutt. He’ll tell us about the unique pastoral issues converts face as they become Orthodox.
We’ll also hear from Fr. Thomas Zell of Conciliar Press about AGAIN magazine.
The summer has been a particular challenge for us this year. Your generous financial gift during August will go a long way in helping us face the fall in good shape. Email me this week and let me know you’ll be a contributor.
Until next week.
Yours for the spread of Orthodoxy,
Fr. Chris Metropulos
P.S. Here’s my email address, just click mailto:email@example.com.
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