The real Real Presence of Christ

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46, NKJV)

It is ironic that some Christians make such a fuss about the elements of the Eucharist — bowing before them, kneeling in adoration, because Christ is present in them — but have never bothered to heed these solemn words about the presence of Christ in every individual who is in need. Jesus told us only once (at the Last Supper) that he would be present in the Bread and Wine, but he tells us repeatedly in the gospels that he is always present in the Poor and Afflicted — to whom we should all bow and kneel. It is perverse that some Christians make such a fuss about the bound text of God’s Word, carrying it processionally, holding it with reverence, never allowing it to touch the ground, but have never considered seriously this text of Matthew 25, in the light of which we would always catch God’s Needy before they hit the ground. It sometimes seems that it is to churchpeople in particular — to Christian Pharisees — that these words of Jesus are directed. (Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, pg. 247)

Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: This is my body, and made it so by his words, also said: “You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me.” (Mat 25:34ff) What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication.

Let us learn, therefore, to be men of wisdom and to honor Christ as he desires. For a person being honoured finds greatest pleasure in the honor he desires, not in the honor we think best. Peter thought he was honoring Christ when he refused to let him wash his feet; but what Peter wanted was not truly an honour, quite the opposite! Give him the honour prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts.

Now, in saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms. He accepts the former, but he is much more pleased with the latter. In the former, only the giver profits; in the latter, the recipient does too. A gift to the church may be taken as a form of ostentation, but an alms is pure kindness. Of what use is it to weigh down Christ’s table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs? What profit is there in that? Tell me: If you were to see him lacking the necessary food but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry? What if you were to see him clad in worn-out rags and stiff from the cold, and were to forget about clothing him and instead were to set up golden columns for him, saying that you were doing it in his honour? Would he not think he was being mocked and greatly insulted?

Apply this also to Christ when he comes along the roads as a pilgrim, looking for shelter. You do not take him in as your guest, but you decorate floor and walls and the capitals of the pillars. You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison. Once again, I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; I am urging you to provide these other things as well, and indeed to provide them first. No one has ever been accused for not providing ornaments, but for those who neglect their neighbour a hell awaits with an inextinguishable fire and torment in the company of the demons. Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 50 on the Gospel of Matthew, 4-5)

An act of kindness for Onesimus

Scripture scholars have often questioned why this short letter [St. Paul’s Epistle to Philemon] about one individual, a letter supposedly lacking in general interest, was preserved when other letters of Paul were lost. To me, this magisterial entreaty says more about the people of the Way [early Christian name for Christianity] than do the exploding numbers of believers and the dazzling miracles of Acts. Paul, with thoughtful caring, puts all his talents into a “miracle” on behalf of a single lost soul. Like Peter’s cure of the cripple, this is simply “an act of kindness”: “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you.” Philemon almost certainly freed Onesimus, sending him back to Ephesus to work with Paul — how could he not? But like all acts of kindness, this one seems to have yielded unexpected results. Onesimus is likely to have been in his late teens or early twenties at the time of Paul’s letter; and we know that at the beginning of the second century the name of the bishop of Ephesus, who is credited with making the first collection of Paul’s letters, was — Onesimus. (Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, pp. 237-238)

Martin Luther: wrong on Faith, wrong on Paul, wrong for Christianity

While the rather clever [if I do say so myself] pseudo-political title of this post is mine, all mine, this beautiful paragraph, the content of this post, is not:

We are not asked to observe scads of minute (and sometimes contradictory) rules. We are invited to have faith in Jesus. Martin Luther, the revolutionary Augustinian friar who initiated the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Germany, was right to see the many duties, obligatory rituals, and automatic magic enjoined by the medieval church as only too reminiscent of the laws of Judaism that Jesus had bracketed and Paul had rejected altogether — rules that enabled their keepers to pretend to a righteousness that could never be attained by merely human effort. But when Luther claimed to be Pauline by asserting that “man is saved by faith alone,” he was misunderstanding Paul — as so many have done in so many different ways. Unfortunately, it has taken four centuries to sort out the confusion, which still reigns in the churches if not in the universities, where scholars have come to a broad consensus. Yes, man is saved by faith, if by that you mean faithful commitment to the cosmic Christ — that is, to the poor, to the afflicted, and to the healing of the world. But this “faith” of which Paul spoke with such feeling is not a single thread, hanging above the abyss, by which the believer is attached to God — some new-fangled form of automatic, if perilous, salvation — nor is it Kierkegaard’s blind “leap of faith” over the abyss itself. For when you have sorted through the whole, long, tangled Judeo-Christian tradition, Paul would say, what remains is not one, sola fides, but three: “For in the end, faith, hope, and love abide, these three. But the greatest of all is love.” (Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, pg. 154)

Christianity is a form of Judaism

In effect, ancient Judaism, which in the first century of our era was represented by a broad spectrum of emerging “Judaisms,” had two children that survived: rabbinic Judaism and the Judaism we have come to call “Christianity.” To appreciate the atmosphere of first-century Judea we must understand that the “religion” that Jesus preached was, in its time, one of many alternative Judaisms. The word Christianity, which appears nowhere in the New Testament, is a term that would not be invented till a hundred years after Jesus’s time (and then by Roman enemies of the Jewish followers of Jesus). “We Jews must … recognize,” Shaye Cohen, Ungerleider Professor of Jewish Studies at Brown, has remarked, “that Christianity, too, is (or at least once was) a form of Judaism.” Far more urgently must Christians come to the same understanding, if they are to know who they are. (Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, pg. 90)

Help the Orthodox Church in Indonesia

Thanks to Fr. Yohanes Bambang, an Orthodox Priest in Indonesia, for getting in touch with me on Facebook and letting me know about the work of the Church there. Please help if you can!

Read what they need help with and how you can help.

Read about some of the amazing work of the Orthodox Church in Indonesia, and especially Fr. Yohanes, here.

Islam and God’s deception

(H/T: David Wood of Answering Islam via Abu Daoud of Islam and Christianity)

So who is responsible for the Christian belief that Jesus died on the cross? If Islam is correct, God started this idea when he decided to trick Jesus’ enemies into thinking that they had killed Jesus. This leads to even more problems. If the deception of the disciples was unintentional, then we must conclude that God didn’t realize that he was about to start the largest false religion in the world. If it was intentional, then God is in the business of starting false religions. Therefore, the God of Islam is either dreadfully ignorant or maliciously deceptive.

Muhammad’s position also means that Jesus was the greatest failure in the history of the prophets. He spent 33 years preaching (again, he began preaching Islamic theology at birth), yet shortly after his death, the children of Israel were divided into two broad camps. Those who believed his message became Christians, all of whom were guilty of the worst sin imaginable (shirk), while those who rejected his message were guilty of rejecting one of God’s greatest messengers. Thus, whether people believed in Jesus or rejected him, everyone would ultimately be condemned and cast into the hellfire.

It’s strange, then, that Muslims consider Jesus to be one of the greatest prophets ever. It seems that he should have been able to win at least one lasting convert to Islam. But he didn’t. Further, a true prophet of Islam should have warned his followers not to turn away from Islam by falling for God’s deception. But Jesus never got that message across. Indeed, millions of people from around the world now refuse to accept Islam because they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, a teaching that goes back to a deceptive God and an incompetent Messiah.

Orthodox Priest takes on Presbyterian Church USA

Fr. Siarhei Hardun, an Orthodox Priest from Belarus, speaks the Gospel and shares the Apostolic Faith with Presbyterians in their own house. This is real Orthodox ecumenism at its finest.

Check out the insightful article on Fr. Siarhei’s bombs at GetReligion.

And this especially insightful comment quoted by Fr. Joseph Huneycutt at OrthoDixie:

It’s worth noticing that the most usual Orthodox presence encouraged at such events is the more “colorful” Orthodox; the ones who have an interesting accent, hair, beards and such. Inviting the Orthodox from around the corner is likely to get you a *former* Presbyterian, Episcopalian or what have you. No accent, possibly the same hair. Not as interesting or exotic as the above (very good) priest. He was certainly expected to provide decoration and gratitude but surprised people by talking about God. That was an unplanned aberration.