Feasting, Equilibria, and Afghanistan

OrthoAnalyika Shownotes: 13 September 2009

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2 Corinthians 1: 21-2:4 & St. Matthew 22: 1 – 14

Stories are one of the ways that we preserve our culture; they help remind us of who we are, where we came from, and what the world is like. Sometimes these stories are histories: accounts passed down so that we know what happened and framed is such a way that we understand the deeper meaning. Two examples of this kind of story are found on the northern and southern walls of our temple nave (Baptism of Christ and the Baptism of Rus’-Ukraine).

Other examples include descriptions of how the ancestors of this parish fought, suffered, and died for freedom and Orthodoxy: about the Cossacks.; about the Brotherhoods; and about the founders of this parish who, after so many setbacks, finally found a place where they could enjoy both of these things (Orthodoxy and freedom) here in America. We need these stories, and I share them whenever I can, whether it be here, at our seminary in South Bound Brook, at Heritage Days, or through our weekly podcast.

But there is another kind of story that is also important. These stories are not factual accounts of historical events, but stories that have been created to teach us fundamental truths. They give us the concepts we need to better understand reality; they stretch our imaginations so that we can fill our minds with more of God’s wonder and love; and they wake us from our dangerous stupor so that we can see things as they really are.

Last week, God used the parable of the vineyard owner to help us understand who He was, who His prophets were, who Jesus Christ was, and why it was proper and fitting to give back to Him whatever He asked. The reason He had to use a parable to do this was that we had created and built a religion around a false God who did not ask any more from us than we wanted to give. This false religion had to be exposed so that we could stop making fools of ourselves (or worse), and the best way to get at it was through a parable.

This week, God continues this general theme with his story of the king who threw a wedding feast for his son.

To be invited to a king’s wedding feast was a big deal; a great honor; the best place to be; the chance to pay your respect to the king and his heir (and have a good time doing it). It was the kind of thing that people would arrange their calendars around. Anyone hearing this story would have shared the king’s outrage when they heard how people ignored his invitation and killed his messengers. In real life, no one would ever show such disrespect to their king.

But that is the whole point of the parable: in real life, they did. The Jews rejected Christ and they disrespected His Father. But this isn’t a lesson about men who lived and died two thousand years ago: don’t forget the rule of thumb of interpreting scripture. We are the Jews. Don’t direct the outrage this story elicits towards them: we deserve it ourselves.

God has invited us to the Greatest and Eternal Feast – one that He prepared not through the roasting of grain-fed cattle, but through the sacrifice of His Only-Begotten Son. And what do we do? Do we arrange our calendars around it, or do we go about our business as usual ? If we ignore the King, we won’t just miss the banquet: our city – the place where we worship the false God we have created (you know: the one who isn’t really worthy of our sacrifice or respect) will be destroyed. And it should be destroyed, because it is a lie.

We must listen to these parables and open our eyes: God is real. The Banquet is real. The invitation is real. And It is the best invitation ever, one that no one (no earthly emperor, CEO, or Hollywood actor) could ever gain on merit, but that we all have been given on grace. The angels themselves marvel at this invitation and celebrate our good fortune.

Everyone is called. But who will come?

Show notes:

Mail call:

1.Request for me to talk about economia, especially as regards ordination.

2.Some new friends on Facebook and new listeners from our Jr UOL: welcome!

3.Drinking: should it be allowed at church functions?

From Fr.: have been continuing to listen to your podcast each week and to enjoy it. My favorite parts are your homily and your responses to the mail you get. Here are a few random thoughts I’ve had over the last several episodes:

1. Your statement “If we didn’t have someone like Pawlo, we’d have to create him” was priceless. I wonder if anyone else got that. Do any of your listeners think Pawlo is a real person?

2. You mentioned a while back that you thought it would be good if Christians would band together and take care of their own health care in cooperatives (or something like that). There actually are such organizations. [We] were actually part of one such organization for about a year during my seminary days. The organization was called “Golden Rule;” later it changed its name. I don’t know if it is still in business. But I do know that there is at least one such organization today. It is called “Medishare.” You can Google that if you’re curious about it – I think they have a website.

3. Regarding podcasts, I listen regularly to most of the Orthodox ones that you follow. I thought I might recommend a couple more that I greatly enjoy, and I think you would too. The first is “The Coffee Cup Commentaries” by Fr. Lawrence Farley, my favorite Orthodox Bible teacher (Pres. Jeannie is a close second for me). Another is “A Word From the Holy Fathers” by Dn. Matthew Steenburg. Both of these are among the ones I never miss.

P.S. Please tell me I did not hear you refer to the book of Revelations, rather than Revelation. Clearly, my ears must have been deceiving me!

Local News:

Mass at Mount. St. John (and visitors). UOL visit. Festival (Oh Yeah: we celebrated the Eucharist]. ABA in the area. Three cheers: Ordination of Dcn Boris. Baptism of John. Chrismation of Michael. Teaching in VA. Tragedy in Blackstone. Pani conference. Funeral. Wedding. Protection of the Environment. Mom’s visit. Clergy conference. Big news: bought a jeep.

[Continuing to like the treadmill and new diet; no real drop in weight, but that should come. Feeling healthier. Also really enjoying the food: I’m not just feeding my face. I’m even helping with the cooking: theory is throw good ingredients into a crock pot or skillet, and the result is sure to be good!]

One last piece of news: started putting show notes up at www.orthoanalytika.org.

Other news: insightful article in WSJ: Making God More accessible. Very true (minus the hyperdemocratic tone). Unfortunate that builders did not have foresight. Really need help, but sometimes there is no feasible solution set. Answer? Improve situation with soft changes until hard ones can be made. Visitations. Missions. Outreach. The article points out that churches were largely exempt from ADA: framed in this way, and assuming the “government as hammer” problem, it seems obvious to require sanctuaries to improve access. But this is why framing (and hammer hegemony) is so important and must be contested! There are many churches teetering on the brink. Many have closed. Most have trimmed spending to the bone: very efficient. Such well-intentioned efforts push them over (fire codes).

Podcast news:

CRTL Professor Petro on Moscow Patriarch’s visit to Ukraine.

AOH: more on Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine

Speaking of Faith: great interview with John O’Donohue on beauty (worth it for the accent alone)

Faith and Philosophy: Clark Carlton explains how narrative becomes the vessel of Truth (“fulfilled in doxology”) and the danger of over-explanation.

Movie Review:

GI Joe. Simple entertainment: nanoacid. Bad guys, good guys (secret NATO program). Two guys enter a secret world. Plot twists. One really neat theological question point: brainwashed. Then love brought back her “real” self. I like that. It resonates with the Truth. Also, corollary question: is she culpable for the damage she did while she was brainwashed? What about when brain chemistry changes? Favorite trailers: Zombieland.

Rewatching an old series: Sharpes Rifles. Sean Bean. Romantic fiction. A bit too much on the romantic side, but heroic, tactical depiction of Napoleonic Wars.

Books: finished Fr. James Early: From Baptist to Byzanium. Hope to interview him soon. Check out his blog: SaintJamesKids.blogspot.com (Amen!). Kilkullen’s insurgency book. Reread lots of political science etc. classics. Next up? Shack. Other stuff for our class (suggestions?). Death by Envy.

Volya segment:

Afghanistan in the news: gas trucks, stolen elections, and a lost moment (and I’m not alone: George Will agrees!). Good articles in Small Wars journal; debate in Washington Post. Sunk costs temptation. Unintended consequences. Killkullen’s (sp) Accidental Guerilla. Benefits of risk aversion for big and expensive movements. It’s all about equilibrium; what kind you want and what kind you can sustain. Ideally, equilibria are self sustaining. That is the point. So if you are imagining an end state, you have to think about whether it will last on its own. This is a very basic concept, but it is very powerful. Thinking about buying a home? Can you sustain it? In the case of Afghanistan, the modal plan is to build up the local army and police so that they can manage security there on their own. This may sound like an equilibrium, but there are at least two ways in which it is not: recruiting and funding. That means that we are either setting them up for failure or setting ourselves up for a long term investment. The second is a promissory note our election cycles cannot cash.

Some equilibria are traps: if you add energy you can move to a better (higher) one. In our spiritual lives, equilibrium is another sign of lethargy. Our sanctification is the permanent state we seek. This would not be sustainable on our own, but unlike the amount of energy/sacrifice we are capable/willing to spend for Afghanistan, the energy and sacrifice that God expends for us never ends!