By Jackie Morfesis

Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15). Simple yet profound words. I fondly remember my maternal yiayia Virginia Manos, telling me as a child: “Listen.”

Listen. How many times do we not stop to listen? How many times do we listen but not really hear? How many times do we listen, hear, and then forget and discard what we just heard?

Too many times to count. As a Christian, we should all be listening. Listening to God’s Holy Word, listening to our sermons. Listening to the voice of God, in the still and the quiet of our hearts. “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).” “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

When speaking of the intimacy of being with our Lord, I cannot help but continually reflect on Orthodox Holy Week. Such a beautiful week of the overflow of spirit, the overflow of the Holy Spirit. Moving through the passion of our Lord and then coming to the banquet at the great joy and celebration of His glorious resurrection.

For me, the words that touch me deeply are hearing that we are the Bride of Christ. That the Lord is the Bridegroom to the bride. That the church is the bride.

We are the church. The faithful are the church. Listen.

Yet, we go to church, and we may hear a very different story outside of Holy Week. “The church is a business.” “You must learn that the church is a business, or you will not succeed.”

I am not a business. I am a child of God. I am a follower of Christ.

The church rightly conducts business. Every day. The church pays salaries. Collects dues. Purchases supplies, food, and necessities. Runs Greek School and Sunday School. At times Greek language School. The church has a budget that it balances. The church has long term financial plans and goals. The church rents its hall for events. The Orthodox churches have Greek festivals. They rent space to vendors. The list of business activities goes on and on.

However, conducting business and being a business are two different things. We only need to go to God’s Holy Word to know the identity of the church. The church is God’s House. The church is the Bride of Christ. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be whole and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

I take personal issue with anyone telling me that God’s House is a business. Once we deny the true identity of the church, we are simultaneously denying and attacking the true identity of its faithful. Once again, I am not a business, and neither are any of our Lord’s followers.

We have so tragically forgotten our first love. Our Beloved. How is it possible?

It is possible because every day we make chinks in our armor. Every day we make chinks in our armor, every day we make decisions that contradict God’s Word. We veer every so slightly from the single perfect point.

I will never forget a Lenten retreat that I attended at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. Father Thomas Hopko, memory eternal, was the keynote speaker. The retreat was entitled: “Sin: Primordial, Generational, Personal.”

Father Hopko illustrated sin as understood in the Orthodox Church. God is perfect. To the extent that we veer from God and His perfection – we sin. Though all sin is sin – some sin is greater according to the distance created by our veering away from God. He explained to us in his words that God is love and our great human tragedy is that we are rebelliously independent from our God.

Notice that God does not leave us. We are the ones who walk away from God. We are the ones who forget our first love.

Sin “amartia” translates to missing the mark. We miss the mark when we order our own steps and do not submit to God ordering our steps. Each day is an opportunity to return our steps to God and to focus on Him always. “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalms 119:133).

Can we stop for a moment and imagine the day when we will stand before our Lord and be judged in the words of St. Ambrose for not only every “idle word spoken but for every idle silence.” Imagine standing in the presence of our Lord and being held accountable for saying the Bride of Christ, the church, is a business.

We think somehow that our faith life can be segmented. We are Christian inside the walls of our churches. We are deeply and passionately Christian during Holy Week. Once we move to the community center and outside the doors of our church there are different rules for living. Different concerns. Earthly concerns. Can one imagine standing at the pulpit of our churches preaching that the “church is a business”? Or shouting it out from the pews during service. Or when we approach the solea and our precious Lord and Savior on the cross during Holy Week. No. That would never happen. But we have no issue, no shame in saying such false words in other spaces and places.

When we see through spiritual eyes – everywhere we step is holy ground. Because our God is with us, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Let us be “renewed in the spirit of our minds” as instructed in Ephesians 4:23 and rebuke the lies of the enemy. Rebuke the false words of the enemy who tries to undermine, diminish, and deny the fullness of the glory of God. The fiery darts of the enemy that attack God’s children.

No Sir. No Ma’am. No to church leaders who deny the sovereignty of God. No to everyone who is silent and complicit. The church is not a business. Neither am I. God is watching. To God be the glory. Always to God be the glory.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Churches must unhook itself from government. All 5013c churches are state churches and are ruled by the state. It can be done.

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