The kind of church today that is closest to the first generation of the Apostles’ Church is the medium-size Orthodox Church — very much like the size of my parish at St. John’s today.
A cathedral or large church beyond 200 people was definitely unlike the experience of the early Christians. That first generation, which was so courageous to the point of frequent martyrdom, could not conceive of a community where everyone was not known … where an absence was not immediately felt … where everyone was needed to carry on the work.
Also, the early church was definitely Orthodox — no one could have imagined Christianity without the Eucharist, without liturgy, without prayers, bishops and deacons, Scripture and sacraments. In fact, Christianity and Orthodoxy were simply synomous: there was no other sort of Christian.
The reason why I mention this point is that we need to remember that our Orthodox community here at St. John’s is a treasure that should be cherished. Other communities grow and appear to be successful because they cater to entertainment, excitement of passions, and provide a large crowd experience.
These large “mega-churches” have become the standard of worldly Christian success. They also have little, if anything, to do with Apostolic Christianity. There is no Eucharist in those place. There is no continuation of Holy Tradition.
Of course we know that Christianity provides joy and peace in Christ — something that goes beyond entertainment and excitement.
But I’d like to think more on the appeal of a large crowd experience. Many people prefer to go to a place on Sunday morning where they can attend or be absent as they wish, and no one will miss them. They would like to go where they are not counted on. In fact, some have even said (in a number of surveys): “I don’t want to have the pressure of knowing that I’m needed.”
One survey-taker even wrote: “I like the idea of being anonymous. I like a large crowd so that I can come and go and no one will know.”
I have to say that anonymity is not Christian at all. In the Orthodox Christian Church, you are needed. If present, you are known. If absent, you will be missed. The work of the Church goes on, and your service is essential. We are all the lesser if you do not enter into the year-long work of the Church and serve.
Your service to the Church here at St. John’s is an important part of your salvation. I cannot make it plainer than that.
Your bringing children to Church School will help them be saved for eternity, and it will help your soul also.
Your frequent attendance at Divine Liturgy is absolutely necessary for your “deification” — the Fathers frequently allude to Liturgy as “a moment of deification” in which we grow into the life of Christ.
Your help in the many works of the Church keeps alive the witness of St. John’s that has gone on unbroken since 1919 (and the ecclesial life of Orthodoxy since AD 33). Every time a pirohi is pinched, a nutroll is baked, an offering envelope is put into the plate — each time, the life of this parish is extended, and you have contributed to the grace that your own heart will receive.
Your service as an Officer or a Trustee helps to lead this Orthodox community — in our place, and in our time. Your willingness to pray and plan, to serve with humility and unity and piety, and your leadership is closely attached to the service of the early disciples. In leadership, there is a burden, yes, but there is also the sweetness of Christ’s reward in your heart. God will protect and provide — and you will know this better as you serve Him more.
So it is not only I who ask you to serve: it is really the Lord Himself Who calls you to enter into His service at St. John’s.
Some of you have never been an Officer or Trustee before, or have not done so for a while. It’s time.
Some of you have never sung in the Choir before. The angels and St. Romanus are calling you to join them.
Some of you have been sketchy in getting your kids to Church School. “Train up your child in the way they should go,” Solomon says in Proverbs. Do so.
We all need more prayer, more genuine and gentle Faith. We all need Liturgy every Sunday more than we realize. It is a life or death proposition, yes, but more importantly prayer is so sweet and beautiful, and it is a peace that God offers to us in the midest of a stormy world. Come, every Sunday.
Bring your family. Bring your friends. Encourage them, because the world is at war with faith, and the devil knows how to make going to the Orthodox Church very hard indeed. Fight and resist him — and, as St. James says, “he will flee you.”
I need you. The Body of Christ needs you. Your departed loved ones pray for you to enter more closely into Orthodox life: they need you.
Our work in Orthodoxy is nothing less than a brotherhood and a sisterhood.
Thus, there is no anonymity here. You are necessary.
Let us rejoice in the Lord, and enjoy His peace.
And we can only do this together.
SOURCE: Second Terrace