SERVING GOD BY SERVING OTHERS
2000 Clergy Seminar and Delegates Meeting
February 24-27, 2000
Hosted by St. George Orthodox Church — Terre Haute, IN
Speech Given by His Grace, Bishop Demetri at the Grand Assembly
Friday Evening, February 25th, 2000
A priest was once asked by an old time friend, “Father , how many members do you have in your parish?”
“We have over one-thousand parishioners,” the priest replied.
“Really!” the friend exclaimed. “And how many of them are active?”
“All of them are active,” was the response. “About two-hundred are active for the Lord; the balance are active for the Devil.”
Whom do we serve? For whom are we active? As Christians, we are called to actively serve Christ! Not for just a brief, quickly passing moment -- we are to always be ready to serve our Savior and Master!
We must seriously ask ourselves the question, “In which category do I fall when my priest catalogs the people of the Church?” More importantly, we should be concerned about the category into which Christ places us?
Our Lord warns us that, “He who is not with me is against me,. and he that does not gather with me, scatters abroad.” (Matt. 12:30). In other words, Jesus tells us that HE has come into the world to save the world; and that means HE desires to save every last person ever born – past, present and future! Christ has come to gather all people together into one glorious, united and happy Christian family. Right now, this very moment, HE looks to you and asks you, “Are you with me? Will you help me gather the people of the world together?”What is your answer?
Our Regional organizations, of which you are such a vital and important part, represent an affirmative response to our Lord. The Antiochian Women, The Fellowship of St. John, The Order of St. Ignatios,. and SOYO — each of these groups represents a “YES” response to JESUS CHRIST.
I am delighted to be here today, among all of you. For I know that I am in the midst of those who have answered “YES” to Christ. Your selfless involvement in these groups demonstrate that you have taken seriously the Savior’s words, and have joined in HIS missionary work of gathering the whole world into the Church. You have taken up the cause of salvation and love for GOD’S creation — You have begun the work of gathering in souls, which are ripe for the harvest.
As I am sure you know, the ministries of our Organizations are an extremely important part of Church Life. They are among the vehicles by which Christ touches the world with HIS message of love and salvation. They are a means of Christian unification and dynamic evangelism. They are a catalyst for godly hope and saving faith.
I know that being part of such ministries does not come without a price. Yes, and God knows that you are often called upon to provide unconditional love, to have tireless faith, to work hard and long hours, and, to live in humility. These ministries embody, more often than not, selfless, sacrificial giving.
The Apostle Paul tells us that under the test of such service: “You will be enriched in every way for [your] great generosity … for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Cor 9:11-12).
Yes! You have begun a good work. Now I urge you to be diligent, and to continue upon the course. The Church teaches us that we must be ready to serve at a moment’s notice, and be willing also to accept new responsibilities.
For instance, the Samaritan who rode down from Jerusalem to Jericho had nothing to do in the morning but follow that highway, and take care that his donkey did not stumble or hurt itself, or get tired out so that it could not finish the journey. But when the Samaritan came to the place where the unknown pilgrim lay senseless and bleeding beside he road, then, in a moment, his duty changed, and he, out of compassion, was compelled to be a rescuer and helper of the wounded.
This is the example of Christian life that our Savior gives us — to willingly serve one another in love at all times. There may be a price to be active in such ministries, yet the rewards are beyond comprehension. To those who serve their fellow humans in this manner, Christ happily says
“Come Ye, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you feed me: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.” (Matt 25:34-36).
Jesus teaches us that we serve HIM — that is, we serve GOD, when we serve our brothers and sisters on this planet: “For as much as you have done it to the least of these my brethren,” Christ tells us, “you have done it unto ME.” (Matt 25:40).
Do you want to feed Christ? Then feed your brothers and sister! Do you want to give drink to Christ? Then give drink to your brother and sisters. Do you want to visit Christ? Then visit your brothers and sisters who are sick, in prison, or who are simply in need of love and compassion!
We must further realize that not only do we serve Christ when we serve others, but we become Christ for those others! During the Eucharist the priest exclaims: “Thine own, of Thine own, we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all.” It is Christ who offers and is offered. He offers Himself for each of us. And when we offer Christ’s love to others, it is Christ Who acts through us.
The Apostle Paul said it so beautifully: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet, it is not I who live, BUT CHRIST LIVES within [and THROUGH ME]. And the life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me!” (Gal. 2:20) When we live the life to which Christ calls us, we can change the world around us.
There is a story that demonstrates the affect that living a Christ-like-life can have on the world. Many years ago, before the birth of our Lord, there was a monastery of monks that had fallen on hard times. Once a great order, the monastery had dwindled in numbers to only five monks: the abbot and four others, all over seventy years of age.
As the abbot of the monastery agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to him that he ought to pay a visit to the very wise old Rabbi who often retreated to a little hut in the woods and ask him if by chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.
One day he ventured to the hut and explained the purpose of his visit to the old Rabbi. The Rabbi agonized with the Abbot, because he had also witnessed a similar occurrence in his town. The abbot, in frustration, pleaded with the Rabbi to give him some bit of advice that might save his dying order. "I am sorry," exclaimed the Rabbi, "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you."
Upon returning to the monastery his fellow monks asked if the old Teacher had given him any advice that could save the dying order. "Unfortunately," the abbot informed them, "he couldn't help. The only thing he did say was that the Messiah is one of us. I don't know what he meant."
In the days, weeks, and months to follow the monks pondered and wondered what was the significance, if any, of the Rabbi's words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that's the case, which one of us is the Messiah?
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. Additionally, each monk treated himself with extraordinary respect on the off chance that in fact he might be the Messiah, without his knowing it. Little by little this extraordinary respect grew and radiated far beyond the walls of their monastery. More frequently people began to visit the monastery.
Thus, the world began to change for the monastery. Some of the younger men who visited the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After some time one man asked if he could join their order: Then another; and then another. So, within a few years the monastery again became a thriving order of spirituality, and godly-love, thanks to the Rabbi's gift.
How are we to understand the Rabbi’s gift? Clearly we see that it was a profound gift that provided this group of monks with the opportunity to live in a setting characterized by virtuous living that is so frequently over-looked in today’s world. It was a gift that instilled mutual respect, understanding, and commitment. This gift made the monks more inclusive, introspective, contemplative, and thus, more wise and loving. The Rabbi's gift was the gift of community, which indeed is the Gift of the Messiah, even our Lord Jesus Christ.
Isn’t this is the same example that the Savior has set for us? He came among us, and lived as one of us! He showed respect and love, even to the lowliest of society – the harlots, lepers, publicans and all sinners. He showed no partiality to any one who would open their hearts to the truth. To the least of our brethren, Christ showed, and through us today continues to show, a heart of compassion, unconditional love and respect.
By this gift Christ has established the wondrous community we know as the CHURCH. The Church is a heavenly hospital to which Christ calls all, saying, “Come ye who are wearied and heaven laden, and find rest for your souls. [Come and be comforted, come be healed and made whole].” We are called to follow HIS example: to call the world to Christ and His Church!
I am happy to say that, this is the same example we so often see reflected in those involved in The Antiochian Women, The Fellowship of St. John, The Order of St. Ignatios, and SOYO. You are an example for the entire Archdiocese, for all our Churches, and even for the world.
I urge you to continue to serve as you have in the past – in the power and love of Christ. Indeed, let us all continue to serve in this manner, with the added knowledge that as we serve others, we both serve Christ, and become Christ for the world. We are His hands, we are His feet, we are His light in a world darkened by sin.
Let us also look for new opportunities to provide service to those around us, especially to those who are called the least of Christ’s brethren. Like the Good Samaritan, let us rise to the occasion, whatever it may be. For in such endeavors, God has promised to strengthen us, to uplift us, and to change the world around us.
I extend to each of you our sincerest appreciation and gratitude for a job well done in your active service for Christ! We thank each of you for your tireless and faithful efforts on behalf of Christ and His Church. We urge you onward in His Holy Name, and send you out with His divine presence to guide you.
Moreover, we pray that the Lord God Himself will place you on HIS right hand and say to you, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”