Displaying episodes 1 - 30 of 74 in total

God as the Great Shepherd

Today we discussed briefly an overview of Isaiah and his emphasis of caring for the poor and needy. We also discussed the idea of God and images or idols and how they all relate. Specific to today’s reading, God mocks the idols of the nations; for these idols are made, altered and destroyed by human hands. But the biblical God is uncontrollable and uncreated. Finally, how God is the great shepherd and the fact that the sheep do not need to see their shepherd, but simply need to hear His voice.

The Tower of Babel

Today we discuss the story of the Tower of Babel. Fr Aaron began with a reminder of the first command that God gave to Adam and Even and later reiterates with Noah: to spread out on the earth. But the real problem in Babel is the people wanted to make a name for themselves. We then focused on the teaching throughout Scripture that God generally opposes cities and buildings, and discussed both why this is the case and the practical implications for us today.

The Flood And Its Implications

In today’s episode we discussed the story of the flood and how it separated us from Eden, from the ideal of what God intended. Fr Aaron also noted how the flood story indicates we humans are now on our “second chance” to be obedient to God’s commandments. We also hear of God’s first covenant, one that was both unconditional and merciful. Ultimately, through the flood story we learn that the event is meant not so much for destruction, but for instruction.

Eve "Acquired" A Son?

We began the episode discussing the strange statement made by Eve that she “acquired a man from the Lord” upon the birth of Cain. We then discussed the importance of Genesis 1-4 as an introduction to the Bible, the meaning of names, and the biblical theme of condemning possessiveness. We concluded by discussing the importance of faith in the offering made by Abel versus that made by Cain.

Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament

In today’s episode we focused on the Old Testament, from which the Church appoints the readings during the period of Great Lent. Fr Aaron explained the structure of the Old Testament. We then focused on the prominent “Wisdom literature” (the Psalms, the Proverbs and the Book of Job). One of the important aspects of this literature is that true wisdom is not found in the pursuit of human philosophy nor the human ego, but through the pursuit of God’s Torah, His instruction. The Wisdom literature contends that we do not obtain wisdom, but we rather receive wisdom from God through the biblical teaching.

Communion In The Bible

Today we discussed Communion from a biblical perspective. The earliest mention of the practice is found in I Corinthians where St. Paul writes of what he had received from the Lord, namely the events of the “Last Supper.” We discussed the importance and context of the idea of “remembrance” in Scripture. We also explored the similarity between Communion and all the Old Testament Feasts and how they revolve around the reading and teaching of Scripture.

Is the God of the Old Testament the God of the New Testament?

In discussing what some might view as an apparent dichotomy between how we view God in the Old and New Testaments, Fr Aaron provided three key takeaways for us to consider. First, we must understand that the Old and New Testaments go hand-in-hand. More specifically, we cannot properly understand the New Testament without the Old. In his second point, Fr Aaron discussed why God is sometimes portrayed as “an angry God” in the Old Testament. Fr Aaron concluded by explaining that Jesus is not always “Mr. Nice Guy” in the New Testament. While it is certainly clear that Jesus is merciful and loving, His “anger” towards the self-righteous should not be overlooked.

Recognizing False Prophets

In discussing what St. Peter references as false prophets, teachers and heresies, we showed that Peter’s concern was not primarily with those outside the Church nor with what we now define as church dogma. During this discussion, Fr Aaron noted that, unlike other narratives in history that raise up and glorify its national founders and leaders, the Bible offers a constant criticism of Israel’s leadership. We also discuss what was Peter’s primary concern with false prophets: that they would convince people they could somehow earn their salvation.

Offering a Defense for our Faith

Can You Imagine No Christmas?

In contemplating the fact that the Nativity story is not included in Mark’s Gospel, our episode today focused on the most important aspect of the life of Christ, which was His teaching. And even though Matthew and Luke provide some details about the birth of Jesus, they also neglect any mention of His early life—the sole exception being the story told in Luke about the young Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem and teaching in the Temple. We see this emphasis on the teaching also in the three greatest feasts of our Church calendar: Pascha, Pentecost and Theophany. As Christians, therefore, we must understand that the most important thing in our lives should be Jesus’ teaching; for this is the reason that the Word became flesh.

Salvation: Listener Questions

Today’s episode focused on listener questions regarding salvation. Fr Aaron explained that there are different ways to approach this issue, which lead to a discussion around legalism as well as those looking for just the minimum requirements so that they can get to heaven without doing more than is necessary. As for the legalistic approach, there is something to be said here as we all will ultimately be declared either righteous or unrighteous. But we should understand that there are none who are righteous, and so in receiving this “not guilty” verdict at the Final Judgement, we must recognize that we receive this verdict only by God’s grace. And in return, we are expected to love our neighbor and be merciful even as our Father in heaven is merciful.

Mary in Scripture

Today’s episode focused on some of the most common questions regarding Mary, including the important distinction between worship and veneration. From a theological perspective, Fr Aaron explained that rather than making a statement about Mary, the names we use for Mary more specifically highlight our understanding of Christ. Finally, it was stressed that the key biblical aspect of Mary is seen in her willingness to submit to God and suffer great shame, even risking death, to bring Christ into the world. This tremendous example is why we regard her as the greatest among the Saints.

Violence & Freedom: A Reflection on January 6, 2021

In this episode, Fr Aaron expounds on his sermon from January 17, 2021, which reflected on the "siege of the US Capitol" building on January 6, 2021. In that sermon, Fr Aaron talked about the false gospel that we can obtain and retain true freedom through physical violence and war. He reminded of the teaching of Jesus and the true Gospel, that true freedom can only be found in making peace with your enemies. In this episode, we explored some important passages related to this authentic Gospel teaching, helping us to better understand it and the stories themselves.

Enter By The Narrow Door

In today’s episode we began with a discussion of the mustard seed and the leaven from Jesus’ parable, and how we learn from this teaching that no Christian work is too small. And as Christians, we should never concern ourselves with the outcome of our work for the Lord: we are called to plant the seeds, but we cannot produce. It is God alone who gives the growth. We then examined Jesus’ warning to “strive to enter by the narrow door” and discussed its implications.

Exposing Darkness and Redeeming the Time

Today we discussed how to juggle various ideals, namely our exposure of darkness while avoiding condemnation by our judgement of others. Father Aaron explained that we must first begin by exposing the darkness within ourselves. By repairing the darkness within ourselves and living by example, we become a light to others and expose the darkness. We also discussed what is meant by “redeeming the time.” Our liturgical tradition can help to provide meaning to our daily lives and aid us in avoiding the many distractions of the world. This enables us to keep our focus on doing the daily work of Christ, to serve others and help reconcile them to God and to all mankind.

Delivering People to Satan and Forbidding Women to Speak?

In today's passage Paul speaks of delivering people to Satan and forbids women to speak: what on earth does that mean and why does he say those things? Fr Aaron explains how the "delivering to Satan" is ultimately meant to instruct the sinners so that they would repent and be saved. During this discussion we touched on the common misconception that Satan has more power and influence than he truly has. And in regard to the concluding verses in today’s reading concerning women, it was stressed that the Church has never taken these passages literally, or rather applied them universally. St. Paul himself had female assistants and there were many women in the community who were very prominent and active in ministry. Fr. Aaron discussed some examples of why Paul might have said these words in a very limited and narrow context to Timothy.

You Must Hate Your Father and Mother???

Why does Jesus say we must hate our father and mother?!!! To better understand this statement, we considered the preceding Parable of the Great Banquet, and the excuses offered by the three invited guests. Through this parable, Jesus is teaching that while there are credible excuses for avoiding the call to defend Israel in war, these do not apply as credible excuses for the higher calling of Christ’s heavenly banquet. When applied to our reading today, we can see clearly that Jesus is telling us nothing should come between us and His invitation to live out the Gospel.

Weddings, Adultery, and Stripes

Today we discussed the common theme of a wedding or marriage to teach us about deeper biblical concepts. One example given was that of Christ and the Church in which Christ is the groom and the Church is His bride. Even relationships outside of marriage can be instructive, as is found in numerous examples throughout Scripture. One such example cited by Fr Aaron was that of Paul’s instruction on spiritual unfaithfulness in which the Gentile communities he converted were warned against seeking after other gods or turning back to idol worship. Then, specific to today’s reading, we concluded by examining the difference between those who Jesus says will receive many stripes and those who will receive few. As Christians, we should understand this to mean that as people of God, we have a greater responsibility to live our lives as we have been instructed by Scripture.

The Rich Man & Lazarus

Today’s episode explored the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. On the surface, this parable is about wealth and poverty, but Fr Aaron argued that there is much more to this story and highlighted a deeper understanding. Namely, he showed how the rich man represents the Jewish religious establishment, who have the Law and the Prophets and are therefore spiritually wealthy. Lazarus, on the other hand, represents the Gentiles and the Jewish outcasts, who were outside the Jewish religious establishment and were ritually unclean. Those within the establishment hoarded God’s mercy for themselves, resulting in their condemnation. On the other hand, the angels, who represent the apostles, the messengers of the Gospel, bring the Gentiles and Jewish outcasts under God’s covenant.

He Who Is Not With Me Is Against Me

In today’s episode we went back to Genesis 10 to help us properly understand Jesus’ statement in Luke 11: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Through this statement, Jesus is telling us we cannot claim to accept His message while also excluding those we do not respect or those who we despise. We must be willing to gather the harvest with Jesus to be part of the authentic community of God. Finally, we noted the acceptance of Jesus’ teaching and way of life is not a singular act on our part—it must be a continuous choice we make throughout our lives.

Just Say The Word

We discussed the biblical theme that sinners and outsiders are the ones who recognize God’s Messiah rather than those who are viewed as righteous. We examined this theme in light of the Roman centurion whose faith in Jesus led to the healing of his slave. This centurion, a Gentile, demonstrated his complete trust in the Lord with these words, “Just say the word, and let my servant be healed.” This healing of the slave from afar also demonstrates another common theme of Scripture; that God is not seen, but is heard and to be obeyed. Our job is to heed His word, because through His Word, God is present.

Paul's Warning to the Corinthians

Today we discussed the context of the Epistles to the Corinthians, noting the community was predominantly Gentile, one made up of Roman converts to the faith. We then discussed the similarities in the Bible of both Jews and Gentiles in that Scripture is critical of both communities. Later in today’s reading, we hear Paul address the Corinthians with a bit of sarcasm, to offer a warning: If we expect that being a Christian will bring us an easy life, and that we can be viewed as honorable by a corrupt world, then we are doing something very wrong. Jesus teaches us that a servant is not greater than his master. If Jesus was persecuted, so too will His servants. To live the Christian life properly means that our ways will not be popular with those in society, and at times, even among other Christians.

Jesus' Appearance to His Unbelieving Disciples

We discuss Jesus’ appearance to His disciples and his questioning of why they did not believe in Him. We evaluate this appearance and “proof” of the Resurrection in light of Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in which Jesus taught if people did not believe in the teaching of Moses, neither would they be convinced if one rose from the dead. Fr Aaron explained that ultimately Christ was rebuking His disciples by appearing to them. Like the Roman centurion (soldier), we should be able to recognize the crucified Messiah as the Son of God. In addition to this topic, we explore the meaning of different liturgical customs and practices in the Orthodox Church related to the reading of the Resurrection Gospels.

Justification Is Just the Beginning

In this episode we discuss what it means to be “justified.” Fr Aaron explained that the Greek word that is often translated as “justified” can also be translated as “declared righteous.” And so, we can understand that to be justified means that we have been declared righteous. With this legal terminology in mind, we then discussed that while part of salvation is legal or juridical, salvation goes beyond a mere legal process. St. Paul is telling us in Galatians that to be declared righteous means that we have been freed from the Mosaic Law which allows us to avoid the curse of the Law. This leads to the opportunity for us to find salvation, healing, and restoration. Thus, to be declared righteous is not the end, but rather the beginning of our walk as a Christian.

The Pharisees & Self-Righteousness

We began by focusing on the problem of self-righteousness addressed in the Gospel. It is important to note that while the Pharisees were often portrayed in a negative light because of their consistent condemnation by Christ, the Pharisees were viewed by the the people of their time as respectable and pious. However, as evidenced by the Gospel teaching, if we are to avoid judgement by Christ as a Pharisee on the Day of Judgement, we must recognize ourselves as Pharisees so that we might change our attitude and the way we live our lives. If we live humbly, we will not focus on the sins of others as did the Pharisee in today’s reading, but rather we will focus on our own sins and the change that is necessary in our own heart.

Why Does Jesus Teach in Parables?

Today we examined the role of parables in Scripture. We began by stressing the importance of viewing the entirety of Scripture as parable, as well as the value of parables as guiding principles in our lives, since we are wired to better understand moral and spiritual lessons when they are told in story form. Christ Himself used parables to penetrate more deeply; to engrain the lesson on our heart. We also discussed the modern idea of the Bible as a scientific or historical book, pointing out the flaw in both positions that those of us living in the 21st century are at the center of the universe. By reducing the Bible to a science text or a history book, we cheapen its impact. As Christians, we are not allowed to define Scripture, for Scripture defines us. We are beneath Scripture and must submit to it.

The Unforgivable Sin

We begin with an examination of the so-called “unforgivable sin.” From a thorough understanding of the preceding verses in Mark’s Gospel, we see this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an accusation that the work of Jesus is the work of demons. Father Aaron used the example of St. Paul to illustrate that this particular sin, as with all sin, can be forgiven if we repent. Only in persisting and dying in this sin against the Holy Spirit will we not receive forgiveness. We concluded with a discussion that Jesus’ true family is not based on biology or genealogy, but on faith. Put another way, to be part of God’s family is not based on our DNA, but on doing the will of God.

The Meaning of Fasting

We discuss the tradition of fasting, dating back to pre-Christian Judaism. This helps us better understand why Jesus was questioned by the disciples of John as to His disciples not fasting. Jesus’ response, together with Isaiah 58, shows that the true purpose of fasting is not to make ourselves hungry, but to relieve the hunger in others and to relieve their burdens. Jesus shows how the most religious people are too often focused on their own self-righteousness rather than this biblical meaning of fasting.

The Abomination of Desolation

Today we discussed whether the “abomination of desolation” has already taken place or whether it is still yet to come. While many people today have become obsessed with the End Times, the Gospel tells us that we are not to be predicting or pontificating about when the End will be, but rather to remain vigilant and prepared. Our main concern should be in how we live our lives according to the Gospel message, so that we are ready for the Final Judgment whenever it comes. To conclude the episode, Fr Aaron provided insight into the Greek word “eklektos” that has been translated into English as “elect.” He showed how this word is ultimately used as a reflection of the Church.

Talk Is Cheap (Matthew 21:28-32)

Today we discussed the significance of Jesus’ movement in and out of the great city of Jerusalem, and His spending the evenings in Bethany. We also highlighted a parable Jesus spoke while visiting the Temple, calling out the religious people of His time. In stark contrast to how Jesus lived His earthly life—ministering to the poor and the outcast—these “pious” people condemned and disassociated from them. In the end, Fr Aaron pointed out the teaching of Scripture: talk is cheap. What ultimately matters is not what we claim to believe, but if we live according to God’s will.

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