Weathering the Political Season with Fatih

Weathering the Political Season with Fatih

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“Lord, send revival, and start with me!” This was a bumper sticker on many cars in Charleston, South Carolina, long ago. The little quip packed three important foundational points: “Lord”, “revival”, and “start with me.”

First, the call on the Lord Jesus Christ indicated that the source of what we are seeking is, in fact, Him. We were not asking the Governor or the President to send us anything—we were asking God himself.

Second, we were asking the Lord to send something specific: “revival”. The term “revival” also makes a few presumptions: one the one hand, there used to be life—and maybe now it is stagnant or fading. On the other hand, there is hope. “Revival” implies a new start, a new life, another chance. Perhaps life had faded due to (spiritual) illness, perhaps due to neglect—never mind: a re-focus of attention, and a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit could be the kick-starter to a renewed sincerity of faith.

Third, we were not asking God to fix others. We were asking him to start very, very locally. And that locality was not just with our (external) person, but with our own very hearts—my heart!

This motto, this “trite” little bumper sticker, bears a very strong resemblance to our ancient, and well-practiced Prayer of St Ephraim. Though we are still quite a few months away from the Great Fast, surely you recall it—those many prostrations and those profound requests of the Lord:

O Lord and Master of my life:

Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins, and not to judge my brother:

For thou art blessed unto the ages of ages!

In a few sentences we can see the parallel:

O Lord and Master of my life:                                                O Lord!

Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair….                          (I am perishing)

But give rather, the spirit of chastity, humility….                  Send revival

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins…          and start with me!

For thou art blessed unto the ages of ages!

A Meditation for the Midst of Electoral Chaos

Today we find ourselves on the brink of a presidential election, and my, how the mud is slinging. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter whose “side” one is on, the slandering and pandering is pervasive. And without question, without doubt, neither candidate represents anything resembling Orthodox Christianity. Further, both candidates have managed, to the bewilderment of many, to divide even the closest friend—and strongly.

So maybe it is a helpful time to take a return to our Spiritual medicine cabinet, and to use either the Charlestonian “Lenten” prayer, or the more ancient and familiar Prayer of St Ephraim, in word and in deed, to recall that the United States (and the world) will neither be saved, nor destroyed, by either of these candidates. Neither is Jesus, and neither of them inaugurated the fall of mankind (or of our own country).

The Orthodox Christian must always remember that while we are in this world, we are not of this world. Our first citizenship is in Heaven, not on earth. Our voluntary obedience is not to “princes and sons of men” (or princesses and daughters…)—there is no salvation in them—and we even sing that at every Divine Liturgy! Rather, the font of salvation, of life, is Jesus Christ. His commandments are life, and his ways are the ways of Peace, of salvation, of healing.

If Christians would each follow the Gospel, there we will find the “change” we are actually looking for. I once gave a Pro-Life Speech at 40 Days for Life. There, I pointed out that abortion (evil as it is, fight it we must) would be reduced by the vast, vast majority if Christians would stop having abortions.

My point is simple:

In calling Jesus Lord, we do two things: first, we volunteer to submit to him and his ways, and second, we simultaneously acknowledge that he knows better.

In asking Jesus to send revival, we acknowledge that we are perishing in our ways. Isn’t it interesting that in all the generations since Adam and Eve, we all seem to want to try it our way, figuring that we know better than both our predecessors (who failed) and God himself? How arrogant!

But in asking Jesus to send revival, we also acknowledge that Jesus pardons our sins and failures when we return to him, and that there is hope to begin again. (I am reminded of our beautiful South Carolina motto—in Latin: Dum Spiro Spero—while I breathe, I hope!)

And in asking Jesus, to start with me, I acknowledge that my own life in Christ is a vital contribution to the solution. And that change, aggregated with all other Christians, is enough to turn the world upside down. And while the low-hanging, plentiful fruit of each political candidate is (almost) too much to resist for us to criticize, a brief review of the sklerokardia (look it up!) of my own soul is enough to kill the world.

O Lord,

Send Revival.

And start with me.

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Fr. John Parker

Fr John Parker is the pastor of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina, and the Chair of the Department of Evangelization of the Orthodox Church in America. He graduated the College of William and Mary (1993) with a major in Spanish and a minor in German. He earned his MDiv at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. After being received into the Orthodox Church, he earned an MTh at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, where is also currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program. He has been a frequent writer for Charleston, SC's Post and Courier. He and Matushka Jeanette celebrated 20 years of marriage in April 2014, and have two sons nearing High School graduation.