Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Very often, we live our life as if the passing of days was boring and predictable. We get up in the morning, go to work or school, go home, relax during the evening, and start again the next day. But in doing that we fail to see, if you will, the bigger picture, the multitude of seemingly random events that we dismiss as coincidence or fortune, good or bad. But every day has the potential to be significant, even earthshaking. Sometimes these events pass almost unnoticed, while other times we are shaken to our core. And yet other times, it is only with the passage of time that the meaning becomes clear.
This is true for all of us. There is the day when we are conceived, either purposefully or not, and there is the day when we each shall die, unknown to us but drawing closer with each passing day. And in between are other days, dawning and passing, in which the world is turned upside down, and God's will is made apparent.
Consider the year 2008. When the year dawned, Pani and I were living in Brasstown and I was happily engaged in serving as the Deacon at St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church in Woodstock. It never occurred to me that the year would be meaningful in any unusual way, or that events would begin which would change my life altogether. In the spring of that year, however, a woman noticed a bumper sticker on an unfamiliar car, driven by a person she did not know. The bumper sticker spoke of the Orthodox Church. The woman, as it turned out, was an Orthodox Christian who had not been able to attend church for many years. She followed the strange car to the Murphy School of Dance, where she followed the driver in, caught up with her and asked "Is there a church here? I yearn for the Eucharist!" The driver was my older daughter, while the other driver was Becky M., although my daughter, taken by surprise and a bit befuddled, did not think to ask her what her name was. That was the first inkling I had that there were any other Orthodox Christians at all in this area.
In June of that year, a stranger contacted me and asked if I would be interested in buying an icon, a very old one which he had obtained on a whim in Yugoslavia in the 1950s, and then carried all over the world in his job as a petroleum engineer. The icon was always kept in a closet, in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Upon retirement, he and his wife randomly (I might suppose) decided to settle in a town neither of them was from, which happened to be Murphy. Several years after moving in he ran across that icon in the closet one day, and decided he should sell it. Call it decluttering. His realtor suggested he call me - "I think he likes those things", he said - so he did. I bought it, put it in my office, and found myself spending time just looking at it. The icon, of course, is in the church today. It is of St. Nicholas.
As I kept looking at it over the next months, the crazy idea developed that maybe there could be a church in this area. My rational mind shrugged it off, repeatedly, but the thought seemed to come back again and again. It would not leave me alone, to be honest. Finally, I thought that I would go up the ecclesiastical ladder, if you will, and if at any rung of the ladder I was told to forget about it I would. So early in the fall of 2008, when Fr. Frederick came to bless our house, I asked him what he thought. He considered it. "It is an interesting idea," he finally said. "You should talk to our dean, Fr. (Michael) Rosco." A few weeks later, I spoke to Fr. Michael on the phone and, to my surprise, he was enthusiastic. "You need to talk to Metropolitan Nicholas," he said. "I'll arrange for you to do that at the St. Nicholas retreat in December."
I always loved the Metropolitan's annual retreat for Deacons, Subdeacons and Readers, even if it was held in December in Johnstown. Many were the times when getting back to the airport in Pittsburgh involved driving two hours through the snow!
On December 20, after the conclusion of Great Vespers for St. Nicholas, our Chancellor, Fr. Frank, came out and told me to go back into the altar, that the Metropolitan was waiting on me. Everyone has heard the story of what happened there and how he blessed the establishment of St. Nicholas in Murphy.
When 2008 dawned, i had no conception at all of what the year held. I had a better idea in 2009, but there was the matter of being ordained and then beginning work on the new mission. There is one date that, randomly, became important. Originally, the plan was to open the mission on August 2, but that was delayed for a week since the incredibly loving people of St. Elizabeth had planned a farewell for my wife and I on the 2nd. That pushed us back to August 9, which just by coincidence was the day of the Glorification of St. Herman of Alaska, a very important American saint. It seemed to be another one of those "coincidences"
Ten years has passed. Now think of your own life. If you were living in this area and were already Orthodox, did you have any reason to think that there would some day be a church here? If you are one of the numerous people who have become Orthodox at St. Nicholas since 2009, in the year before your baptism and/or chrismation, was it even on your radar that the day would come? The day when you first confessed, the day when you first communed. The day on which your marriage was blessed. Did you see it coming?
This is a living illustration of why we must always be aware that time is more than kronos; that it is frequently disrupted by kairos. God's time trumps the everyday, and we have all seen it, lived it, and wondered at it.
it is through the grace of God that we have become brothers and sisters in Christ. Nothing is random. God's will is expressed in our life, and the life of every person around you. This was meant to be, even if none of us knew it.
So, this weekend we will remember that, recall the multitude of our blessings, and look with anticipation to our future. We do not know what it holds, or what things might occur, but we can wait expectantly for God's will to be done.
We will serve Great Vespers at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night, and Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. We will follow that with a pot luck dinner, where we will recall the goodness shown to us, and anticipate that which is to come. If you did not already let Van know if you wanted fish on Sunday, let him know as soon as possible.
I really want to see you all this weekend!
Overwhelmed by joy,