Testing By Experience
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard…” (Luke 7:22)
Blind faith is not Christian faith. John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was really the Messiah they had been waiting for. Instead of giving a Tinker Bell answer of “just believe,” Jesus takes the testimony away from himself and says to John’s disciples in effect, “Test this for yourselves. Judge by your own experience. Don’t tell John what I tell you, but tell him what you’ve seen and heard.” The Scriptures had given a number of promises about the Messiah healing the afflicted, raising the dead and preaching good news to the despairing. “Look around you—are these happening? Trust your experience, go tell John, and then let him decide if what you have seen and heard permits him to conclude that he need not wait any longer for the Messiah.”
So many people around us are hungry for authentic spiritual life. But words won’t be enough. They want to know that what you and I are claiming has been tested by our own experience. However halting, flawed and imperfect, what we have seen and heard is what they want to know, so they can then decide if Jesus is their Messiah too.
Diocese of West Assembly
One of the highlights for me at yesterday’s Assembly in Denver was the report from the deaneries. The territory of the Diocese is vast, going from Portland to Billings to Phoenix to San Diego. And there aren’t more than fifty mainly small parishes and missions for these thousands of square miles. But the clergy (especially) and laity of each of the five regional deaneries make an attempt to get together as geography, time, money and energy permit. The newest deanery is the “Desert Deanery” (their priests are now known as “the Desert Fathers”) led by dean Father David Brum, and covers Las Vegas, San Diego, Poway, Phoenix and places in between. In addition to the geographic deaneries, the Diocese also has a Mission Deanery, under the leadership of Father Matthew Tate. This allows new missions to be incubated with special care until they are ready to be launched into the regional deanery. Over the last number of years on average 1.5 missions were opened every year, and another one transferred from the mission deanery to the regional deanery. So there are signs of growth. Father Tate stressed the importance of seminarians in this missionary effort, and every year several are recruited for new missions like the one in Durango, CO. He also underlined that there is a paradigm shift in planning missions. Instead of looking for groups of Orthodox who need a parish, the Mission deanery is now targeting geographic areas where there is no Orthodox presence. This will require a whole new way of thinking about missions, pastoral work and training clergy.