February 15, 2013

Despised and Rejected

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” (Psalm 118:22, 1 Peter 1:7, Mark 12:10)

Both the epistle and gospel for today quite this verse from Psalm 118:22. The early church often brought out these scriptural words when summarizing the victory of Jesus who had been rejected by the religious leaders and then was revealed by His Resurrection to be the Messiah (see Acts 4:11). We use this verse, and others from Psalm 118 at the start of matins, when we sing “The Lord is God and has revealed Himself to us.”

But victory came only after rejection.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
(Isaiah 53:3-4)

Jesus predicted that his followers would also face rejection. Maybe we don’t feel that every day, but from time to time we will certainly feel the sting of being pushed away—not because of our personality and faults, but simply because we are Christians and committed to the life of His Church. It comes in subtle and not so subtle ways and it always hurts. We feel more than mere rejection, we feel despised.

Psalm 118 is about victory, but it’s also about turning to the Lord in times like this. When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6). May He give us the determination to follow Him at these times and keep loving those who despise the deepest part of our lives.


It has been a busy few days. I am right now in Philadelphia for a retreat of the Board of Theological Education. Under the direction of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, the Board of Theological Education establishes, maintains, and oversees the general standards and curriculum for the education and formation of clergy in the OCA’s three seminaries, as well as the Diaconal Vocations Program (DVP) directed by Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov. Today the focus will be on the DVP, and we will join students tomorrow for their Saturday program (and hierarchical liturgy) at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral.

Bishop Irénée of Quebec is a member of the Board but is on his way with Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco to attend the enthronement in Beirut, Lebanon this weekend of Patriarch John X of Antioch.

Metropolitans Tikhon and Hilarion
Metropolitan Tikhon and Metropolitan Hilarion

On Tuesday evening, Father Leonid Kishkovsky and I joined Metropolitan Tikhon for a warm and substantive conversation with Metropolitan Hilarion (First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia), together with Father Serafim Gan and Father Andrey Sommer of ROCOR. 

Yesterday, His Beatitude met at length with the officers to go over plans for the meeting next Tuesday of diocesan chancellors and treasurers. The focus will be on progress toward implementing the decision of the 2011 All-American Council to reduce “head tax” assessments and transition to proportional giving (stewardship, tithing) to fund the church-wide administration and ministries of the OCA. So far, the data being collected from parishes and dioceses show that there are huge variations between them. Some are entirely funded by proportional giving, others have yet to begin. We still have some way to go in finding a practical and fair way to include all the dioceses, and this will be a big part of the discussion, not only on Tuesday but at the Metropolitan Council meeting at the end of February and the Holy Synod meeting in March.