Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plowshares to Swords and back to Plowshares???

Posted: 28 February 2010
Updated: 16 March 2010

On Sunday, 28 February 2010, my wife Birgitta forwarded a surprising contradiction to a scripture that has been at the center of my life's work since graduate school in 1961.

The above image of the smith beating his sword into a plowshare is a Russian artist's conception of Isaiah 2:4, which scriptural reference ["Исa 2:4"] is carved into the base of the Moscow version located in the Tretyakow Gallery near the Kremlin, where I first saw it in September 1973. The UN version, which I hadn't known existed until years later, is identical to the Moscow version except that this scriptural reference does NOT appear on its base in NYC. (I have personally inspected both these figures and their bases for this.) Here is the complete verse in English:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

I had always marveled how the sculptor had managed to express himself right under the atheist noses in the militant Soviet Kremlin. But now my wife sends me a quote from Joel, an earlier Hebrew prophet, commanding Israel to do the very opposite. It's confusing. Birgitta reminds me that Joel is talking about spiritual reality and not physical reality. But that doesn't console me. I'm not convinced that most modern, biblically motivated readers of these scriptures won't take them literally as metaphors for endorsing modern warfare.

Birgitta wrote:
Here’s a thoughtful way to consider this scripture that you love.

Weapons of Warfare
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
Thursday, February 18 2010

"Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears." - Joel 3:10a

In this third chapter of Joel, we hear the prophet describe a time yet to come. It will be a time of great harvest on the earth, and this verse describes the catalyst. A plowshare is an agricultural instrument used to till the soil. At this point in history, it was a tool that spoke of one's vocation. However, the prophet was speaking of a time yet to come. The prophet described the plowshare as an instrument that will be turned into a sword. The sword is often used in the Bible to describe God's Word. The only way a plowshare can be turned into a sword is for it to go through extreme heat, and then the blacksmith must beat that plowshare into shape. Heat and punishment of the metal turns that plowshare into an instrument of battle. God must do this in each of our lives in order for us to be useable as a worthy sword. We are all in a battle - a spiritual battle. Paul describes our battle as one against the principalities of the unseen world. I believe God is going to raise up many in the workplace to use their plowshare as a weapon of righteousness in these last days. That weapon won't be used for destruction, but as a weapon of love. That weapon of love will yield a great harvest in our lifetime. But this is only part of the story.

God is also going to turn our pruning hooks into spears. A pruning hook is used in two ways. First, it is used to prune a tree for greater growth and productivity. It is also used to cut the fruit from taller trees in which one cannot reach the fruit. This fruit from our vocation is going to be cast forth like a spear, but even more as seed planted to bring the harvest of which Joel speaks. Fruit from our work life is often the financial rewards generated. God wants to use our finances and everything else for His purposes. We must use our vocations and the fruit that comes from them as seed to bring the great harvest that God is planning.

How are you using your plowshare and your pruning hook for God's glory today? Ask God to show you how He wants to use your skills, resources, and relationships to prepare for the great harvest He has planned.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Future of St. Dimitri of Rostov Mission

Original post: Sunday 14 February 2010
Updated: Sunday 18 April 2010

The future of meeting in this beautiful place after Fr. John Hennies retires on Bright Saturday up-coming, is uncertain at best. IMHO it will depend on whether we individual parishioners and the ecclesiastical leaders from the Diocese of the South (DOS) in Dallas are able to put our personal and collective egos aside enough to meet truly with Christ in our midst. That has ever been our only hope. The DOS Dean is coming to celebrate the Liturgy on April 18, to conduct OCA business and to assess our situation. God bless him and us!

With this in mind, it is important for me to suggest that the success of our upcoming meetings may depend on our collective willingness to bring our personal and collective dreams to the table. More on this in subsequent posts.

Sunday, 28 February

During this morning's sermon at St. Dimitri, Fr. John spoke about the future of St. Dimitri after his upcoming retirement in a month. He referred to the story in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus healed a paralytic whose four friends had let him down with ropes on a pallet from the roof of a house packed with visitors who blocked the way to Jesus. This man's faithful friends thought "outside the box!" (of the house!) in their confidence in Jesus. When the man descended from the roof and reached the feet of Jesus, the Master acknowledged the man's faith and said, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." This, of course, infuriated onlooking scribes. But Jesus went further and commanded the man to "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." This the man did immediately in the presence of everyone there and to their amazement.

Bringing the sermon's lesson to apply to tiny St. Dimitri's upcoming survival challenge, Fr. John said, "It doesn't make any difference the size of our little parish. When two or three are gathered in God's name, there will He be also." What have we to worry about if we can meet in faith in God's name the same way as the paralytic and his four FAITHFUL friends?

I agree. Our faith will be the determining factor.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lamentation with silver lining

Yesterday, at our weekly Wednesday discussion, Priest Fr. John H was feeling low. Beyond his considerable physical ailments he was distressing over the fragile health of his friend Hiermonk John, the abbot of nearby St. Michael's monastery, who had again just reported to the Los Alamos ER with reoccurring symptoms. Fr. John H had recently attended an Orthodox conference in Dallas where he met personally with Metropolitan Jonah to plead his special intervention in this case. Since nothing had happened after a week, Fr. John H now feared for his friend's life. He was burdened with feeling helpless to do more and was becoming disillusioned with the Met.

At that point in our conversation a motto from the Bhagavad-Gita that legendary Christian Mormon educator Lowell L. Bennion was known to keep on his desk came to mind and out of my mouth: "To action alone thou hast a right; not to its fruits". Fr. John's face lit up and said that his day just became a little brighter.

Later that night he sent an email entitled "I was hasty!!!":

Friend - Fr John is here and says that he has heard from the Metropolitan who is arriving in the next week or so with two monks. One will be left at the monastery and one will stay with the Met. and one will drive Fr John back to Manton CA where he will be for awhile, see doctors and rest up in peace and quiet. So the Met. did do what he said he would do!!!!! That lifts a burden from my shoulder. Obviously it took a bit of time to make all of the arrangements, but make them he did!

Between that and the wonderful phrase you shared, this day has turned out pretty well. My surgery is at 9:15 tomorrow a.m. The prayers of you and Birgitta are requested. In Christ, Fr John PS I feel so much better that I am taking Fr John and Lea out for dinner, and while I cannot eat anything much, I will be "beyond these walls" which I roundly cursed this a.m. In Christ, Fr John

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Note: Since the RPK experiment is unfolding with surprises, I have copied all previous posts related to this subject and placed them into a dedicated site. All future posts will also be found there. See here.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Fr. John announces his retirement

Original post: 1 February 2010

Fr. John at dinner at The Blue Window Bistro

On Sunday, January 31, after more than three rich and fulfilling golden years our beloved priest Fr. John Hennies announced to the congregation during the Liturgical sermon that he is retiring after the coming Bright Saturday on April 10. We of the parish community owe him much as he has given us a labor of love doing that which he would rather to do than anything else. I personally know of no other ecclesiastical servant who has influenced or blessed my life more. Surely I would not now be Orthodox if it weren't for the insights and wisdom of this holy man despite his irascible past. Yes, he is not only a man of God, but also human, full of foibles and vulnerable. What you see is what you get. I know no one more transparent.

But now he must concentrate on his family and his own aging self, having "retired" three times before. But, he's not really leaving us. He assures us that we'll still see him around town in his priestly cassock, sitting at various locations of the "Church of the Holy Restaurant" and "Caffeine Cathedral" blessing others in conversations and adoring babies and children. He will now be relieved of the strenuous duties that anchor an active parish priest to a rectory.

God bless you, our Fr. John.