Our reason for being here, together as a church, can be summed up in one name: Jesus.
And our attachment to Jesus boils down to the one word that captures what he taught and modeled: love.
God loves us and wants us to love was his good news — the two words that lie at the root of our English word gospel.
Jesus raised quite a few eyebrows in his day by his openness toward all. "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them," prim and proper religious folk grumbled about him dining with shady characters and social outcasts (Luke 15:2). Jesus' choice of dinner companions made a point: nobody is outside the bounds of God's friendship. That's good news for all of us! No matter where we're at in life, God wants our company and cares for sinner and saint alike: "He lets the sun rise for all people, whether they are good or bad. He sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong" (Matthew 5:45). We're all works in progress in God's eyes — and that's why there's room in his church for everyone willing to accept the invitation he extends in Jesus.
In Jesus, God shows us just how deep his love runs: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). Out of love, God made us to love him, each other, and all creation, but we heeded evil's suggestion and unlovingly lived at odds with them by putting our egos and appetites first — thus birthing sin. Sin's fallout was death, since it broke our connection with the source of life, God. But in Jesus, the everliving God was born as one of us mortals and embraced our human condition all the way to the point of dying on his cross, which short-circuited sin's death grip on us: "Since we, God's children, are flesh and blood, he became that too, so that by dying he could break the devil's power over death and set us free from living all our days as slaves to fear of dying" (Hebrews 2:14-15). By rising from death, Jesus brought humanity back to life as friends of God. Living that friendship is the aim of our life as a church, following Jesus who said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).
Jesus is our way. He teaches us a way of living built on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18), three core lifestyle habits that tame our egos and appetites while turning our attention more towards God and neighbor, in line with his message of selfless love.
Jesus is our truth. As God, he shows us the truth about how far God's love is willing to go for us. As a human, he shows us the truth about how fully a person can live for God. "God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them" (1 John 4:16).
Jesus is our life. In the sacraments of his church, he shares his life, such as in baptism, where he becomes our new clothing (Galatians 3:27), or in the eucharist, where he becomes our food and drink (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), so we too can become Christlike.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). That's why we Orthodox Christians value our roots in tradition so much, in line with what the apostle Paul told the earliest Christians: "Keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). So our age-old patterns and rhythms of worship focus on reverence before God rather than entertainment for man. And our tried-and-true spirituality aims at kindling Christlike transformation over the long haul rather than stoking emotion in the heat of the moment. Ancient doesn't mean outdated, in God's book. "Ask for the ancient paths and know where the good way is," he says. "Walk on it and experience peace for yourselves" (Jeremiah 6:16).
To learn more about Orthodox Christianity, click this link for an easy-to-read, basic introduction to our beliefs, worship, history, and spirituality: "The Orthodox Faith" by Father Thomas Hopko.
But better yet, explore it in person! We'd love to meet you. Join us for worship and fellowship 9:30 a.m. this Sunday at 11200 Elgin Boulevard in Spring Hill, Florida. Click here to find us: Find HTOC. "Come and see!" as Jesus said to the curious (John 1:39).