Unworthy, But Thankful

lessons-from-parables-parable-of-worker-fair-wage-fair-employerFor my yearly Back-to-School post, I offer this sermon on one of my favorite teacher flicks, Mr. Pip. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!

September 2/15, 2019
13th Sunday After Pentecost
M. Mamas
1 Corinthians 16:13-24
Matthew 21:33-42

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. Happy New Year! Yesterday was a special day in the liturgical calendar for it marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, the new year of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. It also happens to coincide with the beginning of the school year. No doubt by now all the students gathered here have had their first day of school in an academic year that will last until sometime next year in the late spring or early summer. So it is a good time for us to gather our strength, take stock of our supplies, and above all be thankful for the opportunities afforded us with a fresh start.

This morning’s Gospel of the vineyard parable features an interesting array of characters to study. The vineyard owner is Christ who provides every supply necessary for a successful operation before he travels to a far off country. He even performs some of the tasks the workers should have done themselves: he plants a vineyard, sets a hedge around it, digs a winepress in it and builds a tower to protect it, but the vine-dressers rather than thank him for it squander both their time and resources. Not only do they not do what they’re supposed to do, but they actively plot to take over control from the owner and murder his son! In short, they wish to benefit from the fruit of the vineyard without the work of cultivating it. Yet the owner comes back and the Gospel asks, “What do you think he will do to those workers?” Continue reading

A Contagious Conversation

saint-photini-the-samaritan-at-jacobs-well-icon-320x330In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is risen!

Beloved in the Lord, I am grateful today for the privilege of expositing such a deliciously gregarious conversation between our risen Lord and a woman from Samaria named Photini. Our beloved Apostle and Evangelist John delights in recording these deep and sacred conversations and this one is his longest between the Lord and one other person, logging in at a whopping 20 verses.

Consider with me first the setting of this conversation at Jacob’s well in Sychar of Samaria. It is a very public, yet intimate gathering place, akin to the public, yet intimate encounter one has today riding on a bus or flying on a plane— random, yet providential encounters between total strangers that have the capacity to turn quite personal, and even eternal. Some would even call them divine appointments. Such is today’s providential encounter between the savior and a woman whose life up to then was shameful and without purpose. She was the daughter of a race of half-breeds, whose heretical faith, compromised ethnicity, and immoral lifestyle had ensured her membership in a disenfranchised class. Photini was a woman living a dead-end life among a discriminated minority. Continue reading

Dickens Meets Shakespeare

Tuesday, November 15/28, 2017
First Day of the Nativity Fast
Commencement of Advent in the Orthodox Church
SMSG Publicity Shots - 15

Bob Cratchit & Scrooge, © Francois James 2017.

Have you ever thought of seeing a mash-up of Dickens and Shakespeare? If you love Dickens and Shakespeare, then Scrooge Meets Shakespeare’s Ghosts would be the show for you. If you have read the story A Christmas Carol or seen one of the movie adaptations, you are probably familiar with the plot.

In Scrooge Meet Shakespeare’s Ghosts  the Ghost’s are all different from the ones in the original tale. The Ghost of Christmas Past becomes the three witches from Macbeth. The Ghost of Christmas Present is played by Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost. The Ghost of Christmas Future is ghost of Caesar in Macbeth. The rest of the characters remain the same so you can see the rest of the show with the all-time favorite story by Charles Dickens. This rendition of Scrooge also features old carol tunes sung with original lyrics written for Dicken’s and Shakespeare’s timeless characters.

There are two shows in December and the price for tickets is not too much. If you would like to learn more and buy tickets please visit our website.

Continue reading

Christmas Parties in Desolate Places

02closeup_scrooge_cratchit“I’m a Christian, so I don’t go to parties,” said a person to me recently. There was a time in my life I would have accepted such a judgment about parties without qualification. The theology behind the idea of canceling Christmas is partly to blame for this tepid approach to life. Indeed the Lord does give his peace to us not as the world gives  with the implication that all worldly parties without Him will always fall short of the mark. But where does this trepidation towards partying in general and towards specific Christian feasts/parties mean for the life in Christ? How do we answer Scrooge’s argument to his jubilant nephew in our musical adaptation of Dicken’s classic Carol:

“The 25th of December from what I remember is no special day, just a date.” Continue reading

Theatre You Can Believe In

scroogeMonday, November 15/28, 2016
First Day of the Nativity Fast
Commencement of Advent in the Orthodox Church

It has been a New Year’s resolution of my oldest daughter since she saw her first show three years ago: To act and sing in a production of New Life Fine Arts out of Concord, MA. What she saw in Ebezener Scrooge: A Christmas Carol sparked her imagination while deepening her understanding of this literary character’s repentance. Now that three of us have been blessed to be chosen as cast members in this year’s production, it has allowed us an even more intimate acquaintance with NLFA’s uniquely spiritual approach to musical theatre. Continue reading

A Sobering Christmas Ghost Story: REPOST

It has been three years since this last time that Scrooge: A Christmas Carol was staged and this review was published. It is happening again, and the Friar Family is in it. Please don’t miss the action. Click on the banner below to buy tickets and come see us.

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leech-marleys-ghost-5
December 15, 2013
Concord, MA

Every year faithful Christians struggle with the rush and distraction of holiday preparations and long to take a moment to slow down and reflect on the real meaning of the season. It is an especially difficult struggle for Orthodox Christians as we are prescribed by Mother Church to fast in our preparation to meet the newborn King in his Nativity. The Lenten Fast by comparison is somewhat easier in the sense that the season is already more austere in the wider culture (everyone fasting in the springtime, if for no other religious reason, so that they can fit into summertime bathing suits). The weeks leading up to Christmas in America are anything but austere. Between Christmas parties at work, holiday concerts galore, and the extra latte at Starbucks to keep up our shopping stamina, few things in the broader culture give us pause to stop and reflect on our eternal destiny with one amazing exception, Charles Dicken’s classic Christmas ghost story, A Christmas Carol. Continue reading

The Charity of Charles Dickens

Just finished Dicken’s Great Expectations with our older girls as an evening read aloud, a project which has lasted two years for us. It is hard to have patience in our age of soundbites with an author who was paid by the word and often seemed to multiply characters needlessly. But any reader who has spent time with his tomes and become acquainted with his universe of characters knows the power they have of teaching charity and a host of other virtues to hearts grown cold with indifference and self-centeredness. Continue reading