Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!
One of the things I greatly admire in Orthodoxy is her sense of inclusion.
I’ll pause for a minute and let that sink in.
Let me try again: one of the things I greatly admire in Orthodoxy is her willingness to include persons all over the theological spectrum, regardless of their personal beliefs, drawing them all to the table.
You with me?
Orthodoxy means “right belief”, I hear you reminding me, and if someone doesn’t believe rightly, let them be gone – or at least refrain from communion.
Turn to the person next to you and quiz them on their faith…
Do they know what Orthodoxy teaches on minute details about which you, yourself, are 100% sure?
Do they measure up to what you know to be the purest form of Orthodoxy?
If your neighbour isn’t Orthodox enough, raise your hand…
We’ll go back to my opening line…
One of the things I greatly admire in Orthodoxy is her sense of inclusion regardless of your place on the journey of faith.
As a priest not yet burdened with the mystery of confession, I have to admit: if someone confessed doubt in the words of today’s Gospel, I’d be quite happy to admit them to communion. Doubt about anything, including our most treasured doctrines: Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
Today we commemorate St John of the Ladder. The ladder in question is not a vision or a doctrine, but, rather, a teaching tool used by St John and by the Church to offer us the image of continual sanctification, the process by which one in this life can grow to perfection in the Holy Spirit. It’s not a once-done always-finished thing. We have work to do. But it is a step-by-step process, climbing the rungs of the ladder in order.
The most important thing here is the idea of a ladder: it’s a process, a life-long process by which we grown and, in the end, find ourselves resting in Jesus. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
So I confess: The doctrines I accept… but I clearly do not trust them: I want my own way, I want my own things, I want my own wealth (of sin, of gluttony, of hoarding) rather than God’s kingdom of love and peace. So I know them… but I can not bring myself to live as if they are true. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
So I say to you turn, again, to your neighbour and instead of quizzing them… realize that part of your growth is to let go of judging your neighbour and to focus on your own sin. I am a sinner. In my eyes, the rest of you are Christ. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
How do we climb the ladder? The easy way is the Church, coming, participating, slowly growing, moving up as we age. But next Sunday we will read of a Saint who did most all of it alone. We will find her Sanctified and Holy, well versed in the scriptures and teachings. But how? She did it the hard way – alone in the wilderness.
How will you climb the ladder? There is room inside Holy Orthodoxy for you. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.