The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving - 11/28/13
Jahaziel, Jehoshaphat, Judah
and the Real Meaning of Thanksgiving
One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is in the Second Book of Chronicles (II Paralipomenon, LXX), Chapter 20. It’s the story of Jehoshaphat and his priest and prophet, Jahaziel when attacked by the Moabites and Ammonites. It is the strangest “victory” in Scripture. When King Jehoshaphat’s advisors come to tell him of the impending attack, everyone is fearful that their enemies will overtake them. Jehoshaphat prays to God and says, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." [v.12b] His prophet and priest, Jahaziel, declares an even stranger word to the people when he says, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” [v.17] What did he say? Don’t fight? Just stand still? Well, the people of Judah were faithful in nothing else, and so they did just as the priest commanded. They went out the next day, led by the choir and those in “holy attire” (read priests), and as they went they sang, "Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever." [v.21b] When they arrived at the place where they were to fight, they beheld a valley with not one living warrior. It took them three days just to take back the spoils.
What is the point of this story and what does it have to do with Thanksgiving?
Mostly, our idea of Thanksgiving is in relation to our greatness as a nation. We see our prosperity as a blessing, part and parcel to that great American idea of “Manifest Destiny”. But what lay underneath the surface of our bounty is an almost invisible, Godly-imaged people, who are suffering in silence from all manner of manifestations of affliction, evil and sin. Poor in commerce and health, they are the have-nots in a land of plenty. Save their underprivileged lot in life, they are exactly the same as us.
I submit to you that it is exactly this modern type of “thanksgiving” in which we find so many people attracted to feast over family, sales over salvation, and greed over glory for God, that we have missed the point. In fact, we do not know what to do about the disparaging differences in our society. In this day and age where invasions on the fleshly desires are constant, in this time of heightened consumerism and self-satisfaction, we need to remember and give thanks to God that He realizes our limitations, our own weaknesses, our inability to know what to do in every case, and at all times. We often become so self-assured we seldom think of God unless we are in deep trouble. Sometimes we just need to stand still and realize we don’t have all the answers.
Like the attacking hoards against Judah, we find a worldly attack on nearly everything we hold sacred. At the same time we have not found a way to justly treat the needy and the ill and infirm. In short, we don’t know what to do. To admit that would be a step in the right direction. Even better would be for us to trust God first, and not try to think we know how to “fix” everything. This season we will be bombarded with advertisements telling us how to do just that. If we look at the answer Judah gave, I think we can find a way to begin our proper thanksgiving. Notice how Judah went out against their adversary, the armed forces didn’t lead the way, the choir and priests did, singing as they went, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His steadfast love endures forever.” [v.21b] How amazing an approach to life, first give thanks to God for His steadfast love, and then wait for His results?
Jehoshaphat told the people of Judah, “believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” [v.20b] That same truth exists today. Success depends on our ability to give Him thanks, not the other way around. Thanks to God begins with remembering why we are here. To show God our gratitude means to express it to those who need a reason to be thankful. To show God we are grateful for our blessings, we are called upon to share our bounty in as many ways as possible. The choices are many; the decision is ours. If you want to succeed, believe what we have been told by the prophets and preachers and teachers of God.
This week our church began a campaign to add 300 “Stewards of the OCA”, at the last Diocesesan Assembly I announced our own “G.L.O.R.Y. to God” campaign, and we will soon announce a way to help Religious Education in Alaska. This past week I called upon all our parishes to take up a collection to help the IOCC with relief aid for the Philippines and the response has been outstanding. In addition to this are all the local food pantries and kitchens that need our help and support. God provides the ways to help others, we provide the means, and that is what it means to be thankful. The Lord is steadfast in His love for us, let us be steadfast in our stewardship of thanks for His many gifts to us.
As you gather with your family and friends this Thanksgiving, I pray God will bless your gatherings with His love and peace; and that you will all receive a most generous return from God for your many gifts of thanks to others who are less fortunate. God bless you in this Season of Thanks, and may you have a Spiritually rewarding Nativity Fast.
In Christ’s love, your servant,
Archimandrite David (Mahaffey)
Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska
For Seasonable Weather... - 11/15/13
For Seasonable Weather, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and peaceful times let us pray to the Lord, and Give Thanks!
Our hearts and our prayers go out this week to those who have been impacted by the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. We see the reports streaming in and watch the headlines outlining the grim and violent destruction that weather has had on our neighbors in the Philippines. As Alaskans, we know all too well the impact that severe weather and other natural disasters can have on individuals, on families, on communities and on our Parishes. Even as I am writing this, many of our brothers and sisters on the Aleutian Islands and Western Coast of Alaska are suffering severe winds, rains, flooding
In times such as these it is always easy to ask “Why?” Why must this happen? Entire books have been written on this subject. This topic of debate could go on forever. While this is happening, while we are in the midst of this, and these images are fresh in our minds, let us consider another question this season. “What?” What can I do to help my neighbor? What can I do to be prepared in case my own family or someone I know is impacted by a natural disaster?
We know that as Orthodox Christians, we can start with Prayer. We can be present at the services of our Church. Every Vespers Service we pray to the Lord for our cities and every city, town or village. We pray for Seasonable Weather, for the abundance of the fruits of the earth and for peaceful times.
We can also help and prepare in other ways. Perhaps while shopping for canned foods we should start thinking about buying an extra 1 or 2 cans. Consider picking up an extra one for your house and an extra one for the food bank. We should also consider assisting those organizations that assist in these disasters, like the Orthodox organization International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). During this time of preparation for the Advent Season let us prepare our hearts and our homes. Let us give thanks for what we have, and let us help those we can who are suffering.
I call upon all the Parishes in the Diocese to make next Sunday, November 24, a Sunday of giving for the victims of this tragedy. I ask each priest and Parish Leader to let everyone know this collection will be taken and to send your donation to the IOCC. Be sure to mark your donation for Philippines Typhoon Disaster Fund. You can give online here at www.iocc.org and clicking the Donate Now button, or you can mail your donation to their physical location in Baltimore, MD.
Post Office Box 17398
Baltimore, MD 21297-0429
May God Bless You and keep you safe this season,
Bishop-elect, Diocese of Sitka and Alaska
Holy Synod elects Archimandrite David [Mahaffey] as Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska - 10/15/13
Archimandrite David [Mahaffey] was elected by the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to fill the vacant Episcopal See of Sitka and Alaska on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.
The election took place during the fall session of the Holy Synod at the OCA Chancery.
Delegates to the Assembly of the Diocese of Alaska on September 15, 2012 had nominated Father David, who has been serving as the diocese’s Administrator and Chancellor, to fill the vacant See. His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, Locum Tenens of Episcopal See of Sitka and Alaska, presented his name to the Holy Synod for canonical election.
Born in Altoona, PA in 1952, Father David was received into the Orthodox Christian faith in 1975, two years after his marriage to the former Karen Meterko. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA in 1997. In 2003, he graduated from the University of Scranton with Bachelors degrees in Theology and Philosophy. Two years later, he received his Master of Arts degree in theology from the same school.
He was ordained to the diaconate in 1981 and served throughout the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1993, he served as rector of Saint Michael Church, Old Forge, PA until 2006, when he assumed the pastorate of Holy Trinity Church, Pottstown, PA. In 2009, he was assigned rector of Saint Nicholas Church, Bethlehem. He and his wife, who fell asleep in the Lord in 2007, raised four children.
Father David served as a graduate assistant in the Theology Department of the University of Scranton, adjunct lecturer at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, and adjunct lecturer in theology and philosophy at Alvernia University, Melrose Park Campus, Philadelphia, PA. He has served in a wide variety of capacities in the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, including dean of the Philadelphia Deanery.
The dates of Father David’s consecration to the episcopacy are Thursday, February 20th - Friday, February 21st at St. Innocent Cathedral in Anchorage. His installation will take place on Sunday, February 23rd, at St. Michael Cathedral in Sitka.
Kenai Outbuilding Progressing with ROSSIA - 11/10/13
After helping secure grants for the construction of an outbuilding at Holy Assumption Church in Kenai, Grant Crosby spent sometime inspecting the ongoing work.
Alaska Sister Cities - 11/10/13
Bishop-elect Archimandrite David and Sheri Buretta, President of the Chugach Corp. at the Alaska Sister Cities "Celebration of our Asian Sister Cities" event held at the Alaska Heritage Museum in Anchorage on Wednesday evening, November 6th. Sheri is the Commissioner for Magadan, Russia. The evening featured entertainment, food and an auction to raise money for the ASCC.
Magadan is celebrating 75 years this summer on July 18, 2014 and Sheri is gathering a delegation from Anchorage to attend the festivities.
Seminary Appeal - 10/21/13
From the Orthodox Church in America:
In a letter dated October 18, 2013, the deans and administrators of the Orthodox Church in America’s three seminaries invite the faithful of all parishes to embrace fully a resolution passed at the 2011 All-American Council calling for a consistent approach to the schools’ financial support.
Download the PDF letter here.
View the article