"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17

Deal or No Deal? - Part 2

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"Why We Worship the Way We Do"

Deal or No Deal? - Part 2 Transcription

Ok, for those of you tuning in with us today, we're here talking about Deal or no Deal, which we kicked off this series last week. For those of you who weren't here last week, I'm sure you've seen or at least heard of the show called Deal or no Deal. The whole point of the show is that there are several briefcases out there and your job is to find the briefcase that has a million dollars. 

And our goal in this series is to kind of do the same thing. We said at the beginning of the series last week that our goal, that we're going to go on a journey for the next several weeks is going to be to find the jackpot briefcase, and the jackpot briefcase doesn't contain a million dollars, the jackpot briefcase contains the Church. 

And we said our quest in this series is to find the Church. Church with a capital C. And we said there are many churches out there, but what we are looking for is the Church, which is 2000 years ago there was a Man who walked around, His name was Jesus Christ, He had apostles and disciples, He was the Son of God. He died, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and started a Church in Jerusalem. His disciples and His apostles were the first members of that Church, and they had a Church. And our goal in this series is to find that Church. 

I'm not looking for a nice church, not looking for a crowded church, I'm not looking for an expensive church, I'm looking for the Church, which is the original New Testament Church that was started by our Lord Jesus Christ. And we said just like the game show, thing is on the outside there are lots of briefcases, there are churches all around, and each one is claiming the same thing, to be the authentic. What we are going to try and do is open up the briefcases and find out the truth. 

The good news is for you, I'm not going to make you wait until the end of the series, I already told you the answer last week. I told you the answer up front and the next several weeks we will explain what that is. And the answer is that the true Church, the original New Testament Church, which was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ can be found in the Orthodox Church. 

Quote here from a man named Sergius Bulgakov. He wrote, “Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ on earth. The Church of Christ is not an institution; it is a new life with Christ and in Christ; guided by the Holy Spirit” Sergius Bulgakov.

That's exactly what we're looking for. We're trying to find this institution. The Church on earth as we said last week is not a building or a club or anything like that. The Body of Christ as it exists here on earth.

So with that we are going to jump in, and every week we are going to talk about a different aspect. The kind of like, the thing that I want you guys to keep in mind is that we're trying to discover the briefcase with the jackpot. And what we are going to do is open it up and every week we are going to pull out a different aspect of what's on the inside of the briefcase and see what the original Church looked like.

Now with that said, I am going to start off every single week saying the exact same thing that I said last week. That we're, I'm not here to judge anyone else's church, or say bad this, or bad that, and I'm certainly not foolish enough to say that people in the Orthodox Church are the only people going to heaven.

First of all I am not going to say it because I don't believe it, and second of all, because even if I did believe it I don't have the right to say anything like that. And that's not the goal of this. Just like in the show, there are some people who walk offstage with 50,000 dollars. Some people walk off with 100,000. Some people will walk off with 500,000. But only some people will find the 1 million dollars. Well our goal is to find the same thing.

There are many churches out there and all of them, I mean not to say all of them, but I certainly can't say that none of them don't have any value in them. I'm not saying that. What I am saying is that we are going for the truth, and we going for that jackpot, that 1 million dollars. So I hope you're with me on this journey.

What we are going to do today is go straight and hit one of the most, not controversial, but, one of the areas where there is biggest discrepancy between the Orthodox Church and a lot of other churches out there. And it kind of hits the root of the difference between the Orthodox Church and many other churches and it's one that a lot of people have a tough time with.

We're going to talk about worship. Now when you look at the word Orthodox, Orthodox comes from two words that are kind of put together. Ortho and dox, and if you want to know what the word Orthodox means, you can't get away from worship when talking about Orthodox. Ortho means right or straight. Like an orthodontist tries to make your teeth straight. An orthopedist makes your feet straight, I don't know what he make straight. Makes something else straight.

Ortho meaning straight, or correct, or right, or true. That's what Ortho means.

And dox, comes from the word, like we say Doxa patri, which means glory. So if you want to know the original for the word Orthodox, it is tied together with how we give glory to God. And Orthodox means the Right Glory, or the right way to worship, or the right way to give glory to God.

You can't separate worship from theology. You can't separate who we are from what we do. And the main thing that the Orthodox Church, that the Church exists to do, is to worship God and glorify God.

Now, you would agree with me that when I bring up this topic of worship that there is...so all the churches out there, there are some areas where we are similar, but there are some areas where we are very very different. You wold say, or you would agree with me that when it comes to worship, how we worship on a Sunday morning is very different than how a lot of other places worship. This is one of the areas where there is a broad distinction.

One time, I don't know if you've ever had the opportunity to go to another church to worship there on a Sunday morning. I'm not advising you, you should be here every Sunday morning, but I'm saying.

One time, me and Marianne were on vacation and we were vacationing on a Sunday. And you know it's very odd for me on a Sunday not to be here, but we found ourselves out of town and we didn't know what to do. So it was weird. We tried to figure out what normal people do on a Sunday. So we went out bought a newspaper, we really didn't want to read it but we just wanted buy a newspaper on a Sunday. We want to do something that normal people do.

Anyway we decided that we wanted to go to a Church as well. So we just found the nearest Christian church, we looked it up, it was called Church of I don't remember what it was called , and we went. Yeah there were some nice songs, and nice little speech by the guy, and nice people, and stuff like that, but I mean, we both had this same kind of feeling after, we couldn't really describe it in words, but you go, you sit, you listen, and you just kinda, next thing you know it's over, and you're just like it gives you this feeling of still like, being empty or still being hungry. Even though they did have very nice snacks, which I have to say is definitely a bonus. But aside from the snacks aspect of things, you left hungry and you left feeling like you're missing something. And it's that missing something that's one of the biggest distinguishing factors that makes the Orthodox Church different and makes us an Orthodox, makes us the Orthodox Church.

And you can see there is a big distinction between, I'm going to put it in two broad categories, between what we do which I am going to call liturgical worship the Orthodox Church is a liturgical Church. Versus, you would say, modern forms of worship.

You know what the biggest difference is between liturgical worship and modern forms of worship? I was trying to think about it and I said, “What's the real difference?”

The difference between the Orthodox form of worship, which is liturgy, versus modern forms of worship, is the audience, it's who it's geared towards. And what you will find, is that, “What's the target of this worship service? Is the target God? Or is the target kind of like, what I want?”

Now with that said, I'm not saying, I'm not judging anyone this way or that way, but what I am saying is a lot of the modern worship services are aimed at meeting the needs and desires of people.

Liturgical worship is aimed at meeting, I don't want to say the desires, but the instructions of God. What I mean by that is, look, there is no secret that in the Old Testament God was very picky about how to be worshiped. This isn't anything new. That if you look in the Old Testament, this is why everyone tries to read the whole Bible and want to get through the Bible in a year and all that kind of stuff, everyone gets stuck in the same spot. End of Exodus, beginning of Leviticus. There, boom, it's over. Because it is painful, the amount of detail that God gives about how He should be worshiped.

Build it this size and have this many cubits, and this many ephaphs of this, and this many this and that. Ephahs is not a bad word, it's a Biblical word. And have this kind of design here and this kind of robe, and make sure this is purple and this is blue, and don't make the blue purple and don't make the blue touc...my goodness. And then sacrifices this and this and that.

In case you never read any of those details I'll give you a brief excerpt from Exodus chapter 29. I didn't put it all in your handout, because I didn't want you to throw your handout away, because it is difficult to get through.

“And this is what you shall do to them to hallow them for ministering to Me as priests: Take one young bull and two rams without blemish, and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (you shall make them of wheat flour).” Not just regular flour, but wheat flour. “You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, with the bull and the two rams.”

Fast forward to verse 22, He is still talking about the same stuff.

“Also you shall take the fat of the ram,” See, God is very particular even about the fat of the ram. “The fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them, the right thigh (for it is a ram of consecration), one loaf of bread, one cake made with oil, and one wafer from the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the LORD; and you shall...wave them as a wave offering before the LORD.”

Painful details and I fast forwarded through the whole thing. The amount of detail that God goes through to describe how a single sacrifice should be offered, is like I said, it's, it's almost painful how much detail how much He goes through.

And then look what He says in the end. This one is in your handout. Verse 35, very end of the chapter. He says, “Thus you shall do to Aaron and his sons, according to all that I have commanded you.”

Why so much detail? Why does God care so much? Why not every man for himself? You feel like taking the right thigh, you feel like taking the left thigh. Is it that big of a deal? One basket, two baskets, wheat grain, whole grain, what difference does it make? Well, the thing is, I can't answer that question. But the one thing I know is this. If God says that's what He wants then that's what God wants. And one of the things God is very very clear about in the Old Testament is that “there is a proper way to worship Me.”

You don't believe that, there are many examples of people who tried a different way, and they were not dealt with kindly. The thing is, this is logical. This is not counter intuitive. What should determine my worship is not me, but who is the recipient of the worship, because it is the recipient who determines the nature of the gift.

This is logical. What determines what you buy as a Christmas present is the person that you are giving it to. I don't go to a store and see a nice hat and I buy it and say, “this is a nice hat, someone is going to end up getting it.” Or, “this is a nice shirt” or something like that and I'm just going to give it to anyone that I find.

I first determine a person in my mind that needs a gift, then I go find something that this person needs or wants, or even better that this person says, “this is what you should give me.”

Worship is the same way. You should give your worship based on the recipient, not on the person who is giving it. Unfortunately sometimes we confuse the two. Why is it you can go to ten different churches and find ten different worship services? Because each one is trying to meet the needs of the people.

You go to one place and you hear, nice songs. You go to another place, you hear a lecture about whatever. You go to another place, it's like a rock and roll concert. You go to this place, and there is many different styles based on the people that are attending.

I'm not judging that, but what I am saying is, the mentality there is that the audience kind of dictates the gift. It should be backwards. Or it should be the other way around, that our worship should be based on God, and not on the congregation.

Liturgical worship, the reason why some people ask why we come and our worship is the same week after week after week, is because our audience is the same week after week after week.

And we worship how He tells us to worship. So liturgical worship remains the same because our audience remains the same. It doesn't matter if there is young people or old people, audience is the same. It doesn't matter if there is 10 people or 500 people, the audience is the same. And if you look at the Orthodox worship, our liturgy, you will see that it has not changes substantially since it was created 2000 years ago. Now with that said I'm not saying it is exactly the same as it used to be. Because as the Church kind of went through different phases the service definitely became more elaborate.

In the beginning they were like a wanted group of people, like hiding out in someones basement, and they prayed one way. But then eventually they became legal and they became the official religion of the Roman empire. So they had grand cathedrals built. So you are not going to pray the same way in a tiny little living room as you are going to pray in grand cathedrals. So the service became more elaborate and started to add different kinds of bells and whistles and things like that. But the substance is the same ever since the beginning.

Now the question that I want to get to today is, where's, this is the question you should be asking yourself. Where did our worship, Orthodox liturgy, come from? Where did it come from? And the answer, again I'll tell you the answer up front, and the answer up front is, ever since the beginning, the New Testament Church, the apostles of Christ have been liturgical. Ever since the very very very beginning of the conception of the Church, the Christian Church was always a Church of liturgy.

It's very easy for me to say, everyone agrees with me on this, that the early Church was liturgical. Meaning like the first two centuries and things like that, but the hard time, the thing that people don't know is that the liturgy didn't even appear just after the New Testament was written, but even in New Testament times.

The Book of Acts, we can see liturgy even in the Book of Acts. Did you know that? It wasn't even after the Book of Acts, in the Book of Acts itself. There's a verse, Acts Chapter 13 verse 2. You've probably read it many times, probably never thought twice about it. Probably skimmed through it. But look what it says here, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

You're probably sitting there thinking, “So what? What does this have to do with anything.” This verse says that, “As they ministered and fasted, the Holy Spirit started speaking to them.” The word ministered here is the most essential word in the verse, that's why it's underlined in your handout and up on the screen.

The word ministered here is not the best translation. It doesn't give us the right mindset. It doesn't mean they were ministering in a way of serving the needs of others. It doesn't mean they were serving the tables or anything like that. That's a kind of ministry, but that's not the ministry that it was talking about. A better translation for this word, or a better way of...the word really means liturgical ministry.

It means worshiping in the ministry of the altar of the throne of God. What I mean by that is, what this verse is saying is, while they were ministering to the Lord in a liturgical sense. How do I know that? Well if you go to the original language that it was written in, it was written in Greek. I'm going to teach you all a very important Greek lesson right now.

I want you to guess to me what the word at the bottom of your screen there means. It's pronounced lit-ur-zhon-ton. You don't need a PhD to figure out what that means. It means liturgy. The word ministry, the word ministered here, that's the Greek word leitourgounton. And in the Coptic, it's even a little bit more clear if you know what the Coptic means. The word in the Coptic Bible is evshemshi. Those who maybe understand Coptic or know. This word, evshemshi is the same word used to describe ministering or serving inside the altar of the Almighty Lord of Hosts.

We say that the angels in Heaven are eveshemshi. Are ministering around the throne of God. So what this verse is really saying, it was talking about, as they were serving inside the altar, each one with a candle saying Epi Prosevke Stathite, as they were serving inside the altar of the liturgy, the Holy Spirit came and spoke to them. That's the kind of ministry that it's talking about.

So what you see here, what this verse shows is that as early as Acts chapter 13, which is approximately the year 50 A.D. there was liturgy. Sometimes what we are taught to believe is that liturgy is something, those who may come from different backgrounds, are taught that liturgy is something that when the Church lost the spirit, they introduced the liturgy.

When the Church lost the spirit, and the zeal, and the fire, they started having these liturgies just to kind of like keep the ball rolling. In fact, that is the exact opposite. In fact you see here, that the liturgy was around from the earliest time it was when the Spirit was speaking directly to the apostles and disciples.

They're serving the altar and the Holy Spirit is talking to them. This is the kind of liturgy I want to attend. This is the kind of liturgy I wish we had here every single Sunday. Because this is the model of what liturgy should be. This is good for those who are hopeless regarding the liturgy, feeling like liturgy is a dead thing. Liturgy is not dead, people are dead. And people attending liturgy may 100% be dead, but that doesn't mean that the Liturgy is dead. The liturgy is in fact alive and the Holy Spirit is alive in it and He's speaking, and we see that from the very very very beginning.

So sometimes we see two kinds of worship, liturgical and lively. That's not true. Ok. Liturgical is lively and liturgical is Spirit filled, and liturgical is how the ancient Church used to worship God. The question that we want to answer now is why does there have to be liturgical worship? Why is God so picky about how He wants to be worshiped? And if He is so picky, why did He choose such a dry and boring way to be worshiped? Why couldn't He have picked a more lively way? You know, a little bit more of an exciting kind of way with you know, games and prizes and things and noises and stuff like that. Why did God pick such a boring way to be worshiped?

Answer? Some of you are not going to like this answer. To prepare us for Heaven. Because that's how worship is done in Heaven. Some of you are not going to like that answer, no doubt about that. But what we are going to see for the rest of the time here today, is we're going to try and see what worship looks like in Heaven. I know what worship looks like here. I'm telling you what it looked like in the early Church that it was liturgical and looked very similar to ours. But what I want to figure out is what I looked like, what it's going to look like in Heaven. And you can know the answer to that because God gives us the answer.

First a couple of verses to get us started on the right foot here. Hebrews chapter 8 verse 5, “For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;” here is the important part, “who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

What this verse is saying, is, there was a time when God said to Moses, this is how you should worship and make sure. Don't make one mistake. Do it exactly as I have told you. Why? Because you are creating a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things.”

Another verse, next chapter is Hebrews 9 verse 23, “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”

I'm not trying to get into the meaning of the verse, what I'm just trying to show you is that again, He's talking about the way they worshiped and saying this is a copy of what it's going to be like in Heaven.

It is clear that when God instructed us in how to worship Him here on earth, it was done so to prepare us for our worship in the kingdom of Heaven. Because Heavenly worship will be a liturgical kind of a worship.

How could I say that? How can I be so bold and say that? How can I say that I know what it's going to look like in Heaven? The thing is, I'm not talking about me, because I've never been to Heaven. But there are examples in the Bible of people who did see it, worship in Heaven. Anyone know who those examples are?

Who saw worship in Heaven? Someone said it down here. Saint John, in the book of Revelation, and who else? Isaiah, very good. We're going to look at both of these two examples today. And what you're going to see, is that...fact that we already know, Old Testament fact – Israel did not worship God however she pleased. No one can dispute that. Israel was told specifically you “worship Me in this manner” and anyone who slightly deviated was not in a good situation. So the Old Testament was very clear, God was very specific in how He wanted to be worshiped.

The New Testament, I just showed you as well that worship was liturgical, but let's say you don't believe me. Let's say you don't buy what I'm saying. If I could prove to you that Old Testament God was picky and wanted His worship a certain way, and I can prove to you in the kingdom of Heaven that God is picky and wants His worship a certain way, then only common sense says that He wouldn't want something crazy in-between the two. Ok, and it would just kind of follow along at the same line.

We're going to look right now, first in the book of Revelation and see what Saint John the Beloved saw when he saw a vision of Heaven. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting,” elders, again is if you want to know the Greek word, it's presbyters, so it's like priests. But it's translated elders in the New King James. “I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads...Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne...And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back...And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“ Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!” 

I want you to try and picture what that would look like. Saint John gave great details to describe what the worship in Heaven looks like. What would it look like if you had, right there again, the throne, then around the throne was the elders, clothed in white robes, with crowns of gold on their heads? With seven lamps burning before that throne, and around them, they were surrounded by living creatures who are chanting, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” What would it look like?

<Slide of Abouna Anthony offering incense at the throne of God, wearing white robe and gold “crown”>

I think you know what it would look like right? It doesn't look that much different then what we do on Sundays. White robe, gold crown, candles all around, incense and smoke which we will read about in a little bit because it's clear in the Heavens there is a lot of incense going on, and there's people all around. Not dead people, but living people, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Hosts.”

What I want you to see is, it's not that far off from what you should see here every single Sunday in our worship service.

Isaiah gives us a better vision. I don't want to say better vision, but there's more detail in what Isaiah the prophet saw one time when he was lifted up to Heaven and he wrote about it even more, in more explicit details. And what he describes, as we read his account, is very similar to two things: very similar number one, to what you saw in the Old Testament tabernacle and the temple and the way they used to worship, and also what you see in the Orthodox Church today.

Let's read what he says, Isaiah chapter 6, it says, this one's not in your handout because it's long, he says,

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

“And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said:
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.”

Does that match how you worship God on Sundays? Does that match your experience? That is what's supposed to be our experience on Sundays when we worship God. It's supposed to look like Isaiah was. And we will try and break down what he talked about, and what you'll see, like I said, He was very, like the details are very very clear. We are taught to worship God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. Our worship in the Orthodox Church should be a whole body kind of a worship.

Meaning, it should cover all your senses. Every single one of your senses should be worshiping God when you come here on a Sunday. And the reason why is cause that's what happened with Isaiah up in Heaven. We'll go through each one of them and we will see how the Orthodox Church matches this Heavenly kind of worship.

First with your eyes. Liturgical worship begins with seeing something. That's what happened with Isaiah right? In the very beginning King Uzziah died, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.”

Think about this for a second, don't just run through this. He saw the Lord, he saw the Lord who is our Lord Jesus Christ sitting on a throne. Why is this very unique that he saw our Lord Jesus Christ? Because our Lord Jesus Christ had not been incarnate yet. This is in the Old Testament. Christ had not taken flesh yet. He saw something that didn't exist. He saw something that hadn't yet happened. Because he saw something, don't try to...try to remove time, because time is confusing, because there is no time in Heaven. But he saw something that would soon be fulfilled.

Christ on the throne, then all the other kinds of stuff going on around to Him. Why the Lord appeared to him and gave him a special vision? Very few people in the Old Testament got to see a pre-incarnate Christ, but Isaiah did. Because God knows, God created us, and He knows that me and you first and foremost is visual people. He knows if there is not something in front of your eyes than most likely there's not going to be nothing inside of your head either.

And from the very beginning of time, the Church, the very beginning of the Church, the Church has given us visual aides. The second you walk in to Church your eyes should begin to worship. How? Through the use of icons. As soon as you walk into Church you will be...this is what people say when they walk into Church for the first time, “Wow, the icons, and the art, and the paintings, and all this kind of stuff,” they see all around them.

This is very very important to how the Church should worship. There is a historian, a European guy his name is Dom, D-O-M, Gregory Dix, D-I-X. He wrote about the early Church. And he said that in the early Church people gathered for worship, he said the first thing they did when they gathered for worship, quote, “They removed the ancient pictures of their ancestors from the walls and replaced them by mosaics of Old Testament worthies and Christian Saints.”

So what he is saying is, is that as soon as people started to worship God, they took down all the pictures of grandma and grandpa and cousin It, and all this kind of stuff. They took it down off the wall and started to put up pictures of...someone drew a picture of Abraham, someone drew a picture of this and that, someone drew a picture of Christ on His throne. They immediately started to put those things up. He goes on, later on and says that eventually they were able to start to build Churches and the images got bigger and bolder, and he says again, I quote, “That behind every altar was a representation concentrated on the figure of the Son, who is the expressed image of the Father.”

Does that sound familiar? You walk into our Church, you go to the altar, what's behind the altar? Exactly this, an image, a figure of the Son, sitting on His throne, up in the Kingdom of Heavens. So the early Church, the New Testament Church from the very beginning, when they got together to worship, they took down the paintings and the pictures of family and all that kind of stuff and they put up these icons all around. Not to worship the Saints, not to worship the icons, but just as a visual for the stuff that's really happening and taking place.

When I go into Church I should be going in to Heaven. Well when I get to Heaven what am I going to see? I'm not going to see blank walls and see wood paintings all around, and see flowers and stuff. I'm going to see the heroes of the faith. I'm going to see Christ on His throne and these are the things that the Church surrounds us with as well.

First thing some of you should be saying is, “Wait a minute what about the second commandment? Caught you Abouna Anthony. You are being unBiblical. Because you are telling us to do something that God told us not to do. God said in the second commandment that 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image'” (Exodus 20:4). Wait a minute, it says carved image, it doesn't say image.

Look here, God is definitely 100% against us making carved images, but He is not against us making all images. How do I know? This is Exodus chapter 20, six chapter later, Exodus 26, look what God commands, God commands Moses to do. It says, “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with,” oh my goodness, “artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.” God commanded Moses to put images on the curtains and on the linens and stuff like that. This is just one example of many. God is not against images, God is against, number one, explicitly, against carved images 100% against carved images. And number 2 He is also against the improper use of any image. And like I said, we are not worshiping the icon, nor are we worshiping the Saints who are in the icons. We are using them as a visual reminder of a invisible truth.

The invisible truth is that I walk in to Church, I'm no longer in a gymnasium, I'm no longer in a room, I am before the throne of God Almighty. So in case some people don't get it, we put the picture up there. And you know what, this icon of Christ sitting here on His throne, if someone can't read and someone can't hear, I can show them this and this gives them the message, “You're in an important place buddy.” You're sitting before the throne of God Almighty. It's not just artwork, this is a sermon right here, this is a living sermon right here, that if I come to you, let's say it's Friday night and you decide, “You know what it's Friday night, relax, this or that,” you decide to go out and do all kinds of foolish things at whatever kind of foolish place you go to with your foolish fool friends. And you're on your way out the door and I bring to you this, and I bring it right before your face and I follow you around all night with this icon. I don't say a word, I don't do nothing, but you get the message. Because the icon is like a sermon. The icon is a message for those who can't get it any other way.

And if you think about it, when you think, this one is a little more abstract, some of you who are smart, we think in images not in words. Your thoughts are not a series of words. Like in your head right now you are writing down sentences in your head. What's going through your head right now is images and images are what stick in people's heads. So the Church said, “I know this boy has ADD, so if I want this boy to worship Me for two hours-ish on a Sunday morning I need him to worship, the first thing I need get his eyes to pay attention to me.” That's why the Church has icons.

The thing is icons, they say are not drawn, icons are written because they really do tell a story. Example right here. There are two icons I pulled off the internet. They are not as nice because they are images and things like that. But a real icon should be something in the gold and the colors and the this and that. Everything in it has significance. So the one on the left is an icon of Saint Demiana, whose feast we celebrated today.

The story of Saint Demiana, you can look at the picture and know the story. That she was a virgin, she's clothes with white, and she had 40 other virgins around her, and they lived a life of celibacy, and purity, and consecration to God Almighty, cause that was their choice.

The one on the right here is an icon of Saint Mina, who is a youngster. Who again is wearing white robe, meaning he was pure and didn't get married. He is wearing a red cape, meaning he was martyred and his blood was shed for Christ. And in the back, like I said, you can't see it, but there's a gold background symbolizing the glory he know has, with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Everything in it has significance. The first thing is worship with our eyes.

Second sense that Isaiah worshiped with was with his ears, as it says there in verse 3. “Walked in to Heaven he saw the image of Christ. Next thing that happened immediately, “And one cried to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!'”

Again, I wonder what that would be like, to hear that.

<Audio from liturgy: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Hosts. Heaven, and earth, are full Your Holy Glory.>

A hymn that should sound pretty familiar to you guys, because again it's said every single time we get together and worship here on Sundays. Your worship should not just be something that you see, but something with your ears. The Church teaches us that through the hymns of the Church.

Now, the majority of C(c)hurches agree that you should worship God through music. And that's one that the majority of C(c)hurches agree that you should worship God with song. Where the Orthodox Church makes a distinction is that your entire worship in the Orthodox Church is through song. The whole liturgy through start to finish is sung. Even the readings that are read, actually should be sung and could be sung, every single one of them. So everything in the liturgical worship is sung because that's how you worship God. So what I am saying is, that our worship is not something that's limited to the first 10 minutes before we get started with the other stuff. The worship is something that should be start to finish.

Why you should worship with music and with song? Because that's the language of the soul. It's your spirit that should be worshiping God, not just your brain. Your brain communicates through intellect but your spirit communicates through song and music and through hymns. So the Church taught us that this is how we should worship God on Sundays.

Now I know, the thing about the hymns, is the people are going to say they are boring. I know. The uh uh uh's go on forever, boring boring boring. I used to say the same thing until I learned them. And I promise you, that if you learn the hymn...yeah it's very boring hearing someone else sing the hymns. What's the fun in that? But if you learn the hymns, then they are not boring. What you will discover, and I promise you that when I started to learn it, especially some of the longer hymns in the Church, I discovered a spirituality in those hymns that I never found before. And especially...the majority of hymns are all Biblical, they are verses from the Bible, or phrases from the Bible taken in different ways.

Verses that make no sense in the Bible, come alive to me in the form of a hymn. I promise you. This is one that I can't explain, but it's one of those “taste and see.” There are verses that make no sense and mean nothing. For example, there is a verse in the Bible from the book of Psalms that says, “Your throne O God is forever,” that's it. Your throne O God is forever. Six words, one of them is O. Your throne O God is forever. Yeah, we can read that very quickly and kind of go along. Until Holy Week. Four times in Holy Week, actually twice really. Twice in Holy Week we say these four words and it's about 18 minutes. We say these 4 words. Oh and Amen at the end. 18 minutes, I'm telling you, that verse comes alive during those 18 minutes if you know the hymn. There is a hidden thing inside in the hymns that have a spirituality, you can't explain.

Now with that said, is it wrong to worship God with songs that aren't hymns? No. If it was I wouldn't have allowed Phoebe to come up here. It's not wrong, but it's just, not again, do you want to walk off the stage with a briefcase with 500,000 dollars or do you want one that has the million dollars. It's not wrong, it's incomplete, is what I am going to say. That it's incomplete that we are going to worship God that way. So the best is that we worship God with this and with that. That's why we do things like, “Aaron Shust concert coming up next week, tickets on sale in the back. 10 dollars 15 dollars at the door.”

That's why we do things like that because we should worship God this way and worship God that way. Thing is we got to be Biblical in how we worship God. The Bible says, “Praise Him with loud cymbals, Praise Him with clashing cymbals.” It's not wrong to worship God, like I said with the guitar and all that kind of stuff, but nothing beats some good old fashioned cymbal worship.

<Abouna Anthony takes a pair of cymbals out of his briefcase>

If you've never seen these bad boys in action, this is the instrument of the Orthodox Church. And they may look primitive and they may look funny, but I'm telling you, the stuff that comes out of here. How about a little demonstration? You guys want a little demonstration? The noise that comes out of these things really make you...get up and down there.

<Abouna Anthony starts to play the cymbals very well. 50:32 mark on the video>

Finished. Clap.

We should worship with our ears.

Number three, the next sense that we want to get to is you should worship God with touch and taste. Verse 7, or verse 6 and 7, “And one of the seraphim flew to me having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said; 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.'”

Isaiah has seen something. Isaiah has heard something. Now it is time for Isaiah to taste something with his lips and touch something with his mouth. The seraphim comes to him and brings him something he opens his mouth and it goes inside his mouth, his sin is purged and he is cleansed.

Obviously this is communion. Why you don't take communion in your hand and put it in your mouth yourself? Ask Isaiah. Because that's the Heavenly model of how it's done. If you want to know what you miss the most, but what you're missing out on the most if you don't partake in the Orthodox worship, 100% right here. All the other stuff is nice, but this is, this is not 1 million dollars, this is 10 bazillion fillion gazillion trillion dollars.

Because what happens to Isaiah here, he comes in to God's presence and says, “Woe is me, I am undone, I am a sinful man.” God says, “It's okay, I know you're a sinful man. Because you came to me with a heart of repentance, open your mouth buddy, and I'm going to give you something good on the inside.” The good thing on the inside was cleansing and his iniquity being taken away and his sins being purged.

This is, again, this should not be that unfamiliar. What do we say, what does the priest say before he brings communion to you? “Given for remission of sins and eternal life to those who shall partake of Him.” And notice it's two fold. It's not just remission of sins, but it's remission of sins plus eternal life. It's not just iniquity taken away, iniquity taken away and sin purged. What that means is, is that you're getting something to cover the past, and you're getting some fuel for the future. “I'll take care of all the sins in the past, and I'll give you eternal life going forward for future.

This healing touch, this eternal life, I promise you, will not come from preaching or singing. I could sit here and preach all day and all night, you're not going to get this. You're not going to get this. I could sing the best songs in the whole wide world and do back flips while doing them. You're not going to get this. This touch of God Almighty is something that only God can give. This is the most important element in worship, this touch of God. Again, worship is not, “I do what I want.” Worship is God touches me. That's it. When God touches me, that's how worship should be done.

My fear is, that many of us, in seeking a spiritual experience, how we want to do it, we are sacrificing the touch of God. And worship is not about what I want. Again, I'm not saying it's bad to do those other things. What I am saying is that it is incomplete without the touch from God.

If you go to Denny's, you're not going to Denny's to meet the nice waiter and shake his hand, wave at all the people eating food. You are going to eat the food. And if you're coming to worship God, you shouldn't be coming to hear nice things and sing nice things. You should be coming to take God inside of you and take His healing touch with you.

So, we talked about the eyes, the icons. We talked about the ears, the hymns. We talked about the touch and taste with communion. What's the only one that's left? The sense of smell, very good.

I saved this one until the end because I think of all of them this is the one that people object to the most. Seems trivial and insignificant but man this causes problem with a lot of people. And that is what you see here in Isaiah chapter 6 verse 4. “And the posts of the door were shaken y the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.”

Smoke is obviously representing incense. And in the Orthodox Church, you will be blown away the first time you go in, by incense. What I brought with me here...what makes that incense is what's called a censer.

Censer is a...it's this thing with a little bucket in the middle. The little piece of charcoal goes in there. Incense goes on top, and the next thing you know, you have smoke and smell and that if you get the eyes and sensitive stuff it kind of hurts you a little bit like that, and it's something that you notice and most people notice as soon as they walk in to the Orthodox Church.

I know people who will accept anything, but not accept the incense. People will accept our theology, our doctrine, everything, but they can't accept the incense. Why? This is what I hear. I'm not trying to offend anyone but this is what I hear.

It's too Catholic. That's what I hear. It's too Catholic. It's too Catholic for me to accept it. Not accepting incense is the epitome, it seems something trivial, but it is the epitome of a greater evil, which is the epitome of of man telling God what to do and not God telling man what to do.

Because if there is one thing, that I will lay down my life on this wager. I know that without the shadow of a doubt that God likes incense. Easy, easy, easy, easy, easy easy. Every time He was asked, they asked people to worship Him in the Old Testament, He was very clear – incense, incense, incense, incense. And it's very clear in the kingdom of Heaven, the 24 priests, incense all the time. It says all around the day they are constantly without ceasing offering incense.

When baby Jesus was born, He asked for three things, and the first one of them, or not the first one of them, but one of them was incense. I know, without a shadow of a doubt God likes incense. It is clear from cover to cover of the Bible.

Revelation chapter 5 verse 8, this is again the vision in Heaven. “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls,” not just a censer but a bowl, “full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

It is 100% Biblical that incense is to be used when worshiping God. I don't care if it's Catholic, I don't care if it smells bad to you, I don't care what it is, it's Biblical and it's how God wants to be worshiped.

Thing is what you got to realize, is that a lot of, okay, last week I showed you the time-line of the Church history and all that kind of stuff, and we saw how the Church was moving in a straight line and then Rome was starting to break off from it, and we said Rome started to deviate and some of the teachings changed, and because of that the Reformation took place.

So what the Reformation was, was trying to fix some of the stuff that had gone wrong. But you know kinda, when you're at the wheel and you start to veer a little bit like this? What do you end up doing usually? You jerk it the other way and usually end up overcompensating. That's what happened with a lot of the Reformed churches. That's where a lot of churches are today, they overcompensated. And they swung it to far to the other side, and that's just as bad as this side. And that's what you see, that certain people's mentality is anything which even smells Catholic, get it out, “We don't want anything to do with Catholic. Catholic gave to much to the priests this and that and the corrupt priests, we don't want any priests. Catholics started to worship saints, we don't want any saints. Catholics started to pray the mass with a language no one understands, no mass, everyone pray what you want. It's the same, it's just the opposite side, and incense is just a clear example of that.

When Isaiah saw the kingdom of Heaven, he saw God's throne, and God's throne was filled with smoke. So if your house ain't filled with smoke and the place you worship God ain't filled with smoke, I don't know.

The thing is, if you study Church history, if you study the 2000 years of Christianity, you will see, that the vast majority of Christians in this world, from the beginning until now have used incense in their worship services. I'm not saying all this because I care so much about incense and it's the most important thing to me, that's not why I'm saying it. But it's the principle that we do what we're told, we don't tell God what we are going to do and how we are going to worship Him.

That those who don't use incense, or the churches that don't use it, even though you may see it as like the majority around you, this is what we are talking about the last 200 years, but over the 2000 years before that incense was almost exclusively used in all churches.

Why such a big deal? Why such a big deal about the smell and the smoke and the this and that? Because again, knows that we as human beings associate things with smell. And if I wanted to clear this room out in a very very quick way, all I would have to do is make a bad smell. One of you guys in the middle there makes a bad smell, one of you guys in the middle there in the crowd makes a bad smell of some sort, everyone will know your name, everyone will know about you and all that stuff.

Because smell is one of our strongest senses. There's noting that bothers me more. I don't think it's anyone here. I walk into a house to bless the house and...whew...you ever been in that situation? Some of those houses just smell like Egypt. Smell something and I'm just like, “Oh I gotta go, I have appointments, this and that, and all that kind of stuff.”

Because smell automatically triggers stuff, and it's in a positive way as well. I know people, and I bet the majority of you were raised in the Orthodox Church, you smell the incense...you stand up straight, do your hair, maybe make the sign of the Cross something like that. Just the smell makes you feel, you know what, you're like hitting the ground running. You walk in to Church, you smell the incense, you hitting the ground running in to worship. Because you're already in a worship kind of a mindset. That's what the Church knew, that's why God wants His house to smell like incense.

Again, how do I know that God wants there to be incense? I'll give you another verse here, Malachi 1 verse 11, which we say during one of the liturgies. “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles, in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering, for My name shall be great among the nations,' says the LORD of hosts.'”

Some of you would say, “OK, well this is the Old Testament. OK, Old Testament God wanted it, but not New Testament.” Is this the Old Testament? What is this verse talking about? This verse is in the Old Testament, yes, but what I'm saying is what is this verse talking about?

It's speaking about a time, “When my name shall be great among the Gentiles.” Was His name great among the Gentiles in the Old Testament. It wasn't until Christ left, and after He ascended to Heaven, that the Church spread to the Gentiles. So this verse is not talking about the Old Testament because there was no such thing as Gentiles in the house of God in the Old Testament. This is 100% clearly talking about the New Testament. This isn't even talking about Heaven. This is saying, that, “When My is preached to the Gentiles, there should be incense that is offered to me.”

Again, remember, the key of this whole thing, of everything I talked about, that worship is for God, worship is not for you. So incense was just a very small example of a greater issue, which is, summary of everything I'm saying, is that God is the one that dictates how He should be worshiped, not how I want to worship Him. And the Orthodox Church has preserved that liturgical worship, which has been commanded from the days of old and preserved in the life of the Church ever since that day to this day.

When God says, “You worship Me this way,” my job is not to complain, my job is not to sneer, my job is not to yawn, my job is simply to obey. You know the next verse after this, the final verse that we are going to talk about right here. The verse before, just to kind of catch up here, the verse before said, “Offer Me incense, worship Me in this way,” and the whole chapter was talking about how God is to be worshiped.

Then verse 12 comes in and says, 'But you profane it, in that you say, 'The table of the LORD is defiled and its fruit, its food, is contemptible.' You also say, 'Oh, what a weariness!' And you sneer at it,” says the LORD of hosts.”

I hope that's not me. But I get scared that's what a lot of us do. “Oh what a weariness. Enough. Oh what a boring,” and we sneer at it and we say, “The table of the Lord is defiled. And this is not the right way, and wouldn't it be better if we did this and wouldn't all these kinds of ideas.”

Very very simple here. Worship is to be done as God has revealed to us how it should be done. He revealed in the Old Testament very clearly how it is, liturgical. He revealed in the New Testament how it is, I'm sorry, the Kingdom of Heaven, how it should be be, liturgical. He revealed in many other ways, if not explicitly almost explicitly, and the New Testament was the same way. The Church worshiping in a liturgical way as well. What does that leave me? Where does that leave me in this whole mix?

When God reveals to us the chance to worship Him in the right way, the right job is to just obey. Isaiah obeyed. Isaiah went to Heaven, saw the way it was going, didn't decide to redo things, didn't make suggestions. Didn't say, “I'd be nice to cut this piece out, or maybe we should sing it this way.” Isaiah fell in line, and Isaiah obeyed, and Isaiah was treated with a very very nice reward at the end. It would be the same thing if we do the same thing with our worship.

Let's stand for a prayer.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God Amen.

We thank You our dear Heavenly Father for this message that you have given us today. Thank you dear Lord that You have not left us in the darkness that You have revealed to us how You should be worshiped, and how You want to be worshiped. And I know dear Lord that You put a lot into creating the way You should be worshiped. Lord, if any of us have sneered at it or has said what a weariness, me first and foremost dear Lord, please forgive us and help us to worship You in the right way that You want to be worshiped. Help us to realize that worship is not about me but worship is all about You. Let my life to please You and glorify You in everything that I do. Pray for our gathering here, for every member in the Body of Christ in our Church. For our father Abouna Bishoy, and Tsoni Irini, and all those who have asked us to pray for them. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercessions and prayers of all of Your Saints, all the angels and archangels in the Heavens, hear us Lord as we pray thankfully:

Our Father

Who art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from the evil one

Through Christ Jesus our Lord

For Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the Glory forever Amen.