January 27, 2006

John Chrysostom

Category: Communion of Saints — Micah @ 12:00 am

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Good day, and welcome to Communion of Saints from stjeromeschapel.org. I’m your host, Micah Jackson. Today is January 27th, 2006: the feast of John Chrysostom.

In the late 4th and early 5th century, there was no more famous and eloquent preacher than John, the Patriarch of Constantinople. In fact, he was so famous and so well-liked that, like a present day pop star, he got a nickname—Chrysostom, which means “the golden-mouthed.” His ministry was not without controversy, however. Like many people who have a great facility with words, he often spoke first and thought about what he was saying second, if at all. He was once banished from Constantinople for allegedly comparing the Empress Eudoxia to Jezebel for her lavish ways of living.

But it was when he thought carefully about what he wanted to say and then put his best rhetoric behind his ideas that he wrote some of the most beautiful, and some of the most dangerous, sermons and treatises of the period. His description of the qualities of a good priest in his writings on the ministry still defines the best ideals of the profession. Likewise his defense of lay participation in the Eucharist remains formative for those of us who want to be true to the idea that God calls us all to celebrate the sacraments together as a great congregation. His understanding of the Bible was deep and wide.

But at the same time, he was very critical of those Christians in Constantinople who remained close to the Jewish roots of Christianity. His arguments against a practice that he saw as following more than one religion at a time became the basis for centuries of Christian anti-Judaism.

The Hebrew Bible passage appointed for today tells the story of the call of Jeremiah, who begged God to send someone else in his place, because he was too young. God replied, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:4-10) The challenge for Jeremiah and John Chrysostom in their times, for me as a contemporary preacher, and for all of us when we talk with others, is speaking only the life-giving love of God as revealed in Christ. So long as we can do that, and not succumb to misuse of our gift of speech and persuasion, we will all be worthy of the nickname, “the golden-mouthed.”

Let us pray: O God, you gave your servant John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching, and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thank you for listening to Communion of Saints. Please join us tomorrow at stjeromeschapel.org for the feast of Blessed Thomas Aquinas. I’m Micah Jackson. May God be with you.

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