Tuesday, September 13, 2011

St. John Chrysostom

Though he may have been golden-mouthed (the meaning of his Greek nickname, Chysosotomos), St. John (born around the year 349) would never be accused of soft-pedaling the issues.  In his ongoing and very public conflict with Eudoxia (the emperor's wife), he once declared, "Again Herodias raves; again she is troubled; she dances again; and again desires to receive John [the Baptist's] head on a platter."

John Chrysostom and Aelia Eudoxia
John-Paul Laurens, c. 1880

Ouch!  Such pronouncements from the pulpit just might have had something to do with his being deposed as Patriarch of Constantinople (on trumped up charges) and sent off into exile.  It was in exile that he died in 407.

This Doctor of the Church's facility with fire and brimstone when speaking truth to power is certainly not my own personal style.  And yet--as a preacher, in particular--Chrysostom reminds me of the urgent need to speak up.  As St. John once said, "He who is not angry when he has cause to be, sins.  Unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices; it fosters negligence and incites not only the wicked but also the good to do wrong."

I'm so glad to not have the concern (as some Protestant pastors do) that I am hired and fired by those who hear my sermons.  But the challenge remains to "say the hard things" when necessary--to always speak the truth, and always speak it with love (Eph 4:15).

"Do not say: It is impossible for me to influence others. If you are a Christian, it is impossible for this not to happen."

--Saint John Chrysostom

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