It was said of Abba Ammoes that when he went to church, he did not allow his disciple to walk beside him but only at a certain distance; and if the latter came to ask him about his thoughts, he would move away from him as soon as he had replied, saying to him, ‘It is for fear that, after edifying words, irrelevant conversation should slip in, that I do not keep you with me.’
—-Sayings of the Desert
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient.
One of the more important aspects of being a follower of Christ is focus. It is so easy to lose our focus or way when we are on the journey. All direction toward God is given by edifying words or experiences. More than once in my years as a pastor have I felt truly blessed by a worship experience only to have it ruined by the words of someone that I spoke with after the service. I know that we cannot always take the advice of the monk to keep our distance, but distance is something to consider.
Perhaps we should consider the possibility of departing more reverently from worship. It is the irrelevant conversation that occurs after worship that takes away from the blessings that God has given us. Sunday morning after worship is not a good time for calendar planning or financial decisions of the church. We must take time to absorb the words that God has given us through a worship experience. Worship is a time to get things “straight” with God and not with each other.
I know that the advice of the old monk from another time and another place may seem useless to you, but the whole idea of dwelling on edifying words is something that no one can oppose. Let us hold on to those edifying words and not spoil them with idle chatter. Paul calls on us to not be deceived by empty words, because they can harm your soul.
The call from the ancient desert monk is to take time to savor and digest the words of edification we are given each day. We need room for this to occur. We need time for this to occur. We need discipline for this to occur. Let us give each other room and time to allow God’s words and revelation to take root in our lives.
Let us live in the shadow of “Edifying Words.”
Lord, Words of edification are given to us from many sources. Let us take heed to the words we are given and not waste them with idle conversation, but allow these precious to seep into our souls. We are so tempted to pressured to be sociable that we miss the real revelation that you have in store for us. May I stop long enough for your word to become real, and refrain from polluting your words with my chatter.
A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”. So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug and filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, “what is this, father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.
—-sayings of the desert
I do not believe that comments are necessary on this story. Let me offer this prayer.
Lord help me to understand the nature of the grace that you offer to me. May I not waste my time trying to figure out other people’s sin and faults but know that their forgiveness is already been secured. Let me offer my forgiveness in the same manner as You. Amen
Abba Peter said this about the holy Macarius: ‘One day he came to the cell of an anchorite who happened to be ill, and he asked him if he would take something to eat, though his cell was stripped bare. When the other replied, “Some sherbet,” that courageous man did not hesitate, but went as far as Alexandria to fetch some for the sick man. The astonishing thing is that no-one knew about it.’
—–Saying of the Desert
The brother is saying that he traveled over 50 miles through the desert to get the ancient equivalent of Ensure for an ailing friend, and he told no one about his good deed. Such a willing, generous spirit is not a common thing now, or then. Yet it is the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon On the Mount. He says,” But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” The practice of charity (love) is not a source of pride or accolades, it is an act of devotion to God and His creation. We learn a valuable lesson from the desert today. Become a humble and generous giver of life, not a spectacle of self aggrandizing good deeds. Even if your actions are extraordinary, as were the actions of Macarius, we must do them to the praise of God and the benefit of His creation
There are two birds that fly over our nation’s deserts-one is the hummingbird and the other is the vulture. The vultures find the
rotting meat of the desert, because it is the object of their search. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals, and they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is in bloom, because they seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do.
In life, there are two birds. The one bird looks for foolishness and stupidity, the other looks for wisdom. The vultures seek to fill themselves with the rotting flesh of drunkenness and debauchery, the hummingbird sobriety, freshness, and the Spirit. In the desert of this world you have your scavengers who are angry and ungrateful, but you also have those who hum a grateful hymn of thanksgiving. The irony is that you find what you are looking for.
I’m sure that all of us want to find what is wonderful and fresh. We want to be in the company of people and things that add value to our lives. Unfortunately, we sometimes seek out the wrong things, and find ourselves drawn to things and people that diminish us rather than build us. Remember, it is all there for us to find.