July 30, 2023
A Pentecostal friend of mine some 30 years ago said these prophetic words to me: “If you’re not praising Jesus, who are you praising?” We heard that echoed in the Epistle reading this morning with the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth: “But in all things commending ourselves as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses” [2 Cor. 6:4] In all of our daily triumphs and struggles, who are we imitating? Apostle Paul instructs us that: “We are God’s co-laborers.” [1 Cor. 3:9] When things come easily do we thank God? And when difficulty arises, do we also thank God? We cannot be part-time Christians.
Here in this building where we truly worship Christ, we help ourselves stay on course. This temple is a ship for our salvation. Now, she is not a cruise ship full of fleshy pleasure! Some see her as an ark, saving mankind from the flooding of temptations but today I want to gaze upon her as a battleship, in which you all have been drafted in to service! Thank you very much!! I can picture in my mind the wartime posters of Uncle Sam pointing at me and you except instead of Uncle Sam, it is Christ calling us. No worries, you have already passed your physicals and mental health evaluation with flying colors and guess what? You are drafted!! It is a 24-7 type of job! And rest asured that these retirement benefits are out of this world!!
We, here in this battle ready vessel are called the church militant. The church is militant against sin, militant against false teachings, goals and ideas that can destroy a human soul. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). In my years aboard this mighty vessel I have known a few folks that have gone AWOL and some that have even deserted. Serving the god we see in the mirror sure seems simpler at times but that type of service has a terrible retirement package. Stay the course!
The fact of the matter is that being in this army is the most challenging thing you will ever do! It consumes you! It changes you! You have to give up your life to save it. Listen to these words from Saint Theophan: "You must never be afraid, if you are troubled by a flood of thoughts, that the enemy is too strong against you, that his attacks are never ending, that the war will last for your lifetime, and that you cannot avoid incessant downfalls of all kinds. Know that our enemies, with all their wiles, are in the hands of our divine Commander, our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whose honour and glory you are waging war. Since He himself leads you into battle, He will certainly not suffer your enemies to use violence against you and overcome you if you do not yourself cross over to their side with your will. He will Himself fight for you and will deliver your enemies into your hands, when He wills and as He wills, as it is written: ‘The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee’ (Deut. xxii, 14)." (Saint Theophan the Recluse, Unseen Warfare)
Being in this army is also the most rewarding thing you will ever do! The church disciplines will mold you into shape and boost your spiritual and mental health. Belonging to this army brings a joy of being loved so greatly by our Lord and His Mother it feels like coming home to the smell of fresh baked cookies or finding that lost puzzle piece to complete the picture. Yes, we are that lost piece and we are an exact fit, minus the extra baggage we carry. And most of all, that big empty hole that once caused you to chase your tale around in a circle, will be filled with a consuming light. So, who are you spending your time praising?
Listen to this advice from Saint Anatoly of Optina: “Are you fighting against your passions? Fight, fight, and be good soldiers of Christ! Do not give in to evil and do not be carried away by the weakness of the flesh. During the time of temptation, flee to the Physician, crying out with the Holy Church, our mother: “O God, number me with the thief, the harlot, and the publican (i.e., with the repentant), and save me!”
Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-30-2023
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