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Homily for 2/6/04 - New Martyrs of Russia

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  • David Moser
    2 Cor 6:16-7:1 and Rom 8:28-39 The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia shine as a beacon for us of the faithfulness of God. These men women and
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2005
      2 Cor 6:16-7:1 and Rom 8:28-39



      The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia shine as a beacon for us of
      the faithfulness of God. These men women and children, nobility and
      peasant, clergy and laity, young and old, strong and weak, are all together
      glorified by God for their steadfast faith and confession. They experienced
      and withstood every difficulty, every struggle, every calamity that a person
      could face and still trusted that God would deliver them. In them are the
      words of the epistle demonstrated that "all things work together for good to
      those who love God..." Each one of the New Martyrs loved God above all
      else, sacrificing their comfort, their homes, even their lives keeping only
      their faith in God. Each loss, each struggle, each difficulty combined to
      bring each person to the point of martyrdom, to receiving the crown of the
      heavenly kingdom. How did they get to this point, how were they able to
      endure, how was it that their faith was so strong?



      When we hear this portion of the epistle, often we only think of the
      present, of our own difficulties and we lean on the promise that God will
      bring good out of whatever difficulty in which we might find ourselves. But
      there is much more here. The apostle says that "all things work together"
      not just one or two things, not just the bad things, not just the present -
      but *all* things. Everything in every day of your life is part of the
      whole, a piece of the puzzle. Every event in your life has made you who you
      are today and even today you are incomplete, you are like an unfinished
      composition of music or work of art, for "all things" also includes the
      future. Even up to the last moment of your life, you are not yet complete,
      for there is still missing the final note, the final chord, the final
      resolution of all the various strands of your life - that is your own death.
      Physical death is not to be feared and avoided, it is rather something to be
      anticipated, and for which to prepare. Physical death is the completion of
      your earthly labors and as such can bring everything to a glorious finish,
      no matter what went before. Only after one's death can the whole of the
      life be fully grasped and properly understood.



      The New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia understood this - knowing that
      suffering and death were nothing to be feared but were rather an essential
      part of the whole of the life that they will offer to God when they stand
      before Him. God will see their lives as a complete whole, from beginning to
      end - He will see each success, each fall, each misstep, each bold
      confession, each blessing, each sin, each event in life not individually,
      but rather as an integral part of the whole - He will look at the end
      result, at the final compilation of the whole life, even including the
      death. It is this whole tapestry of our earthly life that we offer to Him
      and which sets the course of our eternal life. This eternal perspective is
      what allows the New Martyrs to endure, to have a strong faith that they can
      trust in God's help and provision, even in the face of suffering and death.
      They knew and firmly believed that everything in their lives was given to
      them by God for the good completion of their lives, for the final working
      out of their salvation and so rather than avoid the struggle, rather than
      turn away from God, they were able to embrace and use everything that came
      to them as a tool, as a means of strengthening and expressing their faith in
      God even further.



      One of the elements of this eternal perspective and the strong faith in God
      is the confidence and trust in God's promises. Also in the epistle we heard
      God's promise to His people - in ancient times the promise given to the
      people of Israel which is now extended and applied to the Church. He says
      of us, "I will dwell in them ... I will be their God and they shall be My
      people...Therefore come out from among (the world) and ... I will be a
      Father to you and you shall be My sons and daughters." This is the promise
      of God, that all we need to is to put ourselves in His hands, choosing His
      eternal life rather than this worldly life and He Himself will embrace us
      and take us as His own children. He will be a Father to us and we will be
      His sons and daughters. This is the promise of God which strengthened the
      martyrs and which also is given to us.



      The apostle also emphasizes the fact that once we have placed ourselves in
      God's hands there is nothing that can pull us away from Him. "For" he says,
      "I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities,
      nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth,
      nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God
      which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Consider this promise for a moment.
      Nothing can separate us from God - neither life nor death - that is there is
      no condition of the soul or body where God is not present, where God is not
      with us and where He does not love us. Whether in life or in death it makes
      no difference, God is there, God loves you. He continues, nor angels, nor
      principalities, nor powers. These are three of the ranks of the angelic
      hosts - there are angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues,
      dominions, thrones, cherubim and seraphim. The apostle doesn't name them
      all but only three, not to imply that there are some who can separate us
      from God, but rather the three stand as a representation of the whole. The
      angels are those who are closest to us and from their ranks are drawn the
      guardian angel that is given to each of us by God at the moment of our
      baptism. The principalities are those angelic beings who are responsible
      for maintaining the order of the whole universe and the keeping of all
      earthly kingdoms. The powers are those angelic beings who are primarily
      engaged in battling the demonic forces and protecting us from their fury and
      destructive force. They repulse the temptations and strengthen those who
      struggle in self denial and spiritual labors and who struggle with the
      passions of the soul and body and with the evil thoughts suggested to us by
      the devil. He names these three angelic orders for they represent the whole
      of our spiritual struggle - the guardian of our soul and body, the keepers
      of the kingdoms of the earth and the order of the universe and the warriors
      against the demonic forces of the devil. By this he indicates that nothing
      in heaven or on earth, no angel nor demon or any spiritual being can
      separate us from God.



      The promise goes on to say that not things present nor things to come can
      separate us from God. There is no event of our life that can keep us from
      God. The past is washed and healed in our baptism and so cannot keep us
      from God - the present and the future are subject to our faith and trust in
      God and so by themselves cannot separate us from God. No event in our lives
      will be able to prevent us from being united to God. Not only the events of
      our lives, but neither height nor depth - that is any condition in our
      environment and the world around us - can separate us from God. There is no
      place where God is not able to be found, whether we ascend into the heights
      God is there or descend into the lowest depths, God is there. God is with
      us in every place and circumstance - He never abandons us. There is nothing
      in the world around us that can separate us from God. And in case he missed
      anything the apostle finishes by saying that not any other creature is able
      to separate us from God. No other being, whether spiritual or physical,
      whether known or unknown, whether strong or weak, no matter who it may be -
      no other creature is able to separate us from the love of God which is in
      Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the confidence of the martyrs and this is
      our confidence as well - that God has chosen us and He has become as a
      Father to us, taking us as His sons and daughters. Having embraced us,
      there is now nothing that can come between us, nothing that can tear us out
      of His hands, nothing that can pull Him away from us or us away from Him.



      There is in fact only one means by which we can be separated from God and
      that is by our own choice. If we were to be foolish enough to turn away
      from God, then, He would not hold us against our will and would allow us to
      separate ourselves from Him. But even then the love of God is great and
      without limit for if we should regret our rebellion and repent of our error
      and even at the last moment of life, with the last breath return to Him and
      confess Him again, He forgives us, He receives us, He embraces us as if we
      had never been apart from Him. This is God's great mercy that there is no
      sin so great that God is unable to forgive and unwilling to receive us back
      into His arms, into His family, into His eternal kingdom. And it is this
      confidence that the martyrs took with themselves into the struggle of their
      lives. Nothing could separate them from God, nothing could tear them out of
      His hands and away from His love as long as they remained steadfast in their
      faith and their confession of Him, He would welcome them into His presence
      saying, "well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into your
      rest."



      Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia pray for us that we too may finish
      the course of this life in the love of God without stumbling, without fault
      and with boldness and confidence and unwavering faith.
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