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Homily for 11/20/05 - a new creature

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  • David Moser
    Luke 16:19-31; Gal 6:11-18 As we come into the holiday season there are many things that we must do . We all have traditions that we must follow. On
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 20, 2005
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      Luke 16:19-31; Gal 6:11-18



      As we come into the holiday season there are many things that we "must do".
      We all have traditions that we must follow. On Thanksgiving day there are
      certain foods that we must have - turkey or ham or pumpkin pie or cranberry
      sauce or something like that, usually with someone's name attached - Aunt
      Beth's cranberry sauce, Aunt Ruth's pie, all with a recipe that has been
      handed down in the family for ages. There are various activities that you
      must have to have a good thanksgiving - a party, a family gathering, a
      special family game, Christmas parades, Christmas shopping, a special movie
      or television show. All these traditions become like rules that we must
      follow to have a "good holiday". Then as we go towards the Christmas
      holiday there are more traditions, more rules. We have a certain way that
      the house is decorated, we have a party on a certain day with certain people
      who must be invited, we set up the tree on a certain day and must have these
      particular ornaments on it. We have certain songs that we must sing, we
      have certain foods that we must eat. When the Christmas and New Year
      holiday come again there are more traditions or rules that we follow to make
      the holiday "just right" and whether or not it was a "good Christmas"
      depends on whether or not we followed all those rules.



      In the life of the Church we have also the Christmas fast that begins soon
      and sometimes we get all caught up in the "rules" of the fast - what we can
      and can't eat, what parties we can go to and which ones we can't and so on.
      Then, added to all the family traditions, there are the many traditions of
      the Church around this holiday. So even though it is a spiritual holiday,
      there are rules that we must follow in order to feel like it was a good
      holiday.



      In today's epistle (Gal 6:11-18) St Paul also speaks about rules, but in
      this case it was the rules of Jewish society. Because Christians were seen
      as a "sect" of the Jewish religion, there were those who insisted that all
      new Christians also adopt strict adherence to the Hebrew law, especially
      that they submit to the rite of circumcision. These legalists taught that
      in order to become a Christian one must first become Jewish and must take on
      the responsibility of following all of Jewish law. They insisted that the
      path of Christ necessitated that one strictly adhere to this law and the
      without such adherence, one could not follow Christ. But St Paul responds
      that this is not the case. He reminds them and us that the law has been
      fulfilled or completed in Christ and that the only necessary or even
      possible path for the Christian is the Cross of Christ. Through the Cross
      we have died to the world and to the law that governs the world - we have
      become new creatures in Christ and so subject to a new law - the Law of God
      which transforms us into His image and likeness, not be adherence to earthly
      laws, but rather by the acquisition of divine grace.



      The Apostle very succinctly tells us that "In Christ Jesus, neither
      circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And
      as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy... let no
      man trouble me for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." This
      statement puts the law as a set of rules in its proper place. It is not the
      keeping of the law, nor the ignoring of it, that saves us. What saves us,
      the thing that is important, is that we become a "new creature" The law is
      no longer the arbiter of our salvation, but rather it is a tool by which we
      work out our salvation, a tool that is used so that we might acquire the
      grace which transforms us into that new creature.



      An example of this truth, we read in the Gospel today. The parable of the
      rich man and Lazarus shows us the impotence of the law and the necessity of
      becoming a new creature. The rich man was successful and well thought of in
      his society. He had many friends enjoyed the respect of his peers. In
      order for this to be the case, he must have been at least outwardly
      observant of the "rules" of his society, in this case observant of Jewish
      ritual law. Because he was wealthy, it was easy for him to fulfill all the
      regulations of the law in his household, with the proper procedures and so
      on for preparing food, for washing and personal dress and care, for giving
      of gifts and sacrifices when required and so on. But Lazarus, the poor
      begger had no such ability. It was all he could do simply to find food to
      eat so that he wouldn't starve. He couldn't concern himself with the finer
      details of the law, because he simply needed to find a way to live. He had
      only the company of the unclean dogs. Certainly from the perspective of the
      law, the rich man would have achieved paradise long before the poor beggar
      Lazarus.



      But this was not the case for when they both died, the rich man ended up in
      torment, while Lazarus was to be found resting in the arms of Abraham. How
      could this be, for the rich man had kept all the law, and yet he ended up in
      torment. Lazarus lived among the dogs and had no ability or opportunity to
      keep any kind of law and yet he ended up in paradise. The truth of the
      situation is laid out for us by the Holy Apostle Paul - neither circumcision
      nor uncircumcision (that is the law) has any effect, but what is necessary
      is that one becomes a new creature. Lazarus, through his struggle and
      suffering developed the virtues of humility and dependence upon God alone.
      Lazarus, by not complaining but accepting all that God gave to him as a
      blessing, was conformed into the likeness of God. The rich man by contrast
      only gathered for himself pride and self assurance. Even with the law, he
      was not changed inwardly into the likeness of God, but rather used the law
      to mask his own self will and self dependence. Thus he remained the old
      sinful creature bearing the stamp of sin rather than the likeness of Christ.



      As we pass into this time of the year where rules seem to be paramount, let
      us recall that while many of these rules are beneficial and create for us a
      happy life, the purpose of the rules, especially the rules of the Church,
      are only to be tools which help us to acquire the grace of God and become
      new creatures, transformed by the grace into the image and likeness of
      Christ. Above all else, acquire humility, setting aside your own pride and
      self will - acquire peace and patience, depending upon God's provision
      rather than your own design and being driven by your own desire. Love
      others more than you love yourself by this means bringing both self denial
      and joy at the same moment. Thank God for His many gifts to you and in so
      doing realize your dependence upon Him and your poverty before Him. Prepare
      yourself to greet the incarnate Christ as we move towards the celebration of
      His Nativity - His birth into the world. This holiday season, as we prepare
      for the feast of our Lord's Nativity, focus your efforts on acquiring the
      grace of God and so becoming a new creature bearing upon yourself, as the
      Apostle says, "the marks of the Lord Jesus".
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