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Homily for7/20/07 - P9 - ark of salvation

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 14:22-34 1Cor 3:9-17 After the miraculous feeding of the 5000 – which we heard last week – our Lord dismissed the crowd and went up onto a mountaintop
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 29, 2007
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      Matt 14:22-34
      1Cor 3:9-17

      After the miraculous feeding of the 5000 – which we heard last week –
      our Lord dismissed the crowd and went up onto a mountaintop to pray. He
      did not, however, dismiss His disciples along with the rest of the
      crowd, but set them aside, sending them in a boat across the sea of
      Galilee where He said that would meet them on the other side. He did not
      send them off separately, each to make his own way to the meeting, but
      rather He sent them together, that they might support and help one
      another. Then as the boat sailed away, Jesus Himself, retired to pray.

      Even in this brief beginning there are two great examples. First is the
      example of Jesus Christ Himself, who though He was the incarnate God
      found it necessary often to enter into communion through prayer with the
      other persons of the Trinity. The divine life that He shared as God
      brought with it the desire for the communion and union of the Holy
      Trinity. We cannot know the true nature of the Trinity since it is
      beyond our ability to understand – but we can see some of the
      characteristics of the Divine life by observing Christ. We do not fully
      understand the exact nature of this union of God and man and even less
      to grasp the nature of the oneness of the Trinity – and yet we can see
      the importance of the communion between the persons of the Trinity by
      observing that our Lord the God/man Jesus Christ often spent time in
      prayer, communing in the life of the Trinity. We do know that “God
      became man so that man might become god” as St Athanasius teaches. By
      this he reminds us that the Gospels teach that we were created for the
      purpose of sharing the life of the Holy Trinity. If the communion of
      prayer, then was so vital for the God/man Jesus Christ who was God by
      nature, how much more vital is it for us who hope to participate in the
      life of God by grace.

      During His time on this earth, our Lord revealed Himself completely to
      the world through the Holy Apostles in as much as any man could
      understand. In the teaching of the Apostles then, we can hear and
      understand the nature of the life in Christ which we are meant to share.
      The Holy Apostle Paul, writing to the Church in Corinth, speaks about
      the Church as “God’s building”. We are not left to ourselves, but we are
      joined, one to another to become the temple of God – the dwelling place
      of the Holy Trinity. Our life as Christians is not an individual one –
      the Church is not a collection of many small individual “temples of the
      Holy Spirit” but we are all united together into one single “temple of
      the Holy Spirit”. The life in Christ is meant to be a corporate,
      communal life by which we are joined to one another through Christ.

      This truth of the communal life in Christ, we see in the second example
      from the Gospel today, for our Lord gathered the disciples together out
      of the world (represented by the crowd which came to listen and then
      left) and put them in a boat (the ark of salvation) together and sent
      them across the sea of Galilee (through this life) to the place where He
      would meet them (the Kingdom of God). He Himself at this time did not go
      with them bodily, but rather went up to the mountaintop (ascended to
      heaven) to pray. But even though He was not bodily in the boat with
      them, still Jesus was present with the disciples. When the storm arose
      (as in life when difficulties, struggles, even persecutions arise) the
      disciples cried out together (in communal prayer – such as we have in
      the Divine services) to God for help. And Jesus, in answer to their
      prayer, showed that He was not separated from them, but came to them
      walking upon the water. See how this one little account of the events
      follow the miraculous feeding of the 5000 become for us an image of the
      nature of the Church?

      Those of us who respond to the call of Jesus Christ to follow Him into
      the Kingdom of Heaven are first set apart from the world. We are
      separated by our faith, by our baptism from the life of the world which
      we leave behind, choosing instead the life of the Kingdom of God. We may
      live *in* the world, but we are not *of* the world just as the disciples
      having set sail were in the water, but they were not of the water. In
      this new life we are not left to ourselves to sink or swim, but rather
      we are placed together into a boat – that is the ark of salvation which
      is the Church. Within the firm and substantial walls of the Church we
      are preserved from sinking and drowning and from the worst ravages of
      wind and wave. For this reason we are given, by God, a real and
      substantial Church which is visible and identifiable in that within her
      embrace the unbroken tradition and teaching of the Holy Apostles, which
      is the revelation of Christ, is maintained with no alterations, no
      error, no confusion. The ark of salvation remains for us solid and
      unshakeable. This ark of salvation carries us through the stormy world
      of which we are not a part, but through which we must pass to meet
      Christ in the Kingdom of God. No matter how violent the wind and the
      waves around us, we are safe within the life of the Church which
      supports us, strengthens us, teaches us, protects us. Within the Church
      we find many people, all of us sinners and in need of the healing help
      and grace of God. But this does not change the solidity and holiness of
      the Church itself. We who sail in this ark through the sea of life are
      not saints, but are potential saints using our time to gather the
      abundance of God’s grace that we might become, sometimes ever so slowly,
      into His likeness. Even though we may be afraid due to the sinful
      violence of the world around us, still all we need do is to call out to
      God for help and He will come to be with us.

      Seeing the Lord walking on the surface of the sea, unaffected by the
      wind and waves, one of the disciples, Peter, was filled with an
      exceptional burning love for God in that moment and desiring to be with
      Christ he cried out and asked to come to Him on the water. Jesus bade
      Peter to come and stepping out of the boat Peter became for a moment
      like Christ, able to walk upon the surface of the sea unaffected by the
      storm. But Peter, being still a man of fear and doubt, looked around at
      the wind and the waves and lost his focus on Jesus Christ. At that very
      moment, he began to sink into the water of the sea, overcome by the
      storm. He cried out again, this time saying “Lord have mercy” and Jesus
      was there at his side and raised him out of the water and set Peter
      safely into the boat.

      Peter, who though his ardent faith in Christ, for a moment manifested
      his likeness to Christ, stepped out of the boat and began himself to
      walk on the water. But he began to sink and immediately Jesus was at his
      side. Jesus raised him up and put him back into the boat. No matter how
      great our faith, no matter how filled with the Holy Spirit we may feel,
      it is always necessary to remember that we are all saved together, not
      without one another and not outside the Church. The Church is the ark of
      salvation and conveys us through this life into the Kingdom of God. We
      are meant to be together in the Church – to be saved together as one
      body. Those who are stronger help those who are weaker and we all work
      together in the Church. Should someone leave the ark and set out on
      their own – even someone so great as the Holy Apostle Peter – they may
      seem to succeed for a moment, but in the end will sink. When we do this
      (and all of us do) our only salvation is the infinite mercy of our
      loving and compassionate God who raises us up out of the water and puts
      us back in the boat.

      Brothers and sisters, we must always remember this secret of salvation –
      we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are not a lot of little
      individual temples running around –but we are joined together into one
      temple. We are not saved separately, but we are saved together. From the
      greatest to the least of us we travel together towards the kingdom of
      God in the Church, the Ark of Salvation. We are united together by the
      grace of God and by His grace we become the temple of the Holy Spirit in
      which the Spirit of God dwells. We are bound together in Christ and so
      let us preserve that bond in peace and love by the grace of God.



      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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