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Homily for 6/28/90 - P3 - connect the dots

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  • Fr David Moser
    Romans 5:1-10 As a child, I remember a game called connect the dots. On a page there were a whole lot of numbered dots and if you were to take a pencil and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2009
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      Romans 5:1-10

      As a child, I remember a game called connect the dots. On a page there
      were a whole lot of numbered dots and if you were to take a pencil and
      connect them in order, in the end you would draw a picture. Today in the
      epistle to the Romans, St Paul gives us a “connect the dots” kind of
      picture. In playing a “connect the dots” game, the first task is to find
      the dot numbered “one” so that you can begin at the beginning. Sometimes
      this is easy, sometimes it takes some hunting. The Apostle makes it easy
      for us. He starts with something that we all experience and easily
      identify in our own lives – tribulation. Surely there is no one who
      doesn’t experience some kind of difficulty or trial in his life. While
      it is sometimes difficult to describe all the good things that you might
      experience in a day, we all have no problem enumerating our troubles.
      For this reason, it is simple to begin our little exercise here with
      tribulations because we can all easily find the starting place.

      Yes, we have tribulations. The Apostle then goes on to connect that
      “dot” to the next for he tells us that tribulations lead to patience.
      This connection is certainly simple on the surface for we all know that
      it can take a lot of endurance to go through even the simplest of
      trials. But patience is more the just endurance – patience is one of the
      fruits of the Holy Spirit and therefore comes from the working of the
      Spirit in us. Patience does not mean “putting up with” a difficult
      situation until finally we escape the unpleasantness. Patience, rather
      is the uncomplaining and even joyful acceptance of all that comes to us
      in our lives as though it comes from God. Patience is born of faith that
      all things work together for the good for those who love God. If this is
      truly the case, then when we are in the midst of trials we do not moan
      and groan and complain about our bad fortune, we do not chafe in anxiety
      or worry, we do not push to “get it over with” but instead we look for
      the hand of God using this trial for our salvation. We cooperate with
      the process of going through the difficulty at its own pace so that we
      can receive the maximum benefit from it for we know that no matter how
      great the tribulation might be, God is with us and with the tools of the
      situation He is working in us to bring about our transformation into His
      image and likeness. This is the patience that is the fruit of the Holy
      Spirit and such patience only comes by enduring tribulation.

      Once we have acquired or developed patience in our lives so that
      tribulations no longer trouble us and we can look to God with faith in
      all things, then the next connection is that patience leads to
      experience. Experience is essentially practice. Over and over again we
      use our patience to face not only tribulation, but as a basic approach
      to every event in our lives good or bad. That is that, over and over
      again, we learn to see the hand of God acting in our lives to shape us
      and mold us. Each time we do this, then our patience grows stronger.
      Each time we see God working in us, we grow more and more aware of His
      hand upon us at all times. This experience becomes the foundation for a
      complete and profound trust in God’s help and provision for us in every
      situation. It also teaches us to look toward God at all times and in
      every circumstance good or bad. Thus experience leads to hope for we
      have seen over and over again, God’s love and care for us and we know
      that in every situation our hope rests in God alone.

      Hope is the confidence that we have in God’s love and care for us. This
      hope, as the apostle says “maketh not ashamed” that is it never fails us
      or leaves us empty, but rather is always fulfilled. With this hope, we
      can face every event of our lives with the confidence that God Himself
      is watching over us and that He will not abandon us nor lead us astray.
      With hope, we know that God will complete the good work of our salvation
      that He has begun in us and that He will be with us not only in this
      life, but in eternity as well. Truly our hope points to the fact that He
      will never leave us nor fail us.

      What is it that makes this hope so powerful? It is because of “the love
      of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to
      us” St John Chrysostom emphasizes the point that the love of God is
      described here as “shed abroad” and not simply given. This is to
      emphasize the abundance of God’s love which is poured out on us and all
      around us. We cannot help but receive the love of God. Consider a rain
      storm. The clouds are “shedding” the drops of water “abroad” all around
      us. The raindrops are so abundant that if we walk out into the rain,
      there is no way that we can avoid getting wet. So it is with God’s love.
      It is so abundantly shed upon us that once we have opened ourselves
      through faith to that love – in other words once we step into the rain –
      there is no way that we could avoid being completely soaked by God’ love.

      The “raincloud” that is the source of the love of God in us is the Holy
      Spirit, that is God Himself who dwells within us. We often talk about
      receiving various gifts from God, but truly there is only one Gift and
      that is the Gift of the Holy Spirit which we receive in the sacrament of
      chrismaton. At this moment, we open our hearts, newly cleansed by
      baptism and we are filled with the Holy Spirit who comes and dwells in
      us. There is no need for any other “gifts” for we confess in our prayers
      that the Holy Spirit is “the treasury of good gifts and the Giver of
      Life” When we have the Holy Spirit living within us, we have not one or
      two gifts but we have the One Who is the treasury of all good things, of
      all the gifts. The greatest of the gifts of God is love and this love is
      showered upon us by the Holy Spirit without reservation.

      We need never doubt the depth of God’s love for us because in the death
      and resurrection of Christ we have that love displayed for us in the
      most graphic of terms. God shows His love for us in that while we were
      yet sinners, He died for us. He did not wait to see if we would be
      “worthy” of His love for indeed we could never become worthy by our own
      efforts. He did not hold off until He was sure that we would respond
      positively or that we would accept His gift – He simply gave Himself for
      us. Again St John Chrysostom points out that God loved us even when we
      were lost and sunk so far in sin that we had no hope and even in some
      cases had lost the desire for hope. Even at that point God, out of His
      love for us, did the unthinkable and setting aside the fullness of His
      divinity, He became man and dwelt among us. Not only that, even more
      inconceivable, He who is Life, died on our behalf that we might be freed
      from the power and tyranny of sin and thus reconciled us to Himself. He
      has made a great investment in us, doing the inconceivable and the
      unthinkable – even the impossible. How can we doubt that having begun by
      doing the most difficult work of our salvation that He would abandon the
      effort now. Rather His great love continues to be poured out upon us and
      He Himself has taken up residence in us sharing our lives that we might
      share His Life.

      We began a picture of “connect the dots” with a simple and common
      starting point – our tribulations and difficulty in this life. By
      following the dots step by step a great picture of God’s love for us has
      been revealed and we are led from tribulation to patience, to experience
      to hope. Hope is revealed to us on the great love of God which is
      unavoidable if only we open ourselves to receive it. That love comes
      only from God who in the Holy Spirit dwells within us and shares our
      life. In return He gives us His love that we might share in His life.

      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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