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Homily for 11/29/09 - P23 - living up to expectations

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  • Fr David Moser
    Eph 4:1-6 How often in this life do we have to “live up to” someone’s expectations? As children, we try to live up to our parents expectations, trying to
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2009
      Eph 4:1-6

      How often in this life do we have to “live up to” someone’s
      expectations? As children, we try to live up to our parents
      expectations, trying to be the kind of person they want us to be, to do
      the things they want us to do, to have their interests and their goals
      as our own. In school, we try to live up to the expectations of our
      teachers on one hand and our peers on the other. At work we have the
      expectations of our employer, our customers and coworkers to deal with.
      When we are married, we have the expectations of our spouse to be the
      kind of husband or wife they want us to be and as a parent the
      expectations of our children. Our society presents us with all kinds of
      expectations, some real and some completely unreachable. We are
      surrounded by expectations. These expectations give us guidelines about
      how to order our lives, they shape our own values, some of them become
      our goals and dreams. Sometimes, however, expectations can be
      unrealistic or even misdirected and these cause us great grief, both
      outwardly as we try to maintain relationships with others while at the
      same to remaining true to who we are and inwardly as we deal with the
      hurt and guilt caused by our own struggle for identity and personality.
      In the end we have to decide which expectations to accept and live up to
      and which expectations to set aside and it is this which shapes the kind
      of person that we become.

      The Apostle writes to the Church in Ephesus encouraging them to “walk
      worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called”, in other words to meet
      the expectations of their calling as children of God. When God created
      us, He did so not simply on a whim or at random, but with a purpose.
      That purpose is for us to live in union and communion with Him. We were
      meant to share the life of the Holy Trinity as adopted children and to
      become a harmonious element united to God Himself. This purpose, this
      “calling to harmony” is reflected in the very nature of the created
      universe. Everything that we see and experience around us is created to
      live in harmony with everything else. The stars and galaxies of the sky
      all interact according to precise laws of physics giving a proper place
      in the universe to our sun and our planet. The various particles of
      matter and forces of energy interact in particular ways that support one
      another and make possible our use of light and electricity and the
      manipulation of all kinds of matter. All living things are knit together
      in an interdependent ecosystem, from the smallest to the largest playing
      a particular role in maintaining the sphere of life in this world of
      which we are a part. We could go on and on remarking on the complex and
      intricate knitting together of the fabric of the universe which
      expresses the harmonious purpose of God in creation and which brings us
      back to our role, our “vocation” to live as a harmonious part, not only
      of the physical universe, but also as an intricate part of the harmony
      of the spiritual world and to be united to the harmony of life of the
      Holy Trinity. This then is our purpose, to live in union and communion
      with God and to be a harmonious part of both the physical and spiritual
      world. When the Apostle, therefore, exhorts us to “walk worthy of the
      vocation wherewith ye are called” it is this very purpose to which he

      God did not create us, however, to be mindless cogs in a machine. He
      created us with a free will – with the ability to choose for ourselves
      how we will live. We can choose to step outside the harmony of our
      existence and to live in a way that does not resonate with God’s purpose
      for us. This lack of harmony is what we call sin. Sin in all of its
      shapes and forms is quite simply putting our own will ahead of God’s
      purpose for us: doing what we want rather than acting according to the
      will of God. Sometimes when we sin, we act so far out of the harmony of
      God that we can sense immediately the disharmony. It is easy in such
      cases to see that we are living outside of God’s intent for us. Other
      times when we sin, the shift is so subtle that it seems everything is ok
      and there are no immediate waves or ripples that will trigger that sense
      of disharmony (that we call guilt). But even so we have embarked on a
      path that will lead us away from God and over time that disharmony will
      grow and grow. But because its growth is slow, the disharmony of our
      lives always seems to be normal and natural and we never see our
      disconnection from God until it is a huge gap. When we do eventually see
      that gap between ourselves and God, it is hard to see how and why it
      happened and the absence of guilt continues to tempt us to think that it
      doesn’t really matter anyway, everything is ok. In order to perceive
      this kind of creeping sin and separation from God in our lives, we need
      an outside perspective, someone or something against which we can
      measure ourselves and who will constantly exert pressure to bring us
      back into harmony with God. That external source is found in the
      tradition of the Church. The spiritual life of the Church is a constant
      standard against which we can measure our own lives and as our lives
      depart from that standard, then we know that we are moving away from
      God. Even if we don’t sense a separation from God, even if nothing seems
      to be wrong to us, using that external standard and guide gives us the
      way to correct our drift and come back into the harmony with God for
      which we were created.

      So, what then do we do to fulfill this expectation of our creation, to
      live in harmony and union with God? First we must incorporate in our
      lives the regular daily communion with God that we call prayer. Prayer
      is to talk with God, to communicate and even to commune with Him. If we
      do not pray, then God will become less and less “real” to our senses in
      the same way that if we move away from a close friend and stop
      communicating, we lose a sense of immediacy and intimacy in our
      friendship and soon our former close friend becomes a memory of a
      friendship and eventually passes out of our awareness altogether.
      Regular daily communion with God in prayer is necessary for us to
      maintain our relationship with Him. How do we talk to God? Even the
      scripture tells us that we do not know how to pray as we ought. For this
      reason God Himself instructs us in prayer, because our communion
      together is important to Him. He has given to us in the life of the
      Church a rich tradition of prayer which provides for us a form, an
      outline and skeleton upon which we can anchor our own prayers. The words
      of scripture, particularly the psalms, are prayers in and of themselves.
      We also have the divinely inspired hymns of the Church upon which to
      model our prayers. We have a huge library of the prayers of the saints
      from which we can draw prayers that fit our own heart and soul. All of
      these sources, together with the groanings and desires of our own hearts
      are brought together in a daily “rule” or routine of prayer. Set aside a
      few minutes (5, 10, 20, 30) each day at a set and particular time – the
      same time – each day. Make an “outline” of your prayers from the
      prayerbook, from the scripture, from the prayers of the saints and from
      the feelings and desires of your own heart and fill that time with your
      prayer. As you get in the habit of this prayer, you may wish to extend
      your prayer – so make your time a little longer or set aside a second
      time for prayer each day. We know from experience that to set aside a
      little time (15 min or so) both in the morning and in the evening is an
      effective routine which keeps us in close communion with God throughout
      the day.

      Your personal prayers are not the only resource you have. We live in
      harmony not only with God but with one another (for this reason the
      Church is referred to as a “body” in which all the members live in
      harmony with one another). Thus it is also necessary to maintain this
      corporate communion with God and so we gather together to offer our
      corporate prayer to God. These are the services of the Church where we
      talk to God not as a disorganized mob, but in harmony with one voice,
      together all at once. Thus it is necessary not only to keep our personal
      prayers daily, but also to come together regularly to commune with God
      in our corporate harmony. Again, we know from experience that it is good
      to gather at least once a week to pray together and so we have the
      Sunday service (which begins with the Saturday evening vigil and which
      continues through the Sunday liturgy).

      In addition to our communication with God in prayer, God also comes to
      us and touches us. Communication, after all is a “two way street”. In
      response to our prayer, God pours out His grace to us in many ways. In
      our personal prayers, as we become accustomed to being in God’s
      presence, we begin to sense Him with us. In the same way that we open
      our eyes and “see” the world around us so also in prayer we open our
      heart and sense God with us. He also bestows upon us many miracles, both
      large and small as He touches us in our daily lives. When we do not
      sense God in our lives, we often think of these interventions by God as
      “coincidences” or “good luck” but as we begin to sense Him more easily,
      we see that these events are really the hand of God touching us in our
      daily lives. In our corporate prayer, God also touches us, but this time
      in a more apparent and formalized manner. In this context He touches us
      through the sacraments of the Church, whether it by the Holy Mysteries
      of His Body and Blood, or the forgiveness and healing of confession, or
      the blessing of our major life moments such as baptism and marriage. The
      more we reach out to God, the more we see that He has always been right
      beside us, waiting for us to choose Him (He has already chosen us).

      We were created by God for a particular purpose, that is to live in
      union and communion with Him. In order to live up to that purpose, to
      fulfill the expectations of our calling, we must choose to live in
      communion with God. The first steps of this choice is to communicate
      with God, to get used to being in His presence and to get to know Him.
      This communication, or rather communion with God is prayer. Prayer is
      the basic foundation of the spiritual life – without it we will not only
      be unable to make any progress in the spiritual life, but we will also
      become increasingly insensitive the presence of God with us. Begin to
      pray, and if you have already begun, then strive to maintain prayer as
      an active part of your life. Live today and everyday in union and
      communion with 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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