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Homily for 9/30/12 - aftercross - building anew

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  • Fr David Moser
    Gal 2:16-21 “For if I build again the things which I destroyed…” Very often salvation is spoken of as something to be obtained, like a commodity or a
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2012
      Gal 2:16-21

      “For if I build again the things which I destroyed…” Very often
      salvation is spoken of as something to be obtained, like a commodity or
      a status. But the Apostle uses a better image of salvation for us, he
      speaks of it as “building”. Indeed that’s what our salvation is – the
      sum total of what we have built with our lives. Now immediately the
      objection arises that we are not saved by works, but by grace and indeed
      this is true, there is no contradiction here. The confusion is in
      understanding what grace is. Grace is not some ethereal environment that
      somehow surrounds us and magically transforms us. Grace is a spiritual
      commodity – something God gives to us and our lives are spent acquiring
      that grace and using it to build our lives according to the plan of the
      image and likeness of God with which He created us. That image and
      likeness is spoiled, marred and distorted by our sin and therefore in
      order to begin again we have to “tear down” and “destroy” that misshapen
      “life” that we have already begun to build and restart again from the
      foundation and build using the grace with which God provides us.

      This “destruction” of the false start of the fallen life is accomplished
      through the Cross. When He ascended the Cross, our Lord took with
      Himself all of our sin and destroyed it by His death and Resurrection.
      When we ascend the cross with Him, when we embrace his death and
      resurrection, when we “put on Christ” and are “crucified with Christ” so
      that “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” The old
      life, founded upon sin, which I lived by my own efforts is destroyed by
      the Cross – now I have a new life, the life “by the faith of the Son of
      God…” Having destroyed the old, it is now our task to build the new.

      When building, the first and most important element is the foundation.
      The foundation upon which we now build is Jesus Christ (1Cor 3:11) and
      it is necessary that having acquired this foundation, as the Apostle
      tells us, “…let every man take heed how he builds thereon.” It is
      necessary that we do not build again the same old misshapen life of sin
      upon this new foundation. “If I build again the things which I
      destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” If we take up the same life
      that we crucified on the cross, then we have gained nothing. If we are
      to build a new life, we must do so with new materials and in a new manner.

      What are these new materials with which we are to build? The foundation
      is Christ, however we build upon this foundation, as the apostle says
      with “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble” and then he
      warns us that “the fire (of God’s presence) will try every man’s work of
      what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built … he shall
      receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer
      loss:” (1Cor3:12-15). Thus it is important to choose those materials for
      building which will withstand the fire and not be burnt. The material
      which God has made available to us for building is grace. His grace,
      coming from Him, will withstand the fire of His presence and will not be
      consumed. It is, indeed, gold and silver and precious stones for it is
      more valuable than all. But there is also another material that we can
      use to build – that is the wood, hay and stubble of our sins. We can
      (and often do) choose to build with these old materials, which will be
      consumed in the flame of God’s presence, because they are easily
      obtained and familiar to us. But in doing this we only build that which
      we have already destroyed. Having begun with the new foundation of Jesus
      Christ, let us eschew the “old” materials of our sins and seek to
      acquire the new building material of grace that is provided for us by God.

      How do we acquire this grace then and work with it? St Seraphim takes up
      this analogy of the acquisition of grace by telling us that our task in
      this life is just this, “the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.” He tells
      us of many ways of making this acquisition: by self denial, giving alms,
      attending the services of the Church, receiving the sacraments, doing
      works of mercy and compassion. But he reminds us that there is one means
      by which we can acquire this grace which is always available to us in
      all places and at all times and that is prayer. By making our lives a
      constant act of prayer, we open the gates to continually receive the
      stream of grace with which we then build the house of the soul.

      Rather than choosing the old familiar material of our sinful life; those
      materials born out of self: self love, self regard, self dependence,
      self worth; and the works of the flesh: adultery, fornication,
      uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance,
      emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders,
      drunkenness, revellings and such like (Gal 5:19-21), we can choose
      instead the materials born out of the grace of God; love, joy, peace,
      patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Gal
      5:22,23). By building with these materials that are born of the grace of
      God, we build our lives as though with gold, silver and precious stones
      and when we enter into the fire of God’s presence, the work of our life
      is not consumed, but it is joined with the fire and begins to glow with
      the glory of God.

      Brothers and sisters, having passed through the cross, having been
      crucified with Christ, let us now begin to build profitably on the new
      foundation of Jesus Christ. Let us build with the materials of grace,
      the fruits of the spirit and the virtues which are born of them. Let us
      build our lives in the image and likeness of Christ, rather than in the
      image of our sinfulness. Let us prepare that we may enter into the fiery
      presence of God and not be consumed but rather be filled with the glory
      of God and joined to Him in eternity.

      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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