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Homily for 6/2/13 - Pascha4 - to be a Christian

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  • David
    “…the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) Today we are commonly called (and call ourselves) Christians. In fact it is not
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2013
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      “…the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)

      Today we are commonly called (and call ourselves) Christians. In fact it
      is not only those in the Orthodox Church who are called Christians, but
      additionally there are many religious confessions that are grouped under
      this name. All of these groups differ from one another in some way. What
      does it mean then to be a “Christian”? Why do we continue to take that
      name to ourselves?

      To be a Christian, at its most basic level, means to follow Jesus
      Christ. Indeed the Gospel itself tells us that to follow Christ is
      necessary for our salvation (Mt 16:24). In Antioch, as we heard in the
      reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles had come to Antioch
      where a great number of gentiles had believed the preaching of the
      gospel. There they spent a long time teaching those believers along with
      the whole Church how to follow Christ. In speaking to the rich young
      ruler (Nicodemous) who had come to Him by night, Jesus taught the
      disciples that in order to be saved, one must first follow all the
      commandments (that is deny oneself), and then sell all that they have
      (that is to take up the cross) and to come and follow Him. (Mt17). To
      follow Christ means that we not only hear His teaching and accept its
      truth, but that we leave behind our former life of following sin and
      adopt a new way of life set before us by Jesus Christ.

      After the resurrection, Jesus came to the disciples and told them, “…he
      that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not
      shall be damned.” (Mk 16:16). From this we see that we must first of all
      “believe” and that if we believe, we then must act on our belief (be
      baptized). Here Jesus teaches the necessity not only of inner belief,
      but also of receiving the sacraments. If we hear Him and believe His
      words, then the test of our belief is whether or not we put His words
      into practice in our lives. If we do not act on our belief, then we do
      not truly believe.

      In the Gospel of Luke we hear the disciples ask who can be saved and
      Jesus answers them, “Strive to enter in at the strait (i.e. narrow)
      gate; for many, I say unto you will seek to enter in, and shall not be
      able.” (Luke 13:24ff). From this we learn that it is not a simple thing
      to follow Christ, but that to follow Him is a difficult task, one that
      demands from us effort and all our strength. Even with all our strength,
      to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is beyond us and it is only with the help
      of God (Mt 19:25&26) – that is by the action of the transforming grace
      of the Holy Spirit – that we can indeed successfully follow Him into the
      Kingdom of Heaven.

      In the parable of the sheep and the shepherd, Jesus told his disciples,
      “I am the door; by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved …” (Jn
      10:9) By comparing us to sheep He shows us the importance of following
      the One Who is the Shepherd, just as the sheep of the field follow their
      own leader who brings them into a safe pasture and who gives them water
      and who protects them within the walls of the sheepfold. Sheep will
      always follow their leader and we, as rational sheep, have chosen to
      follow Christ by our belief. But we must indeed follow Him and not just
      acknowledge His truth. To follow Christ means to make changes in our
      lives: to leave behind the world and our former sinful ways; to adopt
      His values and priorities as our own; to act according to His will
      rather than our own. We must not wander around seeking a pasture and
      sheepfold that suits our own whims and preferences, but rather follow
      the Good Shepherd into the pasture and sheepfold that He has established
      for us and with humility and meekness (setting aside our own pride and
      rationalizing) enter therein. That pasture is the Gospel and the
      sheepfold is the Church. If we seek our own pasture and our own
      sheepfold then we are not following Christ, but only seeming to do so.
      If we seek our own pasture and our own sheepfold then we do not believe
      in Christ, but rather we believe in ourselves and thus end up following
      ourselves rather than Him. When Peter sought to come to Jesus walking on
      the water, he left behind the safety of the boat and ventured out across
      the waves. But his faith faltered and he began to sink. Calling out to
      be saved, Jesus was right there to lift him up; but then Jesus did not
      set him back on the surface of the sea and call the other disciples to
      follow Peter’s example, rather He put Peter back into the safety of the
      boat and also entered the boat Himself. Peter was acting out of his own
      zeal and learned the dangers thereof. But Jesus, by his actions, taught
      us all that our salvation is not to be found walking on our own on the
      surface of the sea, but in the safe confines of the ark of salvation
      (that is the Church) which sails upon the sea life and wherein He also
      dwells.

      In order to follow Christ we must also abandon our own provision that
      grows out of our own fallen reasoning and zeal, and accept the provision
      that He provides. We must enter into the Church; receive from her the
      nourishment of the sacraments; embrace the life that she prescribes for
      us; conform our own lives to the will of Him who is our Shepherd. To
      follow Christ means that we must abandon the ways of the world and
      follow the path of salvation that He has laid out for us through the
      life of the Church.

      To be a Christian is to follow Christ. To follow Christ is not mere
      belief – but it is a whole hearted belief that changes our actions, that
      changes our will, that demands that we conform our lives to His. To
      follow Christ is not some simple acknowledgement that His teachings are
      true, but rather a radical act that begins with self-denial, passes
      through the cross and in the end demands we follow the path that He lays
      out for us. To be a Christian can only be accomplished on this path
      which is revealed to us in the Church and in order to follow that path,
      we must enter the Church just as Jesus placed Peter in the safety of the
      boat. To be a Christian can only be accomplished with the help of Christ
      Who pours out His grace upon us from the never-ending font of grace that
      is His Church. To be a Christian, we must follow Christ as He leads us
      through the doors of the Church, to drink at the waters of grace which
      flow from the sacraments, to graze in the pasture of the teaching of the
      Apostles, to find safety in the walls of His sheepfold that is His One
      Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

      --
      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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