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Homily for 7/28/13 - P5 - the righteous life

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  • David
    Romans 10:1-10 We are a nation of ôdo-it-yourself-ersö and we are not alone. No matter where, or when, you go in the world, it seems there is always a strong
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2013
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      Romans 10:1-10

      We are a nation of “do-it-yourself-ers” and we are not alone. No matter
      where, or when, you go in the world, it seems there is always a strong
      subculture of those who want to (or have to) do it themselves. In
      America, we seem to have elevated this tendency into a virtue and
      something that “I did myself” has and undefined added value that somehow
      elevates it over even a technically superior product. In the modern
      world, especially within Christianity, this value of “do it yourself”
      seems to extend even to religious belief and practice. There are many
      who are not satisfied with any of the religious beliefs and practices
      that have been handed down to us through the years, and so they go out
      to create our own ideas of how to get along with God.

      This is not a new phenomenon. About five hundred years ago, the
      reformation swept western Europe with the reformers no longer satisfied
      with the Roman Catholic faith that had been handed down to them. They
      developed their own interpretations of what God was communicating to us
      in the Scripture and came up with their own ideas of what God wanted and
      how we should get along with Him. Even before this, there was the
      disparity between the Eastern Christians and those in the West under the
      guidance of the Pope of Rome. The western Christians chose to amend the
      revelation of Christ with their own ideas of papal authority (that is
      the nature of the hierarchy of the Church) and the nature of the Trinity
      (that is the way we confess the Trinity in the Nicene Creed). Again they
      “did it themselves”, making a separate Christian faith and practice that
      fit their own ideas of how to get along with God.

      We can go back even further and listen to the words of the Apostle that
      we heard today. He tells us that the Jews, having misunderstood the Law
      and the Prophets had departed from the path that God was laying before
      them and had created their own “do-it-yourself” righteousness. “For they
      being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their
      own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness
      of God.” They had all that was necessary, the belief in the One True
      God, the revelation of God to them in the Law and the Prophets, the
      centuries of being led by the hand of God and the miraculous
      interventions in their history by God. But having all of this, they
      somehow missed the point and created “their own righteousness”. They
      created a righteousness that was divorced from faith, a righteousness
      that was an end in itself and which did not lead to anything else. There
      was the law, but that law was out of context – it lacked a foundation in
      faith.

      One of the failings of the law isolated from faith is that the law does
      not tell us how to become righteous or how to become anything. The law
      only tells us how not to be unrighteous. It doesn’t tell us what to do,
      it tells us what not to do. It doesn’t tell us where to go, only where
      not to go. The law, by itself, does not get us anywhere. This was the
      failing of the righteousness of the Jews – apart from faith, it had no
      direction.

      In order to get somewhere we need some direction; we need a goal and
      purpose; we need a path to follow. What we need is faith. Faith tells us
      where we are going and why. Faith gives us direction and purpose; faith
      defines why God made us and what His destiny for us is. The faith that
      the Jews forgot was the faith in the Messiah Who would free us not from
      some temporal or worldly captivity, but rather Who would free us from
      captivity to the devil and cure us of the infection of sin and death.
      They had lowered their sights from heaven to earth and lost sight where
      they were going, concentrating only on where they were.

      We too need to have faith, and not just any faith, but the faith
      grounded in the truth that God has revealed to us. A false faith – a
      faith born of an incomplete or incorrect understanding of the truth – is
      as bad as no faith at all. Perhaps it is even worse since we are
      deceived into thinking that we do have faith. It is therefore vital to
      make sure that our faith is based in that which God has given to us –
      not what we have created in our own “do-it-yourself” fashion. At this
      point the significance of the language that the Apostle used in
      describing the “righteousness” of the Jews comes to the fore. He said,
      “(they)…have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God”. In
      order to avoid a “do-it-yourself” faith, we have to set aside our own
      ideas of faith and righteousness and instead submit to the revelation of
      God.

      In a culture which values “do-it-yourself”, submission to someone else –
      even to God – is a very difficult thing. In submitting to God we first
      have to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I can’t “do it
      myself”. We have to forgo our own reasonings, our own rationale, and our
      own values and instead adopt God’s reasonings, rationales and ideas. We
      have to give up control of our lives so that we are no longer directing
      our lives, but rather we are following the direction given to us, and to
      our forefathers, by God Himself. We have to remember that our purpose is
      not defined or not even to be found in this world and in this life, but
      that we are destined for eternity and only there will we realize our
      true destiny. Our faith must have its foundation in the God/man Jesus
      Christ, because He is our Creator’s self-revelation to us. This is the
      only pure source of faith for us.

      But faith does not consist of belief alone – it’s not enough just to
      know where you are going, we also have to actually make the effort to
      get there. Again we return to the words of the Apostle, “For with the
      heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is
      made unto salvation.” Belief is important – but belief must be paired
      with confession. It is not sufficient to believe correctly – that is, it
      is not enough to belong to the right Church or to accept the veracity of
      the Gospel or to assent to the teachings of Christ and the apostles. But
      one must also confess – that is act on the belief. Knowing the goal, we
      must also move towards that goal and put into practice that which we
      believe. The Apostle points out that that true belief puts us on the
      path of righteousness, however we must also follow that path, we must
      “confess” in order for that belief to result in salvation.

      Here now we close the circle. The Law tells us how not to act, but it is
      incomplete because it does not tell us how to act. Through a living
      faith, that is through the true belief and through confessing that
      belief in our actions, we “complete” the law for now we are given what
      the law lacks – we are given directions not only in what not to do, but
      also in what to do (and why). We can now see beyond where we are, to see
      also where we are going. Not only do we stand on the right path which is
      revealed to us by Christ, but we also follow that path through our own
      confession. That path leads us to salvation and our salvation is to
      become like Christ, to be united with Him and to live in eternity in
      union and communion with Him.

      --
      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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