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Homily for 8/25/13 - P9 - co-laborers with God

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  • David
    1 Cor 3:9-17 Last week we looked at the power of the cross and the necessity of abandoning our own works and efforts to enter into the Life of Christ. Today,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 25, 2013
      1 Cor 3:9-17

      Last week we looked at the power of the cross and the necessity of
      abandoning our own works and efforts to enter into the Life of Christ.
      Today, we place the necessity of our weakness and reliance only upon the
      power of the Cross into a different context. The Apostle tells us that
      we are “laborers together with God” working with Him so that we might
      become the temple of God. The Apostle further tells us that “every man’s
      work shall be made manifest” and that it shall be “tried by fire” and
      that “he shall receive a reward” according to his works. This might seem
      to be contrary to what we said last week about abandoning our own
      efforts, however, the key is in the very first statement, that we are
      co-laborers with God. Now we are not working according to our own
      understanding or according to our own strength, but we are working with
      God according to His design and His instruction and we draw our strength
      and material from Him and not from ourselves. By abandoning our own
      efforts we have put ourselves into a place where now God can transform
      our labor into His own and we work out our salvation in synergy with Him.

      Our works then build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, which is
      established through the instrument of the Cross. On this foundation we
      build with various materials: gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay
      and stubble. Note that the Apostle does not separate these out from one
      another, combining all sorts of material together in the same category.
      He does not judge or evaluate which materials are of eternal value and
      which are not, but simply points out that some are more valuable than
      others. In this he reminds us that we do indeed live in the world and
      that we will of necessity have all kinds of labors – some worldly and
      others spiritual – mixed together. The idea, of course is not to
      eliminate one or the other, but to remind us to put an emphasis on that
      which is of greater value. Is this not the same thing that St Seraphim
      spoke about when he said that we should acquire the Holy Spirit by trade
      – choosing to do those things which are more spiritually profitable than
      those things which have no spiritual value? Take note also that none of
      what the Apostle lists above refers to sin – all of the materials in his
      list are useful and constructive building materials given to us by God.
      Sin would be represented by those things that are defiled or which have
      a negative value such as dirt and dung. He assumes that we have left
      these things aside already and only build with those things which have a
      positive value. And so we build, using a combination of worldly and
      spiritual materials, creating a complete structure out of our lives
      which will become the temple of God. This fusion of mundane and
      spiritual, common and precious, mirrors our own nature for we are a
      mixture of both physical and spiritual, standing in the nexus between
      the two worlds, having both a spiritual nature and a bodily nature. We
      are constructing a complete work which will be judged not piecemeal, but
      as a whole.

      Now that we have become co-laborers with God, our work will be judged
      not by our own standards but by His. The Apostle uses the image of fire
      to describe this judgment saying that “the fire shall try every man’s
      works of what sort it is.” The important question for us here is, “What
      is this fire by which our works are judged?” In the Epistle to the
      Hebrews (12:29) we have, already, the answer to that question: “Our God
      is a consuming fire.” Our completed work then will be exposed to the
      divine Fire of the presence of God and that Fire will reveal the worth
      of our labor. Those labors that are worthy will survive the fire and
      become filled with flame of God’s presence, however those labors that
      are not will be destroyed and the laborer will have nothing. Again it is
      important to note that the Apostle does not make any division between
      what materials will and will not survive the fire – but only that the
      finished product as a whole will be judged. In our limited logic, it
      might seem that the “wood, hay and stubble” would be consumed leaving
      only the “gold, silver (and) precious stones”, but this is not what the
      Apostle says. He speaks only of the completed work. Indeed even those
      normally flammable materials such as wood and hay and stubble, when used
      properly will not burn but will survive a fire. (When wood is used as a
      core and covered tightly with a gold or silver skin or when straw is
      packed tightly and encased in solid exterior it will not burn.) In the
      same way gold, silver and precious stones, when used improperly can be
      destroyed (through melting or fracture) by exposure to intense heat. The
      emphasis here is to use all the materials pure and untainted by the
      imperfections introduced by sin and to use them properly according to
      the instruction and direction of God, the Master-builder and Architect.
      He does not want us to be only physical or only spiritual, but He
      created us as a fusion of both and so our labor is to build a temple
      that is a fusion of both. And so we will build with both the spiritual
      materials (gold, silver and precious stones) as well as the physical
      material (wood, hay and stubble) for only in this manner can we
      manufacture a complete temple that will reflect both aspects of our
      nature and fill both that which is spiritual and that which is physical
      with the glory of God.

      It is possible, however, to misuse the materials that we have received
      from God in such a way that they become flawed and susceptible to the
      burning of the divine Fire. This misuse is also sin – it is the result
      of our own desires, reason and ideas which we allow to over-rule the
      will of God. We can misuse both those things which are physical as well
      as those which are spiritual, turning them from the pure and divine
      purpose for which God made them and tainting them by our own vanity and
      pride. Our goal in building the temple of God then is not only to use
      that which God has provided but also to use it all in the way in which
      God instructs us, that is to live according to His will.

      Look around you, look at your life, see all that God has given to you.
      Look at your worldly possessions, your situation in life, your
      appearance, your skills, your career, your reason, your ideas, etc –
      these are the physical materials that God has given to you. Look also at
      your spiritual state, at the teaching, the worship, the sacraments, the
      miracles, your prayer, etc. – these are the spiritual materials that God
      has given you. This great panoply of both physical and spiritual
      material is provided to you by God in order for you to complete the
      temple of God that you will become. Now consider the instructions which
      you have been given, the life and tradition of the Church, revealed to
      us by Christ, passed on to us by the Apostles and by our forefathers and
      foremothers in the faith, recorded for us in the Scripture and in the
      writings of the fathers, acted out for us in the lives of the saints.
      This is the instruction on how to use the materials that we have, the
      instructions on how to order our lives according to the will of God so
      that all these materials will be used effectively and without taint. All
      this is given to us that we might become the temple of God.

      My brothers and sisters, we are co-laborers with God, working with Him
      according to the plan and design that He has made for us. He has given
      us all the materials that we need and has provided for us the proper
      instructions for how those materials are to be used. It is now in our
      hands to work with what God has given us and under His direction and
      instruction to build ourselves into the temple of God, fit to be filled
      with the bright Flame of His divine presence which fills us and makes us
      holy that we may share in the life that He gives.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
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