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homily for9/15/13 - P12 - experiencing Christ

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  • David
    1Cor 15:1-11 Throughout this letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul has been constantly trying to pull them away from their worldliness and to orient them
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 15, 2013
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      1Cor 15:1-11

      Throughout this letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul has been
      constantly trying to pull them away from their worldliness and to orient
      them instead to the spiritual life. Over and over again he emphasizes
      the primary place of the Cross and the necessity to ascend the Cross
      with Christ and die to the world that we might live to Christ. He turns
      their attention to the necessity of taking care of one another – not
      just themselves. He describes for them the love of God which should be
      evident in their lives. He encourages them all to imitate him as he
      imitates Christ. Now he recaps for them the Gospel by which we are all
      saved – that the God/man Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried and
      rose again defeating death by death and freeing us from the tyranny of
      sin. The Apostle then goes on to note that these things did not happen
      in secret but that there were many witnesses – the twelve apostles, 500
      brethren and James along with the other apostles – who all witnessed
      these events from the beginning and continued to bear witness to them
      even in the present. Finally the Apostle Paul includes himself who saw
      Christ as “one born out of time” – and in that direct experience of the
      Risen Christ himself witnessed all these things and so bears witness to
      them.

      The Apostles went to preach the gospel not as philosophers or as
      debaters or even as teachers. They went out only to tell what they
      themselves had seen and experienced, inviting others to share in their
      experience of the God/man Jesus Christ. Just as it was possible for the
      Apostle Paul to experience Christ directly “as one born out of time” and
      so to be transformed by living in that experience of Christ, so it is
      also possible for all of us to experience Christ and to be transformed
      by living in that experience. In fact that experience is the essence of
      our salvation. We are not saved by joining the right Church
      organization, nor are we saved by adopting a particular philosophy or
      theology, nor are we even saved by acknowledging the existence of Christ
      as God incarnate. Our salvation is the same as that of the Apostles,
      which they then took to the whole world – to experience Jesus Christ
      directly and to live in that experience.

      What then is the importance of being here in this parish – a part of the
      Orthodox Christian Church? The Church is the Body of Christ, the visible
      ongoing manifestation of the incarnation. Everything that is a part of
      the Church is an expression of the incarnation – that God has become man
      that man might become god. The entirety of our Tradition, the Orthodox
      Christian way of life, leads toward that direct experience of the
      God/man Jesus Christ. That is the point of all our Scripture, our
      theology, our liturgy, our traditions, our hymns. Everything is given to
      us to enable us to encounter Christ directly. But all these things are
      external, they shape and guide our lives in such a way that we will be
      able to draw near to Christ and come into that encounter.

      The Church does not leave us with just this external help, but gives us
      something more. The sacraments are that means by which we are brought
      into the very presence of God and through which He pours out His grace
      on us. In baptism, we are born again; in chrismation, we are nourished
      and filled with the Holy Spirit; in confession, we are forgiven and the
      wounds of our sins are healed. Most importantly, however, is the
      sacrament of Holy Communion for it is in this sacrament that we come
      face to face with the God/man Jesus Christ and through partaking of His
      Most Holy Body and Most Precious Blood He touches us and we touch Him;
      He enters into us not only spiritually but physically as well drawing us
      into Himself and making us a part of Himself. Without this personal
      experience, there is no salvation. The more often we receive the Holy
      Mysteries, the more that bond between us and Jesus Christ is
      strengthened and rooted in our lives. This is our salvation – to
      experience Christ and to live within that experience. There can be no
      salvation without that direct experience of Christ.

      We see the importance then of the sacraments for it is through them that
      God comes to us and we encounter Him. There are certainly times when we
      feel the presence of God with us outside of the sacraments, however, it
      is in the sacraments, with both the spiritual and physical elements,
      that we have a complete encounter affecting both soul and body. Through
      the encounter of the sacraments, God imparts to us His grace and it is
      this grace that is active in us, working to transform our whole being
      into the image and likeness of God and uniting us with Him, filling us
      with His life. The Apostle Paul says this very thing saying: “by the
      grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain;
      but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of
      God which was with me.” It is the grace of God working in him and in us
      that draws us into union and communion with God.

      Now it is vital to attend to what the Apostle says here about that
      grace. The grace of God, working in us makes us what we are – but in
      order that the grace might not be without effect, we to have to work
      with it so that the grace becomes effective in us for salvation. We have
      to work with the grace of God. He showers His grace on us, but God does
      not overpower us, making us automatons or puppets. His love for us is so
      great that He wishes us to be saved in our entirety and so He allows us
      to work alongside His grace – cooperating with it as it works in us to
      transform us. This means that we exercise our will to abstain from those
      things which work against that grace (our self-centeredness and
      self-love) and root them out of every corner of our lives. We exercise
      our will to choose those things which will actualize that grace and
      which are in harmony with it – works of righteousness, the development
      of the virtues, purity and holiness in our lives. We exercise our will
      to choose to conform our will to the will of God, joyfully and humbly
      receiving all that He gives to us as a means by which we can work out
      our salvation, cooperating with His work and grace in us.

      It is in this way that we are transformed by a synergy of our labor
      along with the grace of God. God requires us to work alongside His grace
      – it is not magic or overpowering. But our labors alone and by
      themselves are worthless – they only gain their effect in us by the
      cooperative presence of God’s grace. For this very reason the Apostle
      finishes his comments with “yet not I, but the grace of God which is in me.”

      Our salvation is not a philosophy or belief system, it is not membership
      in the right club, it is not even a cognitive acknowledgement of God’s
      existence or incarnation. Our salvation is to experience God directly
      and to live in that experience. In order to make that experience
      available to us, God became man and dwelt among us and it is through our
      experience of the God/man Jesus Christ in our lives that we enter into
      our salvation. The Church makes this possible for us by providing a way
      of life that brings us near to Jesus Christ and in the sacraments by
      bringing us face to face with Him. He pours out upon us His grace which
      empowers us so that we might work in synergy with Him working out
      salvation and enabling His grace to transform us into His image and
      likeness and drawing us into 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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