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Homily for 4/6/14 - L5 - Sacrifice

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  • David
    Heb 9:11-14 Ever since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from paradise, man’s relationship with God has involved sacrifice.
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2014
      Heb 9:11-14

      Ever since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and their
      expulsion from paradise, man’s relationship with God has involved
      sacrifice. Cain and Abel, their sons, both offered sacrifice to God from
      what they possessed as a result of the fruit of their labors. Cain,
      being a farmer, offered the fruit of the ground as a sacrifice to God
      and Abel, being a shepherd, offered a lamb of the flock. From those
      beginnings, sacrifice continues throughout our history to be an element
      of the relationship between God and man. In all the various cultures and
      societies and religions, there has always been an element of sacrifice
      in the relation of man to God and in order to offer those sacrifices to
      God there has always been some sort of priest. For us, it is important
      to note the role of the sacrifice in the lives of the patriarchs, Noah,
      Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, etc. and the many
      prophets, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Ezekiel and so on. In the Gospel, the
      sacrificial rites of the temple continue to play an important role in
      the lives of the Hebrew people and their relationship with God.
      Sacrifice, offering to God something of our own, has always been a part
      of the relationship of man to God.

      In the Epistle to the Hebrews that we heard today, how this history of
      sacrifice and of the priesthood is connected directly to our Lord Jesus
      Christ. First, He is named as “our great high priest� Who stands before
      God for us in the perfect tabernacle – that is in heaven – and offers
      the perfect sacrifice for us. All other priests and temples and
      sacrifices are but a shadow of this perfect sacrifice, offered in the
      perfect temple by the great High Priest. This great High Priest is and
      can only be the God/man, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only true
      mediator between God and man, there is none other possible. Only Jesus
      Christ is God incarnate, being at the same time fully God and fully man.
      Only Jesus Christ can stand between God and man in order to reconcile us
      to God. He accomplishes this reconciliation by offering the perfect
      sacrifice, once and for all, encompassing all mankind throughout all
      time. This great High Priest offers the perfect sacrifice – that is
      Himself – and in doing so brings man again into the prefect tabernacle
      into the presence of God.

      This perfect sacrifice is the focus of Holy Week, leading up to and
      culminating in the crucifixion and burial of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of
      course this sacrifice does not end with the tomb, but because He Who is
      sacrificed is the perfect sacrifice, He conquers death and the tomb
      cannot hold Him. Rather, Hades is destroyed, the devil is chained and
      the tomb is opened, being no longer a prison in which man is held
      captive, but the doorway into the new life in the presence of God. The
      Patriarchs and prophets offered sacrifices in hope of and looking
      forward to this perfect sacrifice which would embrace theirs. As
      Christians, having seen this perfect sacrifice, we continue to offer our
      own sacrifices in imitation of Christ, joining our sacrifices to His
      perfect sacrifice and thus joining ourselves to Him.

      What is this sacrifice then that we offer to God? No longer do we offer
      the blood of bulls and goats. No longer do we even offer the fruits of
      our labors. These were the sacrifices of the Old Testament: man offered
      to God some of what he had so that in return God would look favorably
      upon Him. But our Lord Jesus Christ showed us a more perfect sacrifice
      and it is that perfect sacrifice that we as Christians offer. We do not
      offer a portion of what we have, but rather we offer the whole of our
      selves – what we are – to God as a sacrifice. We do not simply offer a
      portion of our possessions, but we give to God all that we have, and
      beyond that we give to Him all that we are. We offer our whole selves to
      God in order that we might enter into the perfect sacrifice of Jesus
      Christ, who offered Himself to God as a sacrifice for us.

      How does this sacrifice then work? Are we all to walk away from our
      homes and jobs and families? Do we abandon our possessions and resources
      and wander homeless and penniless for the rest of our lives? Certainly
      this is not what we see in the lives of the saints. They offered their
      whole selves and yet in many cases continued to live “normal� lives.
      Certainly there are those who did flee from all the cares and
      responsibilities of this life going into the wilderness to dedicate
      their lives to prayer and repentance – but there are many more among the
      saints who remained in the world and who worked out their salvation
      while also participating in society. Sometimes God does call a select
      few out of the world, but more often He calls us to live in the world
      and to work out our salvation here. The important part is that we have
      sacrificed our whole selves, all that we have and all that we are, to
      God. This means that we recognize that we, ourselves, possess nothing in
      this world, but all that we have belongs to God and has been given by
      Him to us to care for as stewards, to be used for the welfare and
      building up of the Church (that is the community of the saints) and for
      the working out of our salvation. This also means that we no longer
      pursue our own will, our own desires and our own goals, but rather put
      ourselves into God’s hands that He might make us into who He wants us to
      be. Having sacrificed ourselves to God we embrace every circumstance of
      the life that He has given to us, trusting that even though we do not
      yet see the end result – He does; and thus every step along the way
      (that is every event and every moment of every day) is guided by Him and
      given to us for a reason, to shape us slowly but surely into His
      likeness, eliminating everything in us that is not part of His image.
      This is the perfect sacrifice that we offer to God – our whole selves,
      all that we have and all that we are, and in return He gives Himself to
      us that we might be joined to Him and share in the life that He gives to us.

      Therefore, my brothers and sisters, having reached the last week of
      Great Lent and approaching the beginning of Holy Week, let us prepare
      ourselves as a perfect offering to God. Renew your spiritual life from
      this moment forward and let nothing hold you back from giving yourself
      to God. Remember the commandment and promise of our Lord to “Seek first
      the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (that is
      all the necessities of life as well as the blessings of heaven) will be
      given unto you� It does not matter if you have been negligent in your
      spiritual life to this point, whether or not you have broken the fast,
      whether or not you have been as attentive and diligent as you could have
      been to the state of your soul. The only thing that matters is that from
      this day, from this hour, from this very moment, you begin to offer
      yourself as the perfect sacrifice to God, placing yourself in the hands
      of our great High Priest who stands before God in the perfect temple so
      that He might join your sacrifice to His own. Remember the words of St
      John Chrysostom which we will hear again on Pascha: “If any have labored
      from the first hour, let him receive today his rightful due. If any have
      come at the third hour, let him feast with thankfulness. If any have
      arrived at the sixth hour, let him in no wise be in doubt, for in no
      wise shall he deprived therefor. If any be delayed even until the ninth
      hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until
      the eleventh hour, let him not be fearful on account of his lateness;
      for the Lord, Who is jealous of His honor, receiveth the last even as
      the first.� Begin now to offer yourself as a perfect sacrifice to God
      and He will receive you and give Himself to you that you might share in
      His perfect life in His presence.

      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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