The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Put Your Salvation First!

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Ancient faith radio and patristic nectar publications, present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah Trenham, knowingthe ten commandments and what they mean. This is not for experts, thisis not for monks and nuns or priests. The Ten commandments are for every Christian, educated or uneducated. We should know the ten commandments, like weshould know the nicene creed, so that when we lie at that moment,we become co laborers, literal collaborators, with the devil in the work ofhis kingdom of darkness. How shameful is the false teaching, so often banteredabout today by irresponsible clergymen, that the church has nothing to say about thebedroom? What this really means is that this very significant area of human lifewill remain unredeemed, consigned to existence outside of Christ. The light of Christilluminates all. There is no aspect of human life, let alone one sosignificant and influential as human sexuality, that is not ennobled or inspired, guided, purified and redeemed by our Lord Jesus and his teachings. What you havejust heard our sound bites from some of the lectures in a ten part lectureseries entitled do this and you shall live, an exposition of the Ten Commandments forthe twenty one century. patristic nectar publications invites you to download the firstof these ten lectures here at ancient faith radio. For more information and forthe remaining lectures, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. And now here's father Josiah with the Sunday homily, the name of thefather and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Brothersand sisters, yesterday I was honored to participate in the funeral of a friendof mine and perhaps of yours, the nun Juliana, one of the nunsof the Sino via of Mother Victoria and St Barbara Monastery. I've known motherJuliana for many years. I knew her first as girt. She was achurch mom at our parish up in Lam Polk St Timothy Church. When Ilived up in central California. I got to see her a lot because shewas always invested in the Church and the Ministry of the Church. I wasnot surprised that as she grew older and...

...was by herself with her children thatshe made it the choice to become a nun. Such a beautiful thing tosee a woman whose life was the church and service in the church, freedfrom the ties of marriage, able to embrace a life of even greater serviceand to spend the last decade of her life praying all day every day andserving even more than she ever did. Was a great, beautiful witness thatshe provided us. It was an honor also to be there and to participatein the funeral, which was done at the monastery, in the Monastery Chapel. It was so sober, so beautiful. The funeral for a monk or anon it's very different than the funeral for a lay person and the hymnthe day is very different. There's a whole cannon of hymns that are sungjust about the life of what of an esthetic, of a monastic and tobe able to be there and to proceed out of the church at the endof the funeral to walk thirty feet for her burial, where she was buriedjust next to the nun of Mariamne who fell asleep in Christ about five yearsago. It was a it was very beautiful and touching and to participate ina funeral that cost nothing. You could say that was a miracle these daysof service that was so arranged that all of our energies could be focused upontwo things, prayer and remembrance, and we weren't burdened by the worldly thingsand the wondering what kind of loan we're going to take to pay for theCadillac that we're putting our reposed person in. It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.But perhaps the most beautiful portion of the short visit that I made tothe monastery yesterday for the funeral was the three words I was able to hearfrom mother Victoria. I am like a flower. I'm let me explain beforeyou contradict me. Not Really, father. I am like a flower that's witheredbecause it has been removed from the Sun. When I was a youngpriest, my first five years as a priest, I got to see MotherVictoria two and three times a week. I got to pray Orthros with herevery week and have a cup of tea, received some wisdom. She was,in essence, my catechist, even when I was a catechuman. Ilearned most of what I have learned about the Orthodox faith in prep ration forbecoming Orthodox from other Victoria, and when I moved here, it has progressivelybecome less more and more infrequent that I get to see her and I haveprogressively withered. So I was very delighted to be able to see her andto hear three words which booyed me and...

...refreshed me. Let me tell youwhat the words were. In the context, we were passing, we believers werepassing. You know those little, try trite statements that we often stupidlymake a funerals. Oh she's in a better place, so everything's great.Blah, blah, blah, those statements that we say which are such radicalcontradictions of everything we've just said in the funeral service about weeping and wailing,about the great trial that the soul undergoes at the time of death, abouthow hard it is to die. And then we just go to the mercymeal and we forget everything we said. We start talking like it was supereasy and she's floating up on some cloud and she's already there. Boom,even though we pray fervently for forty days for the passage of her soul toParadise, do we not? I don't see how they're already there. Whatare we doing? What are we praying for anyway? So here's the threewords from other Victoria and that context. She heard someone say something and shesmiled and her forehead wrinkled and she said, I hope so, I hope so. It was a beautiful expression of love, perfectly consonant with the verythings that we were just praying. I hope so. It's our wish,it's our prayer and it's sober, and that sobriety, is what I wantto talk to you about, being sober, having a sober perspective on death andthe afterlife. I read this week statistics about Americans and their view ondeath and the afterlife and I found something that made sense to me. Itcertainly has been my experience, and that is that two thirds of Americans,two thirds, fully expect that when they die they're going to heaven. Sixtysix percent. Guess how many expect to go to hell? One percent,one percent, sixty six percent expect to go to heaven, one percent goingto on. Now, besides these absolutely horrifying statistics, they are truly horrifyingabout our, shall I say, spiritual Overc infidence, our lack of reallygrasping who we are and the struggle that we have. Besides these horrifying statistics, this week, besides reading them and feeling wounded by them, I alsoheard words put into my ear which are certainly the pastor's worse nightmare. Thewords were these spoken by someone who was...

...contemplating whether or not they were goingto go to heaven. The words are I've never done anything bad in mylife, so I think I should go to heaven. I've never done anythingbad in my life, so I think I should go to heaven. Really, is that how it works? If that's true, what in the worldas the relevance of Jesus Christ? What is the purpose of the cross?Why did he come and die? If as long as you, in yourown opinion, don't think you've done anything bad in your life, will certainlygo to heaven? Why do we call him savior if we don't need saving? Why do we adore his resurrection if death isn't a really serious threat toour lives? Because we're not sober, and I want us to be sober. I want us to have a sober perspective, like Mother Victoria had asober perspective on death and the afterlife. You heard those words in the Gospel, those beautiful, consoling, inspiring words, perhaps the most famous New Testament textfrom John's Gospel, chapter three, that we read because we're preparing tocelebrate the Feast of the Cross this week. The Exaltation of the Cross on thefourteen is coming, and the church is preparing us for it by allowingus to hear those beautiful words where Jesus says, as Moses lifted up theserpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up thatall who believe in him might not perish but have ever laughting life. ForGod so love the world that he gave His only begotten Son that all whobelieve in him might not perish but live forever, but possess life everlasting.What a beautiful text. There is a word in here, however, thatwill help us become sober, and it's the word in that text that Iwant to talk about. It's the Word Perish, perish. It's the wordthat explains why, in the love of God, The Sun was sent.The sent was sent because if the sun wasn't sent, we would perish.He was sent so that we would not perish in our sins, so thatwe would not be swallowed up by that nasty monster, that great enemy ofdeath and Hades. And many times in the Gospel accounts, brothers and sisters, our Savior talks about perishing. You...

...know, he spoke more about death, perishing and the threat of judgment and hell than every other biblical author,Isaiah, Ezekiel, Peter and Paul, all of them, almost forty ofthem. Jesus spoke more about these sober subjects of death, perishing the judgmentthan in all of those authors combined. He warned us that we were indanger of perishing if we didn't forgive. He warned us that we were indanger of perishing if we called our brother a fool. He warned us thatwe were in danger of perishing. If we denied him publicly, we werein danger of perishing. If we failed to confess him before men, wewere in danger of perishing. If we judged others, we were in dangerof perishing, if we use terrible words, we were in danger of perishing,especially if we were indifferent to him and his message. And there aremany more accounts besides. All of those references. Besides all that clear teaching, to put our feet on the ground, to help us really recognize the messthat we're in and how desperately we really need him and why his salvationis so important and why the cross should be the absolute joy of our life. Besides all of those things, he also called us to take serious actionagainst perishing. Remember his teaching where he says, if your right hand causesyou to stumble, slice it off. If you're right eye is causing youto sin, pluck it out. How more aggressive could he be? Howmore serious could he be calling us to repent and so that we wouldn't perish? It's better, he says, to have one eye, one hand,one foot, than to have them both and go into you know where.Now some people hear this. They hear this and they're uncomfortable about it.I'm uncomfortable about it, and they say, well, don't take those things literally. Jesus is talking about all of those things, but you know he'stalking about Hell and fire and you're going to be there in your soul.So how could I fire be there because he calls it darkness? Obviously he'snot talking literally. There's no question that he sums up everything by saying don'tfear anyone who can kill the body but can't kill the soul. Fear Him, he says, who has the power to cast both body and soul intohell. He calls all of us to fear that, to be concerned aboutthat. So I would say to the person who says, well, youknow, this is not all literal, I would say you're right, theseare metaphors. That's because the literal description...

...and even this metaphor that we're using, these multiple images, cannot grasp the full weight, the full significance ofthe truth. So say that it's not literally. That's no comfort. Brothersand sisters, you're right, it isn't literal. It's much worse. Soulworse in fact, that our savior said to his disciples who were going tobe killed, Hung, put into boiling oil, chopped into pieces, crucified, he said, don't fear that, that's kids play. Don't fear thosewho can kill the body because they can't touch your soul. You want tobe afraid of something, be afraid of him who can cast both soul andbody into hell. Oh, this is sobriety. Now you may be sayingfather, why are you telling us this? What's the why are you sobering us? Well, let me just tell you because I love you. That'swhy I'm sobering you. I love you and I want you to live likeChristians. Christians do not have a high opinion of themselves and float around theirlife being so confident that they're going to heaven. I'm sorry, that's nothow we live. We're much more likely to think others are going to heaventhan ourselves, and if we don't take the possibility of perishing seriously, weare certainly not going to appreciate and adore what our Savior has done for us. If we don't take the misery of our life and what it means toreally be enthralls of battle with death and sin and corruption in ourself, we'rereally not going to understand how beautiful our savior is, how he triumphed overthese things, how he was willing to be with us, kind of inour mock, in our mess, and defeat our enemies. We're not goingto adore the cross as our hope of salve patient. We're not going toadore the resurrection as are certain confidence, despite the fact that we have donemany terrible things, and I want you to adore our savior and to worshipthe cross and to experience the love of God which has conquered hell and sin. And mostly, I want you to be moved to be afraid of livingyour life for yourself. This is the bottom line, this is the numberone thing I want you to think. Those who are concerned about their soulsand about salvation don't just hold tightly to the Cross and refuse to let go. They don't allow themselves to fall into...

...delusion and fantasy about the fact thatthey have never done something wrong, therefore they should go to heaven. Theykeep a humble perspective, which is the truth. They hold on to theCross and they know that the great threat in their life is that they mightlive for themselves, that they might actually be swallowed up by self centeredness,which is certainly a foretaste of hell. Jesus is motivating us by his seriousnessto put our salvation first, put it first above everything else, because wherewe end up is going to be a reflection of how we spend our lifehere. Heaven and hell are very much about getting the ways of life thatwe and our freedom have chosen to establish here, and if we make oursavior and his worship and discipleship to him one, it's going to be anatural transition for us. It will make sense for us to be recipients ofhis salvation, which he's accomplished for us on the Cross and in the resurrection, and for us to be with him. But if our whole life is aboutourselves and serving ourselves, because we don't take death seriously, we don'ttake the next life seriously and we have not heeded our words, the wordsof our Savior, to fear and to be serious, to do whatever ittakes, if it will be natural for us to go from that self centeredlife to the ultimate place of self centeredness, which is gehen. I want toleave you, as I did last week, with a quote from CS Lewis. It's a very beautiful quote that helps bring the the dangers ofthe next life and especially of judgment from ideas that we can't relate to,sometimes like fire. And how's that going to help happen? Eternal punishment?What did I do for that? He brings, through this quote, thatdistant concept very close to us so that we can become sober and put oursalvation first. To listen to what he says. This is C S Lewis. Hell begins with a grumbling mood. All was complaining, always blaming others, but in this life you are still distinct from it. You may evencriticize this in yourself, and you may even wish to stop it, butthere may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will beno you left to criticize the mood,...

...and there will be no you lefteven to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever likea machine. It's not a question of God sending us to hell. Ineach of us there is something growing which will be hell unless it is nippedin the bud. Do you understand? What do you say? Doesn't thisbring the next life into closer perspective, something that we can grasp and touch? Brothers and sisters, let's be serious, let's defy those statistics. Let's beamongst those who think that, if we will be saved, it willbe in spite of us, by the grace of God, and let's bethose who have a healthy, sober fear of being swallowed up in the lifeof self service. Let's have a healthy fear that we just might have somethinggrowing in us that, if we don't nip it into bud, will behell before we know it. Amen. We hope that you have enjoyed andhave been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, anonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the HolyFathers. Until next time,.

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