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, knowing the ten commandments and what they mean. This is not for experts, this is not for monks and nuns or priests. The Ten commandments are for every Christian, educated or uneducated. We should know the ten commandments, like we should know the nicene creed, so that when we lie at that moment, we become co laborers, literal collaborators, with the devil in the work of his kingdom of darkness. How shameful is the false teaching, so often bantered about today by irresponsible clergymen, that the church has nothing to say about the bedroom? What this really means is that this very significant area of human life will remain unredeemed, consigned to existence outside of Christ. The light of Christ illuminates all. There is no aspect of human life, let alone one so significant and influential as human sexuality, that is not ennobled or inspired, guided, purified and redeemed by our Lord Jesus and his teachings. What you have just heard our sound bites from some of the lectures in a ten part lecture series entitled do this and you shall live, an exposition of the Ten Commandments for the twenty one century. patristic nectar publications invites you to download the first of these ten lectures here at ancient faith radio. For more information and for the 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 the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Brothers and sisters, yesterday I was honored to participate in the funeral of a friend of mine and perhaps of yours, the nun Juliana, one of the nuns of the Sino via of Mother Victoria and St Barbara Monastery. I've known mother Juliana for many years. I knew her first as girt. She was a church mom at our parish up in Lam Polk St Timothy Church. When I lived up in central California. I got to see her a lot because she was always invested in the Church and the Ministry of the Church. I was not surprised that as she grew older and...

...was by herself with her children that she made it the choice to become a nun. Such a beautiful thing to see a woman whose life was the church and service in the church, freed from the ties of marriage, able to embrace a life of even greater service and to spend the last decade of her life praying all day every day and serving even more than she ever did. Was a great, beautiful witness that she provided us. It was an honor also to be there and to participate in the funeral, which was done at the monastery, in the Monastery Chapel. It was so sober, so beautiful. The funeral for a monk or a non it's very different than the funeral for a lay person and the hymn the day is very different. There's a whole cannon of hymns that are sung just about the life of what of an esthetic, of a monastic and to be able to be there and to proceed out of the church at the end of the funeral to walk thirty feet for her burial, where she was buried just next to the nun of Mariamne who fell asleep in Christ about five years ago. It was a it was very beautiful and touching and to participate in a funeral that cost nothing. You could say that was a miracle these days of service that was so arranged that all of our energies could be focused upon two things, prayer and remembrance, and we weren't burdened by the worldly things and the wondering what kind of loan we're going to take to pay for the Cadillac 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 to the monastery yesterday for the funeral was the three words I was able to hear from mother Victoria. I am like a flower. I'm let me explain before you contradict me. Not Really, father. I am like a flower that's withered because it has been removed from the Sun. When I was a young priest, my first five years as a priest, I got to see Mother Victoria two and three times a week. I got to pray Orthros with her every week and have a cup of tea, received some wisdom. She was, in essence, my catechist, even when I was a catechuman. I learned most of what I have learned about the Orthodox faith in prep ration for becoming Orthodox from other Victoria, and when I moved here, it has progressively become less more and more infrequent that I get to see her and I have progressively withered. So I was very delighted to be able to see her and to hear three words which booyed me and...

...refreshed me. Let me tell you what the words were. In the context, we were passing, we believers were passing. You know those little, try trite statements that we often stupidly make a funerals. Oh she's in a better place, so everything's great. Blah, blah, blah, those statements that we say which are such radical contradictions 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, about how hard it is to die. And then we just go to the mercy meal and we forget everything we said. We start talking like it was super easy 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 to Paradise, do we not? I don't see how they're already there. What are we doing? What are we praying for anyway? So here's the three words from other Victoria and that context. She heard someone say something and she smiled and her forehead wrinkled and she said, I hope so, I hope so. It was a beautiful expression of love, perfectly consonant with the very things 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 want to talk to you about, being sober, having a sober perspective on death and the afterlife. I read this week statistics about Americans and their view on death and the afterlife and I found something that made sense to me. It certainly 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. Sixty six percent. Guess how many expect to go to hell? One percent, one percent, sixty six percent expect to go to heaven, one percent going to on. Now, besides these absolutely horrifying statistics, they are truly horrifying about our, shall I say, spiritual Overc infidence, our lack of really grasping who we are and the struggle that we have. Besides these horrifying statistics, this week, besides reading them and feeling wounded by them, I also heard words put into my ear which are certainly the pastor's worse nightmare. The words were these spoken by someone who was...

...contemplating whether or not they were going to go to heaven. The words are I've never done anything bad in my life, so I think I should go to heaven. I've never done anything bad in my life, so I think I should go to heaven. Really, is that how it works? If that's true, what in the world as the relevance of Jesus Christ? What is the purpose of the cross? Why did he come and die? If as long as you, in your own opinion, don't think you've done anything bad in your life, will certainly go 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 to our 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 a sober perspective on death and the afterlife. You heard those words in the Gospel, those beautiful, consoling, inspiring words, perhaps the most famous New Testament text from John's Gospel, chapter three, that we read because we're preparing to celebrate the Feast of the Cross this week. The Exaltation of the Cross on the fourteen is coming, and the church is preparing us for it by allowing us to hear those beautiful words where Jesus says, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up that all who believe in him might not perish but have ever laughting life. For God so love the world that he gave His only begotten Son that all who believe in him might not perish but live forever, but possess life everlasting. What a beautiful text. There is a word in here, however, that will help us become sober, and it's the word in that text that I want to talk about. It's the Word Perish, perish. It's the word that 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 that we would not be swallowed up by that nasty monster, that great enemy of death 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 of them. Jesus spoke more about these sober subjects of death, perishing the judgment than in all of those authors combined. He warned us that we were in danger of perishing if we didn't forgive. He warned us that we were in danger of perishing if we called our brother a fool. He warned us that we were in danger of perishing. If we denied him publicly, we were in danger of perishing. If we failed to confess him before men, we were in danger of perishing. If we judged others, we were in danger of perishing, if we use terrible words, we were in danger of perishing, especially if we were indifferent to him and his message. And there are many 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 mess that we're in and how desperately we really need him and why his salvation is 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 action against perishing. Remember his teaching where he says, if your right hand causes you to stumble, slice it off. If you're right eye is causing you to sin, pluck it out. How more aggressive could he be? How more 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's talking 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's not talking literally. There's no question that he sums up everything by saying don't fear 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 into hell. He calls all of us to fear that, to be concerned about that. So I would say to the person who says, well, you know, this is not all literal, I would say you're right, these are 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 of the truth. So say that it's not literally. That's no comfort. Brothers and sisters, you're right, it isn't literal. It's much worse. Soul worse in fact, that our savior said to his disciples who were going to be killed, Hung, put into boiling oil, chopped into pieces, crucified, he said, don't fear that, that's kids play. Don't fear those who can kill the body because they can't touch your soul. You want to be afraid of something, be afraid of him who can cast both soul and body into hell. Oh, this is sobriety. Now you may be saying father, 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's why I'm sobering you. I love you and I want you to live like Christians. Christians do not have a high opinion of themselves and float around their life being so confident that they're going to heaven. I'm sorry, that's not how we live. We're much more likely to think others are going to heaven than ourselves, and if we don't take the possibility of perishing seriously, we are 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 to really be enthralls of battle with death and sin and corruption in ourself, we're really not going to understand how beautiful our savior is, how he triumphed over these things, how he was willing to be with us, kind of in our mock, in our mess, and defeat our enemies. We're not going to adore the cross as our hope of salve patient. We're not going to adore the resurrection as are certain confidence, despite the fact that we have done many terrible things, and I want you to adore our savior and to worship the 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 living your life for yourself. This is the bottom line, this is the number one thing I want you to think. Those who are concerned about their souls and 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 that they have never done something wrong, therefore they should go to heaven. They keep a humble perspective, which is the truth. They hold on to the Cross and they know that the great threat in their life is that they might live 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 seriousness to put our salvation first, put it first above everything else, because where we end up is going to be a reflection of how we spend our life here. Heaven and hell are very much about getting the ways of life that we and our freedom have chosen to establish here, and if we make our savior and his worship and discipleship to him one, it's going to be a natural transition for us. It will make sense for us to be recipients of his 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 about ourselves and serving ourselves, because we don't take death seriously, we don't take the next life seriously and we have not heeded our words, the words of our Savior, to fear and to be serious, to do whatever it takes, if it will be natural for us to go from that self centered life to the ultimate place of self centeredness, which is gehen. I want to leave you, as I did last week, with a quote from C S Lewis. It's a very beautiful quote that helps bring the the dangers of the 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, that distant concept very close to us so that we can become sober and put our salvation 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 even criticize this in yourself, and you may even wish to stop it, but there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood,...

...and there will be no you left even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It's not a question of God sending us to hell. In each of us there is something growing which will be hell unless it is nipped in the bud. Do you understand? What do you say? Doesn't this bring 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 be amongst those who think that, if we will be saved, it will be in spite of us, by the grace of God, and let's be those who have a healthy, sober fear of being swallowed up in the life of self service. Let's have a healthy fear that we just might have something growing in us that, if we don't nip it into bud, will be hell before we know it. Amen. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. Until next time,.

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