Homily – It takes courage to be a Christian

The Sunday of Orthodoxy

[On this, the First Sunday of Great Lent...anathema!... we are reminded] 
It takes courage to be a Christian.
  • Today we remember our religious heritage – the way that the Gospel of Christ, the unchanging Truth of Orthodoxy, has been preserved and taught throughout the ages.
  • Today we remember and honor our courageous ancestors, those men and women who went against the ways of the world, who sacrificed their comfort and the respect of their societies, in order to preserve and proclaim this Gospel and to teach the Truth about the world and God’s plan for it.
  • Today we rededicate ourselves to this Truth and make ourselves better instruments of God’s love; single-minded apostles of salvation through Jesus Christ, the one who is love and truth Incarnate, and whose love and truth continues to this day through His body – the Holy Orthodox Church.
It takes courage to be a Christian today because love and truth are not popular in a world that has given itself over to self-indulgence and relativism. We try to fight the good fight, but we are worn down with the many compromises we have made, sacrificing bits of love and truth everyday until our crosses have been whittled down to a size that couldn’t pick the bits of food from between our teeth, much less crucify our sins and thus grant us salvation and resurrection.
We have lost something important. What we need a good revival [describe southern revivals]. Our revival is Great Lent, a chance to remove the detraction and recover and develop a single-minded focus on the “one thing needful”.
[Personal testimony. Why? Because God has transformed my life; he has brought a sense of peace, joy, and contentedness that I did not think possible in this world of pain and suffering. And I see how many others are hurt, and I want them to experience God's salvation, too.]
This will take courage. It will take integrity. It will take long-suffering endurance. Which is to say, that it will require real love. Not the fallen love that looks for reward, but the kind that is willing to follow Christ’s example and give up everything for the healing and sanctification of all God’s suffering people. This is what it means to be a Christian. Our ancestors were willing to give up everything they had to preserve and proclaim this Gospel, the Good News of Salvation through Holy Orthodoxy. We must be willing to do no less.
We must allow our love of Orthodoxy to permeate every part of our lives, how we spend our time, how we spend our money, how we work, how we play, and how we chose our opinions and manner of lifewhen it comes to everything from marriage to war to life to death.
It means allowing the Christian virtues of chastity, charity, self-sacrifice, and hard work to inform everything we do; and yes, it means recognizing that these virtues are universal – that they (and the Orthodoxy that gives them life and meaning) are the steps to and signs of perfection; and that when any of us on God’s green earth choose to forsake them in favor of fornication, hording, self-endulgence, and laziness, we are doing something that is and always will be wrong, harmful, and sinful.
Having integrity means holding steadfast to what is right no matter what the costs, without compromise. A husband has integrity for his marriage when he refuses to give in to the temptations of pornography and adultery. He is a husband to his wife always (even in Las Vegas). He has given himself over to his marriage – and when he allows things to pull him from this, he has sacrificed his integrity and shown himself to be a coward. The world will tell him differently (siren song) – most of the men in his society use pornagraphy; half have committed adultery; far too many are self-indulgent, abuseive, and lazy. Surely he is tempted to do the same. But as a good husband, he will not.
It is the same for the Orthodox Christian. He is united to God through Christ more surely than any man can be united to his wife. Integrity demands that he be true to this bond. But the world will tell him different (siren song), that there is no Truth, or if there is, Orthodoxy has no more claim to it than any other faith. [It will tell him] That sin is not real, that the world is empty of grace, that Christianity is just another set of myths, useful for some but downright dangerous for others. Do you have the courage to stand in the face of such things and, like the good husband in the face of the beautiful home-wrecker, and say “NO”? Or, to use the words of the Seventh Ecumincal Council, to stand in the face of all sin and blasphemy and say “ANATHEMA”?
[In other words] Do you have the courage to be a Christian? Do you have the integrity to be Orthodox?
It isn’t easy. It never has been. But the truth is real, and it is worth defending. Why? Because like the healthy marriage, it brings life and comfort and joy.
[You see,] The Gospel is not a Gospel of death and sadness; it is not the fundamentalist preacher proclaiming the condemnation of sinners; the Gospel is the salvation of the world through Jesus Christ.
This is something worth dying for; more importantly; this is something worth living for. May God grant us the courage and integrity of all the saints who have gone before us.

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