Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Homily Magnus: The High and Holy Striving (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.'" II Cor. 6:16b

It is the presence of God that counts in His children's lives and nothing else. The greatest danger is not always in what you're doing but in how or why you are doing it. Though motivation and intention are often less important than what actually happens, they can still be the greater threat because of their subtlety and insidiousness. They can creep in unawares and poison the most noble of endeavors with foul foundations, twisting them into paths of destruction. It is the fundamental intents of the heart that can lead to actions that we did not intend. Small, blinding miscalculations can bring the whole things crashing to the ground. That is the seriousness of the matter.

The life that seeks holiness and upright living apart from the presence of God in their life will become Pharisaical and legalistic without warning. Hard on themselves, impossible with others, and unable to avoid turning into anxious hypocrites. Meanwhile, the life that seeks some numinous religious experience apart from the presence of God in their life will fall into either a hollow and abstract mysticism or (what is worse) a paranoid and pathological occultism. Locked into themselves, blind to others, and unable to escape being useless statuary in God's trophy room (or being seduced by darker, more treacherous spirits). And the life that seeks social activism and cultural change apart from the presence of God in their life will become hopelessly knitted to the failing schemes of man, replacing God's wisdom and patience with all manner of man-made theories and solutions for utopia. Zealous for passing causes, vindictive of those who do not follow them, and incapable from avoiding fashionable fanaticism.

Do not misunderstand: this is not just a matter of giving God's presence a nod; any fool with a cause can claim, "God is with me!" Rather, this is a matter of recognizing and living out the recognition that without God's presence with you and within you, you can do nothing and are nothing (John 14:20; 15:4-5). It is not merely about knowing that He is there (for that can turn into a highly selfish solace), but rather about knowing that in all things He is first. In other words, it is not about principles and practices only but also priorities, the priorities that shape your principles and practices. And if God is not the priority of your life (knowing Him, loving Him, and trusting Him), then the well is already poisoned. No matter your intentions, the fundamental Intention is wrecked already. If God is not first, then He is not anything.

There is no way to do this perfectly, of course. The whole of the Christian life is this struggle to keep God first, but that is the point. You must struggle: groping and panting and fighting and desiring for the presence and beauty of the living God (Ps. 27:4; 42:1-2); and that struggle, that high and holy striving, must be the wellspring from which all other streams flow. We must ask ourselves the right questions: Do you abstain to honor Him? Contemplate to find Him? Work and create because you love Him? You must do it all for Him and no other goal, for there is no other goal except a chasing of the wind.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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