• Epistle reading
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! There are several enormously important themes for Christian living in the modern world that St. Paul covered this morning. But we have to carefully choose just one thing to go into a bit deeper, so that perhaps we can be corrected, and inspired in our prayer and in our lives. So that perhaps we can recall something of this word of St. Paul as we try to live a Christian life in this fallen and sinful world. In the second verse of this morning’s reading, St. Paul begins by quoting from the Prophet Isaiah (49:8): “In an acceptable time I (God is speaking here) have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” And then St. Paul adds: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” What a powerful word—now is the day of salvation. Something that we suffer terribly from in this modern world, is putting things off. Procrastinating, I’ll get it done later, tomorrow, whatever. And this mindset of very casually putting things off until later has a devastating effect on our spiritual lives. When we sin—when we make choices that separate us from God—a series of choices and decisions happen very rapidly. And our outlook on the world, the way we live consciously moment-by-moment, has a great impact on how we make our decisions. And in this world where procrastination becomes the norm for so many of us in so many areas of our lives, this procrastination seeps in our spiritual lives, into our relationship with Christ. And our mindset, even unconsciously, becomes—“God will forgive me for this lapse…I’ll work on my prayer, my relationship with God later…I have plenty of time in the future to be concerned with ‘spiritual things’.” This is a mentality that sets in for people in all walks of life, even for those of us who are pretty serious about our faith. “God will still be there tomorrow, or later tonight,” and I choose to do whatever I might be tempted to do at the time. But this disregard for our salvation goes directly against St. Paul’s word today. “Now is the day of salvation.” Fr. Zacharias says that one of the major things that modern man is afflicted with is “despondency—the manifest lack of concern for the salvation which God offers every day to the world.” (The Enlargement of the Heart, Mount Thabor Publishing, 2006, p. 64) We assume that we have later to worry about repentance and prayer and following Christ. And so we’re not concerned. But St. Paul warns us that the day is now. None of us are promised tomorrow, or next year, or even the next breath, for that matter. We never know when our time on this earth will end. Or when the Son of Man will come in glory with His angels and time as we know it will end. We never know when our time to stand before the Judgment Seat of the Lord of Glory will be. Now is the day of salvation. If we aren’t ready now to make an account before God, then we have some work to do. So often, in our Churches, as Great Lent approaches, we hear “I can’t wait for Lent, so I can pray, repent, really get my life back on track.” The sentiment is wonderful. But it can’t wait for Lent, or for tomorrow for that matter, we have to begin now. St. Herman of Alaska said. “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all.” When, as Christians, we‘re baptized into Christ, and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we become a new man. And Christ says, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) Now is the day of salvation, now is the acceptable day when Lord will hear us, because the Kingdom of God is within. The Christian life is never about later; it’s always about now. Christ says we don’t have to look for the Kingdom, because it’s in us now (Luke 17:20-21). And He also tells us not to worry about the things of tomorrow, of the future, because the things of today are enough for today (Matthew 6:34). It’s always about what’s happening in our lives right now. This is carpe diem—seize the day—in its best incarnation. Today is the day of our soul’s salvation. In the Lord’s Prayer, Christ even teaches us to pray—“give us this day our daily bread.” Our salvation, our relationship with the living God, is not something we can put on the backburner. Not if we truly believe. Else we’ll look like the foolish virgins, waiting for the Bridegroom, but with no light to meet Him. Unprepared for the biggest moment of our existence. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, a modern Orthodox priest and spiritual father and theologian, truly laments the loss of this eschatological perspective in the Church. We’ve become too much “of the world,” and not simply “in the world.” The Church, the life in Christ, is about now, and about life in the eschaton (in the Kingdom). It’s about the here and now, which is the eternal. The Kingdom is within you. It doesn’t come in Heaven after death—everything converges in Christ. He could return now. And He heals us, and overcomes sin and death, not only in the past on the Cross, but on the Cross offering salvation as a constant present reality. And this tension, this constant realization and actualization that “today is the day of salvation.” This is the genuine attitude of the Christian toward life in this world. Fr. Schmemann writes—“What has Christianity lost?…joy—not natural joy…not joy from earthly happiness, but the Divine joy about which Christ told us that ‘no one will take your joy from you’ (John 16:22)…Christianity (not the Church in its mystical depth) [but Christianity the way we live it] has lost its eschatological dimension [has forgotten that in God the Kingdom is not future but now], [Christianity] has turned toward the world…[and has begun to teach] that it was always striving for this earthly happiness, that neither Christ nor the Church have ever taught anything else…” (The Journals of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, SVS Press, 2002, pp. 292-293) We have lost true joy because we’ve tried to replace it with earthly joy. But the Truth is just the opposite. The Church, even on the earth now, is life in eternity. Is the Kingdom of God come in power. It’s our job to live genuinely that which Christ brings—salvation is now. And salvation is not of the world, but transcends the world. Joins the created to the very life of God. Our prayer now, and tomorrow, and for a lifetime of nows, should be—Lord, help me to live this day as the day of ultimate salvation. “From this day, from this hour, from this [very] minute, let us love God above all.” (St. Herman of Alaska) Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!