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Posts Tagged ‘Sacrament of Confirmation’

“MY brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

What are soldiers trained to do?  They are trained to endure, to obey, to keep moving on no matter how tired, uncomfortable, or discouraged they get.  Soldiers are trained to keep their tools and weapons in good working order, clean and ready for use.  Soldiers are trained to be courageous in the face of danger, yet they are taught not to take undue risk.  Soldiers are trained to make use of what they have, whether that be intelligence, strength, cunning, or stamina.  Soldiers are trained to never quit, not through false and sappy feelings, but through hard discipline.  Christians have a lot to learn from soldiers.

American Christianity for generations has been steeped in comfort, a victim of our own success.  We have air conditioning and heating.  Did anybody walk here today?  Take public transportation?  We all have cars.  One of my first congregations still had an outhouse 20 years ago, but we have two sets of restrooms here.  I do not ask Gladys or Sam, our treasurers this, and so I do not know for sure, but we would be in the majority of parishes if some of us did not tithe our income or make a strenuous effort to do so.

But our physical comfort is not near the temptation to sin that our spiritual comfort is.  When we sit in our favorite chair, complacent and self-satisfied with our relationship with God, we are at our weakest and most vulnerable to sin.  When we speak our personal feelings on religion as if they were the very word of God, we step off into the deep water of sin.  And all of our hot air won’t keep us afloat.

The freedom we enjoy is wonderful, especially when we consider state churches and persecution.  But we seldom use our freedom wisely.  Instead of hard discipline, we strongly prefer false and sappy feelings.  Anybody here who accomplished all the prayer and Scripture reading they set out to do this week probably has been putting some effort into making sure he did so.  For the rest of us, if we do not slog through the distractions of life and keep on keeping on in our prayers, we will never attain that level of personal devotion we know that we need.

For instead of hard-won discipline, most of us are content with pious feelings and simple understanding.  I do not mean child-like faith, which is pure and innocent, but I mean sloppy and ill-formed understanding.

One of my great frustrations every week is having to stop every so often when writing my sermon and look things up.  It disrupts the flow.  I already have a sense of what I want to say, or so I think.  But no one cares if my private train of thought is disrupted.  No one cares to hear what I have to say on my own.  Only by searching Scripture and the reflections of the saints and doctors of the Church do I keep myself from mistakenly spouting error and so keep myself growing in knowledge.

One of the profound dangers we face is when we substitute our soft fluffy and sappy feelings for a real relationship of trust, love, and obedience with Christ.  When we love our traditional liturgy more than we love Christ, we have worshipped an idol.  When we love our angel figures more than our guardian angel, we have loved wrongly.  When we love our traditional family Bible more than we love reading the Holy Scriptures, then we have missed the point.  When we love traditional marriage more than we love our spouse, we dishonor our vows made before God.

We love the soft and comfortable more than we love the actual and real because we want to remain in control.  Difficult things – unpleasant things – inconvenient things happen when we step off in faith and actually show Christian loving-kindness to our undeserving neighbor instead of opining about the undeserving wretches in society.  We are forced to change our comfortable ways when we look our estranged neighbor in the eye and actually listen to her.

In all this, we play a game of defense instead of a game of offense.  We play not to lose instead of playing to win.  If I stay within my aptly-named comfort zone, then I will not face uncomfortable challenges.  If I avoid my neighbor, then I will not face the consequences of my troublesome ways.  If I don’t read my Scripture, then I will not face my lack of spiritual understanding.  If I don’t examine my conscience, then I will not face my own sin.

We will jump through nearly any hoop to keep from confronting ourselves.  We trust ourselves more than Christ, even when we betray ourselves.

Most Christians throughout the years, even in St. Paul’s time, but especially in our own soft time, have preferred to cut and run rather than stand and fight.

 

Last week we saw Aileen Cappa receive strengthening in the Spirit and the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  To quote the Book of Common Prayer’s service of Confirmation:  “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and … the spirit of thy holy fear.”

She is now powerfully armed in this daily fight with sin and wickedness, and not only her, but all those of us who are Confirmed in our Holy Mother Church.  Yet if we do not daily practice prayer, perseverance, and supplication, then we might as well do as Job’s wife suggested to him:  “curse God, and die”.  The end result is the same.

 

It is no mistake that the Duties of Churchmen, being the irreducible minimum of Christian practice, are also good strong counsels for living mightily in the Lord and in resistance to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  If we worship our Lord Christ in the Holy Trinity every Sunday, we live under God’s might.  If we commune with Christ in the Holy Communion, then we eat and drink Christ.  If we fast, then we discipline our body to withstand temptation and live in loving-kindness.  If we tithe and give alms generously, we discipline our worldly life, submit ourself to our mighty God, and provide support for our Holy Church.  If we keep the Church’s law of marriage, remaining chaste in all our relations, then we discipline our bodies and temper our unruly passions.  If we examine our conscience and confess our sins, we keep ourselves squared-away and devoted to our Lord.

If you aren’t doing the basics required of you, then don’t fiddle around with trying to make up for it.  Do not worry about taking on additional fasts if you live in fornication.  Do not worry about attending extra services if you do not receive Holy Communion at least three times a year.  Do not try to make up in almsgiving your lack of soulful confession of sins.  Like good soldiers, good Christians must live out the basics before moving on to more advanced parts.  If you do not confess your sins, then you are not ready to teach.  If you do not attend Mass, you are not ready for Holy Orders.  If you do not fast, then you are not ready to govern.

A Christian without holy discipline is a Christian just waiting to wander out into sin without even realizing it.

I would rather us cancel Tuesday night prayer, supper, and Bible study and have every single one of us prayerfully examine our consciences every single day and confess our sins.

I would rather us cancel the Blessing of the Animals, Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, along with every special event and have every single one of us worship God in the Holy Mass every single Sunday without fail.

I would rather us cancel Sunday School and have every single one of us tithe as able and give alms.

I would rather us give up coffee hour and have every single one of us stay purely chaste in sexual holiness.

But there are no trade-offs like these.  We will keep our calendar the way it is, but we must remember that opening our lives up to Christ and following Him all the way to our own Calvary is not an option, that believing the fullness of the Gospel is not an option, that living a devoted, loving, and disciplined Christian life is not an option – these are essential.  Because in the end, nothing, nothing under Heaven, no, nothing at all shall separate you from the love of Christ.

 

“MY brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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