Sunday, May 3, 2009

Focus Upon Christ and Let Him Take Care of the Rest

The story is a common one for many of you here this morning and for most of our ancestors. It is the story of the immigrant. The immigrant leaves his home with whatever he can carry for a journey of unknowns; unknown challenges and unknown blessings in an unknown land. The immigrant sometimes travels with family but sometimes not. He sometimes travels with friends but sometimes not. But when he travels alone, he often finds new friends with which to share adventure and food. He is not alone but has his hope only in God to keep him safe and help him get established in his new home. So much depends upon God for his survival: will he get a job, will he find a place to live, and will he have enough money? The immigrant isn’t held back simply because of these unknowns because God will provide the room, the job and the money he needs to survive. His entire hope rests in God!

Hope in God is what the myrrh bearing women had in this morning’s Gospel. They were already on their way to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ when they asked each other, “Who will roll away the stone from the door for us?” (Mark 16.3) They didn’t hesitate to travel to the tomb just because they didn’t know how they would get inside. All they knew was that they had to go to the tomb. Like the drive of the immigrant, their hope was in Christ to help them when they arrived.

And Christ did help. Saint Mark says, “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away – for it was very large.” (Mark 16.4) The Gospel of Matthew tells us that God sent His angel to move the stone. (Matthew 28.2) After sending help Christ blessed the women for their faith. He rewarded them by allowing them to be the first to see Him after the Resurrection. He did this because they had the strength and courage to seek Christ no matter what and leave the rest up to Him. The very large stone that had sealed the tomb of God was no match for the faith of these women. We remember when Christ says, “For assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” (Matthew 17.20) And this was only a large boulder and no boulder was going to keep them from their journey that morning.

We are all on a journey my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. We are on the journey we call life. We are all headed somewhere. But where are we headed? What do we seek from our journey? The myrrh bearing women knew where they were headed and they knew what they were seeking – they were seeking Jesus Christ. We are called to be like the myrrh bearing women and seek Jesus and He will take care of whatever challenges lie in the way.

Each of us here this morning has had some challenge in life to overcome. For some it was or maybe still is a serious illness. For others it may be family struggles with our spouse or children. For others is may be job related. For all of us though our challenges force us to ask ourselves what we really want in life. When our answer includes God and a relationship with Him then God will help us through our challenges. And when we have enough faith that God can do what He promises, “nothing will be impossible for us.” (Matthew 17.20)

The key for us is seeking out Christ first in our lives. It was only two weeks ago when we gathered in the darkness and proclaimed the victory of Christ over death. For a few days maybe we were still on a spiritual high. But it’s been two weeks of work and school and driving the kids around town for their activities and paying bills and more bills and for some of us looking for work just so we can have money to pay those bills. It is no wonder that we grow weak and forget to spend time with God. But the Devil doesn’t forget to tempt us and never stops trying to stop us from seeking God in our lives. The more we worry about our lives the easier it becomes for the Devil to fool us.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ don’t be fooled! The Devil never stops trying to convince us that God isn’t going to take care of us when we are down and out… but God will take care of us. The Devil cheers every time we lose hope in Christ. We must never lose hope that God will do exactly as He promises. He took care of the rock for the myrrh bearing women and He will take care of our challenges. He took care of the immigrant and He will take care of us.

He will bless us and honor us when we place our hope in Him and seek Him like the myrrh bearing women in this morning’s Gospel. They went on a journey headed for Christ and God removed the obstacles in their way. He will do the same thing for us if we keep our journey called life headed for Christ. The myrrh bearing women didn’t travel alone and neither should we. God has given us the Church to help us in our journey just like He sends a new friend to the lone immigrant.

We are not alone! Christ is with us and present in His Church. In the Church we have all the tools we need for our journey to Christ. Are we struggling with our passions? Then the Church has tools to help us overcome that challenge. When we fast we learn how to conquer our passions. Does our mind wander away from God on to other things? Then the Church has tools to help us overcome that challenge. When we pray the Jesus Prayer we learn to keep our focus upon God. Are we struggling with selfishness? Do we care more about ourselves and our own struggles than the needs of our brothers and sisters around us? Then the Church has tools to help us overcome that challenge. When we do charitable works for others and donate money to charities then we learn that life is not just about us. We are all on this journey called life together.

Together we are struggling to know Christ and become transfigured and as Orthodox Christians we have the most blessed help of all in our lives…Holy Communion. God came and “dwelt among us” (John 1.14) and said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” (John 6.54) We can only live if we commune with God. Christ said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15.6) Death comes if we remain alone and without God in our life.

The immigrant had many struggles when he arrived in this country but he soon found the Church and as a community in Christ, this group of immigrants overcame their challenges and lived fruitful lives in a new land. We can also live fruitful lives in our new land – The Kingdom of God – when we keep our hope in Christ and seek a relationship with Him.

Christ is Risen!

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