Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Golden Rule, A “How to get to Heaven” Manual

The weather has been getting a bit cooler lately and winter will be with us before we know it. In the mountains that means snow and snow means a new ski season is just around the corner. I used to ski a lot when I was young. The joy and thrill of skiing down the mountain is best shared with a friend. In Colorado, Monday morning conversation during ski season is consumed with ski talk (second only to Bronco-mania) as friends share the secrets of new found ski slopes where the lift lines are short and the snow is deep and there is always someone in the group who is a ski fanatic and knows all the best places. Whenever you wanted a new place to ski he was the guy who knew where to go and when. Everyone knows that the best skiers know where the best skiing is. You wouldn’t dream of asking someone who’s never been skiing where the best slopes were.

As fun as skiing is, as Christians we are more interested in spending eternity in heaven, not just a few hours on the slopes. So why would we ask, or at least follow the example of, people in our society who aren’t trying to get to heaven how to get there? Our society is filled with people who are experts in their respective professions. If you want to know how to have a successful musical career Michael Jackson is a great example of an expert who has been very successful in his professions but do you really want to end up like Michael Jackson? If only there was a “How to Get to Heaven” manual for us to follow.

There is and it has examples. The manual is called The Bible and the examples are the Saints of the Church. This morning’s Gospel lesson is a short easy manual, and if we follow it we are sure to get to heaven. Let’s take a few minutes to see just how…

This morning Jesus Christ gives us “The Golden Rule” as a way to salvation. “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them.” (Luke 6.31) When Jesus was asked how to get to heaven, He reminded the lawyer of the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22.37-39) This morning He tells us how to love our neighbor. “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” (Luke 6.35)

Compare that with how society tells us how to live: get what you can, as much as you can, as fast as you can, from whomever you can, however you can, and you will be happy….until of course the economy collapses. In its wake society leaves broken, hurt, bitter, wounded people. We have two options, follow society or follow Jesus and Christ and His Church. When was the last time you heard a bank say, “pay it back when you can…if you can’t pay it back, don’t worry we have enough?” If you want to go skiing ask a skier, but if you want to get to heaven ask Jesus Christ and His Church.

The Saints of our Church struggled just like we do. They were doctors, lawyers, builders, fishermen, scholars, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. You name it; they experienced it including a lot of suffering because society was telling them to live a certain way; and the Saints refused but they were rewarded by God for their commitment to Him. This is why we surround ourselves with their pictures; so we can be inspired to follow Christ as they did.

Look around the Church and get to know the Saints we have: Saint Barbara, Saint Katherine, Saint Nektarios, Saint George, Saint Demetrios, Saint Thomas, Saint Basil, and Saint John the Baptist. Get to know their lives and use them as examples. They followed the manual and so can we.

Jesus says, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6.32-33) Put another way, if we love like society tells us to love we are no better than society. We must not follow the example of society; we must follow the example of the Saints! As Christians we are asked to love even our enemies whether we love them or not. Isn’t that what God does for us? “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5.8)

Saint Paul knew the risks of society. We just heard in the Epistle reading this morning, “Therefore, having this promise, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh [what Saint Paul uses to mean the worldly way of life].” (2 Corinthians 7.1) Saint Paul also says, “You [we] are the temple of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 6.16) When we follow the Golden Rule and love others as ourselves then we will love them and treat them like they are the temple of God.

What does the Golden Rule mean for us today in 2009? When we give someone our word, don’t we want other people to believe what we say? Then we should trust what others tell us and then if someone lies or forgets what they told us we should forgive them. At some time haven’t we all done this and hoped to be forgiven? When someone has an idea for something in our Church and we don’t agree, we should listen and not just throw out ideas that we don’t agree with. I’m sure others have done the same for us. And when we make decisions, we must believe that those who made the decisions didn’t mean anything hurtful to us because sometimes decisions don’t make everyone happy but that doesn’t make them bad decisions.

Once decisions are made in our Church we should all support them because we are one Church, one Body of Christ. If we continue to fight against ideas once decisions have been made we will not grow as a Community. And if we do not grow as a Community then we will surely die. Jesus Christ prayed, and we pray, for unity in the Church. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word: that they will be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You have given Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17.20-23)

There may be times when our ideas are ignored, when we are not trusted by others, when we are not respected. It is at these times we must not return bad behavior with bad behavior and that’s ok even if it hurts a little. If we are only good to those who are good to us then we will be just like the sinners.

Skiers are very loyal to the art of skiing. When there is a great mountain to ski they tell others how to get there. Jesus Christ has told His Church how to get to heaven and the Saints followed His advice. The Saints are like loyal skiers telling us in their writings, but most especially in their daily lives, how to find our way to heaven. It’s now our turn to follow the path and live like Jesus Christ wants us to live and we will become “sons [and daughters] of the Most High.” (Luke 6.36) And let’s not forget to tell our friends how to get there too! It’s a bit like skiing; heaven won’t be any fun if we are alone.

1 comment:

Vasiliki Poulos, Raleigh said...

Dear Father, this is a very important topic. Thank you for writing this. This post ( is very similar. It seems Greek theology is truly one Faith.