Friday, February 18, 2011

Whenever You’re Ready…God is Waiting

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15.11-32) we hear of a son who leaves his father for a life of selfish waste and “high living” until he finds himself broke and eating pig slop. In this state of lowliness the son remembers that his father’s servants lived better than he was, so he decided to return to his father and live as a servant. Anything would be better than living with pigs!

The entire time the son was wasting his inheritance, the father waited and kept watch for his son to return. He never chased after the son, but watched the horizon for any sign of his son’s return. And one day he did. “But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (15.20) The father was so full of joy that he ran to embrace his son and welcome him home. He didn’t even consider allowing his son to remain as a servant, but restored him to his rightful position as a son. “But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.'” (Luke 15.22-24)

Today is our chance to act like the prodigal son. God is waiting for us to turn our life and face Him so He can run to us and embrace us and escort us into His kingdom. We shouldn’t be afraid to face Him. He will only love us and welcome us home. There is only one thing that keeps us away from God….our own choice. Just as the son had to choose to return to his father we must choose to face God with our lives.

God knows who we are and where are and He is waiting for us to return to Him.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Need for Mercy

In the Gospel of Luke, our Lord offers us a chance to learn just what type of life He is expecting of us. In the Parable of the Publican and Pharisee, our Lord teaches, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18.14) Humility is at the very core of our Christian lifestyle and the root in understanding the need for mercy.

The Tax Collector (Publican), whom the Lord lifts up as being justified, cried out “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18.13) In fact he couldn’t even lift his eyes up to God he was so full of shame for his sins. The Lord is teaching us a profound lesson – we are all sinners and we must accept that reality and beg for God’s mercy. On the contrary, the Pharisee, the one whom society presumed to be holy and righteous showed only pride when he declared, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (Luke 18.12) The Lord says, even though the Pharisee was dedicated to living according to the Law, since he could not see his own sinfulness and went so far as to think of himself as superior to the Publican, he was not justified.

No one is sinless except for God. Period! Whether we sin so-called “small” sins or “big” sins we still sin and until we can accept that reality we are not likely to seek God’s mercy in our lives. And if we don’t seek His mercy He can’t give us mercy, not because He doesn’t want to, but because we haven’t asked. God doesn’t force anything upon us, even mercy!

So follow the example of the Publican in the Gospel and acknowledge your sinfulness and beg for mercy. You will be justified by God – HE guarantees it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Leave Your Comfort Zone and Reach for God

One expression very common in today’s society is, “get out of your comfort zone.” It is used in many areas, but the most common is in the gym. Fitness trainers know and athletes confirm for us that the only way to get physically fit and stronger is to get out of our comfort zone and push ourselves just a bit. Let’s face it; this philosophy works for just about anything we desire to accomplish. We can only swim when we leave the comfort of the dry land. We can only get married when we ask. We can truly only be successful in anything when we leave our comfort zone and reach for something greater.

In this morning’s Gospel, the Woman from Canaan did just that. In fact, there were three ways she left her comfort zone. The Gospel of Matthew says, “And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon possessed.’” (Matthew 15.22) This first venture out was when she left the comfort of her own home. The woman left her sick daughter and approached Christ begging for mercy. If the woman had not chosen to leave her home that day, she would never have encountered God on the road.

The same holds true for us. We left our comfort zone this morning when we decided to leave our homes and come to Church. It would have been very convenient to stay at home, pay some bills, read a book, go to the gym, etc. Many people have Sunday routines that don’t include Church but only when we leave that routine and come to Church are we able to meet the Lord who is truly present with us. We pray in the Divine Liturgy, “Lord Jesus Christ, our God, hear us from Your holy dwelling place and from the glorious throne of Your kingdom. You are enthroned on high with the Father and are also invisibly present among us. Come and sanctify us, and let Your pure Body and precious Blood be given to us my Your mighty hand and through us to all Your people.” (from the Divine Liturgy) Just like the woman, we would not be able to receive this blessing if we had chosen to remain home in our comfort zone this morning.

The second venture out of her comfort zone for the woman was when she ignored the ridicule of the people. “And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she cries out after us.’” (Matthew 15.23) She just as easily could have said, “I don’t need this; I’ll just go back home and pray to God from there,” but then she would not have met Him face to face.

Again the same is true for us. We have chosen to come to Church this morning despite many people ridiculing our decision to be in Church, or worse just like the woman, fellow believers try to send us away either by their actions or just the look on their faces. It would be much easier and much less painful quite frankly, to stay at home or attend another Church and remain in our comfort zone than to face ridicule from those who should be lifting us up. But we came to reach out to Christ just as the woman, and because we left our comfort zone He is blessing us this morning. Of course, we might not recognize it yet as I’m sure the woman didn’t realize her blessing right away.

Finally, the woman not only left her comfort zone, she discarded it all together by presenting herself to the Lord in complete and utter humility. “But He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15.26) Not even the big dogs….the little insignificant dogs. What more could the woman take? First she leaves her house and the Lord doesn’t even answer her prayer. “But He answered her not a word.” (Matthew 15.23) Then she’s ridiculed by His disciples and He says, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15.24) And finally after being called a dog, she has given up all pride and any sense of comfort. She boldly came forward and humbly says, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15.27) There isn’t anyone who would have blamed her for throwing up her hands and giving up after being called a dog, but not this woman. This was a woman of great faith. The Lord says, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matthew 15.28)

The Lord planned all along to heal this woman’s daughter, to be certain. He knew her deep faith and humility so He desired to lift her up for others as an example of faith. The same holds true for us. The Lord knows our faith. He knows how much we can handle and He knows how He plans to bless us. But He just wants us to leave our comfort zone and place our complete faith in Him, just like this woman, and He will bless us.

You see my brothers and sisters in Christ, if we desire to be blessed by God, sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone and reach for God without fear of what others may say about us. Sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone and stick with it or even chase after Him and swallow some of our pride. Sometimes we have to come in complete and utter humility and accept that we don’t deserve anything special from Him and just then He will reach back and bless us.

This week, take the chance and leave your comfort zone and reach for God. If you don’t fast, then fast this week. If you don’t normally come to bible study, come to bible study. If you don’t normally tell someone about your faith is Christ, share a few moments with a friend about how the Lord is working in your life. There are so many chances for us to leave our comfort zone, we just have to do it and the Lord will take care of the rest.

If we’re so willing to leave our comfort zone for the gym, a swim, or business, then why not leave our comfort zone for the Lord? The Woman of Canaan seemed to think it was worth it….don’t you?

Friday, February 4, 2011

It’s Time to Get out of Your Comfort Zone

In the Gospel story of the Woman of Canaan, we hear much more than just a story of another miracle healing by Jesus Christ. Matthew has outlined his version of this miracle in such a way to almost leaving the actual healing as secondary to the story. In fact the confirmation of the healing is simply stated “And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matthew 15.28) The truth of healing is indeed present, but, as in so many other instances, Jesus emphasizes the woman’s faith rather than the physical healing.

Matthew has chosen to emphasize the woman’s character in his teaching. “And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!’” (Matthew 15.22) She chose to get out of her comfort zone and approach Christ rather than sit in her house waiting for a miracle. She had to swallow her pride and go after Christ and He did not make her journey too easy, although He clearly intended to heal her daughter. At first He didn’t even answer her call, but she persisted, “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15.25) Then His Disciples tried to get rid of her and finally Jesus Himself says, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15.26) And still she persisted, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15.27) This was definitely NOT in her comfort zone, but in her humility she knew she must reach for Christ.

When was the last time you got out of your comfort zone to pursue Jesus Christ? It’s very easy to sit back and continue to “do what we’ve always done” because we’re comfortable with how it feels. But we can only really encounter God’s mercy when we leave our comfort zone and go after Him, calling to Him, “Lord, have mercy!” Don’t you think it’s time to get out of YOUR comfort zone? The Church is here for you with her arms wide open with prayer, fasting, almsgiving and attending services during the week. God is waiting, are you coming?