In a secular society that is focused on worldly desires, God desires for us is live holy lives as the Saints have done for more than two thousand years. The Saints lived lives dedicated to God instead of the world. They were willing to confess God in front of others, and they were willing to treat others with love, no matter how they were persecuted. Holiness is being willing to live for God rather than the world. Now is the time for us to live holy lives, and then we will affect change in others around us.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
This morning my brothers and sisters, the church brings to our minds, all the saints that have ever been. This Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost, the church remembers every holy man and holy woman, whether we know who they are or don't know who they were. The church brings to our attention, the consciousness of this great cloud of witnesses that the church has for all these 2000 years.
And in the midst of our current struggles in our society, I find it a blessing that the church brings to our consciousness holiness. Holiness is something my brothers and sisters that the contemporary world doesn't pay much attention to. In fact, in many of the Protestant churches, holiness, the ability to become holy is actually not emphasized the way we emphasize it in the Orthodox church.
The very word άγιος in Greek, holy in English, means to be not earthly. It doesn't mean to not be on the earth because obviously we are born from the earth, but it means that our life is not worldly and is not dedicated and surrounding and revolving around the worldly things, the fleshly passions, the egos of the world, the power struggles of society, et cetera, et cetera.
All the things that we see our society struggling with, including the current racial tensions of our society, can be solved by looking at life and choosing to become holy, choosing to become, as Christ said, as the Father was. So the question is, how do we become holy?
Well, luckily for us, God gave us a little bit of an example today. And he says, "Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before my father who is in heaven."
One way we could become holy is to openly and willingly confess our love for Jesus Christ in front of other people. Seems basic enough. And yet how many of us when faced with even just a little bit of pushback and struggle, do we refrain from confessing God.
Because I've said this before, and I'm going to say it again. In the year 2020, in the 21st century, persecution of Christians is not going to be with the sword, at least in America. Persecution of Christians in America is going to be our reputation and our bank accounts.
Whether or not we are looked at as worthy members of society. That is going to be how the contemporary world persecutes us as Christians. And let's face it, many times in our life to avoid being seen as being either too extreme in our faith or to avoid being made fun of, we do not confess God in front of other people. We choose to remain comfortable and we choose to remain respected in society.
And so Christ warns us. He says, "But whoever denies me before men, him, I will also deny before my father who is in heaven." It isn't just good enough to not deny Christ. We must confess him. We must be willing in our personal interactions, with our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, complete strangers at the grocery store, we must be willing to confess our faith in Jesus Christ. And we have to be willing to let go of a little reputation every now and then if we want to be holy.
And then the Lord continues. "He who loves son or daughter. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
Three challenges on how we can become holy and worthy of God. One, if we put anyone or anything ahead of God in our life, we are not being holy. And that is a very strong temptation. How many times, I'm sure myself included, how many times have we, "Well, I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to go to church today because of a familial relationship."
Someone who has said something, or someone wants something or something has been done or said within our family. And so to avoid the conflict, we stay home instead of coming to church or a variety of things. In those moments, we're choosing our family above God.
Now, it doesn’t mean? Here's what this does not mean. It does not mean that we are critical of our family. It does not mean that we throw our family aside. There's a difference between putting God first and throwing our family aside. God does not want us to cast anyone aside. In fact, the saints that we're celebrating today in the Sunday of All Saints, so many of them.
One of the reasons why we call them holy today is because they were willing even in their own persecution, even when they were being tortured, they treated those who were torturing them even with love and compassion.
I'm reminded of the story of Saint Paraskevi, boiled in a pot of oil. While being boiled, of course, she's being taunted. "Oh, the oil must not be very hot." She sprinkles it in his eyes and he's blinded. To show the power of God, what does she do, but she heals him. She healed the very man who was boiling her in oil.
That's holiness, that's why we call her Saint Paraskevi. Not just because she gave her life, but that in the midst of giving her life, she had compassion on those who were killing her.
Instead, most of us choose to be self-righteous in the face of persecution. It's very popular right now with the various protests and other things going on in our society. Everyone is self-righteous, everyone is better than somebody else. And if you don't agree with someone else, then they are the enemy. That's not holiness
Holiness, even in the face of disagreements, even in the face of persecution, and I would say, especially in this certain situation of racial tension in our society, even in the face of hatred, we have to live holy lives and be respectful and compassionate to those who are against us.
This is what we're celebrating today on the Sunday of All Saints, these holy men and women who gave us examples of life, a life that was not revolving around the worldly things, but revolving around God.
And then for the remainder of the gospel, Christ says, "Whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or a wife or children or lands for my sake shall receive 100 fold and inherit eternal life." My brothers and sisters, what are we willing to give up to be able to be with God and to be holy like him?
Are we able to give up the creature comforts of our society? The day is coming, where that might be a necessity for us as Christians. Are we willing to give up our little reputation in our society? The day is coming, mark my words, the day is coming when that's going to be part of our Christian struggle in our society.
But now here's the largest challenge in this gospel. When Christ says, "If you do not pick up your cross." We must, my brothers and sisters give up our ego to be holy. We cannot go through life thinking that we always know best. Worse, sometimes that we're the only ones that know best. This is not picking up our cross.
Christ calls us to a life of humility and love. A life of holiness. And I believe very strongly that the church has what is necessary to heal our society, because the church has love and compassion, if we allow it to show.
Let's begin with our own relationship with God, let's begin by witnessing our faith, confessing our faith to others. Let's begin by willing to give up a little reputation and a little self-righteousness. Let's begin by giving up our ego. And when we start living holy lives, then the people of our society that we come in contact with will finally be able to see the hope and the love that is in Christ’s church through our life.
That is why we celebrate today, the day of all saints known and unknown. And as Saint Paul tells us, we too are called to be saints. We too are called to live holy lives, not just in heaven, but right here, right now in Tarpon Springs. Glory to God, for all things.
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