Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: As God called Joseph to take the Holy Family to Egypt, so too He calls us to take the blessings we have received and bring them into the world.

Now hold onto your hats folks: I am not perfect. And pardon me for being blunt: You aren’t perfect either. But I’m not going to stand up here and dissect Dcn. Steven, but I will show you a bit of my guts. I struggle with distractions during prayer time—sometimes it’s the cell phone beeping, or something that needs cleaning, or getting dinner started. But it doesn’t really matter what it is, since all of it draws me away from the one thing necessary.

Now, I’ve been working on this for quite some time, years. And, while I have made progress with certain distractions, it seems there’s always a new one to fill in where one has left off. It’s annoying, it's a burden, and it’s a pain because, as a clergyman, I am obliged to pray the daily office for my own intentions, for those to whom I’m called to serve, and for the whole Church. So sometimes it takes a several tries and a bit of time to complete my prayers.

Now I could get discouraged, and sometimes I do, and sometimes I get a lot frustrated. Because the good that I want to do I don’t do, and what I hate to do I keep on doing. So do I stop struggling? Do I stop swimming against the tide of distractions and fall back into the water and allow the current to carry me away? Certainly not! But every time I start to feel down about it, I remind myself that I’m not perfect, and that God knows whereof I was made and that He remembers that I am dust.

The struggle to do what I want to do, the battle to reach my real goal, this is a journey. And as St. Basil wrote, “Rough at first and hard to travel, and full of abundant sweat and toil, is the road that leads to virtue, and steep withal.” The path that we walk isn’t easy. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Mt. 7:13,14). But the struggle, the journey, isn’t in vain.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5).

We are not yet at our final destination. Earth such as it is—this mortal life that we enter in weakness, grow into strength, and then once more in weakness leave—this life is not our end, our purpose. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Our present life is not all that God has to offer us. God hasn’t invited us over for dinner, set out nice appetizers, and then thanked us for coming and showed us to the door. We presently have the appetizers, the foretaste of something greater. But we have not yet reached heaven. God made this world for us, but He made us for eternal life with Him. And the anticipation of living forever in eternal bliss, perfectly fulfilled, perfectly satisfied, perfectly striving (and achieving) more and more, that is our hope.

Who remembers the Gospel lesson from last Sunday? It was John 1:1–18. And in those 18 verses, what was the gist of what the apostle John is saying? Verses 1, 12, and 14, “The Word was God….to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” That’s the message of Christmas, the good news. And therein lies our hope, the right to become children of God.

We prayed this morning, “Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” There again is the good new of Christmas: that God humbled Himself to share our humanity. And there again is the message of hope: that we may share the divine life of God. As St. Peter wrote, “Through [Jesus’ own glory and goodness] he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature…” (2 Pe. 1:4). Jesus, God Himself, has given us great, precious promises, that is the covenants which were completed in His own sacrifice on the cross. And He did this so that we could participate in the divine nature as adopted children.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5).

So how do we go on pilgrimage? Well, the first thing is to know your destination, your goal, what you want to reach at end of the journey. That is what we call our “hope.” In life, we have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Ask me, “Fr. Jon Mark, what do you want to do?” And I reply, “Be a successful architect.” And you say, “And then?” “Become a parish priest.” “And then?” “Retire from architecture.” “And then?” “See my nephew’s children.” “And then?” There comes a final “and then” for each of us. What that final “and then” is, that is the most important answer. For me my final “and then” is that I want to die and wake up in blessed communion with God.

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