St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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Weekly Message 11-22-09: Twenty Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

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Twenty Fourth Sunday

Our Lord visits the home today of one of the early leaders of the Jewish synagogue. This man offered his life in service at the local place of prayer. No doubt because of his efforts, much of what was successful in the local temple among the Jews was accomplished by souls such as Jairus. This man and his family recognized the value of being affiliated with, devoted to and active in the place of prayer and salvation.

So why does God want us to belong to the Church? His revelation to us in Scripture teaches us the Church is an incredibly special vehicle. In fact, the Church is described as the "Bride" of Christ. That is a powerful and compelling metaphor for where the Church stands in God's eyes, since, obviously it exists only because He founded and created it as He created Eve for Adam in paradise. The mission of the Church is no less compelling to be the ultimate model of love to the world, the outward expression of God's incomparable passion for people everywhere. The Church demonstrates this not­of-this-world brand of love by showing uncommon compassion and unity and by making a difference in the lives of people.

And here is the real kicker: the Church is not building; it is us. You and me. It is reborn people. Where we meet is not so important, although our surroundings can greatly augment, assist and strengthen us in faith response if we have the right atmosphere. After all heaven is entirely different than this simple earth. But the simple over all purpose of the Church is being the delivery system of God's redeeming love to a love­parched world and is so essential to the fulfillment of potential in our lives individually and to the plight of every generation.

It is only a baptized fool who does not attend and worship in Church regularly. Beings signed or more realistically, branded with the Cross of Christ in baptism, absent from the company of believers identify themselves as one who wants to reach a goal without making any effort; very foolish and dangerous thinking indeed. Think about it: how many faithful people will be paradise alone because they could not exert any influence on their loved ones to join them? How silly some people think that because a husband or wife is faithful in prayer and praise, they will be saved too. A man was questioned by a priest some years ago about what church he went to. His answer was "I don't go, but my wife is faithful." The priest quickly answered, "you cannot save your soul by proxy!"

Sitting at home is entirely different than sitting in a pew. If we do not keep company with the assembly of the saved here and now, we are not going to share it for eternity either. A woman spoke recently about how much she and her husband were enjoying retired life. But she alone came to church. Her priest was quick to remind her to do something about her recalcitrant husband because she was going to miss his company in eternity at the rate he was going. Why people think life together is good here and now, but don't do anything to prepare for eternity together always eludes me.

Being a communicant of the Church is an apt description. It means not only attending, but participating, living, being nurtured and fed on the Body and Blood of the Saviour, on the Word of God, being sustained on the Mysteries given us for the good of our soul.

It is very difficult to save your soul; actually impossible if you can be here each Sunday and holyday, but decide otherwise. The ideal is what our God desires. One man who formerly came here told me that he would never come to church on holydays because it was too much and since his parents had not done it, he couldn't find room in his life either. I often wonder where his parents are now that they are dead and where he is not that he wanders around aimlessly following his own imaginary wisdom.

St. Paul in his Hebrew epistles warns his listeners about forsaking the assembly, not being present when the opportunity is provided because we substitute something else in place of praying to and praising God. The word church in ancient Greek means "an assembly" or gathering of people. We as believers understand it to mean an assembly of believers who have Christ as their Saviour and the Church as their protective mother. In the book, Acts of the Apostles, we see people gathering and meeting together in the first century for one fundamental purpose: that together they would worship and sing the praises of our God. Their purpose was to "break bread", receive the Body and Blood of the Saviour and also hear the joyous word of God explained to them.

Certain things critical to a believer's life can only really happen in a community of other believers where each believer has spiritual gifts from God (1 Corinthians 12). There is no question our God intends for those gifts to be used for the common good of all who embody the local parish. Relationships we establish among ourselves help us mature in our relationship; with our heavenly Father and each other as well. If we read the writings of St. Paul, we note how they are filled with "one another..." which believers literally fulfill when we assemble to glorify God; when we come together to build each other up, to encourage one another, to provide an example for one another, to encourage and spur onward and upward in love and good deeds those with whom we share the faith of Christ.

Finally, our Lord promises that whenever and wherever two or three believers are gathered in prayer, his spirit would be present. And whenever the presence of Christ is any and every good thing we can image then becomes possible. So be here every Sunday and holyday and make possible the success of our parish in this community.

See to it that the wonders and signs which occurred in the life of Jairus occur here among us because we are all equally faithful to the cause of Christ.


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