St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

Finding the Barriers Within Ourselves

 

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, December 1, 2019

“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ has broken down the walls that separate us, “the dividing wall of hostility.” He unites, he does not divide, for division and separateness, fear, hatred, bitterness, and strife comes not from God, but rather from the Evil One. As his disciples our vocation is to find ways to bring together in one loving embrace all people and all creatures in his most holy Name so that all we previously considered to be separate from us may find a place in our open and compassionate hearts. This is a very high calling.

Paul’s prayer for us in Romans 15:13  is this— "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." And from Colossians 3:15 — "let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." The Lord will not force us to do this, we must let it happen.

And from the Lord Christ himself in John 16:33 — "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. 

The heart of a faithful follower of the Prince of Peace is to bring peace to this world. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Mt. 5:9) The heart of the faithful Christian overflows with peace towards everyone and everything, to all of creation in fact.

Isaac of Syria even extends this to the demons saying that the heart of a true Christian weeps even for them. So, one wonders how it is that we can think anyone or anything is ever to be excluded in our calling to bring peace and unity.

I realize of course that the world is a very different place than it was even ten or twenty years ago. We are challenged on all sides to follow the Gospel in the strange land in which we find ourselves. And if the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true in more familiar and comfortable times, then it must also be true in the new ones. Every age has its challenges.

Truth does not change with the times, but we must in order to find new ways to bring the Gospel to our times. The greatest fathers always found ways to communicate the faith in ways that could be more easily understood to the people in their times. One thing is for sure: we are not called to foment wars cultural or otherwise, but rather to put an end to them and yes, to offer the world the peace that passes understanding. God’s ways are not our ways, so to discover his we must be willing to let go of ours.

It is true, it has always been true, and always will be that we cannot blame what is outside of us for our discomfort – it always comes from within. And it is not our neighbors who need to change so we will love them; it is we who must change so that we can. We must become unifiers and peacemakers wherever we are and with whomever we meet so that we can be called the children of God.

This verse from Rumi always comes to mind when I meditate on this theme. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” In Christian terms this is called repentance.