- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Excerpts from yesterday’s sermon at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Falls Church, delivered by the Rev. David G. Subu.

On the Sunday after the day of Holy Cross in the Orthodox churches, we hear the apostle Paul say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Elsewhere we hear, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” And similarly, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” We are told that in Christ there is “a new creation.” So how can we as Christians live in such a way that Christ lives within us?

The Lord says in the Gospel, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” This daily act of taking up the Cross is the path of which St. Paul could boast, the way of Jesus Christ, and this way forms the core of his message to the Galatians.

This path of the Cross is also the path of the Spirit. One cannot be truly spiritual without being crucified to the world. To walk in the Spirit is the same as living the life of the Cross, calling us to crucify the flesh “with its passions and desires.” How many ways the flesh wages war against the Spirit. So if in our own life we cannot say confidently that Christ “lives in me,” then chances are that we have not crucified the flesh. Paul gives us a means to identify how: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like. …”

It is good to look at this list to see in what areas of our life we are suffering. We might be in outright denial of our sin or we do not realize its full impact. Perhaps the hurts of others left their mark on us early in life — and even though we did not commit the sin, we carry its burden. Most certainly we suffer the consequences. This is not only true of cases such as abuse or addiction, but with any passion.

Every sin leaves its mark. A petty, jealous, envious, divisive or ambitious parent can spiritually scar a child just as seriously as an adulterer or alcoholic. All of our experiences of sin can and should be identified. How easy it is to become entangled again and again if we are unwilling to see the full depth of our sin.

After this, some of us may still sense emptiness in the life of our spirit. For some reason, we have grown distant from Christ, who wishes to dwell in us. Perhaps because being free from passions is only the start: We have to be filled with the Holy Spirit in return. If the works of the flesh are evident, even more so are the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. When we ask the Lord to have mercy on us, we are not only asking Him to preserve us from the works of the enemy but also to grant us the riches of His grace — these spiritual fruits.

We may try very hard to rekindle the Spirit, wandering from one spiritual adventure to the next. We may begin to doubt our faith because we are not “getting anything” out of our worship. Like those who seek a miracle diet, we hope that somehow God will give us a quick fix, without us really taking up the Cross and entering into a new way of life.

Christian faith working through love, the same kind of self-emptying love that Christ has for us, is the only true cure for our spiritual illnesses, and the only way to take up the Cross effectively and meaningfully.

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