I recently bought a copy of the book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek for each member of our parish council. My main motivation is to drive home a fundamental point and a fundamental danger to any community or association: If you forget why you do what you do, you will soon stop doing what you do!
As a further consequence of this foundational amnesia, you will also not be able to perpetuate what you do in the lives of those who follow you; your children, grandchildren, and extended family and friends.
This fundamental reality will never be escaped. It won’t change. It won’t be maneuvered around. You just gotta deal with it!
So, when we say we want our children to stay connected to the Faith; when we say we want our parishes to grow and our faith to not only survive but thrive and we don’t constantly reinforce the “why” of our faith; our chances of being remotely successful (and I would contend “of being remotely honest about our stated desire”) is dim. The truth is we can’t ignore the foundational “why” we are Orthodox and still pass on a strong Orthodoxy to the next generation. It’s not that it can’t happen; it simply won’t happen. And our demographic reality proves this to be true. As the old preacher once said “God ain’t got no grandchildren!”
This is actually the reason our Faith prescribes the reading of Genesis during this first week of Great Lent. In the very first few chapters of Genesis our Lord preserves for us the fundamental “why” of all faith, all devotion, all worship, and even all theology. If you want a powerful reason to be faithful, pay attention to Genesis! Start at the Beginning!
So, our Scripture Lesson today comes to us from Genesis 1:24-2:3. Here Moses recounts for us the completion of the creation of the world, ending with the creation of humanity. And in this passage God reveals the fundamental “why” of our existence and the fundamental motivation for all our serious, committed devotion and practice of our most holy faith. Sounds like we should all pay close attention here, doesn’t it?
The key is in Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
So, God made you, me, everyone, EVERYONE, in His image. This gift from our Creator is not revocable. If this is true then all humans share this gift without exception. Period. This fundamental “why” of our existence means we were made to first and foremost be in relationship with our Creator AND in relationship with everyone who is in relationship with our Creator. We were MADE for communion. Whatever destroys communion, hampers communion, weakens communion, or diminishes communion is an enemy of our fundamental “why.” And it is an illness meant to be overcome by repentance and disciplined practice of the wisdom of the faith. We were fundamentally made to be in communion with God and each other.
But there’s more. We were made to also be matured into His Likeness. The ONLY path to the kind of communion God made us to know and live is through us becoming, growing up into, the likeness of our Creator. We were made for the eternal and exciting journey of maturity until we are “like” God. That path, that motivation, that cosmic goal is the ONLY Goal and Motivation strong enough to sweep aside all the lesser goals and motivations of this fallen world. It is the only Goal and Motivation big enough to become the singular number one priority of each human person. And the glorious truth this essential priority reveals is that when we make this number one priority our number one priority, all the other priorities of our lives fall into proper order! We finally grow up, mature beyond, the self destructive and immature motivations that destroy our lives, our happiness, and our hope. That’s our fundamental “WHY!” That’s what we have to instill in our children, family, and friends if we ever hope to ever be honest about wanting to pass on our Orthodox faith.
So, today, what do you do regularly to reinforce this fundamental “why” of your devotion to the Orthodox faith? Are you taking advantage of the spiritual tools laid at your feet by your faith? Worship services, Bible studies, service opportunities, caring for the poor, actually allowing that fundamental “why” to energize all your other behaviors!
Today, we are in Great Lent, Treasures are available to you, your children, your family and friends that reveal, strengthen, and mature your “why” of your existence. Today, will you courageously DO WHY you were MADE?