The Centers for Disease Control came out with their 2012 report on Births in the US and they discovered that out of the almost 4 million births in America, over 1,600,000 babies were born in this year to unwed women. You can read the entire report at www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_09.pdf
While I truly appreciate the old saying that figures don’t lie, but liars figure, I can’t help but be struck by the almost complete loss of any notion of alarm by the growing “freedom” of our society to tinker with morals and seemingly complete blindness to the cost of this tinkering. These are real lives, real people who are going to have to live with the consequences of our actions or inactions.
However, we are always tempted to believe we live in the “best of times, the worst of times.” We humans have this amazing ability to be intoxicated by elation and despondency, and practically live in either of these two fantasy worlds with all that intoxication brings (rarely good things, by the way).
So, if our faith, our commitment to being Orthodox on Purpose is to have any meaning at all beyond just wanting to be “better people,” we have to come to grips with the reality that our faith is meant to actually mimic the “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We aren’t meant to just be better people. Most self-help books could do that. You don’t need faith to be committed to self-improvement. No, we are meant to be “new” people. We are meant to be “like Christ!”
Our Gospel Lesson gives us a peek into how best to deal with the cold splash of water in the face that seeing the world as it is and not being overwhelmed is not only possible, but actually normal life for the person of faith.
Look at Mark 1:9-15: In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”
What is fascinating about this isn’t any suggestion that the Lord was unwilling to follow His path, but that Mark clearly wants to convey two important truths: Awareness of your mission motivates and even “drives” you AND God isn’t shy when it comes to redeeming people He loves. This is no laissez faire rescue attempt! This is serious. There will be another time in the Lord’s ministry, right before His crucifixion, that we will see this same conflict played out when He tells His Father “not My will, but Your will be done.”
Today, what drives you? What motivates you? Is your faith at a high enough priority in your life that you see the world around you and you participate in this urgent rescue mission initiated by God Himself? What is your part in this rescue mission to people He loves so very much, and by extension calls us to love as He loves them? Is the Spirit driving you or are you driving yourself?
It’s actually a scary thing to be Spirit-led because that leading almost always takes us out of our comfort zones and into places where our true love is going to be tested and revealed. But that is the only path to spiritual maturity and growth in our own hearts. Today, use all the foundational spiritual tools available to you in the Church and strengthen your will to say “yes” to the leading of God’s Spirit in your life. To be sure, this will probably take you to a tough place, but all that prep work in daily prayer, regular worship, and making your faith your top priority will pay off in facing every test well and accomplishing your calling as the Lord extends His rescue mission to all around you through your obedience. This is the path to being Orthodox on purpose!
P.S. Sunday’s Faith Encouraged LIVE program is going to continue this theme of Baptism and it’s implications for our lives. My special guest will be His Eminence, Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh. Don’t miss this program starting at 8 PM Eastern on AncientFaith.com