What is it about the allure of transformation? We are drawn to it like moths to a flame. If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you’ve seen him on those infomercials promising everything from wealth to weight loss. Well, the weight loss infomercial landed him in real trouble recently! Big trouble.
At the infomercial king’s sentencing the judge said: “He’s deceitful to the very core. This type of conduct simply cannot stand…” as he handed down the harsh sentence of 10 years to Mr. Trudeau. (Chicago Sun-Times, March 17, 2014)
But why are these “get rich” schemes, these “miracle pounds melt away in days” claims, these self-help transformations so effective in separating people from their money? Because they promise incredible results for little effort. All you have to do is take this pill every night before bed and you’ll wake up ready to fit into that new bathing suit. All you have to do is follow these 4 easy steps and you can make millions in the (fill in the blank) business. All you have to do is say the magic words and “poof” you’re saved. Hey, that last one may have been a cheap shot. I apologize.
We do seem to be a culture that is drawn to huge results without great effort. But, to be fair, we humans have always been suckers for magical results. From the Garden when our parents were promised godlike knowledge if only they took one bite, to today’s infomercials promising great things if only you’d buy this product. But wait, there’s more, call now and we’ll throw in a gleaming, white, smile and perfect children, all for $19.95.
As my precious grandmother use to say “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” Or as the ancients advised “caveat emptor.”
So, how do we escape this weakness to expect easy results from little effort? We begin by knowing ourselves. We begin by admitting we have to work hard for that which is most valuable to us. We have to “strive” (I love that word) toward a goal that asks great things of us if we expect to achieve that goal. But the truth is we all know this. We’ve been taught it from an early age. And we’ve watched as generation after generation has slowly abandoned the wise maturity of a great goal requires great effort to our affluence causing a daughter to sue her parents to get them to pay for her college after she moved out of their home.
We are always one generation away from forgetting what makes a person, a society, and yes, even a faith, worth the effort.
In today’s Scripture Lesson we stick with that great leader Moses and we witness God Himself give us an insight into how important it is to both be grateful for generations past and not to expect the wisdom of the previous generations will automatically or effortlessly be passed on.
Look at Genesis 7:1-5:
Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.
Here we see the Lord about to provide a radical cure for a terrible human sickness. The Flood is coming, but God wants to redeem, as usual, and not merely destroy. God finds a faithful man, Noah and this is what the Creator says about this man “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.” (Genesis 7:1) It is being faithful, being righteous, in your generation that sets up the next generation to follow in your footsteps. And this very hard work of consistent faithfulness reveals a heart that has discovered the deepest motivation for consistency – the revelation that the work is worth the effort BECAUSE of the Goal at the end of the struggle!
Today, dear one, we must abandon the foolish notion we only live for ourselves. If we are going to be the people who leave a strong faith for the next generation, we are going to have to raise our expectations of ourselves in actually practicing the faith and not merely taking the “easy” path of passing on some (even dear) customs as if that were the robust faith of the centuries. We have to abandon the “quick fix” and “shortcut” mentality of this or that “youth program” to instill in our children what can only be passed on through example and effort. As wonderful as sports tournaments, dance troupes, and special recipes are (and they are wonderful), we cannot believe these good things are strong enough to hold the wisdom of the Orthodox faith without the actual practice, sincere and faithful and purposeful, practice of this Orthodox Christian faith. We MUST BE righteous “in this generation” if we ever hope to have the next generation be the same.
Today, lying at your feet, are all the spiritual tools you need to be righteous in this generation. It is not easy. You will stumble. You will make mistakes. You will want to give up at times. Do it anyway. Pay the price to abandon the false notion that you live only for yourself and let’s forever reject the false notion that I can have cosmic achievements without cosmic effort and divine grace. It’s Great Lent. Make sure your children see you fasting! Make sure they see you being Orthodox on Purpose!
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