If you’ve hung around these parts for a while, you know already what I’m going to say: Spiritual maturity is a particular emphasis for me. And the reason for that is because it is precisely what I lack and what I long to have. The reason why I lack it is because my will is still sufficiently weak and unskilled as to fully embrace and practice the spiritual disciplines necessary to achieve this aim, and the reason I desire it is because I have at least been stirred toward this goal by God’s grace and the example of others who are leading me. Plus, I’m tired of spiritual kindergarten!
The truth is the spiritual desert of modern America has caused me no amount of grief. All too often undisciplined speakers, uninformed “teachers,: religious “entrepreneurs” and TV entertainers all fancy themselves informed enough to actually attempt to opine on God and spiritual matters as if they were sufficiently enlightened to lead! And these cacophony of voices all serve to muddy the minds of the unsuspecting while the solid food of the timeless faith lies untouched on the lavish banqueting table of the Church. Think of this as the spiritual “junk food” that ruins the true appetite for the wholesome diet of the Timeless Faith. This is what my beloved nation suffers from every day. This is what decimates the tribe I love. This is what imprisons the souls of the precious people of my modern America. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
Look at our lesson today in Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5:
BRETHREN, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Amazing! St. Paul turned the hearts of these early Christians to the realization that all that had come before was preparation for the fullness of the Faith culminating in the Lord Jesus. It is the “putting on” of Christ in holy baptism that sets us on this path of sonship instead of mere pupils. And this filial relationship breaks down the barriers that all too often segment us into smaller groups, effectively dividing and conquering us. Christ is meant to “graduate” us from the tutelage of the Law to the deeper and more profound maturity of Love, a much more rigorous and adult discipline. This graduation to spiritual maturity is only for those willing to embrace the wakeful focus on ultimate reality and having a “good answer before the awesome judgement seat of Christ.”
Today, are you ready to leave “spiritual kindergarten” behind? Are you willing to finally graduate from the elementary teachings of the faith to full sonship as an heir of God’s Kingdom? Isn’t it time to provide this searching nation of spiritually hungry people an example of the sober joy and spiritual peace of a mature faith? Aren’t you tired of the “eternal search for the eternal goosebump” and the childish circus mentality of the carnival barkers of today’s religious scene? Isn’t it time to embark on the focused disciplines of a serious faith and stop consuming the spiritual “junk food” of empty calories. Let’s go on to spiritual maturity. Our nation so desperately needs it and, after all, spiritually mature people love their neighbors enough to lead them toward this fuller life; to be Orthodox on Purpose!
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