He would say things like “Mr. Powell, words are your tools. Would you trust a mechanic that just tossed his tools around his shop as if they meant little to him? Words are your tools, Mr. Powell. If you aren’t going to use them well, you are an unfaithful steward of the gift God gives you!” The words of my homiletics professor hit me like a ton of bricks. Needless to say, I walked into his class for two years straight a bit nervous! That’s right, we were required to take two years of homiletics classes! Words were our tools after all, and using them well was a skill the school expected us to master!
The fact is that having the right tool and knowing how to use it well is vital to completing the tasks in our lives, and conversely, not having the right tool or not knowing how to use the right tool often produces inferior results. Sometimes, even disastrous results.
Look at our lesson today in Luke 19:37-44:
At that time, as Jesus was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
The Lord, standing in the midst these religious leaders, warned them that soon their blindness would result in the destruction of their whole way of life. This sad reality came true in A.D. 70 when the Roman General Titus marched his army into Jerusalem and literally left not one stone upon another. The Romans burned down the Temple, plundered the city of its riches and the Temple worship of the Jewish people came to an end, to the point that the Jewish religion became one of the synagogue without any of the Jewish worship and sacrifices of the Jewish Temple. All because the people of God failed to know “the things that make for peace!” The consequences of what we don’t know can sometimes be devastating!
So, if having the right tools and knowing how to use them well is important for mechanics and preachers, how much more is this true in our own spiritual lives? Can we really justify remaining ignorant of the right tools that produce a spiritually healthy person? Missing the resources given to us by a God Who has loved His world so much that He has literally lavished spiritual insight and direction all across the landscape of human development seems, in the light of our embarrassment of riches, the height of folly! Just look at all the resources God has left us and continues to reveal to us through the loving presence of His Holy Spirit in His Church: The lives of the saints, the Holy Scriptures, the liturgical traditions and prayers of our Faith, the challenges of living in parish life so full of opportunities to be shaped and embrace the wisdom of God, and even our daily relationships that continually offer us practical ways to live out the best of our Faith. We simply have no excuse for remaining immature in our spiritual development when all around us are the riches of wisdom laying at our feet ready to train us and shape our lives to fit into eternity! And all these treasure wait for us to actively reach out and take hold of them and be transformed by them!
Today, do you know “the things that make for peace” for your life? Are you willing, today, to reach out and take up the spiritual tools left for you by your loving Lord in His Church? These tools can be found in your prayer book, your prayer rope, your icon corner, in your church building, in the loving words of your pastor, in the daily challenges of your relationships; all waiting for you to courageously take them up and apply their wisdom to your life today and become Orthodox on Purpose!