In the Days of His Flesh

Christ is born!

“But why does it matter?” With that question, I was stumped. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the subject we were discussing and had made some strong points as to why I was right about this. Then came that question: “But why does it matter?”

And a very good question it is. I remember speaking to a group of young seminarians about the importance of Preaching and I told them “Until you answer the ‘so what’ question, you haven’t really preached!” Why does what you are saying matter? What possible difference could this wisdom make in my daily life? Why is it important to be Orthodox on Purpose?

Is it so God will like you? Ridiculous. God has already settled Himself about what He thinks of you, and He’s decided, out of His freedom, to love you forever. Is it so God will reward you? Well, I use to think so, until I worked out that that attitude makes me the center of the universe instead of God!  If I’m following Jesus SO THAT I’ll get rewarded, then this is all about me. Too small, dearest. Don’t get stuck there! So, why does all this matter in the first place?

Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 5:4-10:

BRETHREN, one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”; as he says also in another place, “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

St. Paul is preaching this Hebrews homily and he gets to the part where he starts to answer the “so what” question of the coming of Jesus “in the flesh” and why this isn’t just some religious philosophy but very much tied to the daily struggle of being Orthodox on Purpose.

He’s at the part where he’s talking about the old Jewish priesthood and all the work that was done in the Temple, and he makes the observation that the Jews had become a people that did all the right stuff in their Temple worship but they had lost the “why” behind the actions! And that made their actions empty no matter how correct the were! Of course that kind of misplaced action has horrible consequences in a person, a community, and a nation. Their loss of the “so what” answer made them enslaved to doing the right things for all the wrong reasons. They forgot that this work was to humble them, not make them arrogant because they did the “right” stuff! They forgot that all this work was suppose to form them internally so that the rest of the world could find their way to God. Instead their “right actions” made them think they were the “special” people to God and better than the very people they were suppose to lead home!

Paul then goes on to say that even though Jesus was the Son of God, in the days of His “flesh”, meaning His earthly ministry before He died and rose again, He “learned” obedience and prayed, and even prayed “with loud cries and tears,” to be “saved” from death, and He was! But it was His very humble and free embrace of the suffering of His human life that made Him “perfect,” not in the sense that He was imperfect or had to “get better,” but in the sense that He meant when He was on the cross and about to die – “It is finished!” His humility about His suffering placed all suffering in the proper and mature context. Suffering isn’t forever AND, if embraced with faith, creates such powerful strength and maturity in a person so as to make them truly free!

Today, as we see a brand New Year before us, let’s brace ourselves now for that “why does it matter” question by facing this New Year with the sure wisdom that no matter what happens we are embracing life with Faith in Jesus Christ, we are committed to be Orthodox on Purpose!

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