The lady was being interviewed on British television about the steep decline in church attendance in Britain. You’ve seen these “man on the streets” reports. The reporter goes out and talks to random people about a certain subject, and what usually happens is that these reports reveal just how uninformed or inattentive many people are about important issues of the day. This was no exception.
Britain has seen so many churches actually close that some have stated out loud that Britain, a centuries old nation, is now “post-Christian.” By the way, this older British lady answered the question “Do you attend church services?” with this revealing answer: “I believe, but I don’t worship.” Amazing. Can you truly believe and not worship? The huge gap in thinking and doing makes one question this lady’s belief. And it should. What you believe ALWAYS shows up in how you live. ALWAYS!
We aren’t meant to divide the spiritual from the physical. These realities aren’t meant to be understood as separate. The spiritual and the physical are all part of God’s creation and reflect His glory and when we separate them, we fall into the trap of believing they aren’t connected and that creates all sorts of practical barriers to authentic faith and practice. It’s like saying “I believe, but I don’t practice the faith.” The truth is if you don’t practice the faith, do you then actually believe it? Sounds like it’s time to do some spiritual house cleaning!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 19:45-48:
At that time, Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.
The scene is a powerful one. Our Lord sees events and even commerce going on in a section of the Temple called the “Porch of the Gentiles.” This was a place that was meant to bring hospitality and invitation to even non-Jews to learn about and approach as close as they were allowed to God and get to know Him. But the people of Jesus’ day had reduced what was suppose to be a way to be hospitable to “outsiders” and bring them to faith in God, into a place where the “insiders” could buy their animals to sacrifice in the Temple and to exchange their currency to the Temple currency used to make offerings in the Temple. In other words, the “insiders” had lost the ability to be open and welcoming to the “outsiders.”
Jesus insisted that actions and words match, and, in light of the gradual loss of a sense of welcome and true evangelical vision, the people had reduced a place in the Temple area into what it was never meant to be. Jesus then activates His actions to show His Words are not mere theories or only suggestions, but meant to be actualized by persons free from any notion that words don’t matter. He acts and He speaks, and the weakened religious authorities wanted to “destroy” Him but could not because the people were amazed at seeing Someone Whose words and actions weren’t separated!
Today, we constantly live with the challenge of an honest and consistent life where our actions and words match, where we banish the false dichotomy between words and actions because we don’t allow our actions to betray our words! As we approach the Feast of the Nativity, let us constantly do spiritual house cleaning. Allow the consistent behavior of our Lord and all His saints to call us to a consistent behavior and wise words. By the discipline of the Faith, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we will retrain our actions to match our words. We will be Orthodox on Purpose!
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