My doctor once told me to MOVE. He wanted me to exercise more because he was insistent that “if you don’t use it; you lose it!” He went on to tell me one of the most dangerous habits we can get into as we age is the increase of sedentary lifestyle; watching too much TV, sitting behind a desk, you know the list. And now we read that even sitting down is killing us. Our lack of activity is stealing our health and ability to move. If we don’t use it, we lose it.
But that’s true of so many gifts and abilities we have. Our talents have to be used to stay sharp. We have to exercise our minds to keep our focus. We have to practice our talents to keep them strong and effective. Language skills have to be used or they slip away. I use to play the tenor saxophone, but I can’t anymore. I stopped practicing! This principle applies to so many aspects of our lives.
So, if this works in our everyday life, it shouldn’t surprise us that our spiritual life, our faith, is also affected by inattention.
Look at Matthew 21:43-46:
The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him: “I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet.
Once again Jesus confronts His own people, and especially the religious leaders of the people, since it is they who are most responsible to lead the people to a dynamic and active participation in the faith. And the Lord doesn’t mince words. In fact, reading today’s Gospel Lesson really does show why the leaders hated Jesus. He left them with only two choices: Repent or kill Him. We know what they chose.
The Lord tells these religious people “Use the Faith or lose the Faith.” Many thousands decided to “use the faith” and they formed the nucleus of the Christian Church. But so many others decided to reject the Faith, and look what happened. The Holy Spirit came to a group of Gentiles, foreigners, and now all the tribes of the earth are participating in this Christian message centuries later!
So, what blessing and warning should we take from this Gospel passage this morning? Well, the blessing is actively staying engaged and purposeful in our faith increases the strength of the faith we pass on to the next generation. The warning is if the People of God, shaped by centuries of scripture, prophets, and Temple worship, could miss the Son of God, then we today cannot ever believe our faith will sustain itself on some “automatic pilot” attitude. If we pass on a weak faith to the next generation, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Faith go to “another nation” that WILL take it seriously and actively practice it! Of course, during times like these, we run the danger of training people to not gather together and make visible the Kingdom of God given to us. But, even in times of pandemic, we are not excused from actively practicing our faith and making our home “the little church” where the Faith is STILL passed on to the next generation regardless of the hardships of the moment!
Today, your faith is strong in direct proportion to your practice and your love for your faith. The goal of the faith isn’t some thoughtless habit as much as it is about a dynamic relationship that becomes so “normal” and active that it is only natural that the generation following you would keep the faith active and alive in their lives as well. And that doesn’t happen automatically. It happens when we purposefully practice, share, and teach this life-giving Faith. In other words: Go to Church and Be Orthodox On Purpose!
P.S. The Feast of the Dormition is upon us. That glorious “summer Pascha” that once again reminds us of the Lord’s victory over death. Participate in the prayers of the Faith for this Feast and join us as we pray “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”