Christ is born! Glorify Him!
On this 3rd day after Christmas, the Church calls us to remember what it costs to be a disciple of Jesus in the early years of the Faith. Today, we remember the 20,000 martyrs of Nicomedia. Yep, 20,000 at one time. This occurred in 303 while these witnesses of the Faith were gathered in church on the Feastday of the Nativity. These were killed for their faith by imperial decree by the Roman emperor Diocletian. You may wonder why the Church calls us to recall such a horrendous event during this happy time. Because, dear ones, we have to grow up. We have to deal with reality. We have to stop being childish slaves to sentimentality and mere feelings. We ought to be teachers by now, but we are still enslaved to childishness. This does not bode well for the future if we pass on weak faith to the next generation.
But how do we escape the clutches of this insidious and childish slavery? Well, it won’t happen if we allow ourselves to be governed by our sentiments. Growing up means the hard work of embracing reality and refusing to lie, or refusing to accept that our faith is merely pious stories meant to comfort or control us.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 5:11-14; 6:1-8:
Brethren, about Melchizedek we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the work of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.
This passage is meant to keep the argument going that St. Paul has been making in Hebrews. And at the heart of Hebrews is the whole notion of “better.” The Christians who were from a Jewish background were considering leaving Christianity and going back to their Jewish practices because times were tough for Christians when St. Paul preached this letter to the Hebrews!
And now St. Paul takes off the kid gloves and pushes these believers, and us as well, and plainly tells these wavering believers to “GROW UP!” He uses the story of Melchizedek from Genesis 14 to get their attention. This mysterious figure in the Old Testament appears to Abraham after Abraham has won a great military victory and Abraham pays “tribute” and a “tithe” to this king of Salem (“Salem” means Peace. hint, hint!). And Paul says he has lots to say about this, but these believers can’t take it because they have not matured to the place where they can take the “strong meat” of the profound revelation of Jesus Christ. He tells them (to their shame) that they need “milk, not solid food.” You can almost see Paul holding up a jar of baby food to these believers to illustrate his point!
And then he hits them with the cold water of reality. There’s no going back! You can abandon the Faith in Christ, but you can’t go back to when you didn’t know about Christ. You can become unfaithful or a bad Christian, but there’s no crawling back into the cradle of where you came from! Time to leave the “elementary doctrine of Christ” and really explore purposefully this Amazing Message of God becoming flesh for our salvation!
Today, our faith can’t stay in spiritual kindergarten forever. We simply cannot live in a fantasy world where our faith can stay, or even survive childish ways. The only choices are either to be unfaithful and Orthodox in name only OR to finally Grow Up and really be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. A twenty-thousand numbered battalion of Martyrs ariseth like an unwaning star great with brightness, enlightening by faith the hearts and the minds of all godly folk. For, enkindled with divine love unto the Master, this courageous host received a sanctified ending when eagerly burned with fire.
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