AWAKE, O Sleeper!Fr. Barnabas Powell
I love action movies, but I confess, sometimes, my ability to suspend my disbelief and go along with some outlandish scene is pretty near impossible. Usually, the idea that something like this could really happen is just too remote even for my imagination.
Sometimes we Christians fall into the same trap about our lives and our Faith. Yeah, we know what the scripture says about how we should live: love God and your neighbor, forgive those who hurt you, and even love your enemies; but, come on, are we “really” expected to do this? I mean “really.”
Look at our lesson today in Ephesians 5:8-19:
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.
To be sure, one of the most missing ingredients in many of the sermons we hear today is the “how” part of following the wisdom of the Faith. We also fail with the “WHY” part too, but we don’t have the time for this today!
The preacher tells us what we “should” do and how we “should” act, but where’s the “how” in all this religious rhetoric? Hey, you may even convince me that this is how I “should” live, but if you don’t give me “how” all you do is frustrate me and leave me with no choice but to assume this religion stuff is just not really part of my everyday life. And then our faith starts that eternally debilitating habit of being merely habit or, worse yet, just nostalgia. And that kind of faith will never be strong enough to pass on to the next generation.
But St. Paul uses words like “Walk” and “Awake” and “Be Filled.” These action words presuppose purpose, attention, and cooperation. These words assume a people who are focused on activating their spiritual journey with the invigorating power of doing rather than merely observing.
However, St. Paul does mention the key to “how!” It is found in verse 18. St. Paul writes “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” Here’s the key; our Lord Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, now we, too, can be “filled with the Spirit.” And this filling of the Spirit drives out the easy addictions to self-centered living that is the absolute opposite of this purpose-filled and focused spiritual life where higher values and deeper purpose govern our choices and behaviors. What makes this action-filled, purposeful, life possible? The grace of His Spirit abiding in us and enlivening and empowering us to be what we could never be without HIm. This is the “WHY” behind all the Sacraments of the Church
Today, I know you know what you “should” do. I know you know what you “ought” to do. But now you know the “how” and the “why.” Allow the Church to continually fill you with the Holy Spirit through your active participation in the Divine Mysteries through liturgy, prayer, generosity, and faithfulness. Do this and you’ll be Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. When you purchase the book “A Faith Encouraged” and the video series “A Journey to Fullness,” you help support the ministry of Faith Encouraged and Fr. Barnabas. Please share these tools with those you love this Christmas, and encourage your parish bookstore to carry both these tools! Thanks.