Time to Clean House!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Do you know what a dichotomy is? Exactly, it is when we set in stone what appears to be two opposites. You know, like good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, up and down, you get the idea.
But there are some dichotomies that are false. We separate what isn’t suppose to be separated. In fact, in a false dichotomy we actually do real harm to the true meaning of both of the things we foolishly separate.
A good example of this is the false dichotomy of “physical and spiritual.” Or another one is the false dichotomy of “belief and action.” The truth is none of these ideas can actually be understood if they are separated out and isolated from the other.
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 consistence 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!
P.S. The Nativity Fast is in full swing, and the three foundational Orthodox Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are at the very heart of how we prepare to celebrate the universe-changing event of God becoming Flesh for us. Take advantage of all the resources here on AncientFaith.com to keep focused on the real reason for the season!