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Being A Christian Calls For Courage
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok

It is difficult to talk about real life and to affirm that life wins, if you are constantly clinically dead, but I have to. This is why I would like to say: don't trust yourselves, don't trust your feelings and attitudes because they are false and temporary. We live in a bubble. An individual is squeezed into that bubble by his flesh, by his sinful needs and relationships. Of course, we are used to living in this bubble because it feels warm and cosy. What if the bubble bursts, how are we going to live? We have to break free from our bubble somehow. Predators, lures and temptations may await us on this road of escape. Nevertheless, we can hope that we will be able to fly, we will grow wings and be able to take off. This hope must empower us to move on.

Are we okay with the thought that we will be buried and nothing will remain of us? Do we consider ourselves dead? The Lord tells us we are alive. Christ is risen, and He gives us this life, but we don't appreciate it; we lose it and do not care about it. Of course, this isn't as simple as it sounds. Today you have one kind of thoughts and feelings. What will happen to them next morning? As soon as you get up, your attitudes and moods are different, and then they change even more. This inconsistency, fluctuations, and internal changes reflect in our outside life, too. The Lord heals a person from an illness. You are accustomed to building your life as you please but God may want something different. He may be telling you that you need to go home, that you shouldn't whine because there really isn't anything for you to stick to here. Life is better there. Father Nicholas Gurianov told me more than once, «Life is better there...» But we don't believe it: who knows what happens after you die? We only know for sure that we at least have something here.

The closer you become to God, the more painful it gets. Every true step towards God tears one apart. The Lord doesn't want us to be attached to time, space, or some values; He wants us to be free. However, we perceive this freedom as something unpleasant or even tragic. How important it is to humble ourselves down and to see the final goal of our life! What we try to do is adapting God to our way of living, taming him so that He would serve us. We have to understand God: what did He come to the Earth for? what did He bring us? why did He need the Cross and death? He could defeat the Pharisees and the scribes, be crowned in Jerusalem and create a just state where everyone would have everything they need — a Christian Communist state, sort of. This is impossible on earth, while we still wear this old body, this flesh and blood that do not inherit the Kingdom of God. This is why we are exhausted, and thus receive God's grace. However, we see it as something terrible. We cannot change our perception of things that happen with us. Every birth on this earth implies funeral in the future. Yes, a baby is born, but some time later they will bury him — a sick and worn out old man who doesn't look like he used to be when he was a baby. See how difficult it is, and how hard we have to work to be good in this world! Add to this the devil who advises us something and pushes us into doing something wrong...

This is why being a Christian calls for great creativity and courage. No, it's not enough for me to go to church, to make the sign of the cross and light up candles, or even take communion without much thinking. No! If we accept Christ, we also accept the death of our old self. We can say that the Body and the Blood of Christ is a poison for the sin, for our old self, which is dying in pain. However, this is also the only way for a new self, which will live forever, to be born. You can't understand it on your own. If you bind yourself to the Earth again, and you feel you need it, you want it, and it's your life, then you lose because it is your mistake and the devil's trap again. If you get out of this trap and declare that you trust God and no one can shatter your trust, and that you no longer serve any other master or any other purpose, then this is the first step to freedom. In other words, test yourselves, whether you can leave everything behind, remain poor and exclaim, Thank God for everything! If you can, then you are a little bit free. But if you cling to something — be it your country house or a car or good friends or a comfortable lifestyle — if you are tied to the earth and feel that you need it, then you lose because it's just another mistake, just another trap.

The Lord wants to grant us freedom — the greatest freedom there can be: Follow Me — Allow me to bury my father. — Let the dead bury their dead. Follow Me! — Oh, I have to do something, I've got things to do... — Follow Me! And yet we drown on this road, like Apostle Peter, because we are doubtful. It was Peter who wanted to walk to Jesus on water — why not? But then he started looking here and there and saw the huge waves that could drown him, and he started drowning. Anyway, the Lord was near, and Peter recalled it. If he didn't, he would go down. This is how we also should remember that God is near in any situation.

We feel that everything is ruined. Perhaps, that happened because we didn't need it? It might have been a delusion, a step in a wrong direction, and we'd better walk in a different direction? We come to church and confess like children: we try to explain our actions away. Instead, we ought to talk about the soul and the eternity, and how terrible it is to get into it, how frightening it is to burst that bubble. How frightening it is to accept something the world calls a crucifix, a shameful punishment, for the greatest gift of love. So you want to love? Then you have to suffer. You don't want to suffer, do you? Then how can you call it love? It is something like a mutual agreement: I give you money, and you provide comfort and peace. This isn't love. Love is when a person forgets about themselves. We don't forget about ourselves now. We have so much to change inside our hearts! It is too early to talk about Orthodoxy, about Christianity today: you could even carry an icon above your head, but if anyone stands on your feet or spits at you, your love will evaporate. With that said, we have come to the Church to be healed. We have a medicine against all illnesses. For instance, if someone has cancer, and he believes and knows that the communion is given for the well-being of both his soul and his body, then he should trust God that this particle and this drop of Blood can restore his health, God willing. Same goes for any other illness. When I serve an akathist to Pantanassa icon of the Mother of God, the text says that water can heal. Why aren't we healed? Why don't we fly? It is because we can fly in a wrong direction and fall down. But our tears will transform into happiness.

We should extract spiritual juice from every situation in life. Look at your life, analyse it, think about it, seek God's will because God is near, He will always help us and stretch out his hand to rescue us, like Peter, from any abyss of sin that we find ourselves in, if only we keep hoping and don't get desperate. Trust and you will be saved!

August 29, 2016

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