Monday, March 28, 2016

Are You Attending Church Just in Case God is Real?


I saw this headline the other day and thought how common this view is today. The story was about the many people who find themselves in Church on Easter and Christmas and other times who are not real belivers. They say they go, "Just in case God is Real." It seems there are so many Orthodox Christians who appear to share this way of thinking. They come to church on Sunday,"Just in Case!" They don't follow the practices taught by the Church. They don't participate regularly in the Sacraments. They don't have a true faith. They only come to Church periodically "just in case!"

Why have so many lost sight of the reality of our existence? Why have they lost sight of the wisdom of the ages? Why do they ignore the wisdom of our elders? Why is there so much hatred around us? Why are we so angry in our political arena? Why do we expose our hatreds on social media? Has religion become something we now do "just in case"?


The current period in the Orthodox Church is a sober fasting period, Great Lent. It is a period set aside by the Church for spiritual renewal, repentance and introspection. Yet when I look on social media I see so many engaging in great feasts, seeking pleasure where there is is but temporary relief from the realities of our worldly life, totally ignoring the traditional practices taught by the Church for our betterment during this special period. It seems there is too much ignorance of the teachings of the Church and its proven path. Only a few attend the special services we have during this period. Most do not even fast in any way. I want to scream, Wake Up! 

I must admit that there were times in my life that I did not have a clue what life was about. I too was a continual pleasure seeker. I was not aware of the benefits of the fasting periods like Great Lent. Church was just another obligation. I know well the pitfalls of this way of life. I traveled the world seeking pleasures in fancy resorts. I've been to Bora Bora, to Hawaii, to remote African beaches, to Mediterranean spas, Greek islands, to the resorts along our ocean coasts, and on and on. What for? Seeking relief from a frantic way of life that seemed to have no other purpose but self-gratification. 

Then, while I was working on a PhD, the reality of life suddenly became clear to me. I realized that there is hope of an eternal life. I realized that Jesus Christ cannot be denied. Fortunately, I had married into a Greek family who was tied to the Orthodox Christian faith. This became a center, a rock, a foundation that is unshakable. It is a form of the Christian faith that has not changed over time. When I surrendered to its teachings and practices my life began to change. My purpose was redirected to one of seeking a unity with God, to become united with Him. My heart had hardened and needed to be renewed with love. I gave up such esoteric practices like Eastern meditation and instead sought the Triune God that is within each of us. Yes, I am still a sinner, but I am now working on the well being of my soul.

The Church is filled with storehouses of wisdom. Please, pay attention! Not only is there the documentation of the Incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation, His life, His suffering, Crucifixion, Resurrection and then the establishment of His Church through the miraculous work of His disciples who were empowered by the Holy Spirit, but there is much more. There is an simpler and easier way of life that Jesus taught us. The Orthodox Church emphasizes this and shows us how to gain true joy step by step. Not the temporary joy we get from our pleasure excursions to a local bar or restaurant or seaside villa, but the joy that comes from an inner peace where one is in communion with a most merciful and loving God. It is the joy of a unity with the source of our life and the understanding of the eternal nature of our life. It comes with he realization that our earthly life is a time to prepare for what is to come. This wisdom is a gift from an ever merciful God who loves us and forgives.

I cry out, Wake up! Seek out the teachings of the Scriptures and the way of life taught by the Church! Learn how to pray in ernest daily, morning and night. Follow the fasting guidelines to develop an inner discipline. Attend the worship services out of a love and a desire to be united with Him in Holy Communion, not just to listen to the beautiful hymns or hear a good sermon. Read a little Scripture each day seeking to know Him and his teaching. Read some of the commentaries of the Church Fathers. Fill your home and work area with icons that help you remember all that He teaches. Form social groups of those who are true believers, not just social cliques or ties to ethnic traditions or old school buddies. Seek out a spiritual father who can guide you in a deep spiritual nature, someone who you will trust to guide you in the way of life that leads to true joy.

The path is simple. It's outlined in the ten principles of the Orthodox Way of life.  If you want your life renewed and fulfilled just follow it. You will not feel like you have given up anything and instead will feel like you have gained everything.  Try It!

Attend Church because you know God is real! Develop your love for Him! Work on it. Don't participate "Just in Case."

Ten Point Program for an Orthodox Way of Life.

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