We are now one week from the start of Great and Holy Lent. As we prepare our minds and hearts for this awesome journey we realize that Lent is a revolutionary act. In our society, which is built on purchase, consumption, and pleasure, Lent is quite strange. Yesterday after liturgy, we ate lunch at a local restaurant. I picked up some dessert there and mentioned that I better eat it now, before Lent begins. The waitress assumed that we gave up sweets for Lent (as is common in some watered down versions of Lent). I told her that we give up all animal products. She was shocked and amazed.
Ask anyone who is not Orthodox Christian and they will tell you that it is strange that we would put ourselves through so much. Yet from our standpoint, it is a very small sacrifice. One of the things that has to happen when we believe in Jesus Christ is that we begin to understand that it is really a radical activity to follow Jesus. The world tells you to eat, drink and be merry. Christ tells you to be watchful, to share your bread, to rejoice in Him. The world tells you to pursue your own desires and pleasures with no limits. Christ tells you to deny yourself and take up your cross daily.
We can’t all become monks and nuns. They live a really revolutionary life. But we can take aspects of their life. We may not be able to pray formally, multiple times a day, but we can set aside one short time of prayer each day. We may not be able to give away everything we own but we can take small steps to help the poor. I own 5 televisions, perhaps I could sell one and give the proceeds to the poor. My house is really too big for me and my family, perhaps I can downsize a bit. I own 4 cars, perhaps I can do without one of them.
I may not be able to serve the poor for a living, but perhaps I can find a way to dedicate a certain amount of time each month to visiting the sick or the elderly. I may not have the ability to travel to a soup kitchen but perhaps I can travel to my next door neighbor and make sure that their needs are being met.
It is easy to get caught up in our own lives and to forget that we are meant for much more. We don’t like to think about it because it troubles us but we better realize that there will be a final judgement. God will raise us all from the dead. Each and every one of us will rise in order to be judged. We don’t like the idea of a God who judges. I also don’t like the idea of a traffic judge or a judge who presides over a court of law. Can you imagine standing before a judge and telling him that he is not really a judge? He might have you arrested for contempt.
Judgement frightens us because it reminds us that we are not the masters of our domain. It reminds us that no matter what we do, we will give account of our life to the Lord Jesus. Don’t ignore this fact, teach it to your children. Remind them that there will be consequences for every unrepented sin. Give them the truth, instead of sheltering them in false, ideological bubble-wrap.
There will be a judgment, because God is a judge, and nothing you can say will remove the coming judgement. But there is good news. God loves us more than anything, and He wants to be pleased with us. He wants us to live revolutionary lives, like His Son Jesus. So this gospel reading is a blueprint for a revolutionary, Christ-centered life. You want to inherit the Kingdom of God? Wonderful! Believe in the Lord and follow His teachings. Visit the sick, the prisoner, the shut-ins. Feed and clothe and teach the poor. Welcome the stranger. Do all of those things and do them with a cheerful attitude. And if you can’t do them all, do a few of them, as often as you can. Step outside your comfort zone and you will find plenty of people who really need your comfort and help.
In the midst of all of this, be grateful to the Lord Jesus who left His throne in order to become the least of all. He became a poor, hungry, thirsty, prisoner and He did this for our sakes. By any measure known to man, that was the most revolutionary act in history. Glory be to God forever AMEN.