“Endure to the End and be Saved”

The bell tower of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls in Rome.

The bell tower of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls in Rome.

This is a sermon I delivered in Three Hierarchs Chapel at St. Vladimir’s Seminary on the morning of February 28th.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Every day, at 9 o’clock, 12 o’clock, and 6 o’clock…
a bell rings in the tower of Annunciation Church, just down the road.
3 strikes and a pause, 3 strikes, another pause, and 3 more.
It’s an ancient call to prayer – the Angelus.
Those who hear it recite prayers as well as the the words of the Theotokos to Gabriel,
“Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.” By uttering those simple words she said “yes” to God’s plan.
With the ringing of that bell every day, we’re given a reminder of this event, an event of faith, obedience, and perseverance.

I know need a lot of reminders because…
Life is hard.
Seminary is hard, and I tend to forget God’s presence in my life.
There are all sorts of difficulties that each of us are going through right now… Sometimes the problems we face are external: a bill needing to be paid, a paper that’s late, a fight with a friend or a spouse.
Sometimes these problems are more subtle,
I find myself saying more and more that “I’m so tired, I’m just going to go to bed…”
Without spending time with Christ in prayer before I turn off the light. Maybe it’s nursing a wrong that someone has done to me, and reveling in that feeling of spitefulness.

Confronting our problems and enduring, whatever they might be, is the stuff of Lifetime movies.
Those who come through hardship are patted on the back and given a cookie.
We all want to persevere. We all want to struggle through it, to come out on the other side victorious!
We sit down and think about our problems, we have our own private focus groups about possible solutions, we agonize over what we can do to fix it, to make it all better.
Endurance is definitely a virtue, but endurance doesn’t mean doing it alone.

You see, my solutions almost never work.
The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry…
The best laid schemes go awry simply because we have forgotten Christ in those schemes.
In our planning, our scheming, when freaking out… we don’t allow Christ to be with us and guide us.
Yet even then, when we reject him, he is still there, waiting for us to ask him to enter our lives and help us, and heal us.

It’s very easy to forget to let Christ into our lives, it’s very easy to become so wrapped up in our troubles that we forget Christ altogether.
Or maybe we’re scared to let him in,
we don’t know the words to say and we’re frustrated, and tired, and it all has just become so stressful!

Christ endured to the end and by doing so saved us. By doing so healed us. Christ lived his whole life saying to his Father, “not my will, but thy will be done”
But… Christ is so humble, he so respects our free will, that in his humility he will not impose himself on us and on our lives unless we let him.
Unless we say yes…
The Almighty God, intervenes when we ask.

Most of the time, though, I wish that God would ignore my free will and intervene, he certainly knows more about EVERYTHING than I do.
It’s like in that delightfully bad country song, Jesus take the wheel!
Well, yes, Jesus take the wheel! He’s always ready to take the wheel, we just need to ask.

Today we join our voices to the Theotokos’ and say, “Let it be unto me according to thy word.”
We hear that bell every day chiming, morning, noon, and night, and in that chiming we hear a reminder of God’s love and care for us so that we will not forget that…
No matter where we are or what we’re going through,
God is there waiting for us to let him into our lives.
How different are my interactions with others when I pray first, as I invite God into that relationship with my friend.
How different are my classes when I pray first, as I invite God into that room. How different are my troubles, when I ask God to be with me, and know that he is there.

Endurance doesn’t mean slogging on by ourselves.
Endurance isn’t encapsulated by the Nike slogan, “Just do it!”
Endurance means falling into the hands of God and knowing he will catch us. Endurance means trusting in God that he will give us the words to say, and the strength to go on.

We can endure, here and now.
Let Christ into our lives in prayer.
Knock, and it will be opened to us.
Ask, and we shall find.
Endure to the end, and be saved.

Amen.

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