Christian TraditionsEastern OrthodoxTheology & Spirituality

Good News for Hard Times

These are hard times. All we have to do is look around us and we see that our world is in serious trouble. Where can we turn, where can we go? People try to blame guns, abortion laws, or terrorism. But until we see ourselves in Christ as the solution to these problems we will never make any progress. We are not helpless.

When it comes to sin, nothing is really new under the sun. The Church calls out to us about the Good News of Christmas: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”  These are words from the prophet Isaiah. He is writing of the coming in the flesh of the Word of God. He is talking about our Savior’s birth. “In the beginning was the Word,” “All things were made through Him; without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. And the Word–Light of Light, true God of true God–became flesh, and dwelt among us.

This is the Gospel, this is the good news, death is swallowed up by life. And Life is the property of God.

Our culture has tried to reduce Christianity into a blend of ideas that are meant to make us feel better about ourselves. To them Sin does not exist because Christ has defeated sin. But if Sin is missing the mark then even though Christ has trampled down Sin death and Satan, we have the potential to choose the wrong invitation. Christianity is not about following laws. Christianity is about following the second person of the Trinity. The great drawing power of Christ is not in His “Thou shalt nots” but in His “Come to me.” all who are weary and heavy laden, Come be filled with the Holy Spirit. Come be filled with the power of God’s presence. If we come to Him, then we will do certain things, not because we “should” or the rules say we have to do them, but because we delight in doing them as an expression of our love for Jesus.

Come!” The Gospel is not so much a command as an offer; not so much a demand as a gift–an invitation to share in the unbelievable joy of the kingdom.

“Come!” God is expecting you! He is ready for the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame. He is ready for those who have spent their lives in the highways and byways of life. He invites all: “Come; for all is now ready. The troubling thing is that we may not be ready even though we say we are.

Oh I just remembered, I have this thing I need to do. I get so uncomfortable at confession and I never know what to say. Besides I really can’t remember the last time I did anything wrong. I went to confession a few years ago and it didn’t help.

We have all been invited to be at the banquet table. We should want to repent for not being here early and breaking down the door. But we continue to make excuses for ourselves. I think God loves hearing us say to one another, “Please forgive me.”

As a shepherd seeks for the one lost sheep, as a poor woman gets down on her knees to look for a lost coin, as a father waits for his lost son to come home again, so God is always seeking, calling, and inviting us.

“Come; for all is now ready.” Come if you want meaning for your life. Come because you have meaning in your life. Come if you hunger and thirst for righteousness. Come because you have been filled and you want more. Come when you fall under the burden of sin and guilt. Come when by God’s grace you crush Satan in your feet. Come when you are anxious and fearful. Come when you are at peace. Come when you mourn. Come when you are happy. Come when you want peace and fulfillment. Come, “the table is richly laden. Fare ye royally on it. The calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry…” (Saint John Chrysostom).

We see a lot of bad in this world, sickness and death. We need to understand that God is not the author of evil and He does not cause anyone to kill innocent people. Our only hope is in Christ. Our next step is to repent. Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. And when I say repent I mean that we need to hate the place in us that becomes complacent with anything in ourselves that is less than Christ, that’s all that repentance is. If we do that, then others will see Christ, and it will not matter to us how the world see us. If we as a people begin to live the truth then a transformation will begin. People in the world will not stop killing each other; they will still be selfish and greedy. But our lives will change. We will feel anguish every time someone closes their eyes to the light, because we understand who they have said no to. We understand because we are trying not to squint as much as we did yesterday. The people we often talk about are the very people our Lord has invited to eat with Him.

I used to think that He was calling them, and not us. He is calling us and them. And why does He call us? Not to demand an accounting, or to hold court. But to relieve us from our pain, to take away our heavy burdens.

When Jesus says, “Come,” He does not stand on the top rung of a ladder and wave. He has climbed down the ladder to stand with us.

“For us and for our salvation (He) came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man” (Nicene Creed). “She brought forth her first-born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.” He came, born in a stable. He came and died on the cross. He came to prepare the banquet of salvation for us. And now–today–He sends us to extend His invitation to the whole world: “Come, for all is now ready.”

Far from being accepted, this invitation was and is rejected. “I have bought a field .. I have bought five yoke of oxen… I have married a wife… I cannot come. Have me excused .. ” The response back then is the same today. We end up accepting the wrong invitations in life. We miss the banquet, the abundant life of Christ, and settle for a stale cracker to feed a family of four. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not ” (Matt 23:37).

“Come, for all is now ready.” The good news is that we don’t have to be perfect to come. But we do have to desire perfection in the person of Christ. The good news is that when we give ourselves completely over to Christ, we will have begun our journey to perfection. Holiness is in the journey and the struggle. We come to the only One who can forgive us and heal us. We come to the only One who can make us worthy.

Coming to Jesus is a way of life. It involves daily commitment, repentance, obedience, humility, worship, prayer, Bible reading, and regular communion. It involves a daily walk with Jesus. It involves not only “Come!” but also “Go!” “Go out into the world and be His disciples. Be servants. Be light. Be salt. “Come, for all is now ready.


Image courtesy of Gord McKenna.

Fr Gregory Owen

Fr Gregory Owen

Fr. Gregory is the priest of a small, canonical Orthodox Mission in Berrien Springs, MI. Ordained as a priest in 2007, he desires to use his position as a priest to see souls healed through the life in Christ as prescribed by the Orthodox Church.

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