1 Corinthians 10:1–13 (NRSV)
Warnings from Israel’s History
10 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
Where is God when…? Have you ever asked that question? Where is God when I cannot seem to cover all my bills at the end of the month? Where is God when my dreams seem to fade into darkness and I am left in the struggle? Where is God when your children seem to turn from the paths you taught them, or when you find yourself or a loved one in a situation that just does not seem fair? We often ask that question, and to be honest there really is not a good answer for it. At least not one that seems to ease that pain during the struggle. Often we are left seemingly all alone wondering, “Where are you God?”
It is common for us to lament in life. We face struggles constantly and during those struggle we feel as if we were not at all prepared to handle. The worst part of facing a struggle is that it seems that no one else is there that can help you through. You feel alone, as if you are walking on a deserted pathway. A pathway that might have been walked many years ago but is currently overgrown and eroded, every step that we take seems to contain one more trial that endangers our lives. A vine or root wraps itself around our ankles pulling us to our knees, spider webs getting wrapped around our faces and hanging from our ears causing us to dance in such a way that we are glad no one is on the path with us. We step into darkness only to have our feet fall out from under us as we step into a hole or crevasse. Our knees get scrapped our shirts get snagged in branches. And our minds keep telling us to run back to what we knew before, but our hearts keep urging us on even though they feel as if they are about to break.
Paul in this passage takes the readers back to formation of the nation or people of Israel. He takes them to the Exodus. I say that this is where and when the nation was formed because prior to this time they were tribes united only by a common ancestor but other than that as different as Texas is to New York. He speaks of these dark and trying days, the days that tested and tried the people forming them into the nation that would one day give birth to the savior of the universe. He speaks of the trials because out of the trials a nation emerged united in faith. Look at the past Paul seems to say. Look at the trials, the success and the failures. Reflect on that as you gaze into the future. But there is a warning there as well. Learn from the past so that you do not make the same mistakes and find yourselves in similar situations.
I do not want you to be unaware, Paul says. This idea of unaware is another one of those loaded words that is pregnant with meaning. The word is one that speaks of ignorance, error, misunderstanding, and lack of knowledge. Paul does not want the people of Corinth and along with them everyone that reads this letter to be uninformed of the truth. There is something very important in this one simple statement. It encourages us to pursue knowledge, to study and examine, to observe and to act upon our observations. Paul is telling us that we should pursue knowledge and wisdom with passion. We are not serving God well if we remain in ignorance, if we never deepen our understanding or mature in our faith we can be easily swayed by the emotions of the moment. Reacting to situations in ways that do not bring glory to God or progress to humankind.
Paul then dives into theology. All were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses under the cloud and in the sea, all at the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink. This is just a bit confusing. Is Paul saying that all of Israel is saved by their heritage? One could make that argument and most would say that it is a valid point to be made, but I think we are missing something if we just take that at face value. All have the opportunity to know God, because they all were traveling together and witness the same events. All were under the cloud, this speaks of the cloud that guided them through the wilderness, the cloud that rested on the mountain from which Moses emerged to bring the law to the people, the cloud that filled and rested in the tent of meeting. The cloud that represented God’s presence with the people as they wandered through the wilderness toward the land of promise. All of Israel saw the cloud.
All of Israel passed through the sea. Every man, woman, and child in the nation of Israel that left bondage in Egypt participated in the miraculous event of walking through the Red Sea on dry ground. Every member of the community. They all ate the mana that miraculously appeared every morning while, they all drank the water that sprang out of the rock that Moses struck. They each participated in the amazing events that brought the people of Abraham out of captivity and set their course to the land promised to their patriarch. They all witnessed it yet not all fully grasped what was happening around them. God fed the wicked among them just as he fed the righteous, he quenched the thirst of the evil as well as the good they were each saturated in the presence of God, yet some did not recognize his presence.
They experienced all of this yet even as they walked in the shade of the cloud a visible witness to the presence of God, they turned to idolatry. Do not be unaware, Paul says. All of Israel had the same revelation given to them, the same law, the same signs yet many refused to believe. Even as the very law that would unite them as a nation under God was being given to Moses, many were engaging in lude activities that had root not in holiness but in the selfish desires of man. Yet all were given the same opportunity.
Do not be unaware, Paul reminds us. Look at the past, examine the examples provided to us by our anciestors both physically and spiritually. Learn from those examples and do not fall victim to the same follies.
All of Israel was equal they all had the same knowledge and opportunities, yet many rejected God. This leads us to the twelfth verse in this passage, “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” If we look at this passage we would see that there were many in Israel that felt that their place was secure no matter what. They are children of Abraham heirs to the promise, they have nothing to fear, yet the promise was only for those that were obedient to God.
If we were to look at the Law and the Prophets we would see that in the history of Israel there was rarely if ever a time that they fully fulfilled the requirements of the Law. Usually they would get very close to the letter of the law but failed to meet the intent behind the law. Yet still they held tight to the security of their heritage. If we were to read through the law we would find that many of them do not make much sense. After so many years all debts were to be forgiven, entire houses would have to be burned to the ground if there was the presence of mildew, certain food combinations should never be eaten. Just one transgression would separate them from the fellowship, and yet history cannot prove that debts were ever fully forgiven after the allotted time.
“So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” How many of us can honestly say that we are perfect? Not one of us can, and if we do there will be several that would quickly rise up to let us know that we have failed. Paul is telling us to look back and remember the lives of those that have gone before us and also to be honest with ourselves. We all have failed to live up to the standard, but that does not leave us separated from the fellowship. Even though Israel failed to live up to God’s standard God was still gracious to them. Even though many faced the judgement and wrath of God they still had the opportunity to repent and call on his name to be saved.
Be honest. The number one reason people have turned away from the church is because it is full of hypocrites. This is a slap to the face of all of us that attend meetings for worship because it is saying that we are not authentic. It is saying that we are living a lie. We lay claim to one life but live something totally different. Watch out that you do not fall. The truth be told we are often hypocritical, we often fail to live up to the expectations of others and the expectation of Christ. The reality is that even the Apostles failed to live up to that standard. Peter denied Christ three times the very night that he claimed that he would never do such a thing. We do fail, we are human but are we willing to admit that we have fallen short?
That is why scripture is filled with the examples of failure. In most ancient religious writings the heroes could do no wrong, they were the strongest most moral and perfect people that could walk the face of the earth. If they were to stubble into some trouble it was not their fault but it was the result of some jealous deity that was attempting keep the hero from achieving the perfection. That is not the case of our scripture, we highlight the failures of our heroes. David openly admits that he sinned before God, Gideon freely shares his lack of faith and trust, Paul admits that there are aspects of his life that his prayers will not bring healing. Honesty and humility are important. Just when we think we are standing firm trials happen that seemingly take us right back to where we began. Yes our meetings are filled with fallen and broken people, but that is not a weakness but a strength.
When we can openly admit to our failings and weaknesses and bear witness to God helping us through, our stories hold power that can encourage others to pull their feet out from the snares and to continue to take steps of faith. But how can we bear witness if we fail to reflect on the past? How can we share the light of Christ in our lives if we are unaware of his presence even when He does not seem close?
This is where the laments are important, this is where study and wisdom help carry us through. It is during those times of trials when we can look back and see where God was in the past we are able to have the faith that God will stand with us in the future. He is faithful and will not allow the testing to be greater than our strength, and he will provide a way out so that we can endure it. It sounds clique and it is often misinterpreted and twisted to the point that we should have the strength in ourselves to overcome all trails but that is not exactly what is being said. God is faithful, and will provide a way to give us the strength or a way to endure. But where is God when the stress of my career is causing turmoil at home? Where is God when a parent is hospitalized? Where is God when… Where is God? The real question is where are you? Are we seeking God in our trials or are we seeking ourselves? Are we looking to God to provide the answers or are we resting in our own wisdom? Are we enduring the trial or are we seeking our own personal preference?
We will always face trials, we will always have trouble, and God will remain faithful. He will provide peace through the storm even though we would prefer that the storm be removed. But are we looking to Him? I do not have the answers for why God allows the specific trials in our lives but I do have experience in walking through trials. I can honestly say that I have complained with the best of them but in my complaints I continue to look toward Christ. We are here to live life with God, and to live that life with others around us. It is through that life, as we trip and struggle through being honest with ourselves and with others that the light of Christ shines in the darkness. When we walk humbly with Him, He will use those trials as examples that will encourage others to continue in faith as well.
Philippians 3:17–4:1 (NRSV)
17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 4 1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
The hardest thing about the Christian life is life. Have you ever noticed that? I would be the most perfect Christian if no one bothered me. I would read scripture more if someone would not turn on a television. I would pray more if I did not have to work. I would even fast more if people would just stop bringing tasty deserts to potlucks. Have you ever really thought about the excuses that we make for our souls’ conditions?
All too often we pass the blame onto others. We rarely take on the responsibility for our own actions. This goes back to the very first sin when Adam and Eve, our first parents, hid from God who was walking in the cool of the evening to meet with them. Why did they hide? Because they were naked and exposed. They gained the knowledge of good and evil and immediately that knowledge directed them to hide. They hide because they knew that they were evil, that they failed to listen to God, and scripture said they were ashamed. The interesting thing is that they were hiding, they were running from God, yet where was God? He sought them, He called their names and continued to walk till He found them. Consider that for a moment. They were ashamed and hid, God sought them out in their shame and found them.
God asked simple questions, “Where are you?” and “Who told you that you were naked?” and “did you eat of the tree I commanded you not to eat from?” Simple questions, you could answer each with very little effort, yet immediately Adam says “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Notice something about this statement Adam blames Eve we know that and ever since that day women have been treated poorly, but did you happen to catch the underling accusation? “The woman, whom you gave to be with me…” Adam blames Eve and God. Adam sins and he blames God for giving him a woman to be with him for causing the failure. Eve won’t be out done when she is questioned about her actions, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” Both our first parents passed the blame onto others. Both tried even before God to hide the truth, the truth that they did not trust God and that they thought they knew what was best for themselves.
Pushing the blame onto others has become the universal pastime of all humanity. Some cultures have become so good at it that they have incited the masses to engage in violence against entire people groups, saying we would have a wonderful life with everything we could ever desire is it was not for those people. You can fill in the blank however you want, the Tutsi, the Muslims, the Jews, the Catholics, the Lutherans, the Republicans or Democrats. It does not matter who we want to blame the results are the same, we failed to live up to the standard and we want everyone including God to believe that it is their fault not our own.
Paul tells us something very important about this line of thinking. He tells us that that is not of Christ. Saying, “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.” Their god is the belly and their glory is in their shame.
These ideas are quite disturbing when you study it deeper. Their god is the belly. We can look at this from several different perspectives. One focusing on the actual belly. Which would not be an incorrect way to consider this passage. Their god is the consumption of goods. Eating, drinking, living a life focused on fulfilling our hungers and thirsts. But there is an interesting concept about this word it is used not only to describe the digestive tract, but can also be used to describe the hollow of the body, the emptiness within the person. Their god is the belly, the emptiness, the void within that we seek to fill.
Their glory is in their shame. Shame is an interesting concept. We often think of shame as being something that God does to us, but it is not of God. Shame is the removal or grace or credit, it is separation. Let us return to the garden and our first parents, they hid, they removed themselves from God’s presence, where was God? God knew their sins and he continued to look for them He called them by name even though they sought to remove themselves from God. They had shame not because God removed grace from them, but because they hid. Their glory is in their shame. The idea surrounding this is that these individuals desire shame as a badge of honor. They actively seek to humiliate, discredit, and degrade those around them.
Their god is the belly; their glory is in their shame. These people that Paul says are enemies of the Cross of Christ are people that devote their lives to the filling of the emptiness within, and they do through the humiliation of others. We would have all that we ever wanted if it was not for those people. Who are those people?
To be honest this passage scared me a bit as I studied it. It scared me because often I seek to fill voids within my life. I often want to discredit other or to pass the blame on to them. As I studied and prayed with this scripture I became very aware of the sinfulness of my own actions. What scared me the most was that many of those actions I have participated in while claiming to be honoring God through them.
It is so easy to do, because the Christian life is hard. It is easier to say I am a religious person because I have read a daily devotional, it is hard to apply the things taught to us through those words in our daily life. It is easy to drag myself out of bed to get to worship, it is a great deal more difficult to listen to what the Spirit is saying and change behavior that I have sought to comfort the emptiness within.
Often I as a human am an enemy to the very cross that I claim! Often my own actions lead to the very destruction of what I am seeking to find. Often I get in the way.
I get in the way. It goes back to that very first sin. Adam and Eve both wanted to be like God, they wanted the knowledge of good and evil, they thought that they could control their own destiny and become equal with God. They lifted themselves into a place they were not created to hold. They like me got in the way of God’s desires. They separated themselves, hid themselves from the companionship of God and dehumanized themselves and every child of man after them. They tried to do what they thought was right, they tried to fill a void an emptiness that was created because of disillusion.
It does not take a scholar to tell us that we live in a broken world. It does not take a theologian to tell us that our world is one that is anti-Christ. But are we, as people claiming Christ, living as companions of Him or companions of the world? Paul says, “…join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” That is bold. Join in imitating me or follow me? Paul has used this idea several times in his letters “Follow me as I follow Christ” He tells the people of Corinth. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what is promised. Jesus himself says Follow me, or imitate me. What each of them are saying is stop living the life of the world that is devoted to the belly and shame and instead live a different life. A life that is exemplified in Christ. Walk the way he walks, talk the way he talks, eat the way he eats, breath the way he breaths. Follow his lead.
Jesus said that he is the bread of life and any who come to him will not go hungry. And as he spoke to the woman at the well, and his disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” He said this to his disciples and the Samaritan woman who was one of those people, a Samaritan, not just a Samaritan but a Samaritan woman that was living in sin because she had had five husbands and is living with a sixth man whom she had not married. The disciples were astonished that he would be near let alone speak to her. This gives us a glimpse into what Paul is encouraging us to imitate.
Jesus lived in a broken world, and he loved them. He showed them a lifestyle that was contrary to the lifestyles of the world. He lived in such a way to humanize the dehumanized, to humble the proud, and to give worth to those deemed worthless. He call his disciples to follow him, to follow him as he did the will of the one who sent him. He made it his custom to worship, he withdrew often to pray in isolated places, and he ministered to the needs of those around him. He listened to the spirit and acted. And he told his disciples and a sinful woman, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me.” That lifestyle is the one that will truly satisfy.
When we look at the world around us what do we see? Do we see a world that is far from God and do we pray that God would end it now, or do we see fields ripe for harvest? Do we live lifestyles seeking our desires to be filled or do we seek to do the will of the Father? Do we seek to discredit and dehumanize or do we strive to be reconciled to God?
The Christian life is hard, it is so much easier to live like everyone else. To blame all of our problems on another so we do not have to face the consequences of our own actions. But that is not what we are called to do. Our first parents hid, they were ashamed because they filled their belly with fruit that was not theirs to eat, and they were ashamed because all that that fruit did for them was make them realize that they were not much to look at. Imitate me, Paul encourages us, Imitate and observe others who live according to the example you have in him, who is ultimately Christ. Follow Jesus. Eat what he eats, drink what he drinks, be what he is. Our world is broken because we have turned away from that lifestyle. Even among those in the Church we have become enemies of the Cross of Christ. A cross that encourages us to love those that God loves, to clothe those whom God would clothe, and to feed those that God would feed.
Romans 10:8–13 (NRSV)
8 But what does it say?
“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart. There might not be a much better phrase to use on Valentine’s Day. The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart. I am not much for the secular holiday of Valentine’s Day, but it is a day that fascinates me. Mainly because it is a feast day that has been honored for most of Christian history, but there is very little remembered about it. This feast day, is connected to three martyrs from the first millennium of the church, who were believed to have died on this day, and another eight martyrs that are known by the name Valentine but we are unsure of the date of their deaths. The legends of Valentine, are actually quite intriguing, of course we do not know exactly which Valentine we speak of. But we do know that they all lived lives of faith through persecution, and joined Christ in suffering.
Valentine, if the legends are true, was one of three people. Two of which were priests in Italy who died in Rome, and the third was a priest that died in North Africa. Of the three the ones in Italy are the ones that most of the legends are connected to. It is said that Valentine lived in 3rd century and was under house arrest because he was ministering during one of the persecution periods of history. We do not know the exact time but we do know that all the earliest stories place them before time of Emperor Constantine so Christianity was still illegal in the Roman Empire. Well this priest was under house arrest for teaching people about Christ, and while he was under investigation a judge came to him to put him to the test. This judge happened to have a daughter who was blind so for fun he decided to bring his daughter to the priest to see if she could be healed, and if she was he would do anything the priest said. Much to the judge’s surprise the girl was healed. So the judge then had to keep his side of the bargain. Valentine asked that the judge release all Christians under his authority from captivity, so that was granted. Because of this Valentine continued to teach and this judge and all of his family eventually were baptized into the church, his family according to legend had forty-four members.
Obviously this judge had a certain degree of influence and Valentine became a fairly well respected member of the community both inside and outside the church. But eventually his fame caught the attention of the Emperor. During this period of history it was forbidden for men to marry while they were serving in the military. The reasoning was so the soldiers would be focused on their duties instead of worrying about their families back home. I cannot tell you if that was a historical fact across all of the Roman empire of just in certain areas, but according to the legend of Valentine that was the case. Valentine taught and preached to all people, it did not matter who they were or what position they held, and some of those people who came to faith were soldiers. Through the course of time several of these soldiers came to the conclusion that the life they were leading in the military was not in sync with their faith and Valentine began to perform marriages for the soldiers. Because this was forbidden the emperor was upset and eventually learned where one of these secret weddings was taking place and captured this popular priest in action. Valentine was executed for this and this is how he became the patron saint of young love and marriage.
Why do I speak about this, why should we even care about the lives of people from over a thousand years ago that are connected to a branch of faith that is not our own? Because stories of faith have power. The word is near you, it is on your lips and in your heart. A story allows us to relate to people and to connect with them even if they are not sitting across from us. When we hear the stories of the ancient saints we can imagine what they experienced and at times we might consider what we might do if we faced similar circumstances. A story speaks to our hearts in ways that cold fact cannot because the story has flesh and emotion. We hear about St. Valentine and we can imagine a wedding ceremony at night between a soldier and a young woman. The story both ancient and contemporary draws us into a deeper relationship, it causes us to think and interact with another, while allowing us to look at our own lives from a different perspective. A story, our story is the most powerful tool we poses for the kingdom of God.
This phrase that Paul uses in this letter to the people of Rome comes from the very heart of Jewish scripture. It speaks of the relationship between God and his people. The word is near you. Near is one of those word that is loaded with meaning because it can reflect time or space. In either case it describes a closeness. When Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven is near, he was describing the same thing that Paul is speaking about. The Kingdom, the word is close. It is right here, we can experience it soon or now, and we can reach out and touch it. The word is near you. The word in this case is not the same term that John used in describing knowledge or wisdom from God, but this is a testimony a saying, so in a sense Paul is telling us the story is near.
If we were read the verses just prior to this section we would learn that the story that Paul was speaking about was the story of faith which was spoken of by Moses and fulfilled in Christ. He speaks of the righteousness of those that live by the Law and how that righteousness is nothing compared to the power of Christ who came down from heaven, suffered, died, was buried in a grave, and rose again. The word is near you, Paul tells us, this story the power of the words is available all around us.
It is on your lips and in your heart. The concept of heart points deep within a person, it is not the organ the pumps blood throughout our bodies but it is the essence that pumps meaning and purpose throughout or existence. When the ancients speak of heart they speak of our passions our hopes and our dreams. Paul is saying that the word is near, the story of Christ and the power of that story is all around us, filling us and giving us meaning and purpose. It is coursing through our being and pours out of our lips. It is near, it is at the core of our being and on the tip of our tongues. Christ is in those that believe.
The letter to the Romans is seen by many as one of the most important letters of the New Testament, there is a reason it is the fourth book. It speaks of the power of God in our lives here today and for eternity that is available to us by faith. Faith and belief are often seen as synonyms but there are differences. Belief is not exclusively a religious word, because there are various levels of belief that do not necessarily require devotion to any religious system. These levels of belief are knowledge, trust, and entrust. We have various levels of belief in many things, but faith is the belief we have in God.
When Paul speaks of the word of faith, the word that is near on our lips and in our hearts, he is speaking about these levels of belief that are attached to God. Each of these levels speak of how we relate to God. Paul is challenging people to examine their belief. All that confess or proclaim with their lips and believe with the hearts that Jesus rose from the grave will be saved. What is being said here is that there are levels of belief, if we confess with our mouths we are moving deeper in our belief, we are moving from just base knowledge to trust. By speaking are saying that I trust that God is capable of doing what is said. But to believe in our hearts, that is a bit different. To believe in our hearts is take the word or story down to the very core of your being, entrusting our every passion and aspect of our lives to the belief that God is capable of doing what is spoke about Him. There is a difference in belief. It is that third level entrusting our passions to God where true faith lies.
When we entrust our hearts to God, we are proclaiming that everything that I am and all that I do is dedicated to God. Everything that makes us who we are has been saturated with the Spirit of God and the story of who we are cannot be separated from the story of God. This is why our story is so powerful to those that are beginning their journeys along the pathways of faith. This is why I first began to speak about St. Valentine. Valentine, allowed the story of Christ to be wedded to his very being. His life was no longer his and he was willing to forfeit all that he had for the cause of Christ. But he is not the only one. There are at least fourteen other saints celebrated on this day. Each one has a story of faith that is similar to that of Valentine. Each is a powerful testimony of what God can do in the world if we are willing to allow Him to work through us.
One of the most striking is the stories of St. Cyril and Methodius. These were two brothers from Thessalonica of Slavic heritage. These brothers were missionaries that took the Gospel of Christ from Thessalonica to Ukraine and to Moldova. These two men believed that it was important not only to speak the gospel but to teach it in the language of the people. At the time that they ministering the Slavic people did not have a written language, so these men created what would eventually evolve into the Slavic alphabet or Cyrillic. These two men translated scriptures and most of the early works of the church into the Slavic language and the people they taught heard the gospel. The fruits of their labor would not be seen fully for many years but one of those Slavic influenced church’s is the second largest church in the world. Unfortunately for them they did not see this with their own eyes, and they died only knowing that their life’s work was seen as blasphemous.
Valentine suffered a martyr’s death, Saints Cyril and Methodius both sought God fully yet did not see the fullness of their labors, yet their stories still inspire. We do not always know the power of our story when it is infused with Christ, but Paul assures us that we will not be put to shame.
Shame is another powerful word. It is a word of darkness one that speaks of separation from God, void of all Godly influence. Shamed people are seen as worthless. Shame is a painful word and those that wield the words of shame are dangerous. Shame is not of God, shame is not God’s desire for us. Shame is separation where God focuses of reconciliation. God will not allow those that are saturated in his story to be put to shame. God will not allow those who have fully entrusted every aspect of their lives to Him to be separated from Him. We are here today because of God’s faithfulness, each of us heard the testimonies of countless saints, saints we know as friends, grandparents, and heroes of faith. Some lived through terrible struggles and suffered greatly yet God carried them through it all. Those stories have been used by God’s Spirit to teach us a better life, and the same Spirit us using our stories to inspire those near us. I mention shame because shame is what sought to silence Valentine, Cyril, and Methodius, yet their stories live on even after a thousand years. God will not be silenced, God will not be shamed. In God there is no condemnation and no separation, all that call on his name will be saved.
Consider your lives. Consider the story that God has been telling the world through you. What is that story? The word is near you, it is on your lips and in your hearts. The word is that God so loved the world that He gave. He gave his son to live with us. He gave his son to teach us how to be human and to live a full life with God. He gave his son to take on the shame that separates us from God and provide reconciliation. He gave His son not to condemn but to save. He ensures that salvation through the risen Lord and that word is near. It is all around and in us if we are willing to grasp it. And if we are there is no more division or separation and that story becomes infused to our own. What is your story?