The following post is an edited version of Father Ken Anthony’s sermon delivered on the Sunday before Epiphany, at the Annunciation Cathedral in Atlanta, GA.
Just last week, we rang in the New Year, and I hope that this year will bring us prosperity, renewed faith, good health, good fortune, and blessings.
For thousands of years, God implemented His strategy for humankind’s salvation and the one of the steps was for St. John the Baptist to announce the Christ, as we see during the Feast of Epiphany. Yet, while God plans for humankind, do we have plans that involve Him?
In the spirit of building our faith for this New Year, I want to touch upon some key action plans that will enable our faith to move to greater glory.
- Spending time getting to know God
- Spending time worshiping God
- Spending time doing God’s work.
Spending time getting to know God
The Apostle Paul writes this to the Philippians 3:8: “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”.
When we come to know God, we learn about God’s infinite love and understand why He sent Jesus Christ to bring us into salvation. God wants us all to receive new life in Him and to reap all the benefits of a close personal relationship with Him; for knowing God is really entering into an intimate, personal relationship with Him.
What are some key action plans for us to implement?
- Read your bible every single day. Buy the “One Year Bible” published by Tindale. Each day’s reading contains an Old Testament, New Testament, Psalm and Proverb to study. Total daily investment to read the entire bible: seven minutes a day.
- Pray constantly. As a start, say your morning prayers on your commute to work. Keep a prayer book or a bible in your desk and do some morning prayers before you start your workday.
- Thank God before and after every meal for His gifts. Close the day by praying to God before you go to bed.
- Stretch plan: join a bible study group to learn scripture more in depth.
- Come to know God better by reading some patristic materials including the Philokalia, the Desert Fathers, and some Orthodox Dogmatic Literature.
Spending time worshipping God
When we worship God, we remember His vast goodness, greatness, and abundant love. True worship makes us realize that we are completely dependent on God’s mercy and grace for both our material survival and spiritual well-being.
Key action plans:
- Start out by simply attending Church services on a more regular basis.
- Second, as we spend time worshipping God, let’s try to focus on God and not let our minds wander.
- During services, try to participate by following along in your service books, chant the hymns, read the prayers, sing aloud, and open your hearts.
- Stretch plan: Try to attend services that you don’t frequent. Attend a weekday liturgy, go to a Royal Hours service for a Feast Day, come early and go to Orthros, go to all the Holy Week services.
Spending time doing God’s work
A vibrant Christian life combines two things: faith and good works. All we have to do is follow our Lord’s example as His earthly ministry was devoted to curing the sick, comforting the downtrodden, giving aid to the poor, and teaching the masses.
The Protestant minister John Wesley wrote, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
- Key action plans are:
- Let’s consider volunteering our services to the Church in either new or expanded capacities.
- Teach a Sunday school class or volunteer in the church nursery. Maybe you can serve as a teacher for Wednesday Night Life or assist in one of the Church’s several ministries.
- Commit to becoming a “Big Brother” or “Big Sister” with your local “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” chapter or with a similar organization.
- Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or spend some time teaching underprivileged youth.
- Try devoting one day a month to charity that helps what Christ calls “the least of my brethren”
The film Schindler’s List chronicled the heroic efforts of a German industrialist named Oskar Schindler, who through his unselfish activities, saved over a thousand Jews on the trains heading to Auschwitz. For money, he could buy Jews to work in his factory which was supposed to be a part of the military machine of Germany. On one hand, he was buying as many Jews as he could, and on the other hand, he was deliberately sabotaging the ammunition produced in his factory. He entered the war as a financially wealthy industrialist; by the end of the war, he became financially bankrupt. When the Germans surrendered, Schindler met with his workers and declared that at midnight they were all free to go.
The most emotional scene of the film is when Schindler says good-bye to the financial manager of the plant, a Jew and his good and trusted friend. As he embraces his friend, Schindler sobs and says, “I could have done more.” He looks at his automobile and asks, “Why did I save this? I could have bought ten Jews with this.” Taking another small possession he cries, “This would have saved another one. Why didn’t I do more?”
My friends, in the end when we come to account for our lives each of us will confess to our Lord, “Why didn’t I do more?” We can all do more if we plan accordingly and make provisions to give a greater part of our lives over to God. It is my prayer that we will each take time out and pray, “God, how can you help me do more?” May our good and loving God give you all His grace, strength and love. Amen.