Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pigs, Passions, and Pleasure: What We All Have in Common with the Gadarene Demoniac

St. Luke 8:26-39
           Sometimes we have heard the same story so many times that we take it for granted, especially if it is set in a land far away and a time long ago.  Perhaps that is our reaction when we hear today’s familiar gospel reading about Jesus Christ casting demons out of the miserable man who lived in a cemetery and was out of his mind.  The Savior sent the demons into a herd of pigs who then jumped into the water and drowned.  Then the man was himself again and his neighbors were so amazed and terrified by what happened that they asked the Lord to leave their town. I do not know about you, but I have never seen anything quite like that with my own eyes.  So we may be tempted to think that this account has nothing to do with us, for we are not possessed by demons, living among the tombs, or watching pigs jump to their deaths in a lake.   What on earth could this gospel reading have to do with us?
            In order to figure that out, we should remember that the gospels do not simply give us news reports about the activities of Jesus Christ during the first century.  No, they are narrative portraits of the good news of His salvation.  The word “gospel” means “good news,” and the Church has recognized the four gospels in the New Testament canon as true proclamations of who our Savior is and what His healing of our humanity means and looks like.  When we read or hear the gospels, the point is not to satisfying our curiosity about what happened two thousand years ago.  It is, instead, to invite us to participate personally in the life of the One whose story is told in them.  In fact, the gospels call us to become participants in the ongoing story of the Lord’s saving work in the world.  His Kingdom is the fulfillment, healing, and blessing of all people and all reality, regardless of historical period. Just as much as He brought deliverance from evil to that poor demon-possessed man, He brings salvation to us also.
            Even though we are not as obviously controlled by evil as he was, we all have too much in common with that unfortunate person.  If we are honest with ourselves, we will all acknowledge that temptation gets the better of us with some regularity and leads us to think, act, and speak in ways that fall short of being in the likeness of God to which we are called.  If it is hard for us to understand that, think about the pigs in the story.  We have probably all at least seen pictures of pigs gorging themselves on their food.  When our family visited friends in Minnesota summer before last, they took me into the one of their pig barns that held over a thousand of them.  I was warned to be careful not to fall down because the pigs will try to eat anything.  I remember seeing one pig without a tail and was told that another pig had probably chewed it off.  So I was very careful not to fall down that day and emerged unscathed.
             Too often, however, we get right in there with the pigs.  We allow ourselves to be overcome with passions and self-centered desires to the point that we have as little control over ourselves as a bunch of hungry hogs eating slop from their trough.  Whether it is anger, pride, lust, envy, greed, dwelling on the wrongs of others, or another sin, we routinely diminish ourselves by giving into temptation to the point that we do not act like the beloved sons and daughters of God we are created to be.
I know that some will say that there is nothing more important than being true to yourself, which they understand to mean that we should always say and do whatever feels right at the moment.  The problem, however, is that our sickened spiritual state is not the true human state of being.  It is, instead, the way of Adam and Eve who brought sin and death into the world by their disobedience to God.  Ever since, there has been a war within the soul of every human being, as well as a strong temptation to accept our corrupt condition as good and normal.  So we have all made pleasure and contentment in whatever form we pursue them our highest good, whether that is the perverse satisfaction of controlling, condemning, or harming someone or as subtle as simply putting our own preferences before the needs of others or what we know God wants us to do.     
            The problem is that to be true to ourselves in that way is really to be false to ourselves. It is really to live out the lie that we are nothing but pleasure and satisfaction-seeking individuals whose horizons extend no further than those of hungry pigs waiting for their next feeding.  Like the demon-possessed man, we lose our identity when we do that.  He said that his name was “Legion” because he was filled with so many evil spirits.  Too often, we could say the same thing because of the many disordered desires that dominate our lives and distort our true identity.
            We have a way out of that kind of existence, however, because Christ is the Second Adam who as the God-Man makes us participants in His divinized humanity.  He heals, blesses, and restores us as unique persons in His image and likeness to the point that we become participants in His divine nature by grace.  So to be truly human in Him is not to be controlled and distorted by sin to the point that we are no longer truly ourselves.  It is, instead, to have control over our desires such that we direct them all to God and find fulfillment in ways that draw us more fully into the life of the Kingdom even as we live and breathe in this world.
            The formerly demon-possessed man came to himself again and regained his true identity because of Christ’s salvation.  The same will be true of us when we recognize our self-centered desires, weaknesses, and love for our bad habits as the temptations that they are.  It is no sin to be tempted, but it is sinful to accept these distorted inclinations as the truth of who we are by giving in to them.  Every time that we do so, we damage and distort ourselves at least a bit.  We embrace spiritual sickness instead of health.  Just as that unhappy state of the demon-possessed man had become his “new normal,” we easily get too comfortable with the presence of evil in our lives.  Of course, none of this is as dramatic as a wild man living in a cemetery or the sight of a herd of pigs jumping into a lake.  But the consequences for our spiritual health and the true joy of our lives will be just as real.  Namely, we risk losing ourselves—our souls, our lives-- out of an addiction to getting satisfaction on our own terms.  If that is how we live, we might as well be living in a cemetery, isolated from others, and under the control of demons.  Truth be told, that is precisely who we will be become if we follow that path. 
            Of course, that is not how any of us want to end up.  But just as a recovering alcoholic has to learn not to take even one drink and someone who quits smoking has to learn not to have even one cigarette, each and every one of us has to learn how to reject temptation as soon as it rears its ugly head.  In other words, we have to be on guard, with our eyes wide open to the destructive personal consequences of the addictions, bad habits, and passions that have taken root in our lives. And even though it may seem impossibly difficult, we have to make war against them, refusing to give in to their familiar and comfortable attraction.  I know that we sometimes think it will kill us to refuse to indulge in this or that desire for pleasure or satisfaction of thought, word, or deed, whatever it may be.  But as we all know from the times that we have successfully resisted temptation, it is not really going to kill us to do so.  To give up on the struggle out of fear is also a temptation that we must resist.
When we despair of our ability to refrain from sin and fall short again and again, that is when we are in the perfect position to cultivate the deep humility of the Jesus Prayer.  It is also why we should call on the mercy and aid of the Lord from our hearts as often as we possibly can, every day of our lives.  And if we ever think that His mercy and power are not able to bring us healing and strength in relation to our spiritual maladies, let us remember that poor man possessed by demons, living among the tombs, who had lost his true identity.   Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ set him free and restored him to his true self as a beloved child of God.  He gave him his life back.  He will do precisely the same for us when, in our weakness and despair, we turn to Him in humility for the healing that only the Second Adam can bring to those created in His image and likeness.          


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boasting in Weakness: St. Luke, St. Paul, and the Widow of Nain

            Yesterday was the feast of the patron saint of our parish, the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke.  The Church remembers him as the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.  A Gentile, he accompanied St. Paul on missionary journeys.  He referred to him in Colossians as a “dear and glorious physician.”
            As a Gentile and a healer, St. Luke especially highlighted our Lord’s mercy for people who were considered outsiders or unimportant, who suffered profound difficulties and challenges in their lives. Whether it is the shepherds who received word of Christ’s birth from the angels, the Theotokos who responded with complete obedience to the message of the Archangel Gabriel about the miraculous conception of the Savior, or the poor, hungry, and thirsty who would be blessed in the Kingdom of God,   St. Luke’s gospel gives particular stress to how those considered weak in that time and place found great blessing and strength in Jesus Christ.
            Today’s gospel reading from St. Luke about the Lord’s raising of the son of the widow of Nain proclaims powerfully Christ’s mercy for the lowly and suffering, for He has compassion upon a widow who mourns the death of her only son.  He comforts her, saying “Do not weep,” and then touches the coffin, bringing the young man back from the dead.
            The Lord’s great act of compassion for this woman is a sign of our salvation.  For we weep and mourn not only for loved ones whom we see no more, but also for the broken, disintegrated state of life that the sins of humanity—and our own sins—have brought to us and to our world.  Death, destruction, hatred, fear, and decay in all their forms are the consequences of our refusal to live faithfully as those created in the image of God.  We have worshipped ourselves, our possessions and our pride, and found despair and emptiness as a result, as well as slavery to our own self-centered desires.  So we weep with the widow of Nain for losing loved ones and for losing ourselves.
            In that time and place, a widow who lost her only son was in deep trouble.  She would have no one to provide for her or to protect her.  Poverty, neglect, and abuse would be real threats to her very life.  Who knows what would have become of her as a result?  When the Lord raised her son, He not only demonstrated that He is the conqueror of death, but also of our separation from one another.  In raising her son, Christ restored both his life and hers.      
            The good news of the Gospel, of course, is the compassion of God that extends even to the most miserable and vulnerable human being.  Rather than simply observing human suffering and letting us bear the consequences of our actions, the Father sent the Son to enter into our suffering, into our distorted and disintegrated world, in order to set us right, to stop us from weeping, and even to raise us from the dead into the glory of the heavenly kingdom.  The Saviour touched the coffin of the dead man and he arose.  Christ’s compassion for us is so profound that He also entered a coffin, a tomb, and even descended to Hades, the shadowy place of the dead because—out of love for humankind—He could not simply stand by and allow us to destroy ourselves by bearing the full consequences of our actions. 
             Contrary to what some may teach, Christian faith is not fundamentally about justice or punishment or wrath for sinners.  It is instead about the infinite and holy love of Christ Who will stop at nothing to bring the one lost sheep back into the fold, Who is not embarrassed to welcome home the prodigal son, and Who will even submit to death on a cross in order to destroy death by His glorious resurrection.
St. Paul learned something about Christ’s compassion through his many sufferings.  He barely escaped Damascus with his life, endured beatings, imprisonment and other calamities, and had a “thorn in the flesh” of some kind that the Lord would not remove from him.  Instead, He gave him the word:   “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” St. Paul accepted that, saying “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
            Many of us do not have to look very hard to find our own “thorns in the flesh” or how our lives bear some similarity to the difficult plight of the widow of Nain.  When that is the situation with us, we must take St. Paul as our example.  Instead of abandoning his ministry and holding his problems against God or thinking that he could handle everything by himself, he used his weakness to grow in his awareness of Christ’s power, comfort, and compassion.
            As St. Luke emphasized so clearly, our Lord’s salvation is not a reward for having a life with no difficulties.  Indeed, it was often those who had suffered disease, loss, poverty, and rejection who were most open to the good news of Christ during His earthly ministry.  Surely, it was their humility that opened their hearts and souls to Him.  Those who think that they have it all in life can easily convince themselves that all is well. If they want a religion, it is often one that congratulates them for their accomplishments and never gets beyond worldly ways of thinking.  But those who are aware of their weaknesses, of their failings and their inability to fix all their problems, know that they need help from One Whose compassion is deeper than merely helping those who help themselves.  They need a Savior Who conquers even death itself, Who turns the ultimate weakness of the grave into the triumph of an empty tomb, and Who is not ashamed to remember even the most wretched repentant sinner in His Kingdom.
            When our spiritual eyes are opened to see that that is how we all stand before Christ, we will give up trying to impress Him with how religious we are or judging others for not measuring up.  In fact, we will no longer focus on ourselves at all, but instead we will be transformed such that we extend His compassion to others.  Think for a moment about the widow of Nain and her son.  Surely, they were so profoundly grateful for the Lord’s mercy that they lived the rest of their days showing that same mercy to others.  It would be impossible for someone to go through an experience like that and think that they had achieved it all by their own ability.  No, their life was entirely God’s gift.  In their weakness, they received Christ’s strength, which is precisely the strength of God’s eternal compassion.  If we receive it, if we receive Him, then we must live accordingly, showing the same mercy to our suffering neighbors that we have received ourselves.

            The ministry of Jesus Christ continues to this day through His Body, the Church. In our personal and collective weaknesses, we all have the opportunity to open ourselves to the compassionate strength of our Lord.  In keeping with how our patron St. Luke told the good news of Christ’s ministry, this parish embodies compassion toward people who know that life in our corrupt world is not easy.  Many of us can identify with the shepherds, the poor, the sick, and the bereaved who so powerfully received the mercy of the Lord.  Like them, let us take up our place in extending that same blessing to others.  For Christ’s Body continues to do Christ’s work, His ministry of binding up the wounds of His sick children, conquering death, and inviting them to the life of a Kingdom where the last really shall be first. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stay Focused and Bear Fruit: Homily for the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council and the 4th Sunday of Luke in the Orthodox Church

 Titus 3:8-15
Luke 8:5-15
              I am sure that we all waste our time and energy now and then.  Of course, sometimes we need a diversion from our usual cares and there is nothing wrong with taking a rest from time to time.  The problem, however, is when we find excuses not to do what needs to be done.  We do not want to look back on our day, our lives, or our relationships and be saddened because we failed to give attention to what is truly important.
            St. Paul warned in his letter to St. Titus against letting foolish disputes, pointless arguments, or anything else distract us from what needs to be done:  namely, good works, meeting the urgent needs of others, and bearing fruit in the Christian life.  St. Paul reminds us to turn away from all the nonsense that tempts us from faithfulness to Christ, that threatens to distract us from the Lord and the service of His Church.
            That is a necessary reminder whenever we find ourselves distracted from what is truly important.  Perhaps part of the problem is that we forget what is really significant and how richly God has blessed us with His truth and life.  It is fairly easy to ignore things that we take for granted or consider not worth mentioning.  Unfortunately, it is very easy to make our life in Christ one of those assumed things that we end up neglecting.
            The Lord Himself reminded the Apostles not to take what He had taught them for granted.  He challenged them to see its  importance:  “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.” Yes, to that group of fishermen and other rough characters who had no particular importance or standing in that time and place, the Son of God had taught the greatest mysteries of the universe.  Imagine that.  The same is true for us, of course, as members of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  He calls us not to be distracted from the glorious truth that we have received, either by taking it for granted or giving more attention to something else.    Instead, we must respond to Him in a way appropriate to His great gift, which means doing what is necessary for us to grow in faith and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.
             Our Savior spoke of the word of God like seed cast upon the ground.  But, of course, some of those seeds never even begin to grow because they fall along the wayside and are eaten by birds.  And some who hear the good news of Christ do likewise, for they never even believe.  Some seeds just begin to grow, but the sprouts die as soon as they spring up because they landed on rocks and could not put down roots and receive nourishment.  And some who believe at first fall away quickly, for they never really opened themselves to the strength received through regular prayer, worship, fasting, repentance, communion, and all the other means of support for the Christian life that we experience through the Church.  
            Then there are seeds that grow into plants that do take root; they seem to be healthy, but are eventually choked by thorns and weeds.  And some who make a good beginning in the Christian life allow themselves to be so distracted by their worries, riches, pleasures, and passions that their faith dies.  A gardener who is too distracted by other activities to look out for weeds or to remember to water the plants will probably not be very successful.  Likewise, a Christian who disregards the dangers posed by anger, greed, pride, lust, spiritual laziness, or other passions will not thrive. But some seeds fall on good ground, grow nicely, and yield a large crop.  And some Christians not only hear the word of the Lord, but keep it in their hearts and lives, and bear fruit with patience.  They do what needs to be done in order for them to flourish in the service of the Kingdom.  
            The thrust of this parable is clear:  We have received the fullness of God’s truth, the mystery of the Kingdom of God.  We have put on Christ in baptism, been sealed by the Holy Spirit in chrismation, and nourished by the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  Christ Himself forgives us when we repent in Confession.   In Jesus Christ, we receive our salvation, our fulfillment, as partakers in the divine nature.  In His Body, the Church, we are taught the whole, complete faith of the Apostles.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the Saints, who inspire us by their examples and help us by their prayers.   In every Divine Liturgy, we join them and the entire heavenly host in the worship of the Holy Trinity.
            God has given us all that we need for our salvation, our growth in holiness, and the healing of our souls.   The problem is not with Him, but with us, for we often take our faith for granted and decide that there are more important matters than prayer, repentance, and serving others in the name of Christ.  We become content with making our spiritual life a low priority to the point that we become sick and weak because we are too lazy or distracted to fight our passions and accept the healing and strength which the Lord gives us through the ministries of His Church.  Too often, we rest content with bearing no fruit at all for the Kingdom.  The problem is that, when we live like that, we become as weak and vulnerable as a plant in an un-watered and un-weeded garden; and then we have very little hope of thriving.   
            Of course, we all have our excuses.  Out of pride, we would like to believe that our particular circumstances are so special that we are somehow justified in neglecting the way of Christ. The problem is that, regardless of our preferences or situation, we make ourselves spiritually weak and vulnerable whenever we do not take advantage of the opportunities we have each day to open ourselves to the presence and healing of the Lord through prayer, Bible reading, fasting, and service toward those around us.  When we put off taking Confession so long that we never take it, we rob ourselves of the spiritual benefits of humble repentance and the assurance of Christ’s forgiveness.  When we freely choose to give our attention to what inflames our passions and turns us away from holiness, we weaken ourselves spiritually and reject the strength and healing of our Lord.   Just as a lazy or inattentive gardener or farmer cannot expect a good crop, we cannot expect to flourish in the Christian life by allowing ourselves to be distracted on a regular basis from the kind of life to which Jesus Christ calls us.
            But if we follow St. Paul’s advice to become so busy with good works that we have no time or energy for foolish arguments or other pointless distractions, we will then be like the seed that landed on good soil, got proper nutrition, and produced a bumper crop.  And despite the trials and tribulations of our lives, we will know already the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven.
            That is the will of the Lord for each and every one of us, no matter how faithfully or unfaithfully we may have lived to this point in our lives.  Through His Body, the Church, Christ has revealed to us all the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, and we all have the ability to respond to our Lord’s great mercy with repentance, love, and faithfulness each day. 

            So even if we have horribly neglected our spiritual garden, even if our souls are so full of weeds that we cannot see a sprout, much less bear fruit in our present condition, we still have hope because at the heart of the mystery of the Kingdom of God is divine mercy toward sinners like you and me.  The good news is that in Christ Jesus there is always hope, there is always the promise of a new life with the blessing and peace of the Kingdom.  We may all become good seed by turning away from distractions and excuses as we do what needs to be done to serve Him faithfully with repentance, humility, and love.  As Christ said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Perfecting Holiness and Loving Our Enemies: Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Luke and the 17th Sunday After Pentecost in the Orthodox Church

 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1
    Luke 6:31-36

            If it is hard for us to live faithfully as Christians in our time and place, imagine how difficult it was for the new Gentile converts in the Greek city of Corinth.  They lived in a culture that was notoriously immoral and had themselves worshiped pagan gods before their baptism.  There was so much corruption all around them that they were surely constantly tempted to return to decadent ways of life.  The outrageous problems that St. Paul had to correct in their congregation provide evidence that many of those converts still lived in worldly, as opposed to holy, ways.  (If you ever start to think that our generation has invented new sins, just read his letters to the Corinthians and you will see that there is nothing new under the sun.)   
            He was not speaking here of cleanness according to the externals of the Jewish law, such as following kosher dietary practices.  Instead, St. Paul called the Corinthians to turn away from everything that hindered their full participation in the healing and blessing of humanity that Jesus Christ makes possible for all who share in His life.  Those who live according to their calling as God’s temple and people must abandon both the sins that we associate with the body (such as sexual immorality or gluttony) and those that we associate with the spirit (such as pride or hatred).  That is not due to some kind of legalism, but instead because all sins are incompatible with true holiness. As those created in the image and likeness of God, our calling is to become “partakers of the divine nature,” to be transformed by personal union with the Lord such that His holiness becomes truly characteristic of us.  We are to become living icons of His salvation to the depths of our being and to live out that identity in every thought, word, and deed.   
            That high calling ought to bring us all to our knees, for we all fall short of it in one way or another.  If that is not clear, all that we have to do is to pay attention to Jesus Christ’s teaching on loving our enemies.  It is fairly easy to do good to those who do good to us.  When we help someone with whom we have a good relationship, we can usually expect something positive in return.  But it is quite hard to do good to those with whom we do not have a good relationship and from whom we can realistically expect nothing positive in return.  
            We may wonder why the Lord gave us such difficult teachings to follow as those as we find in today’s gospel lesson.  Be merciful even as your Father in heaven is merciful.  Love your enemies.  Do good to everyone; lend expecting nothing in return.  Treat others as you wish to be treated.  Christ Himself tells us that this is the difficult path of true holiness.
            No matter whether we live in Corinth, Abilene, or elsewhere, we all struggle against the spiritual diseases that make it so hard to forgive, love, and serve those who have violated our pride by offending us or who will probably not respond in kind.  We have these struggles because we have turned away collectively and individually from the truth that we are made for a common life in the image and likeness of God.  We have forgotten that it is our very nature as persons to be united with one another in love as are the members of the Holy Trinity.  When St. Paul wrote of Christians as the temple and people of God, he was pointing to the fulfillment of our calling as human beings by the power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and our collective life.   
            It might be fairly easy to obey a set of religious or moral laws about this or that form of outward behavior, even though personal experience teaches that we often fall short of them. It is an entirely different thing, however, to acquire such purity of heart that we love, give, and forgive as God does to the ungrateful, the selfish, and to our enemies and nuisances.  So instead of patting ourselves on the back that at least we are decent to those who love us, we should instead fall on our knees asking for mercy and strength to love those who hate, disregard, or simply ignore us.  
         Of course, it is much easier to recognize the flamboyant sins of the people of Corinth than it is to recognize how we ourselves fall short of “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  It is much easier to point our fingers at individuals and groups today who celebrate beliefs and behaviors contrary to the way of Christ.  Yes, we like to praise ourselves and condemn others because we want to let ourselves off the hook, perhaps by saying that at least we go to church and lead fairly decent lives.     
           Maybe that would be enough if we were part of a religion that called only for superficial decency and did not condemn self-righteous judgment, but that is not the case for Orthodox Christians.  God really does call us to become holy because we are His temple and people by the power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and our collective life as Christ’s Body, the Church.  We are to be merciful, perfect, and holy like our Heavenly Father.   What is true of God by nature must become true of us by grace.  That is what it means to become “partakers of the divine nature” as we participate in the eternal life of our Lord.  
 So when we refuse to show mercy and love toward difficult, annoying, and inconvenient people from whom we expect nothing in return, we turn away from our calling to be God’s holy temple as surely as if we bowed down before an idol like the pagans of Corinth.  For when we do so, we simply serve ourselves and disregard the calling that the Lord has given us all:  to be so transformed by the mercy of our Father in heaven that we exude that same mercy to others.  For He is kind to the ungrateful and selfish and loves even those who reject Him, even those who killed His Son and the rest of us who reject Him so often in how we live.  Still, He bestows countless blessings on us all.  And through the Son whom He sent out of love for the world, He has made us His own sons and daughters.
How tragic, then, that we so often choose to make the same mistakes as the Corinthians and to live in ways that are really no different from the unholy and corrupt practices so dominant in our world.  How sad that we so often prefer death to life, pain to joy, and the hollow victory of self-exaltation to the blessedness of growing in communion with one another and with the Lord Himself.  And if we as Christians live this way, what hope is there for a world where helping our friends and cursing our enemies is just business as usual?
Jesus Christ is certainly the hope of both the Church and the world.  He is our hope because He brought a new, blessed, and saving way for human beings to relate to others and to God.  He died and rose again for those who rejected Him, who nailed Him to a cross and thought that He was demon-possessed.  He not only healed His own people the Jews, but showed the same mercy to Gentiles, Samaritans, and even a Roman centurion, a foreign soldier who occupied His homeland.  He was at times very frustrated with the disciples for their lack of faith; they largely abandoned Him at His arrest and crucifixion, but Christ still appeared to them after His resurrection and blessed them as the leaders of the Church.
Our Savior is the embodiment of mercy to everyone, for He came to save and transform the entire world and especially every human being.  Even more amazing is the truth that we are able to participate in Him, to be nourished by His Body and Blood, the medicine of immortality and holiness in Holy Mystery of the Eucharist.  And, yes, we really are able to become merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful.  By being filled and transformed by His grace, we may become living icons of the divine love and light even in our most difficult relationships.

In other words, what we do in this temple today is a crucial dimension of being His temple and people, of receiving the strength and power to turn away from all the sins that frustrate our growth in holiness and personal union with the Lord and one another.  We are enabled to become like the Father by receiving the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.  And then let us live as we have received, “cleans[ing] ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and mak[ing] holiness perfect in the fear of God.”