We visited St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in San Francisco this morning, and were happy to see Father Seraphim of Nazareth House Apostolate in Sierra Leone (http://www.nazarethhouseap.org/) . He knelt in the first pew in his long black robe, his beads looped at his waist, a man of prayer. A black cap covered his silvery hair as he gazed upon the tabernacle on the stone altar, the red candle flaming to the side.
He stepped to the pulpit to preach, his eyes holding enormous love strengthened by boldness. I had the sense he was deadly serious, and I had better listen. Whenever Father Seraphim speaks, I am reminded of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. Would he cry, “Repent!”
Today this holy man calls us to take our beliefs seriously, not half-way, not be lukewarm. To be authentic, to be real. This is the only way to live a meaningful life, a life to which we are all called. How can we do this? How can we be authentic, real, true?
Father Seraphim gave us three ways.
First, we obey what God tells us to do. We do his will. Sounds simple, but what is his will? We are told to love God and our fellow man, as it says in Scripture, and we can count on Scripture because it is true.
Second, we resist the culture around us when it goes against God’s laws. Sometimes you have to say no, in order to have a meaningful yes. We want the Truth that sets us free and makes us real. We want to avoid that which hinders this process.
What is the Truth? Christ. God becoming Man, dwelling among us, and bringing us to him, to be with him. Before Christ came, man suffered for the lack of the Truth. After Christ came, man suffers for the Truth. We cannot choose our obedience, but must say yes immediately, not counting the cost. We shall have nothing to fear, for we shall not be counting the cost. God will pick up the pieces. But we must obey him.
At times we find ourselves at a dead end, feeling trapped. This may be God forcing us to face our disobedience. How have we disobeyed? We turn to God’s commandments, that we are to love him and love one another. To the Ten Commandments; to the cardinal virtues, the deadly sins.
So the third way we can be authentic and real is that we don’t give up. We pick ourselves up and try again. For the truth of God, of Christ, fills us, making us real.
I considered these simple words coming from this simple man of love. In the end, all of theology is really quite simple – a search for Truth, an understanding of our world, the human condition. But what Father Seraphim is saying, I believe, is that the truth of who I am, who I am created to be (indeed how I spend the rest of this day, this week, this month, my life span) is all found in Christ himself, and once we embark on a relationship with him we shall find a life of meaning, a life of joy. We shall be authentic. We shall be real.
How profoundly true.
Saint Thomas’ Anglican Church, 2725 Sacramento St., San Francisco,http://www.anglicanpck.org/ .