MP3 Audio: Spiritual-Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction.mp3
This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 9, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Sdn. Ambrose.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is One. Amen.
About one hundred two years ago, a massive ship – so large they called it “The Titanic” – was built. Have you guys heard the story of the Titanic? Over 2000 people were on board and they said that this ship was unsinkable. And as it made its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, it was going too fast, they were not paying attention, they thought that the little iceberg they saw in the distance was just that – a little iceberg – and chose not to navigate around it. And that massive ship, the Titanic, struck that iceberg – not the part they could see – the part they couldn’t see. And that ship, the hull, was breached, and water flooded into that ship and many, many lives were lost. The majority of the people on the boat died, froze to death. They drowned and they froze to death. A few were saved to recount the story, and that’s how we know a lot about what happened.
They thought what they saw was all that there was, but what they couldn’t see was what killed them. Have you ever heard the saying, “That’s just the tip of the iceberg”? That’s what happens. All we look at is the tip of the iceberg, and we forget that nine tenths – ninety percent of an iceberg is actually underwater – you can’t see it. You don’t know how big it is. You don’t know what shape it’s in. You don’t know where it’s at. All you see is the tip of it. And if that’s all you focus on, your ship can hit it and sink.
Have you ever heard the term, “anthropomorphism”? This is where we attribute human characteristics or behaviors to things that are not human, such as to God, to an animal, or to an object. There’s a lot of cartoons that have talking cars, talking animals. We’re attributing human characteristics to them. Have you ever heard someone say that during the Spring, the warm weather comes and the sun smiles down upon us? The sun does not have a face. It does not have a smile. And yet we’re attributing human characteristics to the sun. This is called an “anthropomorphism”.
And of course we know that, since the Incarnation (which, by the way, we are celebrating in two weeks and two days from now at the Annunciation on the 25th of March), but at the Incarnation Jesus Christ – the second person of the Holy Trinity – became human. He took on flesh. He took on physical matter. And therefore, God in the Second Person does have human characteristics. He does have hands. He does have eyes. He does have a body.
But often, in Scripture, God the Father is also described with human-like attributes. Have you ever heard it said that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father? Is that possible? Does God have a right hand? Have we ever heard that God can see us, that God hears us? The Bible even says that incense is a sweet-smelling aroma to God. Does God have a nose that can smell incense? These are possibly anthropomorphisms that we, as humans, ascribe to God, and we attribute those characteristics to Him. We’re going to come back to that in a second.
Over the past several months, several in our parish have been doing a lot of reading and studying about what happens when we die. And we’ve read a lot of books by Church Fathers, other Saints, and other people who are writing about Church Fathers and Saints, to try to discover what the mind of the Church is regarding when we die. What happens at that moment when our souls separate from our bodies? And a reoccurring theme is the idea that when people actually die – that they’re pronounced clinically dead – but then they’re resuscitated, so they’ve died and they’ve come back to life. [This has been reported] throughout the centuries, and across all different kinds of cultures. So this is not just a current-day American phenomena. This is across centuries of study, across many cultures around the world. People who have experienced death often recount the events that happened during the time where their souls were separated from their bodies.
And here’s what I find interesting about that:
- These people hear conversations going on around them when they’re in the room, separated from their bodies.
- These people see their own bodies lying on the operating room table, or in the Emergency Room.
- These people actually experience a modicum of fear when they realize that they’re touching people and talking to people, and the people don’t feel it, don’t hear them, and it frightens them.
- People recognize their own family standing around them. They know who they are.
- And [later] these people are able to recount what they heard, what they saw, and what they felt, during the time they were separated from their body . . . . They’re able to talk about what they heard, felt and saw.
Now, how does this happen? This is what’s interesting to me. How does this happen? If the eyes, and the ears, and especially the brain are lying down on the table down there, how is it that these people are hearing, and seeing, and remembering, and recognizing people, and having experiences outside of the body? How is it that the things that we see with – our eyes – are down there on the table, and yet these people are seeing? How does that work?
Could it be that the senses of vision, of hearing, of touch, and taste, and even your memory and things like that, don’t reside – like scientists like to believe – in our eyes? Maybe they don’t reside in our ears and our tongue and our nervous system and in our brain? Maybe memory is not actually located in the brain?
And here’s what else I find interesting:
- People who, while they’re on earth, are blind, when they die and their body separates, and their soul is separate from their body, they can see. And when they are rejoined to their body, they’re blind again.
- And people who are deaf on earth when they’re living, when they separate, they can hear. But when they’re rejoined again, they are deaf again.
I’m just wondering . . . Is it possible that our senses are actually located permanently in our souls, instead of in our physical bodies?
- Maybe our eyes are just connected to the soul’s sense of vision.
- Maybe our physical ears are just connected to the soul’s sense of hearing.
- Maybe it’s possible that our memories, our thoughts, and our emotions are just connected to the soul through our brains . . . that it’s not residing in the brains, it’s just where it’s connected.
- Maybe our senses are actually some of God’s energies, some of His communicable attributes. (The Orthodox Church separates things of God into “essence” and “energies”. Essence is who He is, and we can never be exactly God and who He is. But there are things about Him that He communicates to us.) We are said to be made in His image. And some of those things in which we are made in His image, it’s possible that the senses – our senses of sight and hearing, touch – those are things that He has communicated to us as human beings, but they are clouded due to our fallen nature.
- Maybe our spiritual eyes are the “true” eyes, and they more-closely resemble the eyes of God, our Father.
- Maybe the ears we see here are not what God has. Maybe . . . the ears that we hear with when we’re separated from the body, more-closely resemble the ears of God, our Father.
- And maybe what we call anthropomorphisms of attributing human-like characteristics upon God is actually the reverse.
- And maybe it’s God-like characteristics being attributed to human beings, so that what we call “ears” aren’t really ears; what we call “eyes” aren’t really eyes. What God has for eyes, and ears, and the right hand of God, and his nose to smell incense, those are the “true” eyes, ears, nose – the true senses. And we’ve been given, although clouded, a sense, a kind-of an idea of what that is to see. When God sees, He truly sees. When we see, we kind-of get an idea of what it is to see like God. We get an idea of what it is like to hear like God. We’ve got the copy, not Him. He’s the original seer. We are the ones who are the copy.
And if this is the case, and I do believe that it is, then nothing you see right now with your physical eyes is completely real. Nothing you smell, nothing you hear, nothing you taste, nothing you feel . . . you are not experiencing complete reality with your senses, as a lot of people believe they are. Everything we experience with our body’s senses is only partial reality; you’re only getting a piece of it. And . . . because Creation since the Fall has been fallen, and it’s mortal, and it’s physical, we’ve been given fallen, mortal, physical, fleshly bodies in which to move around in this world. We have to. But we’re not only physical; we’re spiritual too. There’s two parts to us. That’s when we separate, there’s two parts to us.
And the world knows this. I’ve mentioned this in a homily, I don’t know, months ago, that the world knows this because they know that the separation of the body and the soul is not the normal way of doing it. What they call a body without a soul – a corpse, or a zombie – that’s how the world describes it. Or the soul without a body is a ghost. Both of them are scary because it’s not natural that they be separated. They have to be together in order to be natural, the way that we’re supposed to be. So we are both physical and spiritual.
And that’s not to say that the material world itself is evil. It’s not! When God created the world, everything He made He said was good. But this creation, according to Scripture, is fallen and it awaits the second coming of Christ, just as we do. There are people who, even today, believe that what is flesh, what is material is evil. They call them Gnostics and it is with a “G”. G-N-O-S-T-I-C-S. And it has to do with this idea of spirit and of the spirit world being what is true and what is good, what is eternal, and that the flesh world isn’t. But Gnosticism is considered a heresy of the Church. And the reason it is, if that were true and the physical world were evil, then our bodies which are temples of the Holy Spirit are evil. The Cross that Jesus died on – which we venerate – is evil if flesh and matter is evil. The waters of Holy Baptism would be evil. The relics of Saints that we venerate would be evil. And what’s worse, the Body and Blood of Christ – both on the Cross two thousand years ago and those that we celebrate on our Eucharistic altar – would be evil. It’s not true that flesh and matter is evil. It’s just fallen. It has been corrupted and it awaits restoration in Christ just like we do.
When Christa’s dad was in the military during Desert Storm about 24 years ago or so in the early 90’s, he was stationed in England as a medic. He was far away from the actual fighting, far away from the battle’s front lines. And he was relatively in no danger of being harmed by enemy combatants. If, however, he had been transferred to Kuwait or Iraq where the battle was during his time in the military, the danger of physical harm would have likely been elevated and the likelihood of injury and even death would have been more real to him.
When we, as Orthodox Christians, sit in our homes, and we go about our daily affairs, and we work and we play and we sleep without ever engaging the enemy. Like Christa’s dad, we are in relatively no danger of being harmed by the enemy. It is when we move ourselves onto the front lines of the battle that the danger of harm, and injury, and even death is more likely; it’s more real for us.
We talked about this last night briefly at Vespers, but yesterday, Christa and Landon and I went to Evansville to participate in the “Forty Days for Life” event. And basically what this is is a time when people who want to stand up for Life and work for an end to abortion during the forty days of Great Lent, we all basically make a concerted effort to ramp up our prayers to this end. We do peaceful protests and things like that in front of the Planned Parenthood clinics. We just walk around them and pray for the babies, and pray for mothers, and the fathers who are caught in Satan’s trap. And as we drove over to Evansville, I told Christa: Satan doesn’t really know much about us in this battle. We’ve talked about it a lot. We’ve prayed from a distance. We’ve even blogged and Facebooked about it a few times. But we’ve been “back in England” as far as this battle is concerned. Once we get to the Planned Parenthood, once we get to this stronghold of Satan, we’re going to get noticed. Maybe not by the employees, maybe not by passers-by or anything like that. But we’re going to get noticed by the real enemy! We’ve just moved ourselves to the front lines of battle when we do this.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”? Kind of a stupid thing to do, right? Well, too many times, this is what Christians are doing. The battle for Life, the battle to end abortion, is not a physical battle. Coming with physical weapons is like coming to a gunfight with a knife. This is a spiritual battle. And I just heard this on the radio . . . “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s not about debate. It’s not about angry bickering. It’s about love and prayer. And no amount of logical debating, angry arguing, passing of laws, voting, blogging or bombing abortion clinics is ever going to fix this battle. We’re not going to win this battle [by those means alone] because those are physical weapons. This is a spiritual battle, and the weapons that we use in that battle that WILL win, and they are thousands of times stronger than the physical weapons that people try to use. Our weapons are prayer and fasting and love. Those are the main three.
And the thing is, it’s impossible for those people who have no idea that this is a spiritual battle to actually know what is going on. They have no clue. And I’m fine with that, because as long as Pro-Choice advocates, and Planned Parenthood employees and legislators just think that we’re peacefully protesting, they’re going allow us to stand right on the front lines of the battle and lob the most destructive weapons at our enemy and they even don’t do anything about it because they don’t see them. They don’t realize that there’s a physical and a spiritual. They operate only in the physical, and so we can stand physically on their front lines and spiritually lob weapons right at their Planned Parenthood clinics, and they have no idea we’re even doing it. They don’t care because they don’t see it. We walk around appearing to be benevolent and peaceful, and all the while we are sending “shock and awe weapons of mass destruction” right into their stronghold of the enemy. And it’s because of this that these SCUD missiles are hitting in there:
- That there are women who are changing their minds about abortion and they go and they decide to . . . miss their appointments because they feel bad, . . . somebody says, “I’m praying for you” and that was enough to make this girl change her mind and to have this baby.
- There are babies who are being allowed to be born simply because a group of people were standing out there with signs.
- There are employees of abortion clinics who, at one time, were strong, strong, staunch supporters of abortion and “women’s’ rights” who are now standing against that culture of death and standing up for Life.
- And our prayers are even weakening the enemy’s hold on the actual physical buildings. A lot of clinics are being closed all around the United States. There is a . . . 400-mile stretch of east Texas, I think it’s between Houston and New Orleans, Louisiana, without an abortion clinic – none. Because they’re getting shut down. Mississippi has one abortion clinic left in the entire state, and they’re getting ready to shut it down.
This is not because of debate. This is not because they’re bombing those clinics. This is because we appear to be peaceful, praying, standing on the sidewalks in front of the building, and we’re attacking them harder than they’ve ever been attacked. That’s why this is winning.
So, yesterday, while we were praying and we were walking around, a Planned Parenthood employee steps outside and told Landon and I that we were on private property. We weren’t, but that’s all she could come up with, I guess. And I told Landon, I said, “Don’t worry about it. She’s not our enemy. She’s actually trapped BY the enemy. And the enemy has her trapped and tricked to believe that she’s not. He’s got her blinded. He’s got her looking solely in the physical world instead of in the spiritual world.” So we started praying for her and for the other people who are working in that clinic yesterday and in other clinics around the world. It’s just more Patriot missiles finding their target, and it’s from point-blank range. I was . . . able to shoot missiles at the enemy with her being right there, and she didn’t even know it.
Those who are NOT Christians do not know this, because they only live by the flesh and not by the Spirit. They are blinded by the flesh and therefore they cannot even comprehend anything other than what their senses of their physical bodies will deliver to them. Even if we tell them what we’re doing, they can’t understand it and they go on allowing us to fight this battle from the front lines almost as if we’re cloaked, because if they can’t see it or feel it or hear it or touch it, then it isn’t real for them. And yet it’s reality that they’re least connected to. They are disconnected from the reality of the spiritual world.
And, sadly, there’s a lot of Christians, people who call themselves Christians and know what I’m saying is true, and they still don’t live like it’s true. And they go about their lives and they never really stop to think about what’s going on in the “real” world beyond what their senses can deliver to them.
And because of this, a lot of Christians don’t pray, because prayer is a spiritual weapon and it’s only effective in a spiritual world during a spiritual battle. And since they live as if they’re only in the material world, they don’t pray because they don’t see any benefit of prayer.
People don’t fast like they should, because fasting doesn’t have an effect in the physical world. It only has an effect in the spiritual world. And since we’re only living in the physical world, and not looking at the spiritual world, we don’t fast because we don’t see any benefit to it.
And even Jesus told His disciples that there are some spiritual battles that can only be won through prayer and fasting. But too many Christians, they use only their physical senses, they don’t see it, and therefore they don’t engage in the spiritual warfare that is going on right in front of them. They see the tip of the iceberg; they don’t see the other ninety percent that’s under there because they’re only looking at what they can see. They don’t look at what’s “real”. And they crash their family ships right into those icebergs. Often this is actually happening right in people’s homes, and in their families, and they gratify their physical eyes with the television and with the Internet, and they don’t see the spiritual battle that’s actually being waged against their spouse’s soul. They gratify their physical ears with music and with laughter and completely miss the spiritual battle that’s being fought in their child’s bedroom next door. Just because these battles are not national news and they’re not televised doesn’t make them any less dangerous. On the contrary, it is one of Satan’s tactics to distract you with a huge battle at the abortion clinic, all the while secretly ramming a sword of bitterness through your family.
As Orthodox Christians, it is important for us to remember that we are not citizens of this world. We are not citizens of this fleshly, material world any longer. Our citizenship is in heaven. And, therefore, we should not live as if the physical world is all that there is. The physical world is passing away, and thankfully it’s going to be remade at some point in the future, and we’ll have a new heavens and a new earth. But what is real – what is “reality” – is permanent, and it’s only accessible for us right now if we unplug from our physical senses and our fleshly desires, and we start to fast and pray and love other people and start fighting this spiritual battle that’s going on in our families and in our world from a spiritual standpoint instead of from a physical standpoint.
And that’s how it ties in today with the Gospel reading. After Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, he had already been fasting for forty days and forty nights and Satan thought, “He’s weak.” Guess what? He was at his strongest! He’d been fighting a spiritual battle already, and preparing those weapons already. And Satan comes to him and says, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” And Jesus answered him and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Did you see that? Jesus said, ‘physical bread is not what I need. I need the Word of God!’ Jesus was living in the “reality” of the spiritual world, fasting, and praying and meditating on God’s Word. And it was sustaining him, and it is exactly HOW he defeated Satan! It wasn’t a byproduct, that’s HOW He defeated him . . . fighting in the spiritual world. In each of the three temptations that are recorded for us . . . Satan tries to appeal to Christ’s flesh, asking him to live in this material, physical, fleshly world. And all three times Jesus responds with a jab from the sword of the spirit – the Word of God. Satan was trying to fight in the physical realm, and Jesus defeated him in the spiritual realm. And when Jesus defeated him, the devil left. He split. And, guess what? Spiritual beings then came and ministered to Jesus.
Just this past week, on Ash Wednesday, Father Michael said that during Great Lent, our status as a target is at its highest point. We begin to fast more than during the rest of the year. We begin to pray more than during the rest of the year. We attempt to be more humble, more repentant, and more benevolent in our almsgiving. And these things, being spiritual weapons, catch the attention of our enemy, and he begins to attack you more frequently and more strongly than usual because, all of a sudden, you’re using spiritual weapons . . . so you’re catching his attention.
- So don’t be surprised when there is more fighting in your home than usual; Satan doesn’t want you to fast for forty days and forty nights of Great Lent. He knows what happens when someone who loves God does this. We just read about it.
- Don’t be surprised when items in your home break or when things don’t go as planned or when financial issues arise. Satan is attacking you in the physical world, trying to distract you from the reality of the spiritual world.
So instead of letting him win the battle by making you put down your weapons, hold them up even higher; fight him even harder. If you resist Satan, he WILL flee from you. And Jesus showed us how to do it. We just need to do like he did. Fast more. Pray more. And when Satan flees, don’t be surprised if angels come and minister to you as well.
A month ago, February 2nd, we celebrated Candlemass. Father Michael was here. And our culture on the same day celebrated Groundhog Day. I think we got the better deal, but that’s just me. On that day, the culture, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, they said that the groundhog “saw his shadow” and it signified six more weeks of winter. And it was true; we’re still dealing with it. Well, we are in the First Week of Lent, and I hate to tell you but when I got up this morning, I saw my shadow and I have to report that there are six more weeks of Lent ahead of us. But be strong during this battle. Put on the FULL armor of God so that you can stand against the devil. Stand firm, fast, and pray, and love.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is One. Amen.
This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 9, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Sdn. Ambrose.