Sunday, October 2, 2016- St. Mary Magdalene welcomed the newest member of it's congregation, Sawyer Benedict Yonan, to the ranks of the Orthodox! May God Grant the Yonan family, as well as the new Godparents Tina and Scott Shephard, many more blessed years!
Becoming a Warrior for Christ:
What a blessing, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to be a witness here this morning at the Baptism and Chrismation of Sawyer Benedict, our newest brother in Christ, who is undergoing a mystical transformation today.
Just a few moments ago, the “soot of sin” that has covered up the image of God found inside of him was washed away, allowing him the opportunity in this life to live up to his true potential as a servant of God.
In the truest sense of the word, today, Sawyer Benedict ceases to be just a biological person and begins his life as a true Human Being. The image of God has been restored within him and he now stands before us in a bright white baptismal garment, radiating the energies and glory of God for all of us to see.
There are so many avenues of which to describe what is happening to Benedict this morning, but in light of what family he comes from, I thought the most appropriate way to encapsulate the transformation Benedict has gone through, is to give a sermon on one of my favorite images of Orthodoxy--that of the Church Militant.
Benedict comes from a family of warriors. His Grandfather and his father are both marines, and if you dig deeper into his family, you find other connections which link back to brave warriors who sacrificed their health and lives for their homeland.
With that blood flowing through his veins, we see this morning how Benedict has been initiated as a true warrior for Christ. At the beginning of the service, prayers were said, and the devil and demons were exercised, removing all forms of attack from the inside of Benedict’s soul. At the baptism, he was given the armor of light to protect those same demons from re-entering his soul to wreak havoc.
At the Chrismation, the seal and power of the Holy Spirit was put inside of Benedict, giving him the strength to repel all of the adversaries of God that will continually attack him throughout his life. If he so chooses, Benedict now has the power to defeat the sin and passions that will continually seek to destroy him.
Very soon, he will partake for the first time, the Body and Blood of God, giving him the nourishment he will need on this long trek through the battlefield of life.
As Benedict continues to grow and mature, the Church will serve as his training ground, his base camp, where he will receive the training that is necessary to press on in the spiritual life. He will learn where the dangers will come from, and how to prevent them using the weapons of the sacraments. Prayer, fasting, confession, Holy unction, and the Eucharist, will all be used to repel the attacks of the world. He will learn that without them, without the base camp of the Church, the road through this existence is a hard and dangerous one to traverse.
Benedict is not alone in this battle. Today he was given God-parents, the leaders of his platoon, to help him grow in the faith. Scott and Tina have taken on a tremendous responsibility this morning, one that often goes overlooked in today’s secular society. This morning, they have spoken for, and pledged their lives, to protecting and training this newly enlisted warrior for Christ. It is a tremendous responsibility; one that they will have to answer for in the life which is to come. They need our support, and more importantly our prayers, to fulfill this task that has been laid out before them. May God continue to give both of you strength in your spiritual journey with your new God-son.
So where does this leave the rest of us, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Do not think for one moment, that the responsibility of this child lies soely on the shoulders of the God-parents. We are all soldiers fighting the same battles--day after day. We fight the passions and sins FOR each other and WITH each other.
Imagine a battlefield, where one side only fought for themselves, taking their own individual interests at heart, and not fighting together towards one common goal. The battle would leave nothing but chaos and mass destruction.
The best armies are made up of people who put their brothers and sisters before themselves--who work as a cohesive unit, not allowing anything to break them apart. They support and carry those who cannot support themselves and strive to achieve victory with their platoon completely intact.
Right now, Benedict is a soldier, but he comes to this platoon as a private--a rookie who has no idea what lies beyond those doors. He will need our help in setting his feet on level ground and building the courage it takes to repel the enemy. Support him, help him, PRAY for him as he begins this new journey.
Brothers and Sisters, rejoice! We have increased our ranks, and every member that comes into the Lord’s protection makes our work as Orthodox Christians a little easier. Yes, we have to be weary of the battlefield which lies outside of these four walls, but we also take comfort in knowing that Benedict also will take part in the eternal joy and happiness which is found in the comforting blanket of Christ’s Church. As he continues to grow, he will feel the glee that we all feel when celebrating the Nativity of our Lord at Christmas. He will look forward, with great anticipation, to that night during the year where he doesn’t have to go to bed, and gets to go to Church at 11:00 at night to light a candle and shout to the world that Christ is Risen and has destroyed death. He will learn to delight with the rest of us, knowing that while the battles still rage on outside of these four walls, the war is over, and the ultimate victory has already been achieved through the Cross by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So as you leave the Church today after congratulating this new warrior for Christ, take a moment to gaze upon God’s newest warrior, and gain some inspiration, because today he is the closest thing to holiness in humanity that most of us can experience in this lifetime.