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Will We Question Our Lifestyle?

First buy your Calvins, then pay the rent.

It was the 1980s — new fashions, new hairstyles, and new rock. In her Calvin Klein commercial, Brooke Shield’s best summed up the spirit of the times: “Whenever I get some money, I buy Calvins. And if there’s any left, I pay the rent.” Luxuries come first, obligation comes second. For decades now, the priorities in our culture have become scrambled up and backwards. Today, the healing so needed in our souls will only happen if we realign those priorities.

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23).

Who was this guy? News spread everywhere about a wild man in the desert, a messenger from God. It is hard to imagine what they were thinking. There was no instant texting in those days. John the Baptist was not tweeting his messages to the people in the city. The crowds set out into the desert looking for a little hope. He preached repentance. He warned them to get their lives straight. Something is coming. Someone is coming.

These same words echo into our lives today. Someone is coming. Get your act together.

While Brooke Shields was advertising tight jeans in the 80’s, a monk in northern California preached an altogether different message. Fr. Seraphim Rose set out to found a monastery in the mountains of Shasta County. He, and his companions, rejected everything Calvin Klein had to offer. Instead of getting hyped up about new fashions and pampering culture, he chose a life of simplicity, fasting, and prayer. The monastics are always a little reminder of John the Baptist, the eccentric, the radical, who challenges the status quo.

“Orthodoxy is a little island in the midst of a world,” Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote, “[It] operates on totally different principles—and every day these principles are changing for the worse, making us more and more alienated from it. Many people are tempted to divide their lives into two sharply distinct categories: the daily life we lead at work, with worldly friends, in our worldly business, and Orthodoxy, which we live on Sundays and at other times in the week when we have time for it…[these values] do not mix.”

What does it mean, an ‘Orthodox Christian lifestyle’? There is nothing strange or eccentric about Orthodoxy. What is Orthodoxy? It is normal humanity. Orthodoxy is nothing more than historical Christianity, as it was lived everywhere in the first several centuries after Christ, and still afterwards, throughout most of Christendom until now. Modernity is the abnormality. What has become normal today is eccentric. Our 21st century lifestyles, our values and priorities, the way we date, our consumerism, our entertainment, what is “normal” today has shifted so dramatically that our Christian predecessors would hardly recognize us.

We need to listen to John the Baptist.

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.”

In his critique of cultural values, Fr. Seraphim commented on the spirit of the times: “Live for the present [everything seems to shout], enjoy yourself, relax, be comfortable. Behind this message is another, more sinister undertone…Forget about God.” Where is the “me generation” really headed, he asked. It is headed to “the Soviet Gulag.”

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.”

God’s prophets are always a little unsettling. You can imagine how the priests and Levites felt when news reached them about John the Baptist. They made their pact with Rome. They could keep pretty pretty cozy lives, teaching and preaching on soft cushions. Then came John who shook everything up. The Jews had thought they were doing pretty well. They were wrong. We American Christians tend to think we have got our act together. I suspect we have a long way to go.

There was an urgency then. Some Jews took John the Baptist’s words to heart. They repented. When they encountered Christ, they discovered God and gave their lives to him. Many other Jews ignored John. His call to repentance seemed strange. He was too eccentric. He asked for too much. When the Son of God came to them, they did not recognize him. Instead, they killed him.

There is no less urgency today. Our call to repent is equally vital. We have to repent. We need to make straight the way in our life.

What is the Way of God?

Psalm 18 sets out as a prayer for God’s help. “In my trouble I called upon the LORD, * and complained unto my God: So he heard my voice out of his holy temple” (v. 6-7). The psalm goes on to describe the heavens bowing down and God fetching our soul from our enemies. Why does God deliver us? “Because I have kept the ways of the LORD, * and have not forsaken my God, as the wicked doth. For I have an eye unto all his laws, * and will not cast out his commandments from me” (v. 22-23). Psalm 19 then opens up about the bigness of God’s way. It starts by examining the universe, the heavens, the stars and the sun. It moves along to praise the Way of God. “The law of the LORD is an undefiled law, converting the soul…the commandment of the LORD is pure, and giveth light unto the eyes…the judgments of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether” (v. 7-9). Should we desire the Ways of God? “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; * sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is thy servant taught; * and in keeping of them there is great reward.” (v. 10-11).

Everyone is looking for the good life. Not everyone is looking in the same place. Brook Shields and the Calvin Klein commercials point us in one direction. Indeed, our whole culture has wired us to seek the good life with all kinds of false promises and dazzling delusions. The prophets in the desert call us to a very different life.

“The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?” (John 1:19-28).

There is something commendable about these priests and Levites.

They wanted an answer. This is our path back to sanity. Will we question our life style? Can we challenge ourselves: am I living the way I should? The Levites would not quit. They kept on insisting for truth. You know, I have never seen Brooke Shield’s Calvin Klein commercial (I was a little kid in the 80’s). I stumbled across this in an article by Fr. George Morelli. The article’s title: “Combating Secularism’s Most Serious Sin: Indifference.” Indifference. Do we care? God calls out if we will listen.

“Make straight the way of the Lord.”

Advent is a time for realigning our values? Do we belong to the Brooke Shield’s culture: luxuries first, obligations second? Or do we belong to the culture of the Kingdom, with Christ and His Church as our center and heartbeat?

Christ is coming. Prepare for Him.


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