Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Smoking flax

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, until he sends forth judgment unto victory.
Matthew 12:20

Amazing how an absolutely wonderful day can be set on edge and made tense by merely dropping an inopportune word in an insensitive way. The words (for they are many) may be spoken or even written to be read and, when heard or read, can wreak havoc in people’s souls, troubling their consciences unnecessarily, and ‘quenching the smoking flax.’

There are souls that the Father loves that He is drawing to His Son as only He can do. The angels and ministers of grace that He employs to harvest them for the everlasting Kingdom are not mainly those who are called priests and missionaries by the institutional Church, and who sometimes work as hirelings, not for money, but to win the approval of men.

No, it is those whom the Father chooses, and who are willing to be used by Him as ‘instruments of peace,’ that He employs in harvesting lost souls. They are, in actual fact, the only ones who know how to bring in the harvest. They have been taught not by men but by the Spirit of God, who is love. And they lay down their lives for their brothers out of love.

Speaking of the Christ who was to come, the prophet declares, ‘He shall not quench the smoking flax.’ Those who follow Christ do so by following His every move, from head to heart, with hands and feet, they imitate Him, they do for others and to others what they see Jesus doing in the holy gospels. Like Him, they also do not quench the smoking flax.

Instead, like Him, they fan the flame of faith they find in weary souls whom the Father has begun to draw to the Son, remembering Christ’s words, ‘I come to bring fire to earth… how I wish it were ablaze already!’ Like Him, they breathe hope, encouragement and strength into those whom the Father sends. Like Him they say to the Father, ‘I have lost none of them you gave me.’

In Holy Orthodoxy, the one place on earth and in human history that the incarnate Son and Word of God has from the beginning been welcomed, worshiped, and willfully followed, the only religion that regards sin as sickness, and mercy as medicine, the only faith that knows that love works miracles even more than prayer, still we find those who, like satan, accuse and divide.

The world, my brothers, already knows well how to quench the smoking flax, how to intimidate and threaten the souls for whom Christ died, how to extinguish their faith, how to suffocate their hope. The world, my brothers, does worse than not believe in the God in heaven. It does not believe in the God on earth. But what is wrong with us that we join the world in doing the same?

For Jesus says, ‘whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.’ And so the Church, that is, the communion of salvation on earth, cannot side with the world in condemnation of anyone, for Christ died to save all men, as He Himself says, ‘and I, when I am lifted up, shall draw all men unto myself.’ When anyone in the Church forgets this, out of weakness or fear, he hurts rather than heals.

I have asked this question before, ‘When will the Orthodox Church decide once and for all whether her mission is to follow Christ in bringing salvation and life to all who live on earth, or whether it is to set up a legalistic police state?’ We already know the answer to this question, but not all of us do, whether we are highly placed or low. Only one of these alternatives can be theocracy in Christ.

And so we return to the daily struggle. We live our lives in Christ locally, and it is here in the arena that we must suffer and, dying in mortal combat, win the prize of immortality. We must say to those whom the Lord has sent us and to whom we have been sent, ‘Courage, dear hearts! The words you heard today that vexed your minds and hurt your spirits were spoken against you in vain.

‘For He that is already in you is stronger than He that is in the world. For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Do not fear those who can kill the body, for they can do no more. The lover of your souls has appeared. The angel of the Covenant is among us. He does not quench the smoking flax.

‘You have been bought and paid for by the blood of a Lamb without spot. Though men speak with the tongues of men and angels, that is, however eloquently, if they have no love, they are nothing more than a clanging cymbal. Remember who your Shepherd is. Remember His voice and His words. Follow Him, not anyone else. For you, dear souls, are His, and He is saving you.’

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