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History is Written By Rebellion
Rebellion is defined as an open, organized and armed resistance to one's governments or rulers and a resistance to or defiance of any authority, control or tradition. Throughout history, there has been rebellion and those individuals are the men and women who are in the pages of textbooks, novels and poems. Those people are the ones that defined the laws and traditions that many live by. Most people who think of rebellion, think of the term as generally negative, however, I want you my brothers and sisters, to open your minds to my concept of rebellion. Wars and battles have been fought by people either rising up with swords or guns or the non-violent rebel who uses words. I want you to determine how our lives have affected the world, and to look at your own actions. How have our actions or our inactions helped or hindered the lives of the people that we know? Sometimes, we need to make a stand and sometimes we need to be silent.
On November 13th, we commemorate St. John Chrysostom, whom we recall him as the name he was known by, the “Golden Mouth” - the most gifted preacher, a priest's priest. I will not give you a history lesson, but I will instead honor his memory by giving you a sermon that I hope would make him pleased.
Let me first give you the names of a few rebels and see if you know them. Josh Mason? Kyle Winter? Heather Scotch? Do any of these men or women ring any bells? No? Well these are men and women who have done nothing with their existence. They are individuals that have not stood up for their beliefs or lives. They went along with the flow and did everything that others wanted them to do. Sure, they may receive praise and recognition for their actions, but eventually when their usefulness is over, they will be forgotten. They ultimately have done nothing to be remembered by and their names in the pages of history will fade with their actions and deeds.
We, as Christians, are to be ambassadors of Christ. I am not telling anyone they need to rise up against the governments, but we all need to make a stand. When we see something that is wrong with a situation, what are we to do? When we know something is wrong and we ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompts because we are to receive money or praise, we are joining the rest of the world. What did Christ tell us to do?
In Matthew chapter 6, Christ explains to us the following: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them…do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets (which was a common practice by the affluent at that time), that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward...Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, but let your charitable deed be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward…Therefore do not be like them.”
When we do what is right, we do not need to receive praise or worldly recognition. Of course, we all like to hear “well done” or “good job”. And, sometimes doing the right thing will anger others around you and they will seek to hurt you and persecute you because you chose an unpopular stance. Do not fear to do something right, if it is for the glory of God, but fear to do something right if it glorifies yourself because that is where the corruption enters in. Let us serve Christ with humility—not pride. Let us serve Christ in love—not envy. Let us be like Christ in our dealings with others—not like Satan who accuses and spreads lies. We may do things in this world that may get us praise—but let me tell you, if you do those things for yourself you will already have your earthly reward.
Rebellion of Darkness
Now, let me tell you other names that you may know. Adolf Hitler? How about Osama Bin Laden? Judas Iscariot? Yes, I bet all of you know who these men are. They are all known for their evil and ruthless actions. They are all known in history and not one person alive does not know or at least has heard of these individuals’ names. These were the sort of rebels who stood against the people who oppressed them and in their minds what they were doing was good.
The prophet Isaiah warns us, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” I guarantee that if someone sat down with these people and asked them: Did you intend to be a force of evil? Did you intend to be a person remembered in history as a tyrant or betrayer? They would most definitely say, No.
All these men thought that they were doing the right thing. Hitler began as a savior of Germany. Judas thought that he was doing the right thing in betraying the Master. Osama Bin Laden thought he would make his people known and that he would change the injustices that America had inflicted on him.
But, ultimately, they served the first rebel, Satan, the once Angel of Light who sat before God and sang “Holy, Holy, Holy”. He, too, is known for his actions in this world. All of mankind knows his name and suffer because of his actions. He rebelled against God and fell from heaven. Roaming the earth and punishing mankind because of his actions. But, none-the-less, he stood up for what he believed in which glorified himself, and the consequences were expulsion from the presence of God.
We, too, have the same choice, we either serve Satan or we serve God. There are no shades of gray with the Almighty. Riding the fence or being passive with our beliefs ultimately puts us in the hands of the evil one.
Rebellion of Holiness
As I began this sermon, rebellion is made by the rebels. Yes, usually the connotation of rebellion is evil, but, sometimes rebellion is good. Let me give you a few names. How about Moses? King David? How about St. John Chrysostom? St. Paul? St. Nicholas? How about Mother Theresa? These are only a few of the individuals that stood up and rebelled against a system that was corrupt and wicked. That system is called the world. These people are the ones that choose to serve God and make a difference, even if their actions weren’t popular in this world. How many of us say, “I want to make a difference” and are too afraid to stand up against the rulers of our governments and churches. We, most of the time, just allow ourselves to be trampled on and allow the corruption to take control of how we live in the world. We say we are against pornography, murder, abortion, etc. We say we are against drugs, injustice and evil. But yet, how many of us, when we see these things happening before our eyes stand up and say, NO MORE! What do you think that the individuals I mentioned above did? Who do you think rose up against the established form of government and church and said we do not agree with this or that? It is they that made the change and it is they that are remembered and commemorated forever.
Our churches are all named after saints that were leaders in rebellion. They are all warriors of holiness and goodness. They would be ashamed of us if they saw us today laying down for the evil that has corrupted and enveloped us. What did they fight for? Who did they fight for? Where is our faith? What do we believe in?
As I mentioned before, one rebel, who we are remembering on November 13th is St. John Chrysostom. He rebelled against those in authority and denounced the things that were wrong. St. John was either tactless or fearless when denouncing offences in high places. An alliance was soon formed against him by the Empress Eudoxia, Patriarch Theophilus and other of his enemies. They held a synod in 403 to charge St. John for the 3rd time, in which his protection of priests in connection to Origen was used against him. It resulted in his deposition and banishment. Either way, St John did not fear to stand against the authority of those who were above him – whether in the church or in the world, and he stood up for his beliefs, with the authority of Christ’s words behind him. St. John followed Christ with the utmost zeal and love, even until banishment and death. He willingly accepted his actions, believing it was as Christ would have done and boldly spoke the following on his death bed, “Glory to God for all things.”
Rebellion of Sacrifice
St. John, along with so many more saints, all fought for the ultimate rebel… Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Yes, most times we do not even look at things in this way; however, Jesus, Himself, was a rebel that had a cause. Jesus came into the world and allowed Himself to be tortured, brutalized, humiliated and ultimately put to death—by his own creation! Why did he do this?! The ruler of this world had corrupted the people of God and led them astray. They were doing evil things and allowing money, greed and politics to overshadow the message that God was trying to relate—His message of love. God created mankind to share in His love, but Satan did everything in his power to dilute and manipulate mankind into doing what he wanted.
God in His ultimate knowledge knew what He had to do. He sent His Son, to spread the gospel and to show the people the way—again! But, this time, He would show them the path that would lead them to life everlasting. God also knew that the corruption that was within the hearts of the leaders of the church, would lead Christ to his ultimate expression of love—His death. And, by that death, He would defeat the only power that Satan had over mankind.
Christ came with a radical message of: Turn the other cheek! Love your enemies! Pray for those who hurt and use you! Do good to everyone, even when they hurt and persecute you! He not only taught us those things—He lived by them, down to getting nailed on the cross and giving up His life for us—we, the people of God, who do not deserve such mercy!
Whoever heard of such radical thoughts? Why should we forgive the people who cheat on us? Why should we forgive the people who betray us? Why should we allow people to use us? Let me give you something to think about. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him for the entire three years that he was with Him—and yet, He loved him still! Jesus treated him as He did the others and loved him unconditionally as He does all of us.
Why should we not do the same? Why do we hold grudges? If we are to be the embodiment of rebellion—then embody those men and women who served Christ. We are to strive to be as they were. Now, I tell you, we should not only strive to be like them, but strive to be who they strove to be—Christ. Christ is our king and the one who we will stand before on the great and terrible Day of Judgment. We are to throw the wrench in the gears of the world, even if it means breaking the machine. Do not fear to do what is right—be terrified to do nothing. We are accountable for all our actions—whether we do something or not. If we do not stand for something—we will fall for anything.
Let me conclude this sermon with a quote from St. John from his book on the Priesthood:“I once used to deride secular rulers because they distributed honors, not on grounds of inherent merit, but of wealth or seniority or worldly rank. But when I heard that this stupidity had swaggered into our own affairs [within the Church] too, I no longer reckoned their actions so strange. For why should we be surprised that worldly people, who love the praise of the mob and do everything for money, should make this mistake, when those who claim to have renounced all these desires are no better? For although they are contending for heavenly rewards, they act as though they had to decide merely about acres of land or something else of the kind. They simply take common place men and put them in charge of those things for which the only begotten Son of God did not disdain to empty Himself of...His own glory and to be made man and to receive the form of a servant and to be spit upon and buffeted and to die the most shameful death. And they do not stop at this, but go on to other actions stranger still. . . Christians damage Christ's cause more than His enemies and foes.”
Final Thought and Call to Christ
Anyone who has ears to hear let them hear: We need to open our hearts to Christ’s message of love. We need to accept Him in our lives and let Him reign in our lives. The message that I gave you is one of love, not condemnation. I hope that you will be able to receive the words that the Holy Spirit gave me with the knowledge and understanding that only He can give. May God bless you and strengthen you all.