Well done, Good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”
Matthew 25:21
Christ is Risen!
Like many priests, as I write this message the day after Pascha, I am exhausted. I am exhausted physically—we just had 21 services in nine days, and some days I stood for more than ten hours. The amount of hymns I sang, petitions I offered, Gospels I read, and people I gave Holy Communion and Holy Unction to adds up to a lot. I am mentally exhausted—the amount of coordination amongst choir, altar boys, ushers, and people, all of that was astronomical. And believe me, I am grateful for all of them and the hard work they put in to make this a great Holy Week.
I am spiritually exhausted—what do I mean by that? In this instance, I don’t mean tired. What I mean is that I exhausted every spiritual opportunity this Holy Week. I savored each service, was deliberate in each word of each prayer and scripture reading, was meticulous in preparing sermons (they weren’t necessarily all “great” but I’m taking the effort in preparing them), I sought out people to encourage, there was an opportunity after one of the late services of the week to pray with a couple of people. I’m not saying this to be boastful, but to make this point: A couple of days ago at the conclusion of the Agape Vespers, I said to those in attendance, that when it’s my time to pass from this life, I hope that I will be the state I was in then, that of spiritual exhaustion, so that I can go to the Lord and tell Him that I exhausted every opportunity to further the Gospel and to help people. This should be the state we all should hope to find ourselves in at the end of life.
I don’t live in this state of perpetual spiritual exhaustion—It’s easy to live like that during Holy Week, because the calendar provides an opportunity for services, and services bring people, and people bring the opportunity to serve them. Other weeks of the year, it seems I have to be more intentional because the calendar doesn’t provide the natural opportunity.
I’m off this Monday. I’m at home. There are no services, most likely I won’t see any parishioners. But there is still an opportunity to serve. Today I can serve my family. I can still offer a prayer. I can still read a Scripture passage. I can still write to the Prayer Team. I can still do something.
And so can you! Every day!
I read an interesting quote that I shared in my sermon on Palm Sunday. There is a difference between interest and commitment. Interest means to do something when it is convenient. Commitment means you do something all the time, no excuses. Last week, it was very easy to be an interested Christian. Interested in doing the things on the calendar. Easier to connect with Christ because there were services on the calendar. This week is where we have to get back to being a committed Christian—we have to continue praying, believing and serving even when there is nothing on the calendar.
This next paragraph might sound a little judgmental, but it is actually offered with genuine concern. In our parish, at the Agape Vespers on Sunday, our church was actually packed. And I didn’t know 75% of the people who were there. It was packed Saturday night with people I know because I see them every week, and people I know because I see them often enough (though not often really at all) to remember them. Sunday morning, I legitimately did not know the names of 75% of the people in the church. These are the people that truly come once a year—they get all dressed up for a celebration of “Easter.” It’s hard to call it a celebration of the Resurrection because they weren’t here for Palm Sunday, or Good Friday or anything else. And I mentioned in my sermon Sunday, this topic of spiritual exhaustion—to be able to go to God before His awesome judgment seat and to tell Him that we did EVERYTHING we could to further the message of the Gospel—and how this is the commission of every Christian, and how coming to church once a year and having no understanding of Jesus Christ is not really going to help us reach that state of spiritual exhaustion.
We can’t live with the intensity of Holy Week all year round. God knows that. The Church understands that. That’s why Holy Week is one week a year and not 52 weeks. But the idea of spiritual exhaustion is something we can live in 52 weeks a year. There will be an opportunity to serve someone every day. There is an opportunity to pray every day. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder for them. I’ve written about this before, but I remember a podcast I heard where the priest said he wanted to die exhausted, to which I would add the word “spiritually,” to die “spiritually exhausted,” having utilized EVERY opportunity to love God and to serve our neighbors. One service a year isn’t going to cut it. And even a great Holy Week isn’t going to suffice. Holy Week hopefully serves as a springboard to more committed service to Christ. But the real work starts this week. I suppose that’s why we call this “Renewal Week”—because having hopefully “renewed” our interest in Christ through the journey of Holy Week, this week will test our “renewed” commitment to Him.
I lived last week with a greater sense of purpose and intentionality. Even there will not be the intensity of services this week, and even as I recover from my physical and mental exhaustion, I can still live this week with the same sense of purpose and intentionality. You can as well.
Lord, thank You for the beautiful journey of Holy Week that we just completed. Thank You for my church community and the beautiful opportunity to spend time in worship and fellowship. Most of all, thank You Lord for dying on the cross and being Resurrected from the dead, and for giving us the opportunity each year to relive and relearn these most important things You did for us. Help us to hold onto how we feel today—tired but spiritually rejuvenated—and to seek every opportunity to exhaust ourselves spiritually, to seek every opportunity to love You and to serve You by serving others. Amen.
Let’s learn to live in a continual state of “spiritual exhaustion!”