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Ilinden and the Greater Purpose
read in Macedonian


This week we celebrate the Ilinden Uprising of Macedonia which pitted a proud Macedonian people against a dying Ottoman Empire.  We celebrate the lives of individuals who were tired of living under an oppressive yoke, who yearned to be free, who desired nothing more than their own dignity and the authority and responsibility of governing their own affairs.

They had a greater purpose in life than themselves and they desired something more for their children and for future generations.  They believed in something more than themselves.  To me, this is the essence of the Ilinden Uprising.

Thinking in advance of Ilinden got me to thinking about our greater purpose in life.  We were created by a Creator to live a fulfilling and meaningful life, a life of purpose.  We were not created to live for ourselves, to live for the moment or to live for the pleasure of life.  Such a person that pursues these things ends up being empty and living a wasted and meaningless life.

Too much of today’s culture – brought upon by a misguided understanding of capitalism – now focuses on the self.  Much of that culture, of course, has been brought about by Western culture, and much of that from the United States.  Too many people have become rich selling a morally corrupt culture. But we were not created to live for ourselves.  We were created to live for God and others.

(I hasten to point out here that capitalism is the best economic system ever devised by man.  Properly used, it has the power to lift people out of poverty and to create wealth.  The problem starts when individuals become greedy and live for themselves – believing only in themselves and their desire for money, power and pleasure.  They end up corrupting capitalism and creating a system which then thrives on tempting and encouraging more and more people to be a part of that empty life.  And I add that there is nothing wrong with having money or nice things in our lives.  The problem comes when we place money or things above God and others.)

I find it more than curious – and more than simple fate or an irony – that Ilinden occurred on St. Elijah’s Day.  Elijah, you may remember from the Old Testament, was sent by God to warn the ancient Israelites who were led by King Ahab at the time of Elijah’s arrival on the scene.  Under King Ahab, the Israelites had abandoned God and were instead worshipping the pagan idols of their neighbors and the pagan god Baal.  They were living what we might call today “the good life,” a life of personal pleasure. But the Israelites rejected the God of their fathers and were living for themselves.

When life is not lived fully, the way God meant for us to live it – for others – we feel empty and depressed, like a ship without a ruder.  We feel something is missing when we try to live a life that is filled with temporary things that don’t last (though these things can be beautiful and fun and exciting at the time).

We’ve all been there at times in our lives –  we’ve thought that we were happy because we were living a life of fun and folly – and for ourselves.  But on further reflection, when the party has ended, when the hangover has worn off, when the bright lights of reality set in, we know that living for ourselves is empty and a waste.

People – around the world I might add –  have been told and sold on this false idea that money and wealth and things bring happiness.  American judge Robert Bork has written that a life lived for money and just for ourselves is meaningless writing, “Affluence brings with it boredom.  Of itself, it offers little but the ability to consume, and a life centered on consumption will appear, and be, devoid of meaning.” American author Bill Bryson writes that in the late 1950s in America, after World War II, people started making real money.  He writes “People were beginning to discover that joyous consumerism is a world of diminishing returns.”  And author James B. Twitchell writes about this desire to have big-name brands in our lives. He writes “Clearly the psychopathology of branding is buried deep in the human yearning for material to mean something, to matter.”

The lesson here is that meaning does not come from money, from a big-name brand on our clothing, from a fancy car, from owning lots of things, even from having a big title at our place of work or an elected position in government.  Meaning – real deep meaning – comes from living for God and for others.

As you enjoy this holiday, pause and reflect not only on what the Macedonian patriots of 1903 did in their attempt to gain their freedom and the responsibility that goes with it for their families and their country, but think also about what it means to really live full and meaningful lives.  As individuals, we have intrinsic value and a purpose in our lives of living for God and for others.

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Jason Miko
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