Homily 249 – Meatfare/Last Judgement
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
February 19, 2017
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Throughout history, all of human history, people have asked a question. What does it take to be in favor with God.
Sometimes it was multiple gods. Most often it was fertility gods. Without whom you would starve and have no children.
We read in the Old Testament how the inhabitants of the land of Cana’an worshiped a god named Ba’al. And that god provided for their needs – crops, cattle, water.
And that god provided a legacy, through children.
That is a fertility god.
The gods of the Greeks, who had control over various aspects of life, were at the core fertility Gods. Safe travel, abundant sunshine, rain for crops. Even love.
St. Paul mentions the trouble they caused for the silversmiths at the temple of Artemis of the Ephesians. Also known as Diana, this goddess was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured with symbols of fertility like eggs draped around the image, from her waist to her shoulders.
The priests of these gods were conduits of communication. People would provide them with animals to sacrifice or other offerings to the god. If there was no granting of the petition being made, then the priest might chastise the people, and ask for more and more until the god or goddess was appeased.
This was, in the mind of the people, how gods behaved. How they worked.
Kind of like the televangelists that preach a prosperity gospel – a “fertility” gospel, if you will.
But that is not the way the True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, works. The God who found favor in Noah when he was obedient and built the Ark, saving his life and that of his family – and indeed all creation.
The Friend of God – Abraham – who left everything he knew, and was led to a distant and strange land.
Moses, who returned to Egypt in obedience to God, to deliver the message and to lead the people of Israel to deliverance.
The promises made to these obedient, righteous men and their families was not kept during their lifetime though.
The promise was kept in the incarnation of the Son of God – Jesus Christ.
Noah was an ark of salvation. Moses was an ark of salvation. But they pointed to Christ. They were, in Orthodox theological terms, a “type” of Christ.
And Christ created a new covenant – not abandoning the Old one, but expanding it, and bringing it to life.
No longer would compliance with ritual be sufficient. We would have to now live at peace with one another. We would indeed have to love one another. Even our enemies.
And to be clear – a warm feeling was not enough.
Our love showed not through emotion – but through action. Care for one another. Physical provision – actual help. Not platitudes and protests.
Those things are good to a point – but salvation isn’t found on a picket in front of an airport or abortion clinic or congressional office.
It is seeing a need – and meeting it.
Meeting it. Doing something.
But Father, you say, I am doing something! I’m making my voice heard!
Sorry. Yes, that is something. Just not enough.
We can’t simply change our profile picture on facebook and retweet articles about our cause, and call it a day. We have to be the change. We have to meet the need.
We look and see the treatment of the native Americans, the first peoples of this land. We see the refugees in detainment camps, prisons really. We see families separated, torn apart, by violence and war around the globe.
And we – us, you and I – are told to do something.
So. Changing the world is probably too ambitious. A slight, frail Albanian Roman Catholic nun didn’t set out to change the world.
She created a community of nuns – 12 to start – in India. Her purpose was to care for – quote – the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.
She didn’t expect to change the world. Just her neighborhood. Just her community. But make no mistake – with those small steps, Mother Teresa changed her neighborhood, then the city of Kolkata, then the nation of India, and then the world.
We can too. By focusing on the needs in our community. The unloved. The imprisoned. The lonely. The sick.
Those are – for us – Christ. And those are – for us – salvation. They become our literal salvation.
Christ says so. Plain as day.
We begin Great Lent next Sunday evening with a service of forgiveness. This year, perhaps we can repent of our failure to see – to see the need, to see the needy – that exist all around us.
And in seeing the need – we can go about our primary purpose of meeting the need.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!