Homily 225 – Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 21, 2016
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
There is a bit of irony in the Gospel reading this morning.
Peter – the Rock – walking on the water, sinking like the Rock.
Why did he sink?
He had some doubts from the beginning – Jesus, is that you? Bid me come to you!
Jesus said, OK. Come here!
And Peter, the Rock, stood on water. And didn’t sink.
The reading says that Peter was on the water and noticed that the wind was strong, and he became afraid.
That is when the sinking started.
But the way it is stated, he didn’t sink immediately – just started to sink.
He made the critical mistake. He took his focus off of Jesus.
He noticed his surroundings – and they weren’t terribly hospitable.
He put the focus on himself. That was the critical mistake.
We can’t focus on Christ if we are continually looking at ourselves – our surroundings, our circumstances.
St. Paul wrote that he had learned to be content regardless of his circumstances – whether in need or in comfort. I think he may have learned that lesson from St. Peter himself.
If St. Peter had been content – even as the storm raged – and kept his focus on Jesus, he would have enjoyed his stroll on the water with his Lord.
How many times do we – do I – take my eyes of Christ and begin to be afraid for my circumstances.
My life moment to moment is an internal dialogue reminding myself to keep my eyes, my focus, squarely on Christ.
That’s why the Jesus prayer is so important in Orthodox Christianity. It is the prayer that Peter said as he began to sink – “Lord, save me.” “Lord, have mercy on me.”
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me – a sinner.
There are other ways to take our focus away from Christ. One of the most prevalent in our world is to see how others are doing in their Christianity.
We can’t focus on Christ when we are looking critically at our brother or sister.
We look at someone else – their fasting, their piety, their arrival time for Church, how deeply they bow before the icons, when they go to confession – and we lose focus on Christ.
We cannot be observant of everyone else and still maintain our focus – our singular focus – on Christ.
We are quick to condemn others for their behavior. In spite of the prayer of St. Ephraim which we repeat again and again during Great Lent – “help me to see my own sins, and NOT to judge my brother.”
We won’t be accountable at the Judgement for the sins of our brother. Only our own.
There was a time when the Apostles thought one of their rank was receiving special treatment. Jesus told them, what is that to you? Follow me.
He paid those who labored for an hour the same as those who labored for a day – the wage they agreed to.
In both those scenes, people were looking at someone else.
Instead of focusing on Christ, and their own shortcomings. And we all have them. No need to look elsewhere – we have plenty of our own.
The summer is drawing to a close, and the Indiction – the new Church year – begins in a few days. Take the opportunity to refocus on Christ.
To learn to be content – in times of trouble and turmoil, and in times of comfort and joy.
To look not at others, except to see their need. To focus on Christ.
So that we might not sink in the storms of our life, and that we might find our salvation in Christ, who is faithful and just, quick to forgive, and quick to save.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!