Homily 328 – 18th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 30, 2018
Epistle: (188) 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Gospel: (26) Luke 6:31-36
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
St. Paul gives us this morning a strategy for maximizing our life.
May not look that way at first glance, but that is really what he talks about. Whoever sows sparingly in this life, will reap sparingly in the life to come.
And whoever sows generously will also reap generously in the life to come.
What does St. Paul mean by “sowing”? When seed is sown – as many of you know much better than I – when seed is sown it is placed into the ground. In St. Paul’s day, tilling the fields might not be a part of sowing seed – only if one had livestock to pull the plow.
So seed may be scattered on the ground. And in that scattering, we take what is in our possession, and distribute it.
We give it away. We can no longer possess the seed if we expect it to grow. It won’t grow in our hand.
If one expects a big harvest, then one must sow a lot of seed. Generously, as St. Paul says.
We cannot sow small and expect huge returns. Not in this life, not in the world to come.
But, if we sow generously, then we can expect bigger returns. That’s what logic tells us. That does, however, come with risk.
As the parable of the sower tells us in another reading, the sowing we do, and the return we get, is based in part on the soil.
As if the message of the Apostle Paul weren’t enough – Christ tells us the same.
And Christ addresses our expectation of a return on our investment in this life as well.
There isn’t any such return. We are to give without expecting anything in return. We loan, expecting to never be repaid.
The tough part for me in that is that if you don’t expect to be repaid, then you don’t remind people of their debt. Sowing seed is releasing it completely, not with a string tied from the seed to your hands, ready to yank it back at the first opportunity.
We must also recognize that some of our seeds will fall in unproductive places. But we shouldn’t let that risk deter us. Not one bit.
Soil preparation is critical – but it is also only applicable to us. We can only prepare our soil – our heart.
We cannot prepare the soil of others – that is the role the Holy Spirit plays.
We should continue to spread our sowing widely, and generously. So that we may present a bountiful harvest to our God in the world to come.
So that we might hear those words: Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of your Lord.
Seed, in this context, means a couple of things. First and foremost, it means the material blessings that God has given us. Some have more – others have less. And all are accountable for what they have been given.
For those with more – as the servant given 10 talents – more is expected. For those with less – as the servant with 5 talents – less is expected. But both were generous and sowed and harvested abundantly.
What about those that don’t have any?
That’s where the non-material blessings come into play. We all have unlimited quantities of one thing, and that is love. We can all give love, and give it abundantly.
These aren’t exclusive – if you have money, you still have to give love! You can’t sow money instead of love. And conversely, if you have both, you can’t give love and hoard money.
So, our task becomes clear. If we are followers of Christ, and believe in the Kingdom which is to come, we have to be sowers. Without evaluating the soil into which we sow.
And we sow generously, and widely. Sharing our wealth – sharing our love.
To meet the needs of those we encounter – family, friends, neighbors, strangers.
And the Church. I try not to speak about giving to the Church specifically, but the Church, if it is to survive, must be supported. It is a place where our seed can be multiplied.
We speak of need, which seems a bit odd when speaking of the Church. Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory tells us that we adorn our worship spaces with beauty out of our love. Out of our devotion.
It is material and immaterial. And, it is something that all of us can share, and participate in.
It is truly a way for all of us – each of us – to sow seed which God can multiply. It is a way that we can end our attachment to material things, can end our pre-determination of the worthiness of anyone to be our beneficiary.
Our harvest is not of this world. Our Kingdom is not of this world.
We must live accordingly.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!