Homily 324 – 14th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 2, 2018
Epistle – (170) 2 Corinthians 1:21-2:4
Gospel: (89) Matthew 22:1-14
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
St. Paul’s relationship with the Christians of Corinth was a complicated one. Most of the reason for the complications came down to a lack of communication.
He heard rumors about how the Christians of Corinth were behaving. Reports – from trusted advisors – about how they were acting, how they were perceived within the city.
This created for St. Paul a fear. The fear that they had betrayed the faith they once embraced.
He chided them about their behaviors. First and foremost, the divisions that occurred among them. Divisions over who the Corinthians would follow – Paul? Apollos?
He chided them about their sexual immorality, their attempts to enforce their legal rights on one another. Issues about how relationships appeared, and what their true nature was.
The essence of charity, the order of worship. Spiritual gifts.
All of these issues were causing discussion and division in the Church – and none of it, according to St. Paul, was terribly relevant.
What he saw in the reports was that the Corinthians were not developing and manifesting spiritual growth and maturity. He addressed it by addressing their behavior.
But underneath was a strong idea that there was order and that we should not allow the evil one to distract and divide us. Rather, we need to focus on our own walk with Christ – on our own spiritual disciplines and growth – and allow the Holy Spirit to bring all of us to oneness.
Being prepared at every turn to give up our own understanding in favor of the consensus of the Church, led by the Holy Spirit.
In today’s epistle reading, St. Paul tells us of his motivation in chiding the Corinthians. He did so not in a spirit of being an authority, although he certainly was.
He chided them because they were his children and because he loved them. As a father loves his children – as The Father, our Heavenly God, loves them, and us.
Why is it that we struggle with the guidance we are offered? And we all struggle – some more than others, but it is always a struggle.
In some cases, it is our rugged American Individualism ® manifesting itself. We are in charge of ourselves. We have free will, we will do as we decide – as we please.
Yet, that is not God’s intent for us. That is not God’s will for us.
Many ask about God’s will and God’s plan – and that is a simple thing. God’s will is, for each and every one of us, that we love Him with our entire being – the whole of our existence.
Everything else – and this is important – everything else is a way to evaluate ourselves.
When we see the sins of the 10 commandments, and the virtues of the Beatitudes, and the chiding of St. Paul, it is a standard by which we measure ourselves.
We can measure our progress, our direction. Ultimately, the measure is our progress toward Christ-likeness.
Our morality – which St. Paul addresses in some detail, echoed in St. James – our morality isn’t what defines us, and isn’t what causes us to be spiritually healthy and growing.
Rather, our morality is an outgrowth – a manifestation – of our growth. We only see changes in our behaviors, our moralities, when we are growing spiritually – eating meat and no longer milk.
Our change – our personal transfiguration – is not instantaneous. It is a process. A continuing revelation.
Which is what we find in the wedding guest without the proper attire in the Gospel.
The people of God – the Jewish people, the nation of Israel – had ignored the invitation to growth and holiness.
So, in turn, God invited us – the Gentiles.
And at the time of judgment, when all is revealed, one is found without the proper attire. One is found who has not become transfigured and has – according to some commentators – rejected the virtues.
Arguably the servants who went into the countryside seeking those to attend the wedding could see the individual’s attire. Yet they did not judge, nor discriminate.
The Gospel account clearly says – both good and bad were brought to the feast.
It wasn’t the job of the servants to evaluate the appropriateness or worthiness of the guests. Their orders were clear – bring the people to the feast.
Judgment, evaluation of the appropriateness of the attire, was reserved for the King alone.
So we have the same message in both St. Paul, and in the Gospel. The standards of behavior are intended not to evaluate others, but to evaluate ourselves.
If we do not manifest spiritual growth, the feast to which we are all invited will be a worrisome and dangerous time.
But if we are targeting unity with Christ – to be his bride – we will in that day be utterly consumed and overwhelmed with love, and joy.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!