Homily 338 – 29th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 16, 2018
Epistle: (257) – Colossians 3:4-11
Gospel: (76) – Luke 14:16-24
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Something we need to understand from the beginning is that this banquet isn’t just a party. This banquet is not something that will occur again, ever.
This banquet is eternal salvation. That is what the people were invited to attend – their salvation.
A couple of the people were too attached to the world, to business. The field, the oxen – they are the earth, this created existence.
One is attached to pleasure – he has just been married, and foregoes salvation for that pleasure.
So it becomes a decision for us. What do we desire?
A lifetime of fulfillment, a lifetime of joy, a lifetime of love? To be followed by an eternity of the same?
Or do we desire instant, and fleeting, gratification?
Gratification that lasts a moment – less than a moment. And is gone.
In our world, many seek out pleasure, many seek out wealth, many seek out status and fame.
We have celebrities and no role models. We have fame but no heroes.
We have fake everything – bodies, morals, everything. It no longer matters how we behave in the eyes of our world – only what we espouse with the lips.
Unfortunately, many of us do the same with our faith. We espouse faith with our lips, but fail miserably to live out our calling.
And then we tell ourselves, oh well, God loves me anyway and knew what He was doing in making me. He’ll understand.
The first part of that is definitely true – God does love us anyway, enough to die for us.
But the second part – not so much. God made us perfect. And now, we are not perfect. We are fallen. We are no longer what God created us to become.
So in Romans, St. Paul tells us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved.
Except he puts a little preface – if we also believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord – that means master, as in we are his slaves.
What we say isn’t enough. St. James says we have to demonstrate that we believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord. We do so by our actions.
If we don’t deny ourselves, submit to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, then we do not believe that He is Lord in our heart.
If we believed it, we would obey. And the evil one would continually try to get us to assert our own will, through his deceptions and lies.
Many people, myself included, have said “I’m sorry, I can’t attend, my employer is making me work that day.”
How much more so should we acknowledge what Christ asks us to do?
Certainly, we can’t deny the banquet. We avoid the feast at our own peril.
And make no mistake – there is peril involved. The poor, the homeless, the refugee – they will attend the feast. And we will, in the endless life which is to come, become them.
They will believe themselves unworthy – and they will be compelled to join the feast. We will believe ourselves worthy – and be tossed out.
Or maybe we will walk out on our own, muttering to ourselves about not associating with such riff-raff. And we will become our image of them.
It is said that an evangelical pastor in Manhattan told his people that they would not be allowed into heaven without a recommendation from the poor.
In other societies, there is an implicit agreement associated with giving to the poor – when we give to them, we ask them to pray for us. For many, our hope is to be brought to heaven on the coattails and prayers of the poor.
We won’t make it on our own, for certain.
So – what is our strategy here? First, detach from the material things of our world. Detach from wealth. Detach from fame. Detach from power. Detach mostly from even the desire for these things.
And redirect that effort toward others – particularly the poor, the homeless, the sick and imprisoned. And yes, the refugee and the immigrant.
Accept the invitation to the banquet. Because it isn’t really an invitation – it is a command of our Master and Lord.
And partake of the banquet table for ever, unto ages of ages. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!