Choose wisely.

Homily 572 – 28 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 17, 2023
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.

Saint Paul gives us a lot to think about this morning in his epistle to the Colossians.  He starts out with a pretty bold, and if we consider it carefully, maybe a frightening statement.

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with Him in glory.

Then, he uses the word “Therefore”.  So, because you will be revealed with Christ, in glory, you and I need to consider what Paul writes next pretty carefully.

Before we go there, what does it mean to be revealed?  Maybe the most important aspect of revelation that St. Paul is referencing is the making known of that which was previously hidden.

It is worth noting that a couple of verses before this statement, St. Paul talks about us being “hidden” with Christ, because we are raised up together with Christ.  If you are like me, this starts to get maybe a bit confusing.

St. Paul says that we are hidden in and with Christ because we died.  We crucified our ego in baptism, and were joined with Christ.  Our ego – us, the essence of our separation from God, was crucified.

If we are hidden with Christ, our person, our ego, is wrapped up in Christ, covered by Him, invisible.  So if people were to look at what they believe is us, they should, if all is well, see Christ and not us.

Plus, we would then also be where Christ is – while we are here on this planet in this place, we are wrapped up and embedded in Christ, so St. Paul reminds us that we are already in heaven.  We are already seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father.

Here’s the big caveat, though:  We cannot be individuals and be with Christ.  To be individual, to be ourselves only, we have to separate ourselves from Christ.  If we are to be seen as the person our society sees, we have to be distinct from Christ.

If, on the other hand, we are to be embedded in Christ, if we are, as the baptismal service says, united with Christ, and we have put on Christ – if we have clothed ourselves with light, with Christ, as with a garment – then what society sees won’t be us, it will be Christ.

Yet at the same time, it will be the real and true us!  We will be seen as we truly are, and as we were created by God to be.  We are made in God’s image and likeness – so, we are a person, but only exist in relationship with others, as God is.

God the Father is never without the Son, nor without the Spirit.  They are inseparable – yet, still individual persons.  And so are we.  We are individual persons, but should be inseparable from God, and from each other.

So, being hidden in Christ, we will be revealed with Christ.  Another way to translate the word for “revealed” in Greek is “manifested.”  We will be manifested with Christ.

Christ was manifested on Earth in a few places in the Gospels.  First, at His birth, where the Birthgiver of God and the Caretaker of the Holy Family were made well aware that the Child was born both of God and of humanity.  I’m not sure they understood it at the time, but they trusted that, and went with it.

Then there is the Theophany, the baptism, of Our Lord in the Jordan.  The word “Theophany” itself means visible revelation or manifestation of God.

Of course, our own community is named and recalls the Transfiguration, where Christ was revealed, manifested, to his disciples as far as they could bear it.

And then, the Cross.  Even the unbelievers, the Roman soldiers, the Centurion Longinus, recognized that the One on the Cross was and is the Son of God.

We’ve died with Christ, we are hidden in Christ, sitting with Christ at the right hand of the Father.  Let’s now go back to the “Therefore.”

Therefore – here comes what action we need to take – therefore, put to death what is earthly in ourselves.  Put to death, eliminate, those aspects of our lives that are not of Christ.  He names some of them – sexual immorality, impurity, depraved passions, lust.

And then he drops the big one.  Idolatry.  Not by worshiping little statues, but by worshiping that most insidious monster, greed.  Another translation of the Greek would be “desiring wealth.”

It is interesting that greed is held out as something more significant that any of the other sins.  We tend to think the opposite, at least based on the way most confessions go.

Father Alexander Schmemann in his journals laments that in hearing confessions at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, the sexual and moral sins are confessed, but hide what he called the “serious stuff”, like greed.

And not just greed – anger, rage, evil, slander, shameful language are mentioned by St. Paul.  All are listed, not just the sexual immorality that tends to absorb our attention.

And then there is the big one.  Do not lie to one another.  And if I may be so bold, don’t lie to yourself either.  We shouldn’t try to deceive one another, and we most assuredly shouldn’t try to deceive ourselves.  Nothing, in my view, nothing is more useless than convincing ourselves of a lie.

Making a decision, acting on a lie, is the best possible way to get the worst possible outcome.  We can’t make a good decision or act in a good way based on bad data.

Because, as St. Paul says, when Christ is revealed, we also will be revealed.  We will be manifested and made visible for all to see.  What will everyone see?

Will they see our separation from God?  Or will they see Christ?

That is our choice.  Choose wisely.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.