Choosing the banquet.

Homily 291 – 28th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 17 2017

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

Sometimes people ask me why a loving God sends people to hell. They are bewildered occasionally when I tell them God doesn’t send people to hell.

People send themselves to hell.

Now, I don’t want to be to hard on us – sometimes we do things without realizing it, and God allows us to repent – that is, change – and has already forgiven us.

But we need to acknowledge that the one inviting everyone to the banquet is God Himself. And the one being invited – that would be us.

What joy! What honor!

Yet there are some – perhaps many – who hear the call of God, the invitation, and get bogged down with life and end up making excuses.

One is distracted by their real estate investment. Another by their machinery purchase.

One by their honeymoon.

And I am bewildered that people can allow the concerns of life to get between them and God. And even more bewildering, is when I allow the concerns of my life to get between myself and God.

But I do. To my shame.

We all allow the cares and concerns of this life to overwhelm us at times. And again, God understands that!

Totally gets it! Has already in fact provided for that!

But when the party is ready … when the banquet is prepared … we have a choice.

Will we choose God? Or will we choose ourselves? Ultimately, that is the choice we make.

Some of us, at times, struggle with the idea of “knowing God’s will.” We hear that frequently in protestant evangelical circles.

Seek God’s will! God has a plan for your life!

Ask God about who you should marry, should you change jobs, should you buy a house, should you wear black or blue socks today, should you eat at Wendy’s or Culvers.

That last one is neither, by the way, we are in the Nativity Fast!

Beloved, the scriptures don’t tell us to seek God’s will. The scriptures tell us to seek God. Himself. Not His will. Not His comfort. Not even His Love.

But Him. Acquire the Holy Spirit – acquire God. Seek God.

Everything else is noise. Everything else is distraction.

Ultimately God’s will is very, very simple. Come to the banquet when we are called.

Watch. Pray. Prepare.

Remember that habits die very hard. So when offered the opportunity to choose God, take it. Every time.

Sometimes, very often in fact, people tell me they don’t have time to pray. And I totally get that. Often I’m in the same predicament. I have a job, a family. I get it.

Sometimes, though, we may misunderstand what prayer really is. Prayer, like fasting and almsgiving, are disciplines. Ascetical disciplines, in which we deny ourselves.

We pray – discipline ourselves – in many ways. Not just standing before the icons with our prayer books. In fact, we see that as an obligation, but it is truly a respite.

A relief from the day-to-day occurrences that would distract us. An opportunity to rest in God’s presence and His holiness.

But overall, prayer is work. It is doing the things required of us. It is meeting the needs we see – family, neighborhood, community.

We are praying when we parent. We are praying when we serve at our employment. We are praying when we desire the good for someone else.

When we choose those things instead of our own amusement and distraction, we choose God.

When we come to the gathering of our Church family instead of an athletic or entertainment event – we choose God.

When we spend time with family and friends and neighbors instead of in front of a television – we choose God.

Anytime we deny ourselves, and give of ourselves, we choose God.

And when the messengers – the angels – come to us, we will be in the habit of choosing God already. And we will choose God.

And we can enjoy the never-ending banquet with our Father.

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