Homily 361 – 7th Sunday of Pascha (1st Ecumenical Council)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 9, 2019
Epistle: (44) – Acts 20:16-18, 28-36
Gospel: (56) – John 17:1-13
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
So that they may be one, even as we are one.
Who are “they”? “They” are in short, us. We are they. We are, to quote the passage, the people whom God has given to Jesus out of the world.
We began our lives in this world. In a world that is fallen, and we also are fallen. We begin our lives enslaved to the world, and to the ruler of the world, who is the Evil One.
Yesterday, when we baptized Connor, the first prayers we offer to God were exorcisms. We placed the devil under ban, and gave him notice that he was no longer welcome to ply his wares in our midst.
Connor has been “given to Jesus” out of the world.
As have we. All of us – born into slavery – have been bought and given our freedom.
We have a choice – we can choose to be one given to Jesus. Or we can choose to stay enslaved to this world. It is indeed our choice.
God will not compel us – he will not force us – to desire Him. To love Him. He lets us choose.
But He does let us know the implications of our choice.
If we desire Him, if we love Him, if we follow Him, then we find the source of all life, for eternity. If we do not, we remain in this world of death, corruption, illness, decay. And we remain forever.
There is a lot I don’t understand about this. A lot. But the more I contemplate the meaning of life, the majesty of creation, the trust of a child – one thing becomes clear.
I don’t want to be apart from it.
And by not wanting to be apart from it, what I am saying is that I want to be part of the Creator of it.
Thank God, that is what He wants also. Jesus, through whom God made everything, the Creator – it is that person that has purchased our freedom.
Even though I am still selfish and fearful and hateful. He bought me out of bondage. By his death. I am given to Him.
Through this wondrous and unknowable love, Jesus asks one thing from us. Rather, one thing from God for us.
That we may be one.
As a family, a community, a neighborhood, a people – one. Yet, not just one. But one in the same way the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one.
I can’t explain what that means. I don’t understand the implications – the ramifications – of that phrase.
I only know partially. Because while unity, oneness, is what Christ desires for us, he doesn’t desire we give up our personhood.
There used to be a sticker that was popular when I was a kid. May still be popular, I don’t know. But it was a guy in Key West – not at all a Christian – who gave away stickers that said “One Human Family.”
That seems to be the place to start. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one Divine family. We are all One Human Family.
The connection between the two is Christ. That was the definition given to us by the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. Christ was both fully human, and fully divine.
And Christ takes those given Him by the Father, and joins them to Himself. And joins Himself to His Father.
And we participate by Grace that which Christ is by nature – Divine.
We become not slaves to Christ, but family with Christ.
Our devotion, our love, may seem to be slavery to outsiders looking in. But we know the truth. It isn’t slavery at all. It is a choice we make. Each and every day we live, we choose to be with Christ – to unite ourselves to Christ.
So what’s in it for us? Nothing. Everything. It is a paradox. If the question “What’s in it for us?” means what I am entitled to get, the answer is nothing. We have nothing by right.
God is not obligated – for while He does not compel us, He also recognizes no compulsion. Who compels God? Who questions God?
If you want to know what happens when you question God, read the book of Job, or the book of Jonah.
However – out of God’s choice – God’s love – He gives us everything. We are part of His beloved and only begotten Son. Like the Son, we die not for ourselves but to ourselves for the benefit of others.
And we are raised with Him – joint heirs with Him. As a gift. As a grace.
If we choose to reject God, to reject Christ, and to follow our own heart – we reject the gift. We cannot reject Christ and receive the gifts, share in the gifts that Christ receives and shares with us.
It is our choice. We are One. If we choose to be.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!