Death and Tabernacles

Homily 478 – 22nd APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 21, 2021
Epistle: (203) Galatians 2:16-20 and (131) 1 Corinthians 4:9-16 (St. Philip)
Gospel: (66) Luke 12:16-21 and (54, 58) Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 (Feast)

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

You can’t take it with you.

So the saying goes, and so the Gospel tells us today. The person with abundance wanted only one thing – to consume the fruit of his labor himself. Like the rich man who never entertained the idea of sharing anything with the beggar Lazarus.

We encounter this attempt by humanity to retain everything they possess in many ways today. Some save money. Some spend extravagantly.

But in the end, it is all the same. We are placed in a hole in the ground to return to the earth from which we are taken.

The same fate awaits the rich, and the poor. The elaborate mausoleum and the unmarked grave.

Death, it can be said, is the ultimate equalizer.

However, there is one way in which we can in fact take everything with us.

As St. Theophylact in his commentary on this passage states, the storehouses of God are the stomachs of the poor. That is an investment that will carry over into the Kingdom of God.

Through that investment, we mimic Christ, who gave everything He is to us. He gives us Himself. Whether through the Eucharist we partake this morning, or the life in the Kingdom which is His to share with us.

We can’t partake of that presence, that Kingdom, when we are distracted by this world. Money, power, status. Self.

We must distance ourselves from that. Let go of any aspirations or desires for “self-“ anything.

Some might rightly ask, what about self-care? How will we care for others if we don’t take care of ourselves?

That is an excellent question. The answer is found in the feast we celebrate this day. The feast of the Entrance of the Birthgiver of God into the Temple.

Last evening at vespers we read of the accounts of the presence of God in the Tabernacle. Mary, the Birthgiver of God, became a tabernacle. One of the things I love about the new translation of the Simonapetra liturgy we use is the term “tabernacle.”

Christ our God tabernacles with us – He lives with us. In us, around us, through us.

The word “tabernacle” gives a physicality to the spiritual. It isn’t just that there is a spiritual indwelling – it is physical. The Ark of the Covenant, the original Tabernacle, was and is a physical object, with a physical location.

As our Archbishop Alexander says, God now had an address – One Temple Square, Jerusalem.

With us, it is exactly the same. Christ tabernacles, takes up residence, has an address, in us.

With God in us, what need do we have that God will not provide? With Christ, we also will have food of which those around us will not know, and we will be able to take shelter in an open boat in the midst of a storm, and we will no longer need to be frightened of what others think about us or say about us or their attempts to kill us.

We can allow whatever material things we find ourselves with to flow through our hands, rather than gripping them tightly. We share freely, knowing that God is with us and God will in fact provide our needs.

Like the Birthgiver of God, we will still work – we will still have a role to play. The icon of the Annunciation, found on our Holy Doors and on the Holy Doors of most churches, shows her with yarn, used to make the vestments for the priests in the Temple.

She worked – but not for her own benefit. Her life was an offering. As ours must be also. We work for our children, our spouse, our neighbors, our friends, and our enemies. Those who love us and those who hate us.

Not for ourselves.

And yet, in working for the exclusive benefit of others, we gain something. Not just something. Everything. We gain everything.

Like the man who found the great pearl in the field. We too sacrifice everything to acquire the greatest thing.

Because we have God with us. Emmanuel. If we desire Christ in us this Nativity season, we can’t just offer presents as the wise men did. The presents they offered – frankincense, myrrh, and gold, weren’t very good baby gifts if we are honest.

They were not gifts, in that sense – they were a recognition of who this Child was. Incense offered to God. Myrrh offered to the anointed one. Gold offered to the King.

This newborn child, God incarnate, needed nothing – yet needed everything. He set aside everything and entered our world as needy as we enter our world.

His mother entered the Temple needing nothing but needing everything. The Archangel Gabriel stayed with her then and continued with her until and even after the Annunciation itself.

She was not abandoned, nor left alone.

And neither are we.

So, have no fear to share God’s blessings with all you encounter. You have everything you need, and indeed will be able to have the whole of the Kingdom of Heaven in the age to come.

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