Distractions, distractions.

Homily 325 – 15th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 9, 2018
Epistle – (215) Galatians 6:11-18 (Sunday before the Elevation), (176) 2 Corinthians 4:6-15
Gospel – (9) John 3:13-17 (Sunday before the Elevation), (92) Matthew 22:35-46

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

In the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court this week, we got a bit of what the lawyer in today’s Gospel reading was trying to accomplish.

He ultimately was trying to trap Jesus in a point of Law – in this instance, the Torah, delivered to the Jews by God, through Moses.

Everybody knew, and still knows, that there are 10 commandments. This religious lawyer – an expert in the 10 commandments, and in all the regulations designed to prevent transgression of those commandments – to distill the commandments down to one.

The greatest commandment.

And Jesus answered the question – and astounded the lawyer and those gathered.

In other Gospel accounts the lawyer responds to Christ, telling Christ that He was correct.

The lunacy of that interaction still astonishes. The creator of the World, the giver of the Commandments, is asked about them. Like He could ever be wrong about them.

And then we have the audacity to judge the accuracy of the answer!

This is the essence of our sin. Humanity’s sin. Setting ourselves up to evaluate the Commandments of God on our terms.

But this morning perhaps we can think for a moment about that first commandment – that greatest commandment.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

In other words, with all of your being.

Every thought, every movement, every longing should be directed toward God.

And we do this – we accomplish this – through directing that love toward our neighbor.

And who is our neighbor? The parable of the Good Samaritan begins with this question. And answers it with “the person in need is your neighbor.”

Sometimes we try to make Christianity harder than it really is. It is difficult to accomplish, certainly – but not difficult to talk about or summarize.

Our role as the ones who incarnate Christ in our world is to love. No qualifications, no distractions, no “unless.”

No prerequisites. Just love.

Just love – but not “just any” love! The love of Christ. The love that is self-sacrificial, the love that is ego-destroying.

Beloved, the day in which we live is filled with distractions. From the moment we awake, until the moment we return to sleep, and even beyond, there are things striving for our attention.

Things that aren’t God. Masking the only thing we should be attentive to – God.

We all experience these things. Some are thrust upon us – things like work, and food, and responsibilities toward others.

Some, though, we choose – to pursue wealth, or vanity, or power.

The one that perhaps most of us pursue – me included – is entertainment. Diversion.

Sometimes, we will do anything to avoid God, and avoid our neighbors. We look at our screens. Check facebook – again. Check the sports scores. Check the news. Check facebook – again.

Watch a movie. Watch the game – then the next game. Binge watch three seasons of a television show.

Sometimes it gets bad enough that we distract ourselves with substances, or porn, or gambling – all in an effort to avoid loving God, and loving our neighbor.

We perhaps think this angers God – but I don’t believe so. I think it saddens God. Not because He needs our attention, or needs our focus.

But because He has so much to give us. He has everything to give us. Everything is His, and He gives it to His only begotten Son, who shares everything – every bit of it – with us.

Dear brothers and sisters – don’t allow the distraction. The first part of loving God is avoiding the distractions.

Sit in silence. Enjoy the essence of the life we have been given. Sometimes we have to do this for a while, to acclimate ourselves to this new way of life.

Any thoughts you have, don’t dwell on them. If you must do something, read the scriptures – slowly, savoring every word.

Read some other spiritual work. Write what is in your heart. Talk with God.

It is in the silence – the listening – that we find God. And when we find God – we will begin to love Him with our entire being.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!