Don’t be afraid to follow Christ.

Homily 475 – 19th APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 31, 2021
Epistle: (194) 2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9 and (334) Hebrews 13:7-16
Gospel: (38) Luke 8:26-39 and (67) Luke 12:32-40

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

It has been a challenging couple of weeks. Today’s remembrance of St. John Kochurov comes at a blessed and beneficial time. A perfect time, it might be said. The Epistle and Gospel readings for his commemoration are particularly relevant for us.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, talks about our leaders. He tells us to remember your leaders – your priests – who proclaim the Word of God to you, to imitate their conduct and imitate their faith.

We do well to imitate Father Maximos, who was always seeking, always curious, always learning. His curiosity was not broad, but very, very focused – it was about the person, the life, of Our Lord.

It began for him with the scriptures. His introduction to Christ created a thirst to understand the Bible, which led to the Fathers, the source of the Bible, and to the way we live our lives in Christ.

His example is an example for us all – that hunger and thirst to know Christ – what the Beatitudes call the hunger and thirst after Righteousness, who is Christ.

Which leads to the Gospel read in commemoration of St. John. Do not be afraid!

Do not be afraid to sell your possessions. Do not be afraid to give to those in need. Do not be afraid to give up everything in this life to acquire the thing which is eternal, and to acquire the pearl of great price.

We – I – sometimes live in this fear. Oftentimes, perhaps. Yet, this betrays my enslavement to the things around me and the enslavement to my passions.

Isn’t living in Christ supposed to be freedom?

One of my favorite lines in secular music is from the song “Me and Bobbie McGee.” That line resonates deep within me.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

And we need not live in fear of freedom!

Society will look at this with absolute wonder. We are, in their mind, nuts. We are told everywhere – ads, advice, employment – to be self-reliant, to ensure our own well-being.

And to pursue our own goals and dreams. To go for the gusto as the old ads used to say.

Yet, in the times of loss, particularly at the end of life, when we say goodbye to someone who is close to us, or significant to us, we realize that there is nothing left.

Everything we acquire – all our belongings, all our dreams, all our desires – none of them are buried with us. We are alone.

Unless, dear brothers and sisters, unless we pursue Christ with everything we have. No distractions, no other focus.

Then, our burial is with Christ, and we are not alone in the tomb. Our burial is with Christ and we have the Creator and giver of all Life with us. Our burial is with Christ and we have the heavenly bodiless hosts with us.

We have the Saints with us, accompanying us. We have our guardian angel with us. We have Christ’s mother, the blessed Birthgiver of God, with us.

And that is why we need not fear. Our Creator is there. The one who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb is there at the new birth into the everlasting life in the Kingdom and presence of God.

In like manner, He is with us in this life as well. We can give up everything without fear because God will provide our needs for us, everything good and perfect. We are not self-reliant and were not created to be self-reliant. We were created to live in the Garden of perfection, with God providing everything that meets all our needs.

We rely on one another, which was so evident this past two weeks. The visits, the prayers, the attentiveness for Father’s passing. All was an expression of our reliance on one another, and our reliance on God.

We have to remember – we live here as resident aliens. This is not our home. This is not our Kingdom.

I have a birthplace – as do we all – but I no longer have a home. One of the things Matushka and I talked about is our own burial when that time comes. We don’t really have a place anymore. My family has a family plot in Tennessee, however, it is quite remote and none of our family lives there anymore.

We are from Tennessee, and our lives were formed there and in Florida, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and now Iowa. Our family is not here but is in Tennessee, and Arizona, and Texas.

We still don’t yet know where our remains will be buried. But more than ever we recognize that our home is not a place, but a people. Our home is the Church, our home is the Kingdom of God.

This is home – and you are our family.

In that spirit, we need not fear giving up anything – giving up everything – to gain the Kingdom. Because our God will, in exchange for our letting go of our self-reliance, give us the whole of the Cosmos.

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