Homily 365 – 3rd after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 7, 2019
Epistle: (88) Romans 5: 1-10
Gospel: (18) Matthew 6:22-33
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
In thinking about this Sunday’s gospel, I’m mystified by something. How far are we from the description – the commandment, really – that Christ gives us?
I think it safe to say that we live in a world of anxiety. We worry about so many things. Big things about jobs and family. Small things about how to fix our hair, or how we might dress to impress.
Important things like the future of our country and our society. Trivial things like will our team win the championship.
Part of the reason this is so mystifying is that we can control absolutely none of it. The future is not ours to control.
And isn’t that what worry and anxiety is truly always about? It’s about the future, is it not? Always about what is to come – and the fact that we don’t know what is to come.
Yet Christ tells us “Don’t worry.” “Don’t be anxious.”
Not because we should live our lives in a frivolous manner. But because our worry accomplishes nothing.
In the midst of accomplishing nothing, it robs us – steals from us – the present moment.
As one who is a recovering worrier, I can’t tell you how many significant moments have been stolen from me by worry.
I recall vividly a conversation with friends who are missionaries. I had been between jobs for about a year and a half, after having moved around a good bit for work.
My comment about missionary life was that I thought I needed more security and more stability in my life. And our friends looked at me – laughed at me, really, and said, “What kind of security do you have now?”
Touché. Couldn’t argue with that! We had changed jobs pretty much every two years for the previous 14. Sometimes even by choice.
We were so far in debt that I was committing that financial planning sin of paying off one credit card with another. And having no assets to show for it.
The great capitalistic sin!
This was also at the beginning of our journey to Orthodoxy. And the message of orthodoxy was clear – the first step on the path to holiness, to fulfillment, was to renounce the world.
To live in the world, but live by our own standard.
I began repeating this passage, and the similar passage in St. Luke, every day. It became my rule. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, my attitude changed. My worry changed.
I didn’t suddenly get out of debt. It was a long and painful slog. But looking back, I could see that when we needed it, God provided. Whether it be a job, or a place to live, or whatever.
In the midst of our situation, we were blessed. People shared with us. Family shared with us.
The Old Testament serves that same purpose. It shows how God is, and has, and always will look after His people. There are times when things are tougher than others. Times of abundance – times of want.
But never – never – times of God’s absence. Never times when God’s love was absent from us.
We have this confidence – we have this abundance of security. Not that we will be forever blissful, or always content and comfortable. But that in seeking God, we will find redemption.
He will always redeem us. He has already redeemed us. He will always redeem us.
However – and this is important – we have to want to be redeemed. We cannot be redeemed, we cannot be freed, and stay where we are, on the same course. It just can’t happen that way.
We have to change. That is what it means to repent.
In the book of Acts, very early, St. Luke describes life in the earliest Christians communities. Everyone held everything in common. Everyone got what they needed, and shared the abundance with those who didn’t have abundance.
They didn’t necessarily provide for themselves first – which may be one of our mistakes today. The advice we receive is to provide for ourselves, and share the abundance.
They gave everything, and only took what was needed. Presumably, this meant there was an upper limit, and so wanting didn’t enter the picture. Only need.
What are our needs? Christ tells us what we need that we don’t have to concern ourselves with: food, clothing. We can probably add shelter to that list – as Christ Himself had no shelter of His own.
Christ was homeless. Christ had one set of clothes. Christ did not have a pantry or freezer full of food.
And beloved, we are called to be like Christ. That, that is a challenge.
Christ tells us to seek the Kingdom of God, and God’s righteousness. That one thing should occupy our minds, and our prayers. Through seeking the Kingdom, we find the Tree of Life that was abandoned in the Garden of Paradise.
The source of never-ending life, never-ending water and food, that comes from Christ Himself.
Worry about acquiring that – and the remainder will be added to you as well.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!