Homily 268 – 4th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 2, 2017

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

We like to think of ourselves as free. If you ask most people what is celebrated in the United States on July 4 each year, many would say “freedom.”

As someone of Scottish descent – way, way back – the idea of freedom is ingrained within me. Many of our ancestors came to this land for freedom.

But we are not free. We are all slaves. We are all constrained.

We cannot go anywhere we’d like – there are fences, and gates, and locks.

We cannot say anything we’d like – we offend those who have the power to withhold our food, our shelter, our wages.

We might not be imprisoned. But we are most assuredly not free.

St. Paul tells of this in the Epistle to the Romans, and the centurion tells us that in the Gospel reading.

We are not free.

The centurion was a man, in his words, under authority. He did what those in authority over him asked.

He was also in authority, directing the activities of others.

And the subject of his request of Jesus – he implored Jesus – that subject was his servant. Not his child, nor his heir, not even a friend.

A servant.

St. Paul gets more personal than that. He reminds us that we were slaves to sin. And now, by our own will, are slaves to righteousness.

That doesn’t sound very good, does it? That sounds depressing almost.

But it isn’t.

St. Paul is quite pragmatic. What did being slaves to sin get you? Momentary pleasure, fleeting satisfaction – at best.

Nothing sustainable. Nothing lasting. Nothing enduring.

That sin, our pursuit of things that are important only in this world and in society, that pursuit leads only to death.

So what does slavery to righteousness get us?

In honesty, nothing. Because the gift of God is just that – a gift. Our slavery to righteousness, as St. Paul puts it, is sanctification.

Being sanctified – being made holy. Being made a saint.

Our slavery is not earning – unlike our slavery to sin. The wages of sin, as the Apostle tells us, is death. Our pursuit of things unrighteous pays us back with separation from God.

Our gift is eternal life! And we can either accept or reject that gift. We accept that gift by our enslavement to God, and our pursuit of sanctification.

We accept that gift by understanding, like the centurion, that those in subjection, those who are servants, simply obey the one who gives the command.

We reject that gift by refusing to do those things that we are asked by our Lord.

Some will say that knowing the will of God, the desire of God, the command of God – knowing that is difficult.

But it isn’t difficult at all. God tells us, through His Son, what we are to do.

Because His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, was also under His authority, and was here to do those things that He was given to do by the Father.

And what we are to do, first and foremost, is to love.

Love Him. And, even more than that, love one another.

To be more concerned with the needs and wants of those around us – than even our own needs and wants.

Love is a verb. Love is an action that we do, not a feeling that comes and goes.

There are times when we don’t like people – be they parents, or spouses, or children, or friends. Yet, even when we don’t like them, we still love them.

Because love is not an emotion. It is a decision – a commitment.

And it is the core of what we are commanded by God.

To take care of those around us, as we are able. That and that alone is God’s will. God really doesn’t command us about anything else – what career to pursue, who to marry, what decisions we make throughout our life.

Only that we love. And that we love in the same measure that we are loved by Him.

For that love – that alone – is the only freely offered gift we have.

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