God in a box.

Homily 519 – 19 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 23, 2022
Epistle:  (194) 2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9 and (200) Galatians 1:11-19
Gospel:  (83) Luke 16:19-31 and (56) Matthew 13:54-58

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

Sometimes we look for more.

Do a miracle, God, and we will believe.  Grant us to have this thing or that thing, and we will believe.  Let my team win – let my side win – and I’ll believe.  We treat God like a trained animal, who can do tricks for us.

Why is that, when we have as Father Abraham tells the rich man, Moses and the prophets?  What were they for, if not to tell us that God is the Lord, and has revealed Himself to us?

The problem we face is not that God hasn’t revealed Himself.  The problem is that we refuse to see it.  We refuse to hear it.  We do not trust the ones who describe God in the Scriptures – that is to say, Moses, nor the prophets.

We don’t trust the Evangelists.  We don’t trust that the God they describe – the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, is the same now as He was then, and as He will be in the future.

We don’t trust that God doesn’t change.

Or maybe we hope He does change.  That He will perhaps let us slide, or do something special for only us.  Because, after all, He loves us more than others, right?  He loves me more than you!

Nothing could be further from the truth.  He doesn’t love me more than you, or you more than someone else, He simply loves all of us, more that we can actually bear.

The Scriptures both Old and New tell of His love for us, and His patience with us, and His sacrifice for us.

And yet for many of us, it isn’t enough.  It isn’t enough that God is patient, and forgiving.  We want something special.

That is what the rich man asked of Father Abraham – send back to my family Lazarus, whom they know, and then they will believe.  But they won’t.

The difference between Lazarus and the rich man was not that they heard a different message about who God is.  They heard the same message.

Lazarus believed it.  Even in the midst of his suffering and hunger and loneliness and sickness, Lazarus believed it.  He believed that God loved him.  He believed that God would care for him.  Even if he couldn’t see how or hear comforting words or experience health.

The rich man, on the other hand, living in luxury, also heard about God.  But because of his circumstance, the rich man had no use for God.

God was there to ruin his enjoyment of life, after all.  To take away the food and the fine clothes and the friends and family he had around him.

God served only to remind him that others lived in sickness and poverty, and that reminder caused the rich man to have less enjoyment – because it introduced guilt for not helping.

So, rather than feel guilt, the rich man placed God in a box – off to the side, out of the way, to be brought out on feast days and holy days and in times of need.

His nice little pet God.

That was, after all, what the pagans did, right?  Their god, their idol, was over in the corner, to be appeased, and then ignored to get on with enjoying life.

The rich man turned God into an idol.  The Creator of the cosmos became the idol god.  In a box, ignored, betrayed.

But the idol didn’t suck the enjoyment out of life.  Except, the act of turning the One True God into an idol did exactly that.  Taking the God Creator of the cosmos, Lord and Master of all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – that same God could no longer bless.

That God could no longer reveal Himself.  Because the rich man, because we, wouldn’t hear of it.

The story of Lazarus and the rich man isn’t one of simply torture here means paradise for eternity, and vice versa.  The story is one of accepting God, the One True God, as He has and continues to reveal Himself to us.

Or not.  It’s our choice.

When we accept God, in His revelation, we understand, dimly, His love for us, His concern for us, in that while we were still sinners, He died for us, to restore our relationship.

And when we refuse, we take God, and put Him in a box, and place Him on a shelf, to be hopefully appeased when we do as little as possible for Him, and go about our lives the rest of the time as if He didn’t exist at all.

So what is it to us?  What is our place for God?  Will we put Him on a shelf, or will we allow Him to enter our being, at the very core of who we are, and allow our eyes and our ears and our lips to dwell on His presence?

Will we live in the comfort of God with us, regardless of what is going on in the world around us, or what the world is doing to us?

Brothers and sisters, will we allow God to be the distraction from this fallen world?  Will we allow Him to love us?

Or, will we put God on a shelf, and forget about Him, while we enjoy the moment we have on earth?

The choice is ours to make.  God will honor whatever we choose.  And we will enjoy – or suffer – based on our choice.

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