Homily 387 – 27th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 22, 2019
Epistle: (328) Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40
Gospel: (1) Matthew 1:1-25
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
The Sunday of the Genealogy of Christ is always challenging for clergy and not just because of the pronunciation issues involved.
It forces us to think about the importance of our history, the importance of our genealogy. It is an indication that our Lord is one of us – but not just one of us, but also God.
That is the miracle, the unfathomable depths of the Incarnation. There is no analogy for it. Perhaps the closest we might come is to have an ant farm, and we join the ant farm as an ant.
Even that isn’t adequate, because we are much closer to an ant than we are with God. The ant, like us, is created. God is uncreated.
And yet, God becomes human. He has a lineage. He has a history. He has a family.
Kings and commoners. There are cases of incest and deception. Foreigners. Murderers. Harlots.
Christ, the second person of the Trinity, completely God, is also in a way we cannot hope to comprehend, also completely human.
And, to add to the mystery and the profound astonishment, Jesus Christ is our brother. Almighty God is our Father.
You know this world keeps us so busy – most of us have to work, we have families, we need food prepared. There are poor to take care of, suffering to sit with. There are refugee and immigration issues to be argued and laws about morality that need to be dealt with.
Yet, that is not the most important thing.
In the story of another family, Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary, Martha was consumed with much serving. But Mary chose what Christ called “one thing needful – the better part.
Not to say that Mary didn’t serve – she did – but at that point in time, she knew that in the presence of our Lord, stillness and quiet was called for. There would be time for ministry, time for service.
When we are serving, with all those tasks to concern ourselves with, we live in our brain. Our intelligence rules.
But when we are with Christ, in His presence, our heart – rather what the Greeks call our nous – should be dominant.
The nous is that very center – very heart – of our being. In reality, the whole of the Christian life is restoring the nous to that place of dominance within our life and our existence.
Not just at times, but all the time.
It is what is meant by putting God first. It is what Mary of Bethany sought.
And if we are to pursue Christ, we have to pursue that also. Where Christ is all-consuming. Everything else, as important as those things might be to us, is secondary to knowing God and seeking Him.
So, in the midst of the chaos – dividing our attention and stealing our joy – we need to purposefully take time out and be quiet and sit with God.
All those things that keep us busy are indeed important – but God knows we need those things. And He will provide those things. We still have to work, we still have to be concerned with needs that come to our attention.
But the evil one, the devil, the deceiver – wants us to put those concerns before our attentiveness for God. So, on the one hand, we are striving to do something good for others, and on the other, we are doing the will of the evil one.
What a dilemma! How are we to resolve this?
It is both easy and difficult. Easy to say, difficult to do. We must keep bringing ourselves back into stillness and into God’s presence.
It requires practice. It requires intention – we have to set out to accomplish this. And if we keep doing it, keep practicing, keep starting over, keep seeking and knocking and getting back up when we fail.
God will reward our effort. It is His grace and His mercy that will come and reorder our soul, reorder our existence. Slowly and imperceptibly.
I say imperceptibly because if our focus in on the One we love, our Lord Jesus Christ, then we don’t have the opportunity to watch our progress. We don’t have the opportunity to evaluate our condition.
Which isn’t our worry anyway – we will leave it in the hands of our Lord.
Remembering at all times that Our Lord experiences exactly what we do, except for being distracted.
Because in addition to being fully God, He is fully human – our Brother, part of our family.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!