His Kingdom. Our Kingdom.

Homily 304 – 5th of Great Lent
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
March 25, 2018

Epistle: (321-ctr) – Hebrews 9:11-14 and (306) – Hebrews 2:11-18 (Feast)
Gospel: (47) – Mark 10:32-45 and (3) – Luke 1: 24-38 (Feast)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

What is power?

Our society is obsessed with it. But not just us, not just this day.

Throughout history, the pursuit of power has consumed humanity. The struggle for power in the community, the nation, even in the family.

The Apostles jostled for it – James and John asked to be seated at the right and left of Jesus in glory, which was a naked power grab.

It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, and the first sin – that of setting ourselves up as judges instead of God, who is the true judge.

Because ultimately, power is the ability to enforce one’s will. This creates an interesting dynamic.

The only power that exists is God. Because His will is reality – all of it. Our perception of power and control isn’t the reality, it is only an illusion.

People ask – how can you be so certain that our power, our control, is an illusion?

It isn’t hard – I simply cannot will something into existence. I can assemble, I can build, but I cannot create from nothing. I cannot will something into existence.

And God can – and does. He simply wills – and it exists.

I can’t do that. You can’t do that. James and John couldn’t do that.

So Jesus called a time out with his disciples and apostles. He explained the real nature of power, and how that was reserved for God alone. The Father alone.

And he acknowledged that the world uses authority and rulers to impose their own will, but in the Kingdom, in God’s society and God’s world, such imposition doesn’t exist.

Only God’s will is imposed in the Kingdom. Imposed may not be the right word. God’s will is accepted, it is embraced, in the Kingdom.

God doesn’t impose – He offers. We, those who believe and those who follow God, accept. And so, it is together that we join together with God and exist in the kingdom.

His Kingdom, our Kingdom.

Living in the Kingdom requires us to change our attitude. And the fundamental change is our view of authority, and power.

Christ is explicit. If you wish to be in authority, if you wish to rule, then you will serve.

And today, the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent and the Annunciation of the Theotokos, we see true examples of how to serve.

St. Mary of Egypt, whom we remember this Fifth Sunday of Great Lent, served. It isn’t perhaps obvious how she served.

She served by saving herself, acquiring the Holy Spirit, and providing for us an example of repentance that we can follow.

She is the example for us of denying ourselves. She denied herself everything – and in turn found union with God.

And we can too.

Regardless of our past – regardless of what we have thought or said or done. Because St. Mary did it all.

There is a lot we can learn from St. Mary, about repentance. And I encourage everyone to read the life of St. Mary, and think about how her repentance relates to today.

The only thing I’d point out is that her repentance came from within. As does all repentance. We cannot direct others to repent, regardless of how we try.

Again, that is imposing our will, and trying to claim power for ourselves.

The other example is the one offered to us by the Theotokos. At the Annunciation, her acceptance of God’s will was the ultimate is service to all of the Creation.

Through her, joy has come into all the world. Through her, we are saved by the one born of her.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word. The handmaid of the Lord – another word for handmaid is servant – or slave.

How can we, in our day and time, follow the example of St. Mary and the Theotokos?

The first is to recognize those times in our lives when we try to impose our will. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an imposition on someone else.

It is about getting “our way”. It is recognizing that diversions from God are impositions of our will.

When we neglect prayer, when we neglect fasting, when we neglect almsgiving, we are imposing our will instead of God’s will.

We have to start there – because that is the first step of repentance.

And then, we decide – for ourselves – to follow God instead of our own.

We won’t be successful all of the time. And God understands that, and has provided the opportunity for confession and reconciliation.

This journey begins, and begins again, for the remainder of our lives, until we come together with Christ into the Kingdom.

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