If only we had faith.

Homily 351 – First Sunday of Great Lent
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
March 17, 2019
Epistle: (329-ctr) – Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-12:2
Gospel: (5) – John 1:43-51

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

I find it fascinating that in the accounts of the calling of the Apostles, there was no planning. None.

Follow me. OK.

There is a passage in St. Luke’s gospel, also found in St. Matthew’s gospel, where a person was given that call – Follow me. One said, Let me bury my father – meaning, I will follow you, after my father dies.

Another, faced with the same question, wanted to say farewell to those at home first.

What we see, quite clearly, is that Christ is not concerned with the – quote – proper arrangement of one’s earthly affairs. He calls us, just as he calls Nathaniel, to follow.

A slave – a servant – doesn’t have personal affairs. Servants live at the direction of their master.

That seems to be the last area of control many of us hang on to. We cling tightly to the sense of our personal affairs. When we should be following Christ.

How do we reconcile the call of the Master to follow Him, with our own desire to manage our own affairs?

Perhaps we should examine what we mean by “our” affairs. Because they aren’t ours at all. Nothing is ours. Everything is the property and ownership of God.

Our ancestors, not so long ago, understood what it meant to be a servant, because most of our ancestors were servants of one form or another. Our nation was founded on the idea that we, some of us at least, were free, no longer born into obligation.

No obligation to King or Country. And while that makes our Country great, in the sense of the world, it in many ways impoverishes our spiritual existence.

We don’t know what it is like to be servants – because we have never been servants. We don’t understand being ruled by a king, because most of us have never been ruled by a king.

In the Christian life, however, we are both. We are servants – servants of a King. King of kings. Lord of lords.

That requires thought on our part. Imagination, trying to learn what it means to be a servant, to serve a King. It is radically different than life in America.

St. Paul reminds us that this idea of following, without a particular outcome or personal goal, is not new with Christ.

The passage this morning from Hebrews is a bit abbreviated – Abraham and Sarah were commanded to follow – with no idea where they were going. None – not even the next stage. And they went.

Moses left Egypt for Midian, only to be commanded to return. No promises. Only knowing that his return was pleasing to God, his Master.

Rahab the prostitute received spies from Israel, and kept them safe, in obedience to God. St. Paul goes through a list – mostly what we would call “highly negative experiences.”

Mocking. Scourging, stoning, sawn apart, imprisoned, wanderers without a home.

Sounds attractive, huh? Promising future!

Not by the standards we are accustomed to following. Yet, they followed. The Apostles followed. Svetlana, the woman at the well, followed.

For what? What was the deal God made with them?

That deal – that promise – is life itself. Eternal life. Peace. Joy. Salvation. Visitation – meaning God in our presence.

That promise is what the testimony of the Gospels gives us – in that while we were sinners – egotists, selfish – Christ died for us. For me. And demonstrating the effectiveness of His death, He was raised from the dead.

As we will be raised from the dead.

What evidence do we have? That is faith. Faith is following based on a promise. Faith is the substance, the activity, based on things unseen, things hoped for.

Faith is what enables us to leave our lives and follow our Master.

O Lord, bring to us more faith! Bring us the faith of our fathers! The faith of the Apostles!

As St. Paul says – let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us. Run with endurance the race that is set before us.

If only we had faith. If only we had faith. Lord, I believe – help my unbelief.

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