Ignoring the world to attain everything.

Homily 518 – 18 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 16, 2022
Epistle:  (188) 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 and (334) Hebrews 13:7-16
Gospel:  (35) Luke 8:5-15 and (56) John 17:1-13

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

The parable of the sower is a parable about our lives.  It tells us the things we need to do to receive the word of God, and to have that seed bear fruit in our lives.

We may see the situations that Christ presents as independent – all or nothing.  That is to say, only one of them applies to any person.  But that is not the case.  They all apply to all of us, some more than others.

There are four situations described here.

The first is where we simply reject the word out of hand, and do not believe it.  The evil one convinces us to reject the Word which is true.  That is what the evil one does.  That is what he did in the garden of paradise, in creation.

The second is receiving the word with joy, but have no root.  That is, we get caught up in the emotionalism of the moment, but when the moment passes, and temptation confronts us, the Word given to us gets washed away, as if we never had it to begin with.

The third is when we receive the word, but then shift our attention to the concerns and worries and anxieties of the world.  Or the opposite – we shift our attention to the blessings that we mistakenly think we earned.  We worry about the future, or we rest on our own stored wealth.

Either way, the word we are given is ignored, in favor of concern over the world and it’s pleasures or trials.

Finally, the fourth situation where the word finds a receptive heart, takes root, and produces the fruit it is intended to produce.  That fruit is love.  Unconditional love.

So, how do we respond?

It seems straightforward, perhaps.  Don’t do those things!  Prepare the heart to receive the word!

But it is never that simple, because our ego gets in the way.

We have to avoid a couple of things.  The world and ourselves.

That’s no small task.  To put it differently we have to ignore everything that isn’t God.

We have to ignore our skepticism.  We have to ignore our emotions.  We have to ignore our environment and our circumstances.

We have to ignore the world.

Christ calls us out of the world.  The fathers and mothers of the Church drive home this point in great detail.  We are to live in the world, but not be of the world.  Regardless of what happens, whether we are in the terms of the world winning or losing, this world is not ours – not our Kindgom.

And so, it must be ignored.

That isn’t to say we ignore the people in the world – we surely don’t ignore the needs we see, whether physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional.

Rather, we see them not as the world sees them but as Christ sees them.  As His children, hurting and drifting.  And we love them.

What we ignore are the emotions that we are addicted to.  We ignore the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  And, when it comes from the Church who is a trustworthy communicator of God’s truth, we ignore our skepticism.

That last one may be the most difficult.  To take God at His word that He loves us and will care for us.

Yet the history of God’s interaction with humanity is full of that exact love and care.  We can look at Job as the ultimate example of humanity that God loved and cared for, even in the midst of unpleasantness and pain and suffering.

Everything was taken from him.  And yet Job continued in his faithfulness to God.

St. Paul put it quite well in last week’s epistle reading when he reminds us that we are the sanctuary of the living God.  We are living icons.  We are called to come out of the world, to be God’s not the world’s.

And St. Paul continues in today’s epistle – because we come out of the world, and because we are His, regardless of the world’s standards, we are wealthy.

That means, if we have nothing – no material blessings, no banked 401k funds, no retirement plan, no college saving plans, we are still wealthy.  Wealthy enough to be generous with abandon.

As St. Paul points out, because everything comes from God – the seed, the bread, all material things – we can increase the fruits of our righteousness – that is, we can be generous with whatever things we have, and generous with our love and our time and our efforts.

It becomes a cycle.  The more we give, the greater our spiritual blessing can be!  God can’t give a spiritual blessing when we are full of the world’s stuff.  And let there be no doubt – we are full.  Even to the point of being gluttonous of the world’s things.

I don’t want to overstate this – but I’m not sure I can overstate this.  If we are unwilling to share what we have with others, then God is unable to share His presence with us.  Not because He can’t.

God stands ready and willing and able to share His presence.  But we have to allow it.  We have to let go of the things – the money, the car, the entertainment, the power, the prestige – all the things of the world.

We have to give up our feelings and emotions – ignore them.  We have to give up our concerns about life – ignore them.  We have to give up our desire to be judge of truth – ignore it.

Then, God can and will be with us, dwelling in our heart, and mind, and soul.

And then we experience the joy which defies understanding.

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