Homily 579 – 34 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 28, 2023
Epistle – (257) Colossians 3:4-11
Gospel – (92) Matthew 22:35-46

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


They are some of the most irritating and yet essential people in our society.  In the business world, we have to consult them before making any move.  We have to assess the risks – primarily the risk of litigation, but also the risk of damaging our good name, or being accused of wrongdoing.

In considering the place of lawyers it might be easy to dismiss them as unnecessary.  If everyone just lived right, treated others with respect, then all would be good and there would be no need for lawyers.

That’s far from true, though.  Throughout time, back to the very beginning, humanity has wanted rules.  Not grey areas – black and white.  Right and wrong.  This is good – that is bad.

In the days after the deliverance from Egypt, Moses on God’s command and his father in law’s advice instituted the system of judges.  No “laws” per se, just if there were disagreements, a judge would decide what the fair thing would be.

That didn’t last long.

Before that, even, God gave what we call the ten commandments.  The Jews call them the ten words, or the ten sayings.  Even that wasn’t enough.  The Jews instituted rules to make sure they never got close to breaking one of God’s sayings, God’s words.

After all, the words weren’t clear.  Could I accidentally kill someone, or did I have to have intent?  What was considered “work”?

In our day, the most important part of a contract is the section that outlines the definitions.  We craft and wordsmith them, until we’ve clearly defined every possible term.  Because, you know, grey area.  We don’t like grey.

What we see in society today is by no means new.  It has been going on, literally, since Moses, even further, since Adam and Eve.

There is a downside to all the detail, though.  It can be used to trap us.  Officer, the speed limit is indeed 65, but you have to give me a little break, because the speedometer in my car isn’t apparently accurate.  You have to give me more leeway.

But the law is clear.  The law doesn’t care if you can measure it or not.  The law doesn’t care if you had intent to break it or not.  The law just doesn’t care.  The law isn’t human, the law has no emotion, no empathy, none of the things that make us human.

The law doesn’t love.  Nor hate!

Today’s Gospel reading speaks of a lawyer, trying to trap Jesus.  This is a theme – seems there are numerous places in the Gospels where the lawyers try their best to catch Jesus in some sort of position that is at odds with “the Law.”

These aren’t representatives of the government – they weren’t part of Cesar’s rule, or even the Jewish King’s rule.  They were religious lawyers, experts in how to remain in compliance with God.

How arrogant of them – and of us!  If we are really honest with ourselves, we want detail to try to force God to do something He doesn’t want to do.  We want to be able to stand at the judgement before God and say, “but God, you have to give me salvation because, you know, technically, I didn’t break a rule.”

What’s the minimum I can pray each day?  What’s the minimum I can fast?  What’s God’s best deal, His best price?

Do I have to give everything?  Can’t I keep some little something back?

Brothers and sisters, we were created to be loved, and to love.  It is as simple as that.  God doesn’t want to put us apart from Him.  He doesn’t want for us to separate ourselves from Him.  You don’t have to convince God to save you.

God wants to save you!  More than anything, ever, God wants to save us!  And all we have to do, is love Him.  With everything we have, not letting anything get in the way of that love – not even ourselves.

When Jesus tells the lawyer that the two pillars of the law are loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and loving your neighbor, there aren’t any exceptions.

But what if my neighbor is mean to me?  What if my neighbor, my boss, my coworker, my in-laws – whoever.  What if they are trying to harm me, or belittle me, or slander me?  What if they sin?  What if they support someone who supports a sin?  Like abortion?  Or greed?  Or killing?

Doesn’t matter.  We love.  We love everybody.  Let God sort it out.

And He will sort it out.  Actually, He will simply honor our wishes.  If we want to be self-centered, selfish, then He will allow that, and we can focus on ourselves for eternity.  If people want their – quote – “rights”, then He will let them go their own way.  But that way will be away from Him.  Disconnected from Him.  Separated from Him.

Separated from life itself.  We will utterly and truly die.

And that will break God’s heart.  It isn’t His choice – it’s ours.

We need to see that the Kingdom is based not on law, but on principle.  The two principles that Jesus outlined so clearly.  If we do so, we’ll be perfect.  We will find unity with God – theosis.  Not only will we pay no attention to our ego, our pride, we will have crucified it, voluntarily, as Christ did.

Our focus will be on loving God, and loving everyone around us.  And in turn, being loved by God, and by everyone around us.

But we have to love first, even when they don’t love us back.  Just like God loves us, and we choose not to love God back, or to love Him only a bit.  Just enough, we think.

Except, we don’t serve a lawyer.  We serve a lover.

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