Homily 377 – 15th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 29, 2019
Epistle: (176) – 2 Corinthians 4:6-15
Gospel: (26) – Luke 6:31-36
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
I need to make a confession to you all. This week I was reading from the book of the Apocalypse of St. John. In the beginning of that account, there are seven letters written to the seven Churches in the Roman province of Asia.
The first of those letters is to the Church at Ephesus. In it, the message is: I have this against you – you have lost your first love.
Beloved, that is me, before you today, guilty. In an attempt to grasp some element of worldly security, I have lost you, my brothers and sisters, my first love. I have neglected you.
I have neglected God. I have not held true to that we will sing in the Cherubic Hymn: I have not laid aside all earthly cares. I preached to you, mostly to me, to live in the moment, to trust God, to deny myself. And then failed to do so.
I have been selfish, when I know that selfishness is the chief sin. And for that, my brothers and sisters, I am truly sorry, and express my desire to repent asking God’s help.
So what causes this realization? Well, I was let go from my secular job. And that was, and is, difficult.
The position certainly didn’t start that way. It wasn’t my intent to pursue a higher-paying job with more money and prestige. Over time – subtly – it morphed. I morphed.
Slowly, my faith and my security began to change – without me even realizing it. The organization I worked for is good – the mission is helping the poor, how can that be a bad thing?
It isn’t a bad thing. But even good things can take over and become that which isn’t useful – not helpful. It is the nature of fallen humanity, I fear.
Yet in the midst of that difficulty, a great good arose. For I realized that I have neglected the spiritual life of the Church, and of the Parish – and now, thanks be to God and to His forgiveness, I can redirect and refocus my efforts.
That isn’t to say it is easy, for it certainly isn’t. When we are so enthralled with our selves, trusting in God no longer comes naturally to us. And yet, God tells me, with great assurance – step aside, and watch what happens.
Remember, we serve a God that fed the Children of Israel in the Wilderness for 40 years – one day at a time. We serve a God who fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish and had 12 basketfuls leftover (one for each of the Apostles!).
St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We have this treasure in vessels of clay, so that the amazing power may be from God and not from ourselves.” But what does that mean – really? Now? In this moment?
I think what it means for me at this moment is that God brought me here to this place, to you, for you to be paramount in my efforts. This is my job one. But, as Vladyka Alexander told me before I was ever assigned – you must have a living, Father.
What I know is that however God provides it will be sufficient. If I will only accept it as sufficient, and not crave more.
I know that like St. Paul, I will continue to need to work for support. St. Paul was a tentmaker. I don’t know how to make tents, nor to build homes, but I need to take this opportunity to scale back my responsibilities with employment and focus on our love and life in Christ, and no longer pursue my security in the things of this world.
In so doing, I need to also recall the words of our Lord and Savior this morning, and not think that the ones who let me go from the job were to blame, or are to be disliked, or spoken ill of. For they brought me the word of the Lord. How can I not be thankful? Grateful even?
And in that word, uncomfortable though it be, I know I will find peace, security, and happiness – joy even.
It will be challenging, but I look forward to seeing how God is able to use this vessel of clay by His power, as He wills.
The lesson for me, dear ones, is that though I have the respect and admiration of the whole world, if I am not doing what God desires of me, what God sent me to do, I’m like Jonah.
Running away from God, and finding myself in the belly of a fish having been thrown overboard and left to die.
And my life becomes, although perhaps admired and respected in the eyes of the world, it becomes useless in the eyes of God.
We can only find our meaning in life when we allow God to have His way with us. If God created me to be something, and I’m not that something, life is not just meaningless.
It becomes irrelevant.
This is not to say we should somehow ignore what we are attracted to – far from it. God gives us those things.
We all have talents. We all have abilities. It is using those things for God’s glory and for His kingdom, and not for worldly security and adulation, that is significant.
I look out and see academics. Scientists. Engineers. Teachers. Doctors. And I see parents, and children, and husbands, and wives.
These are all good and holy things. Give thanks for these things. Truly, be grateful, and don’t attempt to hide! Don’t bury what God has given to you!
But remember – what we do is not as an owner, but as a steward. A custodian or trustee. Everything we do belongs to God, not to us.
And so we are like the tenants in the field and winepress of the King. We cannot – must not – keep the fruit for ourselves, but give to the Owner his fruit in due season.
Then, we will hear the Lord, Master, and King tell us: Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!