Nation or Body?
Homily 435 – 22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 8, 2020
Epistle: (215) Galatians 6:11-18 and (305) Hebrews 2:2-10
Gospel: (39) Luke 8:41-56 and (51) Luke 10:16-21
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
It has been a pretty interesting week. Perhaps not for the reason you might imagine, though – at least not for me.
This week, we have experienced the gamut – from saying farewell to Pauline on Friday to baptizing Sophia on Saturday. All during the week when the election happened, and the votes were – maybe are – being counted.
People are hurt, people are joyful.
It reminds us of the Lord’s words in the account of Noah. As recorded in both St. Luke and St. Matthew, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the floods came, destroying everything.
That can maybe be seen in two ways. First, people carried on, as usual, not knowing what was to happen.
Or second – people carried on, as usual, oblivious, choosing to ignore what was to happen.
For us, as those who follow Christ, there is perhaps a third way – carrying on, but not as usual. Knowing that there is something that is to come, and indeed is already here.
Meaning, we live each day, but under a new normal. A normal that still involves marriage and giving in marriage, eating, and drinking, but is focused on our own personal transfiguration.
The hope we have becomes not in society, in creating a better nation or community, but for each of us to become better. Transfiguration of the person – from the bottom up, the grass-roots we might say.
As I watched the election season, because how can you avoid it, I noted that each party was putting forth the idea that they can create a better nation. How they defined better was different.
President Trump was all about making America great again. President-elect Biden talked about hope and the “soul of America.”
Now I realize that the slogans are designed to generate feelings and emotions in us, and they shouldn’t be taken at face value. But it does give one pause to consider – what constitutes a nation? A country?
Simply put, isn’t a nation nothing but a collection of individuals acting as a unit?
The Christian nation is never described that way – at least not in terms like the nation of Israel. Rather, Christianity is seen not as a nation, but as a body.
The body of Christ. Of which, we are all members, with a specific role and specific task to play.
Most of the time, we don’t see or understand that role, because it comes from being ourselves while pursuing Christ. The path of self-denial is different for each of us. The crosses we bear are different for each of us.
And rather than consider what that denial and cross are for us, perhaps we should just endure life, accepting everything that comes our way as being from God.
Then we can know that whatever happens, we have endured – and the cross we bear is ours alone to bear, as God wills. We will have entered into God’s will, performed God’s will, without even realizing it.
Today we commemorate the synaxis (which means gathering) of the Heavenly Hosts, led by the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. As the ranks of the Angels and bodiless powers go, the Archangels are not at the center of the ranks. In fact, they are part of the outer rings.
That is because their operations interact with us. The ones closest to the center, the Seraphim and Cherubim, play one role only – to surround the throne of God, continuing proclaiming to us, those further out from that center, that God is Holy.
Yet, Michael is the Chief Commander. It is he that directs the lowest rank of Angels in their actions, to stand before God and do as God commands.
That is what we do. We eat, and drink, and marry and give in marriage, as we stand before God, and do what he commands.
And what does God command? Well, that part is easy to understand, even though it is sometimes difficult to do.
God commands us to do what is right by those around us – to do what is in their best interest and for their benefit. Even if that action doesn’t benefit us. Ideally, ignoring the effect that action has on us.
And it is difficult to do because of our passions – our lust for power, our lust for possessions, our lust for comfort and ease.
But the ascetic discipline of the Church will help us train to keep passions in check. If we follow it, we learn that we can indeed deny ourselves, and yet others not know what we do.
Like the angels, and the Archangels, we can be ready for whatever God demands of us, knowing that through His strength given to us, we can accomplish what God desires.
Beloved, the only way the world changes is through the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is already in our midst, and it is our task to live in that Kingdom while existing in the world around us.
May God who loves us, allow us to be disciplined, and to see every opportunity to give of ourselves, for the benefit of the Kingdom of God, and for our salvation.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!