No success. No failure. Only faithfulness.

Homily 511 – 9 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 14, 2022
Epistle:  (128) 1 Corinthians 3:9-17
Gospel:  (59) Matthew 14:22-34

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

One of the most difficult things about Christianity is that we continually talk about what is to come.  Intellectually we know that the kingdom of God is here, now, with us, and yet it seems to be imperceptible to our fallen senses.

St. Paul in the Epistle reading talks about the testing of our lives – our work, the foundation, the construction of our lives.  It is so easy for us – for me at least – to convince ourselves that the future doesn’t matter – now is all that matters.

Indeed, that is very true.  Forgive me for getting a bit metaphysical on this topic, but in God there is no time – and so everything that we experience as past, present, or future, is in the kingdom of God, right now.

Not a very concrete idea.  Difficult to live our lives with that understanding.  Yet, that is what is true.  Everything is Christ is now.  Everything in Christ is one whole, undivided and unified.

When the consecrated lamb is lifted up with the cry of Holy things are for the Holy in the Divine Liturgy, we follow that with the breaking of the lamb into four parts, and with that breaking there is a prayer that the priest says – “Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God; broken, yet not divided, ever eaten, yet never consumed, but sanctifying those who partake.”

Broken and distributed, but not divided.  It is likely the faithful don’t hear that, because the curtain is closed and the people led by the choir are singing “one is holy, one is God …”

That is the life we need to seek.  That is the definition of Christ – broken and distributed, but not divided.  Right now – undivided.  In this moment, a complete whole.

And so it is worth asking the question – why so much information about what we will experience in the future, if life revolves around the now?

The Gospel reading provides insight into that question.  We know the story of Peter, asking Christ to call him to come to Christ, and he does.

In so doing, he steps out of the boat onto the stormy, rolling seas, and starts to walk to Christ.  And then, something changes – he takes his focus off of Christ and looks around at his surroundings.

And begins to sink.

And prays the summary of all prayer – Lord, save me.  Lord, have mercy.

And Christ saves Peter.

Now the Gospel says that Christ kind of chastises Peter – “why did you doubt?” is the translation we have.  What Christ meant by “doubt” was “Peter, why did you take your focus off of Me?”

When we take our focus off of Christ – even for the briefest of moments, we begin to falter and sink and wander.  Not just Peter, and not just in the midst of a storm.

Sometimes it happens in the quiet and still moments when all is well.  We take our eyes off of Christ and our focus shifts to the environment, and we think to ourselves that we are fine – we have no need of Christ.

Until we do need Him.  The situation, the world in which we live, is fluid.  We can depend on only one thing – that the world will change.  That the world is constantly changing.  And if we take our eyes off of Christ, the waves and changes of the world will consume us like the water of the lake consumed Peter.

What St. Paul is doing in his epistle is offering us encouragement to remain focused and faithful in this moment.  In thinking of what is to come, we remember to be faithful in the present.

Our instinct is to perhaps delay – after all, everything is fine, right?  It is under control?

We’re all in a good place living life as God intended for us in the Garden of Paradise?

Of course not.  None of us are without trial, none of us is without temptation, none of us is without ego – the worship of self above God.

Our enemy is the evil one, but we fight the enemy not by dispelling sin in the world, but rather by destroying our own ego.  And we destroy our ego by starving it to death.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.”

Good is Christ.  Evil is ego – ourselves.  Pogo was right – we have met the enemy and he is us.

Which will you feed?  According to the apocryphal Native American proverb, that will be the one that grows strong.

We need to feed Christ within ourselves.  We need to starve our ego.  Refuse to incorporate anything into our lives that isn’t Christ.  Refuse to look at the world around us – our constantly changing environment – and incorporate that but instead keep our sole focus on Christ, our Savior.

The toughest part may be for us to be unconcerned about the outcome, but rather leave the outcome in God’s hands.  It is the only sane response, since literally everything and every outcome is not within our control.

Archbishop Anastasios’s quote rings true yet again:  “In Christ, there is no success and no failure, only faithfulness.”

God never asks an outcome from us.  Only our faithfulness.  More than that, faithfulness in that we only have eyes and ears for Him.

We don’t see or hear or taste or touch or smell anything but Christ.

And in our faithfulness, we find Christ, His salvation, and eternal life as God created.

One in essence, and undivided.

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