One foot in the Kingdom

Homily 471 – 12th APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 12, 2021
Epistle: (215) – Galatians 6:11-18 (Sunday before the Elevation), (158) – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, (240) – Philippians 2:5-11 (Nativity of the Theotokos)
Gospel: (9) – John 3:13-17 (Sunday before the Elevation), (79) – Matthew 19:16-26, (54) – Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 (Nativity of the Theotokos)

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

This Sunday is arguably one of the busiest in the liturgical year. We are at the intersection of a few things. One, the leavetaking of the feast of the Nativity of the Birthgiver of God. Two, the Sunday before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And three, the 12th Sunday after Pentecost. We have three epistle readings and three Gospel readings

It makes me think about the services of the Church, and the cycles of services. We are mostly acquainted with the great feasts of the Church – of which the Nativity of the Theotokos and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross are two.

Pascha is the feast of all feasts – the Greatest and Holiest feast, and is above the Great feasts, standing alone.

We should remember though that each and every Sunday is a mini-Pascha, and a feast of the resurrection. As such, when we celebrate a feast such as Theophany or Transfiguration on a Sunday, many of the parts of the Resurrection services prevail.

That sounds technical, and it is – but the meaning is that each and every Sunday service is a Resurrectional service and it is on par with the Great Feasts of the Church. Every single Sunday. Every Resurrectional service.

I’m guilty at times of coming to church and thinking it’s just another Sunday service. Missing last week (and thank you for your prayers!) didn’t seem like a big deal. However, in contemplating the interaction of these feasts today, I realize how wrong I was. How important the – quote – ordinary Sunday services are.

We see important and maybe that isn’t even the right word to use. Important means, at least in my mind, placed above other things, or at least parallel with other things. Maybe that isn’t it, though.

Maybe it is “miss at your own peril or detriment.”

And even when we are here – are we really here? Are we really and fully present? I will admit even as a priest serving the liturgy, sometimes our minds wander. Sometimes we drift away. It is a struggle at times to remain engaged.

When we look at coming to Church, we sometimes see it as our effort on behalf of God. It is our obligation, our duty. But it isn’t.

That attitude of obligation and duty is similar to saying I eat because I want to honor the chef, I want that person to like me, and it is expected of me.

That’s frankly preposterous, as you all know. We eat because we need it. We need it. Not God. God needs nothing.

Like the rich young man in the Gospel. He asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life? I suspect the subtext is what is the least I can do and still inherit eternal life.

Jesus, after noting the various commandments, turns the question around. The young rich man lacks one thing, He says. You are too attached to your belongings.

Now, Jesus doesn’t say it that way. He doesn’t just say what the problem is, Jesus calls for action. Sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow me.

Trust God for your provision, not the world, not even yourself. Wealth, especially great wealth, puts us in a mode of self-reliance that is not compatible with the Kingdom of God, where all things come from Him.

It is a deception – a lie – to think that we are self-reliant. The scripture is clear on that point.

And so the command wasn’t “you need to be less dependent on your wealth and more dependent on God.” The command was, “sell it all, and give it to the poor.”

The command was “hold on to your wealth at your own detriment.”

That language is certainly counter-cultural to our world and society today, where every single decision seems to be drawn against the material self-benefit. Money. Power. Influence.

Why can’t our influencer be limited to Jesus Christ? Why are we looking to people who pursue fame and power to emulate, when our Lord says, to us, individually, reject that!

How many of us are like the young man, and walk away sad. Refusing to hear and follow the commandments of our Creator – the one in the entire cosmos who knows what is truly in our best interest?

Now, please note: Jesus gives us a choice and honors that choice. The man chooses to walk away, and Jesus honors that. The rules, the actions, the problem, and the solution doesn’t change based on that.

Jesus doesn’t change the rules and run after the man and say, well, let’s say give ¼ of your belongings away and give that to the poor.

Truth is truth. The attachment to the world is all or nothing.

Which leads us to forgiveness, and to grace, and to repentance.

Repentance is change. So when we discover we have one foot in the Kingdom of Heaven but are reluctant to pull that other foot out of the world, we confess it and repent – change – and try again.

The path doesn’t change. We can’t fly with the angels and keep one foot planted firmly on the earth. It’s just not possible.

Brothers and sisters, my prayer is that we all can begin to see the world in a new way. Everything around us in the world is changing. Everything around us in the world is selfish.

But the way of the Kingdom of God never changes, never wavers. The Kingdom of God is being so obsessed with Christ, and the ones who bear His image, that we no longer have an interest in the things of our world.

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