Our minimum is our maximum.

Homily 529 – 31 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 15, 2023
Epistle:  (280-ctr) 1 Timothy 1:15-17
Gospel:  (91) Luke 18:18-27

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

Why are we obsessed with doing the minimum necessary?

That is exactly what the ruler is asking Christ.  What shall I do to inherit life?  What is the minimum I need to do?

He claims to have followed all the commandments since he was a youth.  We’ll perhaps give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Christ offers a different perspective – the minimum is the maximum.  The minimum we should do is the maximum we can do.  The ruler does in his reaction to Christ’s request that he sell everything, betray the one commandment he doesn’t’ follow.

Have no other gods before the true God.

Anything that we value more than God, that we can put between ourselves and God, is in itself a god to us.  And it doesn’t matter how significant or insignificant that thing may be to us.

Beloved, God asks us one thing specifically – to have nothing in our existence more important than Him.  Think about everything in your life – is there something that if God asked you to surrender, you would choose not to surrender?

That thing is your true god.

We sometimes look at Christ’s teaching that anyone who values their family more than Christ is unworthy of Christ.  If you are like me, you may think, “how cruel that is!”

First to tell us to honor our parents and then to tell me to abandon them.  That isn’t what Christ means, however.  What Christ tells us is that we have to love Him more.  Not that we have to love our family less.

We have to love Christ more than we love our wealth.  More than we love our family.  More than we love our community.  More than we love our home, car, status, power.

More than anything else.  The maximum.  That is the minimum we can do for Christ, even to giving up our own lives.

How can Christ make that request of us?  It seems both unreasonable and downright mean.  And yet – isn’t that exactly what Christ did for us?  Christ left heaven.  He set aside everything – all of which were rightly His.

He set aside power.  He set aside wealth.  He set aside divinity.  He set aside everything to become incarnate – that is to say, human.  He became human so that humans could reunite with God.

Everything He set aside.  Even at the end setting aside His humanity – His human life.

Some would suggest that it was easy for Christ to do this.  After all, He was divine, so He also knew the end game.  He knew the restoration of all things.

Yet, there are hints scattered throughout the Gospels that in fact, when Christ set aside His divinity, He also set aside His foreknowledge.  He tells us quite plainly that only the Father, not even the Son, knows when the appointed time for the Second Coming will be.  Which as an aside, kinda makes all those who would attempt to say that Christ is returning on this day or that date absolutely bonkers.  Christ doesn’t know – only the Father.

So how can we humans know?  It’s silly.

But returning to the point – Christ set aside everything He was.  He set aside authority, and power, and even the source of Himself – for the source of the Son is the Father – all of this He set aside to become incarnate.

And then He set aside His humanity, and died.  He did the maximum.  He gave up the most of any of us.  He not only became human, he became a servant.  Not an authority, not one with power, but a slave – a servant.

If we call ourselves followers of Christ, we have to do the same.  Every moment of every day, we turn from whatever the self wants – whatever our ego desires – we turn away from that and return our focus to Christ, and what Christ wants.

We can’t hold anything back – that is the minimum we can do for Him, because that is what He does for us.

Brothers and sisters, that makes a difference in the way we interact with the world.  No longer do we pursue the ends of power, or authority, or celebrity, or wealth.  We pursue one thing – service to others.

We pursue wealth so that we might give it away to those in need.  We look to advance at work – promotion, pay increase – all of that so we can be of service to others in an increasingly meaningful way.  We look to advance in the political system perhaps – not for authority or power, but to be a servant.  To put others first.

And in so doing, put God first.  To have nothing before God.  Nothing.

We can even get silly about it.  How many people – obviously no one here, and no one watching the livestream – will forego church this morning to watch the National Football League playoffs?

In some places – like on the West Coast of the US, football begins at the same time as Church.  As some of you know, I lived in Las Vegas for a while, and it was amazing that the ones who did come to Church rushed home straight after to catch the fourth quarter.

Or our kids have sports or other activities.  And some are, through their actions, teaching their kids to prioritize that over God and our worship of Him.

And then we wonder why our kids abandon their faith, their Church, at the first opportunity.  It is because of us!  It is our example of what we prioritize!

Brothers and sisters, have no other gods before God.  Spend every moment prioritizing Christ, and the care of others.

Our minimum is our maximum.

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