See and serve.
Homily 457 – 3rd Pascha Myrrhbearers Sunday
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 16, 2021
Epistle: (16) – Acts 6:1-7
Gospel: (69) – Mark 15:43-16:8
Christ is Risen!
Last week, with the Sunday of St. Thomas, we recognized that life as we know it was completely and utterly changed by the encounter with the Risen Lord.
We needed a new way to live – and so, we learned that the primary objective of our life in the risen Lord was to recognize that everyone we encounter is Christ.
Now, recognition is one thing – but our God calls us to action. What is God’s will?
This Sunday we are provided with the answer to that question. Now, normally, we focus on the calling of the first Deacons, as we read in Acts.
Not a bad thing to focus on, but there may be an unintended consequence. And we see how wrong that consequence is when we look at the Gospel for the Myrrhbearers.
There is a mindset when reading scripture, perhaps not everyone but some (including me), a mindset that reads scripture as history. Something that happens to someone else, in a different place and time.
Because we look at the scripture that way, sometimes it isn’t apparent that the scriptures are speaking and directing us, right here, right now.
For example, diakonia, the Greek word from which we get deacon, is not limited to ordained ministry. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The selection of seven to be deacons, in a way, lets us off the hook, right? That is someone else’s calling – not mine. When someone else is responsible for serving, I don’t need to worry about it.
Perhaps I’m the only one who reads the scriptures and sees people with different gifts and then goes, “Well, good for them, thank God for them, but that isn’t my calling.”
And then we never figure out what our calling is.
Sure, we all have individual skills and talents to offer to the Lord. But that isn’t a limitation – because we are to offer everything to the Lord.
The skills, talents, experience – but also inadequacies, and shortcomings, and scary parts. The parts where we aren’t terribly confident in our skills.
Those may in fact be the most important offerings to God.
You may ask why the Myrrhbearing Women illustrate this. They were setting out to do the embalming of our Lord. That is why they were going to the tomb – to anoint, that is, to cover the body of our Lord with lotions and aloes and spices to keep the body as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
They brought linen to wrap around the body, covered with these lotions and spices.
Were they skilled embalmers? We don’t know. But that was the service that needed to occur. That was their diakonia.
Now, in those days, everyone had to do a lot more for themselves. They had to know how to find water, how to weave cloth, how to sew, how to do animal husbandry, how to butcher animals and cultivate crops. How to educate children on all these things.
And how to attend to a birth. And how to bury the dead.
They had to do a lot of stuff. We continue that tradition in the concept of the mom, in our society. Perhaps that changes a bit – not quite as intense, but that’s what we honored our mothers for last Sunday – all the things they do for us.
The Myrrhbearing women were going to the tomb to offer service to the Body of our Lord.
The Deacons were not responsible for the distribution of the care for widows and orphans – they were responsible for the oversight of the distribution.
Having Deacons doesn’t absolve any of us of our opportunity to serve. That word opportunity is deliberate. It isn’t an obligation.
It is an opportunity for us to be part of the Kingdom, serving our Lord. To be part of the Court of the King of everything, created and uncreated.
This is the totality of God’s will for us. With or without a formal title of deacon, we are all called to serve.
We are all called to see Christ in every person we encounter. Not just see Christ in them, but to see them as Christ – to see only Christ.
And to serve them, as we are able to serve them.
Christ is Risen!