Homily 438 – 24th Sunday After Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 22, 2020
Epistle: (221) Ephesians 2:14-22
Gospel: (66) Luke 12:16-21
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Part of human nature – the fallen part of human nature – is worrying about the future. This can take many forms.
Wondering if we will be OK – will we have what is necessary to survive? What will we eat? What will we wear? Will we be loved?
And Christ tells us unequivocally that the answer is yes – we will have what is necessary for survival. We may not be comfortable, but our needs will be met. St. Paul tells us that a valuable skill – maybe even an essential skill – is in being content with what we have, be it comfortable or uncomfortable.
With that promise, though, comes something else – something different. Radical insecurity.
After nearly 30 years of it, I’m finally coming to grips with that idea. Not that I’m completely successful – far from it. I still worry – a lot – about what the future holds for me, and for the ones I love.
To be honest, I don’t worry too much about food, clothing, and shelter. I worry about peace. I worry about security. I worry about risk.
That is what the rich man we hear from this morning was trying to alleviate. He was indeed very rich, able to no longer work.
God tells him, though, that his plans are all for nothing. His souls is required that night, and he will not be able to enjoy the fruit of labor by no longer working.
The double-whammy here is that he will also not be able to show to God how the resources entrusted to this wealthy man was put to good use for the people – the poor.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is St. Theophylact’s commentary on this passage – the storehouses of God are the stomachs of the poor.
Growing up in the south, we had lots of pithy sayings. One of them was that you write your last check to the undertaker, and it should bounce.
We should put the assets entrusted to us – be they money or cars or houses or food – whatever they may be, we should put the assets entrusted to us to use. We shouldn’t bury them in the dirt, or store them away until we need them.
Others do need them – now.
And it is our responsibility to care for those in need with what we have.
One thing about this responsibility though is that I’m not always convinced we have to give the assets entrusted to us away. Perhaps – just perhaps – it is sufficient if we share?
Like Christ reminds us – when we throw a party and host a meal, share it with the ones who are poor, who cannot repay us.
If we have rooms in our homes, share with those without homes.
St. Basil tells us quite bluntly that if we have clothes in our closets and food in our pantries, and I would add, excess cash in our bank accounts – we have stolen those things from the poor.
All of these things, by the way, are after having supported the Church. I know, please forgive me, people say “Father, this isn’t another plea for money.”
And it truly isn’t – I’d much rather see people give to those in direct need. But I have to be honest, too. The temple in Jerusalem, as we know from the Scriptures, was supported by the temple tax.
This was the whole purpose of the story of the coin found in the fish that St. Peter caught at the behest of the Lord.
So, by implication, everything that was happening about the poor and giving to the poor was in the context of after having supported the Church with the tithe – the first 10%.
In our nomenclature – that would be pre-tax. (That’s a joke, by the way.)
If the Church gets more than is needed to operate, then we need to distribute the excess to the poor. And what we spend is to be made available to the poor – meaning, they are always, always welcome regardless of their giving.
In fact, in looking at the Gospels carefully, the poor should be and are more honored in our presence.
We never look down on the poor here. I’m so thankful that our character – the character of our parish – has never evaluated people based on their giving, but rather everyone is loved and welcomed, and we make our space welcoming and (hopefully) beautiful so that everyone can experience God in that beauty.
So, both in our home life and in the life of our parish, the resources we have that are beyond our needs – those are the resources that need to be shared. Those are the resources that need to be lent, with no expectation of repayment as Christ says – meaning, gifted to another.
Another modern term for this might be “paying it forward.”
Whether we pay it forward or share of our abundance, may we do so with a full and willing spirit, cheerfully and with joy.
The same way our Lord shares the abundance of the Kingdom of God with us.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!