Homily 319 – 9th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 29, 2018
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.
St. Paul calls us “God’s co-workers”. He goes on to describe us as God’s field, God’s building. We think through that imagery, and begin to understand that we are of God’s construction – participating of our own free will in that effort.
The Psalmist tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That before we were in the womb, we were known by God Himself. That the hairs on our head are numbered.
God values the body, the soul, the mind – all of us. Not just one aspect, but all of us, including – maybe even especially – our bodies. Our physical incarnations.
Maybe it is important to understand why this is. St. Paul explains this. He reminds us that the building of ourselves – our bodies, our minds, our hearts – is for one purpose.
We are God’s temple. The Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Temple of God.
The Temple that Jesus said once destroyed, He would rebuild in three days.
The Temple of the Body.
So what is a temple? It is the dwelling place of God. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 6, verses 16 and following, St. Paul reminds us, quoting both Law, and History, and Prophets:
We are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
This has been and is God’s plan from the very beginning.
So, two questions. First: What role does a building have in its own construction?
What role does a vessel made of clay have in its formation?
The answer is of course, none. It is the builder, the potter, the artist, who creates. We are the material of creation.
We do however have a simple decision to make. We either accept or reject our formation, our construction. Rejection is the fall. Acceptance is the Annunciation.
It is truly that simple. We reject God’s formation of us, our role, our purpose, at our own damnation. We accept it at our Glory, and that God may reveal His Glory in us.
We have no glory on our own. We can only reflect the glory of God in us.
Second: If we are formed and indwelled by God, what are the practical implications of that indwelling?
Sometimes, we forget that God is not just something outside of us, attempting to form us. God lives in us. God is always with us, always in our presence, and we are always in His presence.
The implications of this are stated by St. Paul in the first verses of Chapter 7 of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. He writes:
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us purify ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, so that we may bring [our] holiness to completion in the fear of God.
In the Epistle we read – God’s temple is Holy, and you are that temple.
How many of us see ourselves as holy? I’m imagining not many. How many of us see ourselves as the temple of God?
Intellectually, perhaps, but do we truly live in that reality at every moment?
My guess is no. I can say that with some confidence, as I’m both confessing my sins to my spiritual father, and at least some of you confess to me.
What we confess is that we don’t always remember the reality of being the living Temple of God within our bodies.
There are other implications of this Temple-being.
The Orthodox show as much respect for the body as we do for the soul and the mind. We don’t practice the destruction of the body after we die through cremation. We don’t generally alter our bodies through modifications or “corrections” of our own will.
In all things, we practice honor and love toward the physical incarnation of ourselves, as well as the soul.
Certainly there is balance involved. At times, surgery is necessary and we modify our bodies to remove disease, or to repair things that are broken.
But in general terms, we attempt to honor the body that God gave us – even though it is a fallen, broken vessel.
It is still the one that will, at the end of the days, be resurrected perfect and in full radiance of God’s glory.
It is the one that will be reverenced at our death, and honored by those who love us.
We are, brothers and sisters, more than just a vessel. We are a temple.
With the presence of God dwelling within us, in life and in the life to come.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!