The cost of eternal life

Homily 336 – 27th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 2, 2018
Epistle: (233) Ephesians 6:10-17
Gospel: (91) Luke 18:18-27

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

Sometimes we have to go beyond what is written to get to where we want to be.

The individual we know as the rich young ruler wanted to be sure about doing what was necessary. That may be part of the problem.

By that, I mean he was willing to do what was required – but no more. He was not wanting to give up more than necessary.

We think that way sometimes. When we buy a car, we don’t like paying even a dollar more than we have to.

We may say “well, that’s different.” But is it? Really?

I don’t think so. I really don’t.

What it illustrates is that the minimum is never enough. For anything – certainly not for demonstrating love, or commitment.

The man had kept the commandments. What he was looking for Jesus to say, expecting Jesus to say, was that having kept all the commandments was sufficient. That in doing so – and continuing to do so – the man was indeed perfect.

Except that wouldn’t be true.

We often approach Christ – and the Church – seeking an endorsement. We look for the Church – Christ – to tell us that we’re fine just the way we are.

We tell others – this is the way God made me. Accept what I tell you, because God accepts me.

And many Churches capitulate to that, encouraging that perspective. That wasn’t what Christ told the rich young man.

There was nothing inherently wrong with having wealth. But asking the man to give everything to the poor was too much for him.

It is a common theme. When we remember the story of the Passover in Egypt, the people ate a meal which wasn’t cooked – it was not prepared. They ate standing, ready to move.

And when they left – with the spoils of Egypt – they had to carry everything. And yet they were still dependent on God for everything – food, which came from heaven – water, which came from dew.

What Jesus said to the man was don’t burden yourself with possessions, because it will slow you down. You won’t be able to follow Christ – you can’t keep up.

Besides, we don’t generally give the minimum to ones that we love. We want to go above and beyond.

This is perhaps why the poor have always had an easier time following Christ than the wealthy.

They depended on God for everything – their meals, their clothing, their house. They couldn’t rely on their riches – because they had no riches.

And God gave to them in abundance. Not in riches, but in relationships. In joy. In love.

We may very well ask how God gives. God gives through us. Through sharing.

The greatest gift is love. The greatest gift is Jesus Christ.

And what Christ gives is perfect. What will we pay to be perfect? What will we pay to inherit eternal life?

We have to be willing to give up the most difficult things – we have to give up everything. Including the way we want to justify ourselves. The way we want to be accepted.

We won’t find perfection – nor the joy and peace and love that come with it – unless we’re willing to let go of those things that are most meaningful to us.

Material things – money, possessions. And non-material things. Pride. Ego.

We shouldn’t be asking the Church to validate us. We should be struggling to learn how we need to change – and how we need to be changed – to be the giving, loving, caring person Christ wants.

Because when we do it for the poor, for the refugee, for the homeless, for the hungry – we give it to Christ Himself.

So what are we to do?

Love, until we can’t love more.

Give, until we have nothing left to give.

And then experience the joy of humanity, which is the Love of God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!