The Law from which we are not free.

Homily 277 – 13th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 3, 2017

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

In the Parable Jesus tells this morning we hear the entire history of the people of Israel in one story.

God planted a vineyard, and placed a fence around it. That is, God created this world. And then He gave it to the people of Israel.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Children of God, the Jews, had people sent to them. Patriarchs like Moses and Aaron. Kings like David and Solomon. Prophets like Ezekiel and Isaiah.

All of them had a message. That message was always the same. Repent. Change your ways. Don’t just be sorry for what you’ve done – actually change. Be different.

And for the most part, the message went unheeded. And the messenger was abused. Even killed.

Finally, God sends His Son. Him, they kill.

To understand this, we have to back up a bit, and consider the identity of Israel. It is important, because we – the Church – are the new Israel. We – the Church – have been grafted onto the vine.

So the roots and sins and successes and failures of the Jews become ours. For good or bad. We share in them.

The People of Israel saw themselves as Children of God, a chosen people, because they were the people of the Law. The people of God’s Law.

The Law delivered to Moses, handed down from generation to generation, captive in Babylon, returned to Jerusalem.

So looking back on the messengers and their message – apparently they had abandoned that Law. Somehow, someway, in their focus on the Law, they lost it.

It was perhaps lost the same way that Adam and Eve lost the commandment of God in the Garden. They decided to judge for themselves.

Jesus implies this on a number of occasions. The Jews – the scribes and rabbis, the rulers and teachers – had interpreted the Law. And over time, this interpretation took on a meaning different than the one that God intended.

The Holy Spirit had not been given, and the interpretations were therefore not holy.

So when the Son came, to gather the fruit – that is, the obedience and devotion and holiness of the people – He found the people in rebellion. The people rejected Him.

Because the people didn’t recognize the Law in Him. They had perverted the Law so drastically with their rules and minutiae, they no longer recognized the real Law. The Living, Incarnate Law.

Jesus, you see, was not a Law they could control. It wasn’t theirs to bend to their own desire.

The way Adam and Eve decided to bend the command of God to their own desire, and to judge for themselves about the fruit of the tree.

The way we – you and I – desire to bend the requirements of God, the path to holiness, to fulfillment, to humanity – to our desire.

And so, they – and we – rejected Him. The stone. The stone which is now the Cornerstone.

Like Adam and Eve, like the Jews, we form Christ in our image and likeness, instead of allowing ourselves to be formed by Him. To allow Him to set the corner – the anchor – of the building of the Kingdom.

And while we are in many respects freed from the minutiae of the Law, we are not freed from the core of the Law. We are not freed from Christ.

We are free from that portion of the Law that the scholars and rulers added over the centuries.

The stuff that bent the Will of God to human desire, instead of bending human desire to the Will of God.

If anything, Christ intensified the requirements of the Law. A physical act of adultery was no longer the standard. Rather, simply to look at another lustfully was and is a transgression.

To kill another human was no longer the standard – rather, to be angry with another, to call them a fool, was and is a transgression.

Perfection is now our standard. Be perfect. Be holy. Not to our standard, but the standard that Christ set.

This means, for us, a few things.

The parables of Christ definitely apply to us, even when we think they don’t.

We do not get to interpret the commandments of Christ for ourselves.

We must be perfect. We must be holy.

But brothers and sisters, don’t lose heart! Don’t lose hope!

God has already provided a path for us after we fail, as we surely will. By forgiving us of our failures beforehand, He enables us to try again.

All is not lost when we fail. We do what the messengers of God, and even God himself, has told us to do throughout history.

Repent. That we may enter into our Master and Lord’s joy.

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