Homily 428 – 13th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 6, 2020
Epistle: (166) 1 Corinthians 16:13-24 and (305) Hebrews 2:2-10
Gospel: (87) Matthew 21:33-42 and (51) Luke 10:16-21
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
This morning God tells us that it’s not us, it’s Him.
Whenever we are rejected, whenever we are mocked, whenever we are persecuted – it isn’t us. It’s God.
Of course, the opposite is also true – when we are praised, or heard, or lauded – it isn’t us, it is God.
In the final analysis, everything is God. Not everything is about God or everything concerns God, or even everything is an expression of God. Everything IS God.
You. Me. Creation itself.
We are servants of the most-High God. Like the Archangel Michael. We are not angels, but we are still servants. In fact, all of creation – the 9 ranks of the angelic hosts, all of humanity – we are all servants of the one who brought all of us into existence.
One of the distractions many of us experience in this world is the idea of our own uniqueness and the value that brings. I didn’t quite say that right, so bear with me.
We have a society that functions largely because we are, in the words of our Declaration of Independence, all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain rights, among these: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
That is what started this experiment that we know to be the United States of America.
Now, I’m going to take a very, very unpopular viewpoint here. The Declaration of Independence mentions God, but it isn’t about God. It isn’t a Christian document.
It says that we, as people, are all equal. In truth, in our society, that may be the ideal, although it is far from the truth as far as I can see. Sure, we don’t have the titles of “Duke and Dutchess” or “Earl and Countess” or other signs of nobility.
Because that is what the Declaration of Independence was talking about. There is not a nobility in terms of persons. Or perhaps more aptly said, every person, because of the image of their Creator, has nobility.
It is not the same nobility – it is individual to each of us, for each of us is unique in the eyes of God.
Now, I hope I’m wrong when I say this, but our society today has taken that idea of everyone being noble, equal to one another, and stretched it. Stretched it to its breaking point.
Many now see themselves as equal to God. Peers with God. God takes our counsel, He does our bidding.
Hearkens back to those words in the Garden: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4b-5)
It is a deception – a lie. We will never be “like God.” We can never be “like God.”
And if we believe we can – then we will not be who we were created to be. We will not be the Servant of God.
We refer to people that way in the Church – the servant of God or the handmaiden of God. That, dear brothers and sisters, is our highest calling.
To be a servant. Doing what we are commanded to do. Like Michael the Commander and Archangel.
I am distraught about this because I am as entangled in this as anyone. I’m called to work out my salvation in the eyes of others. That is what a priest does – you see the reality of the struggle in me.
Both the glory of God and the fallen-ness of humanity. All right here. So that you can watch me, and learn – both what to be, and what not to be.
That is what a priest is.
And yet I also live in two worlds. I am not exclusive to the Church. I have a job. I have a family. I have a responsibility to others who are not those who believe.
This is both a blessing – and a curse. A curse because it divides my attention between God and creation, the division that St. Paul lamented in Philippians Chapter 1 – For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard-pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
In other words, that is my service. That is what God asks of me.
As we celebrate the labor of this world this weekend, take the opportunity to spend some time with our Lord. Not as a friend. Not as a confidant.
But as a servant. Reflect on what it means to be a servant – sometimes it is translated slave, even. A word that is truly loaded in our society today.
Look at the places in the Gospels where Jesus tells us what He expects of us. Perhaps start with Matthew chapter 24 where He describes a wise servant.
Or at the end of Matthew chapter 25 and the scene at the Great Judgement.
See how many of those things you can find in the Gospels. Then think on these things.
And understand that the reward of being God’s friend, the bride of Christ, is not for this world, but for the Kingdom.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!