Homily 432 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 11, 2020
Epistle: (188) 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 and (334) Hebrews 13:7-16
Gospel: (30) Luke 7:11-16 and (56) John 17:1-13

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

There was an old man with a small farm in China many years ago. He had one son, who did most of the work on the farm and a neighbor, himself old with a son.

One day the old man’s horse ran off, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how terrible, your horse has run off, now work on your farm will be so difficult.”

To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”

The next day the old man’s horse returned leading a group of wild horses, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how wonderful! You have many horses, now you have great wealth and may live easily.”

To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”

The next day the old man’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how terrible, your son has broken his leg, now your work will be doubled as nurse and farmer.”

To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”

The next day the king’s men came to the farms seeking all able men to fight a distant battle, and the neighbor, sobbing as his son marched off, said “how fortunate you are for having an injured son, mine will surely perish.”

To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”

The point of the fable is hopefully obvious. We can never judge the value of an event in the present moment. We really need to evaluate things that occur in our lives over the long term.

One of the challenges with discerning God’s will is that frequently we are on a completely different timeline than God. We try to compress everything into “now” and only look at the immediate outcomes.

God, however, has the ultimate timeline in view. His timeline is eternity. He is already in the future, and in the past – because those constructs don’t exist for Him. The objective of His timeline is salvation. For us – and for everyone.

The widow of Nain in our reading this morning had lost absolutely everything. There is no reason given – she is treated similarly to Job. Widowed, and now without a son, or a child, in a time and a culture when women weren’t allowed to take care of themselves.

In fact, part of the Jewish law revolved around who would care for a widow, particularly a childless widow. None of those resources existed for this now childless widow.

In the Christian community, the community itself cared for the widows – because there was no way for them to care for themselves, and no one to care for them.

So, this widow, having recently lost her son, was now without any support.

At the end of the story, Christ brings her son back to her – however that would be a temporary fix at best. All who rose would die again.

Our situation also, regardless of how dire, will be resolved, in God’s time. Perhaps that won’t be at the funeral like the widow’s son. Perhaps it will wait for the resurrection to come.

So that is what I find so encouraging about this event in the Gospel. Yes, we do have to take the long view. We have to see things on God’s time, not our own. But if we so choose, we can and will be and have been redeemed, and restored, and made whole.

And not just us – all of creation.

In this moment, however, we are not without tasks to perform in order to place ourselves on the path to fulfillment of our salvation.

I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know my neighbor was struggling with their home. Apparently, they have abandoned it. It may be financial, there may be extensive other reasons.

That’s the problem – I don’t know. I have something going on right across the street, and to my shame, I don’t even know a problem exists. I couldn’t see it.

Perhaps they would have turned down any offer of help – but there wasn’t an offer to help forthcoming, because I neglected that relationship.

We do have to focus on our own salvation first and foremost. Maybe it is best to say we need to focus not on salvation but on discipleship. Being a follower of Christ.

Every moment, being who Christ is, by denying our own desires through our ascetical disciplines and meeting the desires and needs of everyone we encounter, as we are able.

And, as they desire! That is an important aspect that I’m occasionally neglectful of mentioning. Like Christ, we don’t force our giving or help on anyone. Anything of God we are allowed to reject – and so we offer that to others as well.

Our role is to offer the assistance we are able to offer. Sometimes money, sometimes sharing of our food or our home or helping someone to get other resources they may need. Maybe they need a ride to the store. Maybe they need our time.

Regardless, faithfulness and endurance are the keys, not effectiveness or outcomes. What should always be immediate in our mind is our discipleship and our love and care for those around us and their needs.

As the world continues to shrink, pay attention to what is immediately around us, just as Christ did here with the funeral He encountered. Don’t get caught up or overly concerned about things that we cannot directly impact with our actions.

Conversely, don’t neglect the things we encounter directly that you can help with. Perhaps not solve, but help with.

Keep our eyes on the end game – which is Christ and the Kingdom of God – and our actions on the moment, in the needs of those around us.

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