To be faithful.

Homily 279 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 17, 2017

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

St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and to the Romans offers us a strange encouragement.

He tells them, and us, to be faithful and to endure – even in the face of torture, of shunning by the world, being criticized and thought as a liar by the world – even our friends.

He also tells them, and us, that everything – all things – are for God’s glory and our good.

And he expands on that theme. Things include, for example, persecution, hunger and famine, nakedness and poverty, the sword or free movement.

Jesus Himself offers an equally grim picture. He tells us pointedly that we will be subject to these things. We will be tortured, we will be persecuted, arrested, tried by religious and secular authorities.

How can such be for God’s glory or our good?

Christ tells us that they will be the occasion for us to bear witness. And to bear witness – to testify on behalf of Christ, to be his chosen representative, is a wonderful thing.

He goes beyond that. Our Lord and Savior tells us that we don’t even need to prepare. In fact, He tells us we shouldn’t prepare.

The Holy Spirit will deliver to us what needs to be said – just as the Holy Spirit gave Christ the words of the Father to say.

St. Paul tells us to be joyful for a similar reason. He credits our joy in such times to our continuing abiding in the love of Christ. Nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate us from that Love.

And that love, brothers and sisters, is the Love which gives Life. The Love which is Life.

Such a love never fails. St. Paul writes in his famous passage to the Corinthians about Love. The love he proclaims and glorifies is God’s love for us.

To be called to account – to witness for Christ – to be sacrificed for Him – is the most blessed and wonderful gift for us. In it, God treats us as He allowed His only begotten Son to be treated.

In so doing, in our sacrifice for Him, He makes us equal to Christ. We will never be only-begotten. But we will be more than conquerors. More than victors.

Just as Christ was victorious. We too will be victorious, not bound by death but finding life eternal.

This business of salvation is rather violent. And yet, like soldiers who are honored for their valor, both those who remain and those who do not, we also will be given crowns by our Lord for our service to Him.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

And we, individually and collectively at the same time, will be embraced – enveloped – in the presence and love of God.

But it is not our success, nor our failure, that will garner such reward and such praise, St. Paul reminds us.

Only faithfulness.

Faithfulness and endurance.

Faithfulness in our repentance. Every time we fall, we get back up.

Christ has already forgiven us our falls. He more than any knows how humanity falls, even though He never did Himself fall.

But while He didn’t fall, He voluntarily subjected Himself to the experience of death. And He resurrected, conquering death.

Our faithfulness and endurance does likewise. Each time we rise up and repent of our sin, it is a resurrection – our resurrection, to renewed life.

It is the forgiveness of God which offers us this ability to rise and keep going. Keep fighting.

This fight is individual – each of us fights in our own way. Yet, our fight is also, like every true battle, a coordinated effort.

While I was in New York this week I had the opportunity to visit the home of Theodore Roosevelt.

He led a volunteer army to Cuba to fight the Spanish. I won’t address the morality of that war. But we can learn something about being an army, and how to engage in battle.

He said of his men, the Rough Riders, that some were the sons of privilege, and some were men who worked each day for that day’s bread.

Yet in the taking up of arms, and on the battlefield, they were all equal, not one better than the other.

Such is our spiritual battle. Our warfare. Each of us is enlisted to fight. But it is through fighting together that the battle is won.

And thanks be to God, our endurance and our faithfulness is our pathway to eternal life and great Mercy from our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.

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