Homily 503 – All Saints
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 19, 2022
Epistle: (330) Hebrews 11:33-12:2
Gospel: (38, mid-79) Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Pentecost is considered the birth of the Church. That much we all pretty much agree about.

But what is this thing we call Church? Why is it important? What is the significance?

I’m quite sure we won’t answer these questions to the fullest this morning in a homily. So these are of necessity ideas that we have to contemplate and mull over. Something rare in our day and age – we like instant answers, nothing too complicated or interacting, a snippet that we can make into a meme or a mantra.

Christ, and the Church, isn’t like that. The Church, the Body of Christ, the way Christ manifests Himself in the world – that is a complex creature. It is quite literally the recreation of humanity – Christ gathers the dirt – the Apostles and Disciples – and breathes on them, and they receive their spirit – the Holy Spirit.

What was once mud and clay is now alive, made in the image of God.

Maybe we don’t want to hear this – but that was the Apostles and Disciples collectively. Not individually. Sometimes we may think of the Spirit of God as an individual experience, and to an extent it is.

Primarily, though, it is a collective experience. We have become, in total, the body of Christ – singular. There aren’t individuals acting alone – there are those who are part of the body and those who are not. The Spirit arrives and grafts one into the body.

We’re not independent agents when it comes to Christianity. To be an independent agent is to be separated from the Body of Christ – not part of the Body. The Body of Christ is one organism.

So, in Pentecost, we set aside our individuality, and we become grafted into the larger whole.

Now, the feast of All Saints recognizes those who have by their choice and calling from God, have been grafted into the Body. They serve as examples for us, but more than that, they become part of us – just as we become part of them.

It is absurd to think that the hand operates independently of the remainder of the body, or the ear, or the foot, or the stomach. Absurd. And yet, when it comes to the communion, the body, of the Saints, we somehow think we are distinct from them.

Brothers and sisters, we aren’t – we are, to the extent we are able to deny ourselves, that is to say, deny our ego and individuality, and become part of the One Body, we are joined with them.

And while we are not perfect, like them, we are being perfected. We are with them, being healed. That is what St. Paul talks about in the passage we read from the letter to the Hebrews. They were not to reach perfection apart from us.

To some this healing is heavenly. To others, the thought of giving up one’s individuality – one’s ego, one’s independence – is too much for them to bear. The thought of what they may have to endure is enough to chase them away from following Christ.

We may try to give lip service to our Christianity – we “confess” before others that we are Christian. But do we live that way? Do we truly deny ourselves and our egos and our wants and desires?

Jesus points that out in the Gospel today – the ones who love anything more than Him will be abandoned and is not worthy of the Kingdom of God.

Meaning, unworthy of being in the Body of Christ, the Church.

But to those who follow and deny themselves, the reward is more than anything that can be imagined. It is moving from utter death, decay and darkness, to the world of life and light. It is quite literally resurrection.

We think we know what life is, don’t we? After all, we are alive! But we’re not alive. We are animated, yes – but we are only alive when we are in Christ, and grafted into the Body.

We are not alive outside of Christ – yet, inside Christ, participating with Christ, there is nothing but life! We cannot begin to understand the reality of what Life really is.

Christ is Life. The Life that we experience by being part of Him, on every level and with every fiber of our being. Every aspect of our being. Every emotion, every feeling, every moment becomes filled with Life.

And, paradoxically, we achieve this through sacrificing our ego and denying – dying to – ourselves. The last will be first, and the first will be last. We are last when our ego is last in our order of satisfaction. We are first when our ego no longer interferes at all with the focus on Christ.

A life of repentance and focus on Christ. Without distraction.

Brothers and sisters, it is not an easy life to which we are called. Yet it is possible, and Christ promises to us, guaranteed if we endure with Him and keep sacrificing, keep denying ourselves.

So today, we turn to the Saints, and we ask for their prayers to God that we also may be undistracted.

And that when we are distracted, that they would ask God on our behalf to help us return our focus to our Lord Jesus Christ. Returning to our focus – which is repentance.

Repentance, which leads to our healing, which is our salvation.

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