We are neighbor. We are Christ.

Homily 522 – 22 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 13, 2022
Epistle:  (215) Galatians 6:11-18 and (318) Hebrews 7:26-8:2
Gospel:  (53) Luke 10:25-37 and (36) John 10:9-16

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

In the story of the good Samaritan, the end gets twisted.  What does that mean?

Well, the lawyer asks a question – who is my neighbor?  And Jesus reveals something essential.

Christ changes the equation – the lawyer is asking to whom to I have to be neighborly?

And Jesus answers a different question – a neighbor is one who shows mercy.

Often, we may ask the wrong question, as the lawyer did.  It is important that we step back from time to time and examine ourselves in that light – are we asking the right questions?

The consistent aspect of the discussion here is that the question is never about someone else.  Every time someone asks of Christ about someone else, it always turns back around to the person asking the question.

We do, as humans, like to make things about others.  In confession we say “so and so made me angry.”  “So and so made me sad.”

But this isn’t about so and so – it is about us.  It is about me.  Not what did others do to me, but what did I do toward others.  The question we ask, about our salvation, about our confession, about our righteousness, whatever the nature of our question, should always be about ourselves.

Never about the other.

That is difficult.  In modern society the questions that are asked are typically “what should they do?”

We see social injustice – what should they do?  We see those exploited – what should they do?  We see the sick and suffering, like the man beaten by robbers – what should they do?

Even, in a strange way, for us as outsiders in this story – what should the priest do?  What should the Levite do?

But the question isn’t what should they do – even the lawyer knows the answer to that one.  If the one in need is a neighbor, we should help.  Except that isn’t what Christ says.

What Christ says, beloved, is that we should help, regardless of who is the one in need.  We help as we are able to help.  But we help.

It is true for people.  It is true for collectives of people who call themselves Children of God, or followers of Christ.  We help.  And in that help, we reveal our love.

We reveal our focus on and more importantly trust in our God.  The things of this world mean nothing to us – so we can be generous and share of our abundance.

We support the Church – as we will at our annual meeting later.  The Church supports the spiritual needs and desires of the community.  And, in obedience to Christ, the Church tries to meet the physical needs that we can.

We offer our support for those who undertake missions.  We support the hungry through our food pantry.  We support others in need by participating with the others in our community in the Good Neighbor program.

And when we call for support, it isn’t about what someone else does.  It is about what we do.  Do we tithe?  Do we offer 10% of our income to the support of God’s place of worship, the Church?

The tithe is that 10% that God commanded of everyone to support the ones who served in the temple.  The temple workers ate of the offerings given – the bread offerings, the grain offerings, the animal offerings – and each person gave 10% of what God blessed them with.

This enabled the temple workers to devote themselves to the worship of God, the ritual demanded by God.

Why is this ritual so important?  The ritual, the services, if we devote ourselves to them, provide us a model of how life should be.

That seems a stretch to some of us.  Our lives don’t revolve around liturgy!  I don’t do liturgy every day!

But therein lies the problem.  We should be.  The liturgy, the worship of God, is the only important part of life for us who follow Christ.

What we do in the Divine Liturgy is that gifts are prepared on our behalf – wheat given us by God becomes bread.  Grapes given us by God become wine.  Both of these by our effort.

We gather and offer these gifts to God.  The gifts aren’t just bread and wine, though.  The gifts offered is not just for us – the gifts ARE us.  It is us, all of us, who reside on the paten and in the chalice.  That offering is God’s own, of God’s own, on behalf of all and for all.

God accepts those gifts – God accepts us – and returns them to us as Himself – the body and blood of Christ.  It isn’t just that the bread and wine become body and blood.  It is that we, all of us, each of us, become Christ.

That is the reality we take from the Divine Liturgy – and that extends to every part of our lives.  We become Christ – He literally dwells in us, we receive Him into ourselves.  That is why the command is not to listen and understand – but to take and eat.

In this, as Christ, God will meet our needs.  We don’t have the need nor ability to store anything, to horde anything.  God will meet our needs.  Just as He met the needs of Christ.

So that we can be generous – we can give away, and we can share, of all that God has given us.

To be Christ in our world – and be the neighbor we are commanded to be.

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