We’re all in this together.

Homily 265 – Seventh Sunday of Pascha (Fathers 1st Ecumenical Council)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 28, 2017

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

The perception of the Church, and the role the Church plays in our lives, has changed over time.

That perception, though, is not really about who or what the Church is – about who we are, because the Church is us.

The word we use for Church, ecclesia, is a word which implies community and family.

These days, society has said that spirituality is encouraged, but not religion. Not Church. Evangelical Christians speak of a “personal” relationship with Jesus. Just me and Jesus. Best Buds.

But that isn’t what Christ set up. He had disciples. And Apostles. There were women, and children following Him.

We tend to see institutions. We have leaders, bishops, priests, deacons. Abbots, Abbesses. We have offices, departments. We even have employees.

But that is what we see. That isn’t necessarily the reality of the Church. Because what God sees, what Christ instituted, is ecclesia – economia. Family. A household.

There are no formalities in a family. There is hierarchy, for sure. Parents, children, perhaps older children have more responsibility and more say that the younger children.

But there are no elections. No politics. Ideally at least. There is only love.

Such is the Church. Christ is the husband. We are His Bride – the Church. The hymns and prayers of our Church make that point to us over and over.

We are a family. Bound together in Christ through Baptism and Chrismation.

Christ tells us that in today’s Gospel reading. He asks God that we may be one, just as He and the Father are One.

Individuals, bound together – united – as family.

Jesus wants us to be united. The evil one wants us to be divided. He throws out that dastardly phrase – You’re wrong.

And division is introduced to the family, just as St. Paul predicted.

St. Paul in the Epistle reading gathered together the presbyters – what we now call priests – and gave a rather ominous message.

Vicious wolves will enter in among the family and are up to no good. From the inside – from with in our family – men will arise and speak perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.

To divide them.

It took less than 10 years for the first one. There were dividers, and they had to be dealt with. Or, rather, their falsehoods had to be exposed. Then there were others.

Finally, in the Fourth Century, the Emperor had enough. And He summoned the Bishops to Nicea. All the Bishops.

The Fathers of the Great and Holy First Ecumenical Council, as are all Bishops of our Church, are the guardians of the faith which was delivered to the Apostles.

Our prayer during the Liturgy is that they might continue to “rightly divide” the Word of Your (that is, God’s) Truth.

That is a verse found in Second Timothy, chapter 2. The Greek word used means literally “cutting straight.”

Trustworthy. Solid. Reliable.

What families are – or at least should be. A family shouldn’t set about to deceive one another. To denigrate or expose one another.

Neither will the Church. The institution may have some warts and abscess. But the family never has. Never will. That is God’s promise to us, His Children.

Everything in this world is built on two things. Relationships, and trust.

Power, and wealth, and celebrity can get many things. But all are unimportant things compared with relationships.

They say that is how you find out who your true friends are – they maintain the relationship even when you have no wealth, no power.

Relationships – family. Of blood. Of the baptismal font.

Either way, we still have to reject the idea that we can have a relationship with God that is completely unconnected to others.

We are bound together. In Love.

And, thanks to the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, and the Bishops of our day, we can say with confidence:

That we are also bound together in Truth.

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