Who to trust.

Homily 598 – 7th Pascha
Holy Transfiguration, Ames, Iowa
June 16, 2024
Epistle:  (44) – Acts 20:16-18, 28-36
Gospel:  (56) – John 17:1-13

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

In the prayer that Jesus offers in today’s Gospel reading, He says something curious.  He says, “I have glorified you on the earth!  I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do!”

Now, there are two elements here that are curious.  First, the statement “I have glorified you on the earth.”  In our modern connotation of the word “glory”, we perhaps understand it as meaning the same as “praise.”  Indeed, the Greek word being translated here is “doxa”.  We get the word “doxology” and even the word “Orthodox” itself from that root word.

That word does have one meaning which is praise.  But the usage of the word in a spiritual context, like the bible and the prayer recorded here, has another meaning.  Quoting Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means “to make renowned, render illustrious, i.e., to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.”

In other words, to reveal.  To make known.  If you speak about, let’s say, one of the founders of the United States, maybe George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, in a way that causes the listener to understand the significance and honor that this individual is due, you have “glorified” them.

It’s more than just saying “how great Thou art.”  It is making someone acquainted with the person they are speaking of.  When I speak of my earthly mother, the woman who gave birth to me, and tell you about her, so that you can share the love I have for her, I am glorifying her.

And Christ glorified the Father.  He revealed the Father to us, so that we too may honor, and in this case worship, Him.

The other part of this statement – “I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do.”  What’s that about?  What work did Jesus do?

In our day, we like to have clearly defined objectives, goals, for our efforts.  If we were to go back and look at the life of Christ on earth, what would the goals be?  Maybe we can reconstruct those goals in hindsight.

We know that Christ came and healed people, even raising the dead.  He provided sight to the blind and made the lame to walk.  He healed from every type of illness.  And He did all this in order to prove His ability to forgive sins – which, in turn, proves that He is God.

He is really glorifying God, revealing God, through every aspect of His earthly life.  But there is a point.  The life Christ lives demonstrates what we have to do, and how we have to live, to be what God created us to be.

This may be the biggest part of the objective that Christ came to accomplish.  If we go back to the fall of humanity, and the immediate aftermath, we see that people had to make a choice to live in accordance with God, or live according to their own will.

Then, God makes an agreement with Abraham to be the point person for humanity.  God tells Abraham that he has found favor, and if he agrees to follow God, he will be the one through which God will heal humanity.  There are a series of commitment tests, which thankfully Abraham cooperates with.

God’s people, the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, get “saved”, then “enslaved” then “delivered” in Egypt.  And God introduces for them the idea that they can’t live just any old way they’d like.  They need to follow His owner’s manual, as it were, and gave the Torah, the Law, to Moses.

Lots of generations later, the people of God had gone off in the wrong direction.  The owner’s manual turned into a rule book, and compliance with the rules became more important than living by self-denial.  What Christ did was show us how to live the way God wanted us to live.  This was, in short, the objective, and the work which Christ was to accomplish.  To reveal to us how to live.

The law fell back to the role for which it was designed – diagnostic, to tell us when something was wrong.  The law was restored to being the warning lights on our dashboard, or the position and direction on our GPS map of our lives.  It was intended to show us deviations that required correction, not laws demanding punishment.

All that we can live in the way God intended for us to live.

Today, we remember the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, in Nicaea, in 325.  That council continues what Jesus gave – knowledge of how to live, and what to believe as Truth.  That council continues the Orthodox tradition of revealing God to us, as Our Lord promised, when He promised the Holy Spirit to lead us into a deeper understanding of Truth.

And so we look at the accomplishments of the work this Council was asked to do.  Tell us the truth about Christ, and about God.  We can look at what they proclaimed, the Symbol of Faith, the Nicene Creed, and know that what we are hearing is true, the product of the Holy Spirit.

We may not understand what it says, or the nuances or implications of what it proclaims, but we can understand it to be worthy of trust.  And ultimately, isn’t that what provides comfort?  Knowing that we can count on someone to give us the truth?

Like a child trusting in a parent’s guidance, knowing that the parent would never, ever knowingly bring their child to harm.  Knowing that, over time, that parent will be proven correct.  If that is how a fallible parent would behave, think of the behavior of our God and Creator – one we dare to call Father!

He promises us over and over and over – He will never leave us nor forsake us.  That’s in the old law, in Deuteronomy 31, and again in St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews.  That is the consistent part.

So we can live with confidence, knowing that by following the guidance of the Church, the bride of Christ, we can be sure we are taking the right path, and living the way God intends for us to live.

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