Sun, 23 December 2018
Homily: Luke 17:11-19 (28th Sunday after Pentecost)
The Gospel text before us today is a strange one. It is a miracle of the Lord, but not one where he touches someone, or tells them to get up, or even tells them that they are healed. He doesn’t do any of those things. In fact, the account of St. Luke does not even describe the actual healing at all. We are simply told that “as they went, they were cleansed.”
That’s it. No word of power, no command to rise and walk, no making mud and rubbing it on the eyes, no nothing. According to text, the only thing the Lord says to them at all is “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
And then there is this powerful line, the one that we are focusing on today;
“And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”
“As they went, they were cleansed.”
Jesus tells them what to do, they go off to do it, and somewhere along the way between Jesus and the priests, they are healed. The went and were made whole! After who knows how many years in isolation because they were lepers, they are miraculously cleansed and thus restored to their communities. They can now rejoin their families, loved ones, friends, neighbors, — everything they have missed. Their humanity is restored. The weight of sickness and separation is gone. They are able to live a life of joy and freedom. The kind of life that God desires for all His children.
This truly is a miracle: the restoration of community and communion between people long separated! Few things are more miraculous than this.
We could use a miracle. We are so heavily burdened by the weight of our oppression and suffer mightily in our loneliness and estrangement from our dearly beloved; an angst that is felt most heavily during this holiday season.
So how do we get our miracle? How do we get our healing? We know, like these ten lepers, that it can only come from Christ. There is no question about that, if for no other reason than that we have tried every thing else. Healing and reconciliation are found in Him.
The question is: How do we get him to heal us? It's not like we can imitate the lepers, find out where He will be, and cry out to Him as He comes by.
Or is it?
Christ is as much in our midst as He was in the midst of those lepers two thousand years ago in northern Israel. Moreover, the Good News is that He has already told us so many times what we need to do to be healed – we just haven't really had the ears to hear it! Moreover, we don't have to hope or wait for a miracle, there is a real sense in which it has already been accomplished – it just waits for us to become part of it.
After all, Jesus ‘finished’ everything on the Cross and then triumphed over death, hell, and the grave. And He extends the promise and the power of His resurrection life – to everyone who will unite themselves to Him and follow His commands.
We have given our lives to Him, now what is it that He is trying to tell us to do? We have cried out to Him as He is here in our midst saying the same words of longing that the lepers said in today's Gospel lesson; “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
He is the High Priest who knows the pain of our sickness and separation and He is the One with the power to heal it. And what does He command? As we silence our minds and open our ears to hear His command, what does He ask of us?
Again, think back for a moment to our ten lepers. It was as they were on their way to do what Christ told them to do that they were healed. When they started out to go find the priests, they were still lepers. They acted in obedience to Christ before any healing had taken place at all. They trusted Him at His word and demonstrated that faith by being obedient to Him.
So what is the Lord asking us to do today so that we might be healed? He is ready and waiting, merciful and loving, extending His healing touch. What do we need to do so that we can receive that healing? So that we can know His joy?
It is important for us to remember that as Christ calls us to obedience, He also equips us and makes us able - by His grace - to do what He has asked of us. We aren’t in this alone. He is always with us, and He has also given us one another.
The Lord told the lepers to go and make their way to the priests. When they left they were still lepers, but on the way they were made clean and restored to their community.
He has told us to take our own sins, to confess and repent of them – and show ourselves to the priests.
Let us make the story of the lepers our own story, especially this most crucial part;
“And so it was that as they went, they were healed.” And then, like them, may we also find healing, reconciliation, and joy through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sun, 16 December 2018
Homily on St. Luke 18:18-30.
When one first become a soldier, they take away everything: hair, clothes, identification, money. Relationships. Why?
So that The Mission will become our mission.
Can't you just add the mission to what was already there? No. Mercenaries are always unreliable. Their loyalty is based on a calculation. The soldier's is instinctive.
Think of marriage; what happens if the new life as “shared flesh” starts with all the baggage of the old life?
The training of a soldier and the building of a new life in marriage are great metaphors for how to live in Christ. It's not enough to just add the mission of God – virtuous life, evangelism, sacrifice – on top of our old selves. You end up trying to balance these things against everything else. Doing good becomes a calculation rather than a way of life.
As Christ God puts it in St. Matthew (6:24) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
We empty ourselves of everything we have; this is what allows us to receive everything good He has prepared for us.
This includes our cares:
1 Peter 5:6-7. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your cares and concerns on him, for he cares about you.
Psalm 55:22. Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
But that's not all: creating a new life in Christ is not like playing Go Fish. “I don't want these – you take them.” It's everything. Otherwise our loyalty remains divided. Giving up our cares will make us feel better for a while, but being reborn as a little “g” god – and this is the God's intent – feels better forever. So we can't stop with giving up our anxiety.
It includes our family. Christ's words about this are found in Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37. We have to be willing to give up our family.
It includes our money. Today's lesson.
Our very lives. Christ in John 12:25 points out that this need for sacrifice includes our very own lives.
The interpretation of this radical sense of sacrifice; of giving things up; of starting fresh and new is confirmed in our baptismal service in which put do death the old man (in the water) and rise up as a new one in Christ. We have given up our life; but the life we get back – one comprised of the very same skin, bones, heart, and brain – is a better one. It is one that is remade in Christ and pledged to service of God, His children, and His world.
The yoke of the world (slavery to the world) that is oppressive, hard to bear, and leads to death. So we give it up! Give it all up! And then take up the yoke of virtue and righteousness – we take up the yoke of the Lord. And pledged to him and the carrying out of his will, we are no longer slaves or mercenaries whose joy lasts only as long as circumstances allow, but sons and daughters of the living god, deified and divinized through his grace.
This new way is, to quote Christ God “easy and light.”
Matthew 11:29-30. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
So let's not be like the rich man who went away sad. Let's lay everything, our cares and concerns, our family, our riches, even our life itself, at the foot of God.
Those things that are holy and true will be part of our new life in Christ (as He showed us at our baptism); and they will be part of our strength rather than things that potential divide us from God and the carrying out of His will that all become saved. They will become a blessing because they will take on their proper function.
Sun, 9 December 2018
28th Sunday after Pentecost.
Sun, 2 December 2018
Luke 12:16-21 (The Rich Man and His Granaries)
Until we figure out who we are, our actions have no purpose. We will end up doing one thing one day, and something contrary the next.
Because we are fallen, our default purpose is selfish and egoistic and sees other people based on what they can do for us. Some days we see benefit in working with and helping other people, but other days we see no benefit from helping them and so we ignore them or even work against them.
So it is with all of our riches, whether they are material or spiritual. Our default setting, in our selfishness, is to dole them out tactically – if at all – based on our feelings will bring the greatest security, influence, pleasure, or the most of whatever will satisfy the emotional impulse that is dominating us at the time. People with friendly emotions will share more, people who are dominated by fear will invest in protection, people who are more epicurean will invest in luxuries, people who crave status will use their resources to show off, and so on.
This has a certain kind of logic, but it is the logic of the world, not the logic of the Logos; nor is it the way to live a joyful life here or in the eternal life that is to come.
We need to know who we are. We are certainly more than our emotions. They are a poor guide to living well and a poor guide for making sound decisions.
So who are we? What were we made for? We are sons and daughters of the Most-High, created to accomplish God's will that humans and humanity are healed and brought into a joyful fellowship with one another and with Him now and in the world to come.
Understanding this allows us to rise above our captivity to our feelings and act in ways that are productive.
The rich man in today's Gospel didn't get this. He made the decision about how to use his extra grain based on his feelings rather than on who he was called to be.
It isn't just that the grain that could have been used to feed the poor will now rot and be stolen; it is that it could have been used to create and sustain connections with the poor to create a bond with them that would have pulled the rich man out of his existential loneliness and completely selfish concerns.
It would have opened a world of fellowship and virtue to him; a world that is denied to all who confine themselves to serving just their feelings; a world that would have transformed him into something greater, something that would have transcended the simple creature his genes and environment alone would have allowed.
Spiritual resources are the same. If we hoard or spend them just according to our feelings, we are no better than the rich man in the parable. They will rot and fester and disappear when they could have become the thing that feeds the hungry, connects us to them, and draws us all up into the glory of God.
We – as individuals, as a parish, and as the Orthodox Church - have an abundance of material and spiritual goods. Far more than we need for our comfort and sustenance. This bounty was not meant to be hoarded, but to be shared; not because we are nice or because we want more friends, but because it is our calling to serve others, to draw us all into unity with God through Christ Jesus. This is the only way to change the wealth of this world – both material and spiritual – into an internal inheritance.