Homily, March 5, 2023

At 62 I’m rounding the corner on the way to a quarter century in the Orthodox Church.

Scandals? I’ve seen them, more than I want to see. If you’re looking for a community of perfect people this isn’t it, myself included. I’ve seen leaders fall, people leave in grief, and those I thought were deeply rooted vanish into this world’s night. Sometimes I get tired because the troubles of one can touch us all.

Glory? I’ve seen even more of that. The great beauty that drew my senses has never disappeared. The ancient rhythms of faith and life that stabilized my soul through the storms of this life continue to do their holy work. Ancient hymns lift my soul. Wise words from the ages grant me understanding. I live in a modern and fragmented word but by Faith I have something whole, transcendent, and beyond.

At times I’ve felt frustrated but never disconnected, challenged but never totally overcome, and weary but never completely exhausted because I stand in a flow of strength beyond mine.  Perhaps a cup cannot pass from me but the God who gives it also fills the last drop with life and resurrection.  And always there is mercy to stand, poor, naked, and covered in sores before the holy altar with only God to protect me and only His strength in the face of my fragility.

And always there is the connection to Christ, not just the historic one, the liturgical one, or the succession by laying on of hands but the assurance of belonging, as much as is possible, to the enduring community of His followers from the beginning to the end of time.

I envy the people who are raised in this good path, who knew nothing else from before they were born. So many of us traveled a long and sometimes hard way to find what our children have been freely given. I wonder what would have been different if this Faith had been mine in the same way. Yet it seems that it was God’s good pleasure to call some from the first hour and others later in the day. Still, we’ve all arrived.

This is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the day when we recall how the Church, faced with Islamic invasion without and heresy within boldly gathered to reaffirm that which had always been and what needed to be restored. Holy icons, images of Saints and our Lord which call to mind the eternality of Jesus and His glory which shines in and through His holy ones.

It’s so easy in the rush of work and home and job to forget this beautiful path on which we tread. So easy to take for granted the riches we’ve been given. So easy to forget our inheritance in Faith. A thousand bright shiny voices and more than a few dark ones call out to us along the way, selling us distractions and trinkets so much less valuable than what we already have in hand.

This Faith we have, with its still, small voice, even in all of that noise calls us to something higher, better and transcendent. In the world but not captive to it. No system or structure devised in human thought can completely define it or claim its glory, purpose, and worship for its own. No time of darkness can completely extinguish its light. Wars have come, famine has ravaged the land, sin becomes law, and yet it remains. Despots rage against it sending millions to prison and death and yet its candle is never put out. False teachers critique it and sometimes its leaders fail to live its promise, yet it endures.

At times in our minds we’re challenged by the difficulty of the path, the words and call of Jesus that are sometimes hard to hear and understand and yet instinctually we know there is truth here and words of life and sustenance. Within our Faith heaven exists even in the face of death, glory in humility, strength in weakness, and providence in the barren night of the soul. The calling is high but there is grace to accomplish it and forgiveness when we fall. The mystery is great and yet the Holy Spirit makes the fisherman wise, the unlearned perceptive, and that which seems foolish to the world eternal wisdom.

Each one of us who embarks on this journey is a miracle, even if we don’t feel that way at any given time. God is working in us, despite our messiness, and weaving a tapestry in our lives of our broken threads made beautiful by grace and His skillful hands. The potter sees the finished beauty even if we only, for the moment, see the clay. One pause to contemplate is all that’s needed to see this good thing, this life alive in us, this hope which nothing in the world can extinguish.

It’s the Sunday of Orthodoxy and in a few hours we’ll gather with our icons to process and proclaim, to worship and remember, to celebrate and ponder. Never forget, never let the dust of this world cover the beauty of our treasure, and never cease to walk towards the light on this well-trod path. The Faith that established the universe is ours as well. Let us rejoice in the gift, share the largesse, and follow this beautiful path all the way home.


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