Sermon – August 13, 2000 - Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock – all rights reserved
Sunday after Holy Transfiguration
Matthew 21:28-32 ~ Philippians 4:8-20 ~ James 4:7-5:6
Praise be to God most merciful, who has been gracious to give us this opportunity to come together. Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise! Amen.
As Christians we are called to service (ministry); each of us according to our spiritual gifts and abilities. The Holy Spirit moves us in our ministry if we but listen. “God calls us the way God made us.”
Rather than mere instruments or tools of God as so many around us seem to be, as Christians we are called to be as servants. No instrument or tool makes the conscious decision of the servant. Both can serve their intended purpose: one only in the hands of the Master - the other by the decision of servanting. Of course there are many significant differences and a fruitful exercise is to truly ponder the differences between tools/instruments and servants.
In today’s Gospel lesson, the Christ helps us to distinguish the quality of service. At the end of the parable, the Christ asks - which of the sons is more favored of the Father? The answer is obvious.
Action speaks louder than words. Our words do not condemn us in the eyes of our Lord. It is only the pettiness of human existence that words are more important. Only by our actions or inactions is our repentance known. Does it seem strange that I mention repentance? But the first son indeed repented. He engaged “metanoia” which is Greek for repentance, but more literally it means to change one’s mind. Talk is cheap as they say. Metanoia is known not in our talk but in our actions.
As modern psychology catches up to the ancient teachings, we know and accept that our thoughts can bring us to our actions. The formula is well known – right thinking begets right action. As a man thinketh so is he.
Until a time when only the Christ-light directs our life and we awaken the greater consciousness, then lower thoughts control the actions. These are mostly from the subconscious, as psychologists would say. This is where addictions and bad habits dwell. But we can change our minds; we can let Christ be our savior, our Lord. With Christ, we are not chained to a lower existence of survival instincts and gutter logic.
In his epistle, St. James, whose Divine Liturgy we celebrate for Holy Qurbana, gives us insight into the Truths of our existence that can assist us in “right thinking”
“For what is our life? It is but a vapor, which appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. Instead of that they should say (think) If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.”(4:14-15) We must always be mindful that God is giving us the blessing of life itself. Our every breath is under the allowance of our Creator. We are created beings.
Next, “Your gold and silver are tarnished, and the rust of them shall be a testimony against you, and shall eat your flesh. The treasures which you have heaped together will be as fire to you for the last days.”(5:3) A bit more dramatic, but the same teaching of Christ who says in another place “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust corrupts.” Where our focus is, there is our life, our heart, the core of our being.
St. Paul, throughout the entire letter to the Philippians, gives us a complete lesson on proper thinking that leads to proper action and proper love - of which action and love for the right reasons is always ministry – service to God and others. Part of today’s reading is a beautiful encouragement that bears repeating:
“Whatsoever things are true,
Whatsoever things are honest,
Whatsoever things are just,
Whatsoever things are pure,
Whatsoever things are lovely,
Whatsoever things are of good report;
If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
Think on these things. (4:8)
“Those things which you have both learned and received, and heard and seen – do: an the God of peace shall be with you. (4:9)
“…I have learned to make what I have meet my needs.
I know what it is to be poor, and I know what it is to be rich:
I have gone through many things both to be full and to be hungry,
both to have plenty and to be in want.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens (sustains) me.” (4:11-13)
Like the first son in the Gospel, we often feel a lethargy that stops or holds us back from doing that which is right in front of us to do. How did he happen to do the work that was asked of him despite this force of inaction? How can we possibly do that of which we are called to do even we do not want to? Depends on whom we serve. If we serve Christ, then “[we] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us].” (v 13) because “...my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in the glory of Jesus Christ.”
There is a lot in today’s lessons. Let us reflect, meditate and pray that we can take at least one thought, one idea and put it into action this week. Let us find the most loving things to ponder and from these will flow our willingness to serve, loving acts that bring others and us closer to God.
I have operated under one motto of service, that, when I able to follow its simplicity, there are no wants and no worries. “Service is doing the next right thing for the right reasons.”
Actions do indeed speak louder than words.
May God bless and strengthen and keep us all according to His will in service to Him and all creation according to our spiritual gifts. Amen.