10 August 2014

Homily for the Sunday after Transfiguration, 2014

Note: Our parish has a good problem. We're outgrowing the building we've owned since 2006. The growth hasn't been rapid, but it's been steady. We have a Sunday School class meeting in the utility room. We need to move forward. Our goal is to purchase land (5+acres) on which to build a permanent temple, and a cemetery for Orthodox Christians in the Grand Rapids area.

My wife and I were very encouraged by our recent trip to Ukraine. I hope to share that encouragement with the people of Holy Cross, as we work toward achieving our goals. Please remember us in your God-pleasing prayers!


A few days ago we marked the Transfiguration of our Lord.
He took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, and showed them his glory.
            Moses and Elijah appeared with him in the splendor of his uncreated light.
                       The light shone, even through his garments,
                                       to teach us that all creation is meant for that light.
                       The light touched his wondering disciples,
                                       to teach us that God wills to share his light with us.

Today’s gospel takes place, not on a mountain but in the midst of the sea;
            not in peaceful surroundings, but in the heart of a storm.

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus commanded the disciples to get in their boat and head home.
            They went at his word,
                        but ran into a storm.
                                    The wind and waves tossed their boat like a toy.
“They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths;
Their soul melted away in their misery.
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man,
And were at their wits' end.” (Ps. 107)

Then it was they saw the Lord Jesus, coming to them, walking on the sea.
            What they saw, terrified them; but what they heard brought them comfort.
                        “Take heart,” he said, “don’t be afraid. It’s me.”
It’s not natural for men to walk on water.
                        But Jesus is the God-man.
                        All the divine energies were communicated to his humanity.
                                    He is not subject to nature; nature is subject to him.
                                    His body is true flesh,
                                    the water is true water—
                                                yet in that flesh, he treads on the water.
            “Where God wills, the ways of nature are overturned.”
or rather,
            Nature yields to him, as the clay yields to the potter.

What they heard brought them comfort…
            and what Peter heard, brought him courage.
Overcome by love for Christ, he cried out:
                        “Lord, if it is you, bid me come out to you on the water.”

That little boat was like the shelters we build for ourselves—
            shelters of money, or friends, or intelligence, or looks—
                        whatever or whoever makes us feel secure.
But Peter knew that it’s better to be with Christ outside our security
            than to be without him inside our security.
And so he heard Christ’s command:           “COME!”

He left the boat, and walked toward Christ on the water
            as if it were dry land!

Now when Christ walked on the water it was because he is the God-man.
But what about Peter walking on the water?

It was because those divine energies,
given to Christ’s humanity at the incarnation,
are given through Christ’s humanity to those who trust his word.
What is true of him by nature, becomes true of us by grace.

The Word didn’t become flesh to make us good.
            He became flesh to make us god—
             to share his divine energies, his divine life.

But isn’t that the way he’s always worked?
            St. Paul tells us, of Abraham,
“Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body,
now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old,
and the deadness of Sarah's womb;
 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief
but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
and being fully assured that what God had promised,
He was able also to perform." (Rom 4)
And so came Isaac, and through him all of Israel’s race.
So with the disciples in the wilderness, in last week’s gospel.
            They had only five loaves and two small fish,
            And had five thousand men to feed, plus women and children.
Yet they brought their resources to Christ.
            All were fed, and much was left over.

So with my friend Fr. Dimytro in Veliki Mosti.
            The government took his building away.
            The next Sunday, only seven people came to liturgy.
                        But he didn’t quit.
                        He believed that God would provide.
            And Cindy and I worshiped in the beautiful temple that they built.

Might it be true for us, too, in our place and time?
Do you, like me, cry out to the Lord to grant us land
            For a cemetery, and a lovely temple to worship him in?

Listen to what Fr. Dimytro wrote to us:

Most Dear Fr. Gregory,            Together with your wife, children, and parishioners, please accept best wishes from Fr. Dmytro from Velyki Mosti!
            We once again thank you for serving in our temple and also for the offering you made to God's temple.  All of our parishioners were very pleased with the way that you served, as well as your homily, which will be remembered for a long time to come.  We are sending you a copy of the plans for our temple.            On my own behalf, and on behalf of my parishioners, I want to encourage you and your parishioners with your intentions of beginning to build a temple of God for your parish.  Do not doubt for a moment that this is God's work!            The Lord doesn't give every generation this opportunity, to build a temple.  The building of a temple does a lot to unite parishioners together.  If it sometimes seems to people to be impossible, remember that with God, all things are possible. And often, miracles occur, as we observed more than once during the building of our temple: when problems arose with our funds or with the building materials, the Lord helped us in miraculous ways.  And also, words cannot express the joy of the people, when they have built and blessed a temple.            Our parishioners would always say to me, “Father, we have money and then it's gone.  It seems like at home, the money just slips through our fingers.  But what we give for the building of a temple, that lasts for many generations, for the glory of God.  And we know that we will be prayed for in this temple, for here prayers will be offered until the end of the age.”            Be bold, with God's help, and the Lord will always be with you!With respect,Fr. Dmytro and his flock

“Be bold, with God’s help, and the Lord will always be with you!”
and, “With God, all things are possible.”

I wonder if we haven’t gotten a little too comfortable
            in our cozy little boat.
I wonder if it isn’t time to step out and reach toward Christ.

I believe that we can do it…that we can build for God a temple,
            and a resting place for his faithful people.
And I am certain that in the process of stepping out,
            In love for Christ who loved us, and love for each other,
God will build for us a temple, and make us to be a living temple for him.

So how about it? Let’s step out toward Christ.
He will keep us safe amidst all the storms.
If we fall, he will raise us up.
            Let us be bold, with God’s help, and he will always be with us!