The following text was offered as a homily at Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church during the Sunday liturgy that concluded the Evangelical Orthodox Church Holy Synod 2015.
Some of the text have been edited to fit the blog format better.
August 23rd 2015
The foundation of unity
Ps 16 Gen 28:10 – 17 Eph 4:1 – 6 Matt 28:16 – 20
As a Church we stand at a cross road, as we also should. Or rather walking a road that is a cross. True Christian witness has always been revealed by the width and the height and the depth of the embrace it invites the world into, without loosing it’s centre. Four directions, One Centre. Fact of the matter is that we can not know east or west, north or south without a centre, a point of reference, Who is Christ. The point of reference that is a Person, that’s the point. The world, us included, is created by Christ, for Christ and therefor we can only hope to know the truth about the world and ourselves if we view the world and ourselves through the eyes of Christ. And what eyes He has for us!
When EOC was birthed it had a youthful seal of compassion to reveal a tangible Kingdom in the world. As the journey went on the revelation of this heavenly kingdom grew. We came to understand that God is indeed here. He is not far away. He is not closer or further away depending on how we feel about Him. He is here. We can in truth call all the earth “Bethel” because indeed God have visited this place, it is the house of God and He will not abandon His people. The angels of the Lord keeps ascending and descending for the ones who have ears to hear and eyes to see. History itself, symbolized in Patriarch Jakob, finds rest and purpose when resting on the rock, the Church.
Today, almost 40 years later, a generation later, the seal is still here, the seal of compassion on the document of truth, but it needs to be broken. It needs to be broken so that the document may be opened. Once the seal is broken and document is open then we can read the letters of life with new eyes again. A new seal, a new vigour needs to be birthed out of this transformational and sometimes painful process of handing down the document of faith. The document is the same. The book of life. There is One Lord, One faith, One baptism and One Father of all. But broken people needs to be allowed to break things in order to receive healing. In order to grow. This document needs to be read by future generations that offers their own mark and seal, their own time, as reveled by the living Holy Spirit. If we try to keep the same seal as past generations we will either fall in the ditch of nostalgia or in the ditch of nominalism. I will end up preaching to an empty building. We can not offer life to the world by living on the merits of our parents and past generations.
Past generations have given their all and sometimes I have resented them for it. But they, even if I didn’t like it sometimes, instilled in me an identity, a deposit. They let me now that I am loved, that I matter to God. They put themselves out there, laying hold of a Kingdom that reveled itself as they continued to love people around them. They offered themselves to see unity in the Church once more. Not a unity based on letters of the law but a unity based on sacrificial relationships in love. A unity that would have love and reconciliation reign in the body of Christ rather than divisiveness and politics. A unity that puts the Persons of the Trinity first. This is and always was at the heart of the EOC vision. How can the world believe that Jesus is present in it if we do not love each other as His body? It can’t. The unity of the Church plays, I dare say, an eschatological role in the faith of the universe. It must be given highest priority. If unity is sacrificed for the sake of conformity or individuality we, the Church looses Her power to transform the world by reflecting the mysterious glory of the Trinity.
What is unity? Is it a social construct of human imagination? Is it a organizational idea of worldly minds? Is it the adherence to the law only? No, It is the mystery seen by the prophets. It is the truth taught by the teachers. It is the faith handed down by the apostles. It is the care given by the pastors. It is the good news proclaimed by the evangelists. It is the service provided by the servant. It is the wisdom revealed by the wise. It is the love poured out by the parent to a child. It is the functions of the people of God coming together to worship Him in truth and love. It is when congregational (laity), presbyterian (deacons and priests), episcopal (bishop) structures within the Church realizes that they depend on each other to function properly. It is a meal. It is the mystery of the Trinity revealed in the world by the incarnated Son and His body through the Spirit. Unity can only be found and sustained in the Person of the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. It is the “two hands” of God the Father that brings us together.
EOC has always tried to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His promptings. To not lock any doors for eternity but to leave them unlocked as to remain open to paths that we maybe could not see before. Truth is One and eternal, but it is reveled in increments as we are able to receive it. We must allow for a structure firm enough to sustain prayer in situations of stress and emotional rollercoasters. At the same time there must be freedom enough to move where the Holy Spirit leads. This was always the tension in the Church so it remains as our tension. Freedom and the structure that is born from her must be allowed to dance in the dance that brings life.
We must remain a people led by the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we are just another worldly organization. We might proselytize but we can not make disciples. Without the Holy Spirit, worldly power comes into play, denomination and dominion, and the greatest agenda of worldly power is to keep its power. For this purpose it creates systems of control. A system like that is unable to listen and be attentive to the unfamiliar and the surprising. It promotes conformity and clashes with the Holy Spirit Who fosters a life of diversity in unity and colourfulness, a life of true personhood. It is structured and it is free, in a holy paradox.
As long as the Christians refrained from assuming worldly power they conquered the world. When the Christians, when we, were dazzled by the power of the world that we assumed and started to make a system of the faith we were drained of our testimony. The Holy Spirit avoids intermingling with the one who desires to rule other peoples lives. Worldly power makes a person blind. Divine power is given to the humble. We need to be on guard, often the persecuted becomes the persecutor. As a communion we must always be weary of the person who aspires, on his own initiative, to carry spiritual authority. We must allow the Holy Spirit to move amongst us by allowing for our different personalities to bear fruit while remaining in the One tree of Life.
As we grew in understanding about who we are and as we learned more about the mystery of faith we also grew more confident and started to stand in our own ability as a Church. The tree of knowledge once again reared its ugly head. Once again we must go low, in service to the poor, in listening to the lonely, in recognizing our failings and shortcomings and in loving the broken. We probably won’t grow fast, In fact I pray we don’t, but that we might grow true. Truth sets people free.
As we look into the future and learn from the past we must face the present moment and grab hold of it because it is in the present that the great “I AM’ is at work. Our body is the temple of the living God and together we form Jesus own body, embracing the world with a love that transcends time and restores space. I am with you always He says, even to the end of the age. Go and make disciples! He says, and Go we shall.