Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Feast of all the saints of Rus’ Ukraine
Last Sunday’s Gospel spoke of the impossibility of serving two masters, and that one could not serve both God and mammon, or money. And our epistle this week is an elaboration on that idea.
The first master we could serve is sin, and when we are slaves of sin, we are freed from righteousness. Think about that. When you are a slave of sin, you can do nothing righteous. It doesn’t matter how “good” the action is, there is no righteousness in it.
The altruistic atheist rejects Christ, and is therefore a slave to sin. He may be wealthy and finance a childrens’ hospital to rival St. Jude’s. But, he’s a slave to sin, and there is no righteousness in his charitable works.
Take a great religious leader of another faith. Being of another faith, he rejects Christ, and cannot but be a slave to sin. All the good he does? There is no righteousness.
That’s what Paul is saying here. The ONLY way that we can be righteous is to be a slave to God. He writes to the Corinthians that God has made Christ our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption
Some years earlier, he made a similar contrast in his letter to Galatians.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Notice, though, when Paul talks about the works of the flesh, he’s talking about things we ought not do - immorality, impurity, dissension, drunkenness, and the like. But, when talking about the fruit of the spirit, he’s talking about who we are and can become - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
It all comes back to that promise of New Covenant that I’ve mentioned so many times. “I will make a new covenant, says the Lord, and I will write my law upon their hearts”. That’s the point - true righteousness comes from a transformation of the heart, and that transformation can only come from God.
Today we celebrate All the Saints of Rus’-Ukraine. In the Troparion, we sing to them, ‘monastics, martyrs, and staunch confessors”. A monastic is one whose heart has been transformed such that they sacrifice life in the world, life in society, that they can devote themselves in prayer for that world and for the salvation of their own souls. A martyr is one whose heart has been transformed so that they willingly give up their life as a testimony to the world of the grace of God. And a confessor is one who suffers for the faith without giving up their life, but that their heart has been so transformed that they consistently confess the Gospel in their life.
And the soldier in the Gospel? He understood what it meant to be a servant, a slave. As one with authority, he understood that to be under authority, one will obey the commands of his commander. And, to be a slave of God, one will obey the commands of God.
Being a Christian is being a slave to righteousness - not just in our actions, but also in our thoughts. Using adultery as an example, Jesus shows us that even contemplating it, thinking about it, is committing it in your heart. In other words, daydreaming about committing a sin has the same spiritual effect on your soul as actually committing the sin!
Later in Romans, Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. And, to the Phillipians, he wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.
My friends, we all daydream. It’s part of being human, isn’t it. How do we turn this into our advantage?
When you daydream, decide what it will be about. Think about growing the fruit of the spirit in you. Think about showing love, having joy and peace. Dream about being patient and kind. Dream about having goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
Take control of your dreams, of your thought life.
Dream about being a saint!