I know that this homily covers last sunday, but I have just finished putting the transcribed version online, even while at a retreat in the Valley and I did not want to waste the fervent labors of Helen, who transcribed it about 3 weeks ago!
Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. Two Sundays before the Nativity of Jesus Christ
The Great Supper; An Invitation to Become, Not to Eat.
Colossians 3:4-11, Luke 14:16-24
More Homilies on the Nativity (Sundays before, Nativity, Sundays after) at:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, brothers and sisters, is the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. It is the first of two Sundays immediately preceding Nativity. We have these special readings.
Today we hear a parable about the great supper, and I submit to you that this supper is not the one that we eat. It is one that we become. If you understand the supper in this way, then you will understand why it is that people didn’t want to come to the supper.
Very few people are willing to turn down a free meal, right? This was not a free meal. This was the way of life that makes us free.
The certain man, of course, is God. And that great supper is our becoming like Him so that we will know Him.
Supper is at the end of the day. I learned this when I came to Dallas. In the South they have this idea of dinner as supper. In the North, dinner and supper are the same meal. But in the South, dinner is the lunch, usually enough lunch to feed an army and then supper later if you can somehow stand to eat it.
Supper is at the end of our life, and it also our total life. So it really means two things. In the end, of course, there will be the table heavy laden, and we will be with Christ. We will know Him, see Him, face-to-face, no longer in a glass darkly, but face-to-face without fear and without shame – If we live our life now in such a way that we will be ready when things are all ready, as the parable says. So the supper is our life. The supper is becoming.
Look at the people that did not want to come to the supper, all because they had their own priorities and their own desires.
One says, I’ve got some ground that I just bought, I want to go see it. The fathers speak about that as being possessions that can tie us down.
Another one says, I have five yoke of oxen; I go to prove them. The five yoke are the five senses, and therefore, all of our different desires that we have for pleasure.
Another says I have a wife that I just married; I cannot come. That is also our own self desires, our own selfishness for pleasure.
These excuses, in microcosm, describe all of the excuses that we have for not living the Christian life.
The supper is not one that we just sit down at. The supper is one that we are becoming.
Saint Paul says today, “When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then we shall also appear with Him in glory,” as at the supper. But to appear with Christ in glory means we must obey Him and live as He lives.
It is entirely appropriate that we discuss this parable just before Nativity because, without Christ, we would not have any life. So this calling to the supper, we can only obey this calling with Christ helping us, because Christ became man and lived the life that He wants us to live and made us capable of living that life.
Be careful in your life. Take a look and see what excuses you are giving that you don’t want to come to this supper. Think sometimes, especially in our semi-Christian society, what passes for Christianity is this idea that you go to glory and this glorious thing because you believe in Jesus Christ, without any of the substance of what it takes to be able to be part of this glory.
What it takes is to live as Christ lived.
And that is hinted at in the end of the parable or near the very end when the king is very upset because so many people have not come to the supper. And he says to his slaves, “Go out into the streets and lanes of the city quickly … and compel them to come in.”
That’s an order, not just to them; it is an order to us. If we are to be part of this supper, then we have to have the mentality of the one who gave it. We should desire to compel others to come into it by the way we live our life. It’s a very powerful word: Compel. It does not abrogate that we have free will to choose whether we’d want to do good or ill. And so does every man.
But if your way of life is such that a person is so attracted to it that they desire to find out and to live it, then you have compelled someone to come into the supper.
When I read this parable, I tremble because I wonder how much I’m compelling people. I’ve dedicated my life to doing it. That’s why I became a priest. I couldn’t see anything else important in life. Everything else dies. Everything else is temporary. The only thing that’s permanent is who we become. The only thing that matters for a person is who he becomes, because in becoming like Christ then you can know Him, then you can be with Him in glory, then you can be unashamed at the end of the age. Otherwise, everything is a loss. That’s all that matters. We should have that mentality, such that people would see it.
Perhaps you haven’t heard of this parable being spoken of in, shall we say, evangelistic terms. But everything we do in our life should be evangelism. Should be such that we are the light on the lamp stand, not underneath the bushel basket. Not what we say, but who we are. The supper is about becoming. This coming to the supper is actually our life.
Yes, there will be a time when we shall sit down with Him, but right now is the time for action. Right now the time is for effort. The time is to say: There is nothing in my way, Lord, from keeping me from coming to Thy supper; I am not going to let any oxen or any land or a wife or any other desires keep me from what is most important, and that is that Thou art my life.
The apostle further talks about, after saying that Christ will appear and we will appear in glory, he gives us the key to how we will appear in glory, and this is basically how we are going to get to the supper. Because there is a traveling period from the time you are bidden to the supper and you get to it. He’s saying, “Mortify your members that are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness.” He says not to lie, not to commit blasphemy, have no filthy communication out of your mouth. He’s saying to live virtuously. So if you want to come to this supper, live virtuously. The calling is from Christ telling us, Live like Me. He’s made us capable of this.
We are about to celebrate His birth. But His birth means nothing if we don’t obey His way of life. His birth doesn’t save us; accepting His grace and living in it is what saves us. This supper is a calling to virtue. Not just a calling to be with glory in the end. It’s a calling now to change.
Look in your life, see what excuses you have. If I’m perfectly honest with myself, I could say each one of these excuses could apply to me in various ways. And certainly, the order to compel others to come in, I tremble when I think what opportunities I have not taken advantage of to compel others to come into the supper.
It’s not just words of a fictional story. Obviously, this occurrence didn’t happen in, shall we say, real life, right? There really wasn’t a person who called people to a supper and then went and had his slaves to find others. It is a picture for us. But in another way it truly is happening. Are we participating in it or are we making excuses?
May God help us to answer the call to be virtuous, the call to live as God lives. What an incredible opportunity, what an incredible privilege it is to live as a Christian! That’s what the Lord is saying in this parable: “Come to Me. Live as I live.“
May God help us to answer this call and also not just to come to the supper because there are a lot of people that are going to come to the supper and be very surprised because they haven’t lived that life. They have tagged along. They have considered themselves to be Christian. But let us be traveling to the supper in such a way that we are also causing others to come to it.
May God help us in all things. Amen.
Transcribed by the handmaiden Helen. May God save her and her family.
Priest Seraphim Holland 3010.
This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
· Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070
· Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754
· Email: email@example.com
· Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net
· Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/
This homily is at:
Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture
Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons
To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.
Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.
All rights reserved. Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way. We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.