MP3 Audio: WS330302_Dn-Joseph_Stop-Complaining.mp3
This homily was preached on Sunday morning, September 1, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.
Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
I want you to imagine a group of murderers. They are hiding in a cave, and they all know what they have done, and every one of them has blood on their hands. And then they find out about somebody who lives in that town, who is a thief He has stolen, he has robbed, he has committed burglary. He has even cheated on his income taxes. And it just grates on them. They get knots in their stomach over it. They are so angry. It really annoys them that there is this guy out here who is blatantly disregarding the law of God, and who is a thief.
Meanwhile, a couple counties over, there is this den of thieves. They all know what they have done. They know who they have robbed. They know who they have stolen from. They know the great calamity that they have caused by taking what does not belong to them. And their stomach is in knots because they heard that there is a murderer in town, some guy who blatantly disregarded the law of God, and dared to take a life.
What would we call their complaints? And what we call the complaints of the den of murderers? Well, of course we would call them true–yeah, it’s true that what they’re complaining about is a sin–but we would also call it hypocrisy.
We would tell the murderers, “Repent of your bloodshed before you dare to pick on the thief.” We would tell the thieves, “Return what you have stolen, make amends, repent of your stealing, before you dare to pick on the murder.” For both sins are prohibited by God. Both sins are worthy of death. Both sins can lead to hell.
We even see the same thing in prisons. The prisons are literally full of people who have sinned in various ways, and have done things that are wrong. And yet there is this pecking order:
“Well, I’m in here because I beat up a cop.”
“Ah, well, you’re okay . . . we’ll applaud you.”
“Well, I’m in here because . . . well I . . . I did . . . .”
Well, even the other prisoners are gonna treat him like scum, then. Even the other prisoners are gonna act like he’s just a bottom dweller.
In the epistle reading today, out of first Corinthians chapter ten, we see multiple types of sin mentioned. We see the temptation of God through fornication, through the empty pursuit of pleasure, through the throwing off of God’s laws. We see fornication explicitly mentioned. We look at the sins and we say, “Oh! Man, those Israelites out in the wilderness, they were bad! They deserve what they got.”
There is another sin that is mentioned, that they were guilty of, that we just kind of skip over. We don’t pay as much attention to it, for we ourselves seem to enjoy that one. I’ll come back to that in a moment. But first, let’s look at first Corinthians chapter ten.
We see a bunch of people who have been rescued from four hundred years of hard labor in slavery and shame. They have come out of Egypt. They have seen the hand of God work, and fantastic miracles, as they have seen the ten plagues decimate Egypt and yet leave Israel untouched. They have crossed the Red Sea with the walls of water on either side, as Moses led them to safety. And then those very same waters drowned the Egyptians who pursued. They encountered hunger, which God took care of by manna from heaven. They encountered thirst, which God quenched with water, miraculously gushing forth from the flint, from the stone.
And you say,
Well, we haven’t experienced all these things. And they lived so long ago. This is what, like two to three thousand years ago? This is so long ago. The different culture, different place, different time, different language . . . these guys are basically sheep herders. They smelled like sheep. They are walking across the desert. We don’t even have deserts here in southern Illinois, the last week’s weather notwithstanding.
So, a bunch of dudes speaking Hebrew, that used to be slaves, that have seen miracles with their own eyes, walking across desert sands, eating food from heaven . . . what does this have to do with us? How much can we actually learn from this?
Isn’t this just some other culture, some other time? Wouldn’t it be unwarranted to read about what happened to these people, and suggest that we could actually apply any of that today in our situation, in our time, with all that we have learned?
We might say,
God, you know, can’t you just pick something that’s a little more fitting to us today, something that’s–something that we can connect to, something that we can understand?
I know! I have an idea. Lord, what if you were to just take one church. Just take one church and make it an example. Say, ‘Hey, look, this is a church. This is how God deals with His Church. This is how the Church is supposed to respond. If they respond incorrectly, here is how God deals with that.’
Lord, couldn’t you just get one church and work with it and make that an example for us, and then we could learn from that?
Well, that’s what this is!
Well, that couldn’t be true. Jesus hadn’t come yet. There was no cross yet. Pentecost hadn’t happened yet. This was no church.
Well, Scripture begs to differ! If you go to Acts chapter 7 verse 38, it talks about the Israelites who walked in the wilderness for 40 years in between Egypt and the promised land. And it doesn’t just call them a “nation”, it doesn’t just call them “God’s people.” In Acts 7:38 it says, “the church in the wilderness” in reference to them.
The church in the wilderness–the ekklesia—the same Greek word is translated “church” throughout the rest of the New Testament.
What? So, even before Jesus came, God gave us an example of what a church is supposed to be like, and what happens when they are not the way they are supposed to be?
Well, aren’t you just pushing this Greek word too far? I mean, it does just mean ‘the called out ones’, so that doesn’t mean that He really dealt with him like a church. . . .
Well, let’s look at today’s epistle reading. The apostle Paul, in the New Testament, in first Corinthians chapter 10, speaks of this church in the wilderness, and he compares them to the Eucharistic ekklesia church community of the New Testament, right there in Corinth.
So, Paul is preaching to a New Testament church that takes the Eucharist weekly, and compares them to Israel, the church in the wilderness. And what does he say? With full knowledge of the Eucharist, with full knowledge of Christian baptism, fully understanding the sacraments, having administered them himself, Paul writes to the Corinthians–the Orthodox Church of Corinth–and when talking about the Israelites in the wilderness, in between Egypt and the promised land, the apostle Paul says, “They ate the same spiritual food. They drank the same spiritual drink. They were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
So what is Paul saying about the Israelite? He is saying, “They experienced baptism, so you don’t have anything to boast about. You have experienced baptism; so did they.”
Well, you get to eat the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ. You get to partake of spiritual food and spiritual drink. Surely that makes you superior! No, Paul says the Israelites drank the same spiritual drink. The Israelites ate the same spiritual food.
“Well, okay, well, but this is just symbolism. This is just types. I mean, surely he couldn’t really mean the ‘same’ even though he said the word ‘same.’ “
So, just in case we didn’t get the picture, Paul says they were baptized into Moses, they ate the same spiritual food, they drank the same spiritual drink, and then look at that very next verse: “for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ.”
Can you get any more explicit? Is this just symbolism? Is this just typology? No, he says, “they drank from that rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ.” They drank from Christ. The manna, the bread from heaven, that was their Eucharist. The water from the rock, that was their communion wine. This is the ekklesia, the church in the wilderness.
Okay, I guess they were a church, because it says so in the book of Acts. I guess we have to believe that they partook of sacraments in some sense, because Paul says that they did. I guess we even have to say that somehow they partook of Christ, because, well, Paul says that they did.
Not only that, but in the book of Hebrews it says that Moses–who led these same Israelites–chose to suffer for the sake of Christ rather than to sit in the Pharaoh’s palace. Moses followed Christ, suffered for Christ. The Israelites in the wilderness partook of the sacraments and drank from the rock that is Christ.
So, all these things may be true, but still . . . this is just the Old Testament God. This is just a hard and unmerciful and unbending and unyielding Law. And so this idea of thousands of people being, you know–23,000 people being put to death for fornication, thousands being slaughtered by venomous serpents because they tempted the Lord God Almighty–that just doesn’t sound like the Orthodox Church I know. That doesn’t sound like the God I know. That’s not the God of the New Testament! That’s not Jesus!
Well, we all know by now that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. But just in case we are convinced that there’s just too much of a cultural difference between those Israelites in the desert, and the New Testament Church–Holy Orthodoxy, Paul makes it explicit twice. In verse six, and again in verse eleven, the apostle Paul tells us these things are written for us so that we might not sin as they did.
These things are written as an example for us. Verses [six and eleven say,] “Now these things were our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. . . . Now all these things happened unto them as examples. and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come.”
So, these things are written so that we will not sin as they did. But not only are we being given these examples, as examples of what not to do, but that next passage says the things that happened to them were for examples to us.
In other words, not just the sin was an example so that we don’t copy it, but the judgment was an example so that we don’t receive it.
God still puts people to death today. 1 Corinthians 11, the very next chapter, says that partaking of the Eucharist unworthily can lead to sickness and even death. That is sobering! Absolutely it can lead to life, and healing, and joy. But unworthily, it can lead to sickness and death.
And so what were these sins that they committed, and what were the judgments that they suffered that are examples to us?
Well, one of the ones that is named is “tempting God.” You see, it is our job to crush the head of the serpent. But when the Israelites tempted God, God sent the serpents with venom, and thousands perished. When God calls us to daily worshiping Him, to write His word upon our hearts that we might not sin against Him, when God calls upon us to speak with our mouth the things of God to those family members who are closest to us, and those neighbors, and coworkers, and friends who are closest us, that we might not just save own tails from the fire, but theirs as well, when God calls us to be vigilant for the souls of our children, and for the souls of our spouses, how seriously do we take this?
Or do we say,
I have already worked hard. I have already done so much. You know, I just need to party. I need to have some fun. I need to just let my hair down. I need to relax.
You’re gonna get plenty of time in heaven to relax. Now is the time to be vigilant! Now is the time to burn the candle at both ends, burn the midnight oil if you have to, do whatever it takes to live every remaining day that you have–and they may not be many–live every day that you have remaining, in righteousness. Because the foolish spirit of this age says,
Oh, I’ve always got more time. I’ve done this righteous thing. But I wanna play. I wanna do this. I wanna relax. I want to go see this. I want to do this.
And then I’ll do something else good, and I’ll salve my conscience. I’ll do that good thing. And now I’m gonna go play, and do this, and relax, and party, and . . .
Let me ask you something. How much time do you honestly think you have left?
According to Scripture, the entire lifetime of a man is a handbreadth.
Everybody lift up one of your hands and put it right in front of your face right now. And I just want you to go like this ::blowing across hand:: Now, however big your hand is, I want you to tell me, how long did it take for the air to go from this side to this side? There’s your entire life. It’s a vapor.
I’m 35 years old, and someone told me a few months ago this really–I took this to heart . . . this was good–he said, “Well, Deacon Joseph, in your life you may not have accomplished half of the things that you wanted to accomplish. But you have already accomplished half of the things that you will accomplish.”
Ashley met her Maker face-to-face at age 17.
Quincy, Erin and Madison met their Maker before they even got to come out into the world, outside the womb.
Just looking in the news yesterday about a fellow who is driving a dump truck, he had a collision with a tree and a motorcycle–everybody dead. Middle-aged.
If you think you’re guaranteed another year, if you think you’re guaranteed another five years, if you think you’re guaranteed another ten years, you are a fool. For God has not told you what day on the calendar it will be, that your life will be required of you. And on that day, it will be too late to go back and do all that righteousness that you said you were eventually gonna get around to doing.
All you have is now.
And if you haven’t accomplished all of the righteousness that you believe God wants you to accomplish, then get busy and do that, because there will still be time for feasting and relaxing, and partying, and having fun, when you are in heaven, in His presence for all eternity. But once you’re up there, there will be no more opportunities for evangelism down here. There will be no more opportunities to protect your children down here. There will be no more opportunities up there to talk to your spouse that one more time, to talk to your children that one more time, to repent and humble yourself in front of them and say, “No matter what I have said to you before, I’m telling you now–the truth– and you have to get right with Christ.”
Up there, you are not going to have any more opportunities to give money to Orthodox missions, to Orthodox churches, to the poor, alms. You know that picture, early in that book and early in that movie of “A Christmas Carol”? You know, Jacob Marley is weighed down with chains and everything, and he’s talking to Scrooge. Well, it’s right about that time that they talk about Scrooge looking out the window, and his eyes are opened. He can see all of these spirits in torment, just like Jacob Marley. And there’s this homeless woman with her little baby, and they have nothing, and they are starving. And there are spirits that she can’t see, gathered all around her, saying, “I wish I could help you!”
Do you want to spend an eternity in hell, in tears, weeping, just saying,
Oh! I just wish I could go help those people that I want to help. I wish I go actually do something for those people I always said I was going to do something for. I wish I could go back and actually get over my cowardice, and just talk about Christ to all the people I needed to talk about Christ.
There is one Orthodox saint–I forget his name at the moment–but he said that the fires of hell . . . he said that what those are is “bitter regret”, that many of the flames that torment us in hell, are nothing other than bitter regret.
The sin of fornication, whether physically or just in our thought life–for Jesus said that to think it is to do it–brought about the death of over 20,000 people in that church in the wilderness, people who had seen the miracles, and tasted the manna, and had drank from the water that flowed from that rock which is Christ.
We get the sacraments; so did they.
We are called the “Church”; so are they.
They committed adultery, and they perished in the wilderness. Moses goes up on the mountain, and people tempt Christ by forgetting about Moses and the Law, and just partying and seeking pleasure, instead of putting righteousness first. They do various things at different times in the wilderness that tempt God, that tempt Him to bring about judgment. And sometimes their temptation finally works, for God has had enough, and judgment comes. And there are dead bodies laying everywhere.
But remember what I said earlier. There is one sin that is mentioned about the Israelites, we skip over, because, “Man, it’s so easy for us to condemn fornication. It’s so easy for us to condemn homosexuality, and theft, and the temptation of God, and the foolish pursuit of pleasure.” But there is one more sin mentioned here, that according to the apostle Paul, was committed by the church in the wilderness, and is written for our admonition, that we might not sin as they did.
And even the judgment that they received is recorded, so that we might fear, so that we ourselves may look at that as an example and say, “Oh! I don’t want to do that.”
“Neither murmur ye”--that’s King James English for “Stop complaining!”
Stop your murmuring. Stop your bellyaching. Stop your whining.
“Neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and received . . .” a little less reward in heaven? Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not what it says. It doesn’t say they complained and so they received a little bit less of a reward. No, it says,
Neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1 Corinthians 10:10)
And the very next verse is the one that I said earlier: “Now all these things happened to them for examples, and are written for our admonition”. They complained, and as a result, they were destroyed by the destroyer.
Do you know who the destroyer is? The devil is the lion prowling about, seeking whom he may devour. It doesn’t say seeking whom he wants to devour, because who does he want to devour? All of us! He wants to devour every man, woman, and child on the planet. But he can’t. He prowls about, seeking whom he may devour.
You see, God puts this force field around every Christian. And so many times, the roaring lion comes right up, and he runs into it, and you can see him open his mouth, and he just keeps bumping up against it. “No, you can’t have Russ. Sorry.” “You can’t have Christa.” “You can’t have Andrew.” “You can’t have Jeremy.”
But when you complain, when you sin, when you tempt God . . . ::buzz:: ::buzz:: . . . did you ever see a light just about to go out, and it will flicker? That spiritual protection begins to flicker around you. And finally the point comes about, that the lion comes by and, “Hey, wait a minute. I got ya!” He prowls about seeking whom he may devour.
If you are a complainer, if you are in a bad mood all the time, if you are a whiner because your life just doesn’t go nearly as well as you think you deserve it to go, if you have just gotten more hard knocks than anybody else and you have just about had your fill of that, look at the three sins mentioned in this passage:
- Tempting God
- Committing Fornication
There have been times in the past, that some of us have been like the murderers complaining about the thief, or the thieves complaining about the murderers. There have been days that we have been a bunch of complainers and whiners, complaining about those fornicators over there, those adulterers next-door, down the street, whoever they may be.
How wicked do you view fornication and adultery? How much does it make you sick to your stomach? How much does it make you turn your back whenever the judgment of God comes down upon the one who commits it? Guess what? Their fornication led to death, and their complaining led to their destruction. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. The Devil is happy to get you either way.
I’m sure that in ancient Israel, in the church of the wilderness, the complainers probably spent a good amount of their time complaining about those horrible fornicators over there. And the fornicators, who were having great fun and pleasure and a good time, and were in a good mood, were probably at some point complaining just a little bit because there’s all those complainers over there, who were always upset and grouchy.
It’s the murderers complaining about the thieves, and the thieves complaining about murderers.
Satan doesn’t care how he destroys you. He doesn’t care whether you are virgin your entire life–but then you kill somebody, or you rob somebody–well, then you will go to hell a virgin.
Satan doesn’t care if you respect all life, and not only would you never kill a person, but you wouldn’t even hurt a fly, you wouldn’t even kill an animal. In fact, you eat nothing but vegetables, because you don’t want any harm to come to any of God’s creatures. Oh, but you are an adulterer. You sleep with people who are not even your own spouse. That’s fine . . . the devil take you to hell as a vegan, as a non-murderer.
The Devil doesn’t care if you are chaste, and if you are kind and gentle, and you don’t hurt anybody, but if you are just sour, if you are just a whiner and a complainer, and you are mad because there’s something on your plate that you don’t want to eat, you say,“I don’t like that!” Or . . .
Well, I don’t like my job. I know there are people out of work, and people who can hardly afford to do this or that, and people who are starving and getting shot and raped in Syria. But I don’t like my job. God has put me in a place where I am safe, where I have plenty to eat, where nobody is persecuting me. But I just don’t have job satisfaction. So I’m gonna complain about it, and I’m gonna gripe about it, and I’m gonna tell people how mad I am that I have to work this horrible job that makes me do things that I don’t like, that I don’t wanna do.
I am so tired of taking care of these kids, putting up with this husband, putting up with this wife, putting up with this deacon, this pastor.
You know, there are some people in here that come to our church for a while, and then they don’t come for awhile, and that makes me mad. And I’m just going to have a bad day . . .
You can find 100,000 things to complain about. And probably whatever your complaining about, is probably something negative. It’s probably something that, if you objectively look at it, you say, “Yep, that stinks.”
How much better does it get when you wallow in it?
It is like walking along at your chicken farm–which I can say because you’ve got chickens, and I’ve got chickens, most people in this room own some chickens–so you’re walking along at your chicken farm, and you step in something. It’s going to happen! If you own chickens, it’s going to happen. Or if you own a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or anything like that, it’s not “if”, it’s “when”. You are going to step in something. And you ::sniff:: . . . Well, your nose just told you the truth. That is what you stepped in. It’s not lovely, it’s not a rose, it’s not a flower.
And you have two choices. You can go like this [quietly wiping off shoe], and keep walking, and go on with your day. And smile because the sun is shining, and you have family and friends who love you, and you have a church that is faithful to the traditions that God has given us, grateful that you get to be part of His Church, that you weren’t born in a land where they don’t even know the name of Jesus. You get to eat the body of Christ, you get to drink the blood of Christ. You may not be the healthiest, skinniest person in the world, but man, you can walk! Your arms and your legs still work! Your mouth still works, you can still praise God! You’ve got another day! “I don’t know if I have two, but I have another one, and I’m gonna enjoy it! I’m gonna thank God for it! I’m gonna use it to the fullest, I’m gonna be grateful and happy.”
Or, you step in something and you go,
Arghh. How dare those chickens and–and now these are my new shoes, and–argh!–ohhh–ohhh! The smell! Ohh! And I got it on my sock now, and–Ohh–rrraa!–Kick it, and now it’s all over my other shoe–RRRRAAA!
And you just start wallowing in it. And you roll on the floor until it has covered you head to toe, and you are madder than can be, and you go up to other people and you say,
Look at this! I mean, look at this, it’s all over me! See, SMELL THAT! Can you smell that? And I got some on him. . . .
And I just start spreading poop all over, around everybody, everywhere I go, not just the material, but the attitude. And I get angry. And I’m mean to you, and I’m mean to you, and so you decide you’re gonna have a bad day too. And then you go complain to the bishop because of the stuff I just spread all over you when I was showing you that.
Have you ever been guilty of that?
You see, it just starts out as whining in your head. “Oh, I don’t deserve this. I have already been working too hard. And these kids don’t appreciate me enough, and my family doesn’t listen to me. Grrr.”
Well, what are you doing? Whenever you are whining, it’s selfishness. You are saying, “I really deserve better than this. See how good I am? I deserve better than what I got.” All whining starts out as “I deserve better than what I got.”
Repent of your sins, look them squarely in the face, and you will see that you have never received what you deserved. You have gotten it better than you deserve! Your marriage is better than you deserve. Your singleness is better than you deserve. Your job is better than you deserve. Your bank account is better than you deserve. Thank God for it!
When you walk in a world full of chickens, don’t be surprised when you step in something!
But don’t respond by wallowing in it, and complaining about it, and being upset about it, and getting in this bent up, angry, whining sort of attitude that then starts to snap at everybody else. Because, you start off saying,
Well, it’s just me, it’s just me, I’m just complaining about these things, and they are bad things, and I have a right to complain because I deserve better than this!
And the moment that you are in that state of mind, the moment your emotions are there, what happens?
When one human being from your immediate family walks into the same room, not knowing what you are thinking, not knowing how you are feeling, and they say something that is just ever so slightly off of what they should have said . . . “YARRGHH!”
Have you ever snapped at somebody like that?
Did they deserve that?
Well, you’re getting on my last nerve!
Well, that’s because you threw all your other nerves in the trash already. That shouldn’t have been your last nerve. Shame on you for letting your nerves be so frazzled before that person walked in the room. Grow up!
This is church, Father Deacon Joseph. This is a holy day. We are taking the Eucharist. I mean, yeah, maybe in a Bible study we can have a little get together and chat about some of these little things that don’t matter, like complaining, and moaning, and groaning, all that. But come on, we need to focus on the “big sins”. We need to focus on preaching against homosexuality and fornication and adultery, and the stuff that really tears people apart. You know, let’s not focus on this little stuff and make such a big deal out of it.
I’m sorry. The apostle Paul makes such a big deal out of it, that he quotes three sins that they were guilty of. One of those three is fornication, one of those three is complaining, and murmuring, and griping. And according to the apostle Paul, people were destroyed by the destroyer in that early church, because of their griping and complaining.
So, at least according to the weighting that the apostle Paul is giving in this particular chapter, I need to preach just as many sermons against griping as I preach against adultery, because either one of them can lead to the same death.
Let’s be vigilant over our attitudes. Let’s be vigilant over our tongues, over our words. Remember, James chapter three in the New Testament says that as a little helm guides a huge battleship, and steers it wherever you want it to go, so the tongue–this tiny little piece of your body–you may weigh a hundred pounds, you may weight two hundred pounds, you may step on the scale and it says, ‘one at a time please’. Your tongue doesn’t even weigh one pound! It’s tiny, insignificant–but it’s the helm of the ship. Whichever way you turn that tongue is going to guide the whole course of your life.
Our thoughts determine our actions. Our thoughts determine our speech. Out of the treasure of a man’s heart, his mouth speaks. And if you are a griper, if you are a complainer, if you are constantly down in the dumps and upset because you’re not getting your fair share, then that’s because there’s some dirt in here that’s coming out here, out of your mouth.
So, let’s put away those thoughts of discontent. Let’s put away the griping, let’s put away the complaining. Let’s thank God for the families that we have, and the jobs that we have, and the income that we had have, and the food that we have. Let’s encounter our entire day with joy and gratefulness, thankfulness and gratitude. Let’s not be like the Israelites at Meribah and Massah, complaining to God who had just given them so great a deliverance from slavery.
God has given us a far greater deliverance from sin, death, hell, and the devil, as He has baptized us and Chrismated us and has given us holy Communion in his Church, the Ark of Salvation. Let us not commit fornication as they did, and 23,000 fell in one day. Let us not tempt the Lord as they did, and many died. And let us not complain and murmur as they did, and they were destroyed by the destroyer.
If you would guard your soul, if you would guard your eternal life, then you need this sobering reminder that–as necessary as it is–the Eucharist is not enough, for they ate the same spiritual food, they drank the same spiritual drink, yet most of them fell in the wilderness, for God was not pleased with them. And these things were written for our example.
Do you know what the word “Eucharist” means? The Greek word eucharisteō–or to pronounce it correctly: “εὐχαριστέω”–is “thanksgiving”. Remember where it says that on the night in which He was betrayed, that He breaks the bread and it says that He “gave thanks”. Jesus gave thanks and broke the bread and blessed it. Where it says that “He gave thanks”, the Greek word is eucharisteō. That’s where we get the word. Thanksgiving is not just what we should give, thanksgiving is where we get the word “Eucharist”.
Remove your thanksgiving, and you have just sucked the entire heart out of the Eucharist itself. Griping and complaining, and moaning and groaning, and then coming in here and daring to come to the altar and take the Eucharist–the thanksgiving–is like trying to have a spring do saltwater and freshwater at the same time. It is like committing adultery and then coming to the Eucharist. How scandalized would you be if somebody committed adultery last night, and then walked in here this morning and came to the Lord’s table, and took the holy bread and holy wine, the Eucharist, the thanksgiving, the participation in the body and blood of Christ? That is how scandalized you should be at yourself, if you complain, and you gripe, and you moan, and you whine, and then you come to this table of thanksgiving. They are incompatible.
Eucharist means–by its very name in Greek–Eucharist means the opposite of whining and complaining. Eucharist means gratitude. So let us draw near the table with boldness, not because we have lived perfect lives up to this point, but because we recognize our sin, and we repent of our sin, and we weep for our sin. And we come to the table not for judgement or condemnation, but for healing and forgiveness, and that this table of thanksgiving–this Eucharist–may be the basis and the foundation for living out the rest of this day, and this week, and our very lives, in daily constant gratitude, regardless of the situation.
“Rejoice always, and again I say rejoice!” That’s Scripture. It’s a command, it’s not a suggestion. Rejoice always, and again I say rejoice. Live lives of gratitude.
“Well, you may be telling me how to act,
but you have no right to tell me how to feel!”
Sorry, that’s bull. God commands you how to feel, all the time.
Psalm 37: “Delight yourself into the Lord.” That’s a command. Delight yourself–delight–well, you have to feel a certain way to be delighted.
“Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength”–not just your mind, soul, and strength, but with all your heart. You’re going to feel it! You’re going to have a zeal! If you love God with all of your mind, but not with all of your heart, then you’ll be a Calvinist. If you love God with all of your strength, but not with your mind and not with your heart, you might be some other brand of a Protestant. You can go out and do good works with your strength, you can be an egghead and study God’s Word with your mind. But if you’re going to follow that commandment to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you’re also going to have zeal, you’re gonna feel it. The emotion is going to be there. You are going to delight yourself in the Lord. You are going to live lives of gratitude.
We are commanded not to complain.
We are commanded not to murmur.
We are commanded not to feel sorry for ourselves, and to whine.
If you act like that, you are not just unwise, you are disobedient and in rebellion, and in danger of being destroyed by the destroyer.
So let’s come to the table with thanksgiving. Our sins are forgiven! Let us come to the table with gratitude:
I’m surrounded by people who love me and accept me. I’m not going to be be a whiner anymore. I don’t care how much I complained before, I don’t care if I complained yesterday or this morning or a week ago, I’m not doing that anymore.
My life is too short. I going to spend every hour, every day, every minute, in thanksgiving and gratitude. And when I step in something, yes my nose will notice, but I’m just going to wipe it off and keep going, and keep smiling.
And I’m going to choose to look for those things in my life that I am still thankful for, grateful for. And I am going to feel that [gratitude]. I’m not going to wallow in that [complaining], and feel that. I’m going to push that off to the side, and I’m going to thank God again, and again, and again.
Yeah, I may be in the desert, I may not be in the Promised Land yet. I may not be able to eat the onions and and the steaks and all the things that I remember eating back in Egypt. I may look forward to having my own land and farm, and just being able to settle down, and not wander around in the desert anymore. It may be hot outside. The desert sun may be beating down on me. But you know what? I am not going to complain!
I’m going to thank God for the miracles I have seen, for the Eucharist I have participated in, for the Christ who was sent to be my Messiah, who has saved me. I am going to be thankful. I am going to be grateful. I’m going to live life with a feeling, an emotion, and an attitude of thanksgiving.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is one.
This homily was preached on Sunday morning, September 1, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.