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556homily for 9/8/13 - P11 - supporting the clergy

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  • David
    Sep 10, 2013
      1Cor 9:2-12

      The responsibility of the Apostle – as well as that of the bishop and
      other members of the clergy – is to nurture the new life in Christ in
      the believers and to facilitate the formation of the new society that is
      the Church, the Body of Christ. To this end, we heard today not only of
      the importance, but of the necessity of taking care of one another. Any
      society gains its identity and cohesion through the process of the
      mutual effort of taking care of its members – and the society of the
      Church is no different. The Church is different from other societies in
      that it deals not only in the material and physical well being of its
      members but also in their spiritual and eternal well being. While all
      other societies are bound to this world and function only within the
      limits of time and place, the Church extends its concern into eternity.
      The Apostle today reminds us of this by describing how the Church
      supports those who serve within her.

      The Apostles and others who devote their lives wholly to the care of the
      spiritual well being of the members of the Church must be supported by
      the other members of the Church – by those who receive that care.
      Indeed, the Apostle begins today by pointing out how it is that his own
      success and worthiness is measured. He says to the members of the Church
      in Corinth that they are, “the seal of his apostleship” meaning that
      those who wish to judge him must look at the spiritual condition of
      those who live under his care. If their spiritual condition is good,
      then he is an effective apostle because that is his task, to nurture
      that spiritual condition, bringing the members of the Church out of the
      society of the world and establishing them in the heavenly Kingdom.
      Even though the primary life of the Church is spiritual, we still do
      exist in the world and so it is necessary that we provide for the
      material needs of the Church as well. Just as there are those, like the
      apostles and the other members of the clergy, who are called to provide
      primarily for the spiritual needs of the Church so we are also all
      called to provide for the material needs of the Church (in this case
      including the material support of the clergy). In order to accomplish
      this it is necessary that we all give of our material goods to the
      Church. While the Church is indeed universal and we are bound to one
      another by ties that transcend time and place, it is the primary
      responsibility of each local congregation or parish to provide for its
      own local need. That means that this parish is the responsibility of
      those of us who are a part of it. We are responsible for providing the
      material needs of this local community. We are responsible for
      supporting the clergy who look after our spiritual needs, and we are
      responsible for supporting the temple in which we worship. We are also
      responsible for caring for one another so that if one is hungry or
      homeless or in some other need – it is our responsibility before God to
      provide for that person.

      We who are part of the Church belong to a society which is not part of
      the world, but which, nevertheless, exists within the world. While it is
      not wrong to use the resources of the world to achieve this mutual care,
      it is still our responsibility and to relinquish that responsibility to
      the world is wrong. In the worldly society to which we all belong (that
      is to our nation, our state, our city) we contribute a portion of our
      personal wealth (usually through some form of taxation) towards the
      provision of our common needs (law enforcement, trash removal, roads and
      other infrastructure, the social welfare programs, etc). In the heavenly
      society to which we in the Church belong, we also contribute our
      personal wealth (willingly – not as a fee or tax) to provide for the
      common welfare of the Church. This includes not only our material
      wealth, but also our spiritual wealth. Later in this same letter to the
      Church in Corinth, the Apostle emphasizes that the Church is like a body
      with different members fulfilling different functions, but all belonging
      to one another and depending on one another. We all give what we have
      and do those things which we have the ability and opportunity to do and
      receive as well the fruits of the labors of all the other members of the
      body so that together we proceed to realize our true place in the
      Kingdom of Heaven.

      As we mentioned before, it is not wrong to use the resources that our
      worldly society provides for us to meet the needs of those in the
      Church. Thus in some places the worldly society (that is the government)
      has provided funds for the support of the Church and for the clergy. The
      danger, of course, is that the Church can then be co-opted by the very
      worldly government which provides for its support. The greater danger is
      that the people of the local parish lose the awareness that in the end
      the support and well-being of the local parish is our responsibility. In
      this time and place, we have avoided this danger for there is no
      government support for the needs of the Church or for the support of the
      clergy. The responsibility falls squarely upon our shoulders. But there
      is another danger that we face and that is the danger of neglect and
      parasitism. Living in the world and being surrounded by the world, even
      though we are not part of the world, it is easy to be overcome by the
      worldly values and seeming importance of worldly things. We begin to
      evaluate the Church from a worldly point of view and evaluate our
      participation in the Church according to how we benefit from it in a
      worldly way. And so we shift our resources away from the Church and
      provide for things that seem more personally profitable (in worldly
      terms). We only give to the Church out of our own excess – money and
      time that we have left over from our more “important” worldly pursuits.
      In this way we neglect the Church. The additional danger that we face
      then is spiritual parasitism – those who benefit from the Church and
      draw from her spiritual riches but contribute nothing, or only
      minimally. While we avoid the danger of being “co-opted” by the values
      and mission of an outside supporter, we must also avoid the dangers of
      neglect and spiritual parasitism.

      In order to avoid all these dangers, it is necessary to maintain the
      true vision of our own nature as creatures of both a physical and
      spiritual nature. We cannot forget that we were created not only to live
      in this world, but to move through this world, having made use of this
      life to prepare for our life in eternity. Our purpose is to use this
      worldly life and its goods to acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit and
      by that grace to be transformed, entering into eternity where we live in
      union and communion with God. Any other purpose or goal is a distant
      second to this and while we maintain that vision of who we are and to
      what we are destined, all else becomes subservient to that vision. But
      when we allow that vision, that awareness of our true nature, to wane,
      then worldly cares flood in and cloud and cover that vision replacing it
      with the false visions of worldly comfort and glory and success.

      We are the members of a new society, one that transcends the world. We
      live in the world but are not part of it. We are only “passing through”
      this world so that we might use what the world gives us for our
      spiritual benefit. Those things that we receive from the world, we bring
      to the Church and lay them at the disposal of the whole community and as
      the Apostle reminds us, having given material things of limited and
      perishable value , we receive in return spiritual wealth that is eternal
      and beyond value. This is the opportunity that God has given us here and
      now – to support this parish, to care for one another, to give of our
      wealth, our time, our abilities, of all that we possess in this
      perishable world and in return we receive spiritual riches, the
      invaluable grace of God and with them we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
      Let us never forget who we really are – we are the children of God and
      He is calling us into an eternal life of union and communion with Him.
      Let us therefore not get stuck in this world and trapped by the values
      and things of this world, rather let us give freely of what God has
      given to us in this world so that we might receive freely the spiritual
      riches of eternity.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org