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Homily for 6/20/10 - P4 - submit to the power of God

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 8:5-13 Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey .
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 20, 2010
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      Matthew 8:5-13

      "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For
      there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea
      obey". So spoke King Canute the Great, the legend says, seated on his
      throne on the seashore, waves lapping round his feet. Canute had learned
      that his flattering courtiers claimed he was "So great, he could command
      the tides of the sea to go back". Now Canute was not only a religious
      man, but also a clever politician. He knew his limitations - even if his
      courtiers did not - so he had his throne carried to the seashore and sat
      on it as the tide came in, commanding the waves to advance no further.
      When they didn't, he had made his point that, though the authority of
      kings might appear 'great' in the minds of men, it was as nothing in the
      face of God's power and authority. King Canute clearly demonstrated to
      his people and to us that while a man may have some authority over his
      own affairs, he must recognize God’s power and authority and submit to
      it willingly.

      This same lesson of the power and authority of God and man is given to
      us today in the Gospel. This centurion, a pagan, but also a pious man in
      his own way, had a great deal of earthly authority. He commanded not
      only the military company of a hundred men, but as the commander of such
      great force, he also ruled over all those who lived under the power of
      that company – and in this case that included our Lord Jesus Christ. As
      the military commander, he had complete authority over his soldiers and
      he could order them to compel everyone else to do as he wished. He had
      absolute authority over the affairs of all the people in his district.
      But this centurion was also a wise man for he recognized the limits of
      his authority, he knew that he could not simply be a dictator, but that
      there were times to set aside his authority and act instead of out of
      compassion and humility. This we see in the events of the Gospel, for
      one of the servants of the commander became ill, so sick that he was
      dying. The centurion had heard from the Jews of this rabbi, this
      teacher, who was also able to work miracles healing the sick, giving
      sight to the blind and even raising the dead. In such a person the
      centurion recognized that here was a power greater than his own. While
      he could have simply ordered the soldiers to find this rabbi, Jesus, and
      bring him to the bed of the sick man and order him to heal, the
      centurion saw that such a display of power was empty and foolish – as
      empty as King Canute ordering the tide not to come in as it began to lap
      about his feet. Therefore he chose a different path.

      The actions of the centurion first demonstrate for us the power of love
      and compassion. This servant who was ill could not in any meaningful way
      repay the centurion for his efforts. The centurion acted instead out of
      love and compassion for his servant, reaching out to obtain whatever
      care was necessary simply out of compassion, not expecting anything in
      return. There was nothing this sick servant could give his master that
      the centurion could not already command for himself. But the centurion
      set aside his own position, set aside his own interests and instead took
      compassion on his servant expecting nothing in return. This is like the
      love of God for us. He sees that we are sick unto death with the disease
      of sin and out of His compassion and love for us, while we were yet
      sinners, set aside the glory of His divinity and became man so that He
      might destroy the sin which had infected us and which held us captive
      and prevented us from enjoying His love and the grace which He pours out
      upon us.

      The centurion also models for us our own response to God’s love and the
      necessity of setting aside our own pretensions, our own self interest,
      our own efforts and acting instead in humility, trusting in the power of
      God. The centurion knew the nature of power and authority – that within
      his competency, he did not have to do anything himself but could simply
      order it done: saying to this man, “go here” and he goes or to this man
      “come” and he comes or to another “do this” and he does it. He also knew
      that Jesus had a power greater than his own, for while he could order
      men about, Jesus had the authority to command the forces of the world.
      In Jesus the centurion saw not a worldly power but the power of God.
      Thus the centurion humbled himself before Jesus Christ, and came himself
      before Christ as one who was summoned and did not command Jesus to heal
      but asked that he might do so. And when Jesus agreed and set out to
      follow the centurion to his home, the centurion humbled himself even
      further claiming that he was not worthy that Jesus should come to his
      house, but rather he knew that his authority and power were such that he
      had only to say the word and all would be done. The centurion not only
      humbled himself, but exhibited complete faith and trust in Christ. He
      did not demand that Jesus heal his servant and even when Jesus agreed to
      do so, the centurion did not demand or insist upon any certain method or
      show, but rather trusted that all that was necessary was the word of
      authority and all would be done. The centurion demanded no proof, no
      verification, no authentication – but rather accepted in faith that the
      word of Christ was sufficient. He willingly received all that God gave
      in the manner in which it was given.

      This for us is instrumental in shaping our own faith and trust in God.
      We heard not many weeks ago that our Lord said to us that we need not
      worry about what to eat or drink, what to wear, or for any worldly need
      but that if we first seek after the Kingdom of God, that He will provide
      our worldly needs. We hear this, but too often we do not believe this.
      We think that we must control our own affairs, that we know best how to
      get what we need in this world. We “pray” and tell God what kind and how
      much food we want and what type of drink to give to us. We describe to
      God in great detail the particular fashion of clothing that we “need” to
      wear and demand that He order his provision for us according to our
      desires. We do not trust God to give us what we need, instead we tell
      him what we want and demand that he give us those things instead. We
      expend our energy and put forth our own efforts on ordering our lives in
      this world as we see fit rather than focusing on obtaining the things of
      the Kingdom of God. Remember Job, the longsuffering servant of God. Job
      was given many gifts by God in this world, riches, a great house,
      flocks, children and the respect of his peers. But then, these things
      were lost, the riches were lost, the house destroyed, the flocks died
      off and his children were killed. Even his former friends came to gloat
      over his ruin. But Job did not lose faith in God’s care and provision,
      but put all of his hope and trust in God. Job did not make demands of
      God, but rather said, “the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be
      the name of the Lord.” He set aside his own ideas of what he needed, and
      instead accepted from God that which God gave.

      We too should follow the example of the centurion and of the righteous
      Job. Rather than demand this or that from God, rather than expend all
      our effort on making sure our worldly affairs are in order, we can
      simply trust God that He will provide for us as He sees fit according to
      our needs. We will exert ourselves instead in the work of prayer and
      denying ourselves. We will take up our cross and follow Christ (rather
      than demand that He follow us). If we do this, if we place a priority on
      seeking first the kingdom of God, then He will provide for us all that
      we need and in such a manner that we will not only meet our earthy needs
      but we will also build up treasure in heaven.

      Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the centurion of the Gospel and
      trust God to do that which He has promised us to do and in return let us
      humble ourselves and relinquish our own authority and control and place
      ourselves completely in the hands of our merciful and compassionate
      Lord. This is that great faith in God, when we believe that He can and
      will care for us and we abandon ourselves into His love and compassion.


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