Homily – Liturgy as Hard Work (continued)

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 10:1-10; St. Matthew 8:28-9:1
Those of you who know me well, may be surprised that I am not going to preach on the subject of angels and demons, and how the Incarnation of Christ marked the beginning of the end of Satan’s rule on Earth.  Instead, I am going to continue our Summer series designed to deepen our appreciation of the Divine Liturgy.  Specifically, I going to continue the theme of the Liturgy as the “Work of the People”. Just to remind you, it is not work in the sense of “busy work”: it is the way God has ordained for us to participate in the perfection of creation; to allow us to grow into our roles as God’s stewards and imagers here.  Not only is not busy work, nor is it work in the sense of an hourly wage or piece-work; it is the application of a vocation that defines and improves you. A vocation that allows you to contribute to society.
Three implications of this approach:
  1. If this is the work you have been assigned, then this is what you should be doing. Just as every soldier, no matter what their specific specialty is, is an infantryman first, so to every parishioner, no matter what their specific calling is – priest, server, cantor, singer, pincher, janitor, teacher, or leader; every member of our species of homo adorans is a worshipper first. If someone is not good at it, then just as with the poor rifleman, it is a sign that he or she needs to spend more time doing it rather than less.  An army full of well-trained specialists busy doing their own things may look strong on paper, but if all of them have not maintained their common infantry skills then it is not a reliable military force; an active parish full of energetic people busy contributing through the exercise of their own special gifts may be a viable organization, but if all of them do not engage in daily prayer and regular communal worship then it is not a healthy Christian parish.       
  2. If we are not working, then we are hurting ourselves and society. Done properly, work contributes to our perfection and to that of society. We know that unemployment brings incredible temptations, and there is no doubt that a ten percent unemployment rate is harming more than just our nation’s economy.  When people do not work, everyone suffers.  And here I am not really speaking about those who are technically unemployed, but about people who are lazy, people who are content with idleness.   People who are willing to live off the labors of others.  Such people are as common among the employed as the unemployed, among the rich as among the poor.  Laziness – and its corollary sin of ingratitude – is like a poison. This is true not just of our nation, but of our parish. If prayer and worship are our first vocation, the real work that we are called to, what would we say about the health of a parish where the majority of parishioners skipped their morning and evening prayers? Where only half come to Liturgy on any given Sunday, and less than five percent to Festal Liturgies?  If a nation fuller of shirkers and idlers is doomed to collapse, what more could be said of such a parish?
  3. We were made for liturgy; we were made to work.  Work can sometimes be a chore, but we do it anyways. Christ used many parables that teach us how being a good Christian is like being a good worker. Yet for some reason, we think that being good, being perfect, being a Christian, should be easy, and that expending effort at it is something optional and unnecessary. It is ironic that the same person that would never dream of skipping work thinks nothing of skipping prayers or Sunday Liturgy.  We would be concerned about the priorities of the person who regularly blows off work to go to the beach, should we be less concerned about the parishioner who does the same? 
Let me finish with one point: God is love and we are to grow in love.  Love is only one part feeling and nine parts duty and devotion.  If we are to learn to love, then we must learn to work. Yes, the Liturgy is simultaneously the work of the people and the means of its perfection.