I have an annual teaching assignment at St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur for the past several years. This year I was here from 13th to 26th of October (2019). I conducted Holy Qurbana on 17th where I gave a brief homily. On 20th I gave another sermon on the text prescribed for the sixth Sunday after the feast of the Cross (St. Luke 18:18-27). I have already published the text of the sermon on my Facebook page. This video is with the audio of the sermon with some pictures from the day.
Here is the Text and you will find below the video made with pictures from the day and the audio of the sermon
A Quest (Luke 18:18 to 27).
Today is the Sixth Sunday after the feast of the Cross and the Gospel lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Luke chapter 18 verses 18 through 27.
This is another quest story in the Gospel according to St. Luke, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life” that was the question, a question from a ruler. Incidentally quest story is a type of Pronouncement story.
Actually the periscope ends only at v. 30. But Church that wants to make a point about God’s strengthening in our weakness, to end it at 27. May be the situation the disciples were in, as Paul talks regarding his poverty (1 Cor. 4:11) brought this passage in to memory.
We are not told what kind of ruler he was, may be an officer in the Roman government, I don’t know.
We have parallel passages in Mark 10 and Matthew 19. There are slight differences in the story-line among three Gospels. In Luke the person is a ruler, for Matthew and Mark it was ‘certain person,. The person calls Jesus “Good Teacher” in Mark and Luke. Matthew omits that salutation. Even though Matthew does not put the word “good” in the mouth of the person, the reply includes an answer to ‘good’ as if the person was asking about ‘goodness’. In Luke and Mark Jesus’ reply starts in the form of a question asking him, “why do you call me good as God alone is good”. Matthew who wanted to present Jesus as Messiah can not add that statement as he always wanted to tell his readers that Jesus was Messiah and God. For Luke this does not bring in any confusion as He has already pointed out to his listeners that “one has to love God alone” in Luke 4:8 in response to the challenger after Jesus’ 40 days fasting. Probably here Jesus gives more credit to his incarnate personality than his divinity.
Another difference is that while in Mark (v. 22) and Matthew (v.22) the person goes away after the reply from Jesus. But in Luke, though the ruler became sad at Jesus’ reply, did not go away rather stayed back to listen to all the comments Jesus made, Peter’s confession and following comment from Jesus.
Luke has another Quest story in 10:25 ff. on the question of a lawyer again who sought eternal life. In Ch. 10, the person starts with a negative mood of testing, but ends with a positive mood of leading it to further question replied through the parable of the Samaritan’s noble gesture. Our story starts with a positive mood of calling Jesus good, but ends in a negative tone saying he was sad.
We don’t know what made this ruler come to Jesus, also not sure how he understood ‘eternal life’. He seems to be well versed in the law codes of Jewish religion and has been living a religious life with all the commandments faithfully followed. But probably still not sure of its effect in his life that would lead to eternal life. Performing the religious prescriptions do not many a time satisfy people and do not help them face situations of challenge.
This is a challenge before us the Church too. Our outdated prescriptions which do not meet the needs of people in different situations may make them unhappy and not sure of their welfare. That may lead to they move away to other denominations and religious communities. The result is that we fail in our ministry, not to talk about losing number.
Question about better tomorrow both religious and secular are always before us humans as an important life issue. People always ask ‘what is the way out’?
The answer given by Jesus as I look at it is “be Kenotic” - be emptied. This is the basis of Christian life in its essence.
The ruler was asked to do three things, sell, give and follow; sell all his property, give them to the poor and finally follow Jesus. In effect he had to give up both his property and his ruler job to follow Jesus. But the question would be what happens next? Will this person become a penniless, homeless roadside dweller?
I don’t think ‘Kenosis’ has to be understood in terms of walking on the street empty handed with just one piece of cloth.
Rather it has to be denial of the self and becoming a public person (even Christian theology has become public theology now) recognizing the fact that what he has is not quite what belongs to him and what he thinks he was in fact was because of God and many others. I don’t think Peter quite understood the matter, but was quick to say he and the fellow disciples followed the rule (Vs. 27, 28)
If a person had to leave home, parents, relatives and become a vagabond, then the primary blessing given to creation by God, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1: 28) will not be in effect.
What Jesus did on earth was Kenosis. He submitted Himself in to the hands of God for the sake of the whole creation and got His person back resurrected in three days, that every one can Now have a taste of it (Luke 23:46). At the same time we should bear in mind that on death Jesus did not forget to entrust his mother in to the hands of his favorite disciple.
This is our challenge, today we are going to have the body and blood of our Lord in the form of bread and wine. It will become our nutrition to both body and spirit. Think for a moment how many people were there behind these two things before it came to us in the form of two edible and holy substances. There are numerous people involved in making this to our mouth, starting with the person who prepared the field to saw the wheat seed and to plant the grape vine until we the clergy who would administer them to you. In such case can anyone say it was my piece of bread or can I say when I administer it, it was I who gave it to you? The cloth I wear in fact is the final product of lot of people’s labor. I am a clergyman because people in Thrissur diocese elected me and they consider me as their shepherd. When I travel an reach a place, I call back home and say I arrived safe. But that safe arrival was because of lot of people’s intended or un-intended cooperation that helped me arrive safe. Just a dog that wanted to cross the road could have made me to hospital bed than to my destination. The list is not exhaustive. The room we live in, the racket with which we play badminton, the water we drink all have numerous stories of hard toil to share.
This is Christianity, recognizing the fact that, there is nothing I can claim that it belongs to me, or I earned it or I occupy this position. Here is a call to Kenosis or a call to be follower of Jesus Christ who gave the classical example of Kenosis. Infact He Himself is Kenosis. When we recognize the fact that what we are and what we claim we have are because of our Lord and a million elements in this wide created world it will make us humble and emptied or Kenotic and just be sharing and caring. Empty ourselves from the pride of what we think we have, what we think we know, what we think we are. Let us understand we are just one before the mercy of the Almighty and among trillions in participation. This is “Eternal Life”. If it is hard for one to be like this, what one can do is, say, “God help me” (V. 27) Amen.