“The Goal of Abiding With Him”
July 17, 2016: The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 11)
Genesis 18: 1 - 10a/Psalm 15/Colossians 1: 15 – 23/Luke 10: 38 – 42
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
Worshipping God is always corporate. No one lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. Psalm 68 says that only the rebellious dwell on a lonely place. For such a time like this, God has placed us in this wonderful Church, this wonderful work that He has provided for us. We are here today living and we are here for a purpose.
God has blessed us this day. The whole purpose of Christianity is so that we may be conformed to the image of Christ. What Christ did is from His whole heart. The love, the concern, and the joy for each other is what we have. Sunday is not an obligation anymore but it is something that we delight to do because it is God who is at work in our lives. We are not here just to see our friends. There is a divine mandate that always flow from the Throne of which our actions spring forth.
In our day and age today, many things are happening – in Turkey and in Nice, France and even in the United States. What does this have to do with us living today? We are a part of a fabric of humanity that God is weaving together. Our presence here, standing before the Throne, is an intercession for all the needs of the world. Our presence here not only affects our spiritual life, but it also affects each and every one in this Body, in this place today, and also for the eons of time that will take place. We do not come here just for personal motivations. We are here because God placed us here and our life and our presence is very vital in the kingdom of God.
July 16, 1054 was the time when the great schism took place where the Eastern and Western Church, after 1000 years of being united, suddenly split. On July 16, 1993, our then Patriarch, from the Western Church, and our then Primate, met together in Oklahoma City in order that we can be a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. The healing came forth. God ordained that day for that reunion. July 16, 1990 was also the time of the great earthquake in Baguio which had a lot of devastation. I couldn’t forget this date because I just came from our Church in Hong Kong and because of the emergency, I had to move from one suitcase to another. I had to rush to Baguio with the whole team from the Cathedral of Praise and from the Christian Life Fellowship and we had to pass through Naguilan road which took us nine to ten hours of travel.
If we look at these events, what do they have to do with us today? They are not just isolated events that happened in our lives. There was a purpose. Who would have known that in 1993 when the two Patriarchs met, that it would affect our lives today? What happened then has always a connection with what is happening today in our lives. It is one thread that God, the Master Craftsman, is weaving in our lives together as a family. There must always be love because no one is really estranged from each other. We all belong to one God, one Creator, and one Father.
In Psalm 15:1, in the NASB translation, it is a question that the Psalmist asks, “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?” In the Message translation, it says, “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?” Is it something that we would like to be in? Do we want to be invited to the feast that He celebrates every time? God has a guest list and only those whom He invited come. This is why we are here today. We responded to the guest list and God says that we are here together for this. We sometimes take for granted our Christian life and we think that it is a mundane day to day responsibility. It is not just a religious experience. It is a celebration. That which we have in the Eucharist is a foretaste of what we will be having and enjoying for the rest of eternity, for years, forever and ever without end.
Abiding in Him leads us to another question: why is abiding in God so vital and so important in our lives today? This is our theme for this Sunday: The Goal of Abiding in Him. To abide is to live, to dwell, and to remain and wait expectantly as something exciting is about to take place. In one translation, to abide means to maintain a living communion. We are not just a physical guest, but we are participating in an event that is going to take place. There is an interaction that takes place: my life for yours so that your life may be mine.
There are two events in our readings today that will help us understand the importance of abiding in God. Our gospel today is about Jesus in the company of two sisters. Seemingly, these two women are varying in their disposition and temperament. Martha has always been pictured as one who is busy with the menial tasks at home. This is physical work that keeps many people busy and occupied. Mary was a picture of a woman who was spiritual, spending time at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him. Many teachings in the past had come forth from this short incident of Martha and Mary. Most of the time, there is the emphasis on the virtue of Mary spending time with the Lord and we put down the virtue of Martha of being a busy body.
Look at this situation in the context of abiding in Christ and the value of abiding. The picture of Martha and Mary are not two separate individuals, but one person that is in you and in me. It is one person that needs to acknowledge the necessity of both this earthly life. It is not just spending time with the Lord, but it also involves the physical and practical action also. Our lives, as human beings, find its source in the time we spend with God in our daily devotions – our quiet time with Him; our personal meditation of Scriptures and other spiritual exercises that have very little physical endeavors, if any. Our lives today also involve tasks and work that necessitates a lot of bodily and physical activity – waking up; going to school or to work; doing chores at home. There are physical activities that have to be accomplished because there are responsibilities that this natural world has brought into each of us.
Abiding in Christ involves both elements. It needs the calm and the still personality of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, spending time with Him in total peace and tranquility. Maybe, we lack this in this hurried society that we are in, which is why there was so much emphasis in it. Abiding in Christ also involves physical action. We cannot run away from this. People depend on us for their livelihood. There are physical actions like what Martha did to complete the whole picture of abiding; therefore, completing one fabric in our lives as the people of God.
In Genesis 18, the setting shows Abraham in his residence of the oaks of Mamre village in Canaan land. The timing of the story shows Abraham in the patio of his house unmindful of the things that is happening, thinking perhaps about his wife, Sarah, and the events that had happened from the time he left Ur. It was during the heat of the day, noonday probably, that shows the significance of the intensity of the event at that time. Why was there the intensity as Abraham was visited by three men, who comes and sojourns and stays with him? This was the time in Genesis 17 when Abraham’s name was Abram, and he entered into a covenant with God. The right of circumcision was established and God specified the details of the covenant and it was laid out to him. Abraham not just received a visit from God but received his mission order in life. “This is what your life is going to be, Abraham. You are not going to live it according to your life and purpose. You will no longer be Abram, exalted father in your clan, but you will now be Abraham, the father of many nations.” He was now being prepped to become the patriarch of a race of men, of a whole family of people, who will establish the kingdom of God on earth.
This is an awesome mission! To become the head of a race and that which hinges on this race is the hope of God’s plan for all eternity. This is not just a tea party that Abraham had with three men. It had a connection with his mission order. Abraham was going to establish the kingdom of God on earth. The people will be a model for all nation of the earth. God said to Abraham, “As for Me, Abraham, behold My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of the multitude of nations; and I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations out of you, and kings shall come forth from you.”
If you were called and God said, “You will be the grandfather of the next President of the Philippines; you will be the grandmother of the next head of the United Nations. You will be the ancestor of the scientist who will discover the cure for aids and cancer. The next nation that will be birth in Europe, your son will be the Prime Minister,” we won’t take these lightly. Look at the tremendous weight on Abraham’s shoulders that this mandate had on him. It was a big task and he was going to set that course. Abraham embarks on this, and this was history in the making.
Fathers, husbands, do you know your mission order from God? Have you thought of the great responsibility that is on your shoulders to lead the family? You may not like be Israel or Abraham, but still, your children, one day, will make a mark in society. How they will depends on how you bring them up. Before you got married, did you ever pondered and paused, “What is this going to mean? I am going to start a family, a race.” It is not just about romance. Young men and young ladies who are waiting for a spouse, it is not just about having a ‘jowa’ and being in the Instagram with your picture together. It is more than just having Facebook to occupy your time. It is about the future of your race. In your loins, young men, is the hope of this society and this country.
Has God visited you already? The better question is: have you heeded His visitation in your life? Do you really value the time, the words, and the readings that you have as if God is saying, “I am prepping you for this awesome responsibility that you will have to face one day.” Why are you taking that course? Why are you in that job? It is not just an accident or because you are smart or someone led you. God’s hand is always there with you and you must never forget this.
Students, professionals, businessmen, and whatever present occupation you have, have you had a visitation from God? You ignore and belittle your present occupations. Tomorrow is another work week. Tomorrow is another school week. For those on vacation, tomorrow is another time for ‘gimmicks’. You belittle those times, but yet, they deserve attention.
We are like Abraham in the very crossroads of our life where God is saying, “Who will abide in My tent? Who will dwell in My holy hill?” Do we realize how serious, how intense, how profound each of our responsibilities is? We need to begin by abiding in Him. We need to see the visitation of God in our lives is to see the equipment we need to handle the task ahead. Abiding in Him involves what Abraham did, what Martha did. Scriptures said that Abraham welcomed the men; Martha welcomed Jesus. It is an attitude of expectancy. It is an attitude of desire that delights and longs for the courts of the Lord – ready to provide even in those undisturbed moments with Him.
Many times, we see our relationship with God as what I call “necessary nuisance”. It may be disturbing us but something is needed to be done. This is why we get irritated. We see coming to Church as a necessary nuisance. It is an obligation that we need to fulfill. Why do we get upset when we are told to do something at home? This is because we have already set our own schedule and we get mad because we don’t welcome those times of abiding. A time that sets our schedule haywire is a nuisance, including time with God.
We must welcome the responsibilities that God puts on our shoulder to come to Him. We must welcome these moments. It is the awareness of our priorities to our day to day activities. It is not neglecting the essential daily Bread provided by God as nourishment for our souls. Abiding in God is not a disturbance. Being here during the time of receiving the Eucharist is not a disturbance. It is a quality time we have in God.
Many times, we look at events in our lives and we must change our perspective. Some husbands rejoice when they find out that their wives are pregnant. One time in my life, I was involved in many crusades in many cities, one after the other, and at the same time, having many church ministries of counseling and bible studies. Suddenly, my wife said, “I am pregnant.” I wondered how it came to be because of my busyness. I lived literally from the suitcase and I have already suffered from diapers from my first child and have memorized the cost of milk, but my reaction was not of negativity, but of rejoicing. We welcomed it. It is a responsibility that God puts in our lives to be part of His plan. We must begin to see that every child that is sired, every child that is brought forth from the family is a potential seed of greatness for the kingdom of God. It is not a burden; it is a blessing! Yes, it is hard, but it the tough that makes things great. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The hardness and toughness of anything we do is what makes things great.
Martha welcomed Jesus. Abraham welcomed the visitation and it was not a disturbance in his life. They were aware of the essentials of the visitation. God is patient to wait for us. He is ever faithful to meet us. It was not Abraham’s preparation that made it happen. It was not his busyness that brought the visitors. He did not drum it up. It was not Martha’s efforts that made Jesus come to her home. God showed up even before the performance of Abraham and Martha.
We have a tendency to think that we are responsible to make an event happen. We think that it is our efforts, our efficiency and our excellence that causes things to bear fruit. It is not our ability, but God’s ability. It is God in us. It is God who is the Source of all things. The performances we do, the responses we make are just the means to the end. The end is to abide with Him forever. This is what we will be doing one day. We will spend time with Him. It will no longer be a nuisance. It will no longer be some disturbing event after we have planned our schedules. No, it is going to be something delightful. We will welcome it and we must see it work.
In Colossians 1, outlined and pictured in this reading is Jesus Christ who is the very Source of our lives. Jesus is the very reason that we have Eucharist. Jesus is the reason why we live, we move, and have our being. Once we understand Colossians 1, our lives will find stability. No matter what happens in our lives, whatever challenges we face, even the most tragic event that we can think of, will not compare to the greatness of the love of Christ.
In the Message Translation of Colossians 1:15-20, “15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.”
You will never go through a day without putting 2016. 2016 means the years after Christ came. Every date in the calendar is Christ.
21-23 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message.”
This is Christ! We feel our problem and we may feel dislocated but Christ is going to fit it all in. Don’t worry. He is in-charge and He cares for us. We cannot run away from that gift. We need to stay steadfast in our commitments because He is there and He is going to fix everything. If we think that our Church went through a troubled time, don’t worry for this is His church – not mine, not yours or not the Bishop’s. This is Christ’s Church. He is going to fix it and He will and He is fixing it because He is working in our lives.
This is abiding in Him and this is what God wants us to see in our lives today, Amen!