Living in Harmony with the Lord

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Living in Harmony with the Lord
Saturday of the 6th Week of Pascha
7 June, 2008
Acts 20:7-12 ; John 14:10-21

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

When our Saviour is saying today that even greater works than the works that He does, we shall be doing, He is saying this not only to the apostles, but He is saying this to us, to the whole Church. Therefore, we should be doing such works. If we are not, then why not ?

Our Saviour is addressing, for instance, the very occasion concerning the Apostle Paul which we just encountered. When the Apostle was preaching, some young man fell down three stories from a window. When someone falls down three stories, that person usually dies (although some do not). We see that this particular young man was taken up dead.

However, the Apostle Paul knew the will of the Father, and this is what is really important. When he ran downstairs to the young man and picked him up, he knew that this young man was not ready to die. He was taken up alive through the prayers of the holy Apostle. At the end it is said : “and they were not a little comforted”. I love this sort of understatement (it is almost a Canadian or British way of speaking). I can imagine how the parents of that young man or his family would have felt after the shock of his being killed in the fall, and then his being restored to life. It is such a wonderful understatement.

Greater things than these will you be doing, says our Lord to us. He also says (to paraphrase) : “If you ask Me for anything in My Name, I will give it to you”. In this case, all sorts of people understand these words as meaning that God is, as it were, some sort of cosmic cow, attached to some giant, cosmic milking-machine. We seem to be under the delusion that we just have to do things the right way, and we will get from God whatever we want. There are all sorts of people on television and on the radio who seem to talk like this : they appear to think that this is how God gives things. When we dare to treat God like that – just ask for anything, and it will come, if we only know how to ask it in the right way — we usually get something much darker instead. We receive not from God, but from below, from the opposition, from the powers of darkness instead. It appears for a while that what we receive might be coming from God, but it is ultimately coming from below.

Why am I saying these things ? Well, because, for the most part, we do not know what to ask for, or how to ask for anything from the Lord. This is because what we are asking for is usually from a quite self-centred motivation. What we seem really to be saying altogether is : “Give me ; give me ; give me this, this, and that. I will be good if You give me this ; I will be good if You give me that. I will do this for You if you give me that. Just give this nice thing to me (whatever it is)”. This is not at all what the Lord is talking about when He is saying : “'Whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do'”.

If we are going to ask something from the Lord, our hearts have to be attuned to the Lord and His love, in order to know what to ask rightly. This is where we all tend to get lost, because we are so distracted in our lives. Our lives are so busy and so self-preoccupied that we do not take the time to listen to the Lord, to hear what He is saying to us about what is right, so that we can ask rightly. We do not listen to our hearts properly so that our hearts, like the hearts of Adam and Eve before the Fall, will ask instinctively for what is right.

Adam and Eve before the Fall were in complete harmony with the Lord. They knew what to ask. Their hearts instinctively asked for what is right. They knew what was good for them because the Holy Spirit, the Grace of God, was in them, and they understood. Their hearts understood. They were always asking for what was right, and getting what was right – until they got distracted, until they turned in on themselves. Since then we have been in a mess.

Some human beings actually do manage by God’s mercy and by God’s Grace to come to the place where they can truly know God’s will, and know how to ask for what is right. Then, in fact, whatever they ask, God gives because it is always what God wants to give to His people. They are asking for what they need without any self-interest, without any distraction, and in harmony with God’s will. This is the hard part for us (especially in these days) — to be able to come to the point of stillness with the Lord, knowing the Lord, putting the Lord first above everything, having Him as the sole focus and purpose of our lives, and then being able in that context to do everything in accordance with His will, in accordance with His love.

Today, when our Lord is talking about keeping His commandments, He is speaking of them in the context of His love. He is speaking about how this loving relationship with Him produces our living in accordance with His commandments. When we are talking about these commandments, we are talking really about the Ten Commandments, and the commandment of love that summarises them. The commandments are an expression of how a person who lives in love and harmony with the Lord, will live.

An expression of exactly what our Lord is talking about today in the Gospel is found in the Apostle Paul’s action in the middle of the night when he is preaching, and the young man falls out of the window, and the Apostle takes him up alive from the dead. This is because the Apostle Paul was living in accordance with those words that our Saviour gave to the apostles and to us this morning. It is for us to learn how to do this as well : to put the Lord first. The problem with this sort of learning is that it is not intellectual learning. It is learning in the heart. It is a much longer process. It is a much more difficult process. However, it is not an impossible process.

Let us ask the Lord to renew our love and confidence in Him, so that we can come at least a step or two closer to being like the Apostle Paul and the other apostles who were able to live in such harmony. Like the other saints, also, by whom we are surrounded on these walls, with our hearts in harmony with the Lord, may we be able more and more to do His will as our beloved Saint Herman of Alaska says : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”, and glorify the all-holy Trinity : Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.