11 November, 2012
Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Church
Dedication of the Church
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22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.
23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.
24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.
26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
30 I and My Father are one.”
31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.
32 Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?”
33 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?
35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),
36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;
38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”
by Rev. Fr. M. K. Kuriakose, Philadelphia
Scripture: St. John 10: 22-38
The second Sunday of the liturgical year is named Hoodos Eetho Sunday or the Sunday of the dedication of the Church. This follows the sanctification of the Church. Both sanctification and dedication are two meaningfully related actions. Once the Church is sanctified, it should be dedicated. In fact, in the Orthodox terminology, both sanctification or consecration and dedication are used interchangeably.
When a new church building is consecrated, we used the word either ‘dedication’ or ‘consecration’. Dedication by its literal meaning makes a lot of sense as an act that should follow sanctification. A sanctified place, person or institution should be dedicated or set apart for fulfilling its goals and objectives. Without a mind of dedication, a sanctified entity will not fulfill its function. Often it has been a huge challenge to us Christians as we sanctify our homes by housewarming, persons by baptism, church building by consecration and so on but fail to comply with the call to sanctification because of the lack of dedication.
This reminds us of the parable our Lord said in St. Matthew 11and St. Luke 12 about a man from whom an unclean spirit departed looking for places to inhabit and finds none and came back to see that the place he left is still kept clean and decorated but not inhabited by anyone. The unclean spirit brought seven other spirits more wicked than himself to inhabit in that place. That man’s condition became worse than before.
If the man were able to dedicate his life to goodness, the evil spirit would not have come back. One of the reasons that God cannot use the sanctified community is that the community is not dedicated. Just imagine if we as a Church did show some dedication how much difference we would have made in serving the Lord! Baptized members find it difficult to do justice to their call to sanctification; ordained clergy finds it difficult to carry out their duties and so on. All these we see are due to lack of dedication to the call.
In the passage from the Gospel there is reference to ‘festival of dedication’ of the Jerusalem temple at the time of Maccabees during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes the Syrian King who desecrated the Temple. It was under the leadership of the Maccabees that the Temple was rededicated. Thus, the dedication of the Jerusalem temple became a festival signifying the importance of the holiness of the Temple.
St. Paul in I Corinthians asks, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (3:16). Yes, we are the holy temple of God. God should be installed in that temple. The holy Jerusalem temple was desecrated by the Syrian king by offering a swine on the holy altar. Wrong things we do in our life desecrate our body, which is the temple of God. These days it became a fashion to desecrate the human body with several kinds of drug, sex, mutilation, alcohol etc. abusive behavior. The Church as the Body of Christ also is abused these days by involving in activities that the Lord won’t approve. We must work together very hard to understand and practice how to keep the holiness of the Church.
Our Lord speaks against the people who are finding it difficult to believe him as the Messiah. The reason that he says was that the unbelieving people do not belong to his fold. Like the sheep understands the voice of the shepherd, those who understand the Lord will follow him. And those who follow him are safe and secure; no one can take them out. This is the indication of dedication. Even these days the rare Christian quality is seen only in those who have dedicated their life to Christ. Such people will stay within the fold. Today all problems in our Church happened because some leadership and position mongering people went out of the fold. Those who listen to the Lord cannot do this. We as members of the Church must make sure that we dedicate ourselves for the Church regardless of what we gain.
The Jews had problem with our Lord because he claimed that he is God and he is one with his Father. Even when our Lord did his Father’s work, some of the Jews were unwilling to understand that and recognize the goodness in his work. The simple argument that our Lord raised was on the Old Testament quotation, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”? (Psalms 82:6) Then the Lord continues to explain how his Father and he are one. This is the mystery that has been handed over to us by becoming members in the Body of Christ.
The divine identity that our Lord has with his Father is shared by all of us. In the creation story we already heard that God created man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27) And in the 6th chapter of St. John’s Gospel we read how the Holy Eucharist becomes the visible means of sharing this oneness with God. (John 6: 56 etc.) Often we forget our high calling to be ‘gods”. Our union with our Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate act of transforming us to become like God. Unfortunately, we fail to project this image to the rest of the world. Sometimes the world is so confused about what we think and teach about our God and the implication of it in our life.
In the Early Church, it was simply easy for Christians to project this identity and the world around Christians was able to experience it. Gone are those days. Today we are worried about own identity that is purely on wealth, power, authority and political influence. Our dedication has a new face now. Today our dedication is not for faith but for our material identity. This should change. And that change can only be brought by our repentance and a new decision to set apart ourselves for God.