Parish icon at St. Maximus, Denton, TX

Parish icon at St. Maximus, Denton, TX

Homily preached at St. Maximus Orthodox Christian Church, Denton, TX (August 25, 2013)

Epistle Reading 1 Corinthians 3:9-17

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen! Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

I’d like us to look, this morning, at our reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Christians of Corinth, and to particularly focus on one particular phrase. St. Paul writes, “Let each one take heed how he builds on it” (v10). Firstly, we must put this phrase within the context of the Epistle.

St. Paul has said that we “are God’s building” (v9), and the entire reading uses this imagery of building on a foundation. At the end of the reading St. Paul goes so far as to say, “Do you not know that you are the Temple of God” (v16). So we are buildings, built for the glory of God – in fact, we are building ourselves as the Temple of God. It’s an ongoing process that St. Paul describes.

And the first thing you do when putting up a new structure is the laying of the foundation. The foundation for our building is already laid, as St. Paul says; that foundation is Christ. The bedrock of all we are as human beings and as Christians is found solely in Christ. He is the cornerstone, that single piece which upholds the entire building. And in fact, even the content of what we’re to build is found entirely in Christ. He came into the world, fully God and fully perfect man – He revealed to us what it means to be truly human (human as God created us to be), and He reveals to us God.

So all of the materials we need, as well as our foundation, is found in Christ. And then, with us understanding that this foundation is laid, St. Paul speaks that very rich phrase: “Let each one take heed how he builds on it” (v10). We are baptized in Christ, sealed and filled with the Holy Spirit in chrismation, and then we begin to build. This building St. Paul speaks of is the building of our lives. The Fathers tell us that we can take nothing from this life into the next, except those things we do; the content of how we build our lives in the fallen world will follow us even into death. St. Paul teaches us this morning (or reminds us) to be very careful in how we build our lives – to be very cautious in those things we allow ourselves to do.

As we live, even with Christ as our foundation, there are many different kinds of buildings we can construct. We heard examples of the materials we might choose to use in the Epistle reading: gold, silver, gems, wood, hay, and straw. But in that last Great Day of the Judgement of the Lord, no all houses will continue to stand. Those build with quality materials will withstand, and their builders will receive eternal reward. Those built cheaply, with hay and straw, will be burned up on that Last Day, and the builders will suffer great loss.

This shows us that there are many things we can construct over the course of our life:
1 – there are buildings which are entirely unworthy of their foundation, and those buildings will be destroyed and their builders condemned;
2 – there are those which are weak, and those buildings also will not survive, but (St. Paul says) the builders can still be saved;
3 – and finally there are those well made houses which will stand for all of eternity, and their builders will receive great reward.

The Epistle offers us the opportunity to reflect and to question: 1 – what type of building and I constructing for my Lord and my God? and 2 – what kind of building do I want to build for Jesus my Saviour? We don’t want to offer Christ a broken down shack, or even an unfinished cinderblock cubby hole. We don’t want that to be all we have to show when we reach the end of our earthly sojourn. Can you imagine our humiliation if all we have for God, Who suffered and died and was buried in the flesh for us men and our salvation, if all we have is a thatch hut ready to collapse and be burned?

When we analyze the content of our lives, as we always do before confession, we invariably find weakness, sin, and imperfection. So if we see that we are carrying bales of hay and trying to use that material as an offering worthy of the Lord – we know that we have to stop, to repent, and to change direction. We need to refocus that area of our life in Christ, so we can draw out holy content and make a worthy offering to the Lord.

St. Paul says that by the material with which you build, your works will become clear. Those works which are silver and gold and precious stone will build an everlasting house. Works of straw and hay will never stand. We can’t talk in incredible depth this morning about which works are gold versus straw, for example. But I will give you one very powerful work – one quote from Fr. Zacharias (priest/monk/confessor at Elder Sophrony’s monastery in England). When talking about this excerpt from 1 Corinthians, he says, “The most practical way of becoming a [worthy] Temple of God is the invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus, because it is something that can always be with us.” Our holy work par excellance is prayer, the Jesus Prayer – and if this prayer is constantly in our minds and in our hearts and on our lips, then other good works will quite naturally flow from our lives.

Keep this word of St. Paul close to your heart – let us be careful how we build our lives on the foundation of Christ which we’ve been freely given. We can build shacks worthy only of fire, or magnificent Temples of silver and gold – the choice is ours. May we always choose those things which are well-pleasing unto our sweetest Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ our God.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Posted by Matthew Jackson