Sermon delivered on July 2, 2006.
Independence Day commemorates the Founding Fathers of the United States declaration of autonomous rule from Great Britain; an event that occurred in 1776 and lives on in the hearts of most Americans even today. "There will be no taxation without representation," the early leaders proclaimed. The national anthem refers to America as "the land of the free."
I'm here to tell you that you are not free. You are all slaves. Why ? Because if you are a true Christian -- a follower of Christ, a disciple of Jesus, and a servant of the Lord -- then you are a slave of God. That's a good thing.
If you are not a Christian or a Christian in name only (which most of us are at some point in our life), then you are someone else's slave. You are not free.
Everyone Has a Master
"No one can serve two masters," the scripture teaches. "He will hate the one and love the other." Implicit in this statement is that everyone has a master. If you think you have no master, that nobody tells you what to do, then, who really is your master? You! Many people think they're free because, as they say, "I'm my own boss."
You Cannot Have Two Masters
Some of us think we can divide our loyalties in this life. After all, that's what secular society is all about. At any moment you serve the master of choice. When in church or with church people, I serve God. When I'm studying, I serve the school. When I'm working, I serve my company or my superior and so on. Jesus says this is impossible. "No one can serve two masters." Why? Because, the nature of humanity is to love one thing more than another. This is reflected in several ways such as the ideal of monogamy. Polygamous marriages don't work because one spouse will be loved more than the others. Every time we make a choice, about anything, we are expressing our devotion to one thing over another.
Who is Your Master?
Our Lord says "You cannot serve God and mammon." What is mammon? Mammon is earthly goods with a stress on their materialistic character. He begs the question to all of us: Who is your master? God or mammon? Before you answer and I know all of us want to answer "God", let us examine the issue more closely. One way to determine who or what you love the most is to see who you are loyal to. In other words, when presented with a choice between God and something/anything else, what do you choose? Let me go through the litany again, do you choose to attend church on Sunday or do something else like sleep in, run errands, do chores, go to work, study, play sports, spend time with family or friends, etc. The same question can be asked regarding prayer, reading the bible, serving others, giving alms, and financially supporting the church and its mission. Do you choose do these or something else?
Another way to determine who is your master, God or mammon, is to realize what you worry about? What do you fret over? How do you look? How much money do you make in a year? How big is your house? Where do you live? What kind of car do you drive? Your social status? Your popularity? And on and on. Jesus lays bare the vanity of all these types of worries when He says not to worry even about what you eat, drink or wear. Come on Lord, can't I be concerned about the most basic needs of life food, water, clothing? No you cannot if God is your master.
If God is Your Master
Implicit in Jesus' teaching is that we should only worry about our eternal salvation in order to motivate us to do the very things that God has commanded us to do. Everything else is up to Him. Christ says that "our heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." God knows what you need. Don't worry! Jesus says worrying does not accomplish anything. Don't worry!
If God is Your Master then you will seek first, in every situation and moment of life, His kingdom and His righteousness. You will go first to Liturgy on Sunday, every Sunday, before doing anything else. You will, each day of your life, pray, read the scripture, serve others, forgive others, and repent among other things. You will each day endeavor to be honest, use good language, not gossip, not steal, not be jealous, be sexually pure, honor your parents, rest, and not injure or hurt. You will generously and sacrificially financially and otherwise support your parish community. You will partake in the Sacrament of Confession, having fallen short in many if not all of these.
Our problem and it applies to everyone, is we think we cannot afford to do all these things I've mentioned and still be good and productive parents, spouses, children, friends, workers, citizens, and athletes. This is true and false. It is true in the sense that we cannot be the best or better from the world's perspective. That will be sacrificed and lost. It is false in that, if we seek God and His kingdom and His righteousness first, we will be exactly who He wants us to be, which in turn, will make us better at all of these from His perspective.
When you approach the Holy Chalice to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest says, "The servant/slave (o doulos or h doule) of God receives the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ..." Ask yourself, am I really a slave of God? Is God really my master? What do I need to change in my life in order to become His slave and for Him to become my Master? Then humbly ask for Christ, by the Holy Spirit, to give you the courage and the guidance to change, to repent. Serve the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory of God. Amen.
Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews is the pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fr. Andrews is the past president of Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association (MEOCCA), and a volunteer chaplain with the St. Paul Police Department.