44 - Settling the King's Account, Aug 16, 2015

I Corinthians 9:2-12

Matthew 18:23-35

“The Kingdom of Heaven,” says the LORD in our Gospel this morning, “is like a certain king whose will it was to settle His account with His servants.” The word for “account” is “logos”.

The King, of course, is Christ. He is the real King because He is the Logos in whom and for the sake of whom all things were made. As well, He is the Icon of God in whom man was made, so that it is His Icon, even Christ Himself who is the defining principle, i.e., the logos of our being. Today we commemorate the Image of Christ not made by human hands; but, we are the Image of Christ not made by human hands, for we were made and fashioned by the Hands of God: Christ the King in the Holy Spirit.

Knowing all of this – viz., that the “account” in Greek is “logos” and that the King is Christ, the Logos and Icon of God in whom we were made – we return to look again at this morning’s parable. I believe we now may begin to see an even deeper meaning opening to us that before was hidden beneath the parable’s obvious lesson: that God’s servants must forgive as they have been forgiven.

The account or logos that the LORD Jesus Christ, our King and our God, wishes to settle with us, “according to His will,” as it says, is the divine image that defines us; i.e., our likeness to Christ our King, the degree to which we in our inner man look like Christ the King. What does that mean?

Against the overwhelming influence of our worldly culture – that sadly shapes virtually completely even us who want to think we are Orthodox Christians, that sets our dreams, the hopes, the goals that we live for and sacrifice for – I would raise the standard of the word, the logos, of the Church’s doctrine: you are not defined by your body; not by your sexuality or by your sexual orientation; not by your IQ or your personal charisma. You are not nothing more than an organized mass of bones and tissues held together and activated by a succession of chemical processes and interactions; and, you therefore are not accountable only to yourself in what you do with your body or your life or yourself. You are defined by your inherent likeness to Christ the King; and He, not you, is the one to whom you are accountable for what you do with your body, your life, yourself.

This means that you extend, as it were, far beyond the spatial and temporal limits of your body or your earthly life. Your body, your sexual orientation or physical powers, your personal charisma, your IQ: none of these defines you. There is something about you that goes far beyond all these earthly things, something about you that is divine, something that was given to you not by yourself but by the King of All. It is the image, the logos of God; this is the account the King wishes, according to His will, to settle with you; for, it was given to you for a purpose: that you might become like Christ the King.

Why? Because it was the King’s will that you would become His child (Jn 1:12), even His brother or sister (Heb 2:10-13) in the Spirit of God (Jn 1:13), one with God (Jn 17:11) in whom you would abide and who would abide in you in the love of the Holy Trinity that abides forever (I Cor 13:8); and that in this love, you would become a sharer of His Glory (Jn 17:22), a partaker of His own divine nature (II Pet 1:4) in the eternal and visceral joy of His fellowship (I Jn 1:4) not just in this world but for eternity. I think we get a taste of what that eternity is like even now – after all, if “it” is eternal, “it” is “present” even here and now – I think we get a taste of eternity in the fullness of joy we feel when we with those whom we love.

If Christ is our “prototype”, then we must become His disciples; i.e., we must study Him so that we may come to see Him as He is so that we can become like Him and so settle our account with Him.

This morning’s parable shows a King settling His account with His servants, according to His will. The imagery of the parable is the moment of our death when we will stand before the King to give an account of what we did with what He gave to us, what we did with the image and likeness of God in which we were made.

The King is in the “place” of our death. How did He get there? He got there on the Cross. In the injustice of His suffering, He pled with the Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do;” and then, He cried out: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He presented Himself to the Father on our behalf as the sinner, even the only sinner.

To be like Him, then, is to pray in one’s heart until it truly becomes the prayer of one’s heart: “LORD, have mercy on me, the sinner,” to remember in those moments of irritation or anger with another that I have done things just as irritating if not more so.

If, then, I wish to settle my account with the King, I must let go my anger and forgive by remembering in accordance with the image of Christ that defines me that I am the sinner before the King. The divine irony here is that when I do, I become just like Christ on the Cross, and so I begin to settle my account with the King, the only Righteous One. I am beginning to unite myself to Christ.

But, is not such divine kindness and mercy beyond my spiritual power? In this I’m not like Christ; I’m like St Paul who said: even though I delight in the law of God in my inner man, I still do the evil that I don’t want to do? (Rom 7:19-23)

To forgive in accordance with the Image of God that defines me is impossible for me to do precisely because it is of God; it is not of me. To forgive so as to become like God, I must unite myself to Christ, not just in theory, not just by “believing”, but concretely.

I need to settle my account with the King by taking up my cross, not as a metaphor but in a real, bodily way that comprehends all of my senses, my mind and my will. How do we do this? Through prayer; or, let’s say through living prayer; i.e., by incorporating the liturgical structure of the Church’s worship into my life so that the rhythm of the Church, the Body of Christ,  becomes the rhythm of our worldly routine.

I settle my account with the King through fasting. That is certainly a concrete, physical thing; but the fasting of the Church goes much farther than observing the seasons of fasting from meat and dairy. It is also turning away from the diversions of the flesh. Denying myself and taking up my cross, I become a spiritual gardener, transplanting the roots of my life in the worship of the Church and not in the world; so that, for instance, the vision of the Church’s doctrines begins to exercise my mind and not the wisdom of the world, the hymns of the Church that run through my head and not the lyrics of pop culture that make much ado about nothing.

But, it seems that I settle my account with the King most definitively by alms-giving, which is much more than just giving money to the poor – which, actually, may or not be helping them if it is not done properly. The ultimate giving of alms, I think, is to forgive others as Christ forgives me, so that when I deny myself through fasting in order to present myself to the King as the sinner in the prayer of the Church, LORD Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner, I am giving true alms.

The servant in this morning’s parable is called “wicked” because of his hardness of heart. The account that I must settle with the King to acquire a soft heart in accordance with the logos that defines me. So, I don’t see the parable this morning calling me to forgive only in “big” terms. I see it calling my attention to the people who irritate and anger me in everyday life. The everyday is where I begin to settle my account with the King, and I do it by giving alms in the form of choosing patience and forbearance and forgiveness from calling to mind the many times and the many ways I have failed to pay my debt to the King.  To do this so that it is from my heart, I must take up my cross and begin to live the life of the Church body and soul. Amen!