Homily 220 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 24, 2016
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
The more I read St. Paul the more I appreciate the revolutionary nature of his message.
In the letter to the Romans, we hear St. Paul say that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
St. Paul lived in a time when a person’s confession was dangerous. If the confession of rulership, Lordship, were other than the Roman Emperor, then you were confessing treason.
You could confess your allegiance to your local king – as long as that king’s allegiance was pledged to the Emperor.
If not – you were subversive and revolutionary.
The Romans had a tolerance for gods – the gods were seen primarily as the determinants of fertility – for the land, for the people, for the nation.
But gods did not exact rulership. Until Jesus Christ.
The God of the Jews, before the incarnation, was perceived as the Creator – for sure. But largely He was a deity that provided life. Just like the fertility gods to which the Romans offered sacrifice.
Jesus was different. Although they couldn’t articulate it, people understood that Jesus was different. The scriptures record in many places that the people marveled – because Jesus spoke “as one with authority.”
Not as a student of someone else. Not as a scholar.
But one with authority. Like a judge, setting precedent instead of following interpretation of the jurists that existed before.
The authority of a ruler. The authority of a King.
When we say “Jesus is Lord” we are saying that our obedience is to Jesus, the Christ, as our ruler. Not the earthly ruler, not the local king.
In our land, in our day, we are used to being able to say what we will without fear of recrimination. We can say and believe whatever we like. Confession of Jesus as Lord is easy – painless even. No risk.
To the point that it didn’t even mean anything to say it. We just – said it. No risk. Pass the potatoes – Jesus is Lord – how was your day?
But that is changing.
It is becoming risky to speak of Christ today. Subversive, even.
Not that we run the risk of physical harm – beatings, imprisonment, death – although in parts of the world that is indeed the case.
Our risk is social. It is to our pride, our vanity. Because what we risk in speaking of Christ, in parts of our society, results in ostracism. Shunning.
We’re no longer invited to parties or functions. People refer to us as, if they are kind, naïve. If they are not, they say we are simpletons.
They would prefer we stay in our little corner, our little ghetto, and not speak of Christ or live as Christians outside that world.
Some groups choose to pursue that route. Hassidic Jews. Amish. Just to name a couple.
We don’t wish to live that way. And Christ commands us NOT to live that way. We are to be a light on a hill, the salt that preserves the world.
Not the ones who retreat and run away.
But rather we are called to accept the scorn, the abuse – and not just to accept it, but to accept it with joy!
The Church has throughout time cautioned us that by accepting the comfort, the acceptance of the world, we risk losing our salvation.
More than just a “get out of hell free” card – we lose our healing. We risk cutting ourselves off from the source of all life.
And yet, we value the opinion and treatment of society more than the healing of our very selves.
Instead of accepting the scorn, the abuse, the limits that the world places on us as believers, we act like the Gergesenes. We ask Jesus to leave.
His presence is too disruptive to our – our – way of life. Not the true way of life. Our way of life.
And confronted with God – holiness incarnate – the people begged Christ to leave their land.
And, He honored that request. He will honor our request as well.
What he will not do is stay in our land, our homes, and live by our rules. We can’t ask Jesus to stay with us, but not to ask us to repent – to change. Not to allow ourselves to be healed.
We can’t ask Jesus to sit quietly in a corner while we live our lives and show him off to our friends and neighbors when it is socially acceptable to do so.
If we choose to follow Christ, and choose to confess Him as Lord – our Ruler – then we have to be prepared to live that life.
Not just when it is convenient – every day, every moment, especially when it isn’t convenient.
When you go out to dinner with friends and see the homeless man. When you have an important social engagement, but a friend calls you upset about a diagnosis they received.
When a neighbor shows up at your door, bruised because they were beaten by their spouse.
Friends, brothers and sisters, it is easy to confess Christ in Church. It is helpful to confess Christ in Church.
But our faith grows stronger – our healing is completed – when we confess Christ out in the world. Not with words. With our actions.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!