God in a box.
Homily 434 – 21st Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 1, 2020
Epistle: (203) Galatians 2:16-20
Gospel: (38) Luke 8:26-39
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
I’m always amazed by the knowledge of the demons. By that I mean that the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God, and that He was God. They knew that they were under His control and under His authority.
They had to obey.
And yet – they were the epitome of rebellious. They were part of the original rebellion, when Lucifer fell from the heavens.
I seem to think that humans are different – fallen in a different way. The demons fell out of envy and pride, certainly, but never questioned God in the process. Their purpose was, and is, focused almost laser-like on getting souls to abandon God.
Humans seem to fall and at the same time try to diminish who God is and diminish God’s authority.
For us to fulfill our imaginary role of being in control, we have to somehow “lessen” God. He can’t be almighty – because we know we aren’t almighty. He can’t be all-knowing – because we know we aren’t all-knowing.
One of the ways we do that is by attempting to limit God’s sphere of influence. We put God in a box, as it were, and say “OK, God, here is where you have free reign.” Most often, that’s on Sundays. And when we’re in a situation that we can’t control.
Other than that, we tend to like to keep God in His box.
As the demons know – that isn’t truth. See demons know Truth. We can’t just be seekers of Truth. That isn’t enough.
Truth – God – is not an object to be placed in a box. The object placed in a box is not Truth but rather an idol. It may sound shocking, but we can turn the True Living God, the One God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, into an idol.
Because the God we put in that box isn’t the True God.
The True God cannot be boxed. The True God is everywhere. The True God is every time. The true God is … is.
What we put in that box is who we would want God to be – our servant, perhaps. Our friend in times of trouble. Our, dare I say, genie – granting our wishes, perhaps.
But the demons know the Truth. The real Truth. The whole Truth.
And we would do well to remember also – remember the Truth. That Christ is with us. Always – everywhere. That’s not a threat, by the way. It is an infinitely good thing, if we choose to accept it.
And do we really have a choice?
We do, in some sense. We can reject God. But in so doing we reject ourselves. We cut ourselves off from the very source of all life – the source of our life. And so, we choose to follow the path of death.
And we find ourselves naked, in the graveyard.
That really isn’t a choice at all.
Quite the opposite – we need to die to us, we need to crucify us – that humanity that wants to put God in a box, to control God. To control the world.
I’ve wondered frequently what causes the people of the town to ask Jesus to leave after such a miracle in their midst. And I think this may be the reason. They knew that to have Jesus around meant giving up their illusion of control.
The illusion of having God in a box.
The reality is much different – but it is also much more wonderful. No longer do we have to be the arbiter of happiness and goodness and all the other outcomes of life.
Since we’re not in control, we can watch, oftentime in amazement, as God plays out in our lives. We are His servants – meaning we are not responsible for the outcome. God is.
Neither can we take credit for the outcome – God does. God is glorified, God is revealed, in acting through us. We become instruments of God’s hands. We become participants in the Creation.
We are clothed, and in our right mind, living in the presence and in the service of God.
We are saved.
Take the pressure off. Let God be God. Don’t struggle with God. The bible is full of the stories of people who did – Jacob wrestling with God. Israel, that means “struggle or wrestle with God.”
Saul – St. Paul – kicking against the goads. The goads were sticks used to prod oxen. And by kicking against them, the oxen would have been stabbed by the pointed edge of the goad. Not enough to harm, but enough to get their attention.
We need to stop wrestling with God. We need to stop kicking against the goads. Stop trying to restrain or control God.
We, as Christ’s followers, are not in control. We follow. Followers never get ahead of their leader.
But I promise – God promises – that if we deny ourselves, die to ourselves, and follow, we will find joy and purpose and fulfillment unimaginable.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!