Grow up

Homily 284 – 21st Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 29, 2017

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

We hear this morning of the Gadarene demoniac, delivered from his possession by Christ in a very visible manner.

I venture to guess that throughout time it is rare to hear that a heard of swine committed suicide. Even more rare that the mass swine suicide came after the deliverance of a crazy man living on the edge of town.

I’m always intrigued by the reaction of those around the miracles of Jesus.

In this case, the local people asked Jesus to leave. The thing that we consider a miracle, they saw as something to fear.

Some ask Christ to leave because of his holiness. They recognize that they are not holy, they are sinful, and the presence of God in the midst of sin is painful.

Some might say “hellish” even.

Except in hell one cannot leave the presence of the Holy God.

And prior to the deliverance, the man, and that man is all of us – each of us – that man is also tortured in the presence of God.

I can imagine the look of longing in the demoniac’s eyes. Torn between longing for deliverance, and the pain of being possessed and in the presence of God.

The demons in the story, and in other accounts in the New Testament, reveal themselves to be completely under the command of God. They cannot do anything but obey Him.

If He says “Go!”, they leave.

They have no choice.

But once the demons depart – we like the demoniac, can sit fully clothed, calmly, in our right mind. We are restored to sanity. We are restored to life.

But hang on.

St. Paul describes a similar torture.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul describes the internal struggle – the internal torture – between the desire to do good, and the action of sin.

Wretched man that I am, he says.

This morning’s epistle to the Galatians, although less emotional, describes the same thing.

He describes the solution he reached – that of crucifying – destroying – one of the two sides struggling within him.

He destroys his self – his ego. He crucifies his flesh, that is to say, his desires.

And in so doing, he then allows Christ to fill everything within him. Christ indwells him fully, and becomes the source of life, the source of his animation.

St. Paul tells us that we should adopt his technique. It is the only resolution for the internal torture.

To me this raises a question. Why doesn’t Christ deliver us? As He delivered the demoniac, or others?

The answer may be a bit complicated. He does deliver us.

He empowers us to do so. We have to be responsible to destroy those elements of ego within us. He is then free to indwell.

Kind of like the Apostles asked of Christ at the feeding of the 5,000. They asked Christ to send the crowd away. And Christ said, “No. You feed them.”

Christ does not necessarily want to fight our battles for us. Rather, He wants us to participate.

He wants us to be active. To be intentional.

When a child is born, they need everything done for them. Feeding, changing, everything.

And then the first signs of maturity begin to appear. Crawling. Walking. Talking.

Soon, before we know it, they utter those words. No, I do it.

We want to, desperately want to, do for ourselves.

Christ wants – expects – the same. He desires our growth and maturity.

He desires maturity. Some elders and Church Fathers speculate that Adam and Eve were created as childlike.

And that God used the fall to bring humanity to maturity.

So. St. Paul tells us, in essence, to grow up.

We have the power of Christ within us to excise the demons of our own flesh.

So that we too may be found healed, sane, illumined, clothed in righteousness.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.