Joy and death and resurrection.

Homily 353 – Third Sunday of Great Lent
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
March 31, 2019
Epistle: (311) – Hebrews 4:14-5:6
Gospel: (37) – Mark 8:34-9:1

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

We approach the Cross I think with some mixed emotions. At least I do. I’m not sure anybody looks to the Cross with joy. And yet, that is what we are asked to do.

We look to the Cross and see pain – we see suffering – we see death. That is what I see, at least.

Especially when I’m asked to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Christ.

Exactly what our Lord did. He denied Himself – He is our creator, God, and he became a human. Not just a human – a servant. Personally, that’s why I think he came as a male and not a female.

In His day, servanthood was expected of a female. As a male, for Christ to not only speak of being a servant, but demonstrating being a servant, was astounding.

And we are asked to do the same – be servants.

Christ ascended the Cross – willingly, voluntarily. Sacrificing Himself. Experiencing pain. Experiencing rejection. Mocking. Abandonment. Derision.

Everything that humanity fears – He experienced.

Christ died. I will admit that I struggle sometimes understanding the significance of His death. Intellectually, I understand it. Theologically, not so much.

I think Christ’s death had more to do with obedience and self-sacrifice than anything. Yet there is a metaphysical dimension to Christ’s death by which he injected life into death itself.

And so, like striking a match destroys darkness, the death of Christ – the introduction of Life itself into the darkness of death – destroyed death.

And while I know Christ experienced the abandonment of His Father – the source of all, the source of the created and the uncreated, the human and the divine – I am not sure He was afraid.

He knew what was on the other side of death. He knew that the reason He was incarnate for us was so that we, the people He loved, could be with Him always.

And Christ gives that to us as well. He gives us the same confidence that He has. That same surety that death is not to be feared, but death is rather a restoration of the life intended for us by our Creator.

What we are today – right now – is not what we were meant to be. We are fallen. Christ takes all of that fallen-ness, all of that corruption and decay, all of that death – and recreates it.

He makes it new again.

And in so doing, the Cross no longer represents fear. No longer represents death, or sacrifice, or self-denial.

The Cross represents life.

Through the Cross joy has come into all the world.

What we experience today is the Resurrection itself. What we experience today is our rebirth!

What we find in our hymns this day is not fear – not sadness – not darkness. What we find is joy, and fulfillment, and light.


If holds our future – our now, if we only release ourselves to it.

It held the future of the Israelites when they left Egypt, and Moses offered the sign of the cross, arms outstretched, to open the path to salvation. Daniel stands arms outstretched in the Lion’s Den. Jonah arose on the third day from the whale.

The cross is the way forward. The way to life.

What is holding us back? Fear? Fear of being a failure? Fear of the opinion of others about us? Fear that we will be rejected by those who love us?

Even if those things happen – and they will, rest assured – the way forward is still clear for us. We should expect those things – but anticipate the abounding fountain of life, love, and joy that comes from uniting with our Father in heaven.

The feast we celebrate today – the thanks we offer today – has been understood from the earliest Christian times as a feast of victory. A feast of conquering. A feast of great joy.

The Cross represents Christ’s cosmic victory over all evil whether in the air, on earth or in hell. It is the sign of God’s triumph in which heaven and earth are full of God’s glory.

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