Homily 316 – 6th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 8, 2018
Epistle – (110) Romans 12:6-14
Gospel – (29) Matthew 9:1-8
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Jesus tells the paralytic: Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven!
And proceeds to prove his authority to forgive by healing the paralytic.
There is a hierarchy embedded here – an order. We see the healing of our physical deformities as a high priority. It aids our progress in this world – makes our pathway easier.
Jesus offers a different priority – sin, which separates us from the source of all life, is the ultimate issue. And it is something this world couldn’t care less about.
It simply doesn’t register on the importance meter of the world.
Which places us in a very, very awkward position. We are expected to live in this world, and yet not live by the standards of this world.
In the world, but not of the world.
That’s a very uncomfortable place.
One of the remaining aspects of the Image of God within each of us is the desire to be included – to be part of something. A tribe, a family, a community.
We see it all around us – sports teams, work groups, fashion logos. And, lest I not admit my own issues, I am very guilty of this – I have lots of logo wear in my closet.
And for that very same reason – it provides a sense of belonging in a world that is increasingly isolating.
We find ourselves protesting conformity – yet are in conformity with the others with whom we protest.
We find our allegiances in political parties – when not one of them espouses the tenets that undergird the Christian faith.
The only conclusion we can make from this is that the world’s ways are not our ways.
The world’s ways are the way to separation from God – death. Our way is unification with God – life.
And never has that choice been more pronounced.
In every aspect of the world we encounter, we find ourselves being asked a simple question – what do we want?
What will bring us pleasure? What will bring us contentment and happiness? What will bring us security? What will bring us love?
The world tries to answer its own question. It tells us flat out – only you, yourself, can make that happen for you, yourself. Self-gratification, self-indulgence – that is the only way to pursue happiness in the world.
Physical healing is important. Spiritual healing, unless it is of your own making, is not a valuable commodity.
In fact, it brings with it derision and condescension.
And why is it? In this land, this place ostensibly dedicated to the individual pursuit of what the individual desires, that the pursuit of holiness is deemed inappropriate?
Irresponsible? Downright dumb?
There is only one answer, and Christ tells us of it.
See, in the beginning, humanity existed in oneness with God. Then, humanity accepted a lie as the truth. The lie that we couldn’t allow God to determine good or bad, right or wrong.
Even though He created it all. No, that was to be our role – our right, even. When our founding fathers of the United States declared their independence, they said something very, very telling: We hold these truths to be self-evident. Self-evident.
Not revealed by God. We determined – ourselves, without God’s help – that He gave us certain things.
The fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These things are also lies, but have become the fabric of the world and the society in which we live.
When we assume that authority which only God is entitled to have, we sin. That is sin itself. That is the big lie. The Church Fathers, the spiritual elders – they call that sin “pride.”
The root of all other sins. The source of all other behaviors.
But instead of lamenting this sin that enters our lives, destroying our connection with our Creator, the world – this world – celebrates it. Encourages it.
The only thing this world worships is self-determination.
Thank God Christ offers us an alternative. The forgiveness of our sin, the forgiveness of our self-centeredness, our selfishness, our pride – that forgiveness is already accomplished.
It awaits our acceptance. Jesus tells us in the midst of our struggles and trials to be of good cheer – for our sins are forgiven also.
Our soul is healed. We don’t find our bodies’ inadequacies to be as debilitating as before, because that too becomes for our healing – our salvation.
Sometimes, Christ heals those infirmities of body, for His reasons and for His glory. But always we are given forgiveness and provided a way to return to Him.
For in our acceptance of that forgiveness, and in that reconciliation to our Creator, we will be healed. And those self-evident rights will become God-revealed graces.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!