Looking in the mirror.

Homily 269 – 5th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 9, 2017

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

The Gospel this morning presents a contrast. A few weeks ago, we read in the Gospel the story of Photini, in Slavonic her name is Svetlana, the woman at the well.

When Christ met with the Samaritans, and they believed, they invited Him to stay with them. And He did – two days.

Today, Christ arrives in the country of the Gergesenes, on the Eastern Side of the Jordan River, and almost immediately delivers two men from a legion of demons.

The herd of swine in the area indicate that while the area may have had some Jews around, the predominate race was Gentile.

Regardless, the reaction of the Gergesene people was dramatically different from the reaction of the Samaritans at Jacob’s well.

The townspeople asked Jesus to leave the area.

But let me back up a bit.

St. Mark offers a similar account of a similar event. Biblical scholars are somewhat divided on if the descriptions were of the same event. But most believe that St. Mark is describing the same event as St. Matthew.

In St. Mark’s telling of the story, there is only one man, and Jesus asks him his name. And he responds, “Legion,” because many demons inhabited him.

The frightening thing – terrifying, really – is that apparently the man has lost his identity as a person to the demons that indwell him.

He has become one with the demons. He has, at that point of encounter with Christ, ceased to exist as a person, and exists only as a host for the demons.

But doesn’t that exist today, too?

We look around in our society and we see people who offer their own definition of who they are – based not on the person God created, but on the rebellious nature’s idea of self-determination.

Just like Adam and Eve in the Creation narrative.

People are no longer accepting the characteristics observed physically as the truth.

People claim their own gender, their own sexual identity, their own racial identity.

Or is it in fact the other way around?

Are they, like the possessed ones, so deceived by the demon of self-determination that they have ceased to exist as a person and are completely defined by the demons that dwell within them?

The Good news in all of this is that Christ offers healing – restoration – to our essence. He, and he alone, offers us recovery of the true person – mentally, spiritually, physically – that we are.

The person known by God in the womb before our birth.

The people of Samaria looked eagerly for this healing, this Messiah.

The people of the country of the Gergesenes were not as anxious to have this healing presence.

They reject Christ – and ask Him to leave their country.

And in many ways, our land – our society – also rejects Christ. Asks Him to leave our country. Even those who refer to themselves as Christian.

Because we, too – just like the Gergesenes – want to have our own way, our self-determined identity.

We want to recognize that we are, in the words of the modern sophisticated human, “made this way by God.”

But that simply isn’t true! Because we, as we are today, are fallen. And God did not create us fallen. Humanity fell because of this self-determination introduced by the Evil One and accepted in antiquity.

The Creation narrative may or may not have historical physical reality behind it. But it does convey a great Truth. The Great Truth.

We are the way we are, that is, fallen, not because of God, but because of us. Humanity itself became dominated by self-determination.

And that is not fulfilling our humanity. That is, in fact, fulfilling the demonic. Fulfilling that which is fallen, that which is of the deceiver, the evil one.

And we are so identified with this self-determination that we would prefer that Jesus leave us, and be with us no more, than to acknowledge that self-determination is a lie.

We’d rather continue living in our delusion. And that “we” is intentional – it includes me, it includes all of us. Because all have fallen short of the Glory of God.

And I too suffer from self-determination.

But by the grace and love of God, we can be healed. It requires something difficult for us, though.

It requires us to admit – mostly to ourselves – that self-determination is not the truth. That we were not created this way. That we need to be healed.

And that Christ, the Son of God, born of a Virgin, crucified, buried, and raised again, is the reconciliation of humanity to our pre-fallen state.

And that we, even as we are, can participate in that reconciliation of self – to God.

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