Reality Check.

Homily 570 – 26 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 3, 2023
Epistle – (229) Ephesians 5:9-19
Gospel – (91) Luke 18:18-27

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

Do we want to know what is required of us to be saved?  Do I want to know?

We can look at our world today, and even ask the question – is there eternal life?  Does something beyond this life exist?  Many people would say no – nothing.  And, not for nothing, would consider us crazy for believing in something beyond this life.

Maybe we should begin there.

The acceptance of life beyond our own has existed for as long as humanity has been around.  In the ancient worlds, elaborate rituals were established to assist the soul of a deceased person to enter the world beyond.

Regardless of culture and regardless of geography, we see consistent evidence that life beyond this has always, and everywhere, been accepted as reality.  But we’re too smart for that right?

We don’t accept things without evidence.  Except it belies the question what is evidence?  Well, simple enough – it is what we can detect with our senses.  Sight, taste, touch, hearing, smell.

So, what about those who have lost a sense?  Those who cannot see, or those who cannot hear?  Can they still consider themselves to have evidence?  Maybe this is what Christ means when He tells us “let those with ears to hear, hear.”

Even those that have senses, sometimes don’t accept what they are experiencing.  Don’t always believe what you see, we are told.  Supposed “magicians” are adept at directing our senses away from the activity they want to hide.

That is why they are performing what are called illusions.  They deceive the senses.

And what about ideas?  Something that exists only in our thoughts, that doesn’t exist in tangible form?  Things like math for instance.  Does math supply evidence of its existence?  Is there something in the senses that can determine the existence of mathematics?

We can even take it to the absurd – do I exist?  Do you exist?  In our day and age, scientists, serious scientists, have theorized that we are somehow in a simulation in some elaborate computational device.  That what we call “the Universe” may be only the computational device itself.

The only thing I can make of any of this is that the more we study, and the more we observe, and the more we theorize, the further away we get from what we would call evidence, and we cross over into the world of belief.  The more we know, the less certain we become.

We have seen the modern ideas of a past time be found lacking, and disregarded.  We used to believe that spirits and evil forces caused disease.  Now, modern science has abandoned that idea, given that we now know about viruses and cells and proteins and all the other stuff.

But – science also tells us that we might be wrong.  We still don’t know.  New evidence may emerge that renders our current understanding obsolete.  I remember watching an episode of Star Trek back in my youth.

The doctor – McCoy – was lamenting the barbarism of the 20th century, where they treated illnesses with scalpels and cut people open – in three hundred years, maybe even less, society and science will have progressed to the point that those in our day, with our internet and smartphones will be treated as if we were Neanderthal.

At the end of the day, what we are questioning is reality itself.  We are asking ourselves what is real and what isn’t.  We don’t have to do that, though.

This goes back to the garden of Eden.  God told the first humans what was real, and how to live, and everything necessary.  But humans decided that wasn’t sufficient – that we would decide for ourselves.  The evil one came in and said “Don’t believe what God told you – believe what you yourselves can experience and determine with your senses.”

The entire fallen nature of humanity revolves around us only trusting what we ourselves experience.  But – critically – we can’t even determine if we can trust what we experience.

So maybe we’re missing something.  Maybe reality isn’t what we think it is.  Let’s go back to the garden, and recapture what God laid before us.

That is what the ruler asked – what do I have to do to find eternal life.  What do I have to do to get back to the Garden of Eden?

And Christ gave the answer – give up everything, and follow Christ.  He didn’t mince words, He didn’t offer alternatives.  If you want to be unfallen, if you want to be perfect, then give up everything.  Including yourself.

What God told us back in the Garden, and tells us now, is that we don’t need to worry about anything but focus all our attention on Him, and on each other. Our job is to steward creation.  To enjoy it, protect it, tend it.  He created us to commune with Him, to love Him, and to be the object of His love.  That’s all!  We can eat of the garden, we can enjoy the presence of God, and each other’s company.

It’s really that simple.  And everything about life becomes a lot simpler.

We can’t return to God and still determine everything ourselves.  We’ve been doing that, and made tremendous advances in making our lives easier as a result.  But we haven’t made our lives better.  We’re more stressed than ever, more worried about the future, more fearful about the world around us.

But we have a choice.  We can continue making our own way, ensuring everything is the way we want it to be.  Or, we can stop trying to be in control of everything, and accept God’s love for us.  The choice is ours to make, just like it was the rich young ruler’s to make.  If you don’t want it, Jesus won’t make you.

But – in the end, is it really a choice at all?

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