Scandalous and moronic.

Homily 302 – 3rd of Great Lent
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
March 11, 2018

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.

On the third Sunday of Great Lent, just before the middle of the Fast, we begin to look toward the end of the fast, and what awaits Our Lord – and all of us.

We think today of the Cross.

We view it with a different context than perhaps we expect. Certainly different than the world views it.

For the world, society at large, the Cross is the defeat of Christ. His execution. His elimination.

Society thought they had killed the heir, the only thing standing between them and full control over their own future.

No more God to bother them with rules. No more prophet telling us to change our ways.

It was, in the minds of those crucifying our Lord, the end of a very stubborn problem.

St. Paul described it as a stumbling block to the Jews, and to the Gentiles – the Greeks – foolishness. In the greek, σκάνδαλον (skandalon) to the Jews – scandal, obstacle – and μωρίαν (mōrian) to the Gentiles – literally, moronity. Stupidity.

Yet, that is our belief. That is the core of our understanding of God, the essence of His revelation to us. The Cross – the center, that which gives us life.

It is, to us, not stupidity and scandal, but power and wisdom.

The Cross is the altar upon which the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, offered Himself.

That may be the key difference. The world believes they killed Jesus. We know better. We know that He voluntarily offered Himself – voluntarily ascended the Cross, in the flesh – our flesh.

That, through His death, life itself would be injected into death, and death is overcome. Ceases to exist.

In the same way that a light once lit disperses darkness – eliminates it – the author of Life obliterates Death.

Darkness cannot exist where Light is present. Neither can death exist where life is present.

Rejecting Christ is rejecting life itself. Rejecting Christ is embracing death.

We reject Christ when we choose to follow our own judgment, our own desire, our own will. When we follow self, not Christ, we implicitly reject Christ.


In the midst of the feast, we celebrate the Altar on which Christ sacrificed Himself, on which death ceased to exist.

We bow down before it.

But do we, the followers of Christ, do what He asked of us? Do we deny ourselves? Do we pick up our cross – which is His cross – and do we follow Him?

Because as much as we’d like to, we cannot follow both the world and Christ. The world is death. Christ is life. The two cannot coexist.

We can – and must – interact with the world, but we can never coexist with it. We can never make peace with it.

We can never allow it to influence us. The message it gives us is that we don’t need Christ – we are sufficient – we can and should reject any influence outside of ourselves.

The irony is that by accepting the message of the world, we accept influence outside of ourselves. We succumb to the influence.

Inside each of us there is a hunger for our Creator and our God. Each of us – all of us – have that desire and that hunger.

I’d like to offer us an experiment. I know we are busy – all of us.

But during the remaining days of Lent, strive to give up at least some of the distractions, the noise, that surrounds us and to locate that desire for God within us.

And then allow God to fill that desire with Himself.

That peace we find when we allow ourselves to slow down, eliminating the noise and distractions – that is the hunger for God, that is the quiet desire for God.

That is the influence we need to pay attention to. Not the world.

Our challenge, during the remainder of Great Lent, is to follow exactly that commandment of God to deny ourselves, pick up our Cross, and follow Him.

We deny ourselves by giving up choices – we no longer choose what to eat. We pick up our cross by voluntarily giving up our independence and being obedient to the one who Created us – Christ Himself.

Just as the Son was obedient to the Father and ascended the Cross voluntarily.

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