The never-failing rescue line.

Homily 507 – 5 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 17, 2022
Epistle:  (103) Romans 10:1-10 and (334) Hebrews 13: 7-16
Gospel:  (28) Matthew 8:28-9:1 and (56) John 17:1-13

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

The account of the Gergesene Demoniacs, or Gadarene Demoniac, depending on which Gospel account is being read, is a somewhat mystical and mysterious story.

On the face of it, the one apparent thing is that Christ commands even those beings that afflict and torment humanity.  Demons we call them.

The other obvious fact is that the people of the town, having encountered holiness, asked the Holy One to leave.  They aren’t unique – there are many accounts throughout the Scriptures of humans asking to be separated from holiness.

Fallen humanity is acutely aware of our state when we encounter holiness.  And that causes us distress and discomfort.  I think this is the example of how the unrepentant will encounter God in the eternal kingdom after the resurrection.  It will be for them – hell.

For the repentant, the presence of God will be pure joy, heaven.

In thinking about this account, maybe the face value is enough.  Maybe it is enough for us to be reminded of what is true – Christ controls all – and that the presence of Christ, the presence of holiness, can be either the greatest comfort or the greatest torment.

After all, in our world, we encounter people every single day that seem to be possessed as these two were possessed – living in the tombs, extremely violent, not letting anyone get by them unmolested.

We should note that immediately before this account, Jesus and the disciples were in a boat in the midst of the storm, and everyone was afraid.  Except Jesus, who was sleeping.

If you recall that story, Jesus calmed the wind and waves, and the disciples asked each other – “who is this who even the waves and winds obey?”

Well, now we see – not just nature, but even the demons.  That is who this is.

We can also learn that God protects even those who reject Him.  See, the demons wanted to enter into the swine, who immediately were destroyed.  The swine didn’t have God’s protection.

The same could have happened to the men possessed.  But it didn’t – because God protected them, even though they were separated from Him.

So, in looking at all this together, a truth starts to emerge.  The Truth, Christ, starts to emerge.

We cannot point to anything on earth or in the creation that Christ does not control.  Not a single thing.

As well, we see without question that Christ loves us and protects us and wishes to redeem us from our slavery – set us free from the world around us.

So, we can conclude, with certainty, that everything happens to us for our benefit – and the only benefit that exists is salvation and communion and life with God.

That’s it – there is nothing else.  All of the wealth and power and honor and celebrity – everything is an illusion.  It appears enticing to us – all of these appear desirable, providing what we believe is comfort and security and peace.

That is a mask – an illusion.  Nothing – absolutely nothing – provides comfort and security and peace except for the Creator of Everything that is – Christ, the Lord.

Those, my friends, are just facts.

In 100 years, all those things will be gone.  Dust, blown away.  Evaporated like water in the desert.  Literally of zero use to anyone, because they no longer exist.

We only have to look at the study of archeology to see how temporary all these things are.  How rare it is to find something more than, say, 1,000 years old.  Majestic palaces are ruins.  Empires no longer exist.

Even in much older societies, like those in Europe, the things that are found are largely found in trash pits.  Broken pottery, perhaps a tool, maybe, if we are lucky, we find the tiles of a floor in a medieval home.

That is what is so amazing about places like Pompeii in Italy – the volcano destroyed life but preserved the buildings of the town.  Ancient.  But still ruins.

Hagia Sophia still stands – built in 587 AD.  Most ancient structures are under 1,000 years old.

And what is 1,000 years, or 1,500 years, or even 2,000 years old?  In the span of the Kingdom of God, it is a day, a moment, a blip.

In the context of eternity, even the incarnation itself happened just a moment ago.

Why is this important?  Only to show us that everything is temporary – except the Kingdom of God.  It is the only thing that is everlasting.

So when we begin to look at our world, and the things in the world, we have to remember that heaven and earth itself will pass away, but the Logos – the Christ – the Word – will not pass away.  Ever.  From everlasting to everlasting.

It is why St. Paul writes to the Hebrews, as we heard, “For we do not have here on earth an enduring city, but we seek the one that is to come.”

Is that the city we seek?  Is that where we are placing our hopes and our faith?

Or, are we distracted by the temporary, the diversions, the dust of what used to exist?

If you desire life – then seek the source of life, who is Christ, the Lord.  That is the only source of life.

Everything else is decaying.  Don’t place your hope of salvation in a rope that will fray and decay and break.  Nothing in this world is strong enough to provide salvation and rescue.

Only God.  And God offers that sure salvation, that sure rescue that will never decay – He offers that to us in abundance, and freely and regardless of anything we have done or will do.

We just have to choose it.  May we choose the everlasting.

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