We really don’t know anything.

Homily 285 – 22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 5, 2017

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

We think we know everything. Modern society answers all our questions – life, death, growth, and everything surrounding.

We define when life ends. And when it begins. And the value of it.

There is just one problem. We know nothing.

Jesus goes to the house of Jairus, the president of the Synagogue. And He tells them the truth – the girl is not dead, only sleeping.

Some translations say the people laughed at Jesus. Some say they mocked Jesus. Either way – regardless of the words used – they didn’t believe Jesus.

I imagine some thought of it as cruel even. I mean, dead is dead, right? How dare Jesus mock our sorrow at the death of a child.

Who is he to tell us? I mean, we know the difference between dead and alive. But they were, as we can now know, wrong.

There is more here than the child returning to life, though.

Jesus treats death as a sleep, a temporary condition, which life is not snuffed out, but in which the soul is at rest.

That is what the world, society, doesn’t recognize. We are more than our biology. We are more than a collection of specialized cells working in harmony with one another.

We have a soul. Death, as we understand Christ, is not the end of existence for a person. It is the separation of the soul, the animation force, the consciousness – and the body.

We believe, as Christians, that the soul lives on. Until the resurrection, when the soul is reunited with a body – our body.

So, believe and trust in God. The dead are asleep for a while, but Christ will call them back to life as easily as he called this little girl, and the only son of the Widow of Nain, and Lazarus.

He will call you, he will awake your mother, grandfather, daughter, friend. So do not be afraid of death.

But prepare for it.

St. John of Kronstadt says it is those who make idols of their lives, of their food, of their money and possessions and egos who find death so hard to accept.

When we overcome these thoughts through repentance and the spiritual life, we find we can trust Christ, and not fear death.

St. Basil the Great said that for us faithful, death is the blessed rest that God has promised us from our labors, and we can enter it joyfully and not fearfully, because of God’s love. Death is the promised rest of God.

A good thing.

We prepare for death by repentance. By changing our life, to not be concerned with anything – anything – in this life but the pursuit of union with God.

That God can revive a dead body and give it life again is the same miracle as God creating the world.

But that God can by an act of grace forgive us our rebellious sinfulness and heal our souls and give life to one who is dead because of sin, that is a truly impossible miracle.

What is impossible with men, is possible for God, and all who believe in him.

Now, we in our day, think, “How quaint. We can feel better about life by conjecturing for ourselves this afterlife.” We explain away the miracles of Christ, particularly bringing the dead back to life, as an unenlightened mythology, or worse, fairy tale.

Yet those people of the time of Christ, while their understanding might be less that we now know, they knew life. They knew death.

But the wise of our age are the first to admit that they know very little of the creation, and how it operates.

We may know a lot about genomes and DNA – but not about consciousness and free will. And if we know so little, why do we pretend to understand how life works?

In Christ, our lives become radically changed. Rather than us controlling nature, we come to know the God who controls nature. Society, our world, does not want to know God, they only want to control the natural forces in order to get their own will done.

Abandon that effort! It is futile. It is like kicking at a brick building, expecting it to move. The only thing we get is a broken foot.

We can abandon that effort without fear. Christ says, “Do not be afraid.”

Don’t be afraid of what you have done. Don’t be afraid of what people will think of you.
Don’t be afraid to admit what you personally want and need from God.
Don’t be afraid to stretch forth your hand to reach out and touch God, as the woman with the hemorrhage of blood.

God will not reject you, no matter what you have done. God will not despise you, God will not ignore you no matter how many more important people are pushing ahead of you.

God loves you. He will comfort you. He will fill you with joy. And with peace.

He will heal you and forgive you. He will call you His daughter or His son.

He will take away your fears. Because He is your creator. He is the Lord of the Universe.

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