Since the creation of humanity, we have struggled to see the world as God sees it. The Scriptures are filled with stories of our ancestors failing to see the world through God’s eyes, even to the extent of not recognizing Christ when He appeared just over two thousand years ago. Sometimes we look at the world, and our situation within it, and think God must be angry at us and is punishing us. Reality is different. In fact, God is saving us, and has been saving us ever since Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden. Our only hope is to repent - to change the way we look at the world – for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Don't worry. That's the end of the fire and brimstone for today. But when you hear those words, that's your temptation, isn't it? The temptation is that you imagine this angry proclamation because we have grown up with not a proper understanding of this declaration from our Lord. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, in Greek, [Μεταοίτε]. Change the way you look at life. Change your vantage point. Change your mindset.
In the Jewish tradition, return to the beginning and start all over again. All of those images are important for us to understand that when Christ calls us to repentance, Ηe's calling us to all of these things at the same time. But Ηe's not angry. He's not yelling at us, and we shouldn't yell at each other. But I have to admit, sometimes it's a little fun to get up here and shout a little bit. That's my weakness.
But today, I want you think about that word repent, change the way we look at life. We as human beings, as fallen human beings, have looked at life the wrong way from the very beginning. God created Adam and Eve, and Ηe set them in a beautiful garden, and as they're walking around the garden in total harmony with their creation, and God says you see all these beautiful things. It says in the book of Genesis, "Then God say everything Ηe made and indeed it was very good."
How many of us look at creation, look at the world around us and say, "It is very good."? We on the other hand, we go through life in our fallen state, struggling against the world, struggling against each other, struggling to fully understand what life has in front of us. We are looking through the world, through the wrong eyes. We are looking at life through our fallen, many times, selfish vision. But when God calls us to repentance, my brothers and sisters, Ηe's calling us to look at the world through God's eyes, to see creation for what it is originally purposed, and that is to lead us to God.
When we see creation, we should be able to see a path to find God, but in our own weakness and in our own sinfulness, instead we see where can we conquer creation. Where can we manipulate people to get something that we want, instead of something that somebody else wants, or worse, we don't care what God wants for us. We want what we want when we want it, how we want it. So this morning's call to repentance, my brothers and sisters is to change the way we look. To go back to Genesis and realize how God wants us to view things.
The serpent tempted Eve. The serpent says to Eve, "God didn't really say you were going to die, did Ηe?" Of course Ηe did. But the devil, the devil tricked Eve. The devil tricked Eve into thinking about life from her own vantage point. It says that Eve looked at the tree. This is in Genesis. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree beautiful to contemplate, she took its fruit and ate."
If she had looked at that tree with the eyes of God, she would have remembered Ηis commandment not to eat. But she looked through her own selfish eyes. All of the trees were good for food. All of the entire garden was beautiful to contemplate, but because of temptation, she was fixated on that one tree. She couldn't look at life through God's eyes. She fell to temptation, and her husband, Adam fell to temptation. Then here's another important element that we oftentimes forget about the beauty of God's will for us.
We forget that God ever since they ate the apple or whatever fruit it was. Some think it was a pomegranate. Who knows really what it was? Ever since that time, God has been on a mission to save us. But throughout the Old Testament, you see the struggle of mankind, whether it is the flood or kingdoms or captivity. You see over and over again, you see humanity struggling in this life. The temptation, my brothers and sister, the temptation for us is to look at all of these events as if God is angry at us.
It goes all the way back to when Adam and Eve were removed from the garden of Eden. They had eaten the fruit and now it says, "Then the Lord God said behold the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil. Now lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and life forever, therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of pleasure, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken." We refer to this passage as the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. They are removed from the garden of delight to till the soil, to work the soil, to struggle.
Our temptation my brothers and sisters is to read that passage as if God is punishing them. You broke the rules, get out. In fact, God is saving them and us in that moment. Because if Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit at that moment, and then eaten the tree of life in their fallen condition, they would have been eternally condemned to death. So what, in our selfish eyes looks as God's punishment, in God's eyes, it is salvation. As if He said to Himself, before it's too late, I better get them out of the garden of Eden because I don't want them to eat the tree of life and be eternally condemned.
Repent. Look at the life through God's eyes. 2000 years ago the savior came to save the world. We just celebrated Christmas and Epiphany, glorious celebrations, and what happened immediately after the birth of Christ? Herod, because he didn't want to lose his power went and killed thousands of innocent children. Because Herod couldn't look through life through God's eyes.
Many of the faithful Jewish people could not recognize the messiah because they were looking for him through fallen eyes. Judas, poor Judas, we call him the traitor. In fact, what he thought he was doing was ushering in the reign of the messiah because in his fallen eyes, he was one of the many who was expecting a military savior. He really believed that if he had turned Christ in, that he would have ushered in the military war to defeat the Roman empire. Judas was not looking at life through God's eyes.
Now what about us? If we are honest with ourselves, do we look at the life of the church through God's eyes or our own selfish eyes? Do we look at the call for fasting every Wednesday and Friday in all of Great Lent and Panagia, in leading up to Christmas, do we look at the gift of fasting as a rule to keep us or do we look at it as an opportunity to learn how to love God? Many of us, my brothers and sisters, look at the life of the church through the wrong eyes. We look at the life of church through our own selfish, fallen vision. We do not see the wonderful traditions of our faith as life-giving, but we see them as limiting.
We like to blame the Pharisees. The Pharisees looked and they knew all the rules of the Old Testament but they were looking at the rules through the wrong eyes. It didn't train their hearts to recognize God. Following all of the rules of the Orthodox faith, if we look at this way of life through fallen, selfish eyes, even the Orthodox way of life will not be sufficient to prepare us to understand the love of God. This is what the Lord is calling us to when he says, repent. Change the way you look at life.
Today, my brothers and sisters, conveniently in the new year, we have the opportunity to take God up on His offer. Shortly after His baptism as the Gospel says, He goes to this foreign land, the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. In just a few minutes, when we finish holy communion, we're going to sing, "We have seen the light." We live in the world of darkness. As we celebrated with the feast of Epiphany, [Τα Φώτα] in Greek, the feast of lights, another way to refer to that wonderful feast. A light has come and dawned for us.
We have the opportunity to look on that light as a guidepost through the darkness. Not as a spotlight of interrogation, but a light leading the way because our Lord says the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Not some future dream. Right here, right now, we, you, me can allow the light of God's kingdom to shine in our hearts, to light our way to his kingdom. But we got to look at the world through God's eyes. Glory to God for all things.
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