Faith is a free gift from God that we must choose to accept. From the moment we awake until the moment we go to bed, we are faced with constant opportunities to choose faith and live with Christ. Do we choose to pray and give thanks to God for a new day the moment we awake, or do we rush to be ready for work? Do we choose to thank God for our food and pray? Do we choose to prepare to be in Church on Sunday morning, or do we wait to see if we will wake up on time? The crowd of temptations are constantly trying to hush our soul as it cries out for Christ. Don’t let the crowd quiet you and allow your soul to call out to God. It is your choice.

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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 Saint 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.

I don't think it's any secret. Life is full of choices. Yeah. And one incredibly good choice that you are made today was to come to church. And so let's start off right there. So far, so good. So today our choices have been good so far. Our choices led us to the church and that's something that we cannot at all downplay. But as we know, not every day is so successful. Not only do we not successfully get to church every Sunday and sometimes even if we get here, we're not quite sure what clock we're looking at.

But nonetheless, we know that sometimes choices don't always go as they should, but life is filled with choices and not just on Sunday morning, but from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep every single day our life is filled with choices. And the choice that I want to talk about this morning, my brothers and sisters is the choice to have faith because faith is a choice.

It's something that God gives us as a gift. We cannot earn faith. We cannot find faith buried in some book, but it's given to us by God as a free gift, but a gift nonetheless that we must choose to accept. Because even though God offers us faith, we have the possibility even to reject it. And that's something that as I have grown and matured, I'm still maturing in my faith.

I believe that reality of choosing God and not choosing God is something that is very difficult for us. I believe it rests in freewill and freewill as I have come to appreciate it in my life I might change my mind someday, but as of now, I believe that freewill is the single hardest part of living the Christian life. Not necessarily my own free will, but it is difficult for me to allow all of you to have freewill too.

I mean, let's face it, the world would be a lot easier if everyone did what we wanted them to do. I can only imagine how God feels in heaven when he's calling out to our hearts. "No, no, no, don't do that," but he's given us free will. And we have the free will even to choose not to believe in God.

Think of this morning's gospel. Here is this large crowd of people surrounding Jesus as he's approaching Jericho and a blind man is sitting at the road begging and he finds out that it's Jesus coming by and what does he do? It says in the gospel, "He cried out saying," not just he spoke, but he cried out saying, "Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me." He may have been blind in his eyes, but he was not blind in his heart.

He chose faith. He chose to believe in God. The moment that he knew Jesus was near, there was nothing that was going to stop him from getting God's attention, even the crowd. Because the crowd who were already following Jesus, see, that's us. We're the ones already following Jesus, but they didn't quite understand. They tell this man, "Be quiet. Stay in your place." As if Jesus Christ was too important to be bothered.

Christ didn't say that, but the crowd said it. They chose not to have the same amount of faith as this blind man. And so what did he do? Using his free will and using his voice, the gospel says he cried out all the more, Jesus Son of David have mercy on me. And Jesus commanded that he be brought to him and he says, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, that I may receive my sight."

Now this is the important part for us, my brothers and sisters. Then Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight." Now listen to this. "Your faith has made you well." You see, this blind man wasn't blind when they came to faith. Maybe he couldn't see the trees. Maybe he couldn't see the road street. But in his heart, he saw the truth of who God was.

The crowd could see, the streets could see the clouds, could see the trees, but they couldn't see the truth of God's love in their midst. The blind man chose faith. So let's go back to our daily choices. How often my brothers and sisters do we find ourselves in the position of this blind man or in the position of the crowd? So today we are the crowd. We are already here with Jesus. We are already walking with our Lord.

In a few minutes, God willing by the grace of God, we will be able to receive the body and blood of Christ. We will able to receive Holy communion. We will be blessed. But do we have the faith of this blind men? Do we have the faith to open up our hearts and to choose him even in those darkest moments of our life? Imagine the darkness of this blind man going through life in total darkness, yet he could feel God's love.

We can see the evidence of God's blessings and sometimes through tragedy, through other things in life, we struggle to see God's bright life. And so my brothers and sisters, today we get to make a choice. We get to choose faith. We get to choose to believe in God enough to not allow the crowd to keep us away. We get to choose to believe in Jesus Christ enough that our own blindness, our own limitations in life will not be enough, will not stop us from calling out to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

In our morning prayers, how often do we choose Christ when we wake up and say our morning prayers? Or do we look at the clock, realize we're running late, rush into the shower, get ready, get dressed, get into the garage, get into our car and next thing we know we're at work and we have forgotten to say our prayers because we chose not to say them.

When we are about to sit down for a meal, very simple things. Have we chosen Christ to take a moment and to bless our food and to ask God to bless us? Doing our cross for something very simple, doing a little stavro (a little cross) over our food, to bless our food. Have we chosen Christ at our meal times?

What about when our friends call us and it is Saturday evening and our friend say, "Come on, let's go out and have a good time." Do we choose Christ and do we come home early enough on Saturday so we are properly rested and properly prepared to come to church Saturday morning? Or do we gamble with the clock and wonder if we will wake up in time?

These are really simple choices in life, but the reality is they're ours to make. It's our choice to go to bed Saturday already knowing we're going to wake up for church on Sunday morning. So I've said this a few weeks ago, right? Six basic words, repeat after me. Don't be afraid. Just repeat after me.

Rev. Athanasios:               If it's Sunday.

Congregation:                   If it's Sunday.

Rev. Athanasios:               I'm in church.

Congregation:                   I'm in church.

That's a choice. It's a choice that we are in total control of. Don't let the world fool you into being too busy to be in church next week and the week after. Don't let the world fool you. The Sunday after Christmas when we normally think, "Well, we just went to church for Christmas and the family's here and well, we're kind of sleepy and we're kind of tired. I can go to church on another day. I just went to church."

Choose Christ. Think to yourself every time you have the temptation to skip church, imagine that's the crowd telling you to be quiet. That's the crowd telling your soul not to call out for Jesus Christ, because your soul wants to be here. Your soul wants to be in communion with Jesus Christ. Your soul wants to hear the hymns, to smell the incense, to kiss the icons. But the crowd, those temptations in our life, you don't have to go.

You're not one of those Holy rollers are you? Or one of my favorites? I'm not a priest. I don't have to go every Sunday. That's what I hear, right? I am not in church every Sunday because I'm a priest. I'm a priest because I'm in church every Sunday. Even if I were not a priest, I would choose, I hope to be in church. Free will because God allows us even the freedom to stay home, but that's not the choice that's going to receive Christ into our hearts.

When we choose Christ, that's when we hear the words your faith has saved you. Take the choice, my brothers and sisters. Choose Christ. Choose church with the services coming up for Christmas. Choose to prepare for Christmas more than just shopping and putting your decorations up.

Open the scriptures. Read your Bibles. Fast as the church teaches us to fast. Help the poor. This is the choice that we can make to prepare our hearts for Christmas so that when the celebration comes, we're not already too exhausted to celebrate. That's our choice to make. Glory to God for all things.

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