The Courage of Obedience

When it comes to matters of faith, courage is a staple character trait, and nothing requires more courage than obedience. Joseph of Arimathea took courage and approached Pilate for the body of Christ. The Myrrhbearing women took courage to leave their homes at dawn to anoint Jesus. They all had courage to obey the authorities. In a similar way, we must now have courage to be obedient to the Church and remain home until it is safe to gather in groups for worship. Courage does not mean carelessness. Neither Joseph nor the women were careless in their actions. Neither disobeyed the authorities. Both were blessed by God, and we will be blessed in our courage to be obedient to the Church during the health crisis.

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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.

This morning's gospel, my brothers and sisters is a difficult one to put into the proper context of today's situation, of today's crisis. It has been so many weeks that we have been closed in, in our homes, our businesses, many of them have been closed. By God's grace, many of them are going to begin to open slowly this week and we're thankful to that. But the context of this morning's gospel is difficult to put into the proper context of our crisis today because normally this morning's gospels about those who go out into the danger.

And yet in this case, we have stayed in, safe from the danger. And I think it's important that we understand the difference between the two. There is a great difference, my brothers and sisters, between a virus, which is a naturally occurring reality of the world that we live in, germs, viruses, diseases, and what have you. There's a big difference between those realities and people who are out to do us harm. In this morning's gospel, the courage that Joseph of Arimathea had to go to Pilate wasn't courage in the face of natural disaster, but courage in the face of the danger from Pontius Pilate. The women who went at dawn were not showing courage in the face of anything natural. They were showing courage because women to go out before dawn, were entering into an unsafe reality because there were criminals and there were thieves and there were people doing dangerous things to people in the middle of the night.

That is the context of this morning's gospel that Joseph of Arimathea had courage and faith to go and confront Pilate and say that he wanted to bury Jesus, and the women were willing to confront any kind of hoodlum that they might find along the road. In fact, they were going outside the city walls, which was outside the physical protection of Jerusalem. And so this call for courage, my brothers and sisters, we have to keep in its proper context. It would be a mistake for us to think that the courage of the women in this morning's gospel is the reason that we should carelessly go out and ignore the dangers of this virus.

Our medical professionals and scientists are telling us they still do not know how this virus transfers from person to person in as many ways as they'd like to understand. And so for caution, until we know more about this situation, we're asked to stay home and it takes courage. Here's where the courage comes into place. It takes courage to trust our church fathers, our bishops, our patriarchs. It takes courage to trust that when it is safe, they will allow us to reenter the churches. That's where the courage comes my brothers and sisters. I have heard many comments in the past few weeks that our staying away from church is a sign of weakness. It is not weakness. In fact, it is willingness and courageous to listen to our church leaders. Our bishops have not sold out the faith. They have not somehow become not Orthodox by not allowing us to come into the churches in this time. They are looking out for our safety. And that takes courage because many people are arguing against the church.

Now, why is that important for us? Because our courage, my brothers and sisters, to be patient, to be loving, to be compassionate, all takes courage in today's society. And the courage of the women who were willing to go to Christ, but they waited until they were allowed to go. They did not violate the Sabbath. The Sabbath prohibited them from going to the graves and anointing the body. So the women in their courage were obedient to the church. Just as we have to be obedient to the church, we have to trust that the church has our best interests at hand. And so the women, very early in the morning, on the first day of the week after the Sabbath, when they were free to leave their homes, then they went and encountered Christ at the tomb. And that day will come, my brothers and sisters, when we will be allowed to leave, enter an encounter of Christ in his house.

But it is not about courage, but it is about faith. The faith to stay where we are until the right time and the time is coming. The time will come when the virus passes us. We know enough information where we'll be able to return into the church and at that time, what I'm calling on everyone for, when that time comes, is to have the faith of these women. To be willing to come to the church early in the morning, not at our own whims, our own desires, but to be prepared. The women were ready to go. They didn't wait until afternoon. They were ready and as soon as the sun rose, they went. And so we too my brothers and sisters have to be ready to return to church. We cannot wait until we get the message to begin preparing ourselves. I mentioned the past couple of nights in our evening prayers, we must begin to prepare now to reenter the church when the church is open, because after so many weeks, it's been more than six weeks we've been stuck at home.

After so many weeks, it's going to be harder than you think to wake up on a Sunday morning and be in church on time. It's going to be easier than you think to sit and turn your computer on. And so that's where the courage comes in. That's where the faith comes in, to be ready from now so when that call comes, when you could say our Sabbath has passed, the time for us staying quiet at home has passed that we will already be prepared to enter into God's house. And to celebrate with each other and to celebrate his glorious resurrection. That's what I ask of you. That is the faith and the courage of these women and Joseph who went and faced Pilate to bury our Lord, to give him a proper and blessed burial. Christ is risen. Χριστός Ανέστη. Glory to God for all things.

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