Out of Sight

MP3 Audio:  WS330289_Dn-Joseph_Out-of-Sight.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, June 9, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

~

Gospel Reading:  John 16:23-33

“I came forth from the Father and am come into the world.
Again I leave the world and go to the Father.” (John 16:28)

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, our God is one. Amen.

We have a very beautiful Paschal candle right here, something I think we are all very grateful for. It has the cross to remind us of Christ. It has five nails in the cross, reminding us of the five wounds of Christ in His hands, and His feet, and in His side.

It has the year 2013. And Fr. Michael even took a knife and carved “2013” into the wax of the candle, to note that this is the candle for this year. Almost all of us were here for Pascha, and I processed with this candle right down the center here, chanting “The Light of Christ”, “The Light of Christ”, “The Light of Christ”, and everybody followed.

And in the sacristy we have the baptismal water blessed for this coming year. So for example, whenever Maria is baptized into the Church, that baptismal water will be used. And to consecrate that water, this Paschal candle was dipped into that water, as Fr. Michael was praying.

Fr. Michael also carved an alpha and the Greek symbol omega into the candle, into the wax, because Jesus–the Paschal Lamb–is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the First and the Last.

And even now, during this Paschal season, we see the light of the candle burning, reminding us of the Light of Christ. Now, we have a glorious feast coming up this Thursday–and I hope to see everybody here this Thursday–it is going to be just like a Sunday. We are going to have [Matins at] 9:30 AM.  We are going to have liturgy right here at the church. And we are going to celebrate the feast of the Ascension of Christ. And it is a glorious time, because Jesus, when He ascends into Heaven, He’s not just going back to where He came from. It’s not just the second person of the Trinity going to make an appearance, a manifestation in Heaven.

But this is the risen Lord, the human being, the Incarnate Christ–one hundred percent human–ascending into Heaven. So when the second person of the Trinity–when God Himself–goes to be with the Father, He takes our humanity with Him.  And that is the point at which humanity is drawn up into the very life of God, into the full presence of the Father in Heaven. It is very important for us; it’s a glorious feast.

Yet there is another side to the coin. For you see, at the Ascension, that is when Christ in His physical body tells us goodbye. He leaves us. He departs from us, and we see Him no more. His disciples were looking up into the clouds; He was taken away from them and they couldn’t see Him any more.

How many times have you longed, how many times have I longed:

“Yes, I believe in Jesus but I want to see Him. I want to touch Him. I want to talk to Him. I want to hear the voice of Jesus Christ.”

You see, when he ascended into Heaven, that voice was taken away. That physical presence was taken away. And similarly, this Thursday, after we are done with mass, after we have partaken of the Eucharist, once we have celebrated the feast of the Ascension, this Paschal candle will no longer be where you can see it. We will take it out, and put it back in the sacristy.

And then when you come here to worship, you will look up in the altar area.  And that Paschal candle with it’s fire burning, reminding you of the Light of Christ, will be visible no more.

Now the question at that point is, “Will it be out of sight, out of mind?”  Will you look up here and see no Paschal candle, and therefore forget about Christ, and forget about His light that burns and shines in your heart?

Well, I would hope not!  Thankfully, in our liturgy we have many other things that call us to remember the presence of Christ. But the removal of the Paschal candle that will take place this coming Thursday, shows us the Ascension; it shows us the reality of something that really happened.

Jesus in His physical, human, resurrected, glorified, tangible, physical body, walked around amongst His disciples for forty days after He rose from the dead. And then He was taken away, and they could see Him no longer.

Now, as Jesus talks to His disciples in this passage in the Gospel of John, He still has not gone to the cross, and He is talking very plainly to them. And they say, “Lord, Lord, we believe, we know that you are come from God, we know that you are the Son of the Father.”

And Jesus asks a very sobering question:  “Do you now believe?”

It is almost as if He’s saying, “Really? Are you sure? Because the time is coming where I’m going to be taken away you, and you all are just going to be scattered. As long as I am physically here with you in your presence, and you can see me and touch me and hear me, it’s easy to say that you believe. But what about when you see me no more?”

It reminds me of that verse elsewhere in Scripture where Jesus says, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith in the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

I don’t want to end up on the wrong side of that question.
I don’t want Jesus to be out of sight and out of mind.

And after Jesus spoke these words in John, we see a sort of manifestation of it, twice. For Jesus is taken from their midst, twice. First, He is brutally murdered, He is crucified, and He is buried in a rich man’s tomb. And the stone is rolled up the face of the tomb, and Christ can be seen no more. And these disciples that had fervently and sincerely pledged their belief and and their faith, scattered to the four winds and were nowhere to be found. They went into hiding.

And the apostle Peter, when faced with the question, “Do you know Christ?”, he swore and he declared, “I do not know the man.”

But then Jesus is gloriously resurrected, and they get to see proof of who He is more tangibly and more impressively then they had in the entire three years that they had walked with Him.

For now He has not only raised other people from the dead, He has not only healed other people, He has not only conquered the winds and the waves, and have multiplied the loaves and fishes, but now He Himself has gone to the grave and has lived to tell about it.  He Himself has conquered death and hell, and has not merely resuscitated His body to die again, as happened with Lazarus. But He is the first Man in the new creation with a new body, a resurrected physical body that will never and can never die.

And His disciples see Him, and they touch Him, and they eat with Him, and they walk with Him, and they talk with Him. And then forty days later–at the Ascension–He is taken away from them again.

And the question again arises, “Will He be out of sight, and out of mind?”

Now, in this case, they were so impressed by what they had seen, I do not think that He was out of mind. I don’t think they could ever get that image out of their mind, that they had touched and seen and heard the resurrected Lord. I don’t think they could get it out of their heart. I don’t think they lost their faith. And yet, even though their mind was convinced, and their heart was convinced and full of faith, they were still not ready to go out and to evangelize.

There was still one thing missing. So for the ten days between His Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they are still in hiding.

What did Jesus tell them? He told them ahead of time, He said, “Wait until you are endued with the power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

So often, we think it is enough if we have the faith up here in our heads. We mentally get it. We mentally believe that it is true. And in our hearts we have this faith, this passion, this emotional belief that, “Yes, I am convicted, this is true. And if we have those two things we have enough to go out and lead people to Christ, and to lead our families, and to save the lost, and do great things for God.”

But one thing still remains that we need.

We need the mind, and we need the heart, but we also need to be endued with the power from on high. The dynamis, it says in the Greek–it’s like a dynamo–or a battery that is charged with this energy. The Holy Spirit literally fills us. God Himself energizes us.

This is the one thing that they still lacked, even when they had the mental knowledge and even when they had the faith in their hearts.

And this is why Jesus said, “It is better for you that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come. But if I go away, then I will send another Comforter, and He will be in you. He will fill you.” (John 16:7)

Our personal Pentecost happens at our Chrismation.  Two weeks hence, Russ is about to experience his own personal Pentecost. He has the mental knowledge, he knows the faith. He has a heart full of faith, He believes with all of his heart that this is true. He knows who Jesus is.

And then comes the laying on of hands from those that have been set apart by God, the anointing of oil, the Chrismation–the gift of the Holy Spirit–as the Holy Spirit comes down from on high, fills Russ, energizes him, and gives him that power from on high.

Most of us in this room have been Christmated, we have been given this power, we have been plugged-in. But you know what? You can have a coffee pot or a vacuum cleaner plugged-in to a perfectly good outlet, but you still have to flip the switch on.

Some of us, through Christmation, have been plugged-in–we have that power from on high–and our switch is off.

We need to flip it back on!

Remember how you read throughout Scripture. Even apostles and prophets who had spent decades already having been baptized, already having been Christmated, already having been filled with the Holy Spirit. You’ll see different comments made about how this particular person went out and did such-and-such, “full of the Holy Spirit.”

You see this command given from the apostle Paul to the Ephesians and to the Colossians  who had already been baptized, who had already been filled with the Holy Spirit. What did Paul say? “Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16). This is the joy that goes along with being filled with the Holy Spirit.

If it was just a one time thing that guaranteed perfection for the rest of your life, then why would Paul give that command? Yes, you need that initial plugging-in, you need the hands laid on you, you need to be Christmated, you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But then for the rest of your life, it is still a matter of choice, it is still a matter of submission to God, it is still a matter of holiness, loving Christ.

And how do you love Christ? By keeping His commandments, living that life of piety, and asceticism, and holiness, and focus, that says, “I’m not just plugged into the outlet, but I’m turned on, and the volume is turned up to ten. . . .” (cf. John 14:15)

We have been given a great and magnificent gift: the gift of the Holy Spirit, God Himself living–dwelling within us–energizing us. But this energy, this power from on high, operates within the context of holiness and Christ-likeness.

And Scripture says it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit, and commands us not to do that. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30), for that which is a great gift is also a great responsibility.

I want to live my life in such a way that my actions are not just guided by a mind that has understood the faith, that is not just guided by a heart that feels an emotional conviction for the faith. But I want to live a life that has a level of holiness in thought, word and action, that sets the context for the Holy Spirit to be able to work through my life with power. And that is what we all in this room–in fact, we all in this world–are called to.

That is what is opened to us. And that is for what we will answer, if we do not take that seriously.

This candle will be taken out. We will see with our eyes that light burning no more. At that point, I believe Jesus asks us,“Do you believe?”

“Just because you don’t see Me, do you still believe? 
Is your mind convinced, or is it out of sight, out of mind?”

One of the best things we can do is not to step on our own toes, not to defeat ourselves. If you don’t want Jesus to be out of sight, out of mind, then always keep Him in sight! Hang icons in your house. Pray daily. Read the Scriptures. Wear crosses. Watch and listen to things, and have conversations, that lift up Christ and always place Him before your eyes.

Don’t allow the possibility to come up for Him to be out of sight and out of mind.

Make sure that’s it’s just not  a mental thing, but that your heart is a flame with the light of Christ, whether you can see the Paschal candle burning here or not.

But most importantly, don’t stop with the mind and the heart, but be sure through your life of holiness, through your life of prayer, that on a daily basis you are not only plugged-in to the Holy Spirit, but that you have the switch flipped on, and that you are living in that reality.

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

~

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, June 9, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 2013 Homilies, Ascension Day, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 4:30, Ephesians 5:15-21, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Holy Chrismation, John 14:15-31, John 16:23-33, John 16:7, Luke 18:8, Luke 24. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Out of Sight

  1. orthodoxchristian2 says:

    Great homily! We must all dedicate our lives to God and His Church. Amen.

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