The first sermon Christ spoke after His Baptism began with “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” We must learn to change the way we think about life and about the Church. The Kingdom of Heaven IS at hand. It is not just some future kingdom. The Church is the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and we must change the way we think about why we come to Church. We don’t come just to hear a sermon and light a candle. We come to Church to commune with God in Heaven.
TRANSCRIPT 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.
My brothers and sisters on this Sunday after Epiphany. This is my favorite gospel story because in this morning’s gospel, we heard the very first sermon of Christ after his epiphany, after he revealed himself as God, after he revealed the Holy Trinity to us, the very first sermon that he gave, he says, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Now, in English that word repent is a little difficult for us to understand because most of us when we think repent, we think we have to change our behavior, we have to live a different kind of behavior. But the more accurate translation of the gospel for the word repent is that we have to change the way we think. We have to change the way we look at life in the world. Christ says, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” has arrived.
Okay, I’ll try to be a little quieter. He knows what I’m saying.
The kingdom of heaven is now, not just going to be in the future. This is what Christ wants us to believe when he says change the way you think, change the way you look at life. Live as if you are living in the kingdom of heaven right here and right now. If we are able to do that, if we can change our mindset, then we can begin living like God wants us to live. Then we’ll go through life remembering that we are already in heaven.
What does it mean to be in heaven but to be in the presence of God? Each and every one of us this morning is in heaven because God is present in his church. So we have to change the way we think about church. Church is not just some place we come to hear a sermon. The church is not some place we come just to light a candle. But the church is where we come to commune with God, to live physically united to God.
How many of us in church this morning are married? Did you go to your wedding and not get married? Be silly. We’re all baptized. Did we go to our baptism and not get baptized? No. So why would we come to the divine liturgy and not receive holy communion? Turn our backs on God? What sense does that make? Eve turned her back on God and look what happened. Death.
We have to change the way we think about church. Church cannot be just some obligation like we’re checking off a box. Coming to church, ever since God told Moses to build the temple, coming to church was coming into the presence of God. If we can begin thinking of church in that way, not as an obligation, then we can begin living as God wants us to live.
The kingdom of heaven, my brothers and sisters, has been ushered in by Christ so that we, as St. Athanasius said, can live united to him, holy like him. This is why the gospels are given to us. This is why the epistles are given to us. Not to somehow get us into heaven, but to help us realize that we’re already in heaven.
So in this new year in our challenge to bring others back to church, when you go … Remember, I deputized you two weeks ago. Remember, when you go and invite people to come back to church if they haven’t been in a long time, when you go invite your friends to come and experience the Orthodox church, maybe they’ve never been to church, maybe they’re not even Orthodox. Remember, church is not something we have to do. Church is the opportunity for us to be with God.
That changes everything in our life because in our baptism we were united to that same God. We who were baptized in the church have already experienced heaven, but maybe we didn’t know it. Μετανοίτε Change the way you think of church. Change the way you think of life. Make this the new year that you embrace God and take him up on his offer to live in communion with him.
Fasting is not just a rule. Doing our prayers are not just rules. These are all to help us recognize heaven when it’s right in front of us. That’s a great gift. It is why we celebrate Epiphany with such amazing celebration, because God has revealed himself to his people, and all creation rejoices.
Let’s join creation in our celebration of life, not just one day around the bayou, but every day live with that excitement and joy that Christ has given to us. Repent, repent, because God has revealed himself to us…. and we get to live with him for all eternity. Χρόνια Πολλά Have a blessed day. Glory to God for all things.
Be Transfigured is a production of Be Transfigured Ministries in cooperation with the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida. We depend upon your generosity to maintain our ministry. You can make a safe online donation when you visit our website, liveanewlifeinchrist.org.