If we are inside the Church building, we are safe from the turmoil outside the walls of the Church. When we are baptized into the Church, we are safe with the protection and peace of God. The longer we stay outside the Church, the more we lose our focus, and we begin to sink in sin. Don’t stay outside too long. When we need God, He brings us home to his Church because He knows we are safe in the Church.
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, my brothers and sisters, I wanted us to speak about the church. But before we speak about the church, we have to remember a couple of stories to understand that the gospel lesson today is about the church. We remember the story of Noah’s Ark. Noah, of course, by commandment of God builds this giant ship, because God had told him that there was going to be a cataclysmic event. He says, “Put your family in the ark, bring the animals into the ark, and whoever is in the ark is going to be saved.”
All the people, all the land animals who were outside of the ark when the flood came, they died. In this morning’s gospel, we hear about another boat. The apostles were in the boat in the middle of the night and a storm was raging. And they see Christ, and Peter says, “If it’s you,” remember, because they were not quite sure, they thought at first it was a ghost, “If it’s you, command that I come out there. And he says, Come out now. The water’s fine.”
And at first Peter was walking on the water, but then Peter began to pay attention to the storm, looking around, “Uh-oh. The waves are getting big.” And he began to panic and he began to sink. So he calls out to Christ, “Lord, save me.” Christ pulls him out of the water.”Peter, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Peter, the leader of the apostles, the great Saint Peter, began to sink because he doubted God’s protection.
And so what did Christ do? He pulls Peter out of the water and He brings him back to the boat. And it says in the gospel that as soon as they returned to the boat, the wind ceased. It didn’t just get less of a storm. There was total peace once they got back into the boat.
You see, my brothers and sisters, this gospel story is about the church. Just like Noah’s ark protected Noah and his family and the animals from death, the church is the ark of Christ. The church we call the ark of salvation because when we are in the church, we are safe. And it really does have a dual meaning. The church, meaning the church building, here our Saint Nicholas in Tarpon Springs. In Greek, we call the temple Νοάς , which reminds us of the ship, the boat. And as long as we are in the boat, it doesn’t matter what’s happening outside the church walls. We are here with God. And in the time that we are here with God, we have His peace. While we are in His church, focusing our attention on Him in the altar, we are safe from everything outside the walls of the church.
But it also means the greater church, the church of Christ. We were baptized into His church, the church. As long as we are part of the church, we are saved. But, my brothers and sisters, sometimes we doubt. When we walk outside of the boat, when we leave the church building, and we are reminded of all of the struggles of life. We see. You can’t ignore the poverty on the streets. You can’t ignore, my goodness, you turn on the TV and you have to turn it off because you’re depressed about the news. You cannot deny the storm that is around us when we walk outside the walls of this church. But so long as we keep focused on God, we’re okay.
But you stay out too long, there’s too many days outside the walls of the church, too many weeks outside the walls of the church, in some case, months and years outside the wall of the church, it gets harder and harder to stay focused on Christ. The longer Peter was walking on the water, the more he lost his concentration and began to sink. You see, my brothers and sisters, inside the church is where we find peace. You’re not going to find peace, we will not find peace, outside the walls of this church. Turning on the news, going to government, going to work, going to school. We will only find peace with Christ in His ark.
And so just as Saint Peter was brought back to the boat by God, when we want Him and call Him, He brings us back to His church. Doesn’t matter how long we’ve been out. Christ always welcomes us back. He brings us back sometimes. And let’s admit it, sometimes just like little boys and girls, He brings us by pulling our ear, like our yiayia’s used to do. And that’s because He knows that we are safe in His church. And so as all of our life, summer is coming to an end, our families are returning from vacations, our children have started school. I think, this week, our college students begin going back to classes. It’s going to be easy to forget to come to church. And that’s when we have to remember this morning’s gospel. We go out for a little bit. We stay as focused as we can on Christ. And then we come back next Sunday, or other days, to come back into His church so we can focus our attention on God.
It’s something that is a very beautiful part of our tradition. When I speak with those individuals who want to become Orthodox, and we talk about the church building, we talk about the architecture, and we talk about the decorations with the icons and all the wonderful things that we see inside the church. Look around for a minute and what do you see? All images reminding us that we are in the presence of God. Reminding us that in His church, we are safe.
And so now here is our challenge. There’s a double challenge for us today, my brothers and sisters. The first challenge is about ourselves. We’re going to go out those doors today. We’re going to leave the protection of the church. Our first challenge is to make sure we stay focused on God and then get back here as soon as we can next week. Don’t stay out too long. The longer you are out in the storm, the easier it is to sink. So that’s our first challenge.
Our second challenge is about those whom we love. It’s up to us to bring people to safety. Imagine the storm. We have it here. We have hurricane season. And what are one of the things we do? We go and we bring people to safe places. So our second challenge this week, my brothers and sisters, is for us to bring people to the safety of the church, so that our friends, our neighbors, our family members, can find protection from the storm by God. In His church we are safe, from sin, from all of the struggles of life.
But we can’t stay inside the doors 24 hours a day. Even Noah had to leave the ark at one point. Even the apostles eventually got out of the boat and went on with life. But they never forgot to get back in, got themselves to the temple, got themselves with Christ. That’s our great gift and our great opportunity. Glory to God.
Be Transfigured is a production of Be Transfigured Ministries in cooperation with the Saint 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.