Sermon on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Matthew 8:5-13)
Is it normal to be a Christian? Is it normal to be a follower of Christ? You are probably got mixed up thoughts about these questions. On one hand, it seems why it should not be normal. But on the other hand, unfortunately for today’s society it is not normal to be a Christian. It is not popular to live by Christian principals.
Recently, I was watching a program on television where they were doing a survey. Television hosts where questioning people on streets about their religion. Random people where asked questions: do they consider themselves Christians or not; what kind of church they belong to; and etc. - there were different answers of course. The answers I could expect to hear. However, I could have never expected to hear an answer of one man. On the question whether he considers himself a religious person, he answered, “No! I am not. I am normal!” Normal. He is “normal”, not a Christian. Immediately, I thought of myself. I am a Christian, does that mean I am abnormal then? I am an orthodox Christian, even more not normal? There was the truth in this man’s answer. There was the truth about today’s society. Christianity may not be seen openly persecuted, but it is being pushed away from the contemporary culture. It is not wisely being thrown out by the fair-minded officials from school systems, just because they don’t want any kind of discrimination. We can hear over and over again, “For the sake of diplomacy we can not be affiliated with religion.” Christ has been taken out of Christmas long time ago, now it got even farther. No more “Marry Christmas”, Happy Holidays are more suitable official greeting. To be a follower of Christ among teens is not cool. To be a follower of Christ’s dogmas among the adults is not popular. How can it be popular if it is against carnal lust, which propaganda is so much spread all over the media? It’s sinful. It doesn’t really feel right, but seems like good and people go after it. Christian virtues do not stand a chance in popularity against propagated vulgar and carnal vises. The sin becomes more and more powerful. To follow Christ is abnormal for our society, however when thousands of fans follow a pop or rock star who gets in and out of rehab that’s normal. This is what our younger generation lives on. At the interview, the famous person’s speech on television has to be blocked, “beeped” because of vulgarity, but that’s normal. But to follow Christ is abnormal, to follow the one that proclaims to love God and one another is not suitable for the society it is simply out of the picture. Profanity, vulgarity - this is what thrills people up - all the violence in the media and gaming industry. Different ratings for blood in video games, that’s normal. That’s the way the society lives. Our children grow up with all of that constantly being bombarded by the notion that to follow Christ is not suitable. Then we pay for the consequences.
A couple of years ago, over the Memorial weekend in Chicago there were registered 26 shootings. This is 8 shootings per day or a shooting every 3 hours. It is like a war zone. Isn’t terrifying? The reporter said it is a little bit above average. Wow almost normal. The government official commented on this issue by saying that we need to re-educate our youth with the new principles. That’s great. What kind of principles thou? Christian? Or those that are not normal? Believing in Christ may be not normal for contemporary society, but it is advantageous for the one who believes. God works wonders through the faith as long as we believe and follow Him. Christ does not teach anything evil, only the good. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
In today’s Gospel reading of the forth Sunday after Pentecost, St. Evangelist Matthew describes a story of an abnormal action of a centurion. A very well known and noble man seeks help from Jesus Christ. A gentile, a Roman man of power turns to a Jew confesses Him as the Lord, believing that Christ can cure his servant. Jews would not even talk to gentiles, would never enter their homes because of the fear becoming unclean. Does not matter how not normal it is in his position to interact with a Jew, centurion turns to Christ with a great faith and he is being rewarded. “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” “…his servant was healed that same hour” (Matthew 8:11, 13.)
Even thou it is not normal to be that Christian in this culture, be one! Be that not normal in this society, who comes to Church on Sundays to glorify God, who turns to him for counseling and guidance. When others don’t, you follow him for your sake and for the sake of those who surround you, who seeing your example will turn to the light and will be saved, and they “will come from the east and the west” as Christ says, “and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:13).
Fr. Vasyl Sendeha
Palos Park, IL