If You Feel Like You Just Don’t Belong Anywhere in the World, You Belong with Christ

All through Great Lent this year I have referenced to you the spiritual sojourn we have been on.  God called us to leave behind the greatest nation on earth and go into the desert of Great Lent to find God, because God is not to be found in the wealth and the power of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth.


The abundance and the blessings of our country really can hide God from us – the humble God who is willing to die on the cross for us.  Every year God calls us to Great Lent, to self-denial and abstinence, to charity for the needy, to prayer, to feed the hungry, to repentance, to clothe the naked and give housing to the homeless, to the desert so that we might wean ourselves out of enslavement to all those things of this world which we love so much, and cling to, and lust after and even kill for.   God calls us to the desert so that we might see ourselves – naked human beings -standing before the Creator of the world – weak, defenseless, sinners, in need of God’s mercy.  Abundance and prosperity can hide from us our own need for God’s mercy and our need to be merciful to others.   And like the Israelites of old, in the desert, we too hunger for the fleshpots of Egypt and we even prefer to die enslaved to the pleasures of the world rather than to live with our God in the desert.

But every year, this sojourn into the desert also leads us with the disciples into Jerusalem which is a city which also wants to be great.  And in Jerusalem, the chosen and holy city of God, the place where God’s temple stands, where heaven and earth come together, there the disciples are going to see their Lord executed on a cross.  And we are there not to watch Christ die for us, but for us to die with Him.   The sojourn into the desert is not a spectator’s game, but is a matter of life and death.


Yesterday, in our church a group of 9 people joined us in this sojourn.  They were baptized here, dying with Christ to the world in order to live with Christ in this world.   Jesus prayed in Jerusalem to His Father these words:

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.   (John 17:11-16)

Despite the fact that Christ is condemned to death by the world and raised to life by God,  despite the fact that Jesus says we will be hated by the world, He also says we are to continue living in this world, but now united to Him.  In Communion with Christ, evil cannot take away Christ from us, and even death cannot separate us from the love of Christ.

My brothers and sisters, after all this sojourning in the desert, Jesus our Lord sends us back into the world, not to belong to the world or to be of the world, but to be with Him in this world. And it maybe at times that you feel you somehow don’t belong here, and that is good because you really do belong to Christ not to this world!


And this does mean we have to die to the world and die to ourselves in order to make room for Christ our God.  Otherwise all the power and wealth of the world seduce us and we don’t see Christ nor do with live with Him in this world.  And only with Christ do we see ourselves and each other as God’s children created in God’s image and likeness rather than seeing each other as the world defines us – as aliens, foreigners, competitors, enemies, strangers.

Yesterday, after we baptized our 9 newest members, Fr. Silviu mentioned in his words that after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus is content to sit with Jesus.  According to today’s Gospel Martha and Mary prepared an expensive supper and a lot of people showed up causing a huge hubbub, but Lazarus says not a word but is content to be with Christ.

33237467784_4acf78e180-1Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. …   ( John 12:1-3)

Brothers and sisters, we all who have been baptized into Christ are sent by Christ into the world but a world in which Christ now allows us to sit with Him at His table, to eat His food, and to realize that all the power and wealth of the world really are addictions, temptations and  enslavement  – yet we love them so dearly.  But we are invited in this life, in our daily life, in this world to be with Christ and to eat with Him and thus to be united to heaven itself.  Don’t give up heaven no matter how alluring and seductive the world may seem.

In 2 Esdras 2:42-48, Ezra is given a vision of us – all as newly baptized, having shed our old clothes and put on new baptismal garments and holding palm branches:

10335492086_484f0cd8be_nI, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude that I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. Then I asked an angel, “Who are these, my lord?” He answered and said to me, “These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God. Now they are being crowned, and receive palms.” Then I said to the angel, “Who is that young man who is placing crowns on them and putting palms in their hands?” He answered and said to me, “He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world.” So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said to me, “Go, tell my people how great and how many are the wonders of the Lord God that you have seen.”

The beauty of this vision is captured in the Epistle for Palm Sunday:

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.   (Philippians 4:4-9)

Palm Sunday (2019)

Palm Sunday       

45993405974_e54c3e2920_nThe day after Jesus resurrects his friend Lazarus, Jesus is joyously welcomed as he enters into Jerusalem in what will be the only time in His three years of ministry that He received any kind accolades in a public display of hope and faith (John 12:1-18).  It is also the entry into His last week of life on earth.  Some historians note that at about the same time that Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, was entering Jerusalem with an armed cohort to remind the Jews that they were in subjugation to the Roman Empire.  The contrast between the two entrances is part of the backdrop against which events are unfolding. The Jewish Temple leadership had aligned itself with their Rome overlords ostensibly to secure the place of the Temple in Jewish society, but the price they paid was they themselves were collecting tax money and funneling it to Rome.  And they accepted the responsibility for keeping the Jewish population in check to appease Rome.  They had little interest in encouraging Jesus and His band of followers and were working hard to contain Jesus and His disciples.  

Image result for Jewish–Roman wars

Jesus entry into Jerusalem attracted some attention, but it is hard from the Gospel accounts to know how much or even to determine what gate Jesus entered or what streets he was traversing.   The “crowd” is variously described as “the whole multitude of the disciples” (Luke 19:37), “many people” (Mark 11:8), “a large crowd” (Matthew 21:8), and John refers to “the great crowd that had come to the festival” (John 12:12) which means they weren’t there specifically to see Jesus.   Although Matthew says all the city was disturbed by Christ’s entrance, it is clear that many don’t even know who Jesus is and so are asking, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10)   And since there was no media coverage, Christ’s entrance would only have attracted those who knew he was coming and where he would enter the city.   Jerusalem was swamped with visitors for the Passover, so there was already a lot of chaos in the city.  This is also why Pilate and the Roman legion entered the city – to be a visible presence to remind the Jews who is lord and master over them.


Liturgically, Palm Sunday is kept as one of the Great Feasts of the Church.  It marks the end of Great Lent and the transition into Holy Week. There is a joyous tone to the weekend and the events it celebrates.  Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes:

.Palm Sunday: the Feast of the Kingdom, the feast of the reign. Everything is so clear during that feast. All of Holy Week is the revelation of the Kingdom. The Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem is the revelation of the King. The Last Supper – the revelation of the Kingdom. The Cross – the reign, the victory of the King. Pascha – the beginning of the eternal Passover, the entrance into heaven. “And He opened for us the gates of paradise…” (The Journals of Father Alexander Schememann, p. 232)

Palm Sunday is a day of rejoicing for Christians at the conclusion of Great Lent.  Even the Epistle for the day is joyous (Philippians 4:4-9).  Orthodox scholar Peter Bouteneff comments:

St. Paul tells us to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, worthy of praise (Phil 4:8). Why? Because they are imitations of God. They describe Jesus Christ. They are window to his presence. They soften our hearts. ( How to be a Sinner, p. 39)

We are to think about Christ and our life in Him, always remembering His connection to us involves the Cross.  “...looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:2-3).