A Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) homily
Being Christian is a choice. Believing in Jesus Christ, beyond the fact that there was a historical figure named Jesus, whom some called the Christ, believing in the Jesus that performed miracles, taught parables, and was the manifestation of God in this world, the Word of God made flesh, is a choice. Believing in God in general is a choice, regardless if you’re Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. Our belief, or lack thereof, is a function of our using our right to choose. Do we choose to follow a man that lived over 2000 years ago and performed a radical act that would become the very foundation of a faith that nearly a third of the world follows? Do we choose to demand a scientifically-based proof for anything we are willing to believe in? Do we choose to live our faith out in the open, or do we choose to hide that piece of us from the world?
When we walked around the Cathedral this evening, we experienced the story of the radical salvific act that Christ makes in his final act as embodied flesh. The walk of Christ, the torture of Christ, the death of Christ, is also a choice. Christ entered into his ministry with an understanding that no matter how much he taught, how many miracles he performed, he would never be able to convince the masses of the new covenant that God was presenting in offering God’s only son to the world. Throughout the Gospel’s, allusions are made by Christ himself, to the death that he must suffer. And while it was a predestined outcome in many ways, Christ still had a choice to fulfill this call. It’s important to understand this. If we are to understand Christ as being both fully human and fully divine, then we have to recognize in Christ the very real humanity that existed within him. And, with that humanity, is the very real choice that he has in exercising his understanding of free will. When Christ takes up the cross, not speaking in his defense, carries it through the city, to the hill, is strung up and left to die a horrible death, Christ is doing this of his own free will, Christ is doing this as a choice in order to cement an understanding between the divine in God and the humanity in all of us. It is in this choice of Christ that we are offered eternal salvation, it is in this choice of God that death is defeated, that sin is defeated, and we are given the choice to accept this reality for ourselves.
Sinning, confessing that sin, and experiencing healing from that sin, is only possible through the salvation that is offered by Christ on the cross. Without faith, sin is a non-issue. Why feel bad for hurting someone else, for thinking only of yourself, for declaring your way or the highway, if there are no consequences that accompany your actions? Some may argue, this is actually an argument against faith. Think of certain people who call themselves Christian and ask yourself, how often do you see them feeling bad for hurting someone else, how often are they only thinking of themselves, declaring their way or the highway, because they have the moral superiority of Christ on their side. And yet, whether you are doing these things through a lack of faith or with the thought that your faith is unsurpassed, you are living into sin, and you are not exercising faith.
The true understanding of sin is centered on an understanding that sin is distancing you from God. If you are actively choosing to distance yourself from God, exercising a choice in having no faith, you are not actually free from the threat and harm of sin because you are not free from God. God does not care what our choice is when it comes to believing or not. God does care what our choice is when it comes to how we treat our neighbor. How we treat the stranger. How we treat the bully, the loner, the stoner, the geek, the freak, the jock, the average kid just trying to make it through another day. And, we don’t always get that choice right.
I was not a popular person in high school. I was a bit arrogant, thought I was better than a lot of people around me, and wasn’t afraid to let them know that. I also didn’t fit into a neatly molded roll. Because of this reality of who I was, I was an easy target for people who wanted someone to pick on. Unfortunately for them, I also had a terribly quick temper. Luckily for all of us, you couldn’t get in trouble for fighting if it was with other people from the wrestling team and you did it in the wrestling room. I was quite active in Church, I knew the lessons that Christ had been teaching me continuously in Sunday School for the past however many years, but they quickly went out the window when my personhood was challenged. I choose to engage with these bullies, because I myself wanted to bully them back. I didn’t want to turn the other cheek. I wanted to give into sin and exercise my baser reactions. I wanted to fight because I wanted to give into the anger and pain that was created from their own sin of attacking me. Thankfully, my choice to sin did not damn me for all time. Thankfully, our decisions to sin have an answer that comes in Jesus’ own choice to offer a sacrifice.
When we sin, we confess this sin. We confess the sin, because it is in confessing the sin that we acknowledge that our actions were in fact sinful. We cannot hide from the sin if we honestly and faithfully confess of them. This does not mean that the sin will necessarily stop right away, or that we will never sin in that way again, but we acknowledge that it is sin and in that acknowledgement we are choosing to confess that sin to God. Without our confession of our sin on a regular basis, we cannot move forward from that sin and try to choose a different path. Without the confession, we cannot receive the promise that is made through Christ in his death.
The promise made through Christ, a promise that we can choose to accept into our own lives if we simply have faith, is the promise of healing when sin is confessed. We are healed because we want to reconcile ourselves to God. We want to re-establish that bond with God that is threatened, weakened, when we choose sin over faith. And it is in our experience of healing from God that we begin to understand the redemption that is present in Jesus’ action on the cross. The redemption of the entire human race, a new covenant made between creation and creator, established because we can’t seem to ever get it right, established because we will continue to fail, we continue to not ever get it right, and yet now we have an avenue through which we can return to God and seek healing for choosing to strike out on our own without God, to push God aside in favor of our own satisfaction, to choose self over all others.
Being Christian is a choice. And, it is a choice that will be with you for the rest of your life. Whether you are currently questioning, find yourself questioning in the future, or never really question your faith, you will constantly have to choose whether to follow Christ. Know that this choice is before you because of the salvific act that Christ performed on that cross 2000 years ago. Know that this choice is before you so that your experience of sin and sinning may be confessed, that you may healed, that you may experience reconciliation and redemption through Christ, that you may experience the love of God that is constantly waiting for you to acknowledge its presence in your life, if you simply choose to see it. Amen.