Sermon on God's image in man

Uncovering God's image in ourselves

November 30, 2020

priest with family in church

To follow God, one must first see Him. We can only see Him in another human. When we continue to look for Him tirelessly and plead fervently for His mercy, He will reveal Himself to us.

We come to Church. We see it as a large workshop, where God restores man to His magnificent image with the power of His love. Of the fullness of His love, this world was created. He created man, His crown jewel, and endowed him with the physical body and the spirit. With His love, He breathed the spirit in man’s body as a man was still dwelling in paradise. The man was nurtured by His love all the time as he kept a face-to-face conversation with God in prayer.

At some point, the prayer stopped, and so did the conversation. The man began to hide away from God; he argued, opposed, and rebelled against Him.

God came into the world as a son of man. He landed with trust and love for the people who had refused His love. He arrived unarmed, with no protections typically accorded to earthly rulers and kings. He entered with love and carried it throughout His earthly life until His dying minutes on the Cross.

At Church, the sacraments of God's love are life-giving. God and man become one in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He does not just hold out His hand, He gives us all of Himself. Even when we are not living by His Truth, He still loves us. His touch alters people’s lives. The harlot, the robber, and the publican whom the world had condemned found in Him their salvation. He did not judge them. He raised them up and showed them the way to the place where the light of His love triumphs.

Apostle Paul spoke of two selves living within him. It is indeed tragic that even when we find God, our sinful self that we had inherited from our birth stays on with us from cradle to grave. No-one in this world would be in the position to say with confidence: "I am saved. I have won the struggle. I am fully restored to goodness". Only God and His grace can grant us salvation and victory. As God's grace descends on us, we come to realise ever more astutely the depth of our corruption and feel the pain of our original sin which holds us down on this earth.

The church is the gathering point for God-loving people, so all of them may be one (John 17: 21). This oneness is held together by the Blood and Body of Christ. Nothing in this world can shake this unity, the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16: 18). No attack from our enemy can destroy it, because it is grounded in God's love.

"Seek peace within yourself, and thousands will be saved around you", writes Saint Serafim of Sarov. He urges us to look for the goodness of God's love within ourselves, so other people could see God through us. As Christians, we are not out to transform this world and its laws. It is not our intention to engage in disputes or conflicts to defend the truth of this world as we might see it. Instead, we live by the Truth of the Lord found within ourselves, and by doing so we enlighten the lives of the people around us.

People do not leave the world and join monasteries to escape or hide from it behind monastic walls; they come to be cleansed of the corruption of this world which is increasingly becoming the norm; their aim is to overcome the pride to which so many of us are captive. They come to commit themselves fully to Christ and to entrust themselves to His love. They give up to God all that is theirs, for man has nothing that is his own. When we are on our own, we only bring destruction upon ourselves and corruption to our bodies and spirits. But when God is acting within us, we gain the ability to be cleansed of all the layers of sin that had built up in us. Slowly, our true selves as servants of God become revealed. God's image in us becomes visible. These moments of wonder are a much-coveted prize; people spend months and even years fighting batting their flesh and fighting their rebel spirits to enjoy them as they straddle along the narrow path of salvation without grumbling and disdain.

On our journey along this path, we are inspired by the prospect of our resurrection from the dead. The Lord will meet us there. He had worked hard to recreate His image in us; all things within us that are finite, worldly, and impure will have burned away in the fire of His love, which He sheds so generously on every new life that comes to this world.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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