Festering sin

Dear Friends

In our modern eyes, sin is viewed morally and legally. “I did the wrong thing, I sinned.” So I confess it before God and I apologise to those whom I have wronged. “That’s the end of it,” I speak to myself, “I am free.” I did something wrong, I made up for it, now it’s disappeared.

For the children of Israel, both wandering in the wilderness and in the Promised Land, this was not their view: they had to fight hard to prevent sin from entering the camp and, when it did, stop it from spreading. Sin was not merely a moral or legal infraction, it was a contaminant that left a stain on a place, and it would spread like a disease, the place would have to be washed and purified that the sin would be destroyed.

And we can see this in our own lives. In a place where we have sinned once it is all too easy for us to sin again. The stench, the foul-smell, of sin lingers. Others may, perhaps inexplicably to them, find a temptation to sin when entering such a place. The sin lingers and wants to multiply, a parasite in our homes. My sins leave marks, stains, wherever I commit them.

~ ~ ~

We are coming to the end of our “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and at its completion we celebrate the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, Theophany, on 6th January, And it could be easy to see this feast as incidental—a choice from many possibilities, with which to end Christmas. But this is not so, it is deliberate and represents an escalation of the War against the powers of this age being waged by Christ.

We have a dual relationship with water. On the one hand a glass of water to drink is good, we need water to live. Yet, on the other, in the form of rivers, seas and oceans it is powerful and untameable—even with our modern technology we are often subject to its power rather than masters of it.

And the demons and spirits lurk there. In mythology we read how they often delight in ridiculing the weakness of humanity and their own magnificence since they can control the waters.

And Christ comes. Christ comes to the Jordan and overwhelms the powers of darkness lurking there. And David, speaking prophetically both of the Crossing of the Red Sea and of this moment cries out,

The waters saw you, O God;
The waters saw you and were afraid;
And the depths were troubled,
A multitude like the sound of waters.
The clouds uttered their voice,
For your arrows passed through them;
The Voice of your thunder was in the wheel;
Your lightening gave light to the world;
It was shaken, and the earth was made to tremble.

— Psalm 76:17–19 ʟxx

And we participate in this event, we take part again in the victory over the demons—they are often shown in icons of Theophany in the water towards the bottom, small and powerless against Christ—the victory over sin, by blessing the waters this Sunday. Come and be a part of this participation in Christ’s Victory.

But there is more. Orthodox Christians invite their priests, their presbyters, into their homes after Theophany to bless them with this symbol of Christ’s Victory and thereby remove the stench of sin, the festering menace from where evil may spread: to purify the homes that we ourselves may be pure. We sanctify our homes on this yearly basis so that the layers of sin around us are destroyed and we may be truly free in the Lord.

Come and be part of Christ’s latest Victory, come and be purified, come and let Christ’s baptism renew your own.

Come and see!

Please speak to me, or contact me, to arrange a time for your home to be blessed.

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.

We are here, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the midst of the feasts, between the Nativity according to the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ and the Theophany, the revelation of God, Christ’s baptism by the Forerunner in the Jordan. And here, between the two great feasts, we take part in another event in the human life of the Lord, his Circumcision.

And we squirm, we don’t like to talk about such things: further, we remember the Lord’s words, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17) We want to interpret fulfil in a way which means the Law has ended: “I have no need for the Law,” I say to myself, “I have grace;” this is not, however, the understanding of the Scriptures nor of the Church, for when the Lord says “fulfil” he means “fill to overflowing.”

And I turn back to today’s celebration, for it directly links us to the two Great Feasts. “In him also,” says the Apostle to the Colossians just a few moments ago, which is to say, “in Christ,” “you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ;” for we, each of us, have participated in Christ’s Circumcision. And how has this been accomplished? The Apostle continues, “and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” So today’s feast is not something to be forgotten for a Law which no longer applies but shows how we are incorporated fully into the Israel of God through our Baptism into Christ. We have been “baptised into Christ [and] have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) through which we have received Christ’s Circumcision.

Read last Sunday’s Sermon, In the midst of the feasts.
Archive of Past Sermons.

Services this week

Friday 6th January
Discussion on the Book of Numbers, 8 pm
Online only

Saturday 7th January
Vespers, 6.30 pm
At St Francis’ Hall, Eastleigh

Sunday 8th January
Divine Liturgy, 9.30 am
At St Francis’ Hall, Eastleigh

Online session is via Google Meet: please get in contact for the details.

Please join us: all are welcome, come and see.

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With love in Christ

Fr Alexander
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