I often have to hear how people say about our Church, “You know, I don’t go to your church and won’t go, because it’s like a train station there—who don’t you see there? It would be alright if they were good people, but they’re not! I met one of them. Do you know what sort of man he is? And that girl is not any better. I won’t even mention the rest. And they go to services, cross themselves and don’t even blush…”
Why are there so many unfortunate, wretched, broken lives, strange and simply bad people in the Church, while the saints and righteous ones are hardly to be found? This scandalizes and turns away many.
But this is in fact the most remarkable thing, that there are only sick people all around! It means that you have come to the right place. It means that everything you have read in the Gospels and heard about Christ is true.
Who did the Lord take to heaven first? The repentant thief. Publicans, harlots, lepers, and the demonically possessed came to Him from all around. Not the righteous. The sick. All the rest had no time for Him. There were just fine without Him.
Just fine, without God. The Gospel calls this state death. Because the soul without God is a dead soul.
People are always confusing the Heavenly Church with the earthly Church. From this comes the misunderstanding, doubts, and confusion. All the saints and righteous ones are there, in the Kingdom of Heaven. But here on earth, the Church is a hospital for sins, spiritual illnesses and death. In our Church there is only one who is absolutely healthy, pure, perfect, and sinless. He is our Lord and God Jesus Christ. And it is by His power that the Church is delivered, treated, and cured.
Why is it that when we see sick, lame, and coughing people in an ordinary hospital no one gets the desire to point to his temples, turn heel and run? That is why it is a hospital, so that the sick would come and be healed. This is even more true for the Church, where it is not the body being healed, but the eternal soul. That sick people come with terrible wounds and diseases testifies to the power of the doctor they are seeking. Sinners who have resolved to be delivered from their sins and death testify to Christ.
And when I look at people in church, my heart is filled with joy, because the Lord is here, with us, and He is healing. Sometimes people themselves don’t know why they go to church. The pain itself, the wounds that won’t stop gnawing at their hearts lead them here. Then suddenly, it all goes away. Without understanding the services, in general vaguely understanding what is going on, the person suddenly feels that he is now better. He—that is he, the heart—his heart, though just recently bleeding it is now peaceful and well. People can lie, books can deceive, but your own heart tells the truth. And this is the most remarkable thing that you can feel in the Church.