Waiting-Not Wasting Time-Mar. 18-Sermon

Waiting-Not Wasting Time-Mar. 18-Sermon

 

March 18, St. John Climacus

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. 9:17-31

And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

When I read this Gospel section I think of one thing.

Suffering. Pain. Parental Anguish.

Wordly suffering is not able to be cured with worldly methods.

This is only cured with prayer and fasting.

St. John Climacus (The Ladder) teaches us again about the true Christian life.

The true Christian life is an ascetic struggle to attain holiness.

When you think of holiness, maybe that is a hard word to grasp.

What is holiness?

We have many ideas floating around in our head, but maybe this will help.

Think of holiness as wholeness.

Wholeness. Become whole, healed. Healthy. Cured from the sickness of sin.

That is holiness.

Healing, wholeness, holiness is a long process. We are not always real good with long term work and waiting.

Waiting for the work that God is doing in us to change us.

 

But we do a lot of waiting.

We all hate waiting in line. It seems like a waste of time.

I hate waiting for a table at a restaurant, maybe 10-15 minutes, max.

I remember waiting on the birth of 4 children. If it was a long wait for me, how long was it for my wife?

Anticipation. What is taking so long? Why??

 

  1. Some things are worth waiting for and some really aren’t.

The wait is easier if the expected reward is great.

This is how we decide how long we are willing to wait.

Well, we can wait 20 minutes at this restaurant, the food is always good. And by the time we go somewhere else, we will have to wait there too. Let’s stay.

We have determined the reward is worth the wait.

 

  1. The attitude we have is also dependent upon whether or not we have a choice to wait or not.

In choosing a restaurant, I can choose to not wait or to wait.

Other things are harder to wait on because we have no choice and we don’t know how long the wait will be.

If I am waiting for a tax refund, that is one thing.

I remember waiting for a letter from the Metropolitan telling me whether or not I would be ordained a priest. When the letter finally came, my heart was pounding, I couldn’t wait to open it. Other people can bear to open it.

But the wait is over. Now we have to deal with the consequences.

It is not a life or death scenario. Life changing, yes, life threatening? No.

 

  1. The third kind of waiting is very different. We aren’t talking about 15 minutes or a few weeks, but decades.

This kind of waiting is a different kind. It is not passive. We are not “just waiting”, but working, striving, struggling; as we wait and hope.

 

So waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing, it means we don’t have what we want yet.

This is the story of Abraham in the epistle reading.

And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.

 

It seems that the Lord was a waiting too in the Gospel message, O Faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?

 

This brings us back to John Climacus.

His book called the ladder is a classic about the spiritual struggle of the Christian life.

Climbing the ladder of the virtues.

And this brings us back to the key to the Christian life.

Asceticism, summed up here by Jesus as prayer and fasting.

 

While we are waiting for the Lord to return, or for us to go to Him, we are not passively sitting around just enjoying life to the fullest like a tv commercial for retirement planning.

 

We are working on ourselves to find wholeness, holiness.

 

This is what the Lord meant when He said, Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.

 

The path of the Christian life calls us to heroic action. Asceticism is the life of discipline and self-denial needed in order to obtain something better.

Prayer is not to get things for this life. Fasting is not to impress God.

They are both forms of self-denial that make us more holy.

They teach us dependence upon God, reveal to us our weaknesses.

 

One thing that confuses many people. Many faithful Orthodox think there are two sets of rules, two ways to salvation.

The first is for monastics, priests and bishops.

The second is for lay people.

The Lord never taught this.  He made to distinction between them.

All believers are called to fasting, prayer, confession, the holy chalice.

 

Its not like clergy are tough and laymen are slackers. NO.

 

Monastics teach us how to live.

Married Faithful: ‘We are married and are beset with social cares, how can we possibly lead the monastic way of life?’

St. John Climacus: “Do all the good you can, do not speak evil of anyone, do not steal from anyone, do not lie to anyone, do not be arrogant towards anyone, do not hate anyone, do not be absent from the divine services, be compassionate to the needy, do not offend anyone, do not wreck another person’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own spouse can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 

But what we see in this is asceticism. Self denial. This is the way of the Lord.

Let us not get tired of this.

Working while waiting.

 

Ps. 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

Is. 30:18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

Is. 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

 

The root word used here is the word for bind together, to twist, to adhere to. Long, tarry, wait. Our lives are bound up in Christ. We wait for His return, but we strive for holiness while we wait.

 

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

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March 4-Sunday of Gregory Palamas

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (2:1-12)

Every story of healing in the New Testament comes to us with a message on two levels, one physical and the other spiritual.

They are connected: there is a peculiar form of blindness that is spiritual and the healing of physical blindness takes that into consideration. So it is also with paralysis.

The paralytic is a person who cannot move. Mobility is a major part of our lives. When our bodies no longer move and the breath no longer moves through them, we are dead.

Every physical therapist or trainer will tell you that, as you age, it is particularly important to keep moving and flexible.

Any inability to move affects both body and soul. Without mobility we are trapped.

We can become inflexible in spirit as well as in body.

In Christ, we are free to move forward once again.

The fathers teach us that we find out who we truly are in times of temptation and adversity, such as being ill.

We are pushed by circumstances, challenged, and this can reveal to us who we are.

In the case of the paralytic, we might suppose that he realized his condition, and asked to be brought to the Lord for His help.

If we are wise, we will do the same whenever we find ourselves in difficult circumstances.

The church remains a place of healing, in fact that is its primary characteristic. We are a therapeutic community and, if not, we are not living up to the high calling to which we have been called.

 

Notice, our Lord does not immediately heal the man; but rather, forgives his sins.

Notice, no one even asks for healing. No words are recorded as being spoken, no request made.

 

Jesus SEES their faith and forgives sins. It does not say Jesus say their faith and healed him.

Jesus saw their faith and He said, Your sins are forgiven.

When the sin was forgiven, physical healing took place.

 

We don’t usually like to consider this, but there is usually a connection between our physical state and our spiritual condition; and when we are ill spiritually, we may find this causing physical illness as well.

The Lord in this passage shows us that there is a connection between physical illness and spiritual illness or sin.

Now before we go further we should note that this does not mean that people get sick or die because they are bad people. No.

In fact, many of our saints, including modern saints, were quite sick people. Some had cancer, others suffered migraines or stomach ailments etc.

When the man sick of the palsy is healed in his body, our Lord tells him to take up his bed and walk.

By doing so, the man shows that he has truly been healed; and, we are meant to know, that his sins were, indeed, forgiven. So it is with us.

When we have examined our lives, and repented, and confessed our sins, the promise of God is that our sins, also, are forgiven.

Trusting in the mercy of God, we, also, should take up our beds and walk – that is to say, we should also show, in deeds as well as in words, that we have been changed, that our souls have been healed.

There should be something different in who we are, and in what we say and do, after we have repented and confessed.

If there is nothing different, we need to ask ourselves whether we truly have repented, whether we have confessed everything – and again, if we find anything, repent, and confess – and be different.

What is demonstrated in this passage is that the Lord has an interest in seeing us made completely whole. When the paralyzed man was brought to Jesus, Our Lord did not simply heal the physical issues.

We don’t know what kind of sins were in this man’s life, but what we do know is quite valuable for all of us.

Sin starts as casual, then it enslaves a man, it progresses to paralyze a man and finally to kill him.

We don’t know what sins were in the life of the paralyzed man, but we know the heart of the Son of God. He didn’t want this man to suffer with his sickness any longer.

He didn’t want the man to be sick and the priority for Our Lord Jesus is not that the man can’t move, it is that the man was estranged from God.

The true humanity of this man was unknown because his soul had been disfigured by sin.

 

Every one of us is like this man. We are fallen and our biggest issue isn’t some sickness or physical pain.

We choose to believe that those are our biggest issues but they are not.

To be completely absorbed by your physical issues is to still be carnally minded and fleshly.

Our biggest issue must always be the spiritual pain of being separated from God, no matter the degree of that separation.

As we journey through this time of Great Lent, this season of preparation for the celebration of our Lord’s Pascha, His triumph over death on our behalf, let us ask God for His grace to see our illnesses and our weaknesses and our wickedness; let us ask for grace to repent and confess; let us ask Him to forgive and heal us; and let us then take up the labor of living the life of Christ for all to see, to the glory of God, and the salvation of our souls.

It is no coincidence that St. Gregory Palamas is also celebrated today.

St. Gregory was God’s man at a crucial hour in the Church.

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos succinctly lays out the issue at the heart of the controversy:

Barlaam maintained that one could reach God through philosophy and conjecture, while St. Gregory Palamas, having experienced the actual road that leads to the knowledge of God, upheld the Orthodox view that it is only through purity that one can see God. (St. Gregory Palamas as a Hagiorite, p. 46)

He made the bold claim that those who practiced stillness in their prayers were in fact able to experience God in a direct, firsthand, personal encounter. There can be no doubt that he in fact, had this experience, as did many of the saints throughout the ages.

It is an amazing claim that is upheld by the Orthodox Church and is barely ever mentioned or hinted at anywhere else.

He instructed us that the Light of Tabor, the Light of the Transfiguration, was not natural, or created light, but truly uncreated light.

He was one of the great teachers of the way that the physical body must work together with the soul and the mind in order to produce good spiritual fruit.

But he went further than this. In his boldness, St. Gregory taught that it was in fact possible to actually, really, truly encounter God if one struggles to obtain pure prayer.

So this Second Sunday of Great Lent teaches us so much. We learn that the work of the body is important work. We learn that we are saved together as an integral whole, body, mind and soul.

We learn that when we harness our hearts, minds and souls to agree on working together towards knowledge of our Creator, we are then able to truly share in the life of God.

We come to know God directly through the energies that He shares with us in the Holy Spirit.

We come to behold the truth of Christ and to witness the light of Christ in the same way that the disciples experienced this during the Holy Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor.

Our path to this knowledge of the risen and glorified Christ is through asceticism, through the struggle to subject the body to our will, as we do when we fast and do prostrations and stand to pray but that is not enough.

So this is the connection with the paralytic. The spiritual world is real, God is more real than we imagine. The glories of the Kingdom are available to all of us, if we are willing to really live the life of Christ. He knows our sin, He knows our healing as well. When we come to Him, we take up our bed and walk to the Cross, we fall down and learn to rely upon Him. We receive true healing and peace for our souls…

We are called to a heroic life in Christ, we can do amazing things in Christ. We don’t have to be paralyzed.

 

My brothers and sisters, let us struggle together to die to ourselves, to our will, to our way, to our wisdom, that we might have the chance to be raised in glory with the resurrected Christ.

For He is the resurrection and the life!

Glory be to God forever AMEN.

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Orthodoxy Sunday-2018

The first week of Lent is over.

Not what I had hoped.

I went in with high hopes. Goals, I had ‘em.

I failed.

I felt depressed about myself.

What is wrong with me?

How does one respond to this situation? Maybe you have had a similar experience.

If you try too hard, you will fail.

Met. Anthony of Sourouzh once told an interesting story. He was a dr. and was treating a very poor family, for free. They had saved up to buy a chicken and have him over for dinner to thank him. During lent.

He was so pleased with himself for his strict fasting, he was doing so well.

He decided he had to eat some chicken, so as to not offend the family.

He went to confession and confessed what he had done.

“I went to my spiritual father and told him about the misfortune that had happened to me. I told him that I was fasting almost perfectly during Lent, but then I ate a piece of chicken during the Holy Week.

Fr. Athanasios looked at me and said:

  • You know what? If God looked at you and saw that you have no sins and that a small piece of chicken could defile you, He would protect you from that.

But God looked at you and saw that there was so much sinfulness in you that no chicken can defile you more than that.”

Fr. Alexander Schmemann, wrote that “everything that exists in this world is God’s love. Even the food we eat is the Divine love in edible form.”

After reading these things, I was refreshed.

So, I am saying to myself: “Who do you think you are to have such high expectations of yourself?”

I wasn’t saying: “With God’s help I will do such and such.” It was all me.

I was humbled by my own weakness and depressed by my own sinfulness.

So what do I do about this? Remain depressed? No.

In baseball there is an interesting concept. Try easier.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

On my own, I can do nothing.

With Christ, all things are possible. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Why can’t I remember that?

Today is a day of rejoicing. The Triumph of Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent.

What is this all about? What is to celebrate?

This is about high heresy that had infected the Church of Jesus Christ for hundreds of years.

The iconoclast heresy. Icon breakers.

Today we celebrate the triumph of correct theology over heresy.

 

What was the heresy? That icons violate the second commandment and should be banned, destroyed. God is unknown, so how can images be ok? Make no graven image, to worship it. You are worshipping images.

 

How did the holy fathers respond?

 

 

 

 

  1. we do not worship, we venerate

Two words translated worship, one is worship for God alone, the other means venerate, pay honor, such as a judge being called “your honor”, a king called, “your worship”

  1. we make images because God became visible

The second commandment does not mean, don’t make any images, God commanded images to be put in the Tabernacle. When He became visible, He became an image, therefore can be an icon

  1. the honor paid to the icon is transferred to the one depicted

We do not venerate wood, paint, or gold. We honor the one depicted. As when you might kiss a picture of a departed relative or your loved one when you are separated.

 

The Council of 787 in Nicea decreed, this is what we have always believed.

This is the faith of the Apostles…

 

Icons were restored to churches and homes and instruction was given on how to properly use icons

 

Icons and the triumph of Orthodoxy over heresy is about Truth, capital T truth.

 

And this is the answer to my depression about my own failings. Truth.

 

I got a dose of truth about myself and I used Truth to help me through.

 

Faith is so important.

 

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6

Faith is believing in what I cannot see, touch or measure. It is trusting in another. Faith is confidence that someone is saving me.

 

How do I grow and keep this faith?

 

Knowledge, reminding myself of what I believe. Remembering the promises of God, what has He said, what has He done.?

What we believe is handed down to us, it’s called Tradition. Icons are part of that tradition. The belief that undergirds the proper use of icons is part of that tradition.

 

When I look at my icons, I am reminded of The Icon. Jesus is the icon of the Father, if you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Icons depict to me a reality beyond understanding. They renew my faith. They remind me of truth. Jesus really did become a man. He really did come to save me. He really does love me.

This is what we will proclaim today in our procession with the icons: This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe.

Do not let your failure, your weakness, your sin keep you in bondage. Refresh your faith in the Son of God who loves you. Learn and remember His promises, what He has done, what He is doing.

He knows our weakness, we are the prodigal. Yet He loves us, when we are wallowing with the pigs, He is ready to call us back.

He longs to bring us healing and refreshment. Salvation from ourselves.

Glory to God. Halleluia.

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The Sunday of the Last Judgment

On this day, focus is placed on the future judgment of all persons who will stand

before the throne of God when Christ returns in His glory.

 

Life is an open book exam.

 

In school, sometimes we had open book exams.

That’s our life.

We know how we will be graded, our life is the test, and its open book.

 

In Matthew 25, Christ speaks about what will happen at this specific point in time when

He will “come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him” (v. 31).

 

The first time He came, it was in abject humility.

The Second Coming, He is coming in Glory.

 

At His coming, “He will sit on the throne of His glory,” and all of the nations will be gathered before Him.

He will separate them “as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (v. 32). The sheep will be placed on His right hand, and the goats on the left.

To the sheep, He will say “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (vv. 33-34)

This kingdom is offered to the sheep because of their compassion and service

to those in need. The sheep, who are the righteous chosen for the kingdom, will ask how

this could be so. They will ask Jesus when was He hungry or thirsty, a stranger,

naked, and in prison. Why? Because they acted like God.

 

He will answer them by saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the

least of these My brethren, you did it to me” (vv. 35-40).

 

Christ the King, seated on His throne of judgment, will then turn to the

goats on His left and say, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting

fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41).

 

He will condemn them because they did not feed Him when He was hungry, give Him

drink when He was thirsty, take Him in when He was a stranger, clothe Him when He

was naked, visit Him when He was sick or in prison. Why? They did not imitate God.

 

Jesus concludes His words on the Last Judgment by stating that those on the

left “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal

life” (v. 46).

 

  1. He is coming back
  2. There is a judgement
  3. Two possible outcomes

 

On the past two Sundays of this pre-Lenten period, we talked about God’s patience and

limitless compassion, of His readiness to accept every sinner who returns to Him.

 

On this Sunday, we are powerfully reminded of this truth: the God of love is also a

God of righteousness, and when Christ comes again in glory, He will come as our

Judge.

A few weeks ago I spoke to a group at the Unitarian Universalists.

Not into judgement, all will be saved even if there is one.

 

Not our message.  turn back while there is still time, repent before the End comes.

 

This Sunday sets before us the eschatological dimension of Lent:

the Great Fast is a preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior

Another theme of this Sunday is that of love. When Christ comes to judge us,

what will be the criterion of His judgment?

The parable of the Last Judgment answers: love—not a mere humanitarian concern for

abstract justice and the anonymous “poor,” but concrete and personal love for the

human person—the specific persons that we encounter each day in our lives.

Why love? God is love. HE wills that we who receive His love not hoard it for ourselves,

as if it were limited. We have been loved and receive love, so we do the same, we give it

away.

 

This is how we are judged. Do we value the love of God enough to imitate it? Do we truly

want to be like God? Or are we twisted by self and a shallow and pale imitation of that

love?

 

Christian love is the “possible impossibility” to see Christ in another

person, whoever he or she is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan,

has decided to introduce into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an

occasion for a “good deed” or an exercise in philanthropy, but as the beginning

of an eternal companionship in God Himself.

 

The parable of the Last Judgment is about Christian love. Not all of us are

called to work for “humanity,” yet each one of us has received the gift and the

grace of Christ’s love. We know that all persons ultimately need this personal

love—the recognition in them of their unique soul in which the beauty of the

whole creation is reflected in a unique way.

 

In the Kontakion we sang today it speaks of a river of fire.

What is this river of fire? The Love of God.

 

the books shall be opened, and the hidden things disclosed;

our thoughts, actions will be judged as compared to the Love of God

 

On Saturday, February 24 we will celebrate Memorial Saturday, or Souls Saturday.

This is a special commemoration when the Church offers a Divine Liturgy and Memorial

Service for the departed faithful. This is considered a universal commemoration of the

dead. It is closely related to the theme of the Sunday of the Last Judgment since the

services focus on the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.

Through the memorial services, the Church is commending to God all who have

departed and who are now awaiting the Last Judgment.

 

This is an act of love for all those gone before us. Death cannot stop love.

 

We have been told in advance what is coming. Each of us is steadily moving toward the

day of judgement.

Let us use this season of repentance to examine ourselves and endeavor, with all our

effort, to make some changes to put us or keep us on a trajectory of being one of the

sheep.

 

Kontakion of The Last Judgement

When Thou, O God, shalt come to earth with glory, all things shall tremble, and the

river of fire shall flow before Thy judgment seat; the books shall be opened, and the

hidden things disclosed; then deliver me from the unquenchable fire, and make me

worthy to stand at Thy right hand, O Righteous Judge!

  1. What is God doing in your life, now? Evaluate.
  2. Are satisfied with your current spiritual life, state? Ready for growth?
  3. Does God have space to work in your life? Are you allowing Him in, asking Him in?

This parable helps us with these questions

The Prodigal Son

 

  1. God loves mankind

In the parable of the prodigal son one thing that our Lord illustrates for us is the love of God the Father for mankind.

The father, while only seeing his son approaching from afar, runs out to meet him, and he receives his prodigal son with love and joy. This gives us a glimpse of how much God loves us and also of the value He places upon us.

The one word, the name, “father” says it all. God is our Father and we are His children.

God Who is the “Master of all, Lord of heaven and earth and of all creation, both visible and invisible, Who sittest upon the throne of glory and beholdest the depths; without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, indescribable, changeless.” (Service Books of the Orthodox Church, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, p. 139)

This is He Who is “our Father and we are His children.”

The Lord created man from dust but He loves us as a father loves his children, and waits with longing for us to come to Him.

The Lord so loved us that for our sakes He was made flesh, and shed His Blood for us and gave us to drink thereof, and gave us His most holy Body; and thus we become His children, of His Body and Blood, and are in the likeness of the Lord in the flesh, as children are like their fathers,

The Lord never ceases calling us to Himself: ‘Come unto me, and I will give you rest.’ (Matt. 11:28)

He nourishes us with His most holy Body and Blood.

In His mercy He schools us by His Word and the Holy Spirit.

He has revealed His mysteries to us.

He lives in us and in the sacraments of the Church….

(St. Silouan the Athonite, St. Valdimir’s Seminary Press, p. 386)

All of God’s activity in the world is focused on the salvation of humanity. The God who is love is the God who has sent His only begotten Son for us. This God has one great focus…each of us and our souls. Today’s parable is a glimpse into the mind of God and the way that He desires our fellowship and union with Him.

 

  1. Come to God to learn who you really are.

The text says, he came to himself.

It is like he was so intent on doing his own will, he was becoming more and more inauthentic. Less and less human. This is the general direction of those who wander from God. To be more human is to become more like God. Apart God we become less human, more beast like, less able to thrive.

This is true in our spiritual lives as well. If we are not constantly connecting with the Father, we are going away from Him. We will grow less like Him. We will lose ourselves.

One of the things I love about this is the idea in Holy Scripture that I have a secret identity, so to speak. We learn in the Revelation of St. John that Jesus will give us a white stone with our name written on it.

To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it. Rev. 2:17

This fascinates me. I want to become a real human. I want to be whom I was created to be. The Prodigal, like Jonah, went the wrong way and lost himself.

But there is good news.

Everyone has the ability to return to the Heavenly Father, just as the prodigal son returned. What is needed for this?

In the parable it is said that the prodigal son came to himself, that is, that he understood his fall.

He understood the terrible condition he was in; he understood that this condition was not yet everything, that a greater and worse end awaited him: eternal torment after death.

In order to escape these torments, every person must come to himself; he must examine his life: not only his deeds and words, but all his thoughts and desires, every movement of his soul, from great to small.

He must judge himself, understand his disastrous moral condition, turn his face towards the Lord, and begin to implore the Lord to forgive his offenses, that He might come out to meet them, as He came out to meet the prodigal son; that He might help him to see and feel the burden of his sins, granting him true, sincere, and heartfelt repentance; and that He might put a ring on his finger as a sign of the return of his dignity, making him His child.

Indeed, of this we are unworthy. We must implore the Lord: “Lord, we are unworthy of being called Thy children, but number us at least among the hired servants of the eleventh hour!”

Now the Holy Church assures us, in the words of the Lord Himself, that if man will recognize his sins and weeps before the Lord for his perdition, and if he will implore the Lord, as did the publican while beating his chest: God be merciful to me a sinner, that the Heavenly Father will never reject him.

He will come out to meet him, embrace him, clothe him in the radiant robe of purity, call him His own son rather than a hired servant, and give a feast, an eternal feast in His Kingdom.

This is the reason we are all here. We have been, nay, are the prodigal.

As we move into Great Lent, this must be in our hearts. The awareness of our fallenness, our need for a savior.

 

  1. We are the prodigal, we all want to come home, we are all the older brother.

We do the same in our day to day lives. We use our bodies and minds and lips and our energy, all of these things that are gifts from God, in ways that are not always pleasing to God.

Why do you exist? Do you exist to serve yourself? Do you exist to pass your time until you grow old and die?

NO! You exist because God has breathed His life into you and because of that we know that God has a purpose for your life. Each of you is important, each of you is a son or a daughter like this young man.

And each of us is lost when we think that we can live on our own, independent of the Father.

What was it that began the process of the turning of the heart? It was his hunger.

 

Why do we fast to prepare for the Great Feast of Pascha (Easter)? Because it is the hunger that brings us to our right mind and turns us back to God our Father, and to His house, which is the Church.

The young man fasted unwillingly, due to his own foolishness. We as Christians fast willingly due to the wisdom of the Church. We want to hunger and thirst and desire after God and the shortcut to ardent desire and longing for God is to grow hungry

 

Great and Holy Lent is our time to repent and turn back to our Father. To understand that all of our desires are not filled by various things and material goods, not even with food!

Our deepest desires are met by God our Father who loves us and freely gives us all things that belong to Him.

The father celebrated his sons return as if he had come back from the dead. Let us also come back from the dead by the grace of God.

Let us turn from the death of our sins and our earthly desires to the resurrection of life in communion with God our Father.

It is truly God’s pleasure to give you everything that is His and He has proven this by giving us the very life of His Son, Jesus Christ so that He might give us His divine life.

May we repent and come to our right minds, and may we run towards the Father.

With God, it is never too late, until our last breath.

We will be surprised to see Him waiting for us and ready to embrace us, to love us and to bring us back into His own house to enjoy a great feast together with Him. To Him be the glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit AMEN.

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The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (18:10-14)

The Lord spoke this parable: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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  1. What is God doing in your life, now? Evaluate.
  2. Are satisfied with your current spiritual life, state? Ready for growth?
  3. Does God have space to work in your life? Are you allowing Him in, asking Him in?

Remember

  1. publican=tax collector, in that time, evil.
  2. pharisee=good guy, law keeper

God justifies the one not the other. This parable turns the expectations of the people upside down. Jesus usually does.

It’s not about who you are, it’s about attitude of the heart.

The inner man of the heart.

How marvelous that God heard such a short prayer.

Maybe we talk too much to God and don’t listen enough. Or maybe we think that more words is better in prayer.

This prayer, Lord have mercy on me a sinner, is the foundation of our spiritual life, our repentance.

Without humility there is no spiritual growth. No life.

The first man prays without needing God. Basically he is praying within and to himself.

The second man, aware of his brokenness, is desperate for God, knowing he cannot save himself, this is the basis of salvation, of humility, of happiness, of gratitude.

This is really a parable about ourselves. The Pharisee, studying other people instead of himself, doesn’t hear the will of God. His focus is all wrong.

Too often, we are caught up in the circus of thoughts that constantly bombard our minds. Thoughts that plague us with distraction, judgement and scorn.

Often we don’t hear God speaking in hearts because we’re tuned in to this airport.

So we mustn’t identify with these thoughts—don’t give them room to land.

Do you ever have conversations with yourself? What kind of dress is that? Does she dye her hair? Who taught him how to drive? Does she ever shut up?

Don’t enter into debate. We ought to, really, avoid criticizing not only others, but even situations.

Judging situations is a symptom of our blindness, our pride, because we assume we know God’s will, His plan for our lives, and for the life of the world.

We do not know His will, really, and to assess every situation suggests we know what’s best for ourselves.

Not only does the Publican turn his thoughts away in order to grasp the mercy of God but he barely lifts his gaze from himself.

Each time a thought arrives, we must acknowledge this and return to our gaze to the heart, to the kingdom of God.

St. John the Evangelist tells us Christ stands at our door, knocks, and if we hear Him, which means looking past the buzz of our mind, putting aside the negative thoughts, and invite Christ in, then Christ breaks bread with us.

When we offer ourselves, we receive Christ Who always offers Himself. It’s as though we clear a spot at the dinner table for Him.

This is one of the things we must work on when we pray, when we come to liturgy. Controlling, redirecting, our thoughts to where they should be. Discipline the mind to have peace in the heart. This is progress when we do this. When you realize you are doing this, it is good. Be happy. Something is working.

Don’t let the thoughts take your mind away to other things and situations. Snap back to the proper focus, this is repentance.

Its like a thread on the sidewalk, don’t pick it up, just let it be.

Let me remind you of the words of St. Paisius of the Holy Mountain:

Some people tell me that they are scandalized because they see many things wrong in the Church. I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?” it will say, “I don’t know about flowers, but over there in that heap of rubbish you can find all the filth you want.” And it will go on to list all the unclean things it has been to.

Now, if you ask a honeybee, “Have you seen any unclean things in this area?” it will reply, “Unclean things? No, I have not seen any; the place here is full of the most fragrant flowers.” And it will go on to name all the flowers of the garden or the meadow.

You see, the fly only knows where the unclean things are, while the honeybee knows where the beautiful iris or hyacinth is.

As I have come to understand, some people resemble the honeybee and some resemble the fly. Those who resemble the fly seek to find evil in every circumstance and are preoccupied with it; they see no good anywhere.

But those who resemble the honeybee only see the good in everything they see. The stupid person thinks stupidly and takes everything in the wrong way, whereas the person who has good thoughts, no matter what he sees, no matter what you tell him, maintains a positive and good thought.

Amen.

Let us join Zaachaeus in lofty places, trying to see Christ.

 

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Today we hear a clear signal. Great Lent is coming.

God has again used the small, the seemingly insignificant, the rejected, to teach us.

Zacc becomes for us an image of repentance, and that is why we read this Gospel every year.

Zacchaeus lives in the Church, abiding as an image of us all. In some sense, everyone of us is Zacchaeus, for everyone of us is a sinner at heart.

When the priest comes to your home to bless it. We use Zacc as an example in the prayer of the home blessing. He is invoked. Jesus condescended to enter into the house of Zacc, bringing salvation to him and to all his household.

Christ entered a good many people’s homes during His brief ministry, including the home of Simon Peter and of the ruler of the synagogue, and yet these visits are not referred to as is the visit to the home of Zacchaeus.

That is because Zacchaeus stood out among people.

Most people were decent folk, fallen, yet trying their best to do the right thing.

They had a sound moral compass, and even when they strayed a bit, they tried not to stray too far or for too long a time.

Zacchaeus was different. Zacchaeus was a sinner—that is, someone without apparent moral compass. He did not mind straying, and he had evidently lost his own moral compass a long time ago.

The word “sinner” (Greek amartolos) means this.

It did not denote someone who was merely fallen and mortal, but a lifestyle.

The word described a person with a certain social status—or, more accurately, a certain lack of social status. Prostitutes were sinners, traitors and collaborators were sinners.

Thieves and bandits were sinners. And tax-collectors of that time were sinners, and Zacchaeus, as a chief tax collector, was one of the worst.

He was described in Luke 19 as “rich”, and doubtless he had grown rich in the same way as most tax-collectors did—namely by cheating decent folk and enriching himself at their expense. Poverty-stricken widows and their children went to bed hungry because of Zacchaeus and people like him.

Little wonder then that the locals were scandalized, shocked, and traumatized when Jesus stopped under the sycamore tree which Zacchaeus had climbed and announced publicly that He had decided to stay at his house.

Christ’s visit would bestow status and honor upon the house which received Him, and everyone thought that no one deserved the honor less than Zacchaeus.

What about the local head of the town, or perhaps the ruler of the synagogue? Why should they be passed over and snubbed—and for Zacchaeus, of all people?

No wonder Luke reports that “everyone grumbled, saying, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner’” (Luke 19:7).

But Christ saw more than simply a sinner. He saw a sinner who so wanted to reach out for something more that he was even willing to make himself look ridiculous by climbing into a tree (something no adult conscious of his dignity would ever do).

Christ responded.

When Zacchaeus, sacrificing his dignity, reached down, Christ reached up, and the contact between them changed everything.

Zacchaeus changed his whole life, so that salvation came to his house that day. Christ came into the world to save Zacchaeus. He came into the world to save sinners.

But let’s be honest. Most of the time, we don’t feel like we are sinners.

That is why the Church holds the example of Zacchaeus before us as Great Lent approaches. Lent is about repentance and forgiveness, and it will be good to know how little we deserve the forgiveness we so constantly receive.

Many people say that they want to know God. Sometimes people are more specific and they say that they want to know Jesus Christ. We want to know grace, forgiveness, peace of soul.

It is a good thing to desire to know God, but what is the process by which we obtain this knowledge? How do we acquire knowledge of God?

Desire.

We all have passing desires.

However, our desire to know God should follow the model of Zacchaeus.

He had a desire and he didn’t ignore it or get distracted away from it.

His desire to see the Lord Jesus was not just a brief moment of wishful thinking or daydreaming. He allowed it to overtake him. It was the driving force behind his real struggle and efforts.

Zacchaeus has so much to teach us. Even though he was a tax-collector, among the most hated people in all of the Jewish world, he impressed the Lord so much by his zeal for knowledge of God.

Zacchaeus demonstrated his heart for God by not allowing anything to become an obstacle for him.

He was born short, it was easy for him to shrug his shoulders and say “too bad God didn’t make me taller so that I could see Jesus.” He didn’t complain about the crowd that surrounded Christ. He could’ve said “I would’ve loved to see Jesus but there’s simply too many people.”

He doesn’t use these difficulties or obstacles as excuses, he uses them as proof. What did he prove?

Zacchaeus proved that his desire to see Jesus was genuine, heartfelt and powerful.

Climbing the tree, he leaves the crowd behind.

Climbing the tree, he showed his faith.

Climbing the tree, he left his earthly cares behind seeking something higher.

By climbing the tree he let Jesus into his earthly house and into his inner house.

By a tree, Adam and Eve were banished out of paradise.

By climbing a tree, Zachaeus found paradise in the form of a man and was granted not only to see Christ but to sit and to dine with Him.

Conclusion

Ronald Reagan wrote that his mother “always expected to find the best in people and often did”. She attended the Disciples of Christ church regularly and was active, and very influential, within it; she frequently led Sunday school services and gave the Bible readings to the congregation during the services. A strong believer in the power of prayer, she led prayer meetings at church and was in charge of mid-week prayers when the pastor was out of town.

Her strong commitment to the church is what induced her son Ronald to become a Protestant Christian rather than a Roman Catholic like his father. He also stated that she strongly influenced his own beliefs: “I know that she planted that faith very deeply in me.”

She once said to Ron, “You can be too big for God to use, but you can never be too small.”

Zacchaeus was small, but used by God. Let us follow him.

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The reading of the epistle of the holy apostle Paul to Timothy (1:15-17)

Brethren, the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke (18:35-43)

At that time, as he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging; and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me receive my sight.”

And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

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Glory to ….

Beggars would often be found at the city gate where people are passing in and out. He is probably used to calling out to those who pass by, asking for money, begging for alms.

Blindness and diseases of the eye were common illness in the ancient world.

Those who lost one of their senses would often develop their other sense much more. But it takes no special insight for the blind man to realize that the number of people on the road crowding into the city is much large than usual.

A pushing, shoving crowd competes to stay up with someone who attracts their attention. The blind man cries out to whoever can hear him, “What is going on?” And one of the bystanders says, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

Once he is told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, he begins to yell at the top of his lungs: “He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ ” (18:38-39)

But this is no helpless, feeble cry for help. It is loud and insistent. He keeps on shouting. He won’t be shut up, even though the crowd continues to tell him to stop.

Some people are intimidated and subdued by their own handicaps. It’s possible to almost give up. But not our Blind man. What motivates his uncontainable cry for healing? Faith.

  1. Faith can increase in times of desperation. We become more conscious of our need for God when we really become aware of our own weakness. The events of life can remind that we really have no power over whether healing comes, or a situation changes. This is when we suddenly have a jolt of faith.

When you feel that panicky feeling in the heart, know that God is near, you are now aware of your need for Him. Call to Him like this man.

 

To call someone “Son of David” as a title is equivalent to calling someone, “Messiah,” for it signifies to the Jews a person who is the promised descendent of David who will sit upon the throne of Israel.

During most of his ministry, Jesus doesn’t encourage others to refer to him as the Messiah, because the political implications of this title would soon prevent him from being able to minister effectively (Matthew 16:16, 20). But now his hour is come. His face is set towards Jerusalem where he will be crucified.

When he asks the “Son of David” for mercy, he is expecting far more than money. And he has faith that the Son of David, the Messiah, will grant his request.

“Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’

‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied.” (18:40-42)

But why does Jesus ask the obvious? I can think of a few reasons: (1) to energize faith and cause it to be vocalized, (2) to help the person himself determine what he wanted from Jesus. (3) So that others would become aware of what the man wanted. (4) He often asks questions of people, making them speak their hearts. Uttering a need clarifies it for us, helps us sort out the real issue. Make priorities.

  1. Make your requests known to God, knowing that He knows. Knowing that He is near. Knowing that He is benevolent and loves you. Speak you hearts desires to Him. This is faith.

The fact is, some people do NOT really want to be healed — a blessing, a prayer, perhaps, but not real healing.

In the case of Blind man, Jesus is trying to get him to vocalize his faith, since Jesus responds to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”(18:42)

Jesus speaks a word, a command for healing, and the healing takes place immediately.

 

  1. Jesus is a bridge to the Father, always pointing people to a relationship with the Father. Jesus is trying to make people trust God on their own. Many can see Jesus only, but Jesus keeps encouraging their faith and pointing them to the invisible Father.

We also can serve as bridges for people. At first, they are often very dependent upon us. There may come a time when people come to you because they realize you go to church. They may become desperate and start looking for help.

We can see this as a stage of faith. Our goal is to help transfer their faith in us to faith in their Heavenly Father. Only when we have achieved this have we succeeded, only then have we become like Jesus. We bring the people to the Church, to Jesus, by this they come to the Father.

 

“Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.” (18:43)

The once-blind man now becomes a disciple and joins Jesus’ disciples.

He now is ready. He is a man of faith, and is more than ready to leave begging and take up giving to others.

This blind man serves a tremendous encouragement to others who are in the same physical or spiritual situation that he was.

The story of the blind man now known to the church as Bartimaeus (Mk. 10) is a powerful example to us of how it pleases Jesus for our faith to see its opportunity, grasp it, and refuse to let it go until we receive what we need from God. Who would have thought this beggar would instantly become a giver!

The fathers also give a spiritual interpretation to this miracle, with the blind men symbolizing future generations who would come to faith only by hearing, without the benefit of seeing Christ in person (see Jn 20:29).

Those who tried to silence the blind man are persecutors and tyrants who, in every generation try to silence the Church. Nevertheless, under persecution the Church all the more confesses Jesus Christ and calls us to do the same.

Brothers and sisters let as ask ourselves what can our faith help us become?

Amen.

 

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We are celebrating the first coming of the Savior, in our flesh, coming to earth as a God/man Theanthropos.

He came to become like us so we could become like Him, to save our souls and bodies. To communicate with us. To liberate us from false gods and idols. To Show us a new way to live, by walking in the Spirit.

But we forget.

I spent some time recently, thinking, meditating, recalling to mind the day that had gone before me, as I was heading to sleep. How much of my day was I aware of God?

How many times did I pray? How many times did I realize that I hadn’t thought about God for a while?

Much of my day was lived as if God was far away, as far as He is invisible.

With God it is often, out of sight, out of mind.

This is something many people aren’t aware is really a sin. When you confess to God, to you think of this as sinful? Selfish? Earthbound?

When you come to confession with the priest, do your number among your sins: forgetfulness of God, lack of concern for my salvation?

This is why God came. To save us from this selfishness, this distraction of only thinking about ourselves.

We all need to work on remembering God, all the time, staying in prayer, all the time.

 

Here is what I want you to think about today:

Being a sermon.

Remember one thing from my sermon today: You are a sermon.

What do I mean by this?

I have preached a lot of sermons with my mouth. So are good, many are not.

I have preached many, many more sermons with my life.

And you do as well.

 

St. Francis of Assisi said this: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Someone else said, The only Bible most people will ever read is your life.

Raising children, interacting with family, relationships at work, or in volunteer positions. You are preaching a sermon with your life.

I am preaching a sermon with my life: how I talk, how I react to stressful situations, how I treat other people. It’s a sermon. It tells others what you really believe.

I want us all to think about this when we consider 2017 and as we make resolutions for 2018.

What kind of sermon do I want to preach with my life in 2018?

What are steps I can take in 2018 to be a better preacher with my life? With my words.

Let’s think about this for a while.

And let me remind you of our Gracious, Mankind Loving God:

Every Sunday we enter into eternity.

The greatest grace we have in this life is The Divine Liturgy. The greatest miracle in any of our lives is the Divine Liturgy.

Remember that. We don’t have miracle workers in our midst. But we all experience a miracle every Sunday.

God accepts our worship, He forgives our sins.

 

Do you know where joy comes from? How do we get and maintain joy?

Thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God is the highest thing we can do.

How can I become a better sermon?

Acquiring the Mind Of Christ.

This is our retreat theme this year.

Very important. Make plans now to attend this.

Why we have a retreat every year.

I long for this holy parish to grow nearer to Jesus, to become more like our Lord.

This takes work.

 

BTW. I have noticed how hard you work in the Liturgy every Sunday.

A lot of singing.

This is so good for me to hear. It is so good for you to do! Keep up the good work.

I really, truly believe this one thing. What is the most beneficial thing most Orthodox Christians need to do to become better Christians?

Here it is.

Learn more about what we believe and why.

Let me wrap this up!

How can we grow as Christians? Study the Holy Scriptures. Learn them. Memorize them. Let them sink into your heart. Let them change you.

How can we understand the Holy Scriptures? The Church services, the writings of the holy ones in the Church.

 

Here is what St. John Chrysostom said:

The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should enclose them in books, but that we should engrave them upon our hearts.

 

Let me speak to you as a father.

What is my New Year Resolution for you for 2018?

What does my heart long for when it comes to all of you?

That these words of St. Paul be true of you:

“that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”

 

So because I love you, I will keep raising the bar.

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The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (18:18-27)

Today we are going to start with Esther. Esther from the OT.

In the days of the exile to Babylon, the people of God, the Hebrews suffered in a pagan and foreign land, where the traditions of God were not allowed. This is the time when we hear about the Prophet Daniel and the Three Young Men in the fiery furnace.

This is another story from that same time of exile. After Neb. had died, the new king ruled from India to Ethiopia. He was having seven days of banquets for all the officials of all his provinces.

The men were in one banquet hall with the king and the women were in another banquet hall with Queen Vashti.

On the seventh day of parties, the king was a little drunk and called for his wife Vashti to come to the men’s banquet to show her off. She said NO WAY!

The king is very angry and embarrassed that his wife said no. So it was decided that she be banished from the king and all her goodies be given to another. And letters were sent to all the provinces about this so that all women would know to honor their husbands.

When the king sobered up he was sorry, for he loved Vashti. But his advisors reminded him, once you declare something, it cannot be reversed. But don’t worry, we will have a beauty contest and find a replacement.

So this was done. In each province of his kingdom, from India to Ethiopia the governors found the most beautiful girls and sent them to the palace of the king for a Queen replacement contest.

Each girl went through 1 year of purification and preparation for this contest.

In the staff of the king’s palace at the time was a Jew named Mordecai. He was Esther’s uncle and he was keeping an eye on her and coaching her up for this contest.

One of the things he told her was to tell anyone who she was or who her people were.

And Esther ends up being chosen to be the next Queen.

While all this is going on, there is a plot against the king, to overthrow him.

Two men in the staff of the king plan to lay hands on the king and get rid of him. But Mordecai finds out about the plot and tells Esther tells the king what Mordecai said and an internal investigation finds out that this is true and the two men were hung, and the king was saved. The annals of the king reflect this event and Mordecai gets credit for it.

Soon after this, a man named Haman was promoted over all the staff and princes. The king ordered that all bow down to him. But Mordecai refused to bow down to him and told them he was a Jew.

And the more Mordecai refused, the more Haman got angry and so Haman decided to get rid of all the Jews. He put a plot in motion to get rid of all the Jews.

So Haman, the enemy of God’s people, went to the king with this idea and told him, All the Jews refuse to obey your laws, let me destroy them.

So the King says, cool, here is my ring, get it done.

So a decree was sent by Haman with the king’s seal that all the Jews were to be rounded up on a certain day to destroy them.

And the people were perplexed that all, men, women and children of the Jews were to be destroyed.

Now back to Mordecai, he is stunned at this turn of events and tears his clothes, puts on ashes and goes out into the city mourning and wailing.

And all across the kingdom the Jews are mourning and weeping. Esther hears about this and she is very distressed.

Mordecai sends a message to Esther, you gotta got and talk to the king and beg him to not do this to us! Tell him who you are!

Right??

What does Esther say to Mordecai? No way! If I go to the king when he hasn’t asked to see me, he could have me put to death.

Mordecai says, what? Don’t you realize you are a Jew and will be killed too?

“For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall perish: and who knows whether you are not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Then Esther bade them return answer unto Mordecai,

Est 4:16  Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

So this is done. After the three days Esther gets all dolled up and goes to the king and he accepts her and asks, what do you want?

I want you and Haman to come to a party I have prepared and I will tell you.

So this happens and at the party the king says, I will give you anything up to half of my kingdom. (sound familiar)

Ok, come to another party I am having and I will tell you. Ok, we will.

The next day, Haman is prancing around and bragging about how much the king loves him, and then he saw Mordecai, the Jew who still refused to bow to him and he was enraged.

So his friends say to him. Build a gallows and hang him! Mordecai approved the idea.

That same night the king can’t sleep, so he has a secretary come and read the minutes of what the king has done.

And the story is read of Mordecai saving the kings life and the king said, what did we ever do to reward Mordecai for this and the secretary said nothing was done.

At that same moment, Haman comes in to ask about hanging Mordecai. So the king asks Haman, what should we do for a man who has done so much for the king?

Well, because he was so prideful and arrogant, he thought the king wanted to reward him, so he came up with all these great rewards, thinking he was going to get them.

The king says, great idea, you go and give all that to Mordecai and don’t neglect a single thing!

So Haman had to gave him a horse and fine clothes and led him around the city, bowing and proclaiming what a great man Mordecai was!

Can you imagine? How angry is Haman is now? His wife and friends tell him, maybe you are messin with the wrong man.

That night is the second party for the king and Haman that Esther was giving and at the party she tells the king, an evil man is trying to destroy me and my people. The king says, who is he?

And Esther said, An adversary and an enemy, even this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.

Est 7:7  And the king arose in his wrath from the banquet of wine and went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.

Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the couch whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he even force the queen before me in the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.

Then one of the chamberlains that were before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman hath made for Mordecai, who spake good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. And the king said, Hang him thereon.

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.

So the possessions of Haman are given to Esther and the ring the king had given Haman was given to Mordecai and the Jews are saved.

So the Messiah can come a few hundred years later.

Whew, what a story.

Now why did we just go through that?

One of the problems we have as weak, fearful people is lack of faith in God. We think that if we hold onto control of our possessions we will be ok. That through our own efforts we will have a long and prosperous life.

What I want you to consider from the story of Esther and the Gospel reading today is:

  1. You need to read the Bible, so many good things.
  2. You need to read the Old Testament more.
  3. God is always in control. Not kings, presidents, not congressmen, not governors.

We pray a line in the Divine Liturgy in which we give thanks to God for all He does for us, things seen and unseen, known and unknown.

Do you see in Esther how God was working behind the scenes? Our God is a humble God who is willing to work out His plans quietly. Using creation, broken people, even people who hate Him.

How did it come about that Esther is in the right place at the right time to save God’s people?

Because a king has a party and drinks too much wine? That’s how it all started.

We want to have it all figured out. We want to see things go our way.

But God uses all things for His will. All created beings are His servants, whether they want to be or not.

When a misfortune or difficulty hits your family, how do you deal with it?

Is there panic? Often our response is how can I fix this?

Its like when we start to get a cold. We reach for the cold medicine. Never thinking about prayer, never thinking about God healing us.

If there is a major medical problem, we call the priest, while driving to the hospital, its not the first thing we think of. How can God help me?

It’s the same with our finances and our possessions.

Here is the good news. God owns all the stuff anyway. We are just managers of stuff. He owns it.

If we can learn from Esther, see who is in control, we can have peace.

Learn from Job. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Trust God, in every single thing. In every detail of your life.

 

 

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The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (12:16-21)

The Lord spoke this parable: “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” As He said this, Jesus called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

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Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Have you ever wanted God to speak directly to you?

There have been times in my life, when I was young, when I longed to have God tell me what I should do, so I would be sure of success, afraid of doing the wrong thing.

I didn’t happen with a voice, but God still directed us, brought us through. He always brings us through.

But He spoke directly to this man.

FOOL!

If we examine our own lives and our own values, do we imagine that God’s first words to us would be one of praise for our lives and thinking, or would we be rebuked for our folly – for basing our lives on shallow ideas, on goals that turn out to be phantoms which disappear in a second when we wake up to reality?

According to the Lord, the man’s folly was not that he had become rich, but he had not become rich towards God.  Wealth and prosperity can be a blessing from the Lord, but they are given to us in order for us to accomplish His will, not to selfishly spend it on ourselves which also turns out to be folly.

This is a parable about Matt. 6:33, seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you as well.

Today the message is: priorities, get them right!

If God isn’t number one, it’s time for a change.

How can you know if God is number one?

N.B. priorities arise from what we actively seek.

So when it is time to re-examine priorities, the Christian must ask himself, what is it that I truly seek?

What is my hearts desire? That is ultimately what we will receive. Or another way to say it, What do I really love?

Our sweet Lord Jesus said: “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” Eventually we get what we want, what we lay down our lives for.

The very center of the Life in Christ requires asking. Dependent. The sick that need a physician ask for help.

We have taken asking and turned it into consumerism, acquiring, shopping. Things that we want, shopping as amusement.

This is a cheap substitute.

We can easily go and buy an icon and put it up. It is much harder to actually pray with the icon. We acquire, but we have trouble asking. What are we seeking when we put up the icon? Perhaps it is something different than what we want when we actually pray with that icon.

We are created to be askers/seekers, to see our dependency on God, this is where we become truly human, dependence upon The Human, Jesus.

We are created with desire so that we would always desire to be with God, to be close to Him.

St. James said: “You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Shopping is not satisfying, except for a moment.

Seeking/Asking is a life-long pursuit. Seeking a God who sometimes hides. Sometimes reveals Himself.

True asking requires practice. Sorting out priorities is a constant struggle if we are in love with the world.

We hesitate to sell everything to purchase the pearl of great price, fear and anxiety defeat us so easily.

Hear the words of the elder.

“When your heart does not have Christ, it will contain either money, property or people instead.”

+Elder Amphilochios

The empty heart creates a vacuum, it will be filled with something.

The man in Jesus’ story was into acquiring. He took no thought for God, for his own soul. Just get more stuff. I need to take care of myself. I need to be in control.

All his stuff did him no good at the judgment seat.

This parable is not really about money, or possessions.

What is it about?

The heart.

God is after our hearts.

What we do with things tells us a lot about our hearts.

How attached we are to things shows where our love is, where our hearts are. Who is really God in our lives.

During a fasting season such as we are in now is a time to evaluate our hearts, to ask ourselves some questions about our hearts, what are our true desires, what is it that I truly am investing myself in, The Kingdom of God or the kingdom of this world?

Mat 6:24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Mat 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.

As Jesus said in today’s reading: Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

This is evaluation, take heed, be aware, pay attention. Examine yourself.

1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain: for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and shelter we shall be content.

Let us all take up the call from Jesus this Advent season to Take Heed.

To evaluate our priorities and where are hearts are aiming so that we seek Him first.

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The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (10:25-37)

The Good Samaritan

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‘’He who does not love his brother abides in death’’ (1Jn 3:14)

‘’Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him’’ (1Jn 3:18-19).

  1. What is this parable about?

Almost every contemporary biblical commentary interprets the parable of the Good Samaritan as story about morality.  We should behave better.

Most people read the Scriptures putting themselves in a positive light, in other words, they see the story being about them being the Good Samaritan, the helper, the healer, the one who does good. Not the priest or levite who is too busy to help.

And indeed, Jesus’ “Go and do likewise” at the end of the passage fits neatly into this interpretation.

However, the hymns of the Orthodox Church teach us to identify with the wounded man, whom Christ (the Good Samaritan) rescues, binding his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, placing him on His own beast, and taking him to the inn keeper to be cared for until His return.

According to the Church hymns, the inn keeper represents the bishops and priests of the Church, the oil and wine are the healing Grace of the sacramental life, the beast is Christ’s own flesh that bore our sins and carried us from death to Life, and the binding of the wounds is the discipline of Church life (through repentance and confession) closing up the deep gashes of sin so that healing can begin.

These two interpretations are, of course, are valid.

After all, those who are in Christ (baptized) are called to become like Christ, to participate in the Life of Christ.  It is little wonder then, that Christians seek to follow the example of the Good Samaritan.  However, participating in the Life of Christ is not a simple matter of morality.

Participation in the Life of Christ is not so much about morality as it is about mystical union.  It is about being in Christ, and it is this being in Christ that leads us into a Christ-like life, a life that to those around us might appear as a “moral” life.

One of the problems with reading the parable of the Good Samaritan primarily as a moral tale is that it is easy to comprehend, easy to apply (or at least feel like you are applying), and easy to teach.

Easy readings of the scripture, unfortunately, often lead to shallow understanding, and most tragically, to the sense that one already knows the meaning of a passage.  Mystery is gone, and the words of Jesus are pressed into a mental box, a category, to be brought to mind as needed.

The Church’s reading of this parable, on the other hand, teaches us to see ourselves as the wounded one, in need of a Good Samaritan to bind our wounds and lead us to the inn.

It teaches us that this is not an I-did-it-once experience, but a spiritual reality that we enter into (“remember” is the correct theological word) constantly.

In fact, the life in Christ is a life of continually remembering that I am the poor and needy one, I am the wounded man in need of the Savior.  And then [deep breath] somehow a miracle happens.

As I am cared for by the Good Samaritan, I become in some small ways like the Good Samaritan.

The One who cares for me allows me to share in some small ways in His care for others–and in His suffering.

This is the goal of the Christian Life, to become like Christ, to be untied to Him.

Out of love, God creates everything. And when humanity fell from love, from communion with God, He did not abandon us. He humbled Himself and saved us.

The God-man our Lord Jesus Christ is a revelation of incredible love for all of creation and the human being. Jesus does not see enemies but friends.

He gives no defense to be saved, but sacrifices Himself to save everyone.

He even considers friends those who crucify Him.

He does not destroy enemies because He doesn’t have any, but abolishes the hatred in humanity.

This final victory of peace destroys death, enlivens everyone and resurrects them.

This is love.

‘’we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death’’ (1Jn 3:14; cf. Lk 10:27-28).

Love is the oxygen of life. It does not divide but unites. It helps everyone improve their behavior, heals the sick and assists people to rejoice in their life.

This is how we renew our love of God, by practicing love in action.

  1. This leads to my second point. The importance of sorrow. Our Savior was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He knew what suffering is, what sorrow is, and this propels love.

Without sorrow there is not love. We grieve when we love. We have sorrow when we lose something or someone of value to us, someone we love.

Our sins demand that we have sorrow for our fallen-ness.

We experience our grief over our own failings and that drives us to have compassion for others. This is what took the Samaritan from the road into the ditch.

His compassion, He was not above the other. Because Jesus was God, He knew perfection.

When He sees imperfection His reaction is not one of anger as much as one of sorrow. He feels sorrow for a different reason than we do. We feel sorrow because we are broken (or we should), He does too; because He longs for us to share in His perfection, that we be united with Him.

You know, the church community, this church community, should be a safe place.

We should feel safe to share our sorrow with each other, to embrace our grief and not to repress it.

We should not repress our grief, we should express it. It is an act of love to share your burdens with fellow parishioners, it gives them the opportunity to love you. We are not afraid when we have love.

So this is it.

Because we have been in the ditch, we can have love and compassion for those in the ditch. We know what it is like to be beat up, how can we not help others when they are beat up? We stop judging are start loving. We stop avoiding reality and redeem reality. We call heaven down to earth and put the will of God into being in this world by being like Christ.

Isn’t that what love is?

++++++++++++++++

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen!

Glory to Jesus Christ!

What an action packed Gospel we have today! Christ is attending to a woman in dire straits and is interrupted by another emergency before He can deal with the first one!

  1. Jairus, a religious leader had a 12 year old daughter who was dying, he needed Jesus, he needed help, desperately.

Jesus is walking and the crowds are pressing around Him, it probably felt a little scary. Like, if I trip and fall down, I could get trampled. Bodies pressing on bodies. But he falls down before Jesus and begs for help. Apparently unafraid of being stepped on. Only focused on his daughter and saving her. Can you relate to that feeling of desperation? The fear, the panic, the worry? Only One can help. Must get some help. Now.

This is what it feels like to be helpless, to have nothing to offer, only able to pray. Desperation inspires our prayers. Forces us to ask for help, changes our entire focus.

Desperation is helplessness

  1. As all this is happening, a secret, much quieter desperation comes into the picture. A woman with a huge medical problem. 12 years of looking for healing. Praying with no results. Beaten down by her disability she is humbly, despairingly desperate. Desperate enough to risk the crowd, bold enough to reach out to the Master. Not to talk to Him, not to beg Him, not to demand from Him; not even to ask Him to heal her. She had just enough faith to reach out in secret, perhaps her hand reaching around others standing near Jesus. Just reaching out to the Great Physician of our souls and bodies, maybe if I can touch Him, something good will happen.

So she does, she touches Him, ever so slightly, just a gentle touch, not on His person, but on His robe. No one even saw it. Jesus didn’t feel her touch it was so slight, so gentle. So humble. So undeserving. Daring not to hope for too much.

But then the most appalling thing happens. Jesus feels power go out from Himself to heal her and He stops!

Who touched me? Suddenly the secret is exposed. She can no longer hide. She is revealed in all her desperate humility.

His disciples try to play it off, Master, there are so many crowding around you, of course someone touched you.

No, I felt power go out from me.

She cannot escape in her quietude. She must speak up, explain herself.

Terribly afraid, she with trembling, quietly explains her actions, how she touched the hem of His garment, how she had immediately been healed.

And then, shock of shocks, He speaks directly to her. Looking into her eyes with love and compassion.

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

And then, the joy. The unrestrained elation. The huge rush of relief. Relief that she was not rebuked, He did not reject her. Relief that she was healed. He talked to me. He healed me. The crowd is now gone as she weeps in the dust with so much emotion. How great is this Man!  How blessed am I? Wait till I go home! Oh, glory to God!

  1. As soon as this is over, bad news for Jairus! Your daughter is dead, don’t bother the Teacher anymore.

But Jesus hears this and turns the tables again!

“Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well.”

The Author of Life is not afraid of death, He is not worried. He is in control. His faith is infectious to those around Him. Even Jairus perks up a little. Maybe there is hope still.

Suddenly the crowd is rapidly moving, going to the house of Jairus. Let’s go see what will happen next! Can you feel the excitement? The hope is contagious. The Master has set His face and will show us something. Let’s go see. And they all hurry along, thinking that this rabbi is putting on a show and will be so famous, and I will be able to say, “I was there!”

But another surprise is coming. The crowd will not see this miracle. Only Peter, James and John, and the parents of the child go into the room with The Healer.

Now it is quiet. The dead child laying there. Pale, lifeless. Parents are in gut-wrenching pain and agony. Hoping against hope. Dare we believe what He says? Who is this rabbi? What is He capable of? If have heard all about Him and now He is in my bedroom? The air is electric with anticipation.

And all were weeping and bewailing her; but He said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.

Dead meaning her life has left her. Asleep meaning the body sleeps in the grave awaiting the resurrection. The Lord of Life surely knows the difference and He surely has the power to raise her from the dead, as He is the Creator of all things. He is the Life-giver, the Life-creator.

He does all this, quietly, privately, not to make it public. Peter, James and John experience all this. The intimacy of the small room, the quiet conversation, even as the parents mourn. This gives them precious memories that they will cherish later and will build their faith.

It is no effort for The Lord to reach out, take her by the hand and raise her up. All power and authority are given unto Him. Death has no power, the evil one is powerless before Him.

He gently brings back her life and raises her up, then she is given food, what was she experiencing as she ate? What did she remember?

Conclusion

What do we take from this? What is Jesus saying to you today as you heard these stories?

  1. Nothing takes God by surprise. Nothing shocks Him. He never has to wonder, What can I do? What shall I do? He is in control. He is the giver and sustainer of Life.

He can be trusted.

  1. By studying the life of Jesus we are instructed, encouraged, corrected in our thinking. We often think incorrectly, adopting the thinking of the world around us. Studying the Gospel brings needed correction, hope, encouragement, strength. He is always teaching, healing, rebuking.
  2. He is close to you. He wants to be closer to you. See how He took the three aside to spend some quiet time with them? He wants this for all of us. Let’s spend some quiet time alone with Him. Let us ask Him to teach us, in our hearts. Let us realize that our lives lie open before Him. There are no secrets. He sees our hearts, He knows our thoughts. He longs to help us.

Jesus sits with you, near to you in your desperate hour. He is never far from you. He hears the cry of your heart. He is with you as He was with the young girl and her parents.

Reach out to Him this week in quiet prayer. Study the Gospel.

The Bible teaches us that if we will draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.

Let’s work on that this week.

Amen.

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

Glory to Jesus Christ!

As you have you noticed, in our holy faith we have seasons. Our Liturgical life has seasons, times of preparation, times of celebration, times of intensity of repentance and times of rejoicing.

There is a pattern that runs through it all, preparation followed by fulfillment.

For instance, we have four fasting periods each year, seasons of focused repentance, increased levels of prayer, self-examination, almsgiving and fasting. More than during normal time.

This season is always followed by a fulfilment of what is hoped for, the feast arrives and our intense preparation is changed over to celebration, rejoicing in what the Lord has done for us and the cosmos.

One of these seasons begins is just a few weeks, beginning on November 15 we enter the preparation season for The Nativity of our Lord. At the end, we celebrate the completion of the fasting season with a Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity.

This is a pattern fixed by the Lord Himself in the Old Covenant with the feasts of the Hebrew people.

Of course that was a long season! Similar to the season of the Church we are in now from Pentecost to the Second Coming, a long season.

What we want to see today is that this parable of our Lord is another example of this rhythm in our lives.

This is what I mean: this life, the one we are living in this world, is a season of preparation for another season, the Kingdom of God. In other words, eternity.

So let me say this plainly: what we do in this life is preparation for the next life, the life with no end. Eternal life.

How do we know this to be true? The words of Jesus Christ: `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz’arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.

The reward or anguish of the next life is based on the lifetime here. This leads to that. There is no other way. Life has consequences.

  1. Life has consequences.

My whole life I have been interested in sports. I follow, at a low level, baseball, football and track. A lifelong Yankees fan.

How does a baseball team get ready for the season to begin? Spring Training.

What is the purpose of Spring training? To get ready, to practice, to get in shape, to change a way of life to one more conducive to winning.

The key to winning games is –Preparation.

Now, the goal of the Christian is, in this parable, to be in Abraham’s bosom. Or, to be close to God, to have union with God.

How did Lazarus end up in Abraham’s bosom? By what he did and experienced in this life. And the rich man, the nameless one? How did he end up in anquish? The same, what he did and experienced in this life.

What was the difference? Character. Compassion. Humility.

This is a good reminder from our sweet savior, this life matters.

 

  1. At death our fate is fixed

between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

This thought flows naturally from the first.

If this life is a preparation for the next. How we live here will be determined by our priorities in this life. Priorities don’t change once one dies. The things we love in this life, we will still love in the next. The things we hate in this life will still repulse us in the next.

In other words, the time to repent is in this life, don’t look for an escape clause when you die. There is none. Not all will be saved.

On the other hand, remember it is not too late. The thief on the cross repented at the last possible moment and was saved. This does happen still today.

Sometimes as death draws closer, people, if they have time to reflect on their life, can be softened and become sorrowful about their life and desire to confess and believe. This causes rejoicing in heaven.

Sometimes as death draws near people set their heels and become more defiant.

Many people reveal their hearts as death draws near.

Listen to the last words of these people.

Leonardo da Vinci, inventor and painter:

“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Blues singer Bessie Smith died saying, “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”

Actor and comedian W.C. Fields died in 1946. He last words: “God damn the whole friggin’ world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta.”

Actress Joan Crawford yelled at her housekeeper, who was praying as Crawford died. Crawford said, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”

Voltaire cried as he died, “I am abandoned by God and man! I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months of life. Then I shall go to hell, and you will go with me.

What struck me many times as I have read the last words of famous people was how casual they were, even flippant. As if unaware of what they were facing. As if they believed that somehow God was a like a jolly uncle who didn’t care about holiness.

This parable is a good cure for that. Are we listening?

 

  1. Some will not want to repent and be saved.

`If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

This is partly the reason why some are flippant about dying. They either don’t believe they need to repent, or they don’t believe there is a God, or they don’t believe there is a judgment day.

As the apostle Paul faced execution in a Roman prison, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:7, 8a).

When St Sisoës lay upon his deathbed, the disciples surrounding the Elder saw that his face shone like the sun. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoës replied that he saw St Anthony, the Prophets, and the Apostles. His face increased in brightness, and he spoke with someone.

The monks asked, “With whom are you speaking, Father?” He said that angels had come for his soul, and he was entreating them to give him a little more time for repentance.

The monks said, “You have no need for repentance, Father” St Sisoës said with great humility, “I do not think that I have even begun to repent.”

Charles Wesley: “I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness— satisfied, satisfied!”

John Wesley preached his last sermon of February 17, 1791, on the text, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6). The following day, very sick, he was put to bed in his home. During the days of his illness, he often repeated these words from one of his brother’s hymns: “I the chief of sinners am, But Jesus died for me!”

His last words were, “The best of all is, God is with us!” He died March 2, 1791.

 

What Jesus is saying here is “We sent plenty of messengers to tell you. Some just wouldn’t believe. If they won’t listen to someone life Moses or the prophets, they also will not be convinced by My Resurrection.

Even with all kinds of evidence that the Christian Faith is real and true, some WILL NOT believe. This is not the will of God, nor from a lack of concern on God’s part. This is not because there is no reason to believe.

The sower keeps sowing His seed, God continually calls us and all mankind into a close, intimate relationship with Him. He wants all to believe and be saved, many will not.

But this message is not for the “them”. It is for you.

Do not you lose heart. Recognize the sins in your life, examine yourself. Come to Christ and be cleansed. Repent, confess and find eternal life in the bosom of Abraham.

Amen.

++++++++++++++

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

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Today let us look with new eyes, with renewed hearts, at the parable of the Sower.

In the past when I have preached on this parable I have tended to focus on the seed and the soil, not mentioning the sower all that much.

Today, it will be different.

Today we glorify the Sower.

Now we all know, or should be aware, that the Sower is Jesus Christ. The One who came sowing from the Father, sowing the word of God, by the Word of God.

  1. The Sower “went out to sow his seed” the text says. Went out from His pre-existence as God the Son, went out to become Incarnate and sow the word, the Words of the Father.

This is the reason for the Incarnation, the reason the Sower came to us.

Notice that the Sower does not discriminate as to where He scatters the seed of the Word.

He scatters, not worrying about wasted seed that falls on rocks and hard surfaces, so great is His love and generosity.

Love does not count the cost.

  1. He gives three reasons why the seed does not produce the intended, hoped for result.
  2. hard soil, birds devour
  3. rock, withered, no moisture
  4. thorns, choked out

So, Jesus, the Sower, indiscriminately sows the seed, but not all respond. In fact, according to the parable, only ¼ become a good crop.

Many are called, few are chosen. Narrow is he way and few are those that find it.

  1. Many hear the word, but it does not penetrate. They think perhaps, it is meaningless, or it is balderdash or I don’t need this.

The seed comes, there is a rejection of the seed.

We all have known some people like this. Hard of soul. Resistant. Stiffened.

With some people there is no ability to understand, or even to hear; thus Jesus says: “He who has ears, let him hear.”

In His explanation of the parable, Jesus attributes this hardness to the devil who snatches the word away with rationalization, self-love, pride or rank bitterness.

These are not without hope, it requires prayer and fasting.

 

  1. some seeds fall on rock, they begin to grow but later withers due to lack of water. Jesus says they believe for a while, but due to temptation later fall away. This too is the work of the devil. He seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

We all know people like this, avid Christians, never missed a service, worked for the good of the Church, devoted to Christ. But, the temptations of the world gradually wear them down.

The moisture Jesus speaks of is interesting. What would that refer to? In this analogy perhaps moisture is due to the lack of continuing to feed on the vine. Not developing the habits of prayer, thanksgiving and alms giving. If we think a little about this, if we are like plants, we need moisture, nutrients and sun. Most plants won’t survive too long without these, or if there is too much of one of them.

Balance. The clear reference here for the reason for the failure is a time of temptation. Some due to lack of moisture cannot endure the temptations of the world.

  1. others are the ones who fall among thorns. They are choked with “cares, riches, and pleasures of life and bring no fruit to maturity.”

The Sower intends all His seed to come to fullness, perfection, maturity. He is not willing that any should perish.

But most do. The Sower does not force the seed to do anything.

Let’s be clear that cares, riches and pleasures are not evil in themselves. They are all part of life, a life God intended for good. But many of the good things in life are mis-used and become sinful. They become the focus rather than a blessing.

 

  1. The good soil.

Two traits of the ones who bear much fruit

They hear the word with a good and noble heart and keep it

They bear fruit with patience.

Maybe the reason some don’t bear much fruit is it takes too long. We live in an impatient culture.

 

The Sower sows, The Spirit causes the growth, the Father is glorified. We all weep over those who bring forth not fruit. Remembering that The Father is not willing that any should perish, but that all should have eternal life.

 

Today is the remembrance of the Fathers of the Seventh Ec. Council. I love this council. It is so key for myself in my growth.

Icons changed my life. I am so thankful for icons. They are so full of power and fertilizer for the seed. They teach so much without speaking a word.

 

Many groups say that are the church of Christ. Many claim to be biblical.

How do we sort it all out? How do we know that the Orthodox Church has it correct.?

Councils. The spirit bears witness to Truth through councils. How do we understand the Bible? Not by individuals, but by councils.

 

The Lord said: I will send the Spirit and He will lead you into all Truth. He also said, the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church.

Through councils of the Church, the Lord of the Church, through His Spirit, has protected Truth, preserved it and passed it down to us.

So when the iconoclast heresy spread through the Church, a council was called to sort out the heresy and proclaim the Truth teaching from the Apostles.

This how the Sower keeps His seed and protects it, growing it to maturity, the Holy Scriptures, The Creeds, The Councils, The Hymns, The Services of the Church, The Sacraments which give us young plants the moisture we need to grow.

Today we give Glory, Honor and Worship to The Father, The Sower (the Son), and the Holy Spirit, for they are growing their Church! They are preserving the seed. Causing the growth.

To them be all the glory forever, Amen.

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October 8, 2017- Mourning of Sin

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 7:11-16

At that time, Jesus went to a city called Nain, and many of His disciples and a great crowd went with Him.  As He drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her.

And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  And He came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  And the dead man sat up, and began to speak.  And Jesus gave him to his mother.

Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people!”


Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Today this amazing event is brought again before our eyes for learning and encouragement, so that we would be revived by the amazing sweetness of our Life-giving Lord Jesus.

Jesus is the Rescuer from Death, the healer of our infirmities.

He raises the dead, restores the broken, affirms life over death.

God has visited His people.!

They were ready to take her to the cemetery, Jesus raised her up. The mourners were comforted.

This leads us to the second beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

So let us take a few minutes to look at this pronouncement of our Lord.

 

When we think of mourning, we normally think of the process that surrounds death, the falling asleep of someone. The process of grief.

And we all know that Jesus can give us comfort in the mourning and grieving process, because of our belief in the resurrection.

But as usual, Jesus wants to take us a little deeper today.

There is a different more lasting kind of mourning that I think Jesus is pointing us to today.

It is the mourning related to sin.

In the text, the word signifying to mourn is — grief manifested; too deep for concealment. Hence it is often joined with κλαίειν, to weep audibly. This verb “is most frequent in the lxx for mourning for the dead, and for the sorrows and sins of others” (McNeile). “There can be no comfort where there is no grief” (Bruce).

 

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted — This “mourning” must not be taken loosely for that feeling which is wrung from men under pressure of the ills of life, nor yet strictly for sorrow on account of committed sins.

Evidently it is that entire feeling which the sense of our spiritual poverty begets; and so the second beatitude is but the complement of the first.

The one is the intellectual, the other the emotional aspect of the same thing. It is poverty of spirit that says, “Woe is me, I am undone”; and it is the mourning which this causes that makes it break forth in the form of a lamentation – “Woe is me! for I am undone.”

Faith, according to the Bible, is neither a set of intellectual convictions nor a bundle of emotional feelings, but a compound of both, the former giving birth to the latter. Thus closely do the first two beatitudes cohere. The mourners shall be “comforted.”

Sowing in tears, they reap even here in joy.

Still, all present comfort, even the best, is partial, interrupted, short-lived.

But the days of our mourning shall soon be ended, and then God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.

Then, in the fullest sense, shall the mourners be “comforted.”

St. Paul- 2Co 7:10 For godly sorrow works repentance unto salvation, a repentance which brings no regret: but the sorrow of the world works death.

 

As the deepest poverty lies in the sphere of the spirit, so the deepest mourning lies there also. All other mourning is but partial and slight compared with this

Pro 18:14 -The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a broken spirit who can bear?

 

Where does this mourning arise?

  1. There is a mourning arising from a sense of having offended God.
  2. Those who mourn under the afflicting dispensations of God’s providence.
  3. Mourning from the realization that we are in exile due to our own sin, that the whole cosmos is wailing due to sin and cries out for redemption.
  4. Sorrow because of the sins that we see around us (Jer. 9:18; Psalm 119:36). Sins of the world, and sins of the Church-inconsistency, etc.
  5. Sorrow because of the little progress of Christianity.
  6. That we are able to do so little.
  7. Sorrow that makes one sometimes long to be “absent from the body,” etc.

 

Recall the godly sorrow of David (Ps. 51:4).

The same kind was that of the woman who “was a sinner,” and whose conversion is briefly related by St. Luke (chap. 7.).

Peter mourned when his Lord looked on him after his cruel denial. He went out and “wept bitterly.”

 

Our tears must, make us more holy. The waters of holy mourning are like the river Jordan, wherein Naaman washed, and was cleansed of his leprosy.

Our tears must be joined with hatred of sin. We must not only abstain from sin, but abhor it. The dove hates the least feather of the hawk; a true mourner hates the least motion to sin.

Our tears must be joined with restitution. If we have eclipsed the good name of others, we are bound to ask them forgiveness; if we have wronged them by unjust, fraudulent dealing, we must make them compensation.

Our tears should lead us to a good confession.

Bring your mourning to Christ, He is the comforter and healer. He raises up.

Confession needs to become more popular in this parish.

Confession for a Christian is not optional.

The number one error people make is keeping it all inside. Dealing with the mourning by distraction. By focusing on other things.

It is a gift. Repentance is a gift from God. Do not spurn it.

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How Poor Are You? October 1, 2017

The Reading of the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians

Brethren, we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Therefore, come out from them, and be separate from them,” says the Lord, “and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke.

The Lord said: “As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same.

And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

 

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

Both our readings this day remind us of what a Christian looks like. Both readings give us Christianity 101, boot camp teaching. How should we then live….

The Epistle calls us to holiness, come out from them and be separate from them, this is the meaning of holiness. Set apart. God promises to live with and among His people. Not distant and far away. He promises to be as close as a loving father, calling us His children. Because this is true, cleanse yourselves!

The Gospel sets a high standard, not to be like sinners, those who don’t claim to follow God.

Today, in light of these instructions, I want to look at the Lord’s teaching to all of us in the Sermon on the Mount. These are the teachings of Jesus to His people and they fill this out for us, giving it a different light.

So let’s look at Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We sing this every Sunday.

So here is the question—how poor are you?

Taking a closer look at this, the Lord Jesus is saying, those who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven will be poor in spirit. They will have poverty of spirit.

What might this mean? If you want to have something you have to know what that thing is.

Lets start with this. Poverty of spirit means I have poverty in the eyes of God.

Let me read to you from Isaiah 6

Isa 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

This is Isaiah in the presence of God, having a vision of God. He describes it the best he can.

How does Isaiah respond?

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

This is the response of a man with poverty of spirit.

What you see is that he realizes he has nothing to offer God. Poverty is not having anything. Empty hands when we approach God. We have nothing to offer Him.

Why does Jesus say that those who are poor in spirit have the Kingdom of God?

Those who have empty hands are ready to receive.

In comparison to God, Isaiah knew he had nothing, that he was nothing but dust and ashes.

You see, if we come to God offering him anything of ourselves, we cannot receive because our hands are already full.

Jesus said, Mark 2:17 “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

If you don’t realize that you are sick, then you don’t have need of healing. Isaiah knew he needed God.

We can only approach God by first realizing that He made us, that we are sick with sin, that we need His healing, that we have nothing to give Him to pay for the healing.

There is an old poem that says Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to your cross I cling.

This is what is happening with the Pubican and Pharisee, one is full of himself, the Publican has empty hands, receives forgiveness.

This is what is happening with the Good Samaritan, we are lying in the ditch, beat up, helpless, nearly dead. What can that man offer to the Samaritan? Nothing. That is us. We have nothing to offer to pay for our healing.

There is a blessing here for you today if you feel inadequate.

There is a blessing here for you today if you feel unworthy.

There is a blessing here for you today if you realize your spiritual poverty.

You are ready to receive a great blessing from God, by pure Grace.

Grace is often hard for people to trust. We are a wary people.

We have been taught that there is no free lunch, you can’t get something for nothing. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not true.

People resist the Grace of God because we want to pay for something of value.

But what can we pay for salvation?

If I could buy it, I wouldn’t need God.

And that is where many people end up, I don’t need God.

Their hands are full, they don’t have the Kingdom of heaven because they are trying to pay for it.

SOOO, how poor are you?

We bring only our brokenness, our weariness, our heartache. We come to the Giver of Life and like the tax collector in the temple we say, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.

When we get this, when we embrace our spiritual poverty; we become grateful, generous, blessed.

We become like Him. Then we can fulfill the readings today and become Holy, filled with His holiness.

Amen.

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The Good Shepherd

Psalm 23- 4 Traits of God

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

Today we hear about the calling of the disciples. Fishermen becoming saints by faithfully (most of the time) following their Savior.

Fishermen were hard working men, it was a tough job, long hours of back-breaking work, tough on the hands and the back, pulling heavy nets up into the boat.

It is interesting to me that the text says Jesus taught them in their boat, putting Himself at the level of the people, and He taught them from the boat, pushed out a little way on the water.

You can imagine the crowd sitting on the bank of the lake, looking out on the lake to hear Jesus.

The text says that after teaching them is when He told them to push the boat out to catch some fish. What had He been teaching them? We are not told.

It seems like putting out to get the fish was a teaching moment based on what He had taught them, as if to make it clear what He had said.

I would like to know what He was teaching! Something having to do with the Heavenly Father taking care of them when times look desperate? What a sermon illustration that must have been!!

I am thinking that because Jesus quotes from the Psalms more than any other book, maybe we could look at Psalm 23(24) to learn more about our Savior. There is a common theme of God as Shepherd in the N.T. It is a motif which would have resonated with this audience.

  1. My Shepherd

[1] The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; [2] he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; [3] he restores my soul.

Jesus is the shepherd, we are the sheep. It works.

When Jesus is our shepherd we can be ok with being sheep.

Sheep need a shepherd, as sheep, we aren’t able to make it without a shepherd.

We tend to wander around looking for the next nice pasture, not noticing the cliff, or the wolf nearby. We aren’t always much smarter than real sheep.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd of John 10 is aware when we are distracted, when we are in danger, when we need a directing nudge, or a little discipline.

I shall not want-I have all I need; I can lack nothing

He makes me lie down in green pastures-makes me-brings me to the place where there are green pastures, He knows where they are, so that we can lie down

Still waters and green pastures are an image of peace, calm, plenty, rest, refreshment

Restores my soul- why do I need this?

I put all my energy into other things, I need to get away to refocus, to relax, to refresh

N.B.–Many times Jesus went off alone to pray, solitude is important for developing a healthy soul, for refining the conscience. If Jesus, our Creator and the Sovereign God needed to be alone, we do as well, even more so.

How are you doing with getting alone? Do you ever have solitude?

How do you restore your soul? Just as your physical body needs recreation, refreshment, so does your soul.

Your conscience needs regular contact with the Shepherd to recognize His voice and follow Him. (cf. John 10:16)

Again, the shepherd takes care of my needs, physical and spiritual

  1. My Protector

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. [4] Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

He leads, the shepherd takes where He has already been, He knows the way, it is safe, He is not guessing, He is never surprised. He isn’t just hoping it will be ok. How wonderful that this shepherd makes no mistakes. We aren’t worried about following Him! He, because He knows the way, saves us completely. He has taken all of humanity upon Himself, in order to redeem it, restore it, sanctify it. Amazing!

We never have to worry about where He is leading us.

It may not be comfortable, but it will be safe.

When it is not comfortable, He is still with us; leading us. He is with us with His strength.

Thy Rod and staff, He protects us from predators, wolves, false teachers, we won’t recognize their voice, if we follow the voice of the Shepherd, we are safe. If we stay in the Church we are safe.

 My provider

[5] Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Even when life seems overwhelming, when surrounded by enemies (demons) He takes care of us and anoints us with power, we have all we need.  The anointing denotes healing, the table, communion and the wedding supper of the Lamb.

The shepherd protects the sheep from wolves, shelters them in storms, they hear His voice and are comforted. He defends them from all predators. The shepherd is strong to save. He sets before us a table of plenty, bread and wine, Body and Blood. Our enemies are helpless before Him. If our hunger is rightly directed, we will be satisfied by the Shepherd.

  1. My Savior

[6] Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

By following the Lord, our Shepherd, we know that His mercy and goodness (righteousness) are with us. And we have eternal life. We aren’t aimlessly wandering in the wilderness, we are going home. The Shepherd has a fold for His sheep that is beyond our belief or comprehension.

This is a picture of Paradise, heaven, the Kingdom of God, this is our hope, our hearts longing.

Are you following this shepherd? Do you need to change who you are listening to? Whom you are following? Rearrange some priorities?

Don’t lose hope, He called fishermen to be Apostles, He takes sheep and makes them saints. Work on letting Him restore Your Soul. Lie down in His green pastures, prepare yourself for the table He has spread for you.

The Shepherd is our Lord, The Shepherd is our hope, the Shepherd is our Savior. Follow Him and be saved!

Glory to Him forever!

Fr. Stephen Lourie

 

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Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 Today we are still in the season of the Cross, the Holy Gospel calls us again to take up our cross and follow Christ. This we joyfully do, a want to do, or think we do.

Our faith can seem so weak sometimes.

Today I want to encourage you, remind you, that our Savior is faithful, that He can be trusted. That if and when we do take up our cross, we will not be left to carry it on our own.

I want to talk about two little words and look into the Holy Scriptures to do this.

Let us first look into the book of Genesis. I hope you are familiar with the book of Genesis, indeed, the entire Old Testament.

I think, apart from the Psalms, it is my favorite Old Covenant book.

I encourage you, if you have not read Genesis, if it has been a while since you read Genesis, get it out and dig in.

What are the two little words? But God.

First we will look at the Patriarch Joseph.

I know you remember the story of Joseph

You remember how he was the youngest, how his brothers developed envy of Joseph and over time this grew into hatred. Until finally, they had planned to kill him. The oldest brother, Rueben, suggested that rather than kill him, it would be better to put him down a well and pretend they had killed him, and they ended up selling him to slave traders who carried him into Egypt. Joseph had many trials in Egypt, many temptations.

He trusted God, did not carry a root of bitterness about what his brothers had done, was falsely accused, thrown into prison, while innocent, and because he continued to be faithful to the God of his fathers, who was faithful to him, was exalted, through humility, to be the second in command in all of Egypt.

Eventually, (I am greatly abbreviating the story for the sake of time, please read it all yourself) all his brothers came to Egypt because there was a famine in Palestine where they lived, but Egypt, thanks to Joseph, had lots of grain.

In the course of coming to ask for grain they meet Joseph, but don’t recognize him. They discuss how their starvation may be because of what they had done to their brother.

Joseph, decides to reveal himself to his brothers. Then this…

In forgiveness, Joseph says to them, Genesis 50-So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, `Say to Joseph, Forgive, I pray you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’

And now, we pray you, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him, and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

But Joseph said to them, “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he reassured them and comforted them. So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s house; and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years.

 

Secondly, lets look at King David.

David also feared for his life. King Saul, also jealous of David was trying to kill him. Why? David had killed Goliath. David was the people’s favorite. Saul was so frustrated that is says in 1 Samuel 23- And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the Wilderness of Ziph.

And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand. And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.

David trusted God, no matter the circumstances. He had ample opportunity to take the life of Saul and establish himself as king. He did not. David trusted God to work it out. Psalm 73:26  My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.

St. Peter in the New Testament came to a crisis point in the development of the Church. He was committed to the Mosaic law as the avenue for the Gentiles to take, before they could become Christians.

He had a conflict with Paul about this. Then, Act 10:28 -And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

The Apostles and disciples thought the Messiah had failed in dying, Acts 13:30 – Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead;

God takes care of us in temptation, just as He did with them. 1Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Remember when Daniel the prophet got in trouble with the King for not worshipping the idol? He was thrown in the lion’s den.

Daniel 6:18 -And the king departed to his house, and lay down fasting, and they brought him no food; and his sleep departed from him. But God shut the mouths of the lions, and they not molest Daniel.

But God

But God

We could not save ourselves, but God acted.

We could not stop sinning, but God made a way for us through His Church.

We could not love our enemies, but God loved us when we were His enemies and showed us the way.

The National Hurricane Center said we were all going to be wiped by Hurricane Irma, But God, moved Irma at the last minute.

 

Where is God in your life? Can you tell a story of a time when it was-but God– when the Lord did something amazing for you? You should have a But God story about your own life.

Can you think of one to pass on to your children and grandchildren? Maybe more than one?

When we first got married, we thought we would wait a while to have children, but God had a better idea. We got pregnant in three months.

When we had three children, it had been eight years, we thought we were done. But God had a better idea, Now we have four.

What is your But God story?

 

Or are you instead asking Why didn’t God? Perhaps you are angry about what you think God should have done? Maybe you are stuck on asking Why?

Wrong question. Questions that begin with why many times have no answer. And if God did tell you why, you wouldn’t be satisfied. You wouldn’t like the answer. Stop asking why and start asking How?

How can God use this situation for His glory? How can I be obedient to Him now? How can I walk in the Spirit in this time?

In the future—when you are faced with a great difficulty in your life, will it be- “I know that in the past, I had some But God moments. So now I can face the future and it becomes, But God can…..”? Or will you become bitter about what didn’t happen?

We are called by the Gospel today to deny ourselves, take up our Cross and follow Him. Looking back you know He can be trusted, it might be hard, but God, is faithful.

Trust Him to do what is His will for you.

To Him be glory, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Fr. Stephen Lourie