Sermon-Buy More Stuff-Nov. 19

Sermon-Buy More Stuff-Nov. 19

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?

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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.

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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!

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

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