Preached my first sermon yesterday as a Deacon at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Allston, MA. So pleased that the text for the day is the same one a friend of mine used to preach the best sermon I have ever heard. Memory eternal to Don Connors, preacher to the elderly and friend of lost souls.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever. Beloved in the Lord,
You will not remember the words I preach to you today. You will not remember them any more than the senior citizens remembered these words from St. Paul when they were preached to them in a nursing home by a man who preached the best sermon I have ever heard. And what was his text? It was the same as it is for us this morning- the foolishness of preaching. For his question to that elderly audience is the same one I ask of you this morning. What good is it for me to stand here before you and preach a message that will so soon be forgotten? After all, as St. Paul says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” and later in the same chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, he calls his own preaching foolishness.
The disciples must have asked the same question inwardly in this morning’s Gospel as they dealt with the incredible crowds that followed their Lord out of their towns even into his wilderness retreat. What these devoted ones have done is utter foolishness– following this teacher/healer into the desert at such an ungodly hour! The disciples offer what appears to be a sensible solution to the madness, “Lord, this is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away into the villages to buy themselves food.”
Doesn’t this sound like the advice we give to our minds when the deacon/priest invites us to attend to the Holy Gospel? I mean, don’t we have better things to feed our attention with? How about that score in the recent football game, the rates on that variable mortgage, or the love of that elusive boyfriend/girlfriend? Indeed, wouldn’t we all rather feed ourselves in our own homes with the food to which we have grown so accustomed?
But the Savior of our souls, who has food to eat of which we know not, makes a bold command to his disciples and to us: “YOU give them something to eat.” “What, Lord, here?! now?! Uh, they don’t deliver pizza in the wilderness.” You can almost hear the Lord respond, “No, you give them something to eat. I have preached to them, given them food to nourish their minds; now it is time to nourish their bodies and spirits.” And he does, miraculously transforming a small meal into a feast to feed a multitude.
And what about that multitude? Do you think they remembered Jesus’ words better than you will remember this sermon today? If so, what makes the difference? It is that the Master of Life invites His followers not merely to hear a sermon, but to taste a meal. And this morning that same Master’s hospitality invites us not merely to listen to a message but to feast at a table, a table set in a wilderness in the most unlikely of places (like Allston, rock-n-roll capital of Boston) and at the most unlikely of hours (on a Sunday morning, when most of Allston sleeps).
So whether or not you remember these words is unimportant, but what is important is whether or not these words become deeds. Deeds of love towards souls hungry for truth. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” AMEN.