Unworthy, But Thankful

lessons-from-parables-parable-of-worker-fair-wage-fair-employerFor my yearly Back-to-School post, I offer this sermon on one of my favorite teacher flicks, Mr. Pip. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!

September 2/15, 2019
13th Sunday After Pentecost
M. Mamas
1 Corinthians 16:13-24
Matthew 21:33-42

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. Happy New Year! Yesterday was a special day in the liturgical calendar for it marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, the new year of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. It also happens to coincide with the beginning of the school year. No doubt by now all the students gathered here have had their first day of school in an academic year that will last until sometime next year in the late spring or early summer. So it is a good time for us to gather our strength, take stock of our supplies, and above all be thankful for the opportunities afforded us with a fresh start.

This morning’s Gospel of the vineyard parable features an interesting array of characters to study. The vineyard owner is Christ who provides every supply necessary for a successful operation before he travels to a far off country. He even performs some of the tasks the workers should have done themselves: he plants a vineyard, sets a hedge around it, digs a winepress in it and builds a tower to protect it, but the vine-dressers rather than thank him for it squander both their time and resources. Not only do they not do what they’re supposed to do, but they actively plot to take over control from the owner and murder his son! In short, they wish to benefit from the fruit of the vineyard without the work of cultivating it. Yet the owner comes back and the Gospel asks, “What do you think he will do to those workers?” Continue reading

Disneyland in Russia

VDNKh. The Centre of Oceanography and Marine Biology Moskvarium. Built in 2015.We returned on Friday from our monastic retreat to greet some new company in our Moscow apartment. Our cousin and his family arrived from Surgut on vacation and stay at a nearby hotel while taking most evening meals with us. He is a fine fellow and his lively wife and 3 girls are the best company any soul could ask for, but their taste in entertainment is a little different from ours. And coming from the monastery only increases my own culture shock.

He invited us yesterday to accompany his family to see a show at the Moskvarium, a kind of sea-themed theater located in a huge cultural park of other museums and theaters north of Moscow called V.D.N.H. [pronounced V-Din-Ha]. We visited V.D.N.H. right before traveling to the monastery and went that time to a special museum dedicated to robots. My older son loved it, but I was less enthused by all the noise. This time I had high hopes that the show might combine the best in Russian theatre and dance with a theme park invented in America. What transpired was one of the strangest spectacles I have seen so far in Russia. Continue reading

One Giant Leap for Mankind

pskovpecheryascensioniconSunday after Ascension
Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

Acts 20:16-18, 28-36
John 17:1-13
Acts 1:1-12 (for the Feast)
Luke 24:36-53 (for the Feast)

Delivered at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Willimantic, CT

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is ascended! Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, today is the Sunday following the Feast of Ascension which the Church celebrated last Thursday, exactly 40 days after the bright and saving Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. For these 40 days, Our Lord has been with us showing many convincing proofs that he is alive and that he still bears his human flesh in its resurrected, glorified form. He has met with his disciples, they have handled his wounded hands and side, and finally, in an incontrovertible proof of his tangible body, he ate with them a honeycomb and some fish. And it is now with that glorified human flesh that he ascends to where he was before, but not as he was before: The eternally begotten Son of the Father, who is one essence with the Father, now is, of the Virgin Mary, one essence with humankind. He ascends in glory and triumph and the Angels were so amazed at the sight that they practically danced a jig in heaven: Continue reading

Deceiving the Deceiver

christApril 28, 2019
Bright and Saving PASCHA
of our Lord Jesus Christ

I love how the character of Christ is portrayed in the 2016 film Risen. In the movie, a Roman tribune is assigned by Pilate to investigate the alleged theft of the body of one late Hebrew rabbi who claimed to be the Messiah. This same tribune had witnessed Christ’s crucifixion himself, so he knew his man. But upon his first encounter of the risen Lord, he was taken aback. This mighty Roman tribune who had commanded legions of soldiers and put down entire insurrections against Caesar was terrified not so much by Jesus’ resurrectional power, but by the way in which it was manifest: an uncanny sober levity and a peculiar nonchalance. He was smirking like one who had pulled off the most enormous con game ever played. Continue reading

The Lord’s Last Farewell to his Friends

aka, Mecca.April 26, 2019
Great & Holy Friday

I am an art collector. A good painting with an equally good story has a way of catching my eye and heart. But because I have neither the time nor the pocketbook, most of my collecting happens online via Google image searches. And once I find an image that means something particular to me, I like to hunt it down to its source, where it lives, usually in a museum or sometimes in a church.

When I was recently in Chicago for a clergy retreat, I felt compelled to visit that fine city’s Art Institute. I remembered it to be the home for at least one or two of my favorite works. But as I neared the marble steps, I was racking my brain to remember the particular painting there that had stolen my heart the most. It wasn’t Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks or Wood’s American Gothic; neither was it the Paris Street; Rainy Day or any of the museum’s excellent collection of Rembrandt. All of these are undoubted masterpieces, but they don’t tell a story that speaks directly to me. Continue reading

Shepherds Tending Other Shepherds

32597329347_8f227c14d2_kClergy Govenie, April 4-6, 2019
St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Chicago, IL

On the 4th week of Great Lent leading up to the Sunday of Saint John of the Ladder, over 20 priests and 2 deacons from across the diocese gathered in Des Plaines, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, for the annual Lenten Govenie with our father and chief Shepherd, Metropolitan Joseph. A govenie is a special kind of retreat that includes divine services, spiritual talks, and leads up to confession with a celebration the Holy Eucharist. At the conclusion of this year’s govenie, His Eminence pronounced, “This is so far my favorite govenie.” Continue reading

Prince Martin Wins a Sword

51vv5ixn54lby Brandon Hale

There was a prince that wanted a sword. Every time he would ask his father, the king he would say, “You will win your sword when you show that you are brave.”

The prince was walking in the woods. Suddenly, he saw a deer being cornered by wild hogs. The prince fought the hogs alongside of a dog named Sir Ray. With the help of Sir Ray, he saved the deer and won his sword.