Unbelieving Belief

Sunday, April 2/15, 2018
Sunday of St. Thomas

Acts 5:12-20
John 20:19-31

altar-of-the-church-of-st-john-the-baptist-chesmenskayaIn the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is risen! St. John the Beloved begins his first epistle, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (I John 1:1) And this morning’s Gospel also from St. John confirms this verifying faith through the testimony of another apostle, Thomas. Many identify him as doubting Thomas, a rather unfortunate label which casts a negative light upon his hesitancy to at first fully believe. But the Church in the Divine Services for today’s feast clearly proclaims Thomas’s unbelief or hesitancy to believe as good. So what is it about Thomas’s unbelieving belief that we can and should emulate? Continue reading

Holiness in Unexpected Places

Sunday, March 12/25, 2018
St. Mary of Egypt
Righteous Aaron the High Priest, brother of Prophet Moses the God-Seer
5th Sunday of Great Lent

Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 7:36-50

moses-iconIn the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Beloved in the Lord, As I was preparing this sermon for this wonderful Sunday in the 5th Week of Great Lent, I was reminded of an old negro spiritual:

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land.
Tell ole’ Pharoah to let my people go.

The land of Egypt. In ancient times, this land served as a symbol of luxury and indulgence, even for the thousands of slaves she employed to make these rich services possible. When Moses and his brother Aaron (whose memory we commemorate today) sought at God’s command to deliver his people from their bondage to Pharaoh, they were reluctant, preferring the comfort of Egypt’s fleshpots to the freedom offered by Almighty God. Continue reading

The Universe is My Parish

Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
February 25, 2018

sunday_of_orthodoxy“A time is coming when people will go mad.” St. Anthony said, “And when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad because you are not like us.”

This sounds quite prophetic for our day, especially when so many people try to make everything relative, denying the existence of absolute truth. We Orthodox Christians, however, believe in absolute truth because Truth incarnate is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and His truth is unchangeable.

Truth is truth, and falsehood is false, no matter what the majority say, and no matter how one tries to dress up falsehood. The Bible describes God as “the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8). Our Lord God is eternal and unchanging, and therefore His Word and His teachings are unchanging. In every age and in every culture, the Gospel has to be presented in a refreshing and understandable way, but the truth itself is unchanging.

Today on this first Sunday of Lent, we celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, which is often called the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh noted, however, that “The Triumph of Orthodoxy is not the Triumph of the Orthodox over other people. It is the Triumph of Divine Truth in the hearts of those who belong to the Orthodox Church and who proclaim this Truth revealed by God in its integrity and directness.”

The triumph of divine truth. I could choose to focus on many different aspects of truth, but one I will focus on today is the universal nature of our faith. St. John Chrysostom once said, “There are two kinds of bishops (or we could say Christians). One who says, ‘My parish is my universe.’ While the other says, ‘The universe is my parish.’” Continue reading

On the Brink of Salvation

33866143862_a610ba3812_kFebruary 5/18, 2018
Sunday of Forgiveness
Beginning of Great Lent

Romans 13:11-14:4
Matthew 6:14-21

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Beloved in the Lord, This sermon was not an easy one for me to write this week. This always happens to me as we approach the Doors of Repentance, Holy and Great Lent. I am filled with so many lofty ideas about what it would take to fix the world, but that isn’t the point, is it? Lent is an invitation to fix what’s inside of me, and I don’t know about you, but I would far rather be doing something else. But this morning’s Gospel insists that our hearts can be found wherever we find the things we most desire or treasure. And when those desires are fixed on worldly things and not on eternity, our hearts will be restless until they find their rest in God. Continue reading

The Smallest Gesture of Repentance

Sunday, January 8/21, 2018
33rd Sunday After Pentecost

1 Timothy 4:9-15
Ephesians 4:7-13
Matthew 4:12-17
Luke 19:1-10
Sunday after the Baptism of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

2167592729_a5fe59317bIn the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Beloved in the Lord, “One Lord, one faith, and one Baptism,” has led us all to the, “… unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,” as it says in this morning’s epistle proscribed for the Sunday after Theophany, the Feast of Our Lord’s Baptism which we celebrated last Friday. Look around yourself this morning to behold the evidence of this unexpected unity. Because of Our Lord’s Baptism, He sanctifies human nature and makes possible a community of people from so many unexpected places. As St. Paul says in his first epistle to the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (I Cor. 1:26-29) Which of these despised categories did we once belong before Baptism, separate from one another by the caste system of worldliness, and now look and behold, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1) Continue reading

Disney Princess Martyred for Christ

Sunday, December 4/17, 2017
28th Sunday After Pentecost

Colossians 1:12-18
Luke 17:12-19
Great-martyr Barbara and Martyr Juliana at Heliapolis in Syria (306)
Venerable John Damascene (760)

agia-barbaraIn the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever. What can a young child really do? What is a young boy or girl good for besides growing up into adulthood? Aren’t we adults the ones who run the church and isn’t their place merely to respect and obey instruction until the time comes when they are old enough to run things themselves? While I would agree with at least this assessment of the role of children in the church, I challenge us to see a deeper dimension of these to whom our Lord promised that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. These same youths that the Apostle Paul enjoined in his letter to Timothy not to despise because of their youthfulness. Continue reading

Great Physician, Prince of Peace

Sunday, November 6/19, 2017
24th Sunday After Pentecost

Ephesians 2:14-22
Luke 8:41-56
St. Paul the Confessor, Archbishop of Constantinople (305)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
and be Thyself our King of Peace.
(O Come, O Come, Immanuel, trans. By John M. Neale)

Sad divisions, bleeding people, and loved ones crushed by the weight of sin and sudden death— These are all reasons that Immanuel came in the flesh and dwelt among us. And now as we near the quiet season of Advent when we await that coming, let us pause to consider two particular people in need: A woman bleeding for 12 years from an incurable illness and a ruler stripped of an only daughter, struck down in the prime of her life at 12 years old. Continue reading