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

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

A Contagious Conversation

saint-photini-the-samaritan-at-jacobs-well-icon-320x330In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is risen!

Beloved in the Lord, I am grateful today for the privilege of expositing such a deliciously gregarious conversation between our risen Lord and a woman from Samaria named Photini. Our beloved Apostle and Evangelist John delights in recording these deep and sacred conversations and this one is his longest between the Lord and one other person, logging in at a whopping 20 verses.

Consider with me first the setting of this conversation at Jacob’s well in Sychar of Samaria. It is a very public, yet intimate gathering place, akin to the public, yet intimate encounter one has today riding on a bus or flying on a plane— random, yet providential encounters between total strangers that have the capacity to turn quite personal, and even eternal. Some would even call them divine appointments. Such is today’s providential encounter between the savior and a woman whose life up to then was shameful and without purpose. She was the daughter of a race of half-breeds, whose heretical faith, compromised ethnicity, and immoral lifestyle had ensured her membership in a disenfranchised class. Photini was a woman living a dead-end life among a discriminated minority. Continue reading

Today is the Day

Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare)
I Corinthians 8:8-9:2
Matthew 25:31-46

the-last-judgement-icon-742x445

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Glory be to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. Dear beloved in the Lord, we stand this morning knocking on the doors of Great and Holy Lent. For many of us, this is not only an auspicious time, but one we anticipate a great deal: the solemn, quiet darkness of Pre-sanctified Liturgies, the engaging, spiritual community of multiple retreats, and the bold, loving consolation of a heavenly father who, like the earthly father in last Sunday’s parable, waits for our return home from wandering in the wilderness of sin. So many things to look forward to— they all should help us to understand the terrifying image shown to us in this morning’s Gospel. For the Lord of glory will indeed come again to judge the living and the dead and this knowledge should bring us to repentance. Continue reading

By Grace We Are Saved and Delivered

kazan_moscowSunday, October 22/November 4, 2018
Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos
Commemorating Russia’s Deliverance from the Poles in 1612

Ephesians 2:4-10
Luke 16:19-31

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. St. Apostle Paul writes in this morning’s epistle to the Ephesians, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9) Beloved in the Lord, our salvation from sin, our deliverance from adversity, our emancipation from a life of sin and idolatry are all gifts from God, says the Apostle, not of ourselves lest we should boast. Continue reading

A Christian Ending to Our Life

sophia_the_martyrSunday, September 17/30, 2018
Martyrs Sophia, Faith, Hope & Charity
Sunday After the Exaltation of the Cross

2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Galatians 2:16-20
Matthew 18:23-35
Mark 8:34-9:1

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Beloved in the Lord, St. Apostle Paul once wrote to his disciple Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity. (I Timothy 4:12) Though these words were written from St. Apostle Paul to his young protege Timothy, they could have easily been the message Saint Sophia used to raise her three daughters Faith, Hope, and Love (in Russian Sophia/Sonya, Vera, Nadezhda, and Lubov) whose memory we commemorate this day. It is the message that all of God’s children, no matter what their ages, can and should serve as his witnesses, his martyrs. And on this Sunday following the Exaltation of the Precious, Life-creating Cross, these four women and child martyrs serve as evidence that no power on earth can compare to this witness of the life to come. Continue reading

Unity in Community

9dc1bce4f82242bfe9150bbb54f5d854Sunday, July 9/22, 2018
8th Sunday After Pentecost

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 14:14-22

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever. What do you eagerly desire? Or what do you dream in the unguarded moments of sleep or the early moments of waking? In a new song from a recent children’s movie, a young man croons that there are a million dreams keeping him awake at night. And with the enthusiasm that is particular to youth, the song posits that those dreams lead to a world we’re gonna make. While we can sympathize with the young man’s thirst for life, we adults know that self-created worlds often leave a person unfulfilled in the multitude of their million dreams. Those self-created worlds don’t in the end unite us to one another and our precious creations crumble almost as soon as they are built. Continue reading