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

The Joy of Gazing With Our Eyes

blindmanSunday, April 30/May 13, 2018
Sunday of the Blind Man
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
American Mother’s Day

Acts 16:16-34
John 9:1-38

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! On this sixth and last Sunday of Pascha, let us take stock of all that we have witnessed in this season of the Resurrection. We are presented in this morning’s Gospel with a most awesome miracle, the healing of a man blind from birth, and we are invited to behold the resurrected Christ in one last and final image, as the Light of the World. These past six Sundays have been a banquet for the senses: In the second (first after Pascha), the disciple Thomas touched His living side; in the third, the myrrh bearing women heard the message of the angel; in the fourth, the paralytic felt the ability to walk again; and last Sunday (the fifth), a woman from Samaria tasted water that satisfied her thirst forever. On this sixth and final week, a man born blind sees Him Who is the Light of the World and he receives from him enlightenment of both body and soul. Through all of these wonderful proofs of his resurrection, our Lord has turned frightened fishermen into apostles, sinful women into bold evangelists, and blind and lame people into those who could see and walk. Continue reading

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