In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! What does it take to get our attention? All we have needed the hand of the Creator has provided yet sometimes it takes extraordinary measures for God to wake us up from the slumber of sin. We sinners spend far too much time wallowing in the filth of this world, being amazed at the depths of depravity to which a human soul will plunge. Our reality TV shows compete not in deeds of righteousness but in more and more bizarre acts of disgust, revenge, and betrayal. In last Sunday’s Parable of the Prodigal, we are far more interested in the prodigal’s lifestyle, the pig’s food he had stooped to eating, than in his eventual return home. And yet he did return home after he had come to himself and returned to his senses. What brought him to that moment of repentance, the moment of return? Father Patrick suggested in last week’s sermon that a better title for this parable might be “the Parable of the Loving Father” for in the end, he is the star of the story; it is his unrelenting, ever-pursuing love that brought home the prodigal.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is baptized! An old Gospel hymn says, What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me pure within? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Brothers and sisters in the Lord, on this Sunday after Theophany, the great Feast of our Lord’s baptism in our human flesh, what darkness covers our minds? What sickness is asking for the blood of Jesus to cure? The blind man in this morning’s Gospel dwelt in a literal darkness, yet his enlightened soul knew who to ask for help and mercy. We live in a supposedly enlightened age but are blind to God, so that while we see with our physical eyes, our spiritual sight is quite limited.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. What does it mean to follow the Lord Jesus Christ? All the martyrs, apostles, and saints through the ages have provided a pattern for being disciples of Christ. The rich young ruler in today’s Gospel asks the age-old question for the would-be disciple, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord who knows the heart and sees its true intention perceives that the man is not genuine in his search. He first rebukes him for his flattery in calling him “good teacher” without recognizing his divinity. Then he issues the same call that he did to all disciples, “sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow me.” The man who only wished to ensnare the teacher with his question became suddenly sad for he was very rich.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ. Beloved in the Lord, don’t we all enjoy a good story like this one in which the forgotten and downtrodden beggar becomes the exalted hero? And where the former persecutor becomes the fearless advocate of the oppressed? They are both examples of dramatic reversal that makes us wonder about the world– its true nature and the paradox that seems to govern all despite outward appearances to the contrary. Continue reading →
For 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!
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 →
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 →
In 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →