Archive for November, 2009

Children’s liturgy and children’s sermon 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Children’s liturgy and children’s sermon

1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

Nov 7/ 20 2009 24th Friday after Pentecost[U1] 

2009-10-15-childrens-liturgy-choir-6.jpg

The sermon in the Children’s liturgy contained something for all children of God – we are children of the light – it is really THAT simple.

 

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

 

This is from yesterdays reading, which was read in the so-called “Children’s liturgy” this week.

 

Twice a month, on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays, I serve a “children’s liturgy”. This is really nothing more than a liturgy that many of the parish children attend, with a sermon especially for them, on their level. Also, the children are encouraged to sing as much as they are able, and they do sing, like angels. Eventually, God willing, the children will become the entire choir for these liturgies and read the epistle.

 

I have a fervent desire also that eventually our children’s liturgies will become a weekly affair, and part of a homeschooling curriculum. I envision the church as providing significant resources to homeschooling parents, in an organized, but unofficial way (we probably will not an official school, with all the red tape and state interference that this would entail.) I believe that as a pastor I must try to equip our youth as best as I can, and it is my strong opinion that homeschooling is preferred unless there are extenuating circumstances. I believe the church must help equip parents to home school their kids. This is one the of the greatest reasons why I want our parish to grow.

 

The children’s liturgy is one of the highlights of my life, not ALL of it mind you, because children can sometimes be, well … children, but in general I am filled with great hope during these liturgies. Hearing the children sing, generally on key, but usually with a little … improvisation … always warms my soul. I cannot think of a more important 2 hours during the week.

 

2009-10-15-childrens-liturgy-homily-3.jpg One of our “traditions” is the children’s sermon. I sit on a little stool,, and talk to the children. I usually talk about the Gospel of Epistle we just read, and try to put it in terns they can understand. They all gather around in a semi-circle, and are very interactive!

 

Here was the simple message yesterday: “You are children of the light”. I went on to ask them if they would rather be in light or darkness, and told them that light means holiness and darkness is sin. They made the connection that when you sin you are in darkness, and wondered how you get back to the light. Don’t tell me that you cannot talk about theology with children!  Of course, the answer is to repent, and ask forgiveness. In their case it may be that they must apologize to a sibling, or tell their mommy they are sorry.

 

This was a simple sermon, for children, and it was well received. There was a lot more to it than I am recounting, because there are always a few tangents that are suggested by the audience, and I think a pastor giving a sermon to children breaks the lawyer’s number one rule: always know the answer you will be given to every question!

After the liturgy, I kept thinking about this simple sermon. This concept is not only for little children, but the big ones too – all children of God. Is we remembered that we are “children of light” at all times, we would be protected from sin. It really IS that simple.

 

How we identify ourselves – our self-concept – is critical to our success. How many times do we sin because we have forgotten who we are? We are like the man who looks into a mirror, then goes away and forgets what he looks like. [1]

 

It is a powerful and simple idea – “I am a child of light – I will not do this or think that because it is darkness and not light”  The scripture is full of short powerful phrases that can keep us from sin if we are attentive. Another one is “You were bought with a price”. Perhaps we may not sin for no other reason than gratitude when we remember this.

 

It is critical that we remember what our purpose is. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. [2] We are children of light. Let’s remember this at all times.

 

By the way, this is a simple but not easy concept. After the sermons, during the rest of the liturgy, the children bickered more than usual. Sigh.

 

 

     1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-20_children-of-light-and-the-children-of-the-day+childrens-liturgy-1thessalonians5-1-8.doc

& on the blog

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)



[1] James 1:23-24 KJV  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

 

[2] Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,

 


 [U1] < title> Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Children’s liturgy and children’s sermon.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-8</title>

<meta name="description" content=" The sermon in the Children’s liturgy contained something for all children of God – we are children of the light – it is really THAT simple." />

<meta name="keywords" content="children of light,children of the day,childrens liturgy,childrens sermon " />

<meta http-equiv=’pics-label’ content=’(pics-1.1 "http://www.icra.org/ratingsv02.html" l gen true for "http://www.orthodox.net" r (cz 1 lz 1 nz 1 oz 1 vz 1) "http://www.rsac.org/ratingsv01.html" l gen true for "http://www.orthodox.net" r (n 0 s 0 v 0 l 0))’ />

 

Share

The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

Nov 6/ 19 2009 24th Thursday after Pentecost


The Apostle exhorts regarding the judgment, a theme that is mentioned every day in Orthodox services, and refers to darkness as sin and being in the light as the calling of all Christians.

 

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night

 

This must be important, because the church talks about it every week (Tuesday matins has a canon of repentance that mentions the judgment many times) and during the whole of Great Lent. Monastics, who are our model, consider it critical that we consider the judgment every day, and even every moment.

 

The “day of the Lord” means the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the final judgment. “As a thief in the night” means that it will come upon the unwatchful as a thief at night, who is concealed and not noticed by his victims until their goods have been plundered.

 

Here, “night” does not mean when the sun has gone down and there is darkness, but rather, moral depravity, which causes foolishness and stupidity, and makes a person unable to see the truth of things.

 

A “thief in the day’ would be easily discovered; therefore the Apostle to the Gentiles then tells his flock that:

 

4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

 

The careful reader of scripture immediately asks the question of himself, how is it that a man can be a “child of the day” and not in darkness. This does not just happen by fiat from God, as if we have some sort of birthright, like a “trust fund” baby.

 

We are children of God, and children emulate their parents. If God is light, then we must be light, that is, follow the commandments. Becoming morally good in all things leads to superior intelligence, and the ability to see and understand the truth in all things, as the light of morality illumines our way. Those in the dark are not living moral lives. Their darkness is sin. Sin always darkens and causes confusion. Virtue, that is, light, always leads to understanding.

 

We are in-between creatures, with light and darkness within us. This is why we have confusion, uncertainty, lack of understanding. We gain understanding as we gain perfection. Make no mistake about it, Christianity is the pursuit of perfection. It is not a code of ethics, or a system.

 

The Apostle then shows how completely being a “child of the light” is associated with moral perfection, when he exhorts his flock:

 

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

 

Here, “sleep” does not mean physical repose, but rather describes the activity of the mind. If the mind is not focused on God, and the doing of the commandments and the attainment of perfection, then it is asleep, whether we are lying on our bed or in the midst of the activities of life. The fight to the death (either the death of sin, or our death from sin) is fought in the mind, as all sin originates in the mind.

 

The Apostle then describes all sin, and reminds his flock that it occurs in the night (whenever a person is not walking in the light of the knowledge of God and His commandments):

 

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night

 

Sleep occurs in the mind, and is an example of all sins of the mind and the general state of vice that leads to all sins; some sins also are executed with the body also, such as drunkenness. St John Chrysostom teaches that drunkenness:

 

“Is not that from wine only, but that also which comes of all vices. For riches and the desire of wealth is a drunkenness of the soul, and so carnal lust; and every sin you can name is a drunkenness of the soul.” [1]

 

Finally, the Apostle uses similar imagery as he uses in his letter to the Ephesians when he exhorts:

 

8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

 

The head, where the brain and physical mind resides (the spiritual mind is in the soul), is protected by a helmet. It is protected by the “hope of salvation”, which means that we ever keep before ourselves, in every action, decision, priority and interest the fervent desire for our salvation, which we will attain, with Gods help and our firm desire.

 

If we always have this hope before us, how could we ever sin? We sin when it is no longer uppermost in or mind, when the mind sleeps, and is in darkness. The mind with the “hope of salvation” is always in the light.

 

A breastplate protects from blows of an enemy. If it is of “faith and love” then we must expect that in keeping the faith and loving God and our neighbor, we will receive blows. The immature Christian expects that if he does good, he will be treated well, but the perfect does good only because it is good, expecting nothing in return – to be in the light of Christ is enough.

 

When we read the Apostle’s words we must surely feel our distinct inadequacy. These are heavenly tings he is speaking of, and we are still earthly. Let us not despair – our hope of salvation is surely not in vain. May God help us in all things. 

 

 

 

     1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-19_thief-in-the-night+children-of-light-and-the-children-of-the-day+1thessalonians5-1-8.doc

& on the blog

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] Homily 9 on 1 Thessalonians. Taken from the New Advent CD of the Early Church Fathers. It is pretty inexpensive. 

 

Here is more that St John says about “sleep”, from this homily: “On what account then has he called vice sleep? Because in the first place the vicious man is inactive with respect to virtue: again, because he sees everything as a vision, he views nothing in its true light, but is full of dreams, and oftentimes of unreasonable actions: and if he sees anything good, he has no firmness, no fixedness. Such is the present life. It is full of dreams, and of phantasy. Riches are a dream, and glory, and everything of that sort. He who sleeps sees not things that are and have a real subsistence, but things that are not he fancies as things that are. Such is vice, and the life that is passed in vice. It sees not things that are, that is, spiritual, heavenly, abiding things, but things that are fleeting and fly away, and that soon recede from us.”

 

Share

30(40) days of blogging

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Nov 5/18 2009 24th Wednesday after Pentecost

An initiative of the Preachers Institute (which I belong to) was to challenge us blogging pastors to blog daily during the Nativity fast, beginning with the start of the fast, up through Nativity.

 

muppets-one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others.jpg from http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Episode_2040 As is usual in such cases, I am the one who is the answer to the question “ One of These Things (Is Not Like The Others”) ”, since, following the church calendar,  my fast begins 13 days later than most people in America (but not the Orthodox world).  I have all kinds of strong opinions about the calendar, but am not a “calendarist” [1] so I am trying to be a good sport and begin my blogging with the others on Nov 15.

 

I had an auspicious beginning, as I did not post anything on Sunday. I always post  the Sunday homily in audio form, but that day, the batteries ran out, and I did not have a backup plan. I figure I am starting “early” anyway. 

 

It is kinda tough to write something for each day, because I seem unable to write anything but mini-opuses (working on that). Working two full days and usually a full day to go to a prison each week does not help things much either, but I am going to give it a shot. If I could only get ahead a little bit!

 

I am trying to come up with a system. I am inclined to want to write about Scripture (in commentaries or homilies) as often as possible, but sometimes the creative juices do not flow, or at least do not get on paper. I have always found it to be much easier to talk about Scripture than write about it. The next favorite is some excerpt from the services, usually from the daily Octoechos, Lenten Triodion, or an upcoming feast. Anything a pastor can do to inspire people to read Scripture and to attend the services is a good thing, as we are by and large a Scripturally illiterate people, and even more so (just peek in almost any church on a Saturday night or observe the truncated service) a liturgically illiterate people.

 

Other good stuff is a small “gleaning” from the Fathers, or even  a comment about some current event (such as a Roman Catholic bishop’s recent ridiculous letter about H1N1 precautions – I hope to get to it). Of course, while we are building, progress reports with pictures are good. I have started a series (2 so far) of “ Christian Life Skills”. I also try to answer questions that come up from email, parishioners and blog comments. I am way behind on this!

 

If anyone has some suggestions, please let me know. I need material, and need to get a little bit ahead, like a cartoonist or columnist does.

 

The list of blogs which have promised to post daily is below. I am planning (I hope this is more successful than my planning to get my office clean!) to read them, or at least skim them.

 

  1. Schole: Fr. James Coles, St. Ignatius Church, Mesa, AZ
     
  2. Orthodox Praxis: Fr. Dcn. George P. Bithos, Transfiguration Church, Austin, TX
     
  3. Observations from an Empty Well: Fr. John McCuen, Holy Archangels Church, Phx, AZ
     
  4. Redeeming the Time: Fr. Seraphim Holland, St. Nicholas Church, McKinney, TX
     
  5. Dagnabit!: Fr. Stephen Lourie, St. George Church, Altoona, PA
     
  6. 30 Days: Fr. Matthew Thurman, St. Luke Church, Solon, OH
     
  7. Be Transfigured!: Fr. Athanasios Haros, Transfiguration Church, Florence, SC
     
  8. Fr. Peter-Michael Preble: Fr. Peter Preble, St. Michael Church, Southbridge, MA
     
  9. Papamike’s Ponderings: Fr. Michael Winn, Holy Spirit Seminary, Ottawa, Ontario
     
  10. Ramblings of a Redneck Priest: Fr. John Moses, All Saints of America, Middlebrook, VA
     
  11. Shine Within Our Hearts: Fr. David Eynon, Annunciation Church, Decatur, IL
     

 Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-18_30-40-days-of-blogging.doc

and on the blog

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] “Calendarist” is a pejorative. It means different things to different people. The basic jist is that it is someone who considers the Old Calendar (or, rarely, the New Calendar)  to be a dogma or pseudo-dogma. Of course, dogmas cannot be broken and those who elevate the calendar issue to a dogma, on par with the Holy Trinity or the Two natures of Christ (that is, if you don’t believe it or do it, you are not a Christian) are mythological creatures, and very hard to find. There are abuses on “both sides of the aisle”, such as Old “Calendarists” are rigid, without love, anachronistic, etc. or New “Calendarists” are heretics. It is a shame when this happens (as it always seems to) when the issue is discussed on an email list, because it is possible to have very strong, well reasoned arguments against the calendar change and not be even close to being a “calendarist”.

Share

Patriarch Pavle stories

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Patriarch Pavle stories

Nov 4/17 2009 24th Tuesday after Pentecost.



Patriarch Pavle. http://www.spc.rs/sr/system/files/u5/pavle_1.jpg Patriarch Pavle reposed in the Lord on Sun Nov 2/15 2009. I believe he was a righteous man. It is good to honor the righteous by telling stories about them. Here are a few I found. Memory Eternal!

 

From Archpriest Stefan Pavlenko

 

VECHNAYA PAMIAT’ ETERNAL MEMORY Today His Holiness PAVEL, Patriarch of Serbia reposed in the Lord. On Patriarch Pavle’s visit to the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco, of the Church Abroad, before the glorification of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, His Holiness sang the Troparion to Holy Hierarchs in Saint John’s Sepulcher (under the Holy Virgin Cathedral), thus giving Patriarchal and inter-jurisdictional confirmation of the significance of the canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia from its very inauguration. Serbia has a MOLITVINIK at the Holy Throne of God!

 

From Priest Demetrios Carellas

 

On July 22, 2001, I had the sacred honor to co-celebrate the Holy Liturgy with Patriarch Pavle, when he made a visit to Pittsburgh. Never before have I met a Hierarch so totally focused on worshipping the Holy Liturgy! It was as if I were in the presence of Christ Himself! …

 

I think that one of the main reasons that I wept during today’s Gospel, was from recalling a story that someone had recently told me — an event in which the Samaritan’s holy compassion was incarnated by the words and actions of His Holiness. When he was the Bishop of Kosovo, he was brutally and severely beaten by a young Muslim man. So intense was this beating, that the frail Bishop almost died; and was in the Hospital for a few months. Upon his dismissal from the Hospital, the then Bishop Pavle went to the prison where the young man was incarcerated. He told the one who had almost killed him that he felt he needed to go home to his parents; because they needed him!

 

Then he called the warden of the prison and demanded the young man’s release. When the warden refused, Bishop Pavle told him, ‘I have nothing against this young man; and I will not speak against him. Therefore, you must release him now!’ What true Christ-like love, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ — love which bore a very special fruit: the young man was soon Baptized into the Orthodox Faith!

 

From http://ishmaelite.blogspot.com/2009/04/patriarch-pavles-slava.html (a much missed and excellent blog)

 

… It is well known that the Serbian Patriarch, even when taking up his high-ranking position, continued his ascetic podvigs and strove to live modestly – although for him this was all quite natural, without any deliberate affectation. He went around town by foot or took regular public transportation, among the throngs of people, was not acquisitive, and ate as little as the ancient desert fathers – simply because that was the way he was.

 

Mrs Jana Todorovic told me a story that concerned her sister. She was at a reception at the Patriarch’s for some reason. Discussing business, she happened to look at the Patriarch’s feet and was shocked at the sight of his shoes: they were old, had been torn and then repaired. The woman thought: “How shameful for us Serbs, that our Patriarch has to go around in broken shoes; couldn’t somehow give him some new shoes?” The Patriarch said joyfully: “Look at what good shoes I have! I found them near the garbage cans when I went to the patriarchate. Someone had thrown them away, but they are real leather. I darned them a little bit and, look, they can still serve a long time.”

 

Another story is connected with these same boots. A certain woman came to the patriarchate with the request to speak with the Patriarch concerning an urgent matter, about which she needed to speak with him personally. This request was unusual and she was not immediately admitted, but the visitor’s persistence bore fruit, and an audience took place. Seeing the Patriarch, the woman said with great excitement that that night she had dreamed of the Theotokos, who told her to take money to the Patriarch so that he could buy himself new shoes. Saying this, the visitor took out an envelope full of money. Patriarch Pavle, not taking the envelope, responded affectionately: “At what time did you lay down to sleep?” The woman, surprised, asked: “Well… around eleven.” “You know, I lay down later, around four in the morning,” the Patriarch responded, “and I also dreamed of the Theotokos, who asked me to tell you to take the money and give it to those who really need it.” He did not take the money.

 

Once, approaching the patriarchate building, His Holiness, Pavle, noticed many cars near the entrance and became interested in whose they were. He was told that these cars belonged to bishops. To this the Patriarch replied with a smile: “If they, who know the Savior’s commandment about unacquisitiveness, have such cars, just imagine what kind of cars they would have if there this commandment did not exist!”

 

Once the Patriarch was flying somewhere on a visit. While they were flying over the sea the airplane went into a zone of turbulence and began to shake. A young bishop who was sitting next to the Patriarch asked what he would think if the airplane were to fall. His Holiness, Pavle, replied calmly: “With regard to myself personally, I would take this as an act of justice: I’ve eaten so many fish in my life that it would be no surprise if they were to eat me now.”

 

It would not be a bad idea to cite a passage from a conversation between Nikolai Kokukhin and Deacon Neboisha Topolic:

 

“By God’s mercy we have such a spiritual pastor as His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle… He leads an ascetic life and is a living example of an evangelical pastor. He lives in Christ in the full sense of this word… As an Orthodox monk he fasts, that is, does not eat meat, and keeps a very strict fast on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays… He serves the Liturgy every morning in a small chapel in the building of the patriarchate. There is no choir there, and only parishioners sing…

 

“He vests himself before the service and unvests after the service, he Confesses and Communes parishioners himself. He has worn the same riasa and cassock from the time of his tonsure to the angelic order (and this was fifty years ago). He does not replace them. He washes, irons, and mends them himself. He prepares his own food. Once he told me that he had made himself a pair of good boots out of women’s boots. He has all the instruments for fixing boots; he himself can fix any shoes. He frequently serves in different churches, and when he sees that a priest has a torn riasa or phelonion, he says to him: ‘Bring it, and I’ll fix it’… Being around such a person is a great benefit for the education of the soul, for spiritual growth.”

 

Patriarch Pavle walking. From http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6WRcJM7SGZY/SeCTrRjHn3I/AAAAAAAABdg/UMtBWmYGKes/s400/1193777798-340b7-106kb.jpg


 

He is very accessible. When his sister was alive he frequently walked to her house by foot. He in general like to go about by foot, without an escort. Anyone can approach him and speak with him. He receives visitors every day at his residence. People go to him with their needs and their small questions, and he finds a comforting word of consolation for each of them.

He gets up very early and, when everyone is still sleeping, he serves the Liturgy, praying for the entire Serbian people. All Serbia is in his heart. He is small in stature, but great in spirit. He has thin fingers, but when he forms these fingers into the sign of the cross legions of demons flee; he wears thin cotton vestments, but beneath these vestments is hidden the soul of a brave warrior. The people say: "This is our angel, who protects and defends us."

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-17_patriarch-pavle-stories.doc

And on the blog

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

Share

The cry of every pastor and shepherd

Monday, November 16th, 2009

The cry of every pastor and shepherd

For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord, For ye are our glory and joy

What is life?

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:20-3:8

 

Nov 3/16 2009 24th Monday after Pentecost

 

christ-the-word.jpg, seen at http://frjamescoles.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/the-new-testament-challenge/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Schole+%28Schol%C3%A9%29 St Paul is the quintessential pastor and shepherd [1]. As a priest, I am inspired and humbled by his zeal. Any true pastor (and I boldly proclaim that I am a true pastor, even though very limited by my sinfulness, but the Lord knows that I care and try to be a good pastor)  feels a great “resonance” in his soul when reading the Apostle’s many exhortations and emotional proclamations to his flock.

 

I cannot be the pastor and shepherd the Apostle was, but I do understand how he feels about his flock. His words to the Thessalonians are my words too:

 

For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. (1 Thess 3:8)

 

This means that the pastor loves his flock, and the joys of his flock are his joys, and the sorrows his sorrows. When a person has a fall, or some difficulty, he feels it deeply, as if it was his own fall or difficulty. By “now we live” the Apostle is saying for all pastors that our greatest joy is to see those in our flock “stand fast in the Lord”. This motivation is why we are pastors.

 

As in all Scripture, the meaning is even deeper than mere words can convey. Our nature loves to be alive, and covets those feelings that make us feel the most alive. For some, this feeling is accomplished the most when encountering danger (the “adrenaline junkie”) or when viewing the beauty of nature, or, lamentably, when indulging in some useless and pernicious pleasure of the flesh.  The more refined among us, those closer to perfection, feel the most satisfaction in life when they are helping someone, but even this does not capture the Apostle’s meaning

 

The perfect identify so closely with those among them and consider their life so intertwined with their loved ones that they do not consider themselves to be alive unless their loved ones are alive. The only true life is to be in Christ. He is the resurrection and the life [2], and anything outside of Him is death. The perfect Christian feels this death so totally that when those he loves are “living as dead”, he laments their lot with bitter tears, and feels it as if it his own, and much more than this, marshals every bit of his energy to help them.

 

I am not there yet, but I want to be there.

 

The difference between a sinful pastor such as myself and the Apostle is that sometimes the sorrows of caring for the flock and the concerns of a pastor are overwhelming. I am convinced that this is because of moral failings. Everything is easier and we are more powerful with holiness! If I was holy, I would be sad about sad situation regarding my flock, but this sadness would spur me to pray as the Apostle did (just look at most of his epistles to see how he prayed!) and not engender feelings of spiritual exhaustion.

 

So today, I have a proclamation and a confession. You my flock, are

 

“my glory and joy”, and I live, “if ye stand fast in the Lord”.

 

And also, I am a truth teller and a liar [3] when I make this proclamation, although the Lord knows that my heart does not lie, even as I prove myself a liar because I am incapable in every instance of living up to these words.

 

Therefore, like the Apostle has often done in his letters, I exhort your prayers also. I need them much more than he needed them. Pray for your pastors, those men with feet of clay who speak of angelic things. Pray for those sinners who have made it their life’s work to teach others to not sin.

 

  Epistle reading for this day:

 

     1 Thessalonians 2:20-3:8 20 For ye are our glory and joy. 1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; 2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: 3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. 4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. 5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. 6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

  http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-16_the-cry-of-the-true-pastor-and-shepherd+for-now-we-live-if-ye-stand-fast-in-the-lord_1thessalonians2-20-3-8.html

and

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-16_the-cry-of-the-true-pastor-and-shepherd+for-now-we-live-if-ye-stand-fast-in-the-lord_1thessalonians2-20-3-8.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] More properly, the quintessential MORTAL pastor, since the pastor of pastors and shepherd of shepherds is our Lord and Savior, the God-man, Jesus Christ.

[2] John 11:25  “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”

 

[3] Psa 116:11  I said in my haste, All men are liars.

 

Share

The Gadarene Demoniac. Do not miss an opportunity! Audio Homily

Monday, November 16th, 2009

LISTEN NOW

Luke 8:26-39 26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. 27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. 29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) 30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. 32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. 33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. 34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.



If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-23_2008-11-23.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-23_2008-11-23.mp3



RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Share

The Gadarene Demoniac 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Friday, November 13th, 2009

In the name of the Father, and the son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. Today is the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost and on this day we read about the Gadarene demoniac. [1]

 

Why are we told this story? Why are we told any of the stories in the Scriptures? Of course, they are all for our salvation, and they all tell us something necessary.

 

In this story we see the power of God, and how by a word He can cast out demons. We see the ultimate powerlessness of the demons. We see how fearful they are of our savior, and we see how incredibly evil they are toward man and even unto beasts. We also see something that should make us fear, so that we do not become like these people – we see the brutishness, the swinishness of unbelievers. It is amazing how these people reacted to a great miracle in their midst. And there is another lesson here, a terrible lesson, a necessary lesson in free will. God created us so that we would know Him, but He has not forced us to follow His commandments. Some choose to follow His commandments, and some choose to ask Him to leave. He will indeed leave those who ask Him to leave …

 

So listen carefully to the words of this story, and see what God wants you to know. Listening carefully is not something that is easy to come by, especially in our society. We are not a very verbal society anymore. We value more the written word, and when we see and hear things, they are images that flash by the screen so rapidly or change so quickly on the radio. There is so much inundation of information upon us that we do not know how to listen to things that are holy – this is just more common information to us. Well, the most important information that you can get the entire week is what you hear in the liturgy today, and what you heard in the vigil last night. This is the time when you should pay more attention than any other time in your life, during the Divine Liturgy, and when the Holy Scriptures are being read, and when they are being discussed.

 

The story begins “And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes.” [2] When we read the context, we can see this is right after the Lord had preached about the sower, then they got into a ship. When they crossed over, during that time, there was a storm, and the apostles were terrified even though He was in the  ship with them There was another time when He came walking across the water in a storm; that was a difference occurrence. He is asleep in the ship, and the apostles, despite the fact that the God-man was with them, were terrified, and they said “Master, Master, we perish.” [3] And He rebuked them because of their unbelief. How can you think you are perishing when Christ is right with you?

 

So they came over to the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, and “there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.” [4] No clothes – the man had no shame, the man had no virtue. He was not clothed in virtue. We know that clothing can often signify virtue. Recall the wedding garment. One is given to everyone who enters the wedding feast, and it signifies baptism for us, and the life lived in Christ. And the man who did not have a wedding garment, who had cast it aside, was cast out with the unbelievers, because he acted like an unbeliever. Even if he appeared in the assembly of believers, by his actions he showed who he really was, and what he was like.

 

This demonized man had no virtue, he was not clothed in virtue, nor in the waters of baptism, which allow us to live in virtue. Also, having no clothes is a sign of having no reason. They are intelligent creatures, but they are not reasonable, or rational. Their hatred is as high as the mountains; they are filled to the brim with irrational hatred every moment of their existence.

 

This man dwelt in the tombs. Part of the reason, the fathers say, that demoniacs dwelt in the tombs is that the devil wanted to plant a fable in the heart if man that from the dead came demons, and that graveyards were noxious and evil places, and people were afraid of them. The devil does not really want you to know how the demons come about and how they perform their activities. He wants this to be steeped in folklore. He does not want you to know that if a man does not follow Christ, he opens himself up to the demons, so he plants these kinds of fables in the heart of man, and you can see them in every culture, in every tradition. This demonology often has a grain of truth in it, but generally it is quite false, because it does not get to the root of why demons besiege us.

 

Also, those who are without virtue, those who are without reason, those who do not follow Christ are already dead. They may as well be in a graveyard. The demons are the most dead of all creatures, and tombs symbolize evil places, fetid places, dark places full of wickedness. This indeed was an apt place for such a man to dwell, and of course, he could not be allowed to dwell in the city because of his uncontrollable actions, and people were afraid of him. So he was an outcast. He was outside the city, outside of salvation, outside of the church.

 

Our Lord rebuked him, and then he asked his name. He did not need to ask his name. Our Lord knows everything. He answered “Legion”, many, many demons. Men can sink very low.

 

Now, why did he have devils? This is a question that is very difficult to answer. Different people might have devils for different reasons. St. Mary Magdalene had seven devils. [5] This was not because of unrighteousness. In her case, the devil, who thinks he is so intelligent, was fooled, and he thought that she was to be the bearer of Christ, so he inhabited her, against her will with demons, in order to make her fall into fornication (she never did, by the way). And she suffered grievously from these demons. Our Lord cast these demons out of her, and she followed him till the end of her days. She was part of the entourage that took care of all of the physical necessities of our Lord and His disciples throughout His ministry, and she was given the grace to become “equal to the apostles”. [6]

 

This man may not have been demonized because of his unrighteousness either. We don’t know. It could have been because of the judgment that God was passing on that area. These people were not following the law. They kept swine, which was unlawful to do, because they were Jews, and they were more concerned with profit than following the law of God.

 

The fathers also think that this man was demonized as an example of how terrible the demons can be, and how great the mercy of God can be. Now, be careful how you judge. Don’t judge according to your own wisdom, according to the external circumstances, according only to what you read in the scriptures, without consulting the wisdom of the church. The Psalmist says”Thy judgments are a vast abyss.” [7] We cannot understand why certain things happen to people, why some people are sick, why some are demonized, why some people die early, why the wicked wax old and fat. It is hard to understand these things, but God knows. We must only trust.

 

So this man may have been demonized because of the evil of the people, and not because of his own unrighteousness. As we can see later on, once he had the demons expelled from him, he had great love for our Savior, and great obedience.

 

So, when this man saw Jesus, “he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. [8]

 

Of course, the man’s voice was being used by the demons. It is amazing how foolish the demons are. Can you see how they indeed have nothing in common with our Lord? Such impudence!, to say ‘what have I to do with you’, and such cowardice – ‘Don’t torment me’. And such knowledge! They KNOW! They know exactly  what is going to happen to them. They are trying to forestall the inevitable.  They know that  they will be cast into the abyss. They know that they will be tormented, and they ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE. That is where their fear comes in. In the  midst of their impudence, in the midst of their braggadocio, they are terrified, because they see the God-man standing before them.

 

Some people are also like the demons. They KNOW Who He is,  and they know something of the commandments of God, BUT THEY DON’T WANT TO CHANGE. Because of this, they are afraid. This is not the fear of God that brings forth wisdom [9], but the fear of  a man who does wrong and does not want to change.

 

“And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.  Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.” [10]

 

Our Lord allowed  this to happen as an example, to show how truly evil AND powerless the demons are. They cannot even control swine. They enraged and frightened the swine so much that they ended up in the abyss, where they had begged not to be anyway. Now, if  you can see how truly evil the demons are from this example, set forth for our edification, then how can  you want any part with them?

 

Am I saying this to Christians? Yes indeed! Because, we often have  concourse with the demons, whenever we give ourselves over to our sins, whenever  we give ourselves over to the nakedness of this man, the nakedness of virtue, and fulfill in ourselves our own desires and not the commandments of God. Then we are becoming like unto the demons. The word Devil, “Diabolos” means “Slanderer”. He  is a liar. I tell my children that ‘whenever you lie, you are acting like a demon’. How can you want to act like such an evil creature, and such a smelly and fetid creature, dark and black?

 

We see that there were many demons – there were enough to inhabit a whole herd of swine. And we see the judgment against  these people, because Christ, shall we say, ‘killed two birds with one stone’. He not only healed the man, but He also showed these people where they were erring, because they were keeping swine against the Jewish law. So, He took away their profit. He took away that which was causing them to sin. They should have considered this to be a favor, in that He saved them from their wretchedness, but what happened?

 

“When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.” [11] They fled! I can think of another occurrence where someone saw their sin, but she  did not flee! She ran to the city and she said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” [12] I am referring to St. Photini, the Samaritan women at the well. Our Lord showed he that he  knew of her sins. He knew that she had previously had five husbands, and that the man she was living with was not her husband, and He showed how  much He knew. She reacted with love. She reacted by becoming apostle by proclaiming that the Messiah was among them!

 

But these swine herders – their profit had been removed from them. Their livelihood in the trafficking in illicit goods was removed from them, so they fled, and went to tell their  superiors about this tragedy that had befallen their commerce. These people saw the power of God, and they were afraid! They were afraid because of their sins, and because of their stubbornness, because they DON’T WANT TO CHANGE. They saw that the God-man, Jesus Christ requires  change in a man. This is a fundamental principle of Christianity. As you are enlightened with the knowledge of God, you  must act in accordance with that knowledge!

 

“Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.” [13]

 

Now he  had his clothing on, and his reason had returned to him and he was doing what any man should do when  he sees what great things God has done for him – he sits at His feet, drinking in every word, adoring Him, with thanksgiving . He was beginning the Christian life. I tell you, this man could have fallen back into the abyss, where  he had come from.

 

In another place in St. Luke’s gospel, our Lord describes what happens to an unrepentant man, even a man who has demons taken out of him: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.  And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.  Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” [14]

 

So this man had to embark upon the life of virtue now. Now that he had removed from him  this impediment that made it so difficult for his to believe and to act virtuously, he OWED Christ obedience, and  he gave it freely, as we can see in the Gospel. He desired very greatly to follow Him, but our Lord, for reasons known only to Him,  refused him, and asked  him to be an apostle in that area by proclaiming what great  things God had done for him, and indeed he did that.

 

What should have happened with these people? How should they have reacted? How did the Samaritans react when St. Photini told them about Christ? Like the Gadarenes, they came out to investigate, but the similarity ends there. It says,

 

So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word.” [15] And, in another place,  there was one out of ten lepers who gave thanks to God: “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. [16]

 

That is what should have happened when these people saw that their sinful trade had been destroyed, and God had judged that they  should not do such a thing, but He had not destroyed them. He had only destroyed that which was CAUSING their own destruction!

 

“They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.” [17]

 

So the swine herders went to their masters and they told them what happened. These men were very afraid then, and this was an evil, wicked kind of fear. This was the fear of a person who does not want to see the light, does not want to  have his deeds exposed, does not want to have his life changed. They did not focus so much on the grace and the power of God, as on the fact that He was getting into their business. He was requiring of them something. He was intervening in their  lives, and they wanted Him out. They wanted Him to LEAVE THEM ALONE!

 

“Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear:” [18]

 

Tragic! Absolutely tragic! They had the God-man among them, and He had showed them what was wrong  with their life, in a quite gentle way, and they wanted nothing of Him. They did not want Him around. 

 

Evil hates the light. Evil  does not want to be around the light, partly because it does not understand it.   St. John talks about this: “In him”, that is, in Christ, “ was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” [19] There are those who just don’t understand, and I tell you, most people who do not understand do not WANT to understand, because if you understand, you must go to the next step, and you must ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR UNDERSTANDING! People don’t want to do that. Even people  who call themselves Christians don’t want to do that. And all of us, to some extent, in some way, try to cover up knowledge, so we don’t have to act in accordance with that knowledge.

 

This is part of the reason why  confession is so important. It is so easy to hide within ourselves our sins, but it is much more difficult when we are required to tell them to someone else, especially if that person questions, and asks, and even challenges. At least, if we have enough shame so that we will not tell lies then, God will show us what is truly wrong with us.

 

It also says about those who do and do not want to follow Christ,

 

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” [20]  

 

That is  exactly how these people acted. They wanted the light to go away, so they could hide. They thought they could hide. They thought  if He would go away, they could continue their trade, they could  get more swine, and they could go on with life as it was before. They should listen more carefully to what their Messiah has said: “Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” [21]

 

There is no hiding from the knowledge of God. You can delay it for some period of time, but eventually, all things will be made known [22], all things will be made  manifest. All sins will be made known, and those sins that have been unconfessed, those sins that have been hidden and hoarded will cause great pain, and will gnaw at us in the next life if we do not repent.

 

Now we come to the most terrible section of this reading. It is very short, and very bitter. ”And he went up into the ship, and returned back again.” [23]

 

He offered them salvation, and they denied Him. So He said, “All right, I will leave’. And God will leave, and the Holy Spirit will leave from us, when we do not prepare a place for Him, and repent of our  sins, so as to keep that place clean, and garnished. If you don’t want Him, He will leave.

 

But notice, how merciful He is, in still  giving those Gadarene “swine” and chance for their salvation, because it says: “Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.” [24]

 

So he was giving  these people another chance. This man might have gained some converts over time. Some of these people’s hardened hearts might have softened and they might have some to an understanding of what the Lord had done for them, and they might have become Christians.

 

God help us to learn from this example, to not act like swine, to not push God away when He shows us something that is wrong with us, whether it be when we are reading in the scriptures, or we are hearing in the services something that touches  our heart, or where God most often tells us what is wrong with us.

 

This is through our relationships with others, and especially our relationship with our confessor. This is a tough relationship to have. You know, I have a confessor too. This is not an easy relationship to have, to bare yourself and to show what is wrong with you. We always want to show the good side of ourselves. It is also not easy to take instruction. When he tells me to do something, I don’t always like what he tells me, but if I don’t do it, then I will be acting  upon my own wisdom, and I will fall, and I will probably, most likely perish. I will certainly perish if I disobey him constantly, but even the smallest disobedience can lead to a greater disobedience. and I can fall farther and farther, and the same principle applies to every Christian, even to a Patriarch. We must be obedient to what God is telling us, and God speaks through simple, sinful men.

 

God help us to truly follow Christ, and to not be  like these Gadarene swine keepers, but when we see something wrong with us, we would cleave to Christ, and we would be healed. Amen.

 

Bibliography:

Drops From the Living Water – Pp. 168-171

The One Thing Needful – Pp. 143-146

Old Believer Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (unpublished)

Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, Pp.  190-194

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 1996.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Mailing Address

Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-23_1996-10-28+the-gadarene-demoniac_luke8-26-39.html

&

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-23_1996-10-28+the-gadarene-demoniac_luke8-26-39.doc

 

 

New sermons, commentaries, etc  are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.

 

Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 

 



[1] This homily was transcribed from one given On 10/10 (os) 10/28 (ns),  1996, being the Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, and the day appointed for the commemoration of Holy Martyr Terrence and family, St. Stephen the writer of hymns, and St. Paresceva, among others.  The entire Gospel is: Luke 8:26-39. There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

[2] Luke 8:26

[3] Luke 8:24

[4] Luke 8:27

[5] Cf. Mark 16:9

[6] The title “Equal to the Apostles” is given to certain holy ones because of their great, apostolic and evangelical labors. Other saints so named are St. Abercius and St. Vladimir. There are many more examples.

[7] Psalm 35:6

[8] Luke 8:28

[9] Cf. Psalm 111:10

[10] Luke 8:32-33

[11] Luke 8:34

[12] John 4:29

[13] Luke 8:35

[14] Luke 11:24-26

[15] John 4:40-41

[16] Luke 17:15-16

[17] Luke 8:36

[18] Luke 8:37

[19] John 1:4-5

[20] John 3:18-20

[21] Luke 12:3

[22] Cf. Luke 8:17

[23] Luke 8:37

[24] Luke 8:38-39

Share

An incredible week and a grateful parish

Friday, November 13th, 2009

2009-11-13-donated-bishops-chair-front

We are a small parish, and have done our best to plant and water, and now we are watching God cause us to grow.

 

There is not doubt about it – times are difficult, and we are stretched financially, and spiritually. I am not exactly a Tigger, nor am I am Eyore, but like most people, somewhat in between. Building is hard, since nothing in life stops to let you catch your breath.

Our parish received a huge amount of encouragement this week. We have had an enormous amount of donations come in. We are still raising money, and need to, but we received a large chunk this week. God is providing, in the right time, in the right amounts.

 

We have also made our needs known for some "church" things, and received word yesterday that a bishops chair and chandelier will be donated.

 

One thing that building has done (for all of us, but I guess I am talking a little personally here) is made us less of an island. We have friends from literally all over the world now, and, most dear to me, many in the DFW area, in local parishes. We are a part of the community now, with friends who visit us, commune with us, and have helped us. This is incredibly encouraging.

 

2009-11-13-donated-chandelier-catalog-pic

Our monetary donations this week are an incredible $6024.00.

 

Thank you from a grateful pastor and parish for your friendship, well wishes, prayers and donations. As the pastor, I try every day to be worthy of your trust.

 

Share

Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Idolatry, Honesty

Mat 5:33-37

Oct 31/Nov 13 2009 23rd Friday after Pentecost


Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:  (34)  But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:  (35)  Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  (36)  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  (37)  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.  (Mat 5:33-37)

 

In this scripture, our Lord is referring to idolatrous practices and warning us how to avoid them. As is usual in His teaching, there is something on the surface, and deeper meaning for those with ears to hear.

 

There is a “do not” in his teaching – it is intended for the simple – those who need to be told things plainly because they are only capable of digesting milk instead of meat[1]  – “Do not” swear on anything, such as by heaven or earth, or Jerusalem. Blessed Theophylact explains that these practices lead to idolatry, where men begin to worship the things they swear upon.

 

We have many Orthodox Christians who need to be told such things. There are those who come to church only when they perceive that they “need’ something- they light a candle and then go away! Others are immersed in various occult practices and superstitions and do not know that such things are idolatry. Even for some, their preparation for communion amounts to a type of idolatry. They never fast or go to church, EXCEPT for a few days before they plan to come to communion[2]. The pastor’s heart aches for such people, because they are “sheep without a shepherd”[3], and not because the shepherd is unwilling to help them, but because they are not around long enough to absorb any salvific teaching!

 

“Do nots” are important, but the reason behind them is more important, and even more so, the things we are told to do and their reasons are of even greater importance.

 

A Christian who is living as a Christian does not need to be told not to swear, because he internally knows this is wrong. Why? Because he is an honest man.

 

The fundamental cause of swearing upon things is dishonesty. The more flagrant the swearing, and the greater the promises and flourishes in making the promise, the more likely that the one making the promise is lying. Here, involuntarily, the actions of our politicians, and sometimes even some very political Orthodox hierarchs come to mind.

 

The fundamental principal our Lord is teaching here is not a “not”. It is to be honest. And His teaching is even deeper than this, because honesty is merely a virtue borne of long practice of loving God and following the commandments. Honesty is the fruit of two things – knowledge of God and of self. These twin pillars of knowledge cannot be obtained without zeal and labor, and love of God above all things.

 

The man who knows himself and God does not have the pernicious passion of self-deception and with it, the addiction to presenting himself to others in such a way as to hide his true nature.

 

Some hide their nature purposely such as a lying politician, or a manipulator of persons. Such a person thinks of truth as a tool, to be used when needed, and discarded when deemed to not be advantageous. Since Jesus Christ IS truth[4], such a dissembler is discarding Christ! To such a one, the curse our Lord pronounced is fully active:

 

“But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 10:33)

 

This is how important it is that we do not purposely lie!

 

Other people, actually all persons except the most perfect, lie because their taskmaster of inner pride and vanity blinds them to their true motivations in all matters. The only way to be freed of these lies is humility. Anything not borne of humility, which is in turn born of knowledge of God and self, is a lie, and therefore, “cometh of evil”:

 

(37)  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

 

Here is what the Lord is teaching us: “humble yourself, and take my yoke upon you. Pursue perfection. With my help and your effort, you will eventually become a totally honest man.”

 

 

Sometimes Scripture is intensely personal. We must understand the intended meaning correctly, and after this, we often, if we listen carefully, hear an application to our own life.

 

I have been thinking about this Scripture for a week, for no apparent reason. I have not read it for a long time, and did not even remember where exactly it was (eSword is helpful!)

 

I am writing about honesty, so I will be honest. I get disappointed about a lot of stuff. Dejected, tired, feeling worn out, sometimes even mad. I want to see more “results” (whatever those are – I think I do not even know).

 

Why is this?

 

This scripture gives me the easy answer, and the difficult solution. My yea is not yea, not my nay, nay. I am a sinful man, with passions that root me to the earth, and I try daily to do heavenly things. I am the embodiment of one of my pet saying: “A priest is a sinful man teaching other people to not sin”. My motivations are polluted by these passions. This is a type of dishonesty. I am sometimes aware of it directly, but this week, the fruits of this dishonesty, as described in this scripture, became clear to me.

 

None of these passions obliterates the truth of what I do and say, when it is true, but things would be so much easier for me if my motivations were pure. They must not be, because my feelings betray them.

 

Just recently, I wrote something about 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5:

 

“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance… (1 Thessalonians 1:5)

 

We cannot have power without perfect motivations. The liar is weak. The honest man is strong. Always.

 

I am a pastor, therefore I see constantly that people have imperfect motivations. I am not the only one who does things with imperfect motivations, in disobedience to our Savior’s command.

 

Always test your motivations!

 

May God help us all to become honest men.

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-13_let-your-communication-be-yea-yea-nay-nay-for-whatsoever-is-more-than-these-cometh-of-evil+idolatry+honesty_matthew5-33-37.html

&

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-11-13_let-your-communication-be-yea-yea-nay-nay-for-whatsoever-is-more-than-these-cometh-of-evil+idolatry+honesty_matthew5-33-37.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



 

[1] Heb 5:12-14 KJV  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  (13)  For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  (14)  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

[2] There are also pious Orthodox Christian who are struggling to live the Christian life and do fast and go to church who believe they must fast for several days before their infrequent times of communion. For some, this works, but in my pastoral experience, it is seldom that that the “three day fasters’  are doing this. This practice can be salvific, but not if practiced in isolation to the things we should be doing regularly, day by day and week by week!

 

[3] Mat 9:36  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

 

[4] John 14:6 KJV  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

 

 

Share

Construction progress as of Nov 12 2009. Plywood roof is on, apse framing done, and windows are in. It looks like a real Orthodox temple!

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

 

2009-11-12-construction+south-east-view-01

Going to the chapel and we’re gonna have a moleeeeeban (at 7)

Going to the chapel and we’re gonna have a moleeeeeban

We really love it, and we’re gonna have a moleeeeeban

Going to the chapel tonight!

 Slide Show or go to the Picture set here.

We have an almost real church! 

 2009-11-12-construction+trapeza-window

Window detail with a deaconess.

 

Share