Sunday of All Saints
Are you ready to confess in the Lord?
What is confession in the Lord?
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, brothers and sisters, the Sunday after Pentecost, the Sunday of All Saints, so it is appropriate that we would read a reading about what it is to be a saint. This Gospel is about the character of the saints. Of course there are many Gospels that describe holiness. This one is perhaps the best of all.
Now, the question that you should have for yourself is do you fit in the category of people that the Lord is describing, who are saints?
In order to be a saint, we must be holy – “saint” actually means “holy”. In fact, we are commanded to be holy. If we don’t become holy we have no part with Christ. Christ came to help us to become holy. He gave us the ability, but we must have the desire and the effort. We are not only called but also commanded to be holy. So to be a saint is to be holy. This is not the calling only of those holy ones we have on our walls, but it is the calling of every person.
We must, as the Lord says, confess Him. He says something that is both great and terrible:
“Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him I will confess before My Father which is in Heaven.”
And then He says:
“Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him also I will deny before My Father which is in Heaven.”
So one must understand what it means to confess.
To confess in the Lord is to live as He taught us. It is to have the priorities He taught us to have. So confession involves living the right way, living as Christians. One cannot confess in the Lord and be a thief. One cannot confess in the Lord and cheat people or be an adulterer.
And also confession in the Lord is something that is difficult in our day and becoming more difficult: we must confess with the lips also. We must stand for what is right as Christians. I have been trying to talk about this a little bit more on the blog entries. This is very important. Our age is one in which good is called bad and bad, good. Abominations are called healthy. And to believe that there are abominations is called hateful, close-minded, and backward. It’s happening. I hope you see it.
Now, I have so far, to my knowledge, never in a sermon been political. I don’t want to talk about parties or governments or particular people. I want to talk about the age we are in. Look at the age we are in: When things that are sinful are called good and those who call them sinful are ostracized and even put in prison. Open your eyes. I hope you see it. It is happening. Even the words I am saying now could be taken to be hate speech and inciting to violence.
Now, you all know me; I’m not inciting anyone to violence, except the kind of violence that wins the Kingdom of God, that is, violence against our sins. But eventually it will happen that this kind of speech will be outlawed. It’s happened in other societies before and it’s happening before our very eyes.
It is important not only to know theology; it’s also important to know the reality of what’s going on right in front of you. As a pastor for quite some time now, not at the very beginning because that was 15 years ago, things were not as insane as they are now. The mechanism was not in place to cause people to be subjugated to people’s immoral will. But it’s now in place. A few changes, a few little tweaks, and it will take great courage to be a Christian. Are you ready? Are you ready to say there is sin? Are you ready to say what is good and what is bad? Just see if I’m a prophet or not in five years, ten, three, two. It will come to be that if you want to work at some places or maybe all that you will have to sign a statement of faith which says that you believe things that Christians do not believe. It’s going to happen. Are you ready to confess in the Lord?
It is really good to talk about beautiful theology, the Resurrection, the Ascension, to talk about God’s love for us. But God’s love for us is realized in us when we live as He lived. And if you look at the way our Lord lived, He was the One who never had a place to lay His head and eventually He was crucified. But He was tormented His entire career. This is that side of Christianity that most people who call themselves Christians, don’t want to see. But I as your pastor want you to see it.
If you want to be a saint you must confess. You must stand up for the truth.
I’ll give you one example. There was a time when I was in a company and they required us to fill out a piece of paper and give something to United Way. I looked at the things United Way did. A lot of them were things that I would not have any part with, whatsoever. Some of them were good. Many of them were good. But the money just went into the pot so some could get an abortion, some could go to family planning programs in China. Some the good was artfully mixed in with the bad. And so we were required to sign a paper. I didn’t do it.
Now, in that day and age, I was pressured greatly but was not fired but I think it would happen that I would be fired now. Are you ready?
Are you ready to confess in the Lord? All right, I’ll tell you how to become ready. The Lord tells us right here. Right after he says, “Whoever shall confess Me, I will confess in him before My Father,” and then the opposite, “if you don’t confess in me, I won’t confess in you before My Father”, He tells us how to live so that we could confess in Him always.
You know, a saint commemorated just a couple of days ago where a magician recognized the truth about Jesus Christ and immediately confessed and then his head was cut off right there. That’s usually not the way it happens, brothers and sisters. Confession usually is a long process with suffering with testing of your metal, to see whether or not you’re courageous.
I think there are those of us who would be willing to confess and have our heads severed but are we willing to have our houses taken away from us? Have our jobs taken away? Work in menial labor? It’s happened before. It happened in Soviet Russia, in our lifetime. It’s happening now. And it will happen here. So what do you do?
Here is what the Lord tells us. He says:
“He that taketh not his cross and followeth not after Me is not worthy.”
Then He says, when Peter asked him a question, “Behold we’ve forsaken all and followed Thee. What shall we have?” And he promises Peter and the other apostles to be able to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel but then He said something that’s very comprehensive, and this is the key to whether or not you will be ready to confess when it really is time.
“And everyone that have forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My Namesake, shall receive a hundredfold. And shall inherit everlasting life.”
And He adds something that’s also important.
“But many that are first, shall be last and the last shall be first.”
That can mean many things, and one of the meanings is this: Things are not as they seem. Don’t believe what the world tells you. Believe what God tells you. And this list of things that were forsaken, not that we should run away from our parents, but these are symbols of things that we want that might get in the way of who God is. And if anything gets in the way of God, we must forsake it. It’s about priority.
As a pastor I’ve seen when people are beset by sins, if they have good priorities, they conquer these sins. I don’t care what it is. If you have good priorities, if you desire to live a Christian life, if you try to pray – I’m not even talking if you succeed or not, if you want to pray, if you try to order your life to pray, if you try to fast, if you try to be a Christian, if that is what’s important to you from the moment you get up to the moment you put your head on the pillow, then you will conquer your sins, God will help you.
And I’ve seen it many time and time again but people who are beset by sins and they will stay in the same sins, it is a priority problem. There is something they are not forsaking. I’m not talking about the sin. Sin can be very sweet; it is a sweet poison. And we can desire something that is very bad for us and be habitually falling into it. That’s not the priority I’m talking about. That’s a weakness of the flesh that God came to help us with. But He will not help us with these weaknesses of the flesh, unless we have a mindset that we want to take up our cross and follow Him, no matter what.
Now, maybe you are not ready to confess in the Lord in such a way that you would lose your job. You’d better get ready. You have time right now. The Lord will not expect of you what you cannot do. But He will expect of you what you can become able to do. So if you sit still and have priorities that are basically day-to-day – do this, do that, then when the time comes, you will not be ready. It’s all about organizing your life in a certain way.
This is what this Gospel is teaching us. Forsake the things that you can forsake. Perhaps there is a sin that you cannot quite forsake yet. I understand. I’ve seen a lot of them. I have them myself. But you can order your life as a Christian.
There are a lot of things that you can do to order your priorities.
I’ll just give a small example. Perhaps it’s a trivial example. Let’s say that you are beset by laziness, you come home and you watch six hours of TV and then fall asleep, not saying your prayers, not reading anything, not doing anything except dissipating yourself and it happens time and time and time again. All right, here is what you can do. Well, you can get a brick. If you cannot take that brick and put it where it should be put, then you can unsubscribe from cable so that it’s a lot harder to see. Or you can make a rule of yourself, I will never, ever copy a TV show on my recorder.
You see, you can show to the Lord that you want to fight against a sin. That’s just one thing. There are many things. You must forsake things that are not Godly, to become Godly. This is the way.
You know, really, this time of life, right now, that is, the life really in the flesh, it’s kind of like, I don’t know, in a crude way to put it, it’s like a boot camp, you’re preparing yourself. And now it’s even more important because there really will be battles. There have been in the past. What makes us think that there won’t be any coming up?
Really, what has happened in North America has been an anomaly, with the many years of peace to be able do what we want to. We have people here, Russian, Greek, and others who had member of their families who within the past hundred years died because of righteousness. In many cases the government tried to impose upon them things that they would not allow because of their conscience. They had to make confession. This has in many cases happened in our lifetime, perhaps across the pond. But it’s getting to be a small pond now.
It’s going to happen here. I as your pastor want you to be ready. Now, that doesn’t mean that I want you to stock up on water and buy a shotgun and go off into the woods and be ready for the end. No, I want you to change yourself now and tomorrow and the next day so that you are ready. This is how you become ready.
The Gospel tells us: Forsake the things that are not Godly. Have the right priorities. Be willing to take up your cross.
Don’t think of Christianity as something easy. If you think Christianity is easy, then you have not learned what Christianity is. Christianity is warfare to the death. Christianity is violence that wins the Kingdom of Heaven, violence against our passions, and violence against the things that kill us.
So take courage, don’t be afraid – Unless you do nothing – Unless you just live complacently. God will help you, if you pray, if you fast, if you struggle, if you forsake the world and you take up your cross.
One more thing. Maybe you can’t do all of it. Okay. Do some of it. There’s a big mistake in our age. It’s like if we can’t do it all, we don’t do any of it.
We are full of sins. Does that mean we shouldn’t be righteous too? Absolutely not.
If you don’t fast well, perhaps you could fast a little better.
If you don’t pray very much, perhaps you could pray a little more.
If your life is spent in fruitless pursuits, perhaps you could find some way to do something that is good for your soul.
Speak with me. Speak with someone else. Find a way. Because the time is coming when you will need to confess with your lips that you are a Christian. And I want you to be ready for it.
Transcribed by the hand of Helen.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.
This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:
· Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070
· Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754
· Email: email@example.com
· Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net
· Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/
This homily is at:
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.