FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD

Sermon: “For God So Loved the World”

Leave-taking of the Nativity of the Mother of God, and the Sunday Before the Exaltation of the Cross. 9/12/21

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve made some boneheaded mistakes in my life; and some of those mistakes were the result of blurting out something without thinking. Proverbs 15:28 says: “The heart of the righteous person ponders before speaking.” Well, there were plenty of times when I didn’t do that, and the consequence was embarrassment, humiliation, and sometimes, general laughter. One such occasion was when I was a kid on a family trip to Lake Tahoe. Evidently, we didn’t have a hotel reservation, so we were cruising around looking for “vacancy” signs on the lakefront motels. One of them, although a bit shabby looking, had another sign, a big sign, that advertised: “Color TV, Air Conditioning, (and) Pool.” In my excited haste I burst out with: “Oh! Let’s stay here! Let’s stay here! I love to play pool!!” After a moment of stunned silence in the car, uproarious laughter ensued, and as soon as my Dad could breathe, he looked back at me and gently said, “It doesn’t mean that they have pool tables, it means that they have a swimming pool.”

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SERMON FOR THE SUNDAY AFTER THE TRANSFIGURATION, AUGUST 8, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is Transfigured!

Welcome to the Sunday after the Great Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ! We had a nice Vigil Service on Thursday evening and grace-filled Divine Liturgy with blessing of grapes and First Fruits on Friday morning. We will continue to celebrate this wonderful feast until Friday which is the leave-taking.

Today I’d like to begin by reminding us of the words to the Kontakion of the Feast:

“On the Mountain Thou wast Transfigured, O Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world, that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father!”

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SERMON FOR AUGUST 1st, 2021

SERMON FOR AUGUST 1st, 2021 (Adapted from St. Gregory Palamas)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers & Sisters,

The Lord Jesus, in the Gospel, says (just before His crucifixion) that those who don’t take up their cross and follow Him aren’t worthy of Him. He also said that those who wished to follow Him should deny themselves and take up their cross. 

The saying means that we have to deny the body and take up our cross. People who live close to God still have their body, but they aren’t particularly attached to it; they use it as a co-worker when necessary, but when the time comes, they’re prepared to give it up, as they would possessions or any other necessity. This is the word of the Cross and, as such it is a great and really divine mystery, whether it acted in the prophets before the crucifixion, or today, long after the crucifixion has occurred. How? Because superficially it appears to bring dishonor to those who lower and humble themselves in all things…who avoid bodily pleasures, who give away their possessions, are themselves the cause of their own poverty. Through the power of God, however, this poverty, pain and dishonor gives birth to eternal glory, inexpressible delight, limitless riches, both in this world and in the next.

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SERMON FOR SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS 6/27/21

Today, the first Sunday after Trinity Sunday or Holy Pentecost, we celebrate the Sunday of All Saints. Why do we celebrate it today? Most of us know that in the West, “All Saints” falls on November 1st, right after All Saints Eve (or All-Hallows Eve, i.e. “Halloween”). Truth is, they moved it in the 10th century. We have maintained the ancient tradition. For us, the Sunday after Pentecost for “All Saints” makes perfect sense. Here we see for ourselves that the “Holy Spirit power” of Pentecost in the Church is not simply an historical memory of the past, but, rather, a living reality experienced today in the Orthodox Church. 

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SERMON ON THE SUNDAY OF THE FATHERS OF THE FIRST ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, JUNE 13, 2021

Dear Ones, Christ is Ascended!

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from John 17: 1-13. It is the first half of what many call Christ’s “High Priestly Prayer.” This prayer is the longest prayer uttered by Jesus recorded in the Gospels. So, what is it about, this High Priestly Prayer (or at least the first half of it)? Well, in the first two verses Jesus prays for Himself, proving that praying for ourselves is a good thing! So, He prays: Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You...that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” 

In verses 3 & 4, the Lord, within His prayer, defines what eternal life really is. And what is it? To know God! This doesn’t mean to know about God, but to truly know Him experientially. That’s the sense of the Greek word γινώσκω, to know something or someone deeply, intimately. If we know God in this way, then eternal life is a consequence of our relationship, it is the result of our love.

In verse 5 the Lord rejoices in His unity with the Father, and how His humanity is united with His divinity.

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Sermon on the Samaritan Woman at the Well

SERMON ON THE SAMARITAN WOMAN 2021

Christ is Risen!

It was seven weeks ago when we celebrated the memory of St Mary of Egypt; a very sinful woman who was willingly addicted to the passions of the flesh. She first disrespected and dishonored her parents and her family by running away from home while still a minor, and then, giving herself over to a completely dissolute life, dragging many souls along with her into a pit of debauchery. So, what happened? Was God disgusted with her? Did God abandon her? Did God hate her? Did God strike her dead with a bolt of lightening? No! Not at all! The Lord Himself says in Ezekiel 18:23 (LXX), “How can I desire death of the sinner, saith the Lord, as I desire that he should turn from his evil way, and live?” And in Ezekiel 33:10-11(LXX) we read “Our errors, and our iniquities weigh upon us, and we pine away in them, and how then shall we live? Say to them, Thus saith the Lord; As I live, I desire not the death of the ungodly, but rather that the ungodly should turn from their way and live: turn ye heartily from your way; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

And we read in Isaiah,

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SERMON: SUNDAY OF ST JOHN CLIMACUS 2021


SERMON FOR SUNDAY of ST JOHN CLIMACUS

April 11, 2021

When I was a kid in public school, we used to have an amazing choral music program run by Miss Allen. Her enthusiasm for teaching music was boundless, and her joy was infectious! In those days we learned all kinds of patriotic and Christian spiritual songs. It was a different world back then! One of the songs that we learned was an African American song called “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” The words that I learned go like this:

We are climbing Jacob's ladder

We are climbing Jacob's ladder

We are climbing Jacob's ladder

Soldiers of the Cross.

Every rung goes higher, higher

Every rung goes higher, higher

Every rung goes higher, higher

Soldiers of the Cross.

Sinner do you love my Jesus?

Sinner do you love my Jesus?

Sinner do you love my Jesus?

Soldiers of the Cross.

If you love Him, why not serve Him?

If you love Him, why not serve Him?

If you love Him, why not serve Him?

Soldiers of the Cross

Keep on climbing, we will make it

Keep on climbing, we will make it

Keep on climbing, we will make it

Soldiers of the Cross.

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SUNDAY OF GREGORY PALAMAS

SERMON ON THE SUNDAY OF ST GREGORY PALAMAS

March 28, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Have you ever wondered about where or how St Gregory Palamas got his last name? You know, people in the 14th century didn’t actually have last names like we do today, right? So, how did St Gregory, Archbishop of Thessalonica, manage to get one, “Palamas?” Well, people in ancient times did, often, have descriptors or nicknames that helped to identify one individual from another. Sometimes it was a patronymic, like “John the son of Zebedee” or “Joshua ben Sirach.” Sometimes it was a physical distinction, like John the Dwarf or Didymus the Blind. Sometimes people were distinguished from others by an honorific, a title that described something about them, about their achievements or about their character. Some examples: “Simon Peter” which means “Simon the Rock,” or “Basil the Great,” or “John the Theologian.” But “Palamas?” What does that mean?

When my kids were little, Matushka Joanie taught them a number of Greek children’s songs. One she taught them when they were both very young. It was a song that required an action from them, a clapping action. The song went: “Παλαμάκια παίξετε / κι ο μπαμπάς του έρχεται / και του φέρνει κατιτί / κουλουράκια (or λουκουμάκια) στο χαρτί!” This is the first verse. It roughly translates:

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Sermon on Mark 1: 35-44

SERMON ON MARK 1: 35-44

Saturday of Souls, March 27, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this morning’s Gospel we heard these words:

Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.

The encounter with the leper must have taken place as Jesus and His disciples were walking between towns, because lepers were required by the Law of Moses to wear loose garments, have their heads uncovered, wear a mask over their mouths, and live isolated, outside of the towns and villages (see Leviticus 13: 45-46 LXX). According to the text, the leper was the one who sought Jesus. Doubtless the leper communities had also heard the reports that Jesus had been casting out demons in the neighboring towns, but only this one man had the courage to approach Him and ask Him for help. “If you want to, you can cleanse me from this hideous disease” he said. Before answering, Jesus did something first. The Gospel says that He reached out His hand and touched the leper. Only after this did Jesus say, “I DO want to.”  What is the significance of this action?


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Sermon on Annunciation, 3/25/21

Sermon for Annunciation

March 25, 2021

Brothers and Sisters!

When Adam and Eve were faced with a choice, either to obey God and inherit eternal life and glory, or to disobey God and inherit death they chose disobedience and death. When the children of Israel rebelled against God, Moses said to them, “Behold, I have set before thee this day life and death, good and evil. If thou wilt hearken to the commands of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his ordinances, and his judgments; then ye shall live...But if thy heart change, and thou wilt not hearken, and thou shalt go astray and worship other gods, and serve them, I declare to you this day, that ye shall utterly perish...I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: choose thou life, that thou and thy seed may live; to love the Lord thy God, to hearken to his voice, and cleave to him; for this is thy life” (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 LXX).

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