Sermon: St Theodore Saturday Liturgy 2021
SERMON FOR THE FIRST SATURDAY OF LENT 2021
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
This morning we heard two Gospel readings. The first, from John, was in honor of St Theodore the Recruit who miraculously appeared to the Patriarch of Constantinople to save the Orthodox faithful from defilement during the first week of the Fast. The second reading, from Mark, is the one prescribed for the day, the first Saturday of Lent. In this second reading, Jesus had just been sparring with the Pharisees over the meaning of the Sabbath, when He discovers a man in the Synagogue with a withered hand. St. Luke tells us that it was his right hand. That’s important. Why? Well, what Psalm were we singing the last three weeks? Psalm 136/137 which in part reads: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. May my tongue cleave to my throat, if I do not remember thee; if I do not prefer Jerusalem as the chief of my joy” (verses 5 & 6).
While the man in the Synagogue was a real man with a real withered right hand, he is also a metaphor for the Jewish people who were being led further and further away from their God by the hyper-legalistic Pharisees. They had, in effect, forgotten the Spiritual Jerusalem, the meeting place of God and man in their own hearts. So what did they need in order to re-establish that connection? They needed the Messiah, the God-Man, Jesus; the same Jesus Who appeared before the man in the Synagogue. And what does Jesus say to the man with the withered hand? He tells him to do something that is literally impossible for him to do – He says: “Stretch out your hand.” So what did the man do? He obeyed. He trusted God. He believed that Christ would, indeed, heal him. All he had to do was choose to stretch out his hand, and the grace of God swooped-in and did the rest, making his withered hand and arm whole, strong, vital, new. If the Jewish people would only flee from the influence of the Scribes, Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and choose their Saviour, and have the faith to begin to just flinch in His direction, the grace of God would fall on them as well, renewing them to spiritual wholeness.
For us, especially in these first days of the Fast, it’s important to remember that even in these minuscule efforts that we are called-upon to perform, we will fail miserably if we don’t trust God to help us; if we don’t have confidence that Christ our Saviour will heal us and make us whole. So, let’s choose Christ, and let’s stretch out our hands toward heaven in more fervent prayer. Let’s stretch out our hands to bless the foods that God (through His Church) has encouraged us to eat, and forgo the ones that He has not. Let’s stretch out our hands to give help to the poor, and hugs to the fearful. Let’s stretch out our hands to labor for Christ in the advancing of His kingdom, and for the building-up of the Church which is His Body. Amen.