Passages: Isaiah 58:13-59:7; 1 Tim. 4:12-5:10; John 3:13-21
Եսայու ԾԸ 13 – ԾԹ 7; Ա Տիմոթ․ Դ 12 – Ե 10; Յով․ Գ 13-21
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
During the pandemic, all of us lived under restrictions and we were isolated and taught to distance ourselves by not going out to social events including not going to Church. As a need was created, the Church answered by beginning to live stream its services with live Sermons, Q&A’s, online Bible Studies, etc., all were created to reach out to all faithful. And I remember hearing repeatedly of how much people missed Church and the fellowship. Slowly restrictions were lifted, and we were once again able to gather in prayer and fellowship. Yet not everyone returned and even those who confessed they missed Church, they did not come back with a fervent desire to follow God. Caution became the new word. Yet, those same cautious people are out at bars, traveling on vacation, shopping through malls, and enjoying life. So, what can we say about the people who choose to live in such a way? Yes, we all have free will and are able to do as we please. Therefore, if there are those who choose to live in such a way that does not bring them back to God, how should we who claim to follow Christ, respond?
The prophet St. Isaiah and the Apostles St. Paul give us an interesting answer. Isaiah tells us that if we turn back and honor the sabbath, follow God’s will and desire rather than seek out our own, then we will be blessed, and our Lord will feed us. St. Paul on the other hand, likewise, blesses those who follow God’s commandments yet, tells us not to rebuke those who folly, those who mess up or perhaps don’t choose the path that leads to God. Therefore, how do we understand this? Aren’t we as Christian’s called to do the will of God on earth by bringing people to God? My dear brothers and sisters, when Christ Jesus, became man, took flesh, ministered to the sick and needy; when Christ fed the hungry, and blessed those who sought after Him, what did He command us to do? On the day of his glorious Ascension, what did Christ command of us, those who follow Him, who identify as His disciples? Go out and preach; forgive to be forgiven; love and pray for those who don’t love or pray for you; clothe the naked, feed the hungry and care for one another. In other words, my dears, Christ did not tell us go forth and bring judgement upon the heathens. God never told us to fight against evil amd God did not charge us to save the world. Rather, God reminded us, that we are all equally in need of saving and that salvation can only be done through Christ Jesus.
St. Paul teaches us not to be overly harsh of the youth, of those who don’t understand; neither of the old, those who are set in their ways and don’t know better. Rather, St. Paul directs us to live and serve as an example, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (v.12) Take care of each other, the widows, the elderly, the weak, the youth – that is what we are called to do. In other words, do the will of God by living out His love. St. Isaiah likewise, reminds us, that if we follow God’s commandments, through love, hope, faith, and patience than we will be blessed. If we follow God’s commandments then the sick will heal, the hungry will eat, the thirsty will drink and the dead will rise not because we have some sort of power, but because we will have done these things through God. We choose to follow God, to believe in Christ Jesus because we know His love for us. And we know God’s love for us because we have witnessed it in multiple ways, and so we choose to follow. Through our free will, ultimately, we need to make that choice to believe, to follow and to live, in the same manner, for example, that it is our choice to obey our earthly parents, our doctors, our priest, our teachers, our leaders, etc. If we honor, we will be honored and enjoy the fruits of our faith. If we don’t honor, if we make excuses, if we lie or cheat, we will answer to God in the end.
My dears coming to Church every Sunday but living with the mindset that we are better, that we must fight against evil, we must save the world, is the same as never coming to Church because in both cases we’ve missed the message. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-18) My dears, the world does not need us to save it because it is saved through Christ Jesus. As St. Porphyrios teaches, “You don’t become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you. What makes a person saintly is love.” ~ St. Porphyrios. What God wants and what this world needs is for us to show the rest of the world what God’s love means.
That begins by understanding that we are all in need of God’s love, we are all indeed of forgiveness, healing, hope, love and saving. The person next to you in the pew, the ones watching at home, the ones on vacation, or out golfing, sleeping in, etc. the priest, the deacon, the choir member, the parish council, the elder, the black, white, Asian, educated, poor, rich, depressed, anxious, disabled, young, old, married or widowed, etc. Christ came to save all of us because we all have darkness we face, pain we mask, and lies we tell ourselves to make it through. The only one we can’t lie or cheat is God, who loves us each and calls us by name to go out and love others likewise. We all need Christ Jesus, for salvation is only through Him.
Therefore, we, who have heard his call, who gather here, to preach, pray, gather in fellowship, we, are called to be examples of God’s love to the rest of the world. Do we wish for others to come back also? Of course. Do we pray for our Churches to be full? Of course. But that is the choice of each person, to carry or abandon their cross, to answer or ignore God’s love. However, when we have answered and we believe that we are carrying our cross, then we have a responsibility to illuminate and share the God’s light through love. So that when the world sees us and that love, the world will realize salvation comes only from God. Pray for one another, forgive to be forgiven, love one another even if others don’t love back. That is what is commanded of us and that is why Christ died for us – to save us from darkness and bring us back to his light. Therefore, let us be the light that will bring others back to Him, Amen!