On May 25, on the Sunday of the Blind Man we had a beautiful celebration at St. George Church. Our Rector, archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a sermon:
“In today’s Epistle lesson we heard an adventurous story about holy Apostles Paul and Silas who were put into an inner prison, but released by the keeper of the prison after the city was struck by an earthquake. The jailer asked them an important question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16, 30). Thus we are going to think about that question today.”
“There are many different questions we ask during our life. But there is one question above every other question, what to do to be saved. When we hear the word “saved” some people may think about earthly life. For instance, they may think of being saved from death or a misfortune. But even if we think of salvation in its spiritual, Christian sense, we may simplify that matter. We may think that salvation is escaping hell and achieving heaven. This is true, but it is very limited way to think of that. It puts the whole matter in the future, the time after we die or the time of the Last Judgment. As a result, we forget that we can be saved here and now while we are on this earth. Salvation of Christ is extended to our earthly life as well.”
“We may be wondering from what we may be saved here on this earth? We may be saved from different misfortunes, pains and sufferings of this life if we will be living with Christ. He will heal our pain, help us to solve our problems. Salvation is a process, not a fact. We are being saved, not already saved.”
“Then, along with the prison keeper of today’s Epistle lesson we may ask what must we do to be saved. Holy Apostles Paul and Silas answered and said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16, 31). The key to salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ. It means to rest the whole weight of your life on Jesus. It means to bet your whole life on Him. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”, says the Lord (Mk. 16, 16). It is very clear. Yet some people are tempted to believe that man does not need Jesus as a Savior anymore. They say that science is so progressed today that it can save us from almost everything. Science is the new savior!”
“Man needs science. But science is not the savior. You cannot live by science alone. Science can modernize a house, but it can never turn a house into a home. Jesus can! Science can invent a medicine for the body, but it cannot heal a guilty conscience. Jesus can! Science can give man a great power, but not the moral strength to use this power wisely. Jesus can! His very name, the name “Jesus” means “God saves”. He is able to save. And we must believe in Him in order to be saved.”
“Today’s Epistle tells that the prison keeper and all his family were baptized (Acts 16, 33). If we believe we have to be baptized. Many of us were baptized when we were small children. Our godparents confessed belief in Christ for us. But if we are to be true Christians, there must come time in life when we must say these words for ourselves – a time when we ourselves decide to follow Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and commit our whole life to Him as our God. Unless this happens we are not Orthodox Christians. We are Christians in name only, or Christians by baptismal certificate only – to whom the Gospel of Christ means little or nothing. A baptismal certificate alone is not enough. Payment of church dues is not enough. Occasional church attendance alone is not enough. Believe, lean your whole life upon Lord Jesus Christ, and then you will be saved.”
“It took an earthquake to make the jailer ask Paul and Silas the question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Will it take another earthquake to make us ask the same question? Haven’t we had enough earthquakes? All the wars, the despair, the anxiety, the meaningless, the boredom, the immorality of our age? Do we need something more devastating than these to make us ask the question, “What I must do to be saved?” We must believe in Jesus Christ, live by that faith. Then we will live in the process of our salvation which will lead us from being saved now to being saved in the eternity.”
On that day our parish was visited by the Rector’s childhood friend, Mitered Archpriest Nicholas Florinschi who is serving in Chisinau (Kishinev), Moldova. Fr. Nicholas was praying at the Divine Liturgy and read the Epistle.
After the Liturgy dismissal Fr. Igor greeted our guest. He recalled that they together belonged to the same cathedral parish in their home city of Kishinev. While future priest Igor was a young boy, future Fr. Nicholas was an altar server and subdeacon serving to the Archbishop. He also stressed that still a lot of things unite him and our parish with Fr. Nicholas, including the fact that he is the Rector of a church also dedicated to Holy Great Martyr George. Answering to Fr. Igor’s greeting Fr. Nicholas expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome and promised to maintain connection between our two St. George Churches.
Following the services the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company at the coffee hour.