23rd Sunday after Pentecost


On December 1, on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost St. George parish had a liturgical celebration in our temple. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached a sermon:

“Today we began reading the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. The main theme of this Epistle is to tell about the riches of Christ given in the Church. Thus, in today’s reading we hear the following words: “God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2, 4). It should be noted that if we read the whole chapter, and not just the assigned lesson for today, we would see that these beautiful words are preceded by the word “but”. St. Paul says that the Ephesians once walked according to the course of this world, according to the evil one, conducted themselves in the lusts of flesh; they were by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2, 2-3). “But,” – he says, “God… made us alive” (Eph. 2, 4). “But” is a word which makes a difference.”
“We say, “That is a good idea, but…” “He is a good person, but…” Some of us may be unlucky to hear, “You are a good worker, but I have to let you go”. That word may change the whole situation.”
“This is true in our reading of the Scripture. Again and again we come upon the expression “But God…” Whatever may have been said before is immediately corrected by these words. Today’s Epistle lesson is an example of that. The Ephesians and the whole human kind was living in sin, was driven by the devil, was following the desires of body and mind. But God who is rich in mercy corrected that and made alive those who were dead through trespasses. We had no way to escape the bondage of the devil, the slavery to sin, and the condemnation of death, but God had such a way for us. We were helpless sinners, says St. Paul in another Epistle, to the Romans. Then he says those two words again: “But God shows His own love toward us, in that we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5, 8). No matter how sinful we are, how unworthy or inferior we consider ourselves, God’s forgiving love can hardly wait to bestow upon us the immeasurable riches of His grace. Yes, we are sinful, but God’s mercy is greater than any sin.”
“Let us recall some other examples from the Scripture. The book of Genesis tells us about righteous Joseph, the son of Jacob. He was sold to slavery by his own brothers, then he was brought to Egypt. There he was wrongfully accused and thrown into prison. The Scripture  says, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper” (Gen. 39, 21-23). It seems that everything was against Joseph, but God was with him. Life does terrible things to us. We suffer broken hopes, moral failures, different misfortunes. But God is able to bring good even out of evil to those who love Him and work with Him. Thus, at the end of the story Joseph said to his brothers, You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50, 20).”
“Another example we find in the Gospel. Jesus said to the holy Apostle Peter one day, “Simon, Simon,
behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Lk. 22, 31). In time of deepest darkness and despair Jesus wanted Peter to know that He cared. He prayed to him to be restored and to become an example of a firm faith to his fellow Apostles.”

“And our final example from the Scripture for today: Jesus on the Cross. He died and then He was buried. That was to be the end of the greatest life ever lived. But wait! Here comes another and the greatest “but” ever spoken “But God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13, 30).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! The world may press in upon us, but God makes the difference. We are weak, but in Jesus Christ we find strength. We are tempted but in Him we find a way out. We despair, but in Him we find hope. May the Lord God help us to cling to Him!”

After the Liturgy dismissal Fr. Igor reminded parishioners that on Wednesday, December 4 we will celebrate feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into Temple. He urged to bring children to the church for that celebration, despite it is a school day. For we will commemorate a special event when holy parents Joachim and Anna brought their 3 year old little daughter Mary, the future Mother of the Savior, to the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Classes may be skipped on such days, and parents should not be afraid to write a note to the schools that their children participated in a religious celebration. It is considered a legal absence in the American schools. Parents may think that they do good to their children if they send them to school, but when they do it on the days of great Church celebrations, they harm their kids spiritually. Fr. Igor encouraged parents to raise children in a spiritual and religious way. He recalled an example of the holy Martyr Barul whose memory we celebrate on this very day (Dec. 1). This Saint was martyred along with St. Roman, and he was a young boy. His mother encouraged him to suffer and die for Christ, although he was only a teenager. When the boy, before being killed, asked for a drink, his mother told him to suffer until the end and refused to quench his thirst. Such examples may not be totally understood by many of our today’s parents living by the rules of the world, but they show the greatness of Christian spirit. And all Christian parents are called to do the best for spiritual education of their children.