On November 12, on the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, we had a nice celebration at our St. George Church. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov headed the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! 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)”.
“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 for 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)”.
“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!”
The choir director prayerfully performed the Psalm 33 during preparation for Holy Communion.
Following the dismissal of the Liturgy Fr. Igor congratulated our Warden an Choir Director, Olga Roussanow, on the occasion of her past birthday. He wished her God’s help in her life and continuous service to the Holy Church pointing out that thanks to Olga we have proper services in our temple. He also greeted Maria Malyshev on her past birthday wishing her the same – God’s help that the Lord may assist her in her work and family life. Traditional Polychronion was proclaimed to both of them.
At the end, the Rector asked the parishioners to make their contributions for the parish Building and Ground Maintenance Fund. Little Victor Suric, the son of our Treasurer, stood beside Fr. Igor and collected the parishioners’ donations while they were coming to the priest to kiss the cross.