The Gift of “No”

Sermon by Benjamin T. Peck given at the 2011 Festival of Young Preachers.

The Gift of “No”

Young Orthodox Preacher Benjamin T. PeckIn the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Glory to Jesus Christ!

For He is the one who has given us a gift that cannot be matched by anyone on this Earth, or anything in Heaven. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has given us the power to say the word “no”.

We have all been called here today to speak on behalf of our Lord and Savior, about His commandments to us. Speaking specifically of the 10 Commandments. But what we must ask ourselves today is “why?” Why did God choose these specific ten things to ask of us? Why are these things singled out more than any other laws? We do not ask because we feel the need to second guess our Lord, or doubt His laws. Far from it in fact. But instead it is to understand the Law of the land, for we all know that to understand is to have knowledge and to have knowledge is to have power. And to truly preach the Gospel, we must have that knowledge. We must know the rhyme to His divine reason in order to achieve the one thing we are to have passion for; to be like Jesus Christ and be free of the world, free of the passions, and just free in general.

Our sins are like a maelstrom; one sin, one fault sends us into that maelstrom without a raft, and the longer we stay in that storm the harder it is to get out. It’s like trying to swim in a hurricane, which no one here has done because if you had swam in a hurricane you would probably be dead.

We know that to tell one lie begets a second, which begets a third and a fourth to cover the first lies. Eventually we are caught in that storm of sin because we’d rather lie to a friend’s face than merely tell them the truth. But lying isn’t so bad right? It can help a friend feel better because of a little white lie, it can get you out of trouble with you parents. I believe I can safely say that we’ve all been in the position where our parents discovered our lie, came to us and said “if you had told us the truth first, your punishment would not have been as severe as it is now.” God, is that parent. He is our Father coming to us saying “why did you not tell me first? Because now I have to punish you not only for the first offense, but for the lie as well.”

And brethren, this doesn’t just apply to lying. Even if you have remained abstinent to this day we all know that sex is supposed to feel really good. Sometimes so good it becomes addicting. Some of us, myself included, probably know someone who is addicted to their lust, and that lust burns the wings of the angels to dust. These people fall under a guise of “personal freedom”, but they are not free. Rather they are slaves to their passions! Slaves! And right now they are the kind of slaves that have been tricked by their masters into thinking “it’s not so bad, being a slave.”

When Jesus said “if a man slaps you, turn your cheek so he may slap the other side,” He was not telling us to let the world walk all over us in attitudes of pacifism. He was not telling us not to defend our family and friends if they are in harms way. The modern context of what He said that day is “if a stranger replies to you with ‘your mom’ don’t punch him in the face for it!” God doesn’t want us to rise, or rather lower, ourselves to petty anger because to do so is to not only become slaves to our passion, but now we are slaves to the passion of the one who insulted us. Which is harder to do? To meet the insults of the stranger, or to simply walk away? We know the it is the latter, because it is easier to succumb to our passions.

St. Isaac the Syrian wrote “Death to the World!” Not because we as Christians are called to homicidal tendencies about the world, but because the world is a representation of our passions. The world is a thorn in our side that we must continually try and yank from our flesh. So when we say “Death to the World” we are saying death to passion, death to sin! So that one day we may say death to death itself, for we shall live forever. As we live, our sins and passions are like diamonds; they sparkle, they’re pretty. They feel nice when we’re surrounded by them. But one day those diamonds will lose all of their luster, and they will split the sky in half! Imagine that, one lie, capable of tearing the sky apart.

Yes, it’s hard. It’s hard to resist those diamonds, but we know it can be done. Because it has been done time and time again before us. The Saints and Martyrs of Christianity were men and women and CHILDREN who were tortured, cut, burned and mercilessly executed all for believing in Christ. They died because they said “yes” to God, and “no” to the world. These were sometimes children who were no older than 16 years old, who had such incredible strength in Christ, that they went through the most gruesome torture imaginable.

So now, I ask that you compare the pain of telling the truth, compare your sexual attention your irritation with those who insult you, to the pain suffered by the Saints. Compare your passions to the torture suffered at the hands of those who were so faithful, they said “Kill me, because I will never renounce Christ.” Suddenly saying “no” isn’t that hard, is it?

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints ~ Psalm 116:15.

This does not mean that God is a childish masochist who enjoys watching us suffer and die. It means that God looks upon us always, and when He sees us die for Him; when we take that bullet for Christ, He knows that we have made ourselves free of the world and of our passions. He sees us saying “yes” to him and “no” to the world. He sees that dying on the cross was not in vain.

And why did He choose to die? For the One who created everything, every tiny detail of our universe, it would have been so easy to just snap His fingers and make everything right again. Make it possible for us to enter the gates of Heaven once more. Instead He chose to become flesh and blood, be tortured, spat on and humiliated, and then ultimately killed in the most brutal way the Romans could conjure. The crosses we bear on our necks, at one time, were symbols of pain, torture and hopelessness. And Christ has made this now an avatar of hope, freedom and love. He has made this our key to the iron shackles that we bear as our sins. When He died for our sins, He created a key to relieve us from our bondage.

We have all seen and heard the story of A Christmas Carol, and we know the scene where Jacob Marley comes to Scrooge and says “these are my passions in life! My lust, my greed, my anger and my lack of love. Now they are iron chains that I must bear for all eternity, and I have no escape.” Brethren, we are like Scrooge. We are still alive, and are chains are still invisible to us. We still have the chance, the choice to escape those chains. Christ gave us the key, now all we have to do is use it.

The only thing we have to do is use the key that Christ has put in our hands and said “this is my gift to you!” And we will sit on thrones in Heaven next to God, Christ, the saints and even the angels.

In all you do, remember the end of your life and you shall never sin ~ Sirach 7:36.

That is our parted Red Sea to freedom. Our Savior has already made the wet land dry and made the path clear, now all we have to do is step onto it.

In the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Welcome To Christianity

Sermon given by Raymond Krajci at the Festival of Young Preachers

Young Orthodox Preacher Raymond KrajciOn my way to Columbus, I pass a pair of massive billboards alongside the highway. They hold the Ten Commandments in large white letters against a pitch black background. Every instance of the word “not” occurs in a vibrant red evocative of the scarlet letter or fire. At the very bottom, in even larger red letters, the sign proclaims too all who pass by “Hell is real”. Imposing and aggressive, these billboards embody shame, judgment, and punishment. Though perhaps well intentioned, they tell of a Christian faith with no love and no forgiveness; only swift and terrible retribution to all sinners. I wonder how passers-by feel: Are they intrigued? Do they start to shape-up their lives? Do they wonder what comes next? I doubt it. These boards miss a crucial element of their message, the corner stone of our Christian faith: Jesus Christ!

The Ten Commandments are a high-visibility, high controversy part of our faith. Debates on free speech surround their placement in courthouses, schools, and, yes, even highways. Rather than gracious reminders of Christian conduct, the Ten Commandments are questioned in matters of public decency. As evangelists, commissioned by Jesus Christ to

“go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19),

we must be aware of our message: not what we mean to say, but what we are actually saying. If our message doesn’t encourage others to find Christ, then we should have nothing to do with it.

Those Ten Commandments on the highway say to me “Welcome to Christianity – How may we damn you today?” But it shouldn’t. We are called to spread the Word of God, by our Savior Jesus Christ, so all may be saved. The Word of God is not the law. Don’t preach the law, preach Christ!

No doubt the Ten Commandments and the rest of the law are important, but they are far from central. In a way, they’re also a little redundant. In the book “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis provides a fantastic bottom-up analysis of human morality. He finds we all subscribe to some higher law, demand others abide by that law, and make excuses so we don’t have to. God imbued us with this conscience at our creation in His image and likeness. The ideal conscience guides us through all the gray areas of life, so why do we need the law?

Well, it goes without saying: None of us is ideal, none of us is perfect. We make poor choices, we tarnish our God-given discernment, and, hopefully, we try to complete the spiritual cycle of refusal, repentance, and reconciliation. For the Israelites, called from their homes to a new land and an unknown future, the time was right to begin preparations for the messiah. The people needed a guide to define sin and help them towards righteousness. In his mercy, God made a concession to humanity, and gave us the law in writing. Stone writing.

As far as laws go, the Ten Commandments are interesting. For one, with the whole Israelite nation present, God chose to send them only ten. The commandments are mostly prohibitive – don’t do this, don’t do that. Reasons are not explicit. They are simple, to the point, and more akin to a parent’s rules than the laws of a government. It is in our best interest to follow these rules, given to us for our own good, but they are merely elementary.

Christ, our teacher, graduated us to the next level of faith in his ministry. A large portion of his Sermon on the Mount expanded on the Ten Commandments. He revealed anger is akin to murder, adultery begins with a lustful look, and evil may never be overcome with evil. Our lesson is to internalize the law, so our thoughts, words, and actions may be in union with God’s intention for us. Our goal is righteousness by and communion with God and His will. Jesus spoke plainly, saying

“unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Of all  people, the scribes and the Pharisees knew the law best. They obsessed over the law. What could they have missed? Love.

In the Gospel of Matthew a brave lawyer asks Jesus for the greatest commandment. The question is shrewd; In the old testament there are six hundred thirteen commandments – too many for anyone to follow them all. Jesus replied

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets’” (Matthew 22:37 – 40).

The scribes and Pharisees deluded themselves with the law. They forgot that the law serves love and should not – must not – preclude it! Jesus rebukes them and the hardness of their hearts for believing the Sabbath more important than mercy. Jesus heals and absolves before their very eyes, demonstrating the proper place of the law. All the law revolves around love. All the law revolves around Him.

God loves us enough to give us being, making us creatures in His own image. God loves us enough to have given us the tools, the law, necessary to guide our spiritual journey towards Him. God loves us enough that

“he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, bit have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

All so that we may love Him, commune with Him, and share that love with our brothers and sisters throughout the world!

Through this, and the words of Jesus to the lawyer, we find the true intention and place of the law. Not as our master, but merely our tutor. We strive to obey them and follow Christ’s teachings, aligning ourselves towards Christ and God through our obedience. More than that, we strive to go above and beyond as Christ calls us – not merely to abstain from evil, but to seek out good. In this way we obey the Holy Spirit, an authority far greater than the law, and testify to Christ through mercy, compassion, and love. The Ten Commandments are children’s Christianity – Don’t lie, don’t steal, obey your father and your mother. As evangelists we must press on, unafraid to mature in our faith, and show Christ to others through our every word, our every action.

In this way we spread the Word of God in the most authentic fashion. Our love must not be passive – God’s love is the most dynamic we know – and by God’s grace we may manifest that love throughout the world to all people. We hold Truth, and Christ’s commissioned us to bring that Truth to the four corners of the earth. The medium and the message are the same: Love. Christ’s love. God’s love.

Remember those billboards I pass on the highway? Imposing, judgmental, and concluding with “hell is real”? What does that say about us? Nothing good, nothing encouraging, and certainly nothing loving. What’s missing is Christ’s message. The law is a fine thing when used as a guide towards Christ. Without Christ the Law devoid of life, devoid of love.

Let us preach Christ, not the law! Hoping that, in due time, we may also discuss the law.

Let us preach Christ! Our Lord and God and Savior who, through His incarnation, crucifixion, and glorious resurrection saved us all in His abundant love for mankind! That is our message.

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

2011 Festival of Young Preachers

Festival of Young Preachers
Raymond Krajci, Fr. Dcn. Gabriel Alemayehu and Benjamin Peck

Congratulations to our young Orthodox preachers who participated in the 2011 Festival of Young Preachers. The experience of being in the midst of over 100 zealous Christian preachers under 30, and many still teenagers, was wonderful.

A collection of genuine Christians, believers from a variety of traditions and backgrounds, discerning a call to preach the Gospel – similar to our Oratorical festivals, but less about public speaking (even on a significant Christian topic) and more about preaching Christ.

Now, for those of you who may not be aware, Preachers Institute and the Academy of Preaching are national partners. This was the second year of what will, without a doubt, become an annual and quickly growing event.

Our own Orthodox preachers, all undergrads, did very well, and were well received, and their sermons well acclaimed – something which I particularly appreciated as a mentor because I know for a fact that some of them preached here ‘live’ for the first time. What an audience to begin your vocation of preaching with!

This three day event brought young preachers, young pastors, college and divinity school students from across many ‘denominational’ lines, giving all a chance to get to know fellow believers outside their own theological tradition. Two of the participants even remarked on meeting Orthodox preachers in short articles on the Academy website. The purpose of the  festival is to encourage and empower young preachers and aspiring young preachers of all denominations who feel the call to preach – and give them an opportunity to do so. Particularly fun was the “Moonlight Madness” session, which began very late (10 pm+) and going until after midnight. This was the best overall session of preaching I observed.

It was a delight to meet not only the young preachers, but their mentors. Let’s face it, mentoring is what provides formation, and preaching is a formative discipline. Mentoring is very necessary for a young preacher to find their own ‘voice’ and sharpen their own skills. We had a luncheon with other Mentors and this was a wonderful – though too short – time for us to share thoughts on mentoring. I hope that next year, there will be opportunities for us to gather together and discuss this important function as we raise up new preachers to present the Gospel to another generation yearning for Christ.

The Festival was referred to as ‘ecumenical’ several times, and their seemed to be among some a not-so-hidden hope that it would become another organ of ecumenism in the future. Given the great disappointment with ‘ecumenical’ gatherings I’ve experienced in my life, and what they never accomplish, I’m hopeful that this will remain focused on preaching the Gospel, and less on the ‘ecumenical’ nature of the gathering. (please no more ecumenism!)

I was prepared for, and disappointed with, the usual whoops and shouts from Ivy League divinity students over mention of “Mother God.” (Sigh. Will the 60’s never end?) Luckily, this was absolutely at a minimum, and modernism has not captured this event. Continued Orthodox participation by intelligent, accomplished young preachers will assure that it will not retreat from historic, Incarnational Christianity. Indeed, the Orthodox presence here was very welcome, and a necessary one, I think. I want to congratulate our young preachers and I hope you will, too. They have started down a path of obedience to Christ that few are willing to, and they did so with integrity and excellence!

We’ll get the young preachers themselves to give you more information shortly. In the meantime, my thanks to Fr. Dcn. Gabriel Alemayehu, Raymond Krajci, and Benjamin Peck for boldly going where no Orthodox undergrads have gone before! Axios!

Ancient Fears and Modern Man

by Fr. Ian Page

Text: Luke 8:26-39

Date delivered: 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (24/10/2010)

Location: Parish of St. Peter & St. Paul, Clapham, London

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I must confess that I met the idea of preaching upon today’s Gospel with a certain degree of trepidation.
For several reasons, we modern people find ourselves particularly disconcerted by accounts of demonic possession and exorcism.

First of all, in recent times there have been disturbing accounts of so called exorcisms which have been nothing other than mechanisms of manipulation, bullying and downright abuse.

Secondly, the mass media has produced a whole genre of entertainments which seems to consistently glamorise supernatural evil whilst depicting all that is good and wholesome as being rather boring and dull.

There is, however, a third: – and I believe a more profound reason for the unease which I (and I suspect you) feel.

Like it or not, we are all modern people: – that is to say people of the post-enlightenment era: – and as such we live with, an often unspoken assumption that everything is perfectly rational. In other words that it should always be possible, at least in principle, to explain things, to predict events and, in the light of all of this, to remain in control of our lives.

Today’s gospel confronts us with the irrational in a dark and menacing form. The daemons’ clear understanding and confession that Jesus is the Son of God prevents us from conveniently dismissing the episode in the modern categories of mental illness.  We are, rather, confronted by the uncomfortable truth that, what we perceive to be the terra firma of rationality, may in reality be a thin crust overlying the unknown and perhaps the unknowable.

It is disturbing because it means that that the security that we all work so hard to achieve in this life is, in fact, a delusion.  A change in the law: – and a pension fund is raided: – A few months of hyperinflation: – and a lifetimes savings can buy a bag of cherries. A stroke: – and years of formal education can be erased.

A loss of temper and a cherished relationship can be shattered.

The world encourages us at every turn to be ‘self reliant’.

Yet, if we rely upon ourselves, we become more vulnerable than we can possibly imagine.

When we acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the Lord of all Creation: – it is, perhaps all too easy for us to limit the scope of ‘Creation’ to what is familiar to us.

Even if we include the most distant stars and galaxies together with the most minute particles of matter: – we still limit our understanding to those things which are accessible to our minds.

In today’s gospel Jesus demonstrates His Lordship over both the visible and the invisible:-
His Lordship over both the knowable and the irrational.

In doing so He reveals Himself to be the only ground for our well being, our safety, indeed our salvation.
After hearing how the Lord had delivered the man from the legion of daemons:- The locals were frightened and wanted Jesus to go away.

Why?

They obviously weren’t frightened because the daemons were gone.

Perhaps, they weren’t so dissimilar to us moderns after all!

Perhaps, in this mighty act of the Lord, they had caught a glimpse of the true bedrock of reality and saw that it was not the basis upon which they had chosen to build their lives:-  Disconcerting indeed!
May Christ our God:- the Lord and creator of all things, both seen and unseen, be to us the sure foundation.

Amen

Homily for All Saints of Alaska

by Dcn. Irenaios Anderson

Text: Hebrews 11:33—12:2; Matt. 4:25-5:12

Date delivered: Sept. 27, 2010

Location: All Saints Chapel, Kodiak, AK

+In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

“How long until we get there?”

Those of us who have driven children any distance are familiar with that question. However, it is no doubt one that was heard on that year-long journey from European Russia to Kodiak Island. It had been a difficult trip but one that would have eternal consequences.

On this day we commemorate the modern apostles who have brought and nurtured the Orthodox faith in Alaska. This day marks the anniversary of the arrival of the original missionaries from Valaam Monastery at Kodiak; they travelled around the world on the longest missionary journey in Christian history out of love for Christ. Among them we remember our holy father Herman, who provides us with an example of living a loving, Christian life. With them we remember St. Innocent—who nurtured the Orthodox faith among the Aleuts, Tlingits, and the Yakut people of Kamchatka—and St. Yakov, who preached the Gospel not only among his own native Aleut people on Atka but also spent his life bringing the Yupi’k, Athabaskan, and Tlingit peoples to the faith. Although our Church in this land is relatively young, she has provided us with the martyrs the priest Juvenaly and Peter the Aleut, who proclaimed the Orthodox faith not merely with words, but with their lives.

These saints provide us not only with a story of their lives of faithful service but also as examples of obedience to Jesus Christ, no matter the cost. In the end, they point not to the holiness of their own lives or the people they touched with the Gospel, but to Jesus Christ. Only in obedience to Christ will we discover the blessedness these saints experienced.

In the most quoted sermon ever given, we discover the life in Christ—revealed in the saints—as a guide to our own lives.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The saints of Alaska didn’t have earthly wealth, but even more importantly were “poor in spirit,” being rich in humility and the virtues. While there are many examples of being humble, our chief example is our Lord Jesus Christ who,

“being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5–8).

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Instead of weeping tears over what they had left behind in Russia, or—in the case of St. Yakov—the loss of his home and the death of his beloved wife and father within one year, the saints of Alaska mourned over their own sins and lived a life of repentance.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Meekness indicates patience in the face of wrongs suffered. While we in Kodiak are more familiar with the difficulties the missionaries of the Valaam mission suffered at the hands of Baranov and the Russian-American Company, we must remember that St. Yakov lost his wife and father during his selfless ministry while enduring the physical suffering of ministering in a tent-church on the Yukon and Kuskokwim for 34 years, baptizing over 1300 people, and finally suffering the indignity of being summoned to Sitka to defend himself against false accusations. In the midst of this mistreatment, there was no sign of complaint, rather saying these personal losses were a call from God to even greater struggles.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. In a world ravenous for anything that feeds self-indulgent—and often self-destructive—appetites, the Saints’ desire was for God and his Kingdom. Because of their love for God, they left their homes and all that was familiar and comfortable to share that love with the people of Alaska. In doing so, a hymn from the Vigil of the feast declares:

“The saints are like comely trees in the paradise of Eden, their teachings like fragrant flowers, their acts like fruit on which our souls are fed and our spiritual hunger satisfied. Come, let us take refuge under their shadow; let us bless them, the crown and adornment of their land, an example and image of how to live.”

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. What greater way is there to show mercy than to bring people without the Gospel to the knowledge of Christ and His heavenly kingdom? These faithful servants of Christ showed people the power of the Gospel by their transformed lives. Here at St. Herman Seminary we are committed to training God’s people to serve the Church in Alaska in her continuation of the apostolic ministry begun by these saints. Again, the hymns of the feast call to us:

“Remembering their loving sacrifice, let us Orthodox believers in America and throughout the world dedicate ourselves again to the task they so nobly began, offering our lives in the service of Christ, as servants and laborers in the new vineyard entrusted to us. For indeed the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Let us beseech the Lord of the harvest to send into his Church worthy successors to these holy laborers.”

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Although St. Herman spoke with the angels on Spruce Island, all the saints of Alaska achieved the vision of God in this life. They purified their hearts through ascetic struggle and love of God, giving us an example of what it means to walk with God in all purity and piety, worshiping and serving him in holiness all the days of our lives. Our Lord calls us to this singleness of vision:

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matt. 6:22).

Although one may think that this is primarily descriptive of the saints, but the Apostle John disagreed:

“Now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure (1 Jn. 3:2–3).

St. Isaac the Syrian notes that when the Holy Spirit makes the human heart pure, it is enables one to recognize the image of God in others. Then a person can reach his or her purpose in life: to see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. The great example of this beatitude is St. Yakov. By preaching the Gospel he brought peace to the Alaskan interior. Traditionally warring peoples became brothers in Christ, leading the Church to call St. Yakov the “true example of Christian piety, love, and unity” due to his living and preaching the Gospel of Christ. His ministry of bringing peace extends to this day, where many visitors to Sitka are drawn to humble grave of St. Yakov, where they say they experience a spirit of peace.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. While there were several attempts on St. Herman’s life, he shared the divine peace that was within his soul—that same peace that drew wild animals to him on Spruce Island, as the animals in paradise walked with Adam before the Fall. St. Yakov was a victim of slander, yet did not revile those who bore false witness against him. The missionary priest St. Juvenaly was killed while bringing the Orthodox faith to Alaska, and the Kodiak youth St. Peter the Aleut died defending his personal faith, his words being a clarion call to us today:

“I am a Christian, and I will not deny my faith.”

This commitment sprouted from the seed of the love of God, for truly, as we sing in the troparion of the feast of the martyrs of Alaska,

“in their devotion and love for the Lord, they willingly endured persecution and death for the truth.”

From those who died for our faith we learn how to live our faith!

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Like the righteous of the Old Testament and those listed in today’s epistle reading, the saints of Alaska bore up under false accusations, open hostility, and the threat of death. They encourage us to follow in their footsteps. While we may not face physical persecution or martyrdom, we are called to die to this world with its values and priorities. Our elder fathers and brothers in the faith truly were those

“of whom the world was not worthy.”

May we strive to follow their example!

While the Saints of Alaska—the holy Hierarch Innocent, Apostle to America; our Venerable Father Herman; Yakov, Enlightener of the Native Peoples of Alaska; and the Martyrs the Priest Juvenaly and Peter the Aleut—provide us with examples of fulfilling the Beatitudes in their lives, they also call us to follow in their footsteps.

But what are they calling us to do?

The Saints of Alaska encourage us to follow Christ, even as they did. This obedience will result in our lives being transformed as theirs were, being an example to those around us. By living a life out of love for God, we are called to express that love by loving our neighbor.

“Remembering the faith and love of the saints of Alaska, let us embrace one another, that with one heart and one mind we may confess and proclaim our faith.”

We also can emulate them by answering the command of Christ to “go and make disciples of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you,” being new apostles by re-evangelizing Alaska, answering the social problems of our communities—abuse, despair, suicide, etc.—with the only answer there is: our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

This primarily means being faithful Orthodox Christians, loving the Lord above all, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the core of the lesson of the Saints of Alaska for us. They echo our Lord Jesus Christ: “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.” Amen.

Homily On Forgiveness

by Yako Pavilla

Text: Matt. 18:21-35

Date given: October 21, 2010

Location: St. Herman Seminary Homiletics Class

+In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Glory be to Jesus Christ!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, what is this parable about? The parable is about forgiveness. That is what we have to work on each and every one of us. If we have offended anyone, we must ask forgiveness and mean it with our whole heart.

Let us all ask ourselves: “Why did Jesus become man and take on our flesh? Why did Jesus undergo baptism and temptation? Why did he suffer and die upon the Cross?” Why? God is so merciful and loves His people that He sent His Only-Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

My brothers and sisters, see how merciful and forgiving our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is. He forgives us even when we call Him names, talk about Him behind His back, and even crucify Him.

“What you have done to the least of my brethren you have do it unto me,”

Jesus said.

We need forgiveness in our lives as clergy, spouses, as parents and children, as brothers and sisters. Where there if forgiveness there is love, peace, unity among the Church and its people, and above all there is God in the midst of us.

God never abandons us, even if we have been cruel to our brothers and sisters. Did He not say,

“I will not leave you orphans.”

And He gave us Jesus, His only Son, so we could have a chance to get to the kingdom of heaven. The servant was like the thief on the cross, asking Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. And Jesus said to him,

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What a blessing it would be if He said that to each and every one of us.

If somebody offends us, is mean to us, just think that they are not only doing it to us. They are doing it to Jesus also, but let us be forgiving and pray for them:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Let us not be unforgiving like the first servant. Remember, as the Lord has forgiven us, so we in return are obliged to grant this gift of forgiveness to others.

Again, the parable is clear. Being unforgiving means to be unforgiven and spend eternity in hell, or the other way forgive and be forgiven. May God have mercy on all of us and number us among his flock, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

November 2010 Sermon Awards

Congratulations to our

SERMON of the MONTH Award

recipients for November 2010.

This month we received 15 entries in our three categories.

Remember, we are now also accepting Sermon submissions for the December 2010 Awards. Whether you are a seminarian, deacon, priest or bishop you can submit your own homily, or someone else’s properly attributed sermon. Submit them to sermons@preachersinstitute.com!

Priest

Deacon

Seminarian

Fr. Ian Page

Ss. Peter & Paul Church

Clapham, London

“Ancient Fears & Modern Man”

Dcn Irenaios Anderson

Holy Resurrection Cathedral

Kodiak, AK

“Sermon on All Saints of Alaska”

Yako Pavila

St. Herman Seminary

Kodiak, AK

“Homily On Forgiveness”

Comments are open for the November Sermon of the Month. All comments will be moderated, so be excellent to each other.

Again, congratulations to Fr. Ian, Fr. Irenaios, and Seminarian Yako.

Submissions for December’s Sermon of the Month Award are now being accepted.

Sermon on Confession & Repentance

This sermon was delivered by Archbishop Job at the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated during the Liturgical Institute held at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, June 29, 1984. The unity of his thought and thorough understanding of the Orthodox Tradition is plainly evident. He talks about the true renewal of the Church being a renewal of the life of the Spirit in the Church.

The theme of this year’s Institute is one that has needed serious reflection for quite some time. In fact, we must be realistic in confessing that no genuine theological, liturgical and spiritual renewal can take place in our Church sojourning in North America and throughout the world without understanding and practicing repentance.

Over the past thirty-five years our small Church has undergone various positive evolutionary stages. The most obvious and decisive stages have affected our approach to theology and liturgy. We are witnessing to the integration of theology and liturgy which has culminated in what has been called our Church’s eucharistic revival. Consequently, we are a Church which on the one hand is becoming more and more capable of articulating and proclaiming its ethos, while on the other hand it is more actively manifesting itself as the Body of Christ which gathers to give thanks to God the Father in the celebration of the Eucharist. Let no one doubt that this organic evolution has strengthened our links with the Church’s past, while at the same time opening up numerous and exciting vistas for the future. Continue reading Sermon on Confession & Repentance