November 16, 2014 Sermon
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Recently, in a local newspaper there was an article about the modern approach to working with young people in one of the local megachurches. By way of illustration for the article, an Orthodox icon of the Savior was chosen. Only instead of the Gospel, an iPad was placed in Christ’s hands and earphones were placed in His ears.
We, the Orthodox clergy of Jacksonville, are in agreement in our reactions to this blasphemous photograph. So, we cannot simply be silent when things dear to us are trampled upon, things for which in our times Christians have given their lives.
Such a thing is a manifestation of modern culture – it is just another symptom of the loss of all reverence for the holy or of disregard for that which is holy to another man.
Unfortunately, in general, for modern man this is characteristically his condition. A beautiful sense of reverence is washed away, is wiped out, is made fun of. The new worship simply does not know how it is to stand before God. In modern churches, young people are offered every possible entertainment.
When man loses the sense of reverence toward God, he diminishes in his soul. All that is great occurs in spiritual life when a man humbles himself before God and gives Him His due, when he carefully preserves the memory of God and worships Him.
It is possible to know the Scriptures by heart, to enumerate all of the known miracles of Jesus Christ, to know the number of chapters and verses of all the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, but if interior reverence for the living God is not learned, if we do not feel our poverty and darkness before the ultimate Holiness, before Whom the whitest light is as a dark and dirty piece of paper, then all of our knowledge does not help us to become closer to God.
In a previous sermon I concluded with this phrase: Nothing is more important for a man than connection with Him Who gave him life.
When we lose reverence for God, then we also lose connection with Him.
This careful, reverential respect for the services and reflections on God are preserved for us in the Orthodox Church. This is our inheritance, our riches. And God grant that nothing or no one can take this away from us!
We come into the church not so as to have a chat about Jesus, to eat at the coffee hour and have a good time, but in order to stand before our God in Jesus Christ (in Whom we try to envelope our entire lives) and to bring to Him our worship and thankful hearts.
And we go throughout life with faith and prayer, in the fear of God, i.e., living our lives as if before the Face of God. As the Apostle Paul says: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”, (Phil 2: 12).
A serious respect for faith and our salvation always distinguishes us as Orthodox Christians. Can we really say this about ourselves? Or, for us, is popular culture the Gospel of our generation, and we live by the commandments that are presented to us on the Internet and the television screen? What, in general, do Christ and His commandments mean to us? And why do we follow them so lackadaisically?
We are sinners, weak, barely alive spiritually, but all the same, we are not blasphemers and heretics. We have Christ with His love and Power, by which it costs nothing to cure the incurably ill or even to resurrect a dead man.
And, for this reason, let us not feel awkward about bending our knees and hearts before the Lord. He is our Savior, the most valuable thing that we possess.
To Him belongs glory, honor, and worship, always and unto the unending ages of ages! Amen