Vidovdan Sermon

June 28, 2009

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is Vidovdan. On this day the Serbian people received their greatest victory through defeat.

This victory was made by a choice; a choice between a heavenly kingdom and an earthly kingdom. The poetic epic cycle of Kosovo reminds us of this choice.

Saint Knez Lazar

Saint Knez Lazar

“The book itself preached to the Tsar:
‘Tsar of noble ancestry!
Which kingdom will you choose?
Will you choose the earthly kingdom?
Or will you choose the heavenly kingdom?
If you choose the earthly kingdom….
All the Turkish host will perish.
If you choose the heavenly kingdom….
All your army will perish,
And you, O Prince, will die with them.’

After the Tsar heard these words,
He pondered all sorts of thoughts:
‘Dear God, what shall I do and how shall I?
Which kingdom shall I choose?
Shall I choose the earthly kingdom?
Or shall I choose the heavenly kingdom?
The earthly kingdom lasts only a brief time,
But, the heavenly kingdom always and forever.’

So the Tsar chose the heavenly kingdom….
Then the Turks mounted their attack against Lazar.
And the Serbian Prince perished,
Together with his entire army,
Seventy-seven thousand in number
And all was holy and honorable
And acceptable to the gracious God….”

Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic tells us that the mysterious book from Jerusalem that was presented to Knez Lazar is presented to each of us for our signature. Saint Nikolaj goes on to say “Along with this book there are always presented to us two sheets of paper to choose from. On one sheet is written: ‘The Heavenly Kingdom of Christ.’ On the other is written “The Earthly Kingdom of Herod, Pilate, and others whose name is Legion.’” We must each choose freely and consciously.

This is the same choice that confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they choose to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The result of their choice was their separation from God.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of this choice when our Lord Jesus Christ says “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)

What the Gospel is telling us is that when we make this choice we have to totally embrace the choice that we make. We cannot be half harted; as our Lord says in Revelation “So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16) A further explanation of this is given to us by Abba Isaiah of the desert fathers “As one eye cannot look heavenwards and the other eastwards, so the mind cannot combine cares for things of heaven with those of the earth.”

Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic describes those that choose an earthly kingdom in the following manner “They are afraid of the kingdom of heaven because they cannot see where it begins; but they cling to the earthly kingdom, because they cannot see where it ends…..Pleasure and its abyss are arrayed in the same garments.”

Saint Basil the Great speaks of the life that embraces the earthly kingdom in the following manner. “Wretched is the one who demands much; much demanding creates in life an insatiability of desire.”

The following question is put to us by our Lord regarding this choice that we have to make “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

If we make the choice of the heavenly kingdom our Lord tells us “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life,” (Matthew 6:25) “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, What shall we be clothed? ….. for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” (Matthew 6:31-32)

This is exactly what the Holy Knez Lazar did when he choose the heavenly kingdom. He sacrificed everything for the “Honorable Cross and Golden Freedom.” He embraced what our Lord said “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Today’s gospel reminds us of the rewards of this type of sacrifice when it says “But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ I ask that through the prayers of the Holy Knez Lazar and all the martyrs of Kosovo that you too may choose the heavenly kingdom and embrace the “Honorable Cross and Golden Freedom” as your holy ancestors did.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on Vidovdan 2009.

Advertisements

Smoking or Non-Smoking? By Fr. John Moses

June 27, 2009

I found this on http://solzemli.wordpress.com/ and found it very interesting.

Fr. John Moses

Fr. John Moses

Some time ago, I heard a protestant minister talk about the Old Testament story of the three youths who were cast into the furnace. I had read the story many times, but this minister pointed to something that I had never considered.

Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego came out of the furnace and the Bible says that they were not even singed by the fire. Even more, they did not smell of smoke.

The protestant minister pointed out that we all go into the furnace of tribulation This story teaches us that the Son of God will be there in the midst of the fire to protect us from destruction. Yet, even with this wonderful experience of God’s help and protection, many of us come out of the furnace reeking of smoke.

In other words, we come out of trials and tribulations with the stink of bitterness, resentment, irritation, and a remembrance of wrongs.

Well, we understand how this can happen. It seems most natural that we would respond in this way. After all, in most cases, we feel that the tribulation was uncalled for, we didn’t deserve it, what purpose did it really serve, etc. As the Bard says, we feel that we have suffered “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Where is God in that?

Beyond this bit of self-pity, we need to consider the impact of bitterness and resentment on our spiritual life, upon others, and upon the Church.

Older readers will remember the song that includes the line “smoke gets in your eyes.” Forgive my shameless use the idea.

The problem with smoke is that it causes tears and blurs your vision. And so it is with those who come through tribulation and reek with the smoke of bitterness and resentment. They cannot see anything very clearly.

For example, those who stink of bitterness can’t see that they repel people who truly want to love them. They don’t know that it is their own bitterness that is causing their isolation and loneliness.

Above all, bitter and resentful people can’t see God clearly. Even though He met them in the midst of their trials, bitterness and resentment now make them question if God was ever with them. They begin to think of God as hard, cruel, vindictive, and capricious.

We also need to consider what a spirit of bitterness and resentment does to the fellowship of the Church. Simply, it creates small currents of discontent that eventually swell up like a tidal wave that can destroy us all. Instead of “building up one another in love”, our bitterness, remembrance of wrongs, and petty resentments only tear down and destroy. People drawn to the Faith will come to visit, but the smell of “smoke” (not incense), will be apparent to them. If they have any sense, they will not return.

While I will have much to answer for when I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, I determined that I would do my best to build up the Church. I prayed that I would never have to answer for schism or for dividing the Body of Christ. That meant, above other things, that I would have to come out of any trial or tribulation free of smoke. Sometimes, the tribulation came by my own foolishness. Sometimes, trials came from family. Often, tribulation came from someone in the Church that I loved and had tried to serve. My first human response was to be bitter. How I longed to go over and “tell them off” so that I could avenge my “honor” and demonstrate how right I had been in the matter (a wrong assumption, most times). But the Lord constantly reminded me of my promise to put His Church and His honor above my own. And so by His Grace, I wiped the smoke from my eyes.

How are you doing? Are you a smoke-free Orthodox Christian? One way to tell is to observe if others smell it when you are around. I’ve never been a smoker, but most of my family smoked tobacco. I never realized the pervasive odor of smoke until I would be away from home for a while. When I returned home, the house would literally stink. I would try to explain it, but the smokers would always deny it. They just couldn’t smell it. In later years, when I would send the wife and kids home to visit, upon their return, their clothes and suitcases reeked of smoke.

Smelling the smoke is an important piece of self-discovery. I am sure that you don’t want to answer for it when you stand before the Lord. Being free of smoke is both a gift of God and an act of will. Which is greater, the honor of God or your honor; your being “right”, or the peace of the Church; your vengeance, or the well being of your brother/sister in Christ?

Smoking, or non-smoking? Besides, smoke gets in your eyes.

http://www.allsaintsofamerica.org/orthodoxy/smoking.html


Sermon 2nd Sunday After Pentecost

June 21, 2009

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today in today’s Gospel we hear our Lord say “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Our Lord said this to call the apostles. This is not just the apostles’ call but it is our own. What this statement says is that if we follow the Lord Jesus Christ we will bring men to Him.

Following the Lord Jesus Christ means that we are live our lives in the same manner that He lived His. That means that we are to be obedient to our Heavenly Father and take up the way of the cross. As our Lord said to His disciples; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).

It also means that we must be one as the Son is with His Father. Our Lord prayed for this at His Passion saying “Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given me, that they may be one, as we are. (John 17:11) I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them, as You have loved me.” (John 17:23)
In order for us to be one with God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one we must be first be obedient to the will of God. Obedience to the will of God means that we must place God in charge of our lives. In other words we must surrender our will to God’s will. That is exactly what the apostles did when they forsook everything and followed Jesus. As our Lord said “He that loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)

This means that we must love God above all things. This is the great commandment “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

To love God above all things is a difficult path to follow but, it is also a path of joy. This is because the path of the cross leads to the resurrection. Many people look at this path as without seeing the joy of the resurrection at its end. Saint Paul reminds us of this in his First Epistle to the Corinthians when he says “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

What the cross leads to is restoration of lives to that which we were created to be by God. When this happens we become changed. We are at peace with creation. This peace is often referred to as serenity.

Accepting the path of the cross is something we do voluntarily. While our Lord calls us to the path of salvation through the cross He leaves us to choose between the path of salvation and the path of destruction.

If we choose the path of destruction and are hearts are completely turned to evil, then God leaves us and satan becomes our master. This was the case with Judas when he turned against our Lord Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. Our Lord did not impinge on Judas’ freewill but rather said to him “That thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27)

Our Lord allows us to choose between good and evil freely. His call to us to make this choice is “Follow me!” or “That thou doest, do quickly.”

In making this choice we all too often become concerned about our own welfare. We become scared to surrender everything over to God. Our Lord assures us that these concerns are unfounded when He says “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

If we have made the choice to follow Christ, then as the Gospel says we will become fishers of men. This means that as fishermen cast their nets into the dark depths of the sea for a catch of fish so, will we with Christ and the Gospel catch men from the dark depths of this world.

As fishers of men we will fulfill the Lord’s command “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

All too often we abdicate this responsibility to someone else. If we do this then we must ask ourselves are we truly following Christ. The Gospel says “Follow Me AND I will make you fishers of men.” One of the key ways that we are fishers of men is through the way we live our lives; as the fisherman uses a lure to attract the fish to his hook.

However we also have the responsibility to share our faith as fishers of men. This sharing can be as simple as Philip saying to Nathaniel “Come and see.” (John 1:46)

Come and see what I have found

Come and see what I have

Come and see what gives me joy

In sharing the faith the apostle Paul instructs Timothy in the following manner; ““Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, where unto you are also called, and have professed a good profession before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)”

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you may fight the good fight of faith following the way of the cross of Christ so that you may draw men into Christ’s net through your profession of Him before men in the manner in which you live your lives.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost 2009.


Sermon Sunday of All Saints

June 15, 2009

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today is the Sunday of All Saints; both those that are known and unknown.

What does it mean to be a saint?

The answer to this question is found in today’s Gospel when Jesus says “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven…. He who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

When we look at the saints we often think of them as perfect people that are without sin. The Church teaches us that that there is only one that is without sin, our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. He lived in perfect obedience to God the Father as a loving Son.

The saints are those that imitate Christ in their lives. Saint Symeon the New Theologian reminds us of this when he says “He who peruses his own will, however slightly, will never be able to observe the precepts of Christ the Savior.”

It is through the denial of self that we are able to receive God’s grace.

What is this denial of self? There are two types of denial of self. The first type of denial is the denial of self that Adam experienced. Adam denied that God created him to live in harmony with Him for the sake of sin. Not only did Adam use his will contrary to the will of God but, he clung to a lie. The lie was that he was not responsible for his actions. (Genesis 3:12)

When we examine our lives for confession we should find the same denial of what God created us to be. We should see how we have exerted our will over God’s will as well as the lies that we have told ourselves. What are these lies? Some examples are: I am better than I really am financially, morally etc. or if I am addicted drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or some other passion that I can stop at any time. These lies that we tell ourselves are an illusion of our true way of living. The denial of this illusion of self is the second type of denial of self that Christ is speaking of in this portion of the verse.

This denial of the illusion of self is the restoration of the harmony between God’s will and our own will. Through this denial of the lies about ourselves we will deny those things that bind us to the earth and replace them with spirituality; that passions will be replaced by virtues. Most of all the fear we have of God, that He is punishing us in this life and our grumbling against him will be replaced with obedience to Him and love for Him. We will realize the difficulties we experience are self-inflicted as a result of our misuse of our free will.

We mordify our self will when we take up our cross Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic tells us that the meaning of taking up ones cross is. “…..the willing acceptance, at the hand of Providence, of every means of healing, bitter though it may be, that is offered. Do great catastrophes fall on you? Be obedient to God’s will, as Noah was. Is sacrifice demanded of you? Give yourself into God’s hands with the same faith as Abram had when he went to sacrifice his son. Is your property ruined? Do your children die suddenly? Suffer it all with patience, cleaving to God in your heart, as Job did. Do your friends forsake you, and you find yourself surrounded by enemies? Bear it all without grumbling and with faith in hand, as the apostles did. Are you condemned to death for Christ? Be thankful to God for such an honor, like thousands of Christian martyrs.”

After we take up the cross we must then follow the Lord. These words are probably the most difficult for us. What does it mean for us to follow or accompany Christ to the cross? It means to go against all that this world holds as important as Saint Paul reminds us in his Epistle to the Corinthians “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-27)

Once we have denied ourselves taken up the cross and followed Christ is only then that we are given God’s grace to proclaim Christ to all men. It is through this grace that our lord gives us “power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” (Matthew 10:1)

This power and grace is given to us to give freely as our Savior said “freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) We are further reminded of this from the Acts of the Apostles “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you:” (Acts 3:6)

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you may be saints through the denial of yourself, taking up the cross and following Christ so that you may receive the grace and gifts of God so that you may make Him known by giving of them freely.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church,, Youngstown Ohio on All Saints Sunday 2009.


Pentecost Sermon

June 8, 2009

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ our blessed Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic makes the following commentary on today’s Gospel and Apostle.

“When a seed is sown, the power of warmth and light must come on it to make it grow.

When a tree is planted, the power of the wind must come on it, to make it strong and establish it.

When a householder builds a house, he seeks the power of prayer, to consecrate his house.

God the Son sowed the Tree of Life in the wild, uncultivated fields of death. The powerful whirlwind of the Spirit was needed to breathe on it, to establish the Tree of Life.

The pre-eternal wisdom of God has made itself abodes from the chosen souls of men. And the Spirit of God’s power and wisdom was needed to come down into this abode and consecrate it.

The divine Bride groom had chosen his bride, the Church of pure souls, and the Spirit of eternal joy was needed to come down to join heaven and earth with a ring, and clothe the Bride with wedding garments.”

In today’s Gospel reading Christ says three profound things. The first is “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” The second is “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Then finally, “I am the light of world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness.”

These three statements of the Lord show us his love, concern and care for us.

In each of these statements our Lord is referring to His sending of the Holy Spirit.

In the first two of these statements our Lord refers to the Holy Spirit as water. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says that Christ refers to the Holy Spirit as water “Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from Heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects,….It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another , but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as He wills.”

Each of us have different gifts but, they are all the same because they come from the same source. Saint Paul speaks to this when he says “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:4)

The purpose of these gifts is to make God known in this world. This is illustrated in today’s Gospel when Christ says “I am the light of world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness.”

Saint Symeon the New Theologian discusses how this phrase relates to the Holy Spirit in his Mystic Treatises 59. “As a lamp, although it is full of oil and has a wick, remains dark unless it is lit with fire, so the soul is quenched and dark until it is touched by the light and grace of the Holy Spirit.”

In the Gospel of Saint John it says “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me:” (John 15:26) Thus, Christ enlightens the world by sending the fire of the Holy Spirit into the world.

We need to use the gifts that are given to us by the Holy Spirit to enlighten the world around us. This is the meaning of the phrase in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:15)

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you may take the gifts that were given to you by the living water of the Holy Spirit that you may use these gifts to enlighten the world with the fire of the Holy spirit.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Pentecost 2009.


Sermon Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

June 1, 2009

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ we hear our Lord pray in the Gospel today for the Father to “keep through Your own name those whom You have given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11)

Our Lord prays these words because He knows the attacks that the Church will undergo after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. He further confirms these struggles in the Gospel of Saint Matthew when he says “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

The Church commemorates the fathers of the First Ecumenical Council today that were victorious over one of these wolves that attacked the unity of the Church. This attack came from a priest of the Church of Alexandria by the name of Arius.

What Arius had taught was that our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ was a creature created by God from nonexistence when God created all of creation. In other words Arius denied the divinity of Christ was the same as His Father’s. There are many that still believe this today and many other false teachings about Christ and God.

The result of these false teachings are stated the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. As a result of these false teachings these councils affirmed the teachings of the Church regarding Christ and the all Holy Trinity.

To affirm the Church’s teachings about Christ the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council formulated the first part of the Creed.

The Creed starts confirming the person of God as Father. The Son of God taught us to pray to God with the following words “Our Father, who art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9) This name of God and character of God was previously unknown to the world of the Old Testament. God was known in the Old Testament as God, Creator, Lord, King and Judge. It is through His Son that we are given this intimate relationship with God.

As it says in today’s Gospel, this intimate relationship is confirmed by the words “Yours they were, and You gave them me.” (John 17:6) This confirms that Christ takes men who were creatures and servants of God that knew God only as their Creator and Judge making them His own. Through making men His own Christ makes all men sons of God by adoption. As it says in the Epistle to the Galatians “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:5)
The second section of the Creed that was developed by the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council confirmed the person of the Son of God. In this portion of the Creed the Son of God is shown to have both divine and human natures. It also confirmed that the divine nature of Christ was the same as the Father’s.

Jesus referrers to His divine nature in His prayer from today’s Gospel when He says “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5) Through this phrase we can clearly see that Jesus is no ordinary man or creature of God. Our Lord tell us that He was with the Father before the worlds creation as it says in the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)”

Through these words we should be able to see the errors of Arius’ teachings that are still proclaimed to this day.

Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic reminds us that this prayer KEEP THEM is “not only for the apostles…This prayer,…,was also for the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council…And the Father kept them from the errors of Arius, and inspired, illumined and strengthened them…to defend and confirm the Orthodox faith. This prayer is for all of us who are baptized in the apostolic Church who have,…, come to know the saving name of Christ the Saviour.” Jesus

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is the same as our Lord’s that you may be kept in the Orthodox Catholic faith so that you may be illumined and strengthened like the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council against all errors that surround you and that you may the one True God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit –the Trinity consubstantial and undivided.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council 2009.