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