Sermon: Isn't it Strange to Live for One's Own Sake?

Greetings to everyone who have come to the God's church this morning because our souls are looking for the life that the temporary world cannot give. Our souls look forward to enjoying the food that they deprived themselves of when they lost their connection to God.

The connection to God means trusting Him and struggling with the sin that has pervaded our lives, our flesh and our souls. It means the death of the old man that continues to live today, nurtured with knowledge, laws and false truths of this world, which are temporary. For instance, some people are childless. Some people kill their children because they do not want to have them, some people make their human plans because they want to live for their own sake (isn't it strange to live for one’s own sake?) but there are people who are childless although they want children and pray to God for them. Doctors cannot help such people, and nothing can help them, in fact. 

Zechariah and Elisabeth could not have a baby according to the laws of nature. However, everything is possible with God. That was how this old couple who were thought to be incapable of childbirth finally gave birth to a baby who was destined to become the greatest of all who were born of women.

Nevertheless, we do not believe it... It happened long ago, it was a different time. What is the present time like? It is the same! This is a general rule: we only make a single step towards God when suddenly a wind blows and we digress from the right path. As soon as we encounter hardships, we say, “Oh, we cannot do anything! Help, save us, O Lord, we are dying!” The Lord continues to hold and protect us in spite of the fact that we try to break loose.

We read in Gospel episode that the fishermen worked all night and did not catch anything. The Lord said to them, “Cast your nets over there...” And they caught a lot of fish. That is how it happens in our lives as well: we are doing something and cannot succeed because everything fails. How important it is for us to seek for God's blessing, to keep an eye on God's Providence and trust the Lord, and to do what we ought to do in reality in order not to lose connection to God, not to sin.

Our entire life is something like a choice between the old and the new, the transient and the eternal. This choice is hard to make because we are weak, vulnerable, and proud, so each word we hear might offend and hurt us. The circumstances that interfere with our plans may make us depressed and indifferent towards what we do. It is vital for us to be guided by God's will and the goal that every Christian has – to be saved.

Do not be depressed, my dear brothers and sisters! Even though today we are paralyzed by sin and are about to lose the entire battle, if we manage to preserve our Orthodox faith according to the words of the Holy Fathers, our predecessors, if we do not turn our backs to God and do not reject Him, this will make up for the ascetic lifestyles we are unable to lead nowadays. It is not that we cannot sleep on a nail mat (many people can), not that we cannot walk on hot ashes (pagans can). We realize that pride dwells inside our hearts, and if anyone does anything without humility, it is deadly for him. He is infected with pride and may perish forever.

That is why we work as hard as we can, beginning with a small prayer, and finishing with the prayer for the whole world, as Fr. Sophrony (Sakharov) said. We begin with a little of self-control: I will not eat this and that during fasts because the Holy Church tells me so. This small victory may grow into a big one because he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much (Luke, 16:10).

On the other hand, the life of the Church and a Christian may become bleak, with no room for heroism of renouncing one's self, one's ego, one's old man, for the sake of love of God. Each one of us faces this inevitable need to overcome sin. Of course, we do not triumph over sin but if an individual makes efforts, there comes the divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking...

Therefore, do not be depressed but go, crawl, to God's church instead, in order to touch holiness and to breathe in the air of the church. This air is so clean; there is nothing like this air neither in the mountains, nor in the woods, nor by the seas. Everything in the church is filled with God's grace. Listen to every word, and if this word makes way to your hearts, they will be filled with grace. Struggle for your mind, for your heart, for being attentive to your emotions and thoughts, for it is so easy to lose, to ruin, and to spoil everything! We can see with our own eyes how man gives in to the sin, how he exchanges God's grace for the joys and entertainment of this transient world.

However, if there is no God in our lives, if there is no hope for the resurrection and the life of the age to come, our life is absolutely meaningless and futile. This is absurd.

Let us thank God today for giving us the chance to enter His house and to participate in the Divine Liturgy. Some of us have partaken of the eternal life, regardless of his or her unworthiness and unpreparedness. The Lord feeds us with a spoon like babies so that we could grow and develop, so that we could say no to the sin, so that we could live for the sake of our neighbors, not for our own sake. This is when God's power is made manifest in weakness (2 Cor., 12:9). May the Lord help us and protect everybody.
                                                                              Father Andrew




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