Holy Ascension of Christ
August 6, 2022
Sermon by Fr. Nicholas - 7/7/22
5th Sunday After Pentecost
Royal New Martyrs
Gospel: Matt. 8:28-9:1 (§28) & John 15:17-16:2 (§52)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In the seventeenth chapter of the St. John’s Gospel, Christ prays to His Father and the prayer centers on how Christ and His Gospel are not of this world, and His Apostles therefore are also not of this world, though they are in it. The world hates those who follow Christ just as it hates Christ Himself. Instead, we are encouraged to worship a host of different gods that the world sets before us, perhaps chief among them being mammon, that is, materialism and wealth. As Orthodox Christians, we are also called to be not of this world, yet the pull of the world is very strong.
Today’s first Gospel reading, where Jesus casts demons out of two possessed men, illustrates the chasm that exists between God and the world. When Jesus comes into the country of the Gergesenes, the two possessed men meet Him, and we are told that they are fierce - so much so that men cannot pass. The demons ask Christ whether He is there to bring them torment. The Lord doesn’t answer. Then the demons ask that, if He is going to cast them out, may He let them go into the swine. Christ answers, “Go” and they enter the swine immediately and violently drive the herd into the waters and die. Torment and death is their entire existence, so here too, torment and death is what they choose.
Seeing this, those who kept the herd of swine went into the city, and told everyone what had happened. The Gospel writer relates that the entire city came out to meet Jesus, but what they did is the real lesson for us here, brothers and sisters. The entire city came out only to ask Jesus to leave, and Jesus left.
Notice, that the men who kept the swine were impious violators of the Old Testament law which forbids this practice. Notice also, that of all those people who came out of the city, the Evangelists do not record anybody marveling, worshiping, or thanking the Lord that he saved these two men who were being tortured by the demons possessing them. No, the chief concern was that Jesus had rid them of a sinful practice from which they derive material benefit, and He needs to go. They could have approached this as a clean break – perhaps they lacked the spiritual courage to get rid of the swine and here Christ did it for them, but they did not.
What we need to be thinking about is how many times we drive Christ out of our hearts because He stands in the way of our selfish desires. This doesn’t just refer to jobs or careers, but the materialism that we as a society have come to worship. Not unlike the Gergesenes, many today are willing to put up with demons, as long as they don’t affect the modern lifestyle, which of course, is a complete illusion.
In the book of Revelation, the Church of Laodicea says, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” God answers and says, “Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked?” Could not the western world say the same thing as Laodicea, and could not God pose the same question?
There are times when we are pushed, or even forced, in a direction that we may know is correct, but we are not courageous enough to go. We may be deprived of things that we don’t want to give up. What we have to be careful about, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is not what we possess, but what possess us.
Today, the Church commemorates the Royal New Martyrs, a wonderful example for us of how to handle material possessions. The last Tsar and his family spent their lives in complete luxury, but when the monarchy collapsed, and they lost everything, they put their faith in God, without the slightest regard for the wealth they lost. We need to take this to heart so that when the Lord opens a way for us that is hard, yet true, we are able to put aside our own selfish desires and follow God for the pain we experience is temporary but the blessedness at the end will be eternal.
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen.
From the Parish Council
Here are some updates from our recent Parish Council meeting.
- This month we hope to plant three new trees on the south side of the church.
- Thank you to our new treasurer for organizing our finances and looking for new ways to save.
- Our members are actively investigating several beautification and maintenance projects. With God’s help and the support of our parishioners, we will continue to improve that with which God has blessed us!
We would also like to thank all those who have taken on service opportunities both inside and outside the church. If you are interested in helping with projects and chores (large or small), please reach out to our church warden, Sasha Soubotin, or our head sisters, Christina Roller, Vicky Selznick, and Stephanie Rindell.
Church Outing at a Red Wings Game!
The game is on Sunday, September 4th at 1:00pm. We need to reserve at least 20 tickets to receive the discounted price of $10.
In the survey, you will provide your name, email, and the number of tickets you wish to purchase.
Please join us for fun and fellowship!
Our Parish Picnic will be on Sunday, September 18th after Divine Liturgy in Ellison Park at our usual Sycamore Shelter. Click on the picture above for directions to the shelter.
Stay tuned for more details from our Sisterhood.
Come join us for fun and fellowship. All are welcome!
From the Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul
Serving by Maintaining our Church
August 14 - Procession of the Cross*
August 19 - Feast of Holy Transfiguration*
August 21 - St. Emilian the Confessor
August 28 - Feast of Dormition
*Fr. Dimitry Wieber will serve Vigil and Liturgy for these Feasts. Fr. Nicholas will be at St. Xenia’s camp.
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Check out our monastery, St. John of San Francisco Monastery, and our seminary, St. Photios Orthodox Theological Seminary.