God's way is the best way. Sermon

Let us be resolute as we follow God's way

April 26, 2020

We are all treading along our life path; it is a journey that we will have to follow through to the end, every footstep of it. We should be careful not to take the wrong turn as we are progressing since every false step can cost us very dearly.

So many travellers around us who hurry to be ahead of everyone else and make a lot of hasty moves end up in the middle of nowhere and have to find their way back, sometimes without success. This is when we see the truth of the advice given to motorists on the road: do not pass if you are not sure. We would be very wise to use it in our lives since going too fast without thinking will often land us in a roadside ditch with nowhere to hurry any more. So, we must always keep thinking about what we are doing and where we are going.

We all have millions of tasks on our minds: so many things to do, places to reach, issues to solve and errands to run.  In truth, the real thing that we should be concerned about is how to keep God in our hearts and minds and how not to step away from Him. We should also be mindful of being honest with ourselves - we know how painful it can be for one to look at oneself in the mirror when one is aware of one’s own worthlessness. We must be mindful and alert since the path that we are treading is very narrow; indeed it is a very fine trail across a minefield. One false step is not even a fall; it can be fatal. There is no way we can make any progress without prayer.

This is more than just a prayer that is said at regular intervals throughout the day; we need prayer that fills our whole lives. As long as we remember that God is watching us, and pray honestly, if rarely, God will protect us from evil speech, inappropriate thoughts and unnecessary emotion and will instil in us the faith that all is going according to the plan. Indeed, our whole life is in God's hands. If we can realise this, we can be free from any doubt about our future course of action: does he love me or not? should I marry or join a monastery, or maybe go on a journey to the moon? All the pieces will come into place. I will do as You command me, my Lord, with Your blessing. With your blessing! How accurate and truthful! But these same words can be said with different attitudes. For example: "God bless me to do this because that's what I want to do!" Or: "God bless me to go to that place..."  But God wasn't pushing you there. You were not following His calling.

One comes to God with the feeling of not fully deserving all the goodness that they already have. They are thankful for it; they appreciate the gift of good companionship bestowed on them by the Lord. One could also look at it from a different perspective: there may in fact be a better place to be and a more comfortable situation. Having come to God, one learns to be thankful for the chance to be working, instead of saying: "But people are being paid a lot more over there and work on much better terms. Perhaps I should try my chance there, instead of staying here?" My point is that it is very important to appreciate what you have, to give value and to be willing to keep it.

More generally, the time has come to review our attitudes to our whole lives, not some isolated episode or aspect of it. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption  (Psalms 130: 7). Suppose that you are getting out of bed one morning, and your whole body is aching and your spirits are as low as you could imagine? But who cares? Just smile and say to yourself: "It will get better. Let's get going with God's help." Then, roll up your sleeves and get down to work and do your best no matter what. You will be surprised at how this might change your day and how God might help you. I took apart my chain saw the other day, and then began to have second thoughts about it. "Why have I done it in the first place? I will never be able to put it back together, even though I need to." I sweated away at it for some time, and then thought:  "This is no good! Should I give up?" Instead, I got back to the chain saw with a lot of diligence and humility, unfastened one part and replaced another and all of a sudden the saw was working again. I see this incident as a personal challenge and a test. Even in small things like this, God puts us to the test to see how we behave: will we give up, or will we persevere in the understanding that we cannot do it alone, but only with God's help? In general, giving in to one's frustration and negative emotions by abandoning a task is not a course of action that I would recommend. Things are on course. My eyes are just too tired. I only need a short break. Or is it just my mind or my attitude? They may also have a lot of weak spots. Just seeing something unexpected happens is not a good reason to suspect that things are going wrong. This is not the right way to think!

Here is an example that I used in my sermon after the liturgy this morning.  Here lies Lazarus, a destitute person, a beggar, and he is passed by some rich, well-dressed man. "How much more fortunate the rich man must be," we think. In truth, things are very different. As written in the Scripture, the unfortunate beggar Lazarus ultimately went to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the rich man, who feasted every day and lived in luxury all his life, went to hell. And when he saw that same Lazarus who had been lying at his gate, he begged the Lord to let Lazarus help him. Yet it is not possible to help a man whose soul was closed to God in his worldly life. He had made his choice already.

So let us not in our worldly lives jump to hasty conclusions. Look at it this way: we may not be feeling comfortable right now - physically or morally. We may not believe that things are going well. But we should remember to take our time and wait. How long? Our days may come to seventy years or eighty if our strength endures (Psalms 90: 10). Just carry through for this short period of several decades, and you will reap your ample reward in Heaven. If we keep thinking about this and about the eternal life in store for us, we will be able to say to ourselves: “Things may not be good for now, but I will bear with this and not grumble or lose any hope about my salvation. Lord, help me bear my cross further." Exactly! We are praying to God to help us carry our cross without grumbling or hopelessness. We will all reach the Kingdom of Heaven if we adopt this kind of attitude and determination.  The joy of the Kingdom of Heaven is beyond any imagination or description. All of us will have experienced our moments of happiness, if only for a minute or a few seconds. The Kingdom of Heaven will be happiness that is everlasting. This will be happiness that is beyond time since we are speaking of eternity. Time is a thing of this world, where one hour chases another, and life is a constant race against it. The Kingdom of Heaven is a complete life. Right now, it is not possible for us to understand what it will be like. But the Kingdom of Heaven will surely be for those who are seeking God, who is not indifferent to the lives of their neighbours, who have sympathy and compassion for people they encounter in their lives, and who are doing God's work.

May God save and protect all of us and empower us with His blessing so we can follow Christ to the end.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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