A sermon on endurance and inner change

Changing from within to live in the Lord

Changing from within to live in the Lord

In life, always aim high. Take the right pitch, hold on to it, and challenge yourself to take higher notes. Keep saying to yourselves, “Lift up your hearts to the Lord!”

Our lives nowadays are quite different from only a few years ago. It has not grown worse, but it has become harder. We bend under the burden of the news. One bad tiding succeeds another, and all are equally intimidating. This weight of bad news already threatens to turn our lives into a meaningless existence. But let us take it as our challenge to change from within and live with the Lord, and do so while we are still on this earth. Living with the Lord is not some abstract theory. We do not learn how to live with God from wise books; we learn it by working hard on our inner selves; by transforming our inner world. We do all this learning to dedicate our hearts and minds to the Lord, not to sin.

Recently, we commemorated Saint Andrew the First-called, the apostle who preached in our part of the world. His good works transformed it from a land of Paganism into the Holy Rus. Apostle Andrew had his meeting with God, as did every one of us, I am sure. Each met him under a different set of circumstances - at church, or at some life-changing moment in their lives. But it liberated all of us from the shackles of the finite world. Unlike Apostle Andrew, we never saw Christ in person, but having met Him, we could not continue our lives like before.

We thank God for our being together. We differ; we all have our good and bad days. We stumble and fall on occasions. But at all times, we will rise to our feet and continue in the footsteps of Christ. We thank God without slackening our pace. No Christian can live without Christ, and every man and woman will have to make their choice one day or another as Saint Andrew did.

On the feast of Saint Andrew, a member of our clergy, Father Andrey Malakhovsky, celebrates his guardian angel’s day. I am deeply thankful to him and the other priests with whom we have been visiting the residential care facilities. They never looked at their watch, and never complained that they were tired. Nor did they ever pursue any personal benefit or worldly comforts. They always put their service to God first and did so consciously and willingly. Their example inspires me keeps me out of despair. It gave a lot of encouragement and motivation.

Every Thursday, our fathers lead the procession of the cross with the reading of the Gospel. They do it of their own will, nobody forces them. They listen to their hearts. They bring God’s sacred light to our surroundings to let it know to the patients behind the fence, who have been on quarantine for months, that the Lord has not abandoned them and is always near. For people who have spent so long in isolation, this is important to know. They should know that even if others have turned away from them, God never will. Remember what Elder Nikolay Guryanov told us? “You will be saved by the prayers of these patients.” We pray that the doors of the facilities open sooner.

Prayer is at the centre of our lives. We may find ourselves far away from a church or our true friends, but if we pray, we will never be alone. But as soon as our connection with God breaks, we will fall immediately into the darkness of the self. As we read in the Gospel, “apart from Me you can do nothing, But I can do all this through Him Who gives me strength.”

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

December 24, 2021
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