Sermon by Father Andrey Lemeshonok

God's love is more powerful than death

August 31, 2020

icon ascension

The Feast of the Ascension is past us, and the day the Holy Trinity is fast approaching. Not long ago, we began our worship services with the words "Christ is risen!" Today, we are glorifying His ascension: "Christ has ascended!".

This reminds us that one day we too might ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven if we can follow Christ in His footsteps throughout our lives. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of love. In our present lives, love is in very short supply. Our love severely tested when we are hurt, rejected or betrayed. But these are the things of this world. God's love is more powerful than anything, even death itself. We have come here today into the fold of this love; the Lord has brought us here to let His love enter our hearts, so we can keep a peaceful spirit and the grace of God, which has descended on all of us. However, this grace may be lost very easily; one careless word or thought - and it is no longer with us.

We realise very well the great difficulty of living in a world that has stepped away from the Lord and is governed by its own wishes and desires. We know all too well that the flesh and blood of which we are made cannot inherit the Kingdom of the Lord (c.f. 1 Corinthians 15: 50). If we are to follow our Lord, we must rein in our flesh and blood, which is a formidable challenge. But if we make an effort, and call on the Lord to help us, then we can do it all through Him who gives us strength (Philippians 4: 13).

So we do our best to take a sober view of this world and learn the right lessons for our lives - that all things of this world are perishable, that becoming attached to them is a mistake, and that the only true life possible is with the Lord alone. With the Lord, we have the plenitude of life, wherever we find ourselves - in a hospital ward, in a prison jail or in any other inhospitable location. Without the Lord, we are all by ourselves, we will need nobody, and nobody will need us; this is true even in the best and most comfortable locations like a luxury hotel or a fabulous spa resort.

So let us take care to learn our lessons in a life well, and prepare ourselves thoroughly for the ultimate test. This test will not be anything like today's online exams; we will not be taking it in the comfort of our bedrooms in slippers and pyjamas, knowing little, but pretending to know everything, and hoping to get away with it. It will be the opposite of today's practices of teaching, learning and raising children. There will be no parents to allow us not to go to school and take it easy. Today's parents may be afraid of the pestilence more than they fear the prospect of their children growing up idle and ignorant. But illnesses have always been with us, and are going to stay around in the foreseeable future. We are powerless to change this, for in this world you will have trouble (John 16: 33). I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: Lord, save me! (Psalms 114: 3-4)

Who can heal us? To the Christian faithful, Christ is our doctor in Heaven and our light. His endless love is powerful and abundant, and it can make us immortal. But even if we do accept His medicine, we do so with a little trust, and sometimes too lightly. This is tragic, for Christ is truly our living God. He is not fiction, he is real and alive. Everyone must have a living relationship with the Lord. "Help me O Lord..." That's all it takes - these three words. Some might say: "I can't pray, I have no time, I am very busy." What can I answer? If one has a need for prayer, to have a connection with God, one will have time. We find enough time to for shopping and gossiping, but when it comes to saying a prayer, we are too busy. This is very sad.

We have a difficult life ahead, but we should have no fear. If we could only accept this prospect, and challenge ourselves to stick with the Lord come what may, then we will have an understanding of how we should act to do the right thing; even in the face of imminent death, we will remember that it is better to die standing than to live on our knees - and I do not mean that we will all be martyrs, as we are bound to step away from Christ when His grace is not with us. We question the wisdom of living our lives without God since living such a life would land us in a grave with nothing else to expect. If we desire a victory over death, we will choose a life with Christ. So let us tread along without fear, save the fear of falling into sin. Our earthly life is limited, and our dying hour will come at an exact hour, minute and even second. Yet we are still afraid - what if it comes too early? We may rest assured that it will not until we have completed all the things that we can do in this perishable world.

The Holy Spirit is descending, the Church is being born, and every one of us, so powerless and miserable on our own, is becoming the Body of Christ. Great power, purity, and wisdom are bestowed on us because we are one with the Lord. "Understand Ye nations and submit yourselves for God is with us!"Let us stand firm, and not let anything change in the temple of our Lord. We must keep the ancestry of our fathers, of the martyrs who would rather die than renounce their faith in Christ. Let us give our thanks to the Lord and live our present lives with the joy of Jesus.

O, Lord! Glory to You! O, Lord! Glory to You! O, Lord! Glory to You!

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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