Sermon about the Kingdom of Heaven

Reunited in the Kingdom of Heaven

August 17, 2020

sunsetThe original sin distorted the Lord's design for the world that He created. The fallen man was left to struggle on his own, without the Lord, trying hard to build a new life of which he would be fully in charge, engaging his best creative capabilities to redesign his world and to make himself its master with unbridled power and with no accountability to anyone.

Sin has separated God from the people. Centuries and millennia onwards, people continued to pass on the sin from generation to generation, and anyone born on earth was doomed to die. "For dust you are, and dust you will return" (Genesis 3: 19). People became set in their sinful ways. Sin entered inner lives, behaviour and relationships. This seemed like a life without a future. Christ came into the world exactly at this lowest moment of doom. Christ came because a part of humanity was sending their pleas to heaven, begging for salvation. They were praying to the living God. Christ came, and he told the people that their way of life could not continue, that it was wrong, that they must change, and not live by their immediate desires. Christ taught that people should look above the ground towards Heaven. People did not listen; they found Christ's teachings too hard to follow. Their wise men who were teaching them to worship the single God were also deaf to Christ's calling because sin underlay everything around them. Sin had permeated all things, Christ alone was free from it. This was seen as a threat for many who were accustomed to living selfishly.

Likewise, people like you and me, who have encountered Christ by some miracle, are incapable by our very nature of embracing the word of Jesus Christ. We are asked to surrender our lives to the Lord, but we cannot do so, because we view our lives as ours alone, as our exclusive property. We have little faith; we question what we are told, as we are accustomed to trust ourselves, and nobody else.

Certainly, God's grace and love have found a way to our hearts, given us inspiration and brought us to discover life in Jesus. However, the evil in which the world still lies, the sin within us and the devil, our enemy, are still working hard to prevent us from staying with the Lord in eternity. The struggle is still on. The world is preoccupied with its problems - economic and political; it is at war with viruses and infections; it is busy with all sorts of pursuits, but it is not looking for Christ; it is not humbling itself before Him. Like two thousand years ago, it is still chanting: "Crucify Him!"(John 19: 15)... If Christ were here with us, he would have been sent to the cross again. He would not have been needed, as few are unafraid to live by His love. Yet the Lord has not abandoned us. As he was dying on the cross, he continued to pray for his killers: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23: 34).

Something similar is still happening at today's church. We sin, betray, denounce and evade the Lord; we lie to Him. But the Lord is waiting patiently for us to repent. The Lord is waiting to embrace us, so we do not die of desperation, and not lose the hope of being saved. On this earth, the Church is the heaven; here, we confess a myriad of our sins, and they are washed away in the chalice of God's live. The Lord forgives us time and again, even knowing that we are going to sin a few hours later, and continue to forgive us hoping that we will change.

God's love for people cannot be comprehended or measured in worldly terms. We embrace this love without knowing why and for what reason the Lord has bestowed it on us. God's love is nourishing in us our aspirations to a new life, with which we are partly familiar. We may have lived it for just a few moments, and in those moments we will have experienced the Lord's presence in all things, in all people and in ourselves. These are the moments that are worth living for and should give us the confidence that they may eventually become eternity for every one of us. Let us set aside all confusion, and make it clear for ourselves what the most important things in our lives are. The rest will come by itself. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6: 33). The kingdom of God is in your midst. By living right, and not wasting our effort on things that will eventually rot and perish, we will be best placed to embrace the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him into a new life, which is found not in some faraway place, but right here, in our hearts.

A healing process is underway. The Church is like a large infirmary where we are called upon to lay our trust in our doctor in heaven, and let him destroy our sins in the fire of His love. This grand infirmary is being run by Jesus himself, and it cannot be bypassed on our journey to a life eternal.

Our capabilities are limited, and the Lord's expectations are not high. He just wants us to learn how to see, hear and understand others, for the kingdom of heaven is a place of unity, not of separation. In the kingdom of heaven, people are called upon to give up their own selves, their privileges and desires for the sake of another. This is a first step, seemingly modest and unimpressive, but the change is already happening within us, as we learn to humble ourselves, to show patience and acceptance for the sake of Jesus Christ. If we can make this way of thinking and acting our daily habit and live all our days with God, I am sure that we will all meet again in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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