Sermon on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Sermon on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

February 28, 2021

Christ is risen!

That's it! Here we go! Today we're really starting our journey to Easter. It's a journey on which the life of our soul in eternity depends. We should walk this journey ourselves. Nobody will carry us. We should believe that our soul, which is littered with sin—immured with sin, can face God and live forever.

We should believe that man, who's so wretched and unhappy, who doubts everything, who's easily swayed and who's afraid of everything, can defeat this world, defeat his sinful self and stay with Christ forever. So we're starting this journey to resurrection—to Easter. Today is Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Gospel (Luke 18:10-14) tells us about two men who went up into the temple. One of them always went to the temple. And it's not reproachful in itself—quite the opposite. He was pious and obeyed all the laws. This is definitely very good. We ourselves haven't yet attained the level of Pharisees, have we?

But he was very proud of what he did. He held himself in high esteem, 'I am not as other men are. And that one who entered the temple... How dare he do that? He doesn't belong here.' But the latter humbled himself and God justified him. The latter said the words which each of us should repeat as often as possible, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' You see? 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' You see? from everything that's transitory, and face God. How will you face Him? What lens will you see yourself through? The fight goes on. It's real, not theoretical.

The fight goes on. It's real, not theoretical. The fight goes on to win eternal life for ourselves, and for those who we love—who sometimes 'know not what they do.' Our future and the future of those who we love depend on us—on our prayer and our faith. I can say even stronger. It won't be an exaggeration. The life of the whole world depends on us. Because we see what human pride has turned the world into. Man rejected God. He refused to be God's creation. He said, 'I'll be a creator myself.' But we see what human creations on Earth are. Artificial intelligence. Now it's not a piece of science fiction. It's become a reality now. Man wants to make everyone happy. In man’s viewpoint, it's when nobody's hungry or hurt and everything's just fine. But when Christians come to God, they feel hurt all the time and nothing's fine in their lives. The Christian soul suffers as it sees what it was created for. It sees that it fails to meet the goals which God set forth for His creation, 'Love one another; as I have loved you...' (John 13:34) You see what's this fight is about?

I think the last year taught us a lot of lessons. A lot of lessons. We badly needed it to wake up and understand that we have our church today, but tomorrow it can be closed. Today we serve and receive Communion, but tomorrow we can be deprived of that— like in Europe. It's a reality. What would it be like if they said tomorrow, 'Why they congregate? Let them do it remotely. Aren't screens good for that? That's the way to do it. Remote education, remote work, remote communication... No one needs churches to pray. They're nothing but a breeding ground for the infection.' How terrible is the time that’s coming, but we shouldn't fear it. By no means. We mustn't panic or despair as where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.

The last year's Easter was unique—I have never experienced an Easter like that. It was something totally different... We hope the Easter we are waiting for will be different as well. It's time to stop being lukewarm. It's time to stop doing everything out of habit and inertia. It's time to realize it clearly:once you call yourself a Christian and put on a cross on your neck, you start your suffering—they'll spit on you and abuse you. But you must follow Christ until the end. Yes, now it's not like that yet. But imagine everything's changed. The word is passed, 'That's who our enemies are. Let's kill them. We'll enjoy democracy, everybody will be happy and we'll give everything to everyone.' How's that? It's a reality today. You see how vigorously we should pray and ask God today to protect us and our holy Russian Orthodox Church which abounds so much both inside us and around us. Church services and the entire circle of church life are the protecting veil over us today. The inhabitants of our charitable farmstead spent half their lives in prison. Alcohol, drugs... Now they live at the farmstead. When they leave it [on business] and come back, they say, 'Look, we live in heaven!' Because all [people outside the farmstead] are angry. All are selfish. Not a kind word to hear.All damn everyone. Is it that much vaunted free and civilized world? It's not a world—it's hell! Therefore, it's very important for us to learn praying. Let's learn praying. We don't need special universities or special talents for it. What do we have? We have heart and mind. We need to be honest with God. The main thing for Christians is to safeguard their heart and mind. When we pray, we shouldn't just pronounce the words.

Our mind should follow attentively the prayer. And our mind should be aimed at our heart. Both our mind and heart should take part in our prayer. It's very important. Praying is not reading a book—out of sight, out of mind. A genuine prayer warms our heart. And we feel then that our link with God is restored. It's important. Because when hard times come and we are maybe denied access to the church or have to suffer some travails, we need this link with God to be restored so that we aren't left by ourselves, so that we feel His presence in our life. Then we aren't afraid of anything. Then we fear no one. Then we are very happy people. What would have happened to us if our Lord hadn't met us and we hadn't entered the church and hadn’t found out that it was possible to connect yourself with God right in this world and draw strength for our soul and body from the sacrament of Holy Communion? Therefore, we thank God and hope to meet each other in a few weeks on Forgiveness Sunday. We'll ask each other for forgiveness and start Great Lent. May God help us to pass it and meet the bright Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Glory to Thee, O God! Glory to Thee, O God! Glory to Thee, O God!

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

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