Sermon by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
Luke 10: 25 – 37 The Good Samaritan
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
In today’s reading, the lawyer, a specialist in the law of Moses, asked Jesus Christ how one can obtain eternal life. He had heard about Christ’s teaching, and he correctly answered the question about the Law posed to him by Christ - that the Law, the way to eternal life, is about love of God and love of our neighbour. However, what the lawyer did not understand was the nature of love. What is love? Therefore, he asked, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ In other words, who is worthy to be loved by me? Who is worthy of my love?
In response, the Lord tells a very moving story, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Christ is the Good Samaritan. Those Jews who did not believe in Him despised Samaritans. Galilee was just north of Samaria, so they called him a Samaritan as an insult. Christ uses the word differently. He’s the Good Samaritan who came to heal us – who are the half-dead descendants of Adam – in a spiritual sense. The parable, however, answers the lawyer’s questions in a very unexpected way. Rather than explaining to us. together with the lawyer, who our neighbour is, Christ describes how to become a neighbour to everybody. Or, at the very least, how to become a neighbour to those people in need of healing who God sends to us. Yes, it begins with those who speak directly to our conscience. And where does it end?
The saints, as we find out from their lives and their writings, were able to encompass the whole world with their love, with their prayer. Oh, how the world today needs this sort of love, this sort of prayer, and the healing that it brings! Now patristic exegesis – which means interpretation of scripture – the exegesis of this parable tells us of the man descending from Jerusalem to Jericho. Anyone who’s been to the Holy Land knows that Jerusalem is up in the high hills, in a mountainous area, and Jericho is in the lowest depression on earth, 400m below sea level. It is a very steep descent between the two, over a short distance. The man who is walking from Jerusalem to Jericho represents the spiritual descent, on the way from closeness to God to disconnect from Him. The man is beaten up, just as the whole of humanity is beaten up by the demons. This happens historically, whenever there is this spiritual descent taking humanity from the high spiritual state of Jerusalem to the low spiritual state represented by Jericho.
I would venture to say that apart from Noah’s day, there has never been a time in spiritual terms as low as the times we are living in today. Humanity is so badly beaten up with the current crisis. According to the Holy Fathers, the priest and the Levite who walked past the man, lying beaten up on the road, represent the law. The law was unable to heal humanity. The Good Samaritan, Christ, had to come. The law and its righteousness was futile and empty. The modern world has also developed its own ideology that is full of religious fervour. But the righteousness of today’s law also cannot heal humanity. The Church is represented by the inn in the parable, to which the Good Samaritan took the beaten-up man. Can the church continue to care for humanity? Can it continue its healing work? Perhaps the invisible bandits have now turned on the church to give up humanity, to give up this beaten-up man, to destroy him completely. Perhaps it is time for the Good Samaritan to come back as he promised the innkeeper, Look after him until I come back. That’s of course, the Second Coming.
These are questions not only for our time. The Church in the early centuries was faced with the same questions. During the first and second centuries, and into the third century, it could not see a future for the world. The Church could not see any future for the world. And it was looking forward to Christ’s Coming. Yea Come O Lord Jesus. That was the feeling within the Church. And yet, the Church then overcame the world, just as Christ said to his disciples at the Mystical Supper; that in the world you will have sorrows but be of good cheer. Be daring. For I have vanquished, defeated, the world. And the Church then defeated the world, and the world came to the Church. The iron empire of the Romans became, well at least externally, a Christian empire. It could happen again if we truly want it to happen. It can only happen, however, if the Church - the physician - heals itself. Let’s seriously seek healing from the Good Samaritan. He can do it! Amen.
Luke 8: 41 – 56 – Jairus’ daughter is raised, a woman is healed
Luke 10: 16 – 21 – the Apostles cast out demons
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s two readings enable a contemplation of the huge problem, which is called theodicy. This word was coined in 1710 by the great European scientist and religious philosopher, Leibniz. This word, which he invented, means justification of God for why evil and suffering occur in the world. The first reading today, the Sunday reading, gives us the story of the woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years, and Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, whose daughter was dying. While Christ was on His way to heal the daughter, He was held up by the woman, and the daughter of Jairus died and was then raised by Jesus Christ. The second reading today was for St Michael the Archangel and the other Bodiless Powers in which we hear the apostles coming back joyfully from their missions, saying even the demons obeyed them, and Christ saying that He saw the fall of Satan from heaven.
The problem of theodicy, or rather the failure to understand the problem as much as is possible with the mind and the heart, causes people to fall away from God. They say, where is your God? It’s best formulated, as I’ve said on occasion in the past, by Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s great novel (The Brothers Karamazov) when Ivan says, I give back to God my ticket to heaven if it has to be bought even with one teardrop of an innocent child. Here’s the problem of theodicy stated in the most powerful way you could probably do it. The origin of evil, the origin of pain and suffering is precisely caused by the falling away from God who is all goodness. How can this happen, this falling away?
It happens because we’re given the tragic gift – this is how some of the philosophers of the 20th century call it – the tragic gift of free will which is given to the angels and to human beings. The first was Lucifer, the greatest of the angels. We celebrate the angels today, but he’s not celebrated of course, he fell away. How did this happen? He had thoughts something like this, I’m so great. Surely, I don’t need God. I am an independent god myself. And then he teaches humanity to think the same, that we don’t need God. And today the sentiment that we don’t need God is shared by millions and perhaps billions of people. This falling away causes all the evil and all the pain and suffering, and that includes the current problem of the pandemic. And everything that goes along with that pandemic. How humanity thinks or rather is taught by Lucifer to think, is that the ultimate evil is free will, the freedom to choose, and therefore it must be destroyed to make us happy. That all we need to be happy is bread and circuses – a purely materialistic life with entertainment, with a full stomach and we’re happy watching the box or anything else. That’s Lucifer’s recipe for human happiness.
But what is the real answer? Well, Jesus Christ said, know the truth and the truth will make you free. Jesus Christ, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Send St Michael and the Angels to protect us so that we too are not led into temptation.
Sunday sermon November 14, 2021
The Gadarene Demoniac: Luke 8: 26 – 39
By Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Last Sunday we heard the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and that gave us a picture of transformation in hell. Today the story of the Gadarene Demoniac is another image of this transformation through hell. Look at the difference in the whole image of this man before and after, at the beginning of the story and at the end. He’s completely different, a transformed man. Torment and angst disappear, and Christ brings peace to him. Now we don’t know the pre-history of this man, why he found himself in this hell on earth. Clearly he caused it himself, but it was, on the other hand, for his salvation as well. It was for his liberation from the torment and destruction.
In recent months, over the past 18 or 19 months or so, many people have been anxious and angry about our viral hell, the hell caused by this virus since last year. Sinful humanity always seeks someone else to blame. We always look for a scapegoat. We intensify our hell by blaming each other. Instead, we should blame ourselves as the Holy Fathers teach. A whole spiritual culture within Orthodoxy is to look at yourself first to find the problem and then to come to a measure of contrition. Then Christ will have mercy on us, He will free us from the tormenting demons, and we will acquire peace.
The second part of the story raises another point, about pigs and pig-lovers, the Gadarenes. The Bible uses the pig as an image of carnal life, devoid of spirit. These pigs in the story drown in the sea, exactly like the ancient spiritless world in the waters of the Great Flood. Only the cataclysm saves them for eternity when Christ descending into Hades, into Hell, preaches to them and brings them out of there. Pig-lovers identify with the pigs. They’re afraid of Christ. They beg him to leave them.
To understand the process of our path to liberation and salvation, we need to contemplate the three temptations of Christ. That’s another story and unfortunately doesn’t come up in Sunday readings. But it is an exceedingly important story about what Christ does straight after his baptism, fasting for forty days and then challenging the devil. Now Adam was defeated by these three temptations, and I will remind you how they come up in the story of Christ. First is bread, and that’s about the carnal, materialist life. Second is miracles or marvels, or in other words entertainments. These first two are bread and circuses! And the third one is power and authority. This is given by the prince of this world, our adversary, when he says to Christ, “fall down and worship me and I’ll give you power over all the kingdoms of the world”. This is a big, important topic. And as a matter of fact, in our Gospel studies which are broadcast every fortnight on YouTube, we’re coming up to this story of Christ’s temptation. We’ll be discussing it this Sunday, November 21, at 7pm; the topic is Christ’s baptism and His defeat of Satan in the desert.
Now we Christians must understand these dynamics. The temptations are always present. They’re very intense in today’s world. Very intense. By yielding to them over decades, we have yielded to the legion of demons which brings the hell on the outside, and on the inside as well if we’re not careful.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Free us from the hell of our own making. Amen.
Sermon Sunday November 7, 2021
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Luke 16: 19 - 31
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Today’s date is the 7th November, the 25th of October in the Julian calendar. It is the date of the October Revolution of 1917. Revolutions seem to stand up for the Lazaruses that we’ve just heard about, and against the rich men of this world. However all revolutions inevitably create a hell on earth, where the roles are reversed. Some of the Lazaruses, not that many, become the rich men. And the rich men become beggars, like Lazarus in today’s parable. Paradoxically, we hear from the Holy Fathers that hell, whether here on Earth or in the other dimension, is an expression of God’s love. Elder Ambrose of Optina also says that God does not create your cross. It grows on the soil of your heart. I think the same can be said about hell. We create it. Like the rich man in today’s parable who created a hell on Earth for Lazarus and a hell for himself in the afterlife. One might ask why hell is an expression of God’s love? While we are the ones who create it, God can turn things around and use it for our salvation. Pain transforms us. The rich man in today’s parable begins to think of other people for the first time in his life when he is in hell. That’s a step forward – progress! Wonderful! He thinks of himself first and asks Abraham to relieve his agony, but if that’s not possible, then at least he’s trying to do something for his brothers. Fantastic!
I’ve been saying recently that we’ve had it too good for too long. We have been the rich men. Somewhere else millions, tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of Lazaruses out of our sight, have toiled like slaves and suffered to enable us to have the affluent lifestyle that we’ve had for decades. Some Lazaruses were even close to us, physically. But we didn’t notice them, like the rich man didn’t notice the Lazarus who was outside of his door. These Lazaruses close to us may not have needed material help, but they needed love. They needed our support, they needed a smile, a warm word, a hug, and we didn’t see that. We were engrossed in our good life, in our comforts. We didn’t want to be disturbed.
As you know, I was born in Mao’s China. My grandparents took my parents there as little kids in 1920 – 21, because they didn’t agree with the revolution. My mum was a baby. In the city of Harbin, we had a spiritual elder whose name was Fr Ignati. He was an amazingly gifted man, a spiritually gifted man. He was blind but he would call people by their names as they came up to him. Even those that he’d never met before. One of our parishioners - whom I won’t mention by name in case it slightly embarrasses her although I don’t see anything embarrassing here in retrospect - she came to him as a teenager and would attend the monastery with her family where he lived. And he, the blind man, said to her, “Dear, you should be ashamed of yourself, fancy painting your toenails!”. Now she was wearing shoes, and he’s blind. How on earth did he know that she painted her toenails?!
Fr Ignati died in 1958. In the mid – to late 1950s and early 60s most of the people began to leave Manchuria. Before Fr Ignati died, some people that I have known in Sydney came up to him for a blessing to go to Australia. He said, “By all means, God bless you. Go to Australia, but communism will come to Australia too.” So that’s a prophecy of sorts. There are other secular prophets. For instance I mentioned last year to you the book that I bought soon after it was published in May 2020 by a very prominent man in the DAVOS Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab. His book is called Covid 19 and the Great Reset. What is the Great Reset? This year he has been saying sort of a catch phrase By 2030 you won’t own anything and you’ll be happy. That’s another prophesy.
Now a number of modern spiritual elders have all said that prophesies are given in order that they are not fulfilled, at least spiritual prophesies. The secret is repentance. Let’s learn from the Ninevites who took Jonah’s words very seriously. The prophet Jonah, in the belly of the whale. Read his book, the story is fascinating. Christ used the image of Jonah as the symbol of His resurrection on the third day. The Ninevites changed their life and survived. They acknowledged God and his values above bread and circuses. That’s a Roman expression, as you know, about the good life and entertainment that people value so much and have always valued throughout all the ages. And bread and circuses are still important in the world.
All holy Lazaruses, millions of you, pray for us. Enable us to understand your spirit, so that we know where we’re going spiritually.
Archpriest Nicholas Karipoff
Bible StudyEvery second Sunday night, from 7pm, led by Father Nicholas Karipoff. To join the email list, contact Costa: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can catch up with previous sessions on the Pokrov youtube channel.
Watch the talk from Sunday Nov 7: https://youtu.be/iuflv37mPWM
Trivia Bible Quiz Part 1
– how well do you know Genesis?!
1. In the Creation story what did God make on the 4th day?
1.Birds and fishes
3.Light and darkness
2.Eve was tempted and ate what kind of fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden?
4.None of the above
3.Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Whose sacrifice was accepted?
4.How old was Noah when the flood came on the earth?
5. When the flood ceased – on which mountain did the Ark come to rest?
6. How many days was it before Noah opened the window of the Ark to see if the waters had decreased of the earth?
7. What did Noah do first when he came out of the Ark?
1. lit a fire
2. saw a rainbow
3. shouted for joy
4. built an altar
8. When God called Abram to leave Haran which direction did he travel?
9. What is the relationship of Lot to Abram?
10. What is the name of Sarai (Abram’s wife) maidservant?
(With thanks to Elaine)
1. 3 - Light and darkness Genesis 1:14-19
2. 4 – none of the above Genesis 3:1-7
3. 2 - Abel Genesis 4:3-8
4. 4 – 600 years Genesis 7:6
5. 2 -Ararat Genesis 8:4
6. 1 – 40 Genesis 8:6
7. 4 – built an altar Genesis 8:20
8. 2 – south Genesis 12:9
9. 1 – nephew Genesis 12:5
10. 4 – Hagar Genesis 16:1