Sermon from February 15, 2022
Feast of The Meeting of the Lord
By Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Today is the Meeting of the Lord. What is this meeting, who’s the meeting with? The Lord meets a couple of old people, an old man and an old woman. His parents, Joseph and Mary, a very modest couple from Bethlehem, come ten kilometres by foot and present the child to Simeon in the temple. It’s a very modest scene. And yet it is a cosmic event, just like the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. How was it described, what did the people see? Not much, and yet at the same time there was the entire glory of the angels open to those who were pure in heart.
I was thinking about our service last night and even this morning. Despite our earthly modesty and poverty, despite how few of us are here in church, our service resonates with heavenly glory. Heaven and earth come together.
Mary and Joseph brought the baby to the temple to honour the Jewish fortieth day dedication of the first-born. This dedication of the first-born was a commandment from God to Moses, for the Israelites to remember at what cost they had been given freedom from the Egyptians. As you know, Pharoah would not let the Israelites go until something awful happened to force him - the first born of the Egyptians perished. Afterwards God commanded to Moses that from then on, all the first born would be dedicated to God, implying that God would have the power of life and death over them.
We Christians are all dedicated to God. This is evident from the service of Baptism and dedication on the fortieth day. This dedication to God is even implied for those people who enter the Church as adults. We belong to God. On this feast day the man Jesus is offered to God, but as God, He gives Himself to us. This humility and love touch us and elicit a response from us, a response of faith, love and trust in His protection. Through our response, cosmic glory will increase in the church. We will be no longer be seen by the world as a small group of “no-hopers”! The church will shine to the world, as it has done in different times and places before and will grow in strength and numbers. We will stop hiding. We will see with our eyes of faith the almighty salvation of God, just as Simeon saw this salvation in infantile vulnerability and infinite humility.
Sermon from Sunday February 13, 2022
Luke 18: 10 – 14 The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee
by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Today the Church begins a three-week preparation for Great Lent, and we’re given this parable, the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee for us to think about life, repentance and transformation.
The Publican and the Pharisee are two different examples of piety. The Pharisee is zealous in doing the things that he talks about, so he’s not all bad! But he’s deluded because even his prayer is not addressed to God, it’s addressed to his ego. It’s easy for us to judge the Pharisee and think I’m not like him, but that’s exactly what the Pharisee said about the Publican! Thank you, God, that I’m not like the rest of the scumbags!
We probably relate to the pharisee more than we realise. We come to church, we pray, we try to fast, and it’s difficult not to feel pleased about ourselves. We have this smug satisfaction that may not be there all the time, but it creeps in. Like the Pharisee we are blind to our own vainglory and pride.
The Publican, on the other hand, finds it easier to repent, because he can easily see his own evil. He’s a traitor to his own people because he collaborates with the Romans. He plunders his own people. So, it’s then easy for him to see his greed, his selfishness and how he hurts people. He understands that life in the big world is merciless in its cruelty. That enables him to understand that mercy can only come from God and from the children of God. He says Lord have mercy, and this prayer of the Publican is the prayer we hear in church more than any other and that has been so for over 2000 years. We read in the New Testament that many of the Pharisees did in fact repent. Just think of the greatest Christian missionary that history has ever known, Saul, who turned into Paul. Many Pharisees turned to Christ and became children of God themselves.
If it’s possible for the Pharisees to transform themselves, then it’s possible for us! We have an advantage over the Old Testament Pharisees because we have the teaching of Christ, just like in today’s parable. This parable is a model which has been put into practice by thousands of New Testament lives of saints from which we can learn. This is something that the Old Testament Pharisees did not have. And more importantly, we have easy access to the healing grace of God within the life of the church. Christ is the greatest of all teachers but, even more, He is our Saviour. It is the grace that comes from Him that saves us.
The Pharisee possesses the letter of the law and yet, fails to understand its spirit. The Publican has the right spirit and walks away more justified because of this, as we hear at the end of the Parable. The Publican learns that the love of God can save us, and this is repeated by many of the Holy Fathers, that just through humility, just through saying, Lord have mercy, even just once in a lifetime and really meaning it, we can be saved. Imagine that! Such is the love of God that He wants everybody to be saved, both the publicans and the pharisees. Let us ponder on the many facets of this very simple parable given for our edification today at the start of our preparatory journey to Great Lent.
Sermon from Saturday, February 12.
The Holy Hierarchs, St Basil, St John and St Gregory.
By Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Three Hierarchs, St Basil the Great, St Gregory the Theologian and St John Chrysostom, give us an image and example of the correct balance of Church life which is a mysterious way how God enters into the fabric of the world. He does the work; we sometimes think we are the ones doing things, but in fact He is the one who does the work. I understood that perfectly in the process of building up our parish and this church building. Now we face huge challenges trying to retain the parish. This is the work of the adversary over the past two years. Our ranks have been decimated. You can think whatever you like about this virus. Yes, it is physical, but there’s another level of understanding, and I had spoken a lot about this back in 2020.
The Three Hierarchs lived during a period which also had its own big challenges for the survival of the Church. They each experienced great difficulties. We read about how St Basil was visited by the chief police officer of the local governor who was threatening him to fall into line with the governor’s demands. St Basil replied to the policeman, How can you scare me? If you try to take away my possessions, well, I have a few books but not much else. If you exile me, it’s the Lord’s earth. If you kill me, I’ll be with my Christ, so I’ll be happy! The police officer was so impressed with the power and courage of these words from St Basil, that he went back to the governor and said he couldn’t do anything with him.
St Gregory, his friend, was a very meek and modest man, a man who during his entire lifetime never had a falling out with any person. Can you imagine that? He never offended anyone or lost a relationship. Such meekness, such love. He also possessed depth and beauty of understanding of God. Many of the Church services written by people like St John of Damascus, use the poetry of St Gregory. The Paschal service is one example.
St John Chrysostom was a wonderful arch pastor. He was loved so much by the people and at the same time persecuted by the powerful of the world, because he wasn’t interested in pleasing secular society. He didn’t attend parties or gatherings, even though he as archbishop was expected to attend. He didn’t like the spirit of these gatherings. And he could barely eat, because of his zealous fasting in his younger days which destroyed his stomach! St John also spoke very directly about the powerful people of this world and created enemies, including the Empress, who eventually succeeded in getting rid of him. He died in a distant land in the eastern part of the Black Sea in what is now Georgia.
The Three Hierarchs give us as picture of ideal Church life for us, whatever responsibility we carry. We all have responsibilities. If we carried our responsibilities towards Christ as well as they did, the life of the Church and the life of the world would change. The attacks of the unseen adversaries would roll back, and the church would be given some space to develop.