Sermon ~ Sunday Before the Exaltation of the Cross

Sermon Audio

Yesterday, as a nation, we paused to remember the events 9 years ago that shook our world and changed the very way we live. I am sure we all remember, as if it happened yesterday, where we were when we first heard the news that our country has been attacked. Last night I watched a program that played the news as it happened on that day and it brought back all kinds of memories for me.

I wear on my wrist a small silver band with the name Fr. Mychal Judge. Fr. Mychal was the chaplain for the New York City Fire Department and was one of the first people killed when the towers came down. Fr. Mychal was ministering to people when he died. I wear this small band of silver to remind me why I do what I do. Each time I stand with one of you for confession, or one of the fire fighters I minister to. I think of Fr. Mychal on that day, standing in the lobby of the tower that would eventually take his life.
We remember all kinds of things. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, all sorts of things. We remember things in our life at home and we remember things in our life at church. In the Orthodox Church we remember people after their death on the 40th day and then each years for the first three years. We sing memory eternal for them. We pray to the saints, people we have never met or will meet and we remember them at each and every Liturgical celebration. If there is one thing we Orthodox do best, that is remembering.
We also remember things that people have done to us. We remember the hurt, the pain, the sorrow from words people have spoken or not spoken. We remember the feelings we had when a person who we thought was a friend, threw us under the bus for no reason. We remember the hurt, when rumors circulate that you didn’t do something when you know that you did and vice versa.
In one of the Star Trek movies, the crew of the Enterprise meets a man who can remove all the past pain in peoples lives. He touches them and their pain is gone. He approaches Capt. Kirk to take away his pain. Kirk responds by saying I want my pain I need my pain for it makes me who I am. How many of us would say the same thing? How many of us will turn away from someone who could take our pain away and have it never return?
Why do we remember? Historians will tell us that we must remember history and study history so we do not make the same mistakes. We remember marker events in our lives as a way of celebration, although the older we get sometimes we do not want to remember those days as much, or perhaps we only remember every other one. We remember those who have gone before us so we do not forget. We read and study the lives of the saints so they can teach us how to live the Christian life. But sometimes those events bring back bad or unwanted memories. They remind us of the one we have lost to death or to loss of friendship. We remember those who used to come to church here and no longer do and it reminds us the events around those days and maybe it makes us sad.
We have pictures around our homes that remind us of people and events. We have albums filled with memories. But what do we do with the pain, the hurt, and the sorrow that those memories bring up in us? How do we deal with it?
We need to face that pain and that sorrow and we need to deal with it. We need to bring it to the foot of the cross and give it to Jesus and leave it there. When we confess we need to understand, really understand that we are forgiven and leave all the pain and sorrow at the feet of Jesus as He takes that sin away. We need to ask God to take the pain away.
The most quoted passage from Scripture is before us today. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but will have eternal life.” We see this on the end zone at football games amidst all the other Hi Mom signs! If we believe in Jesus then we have nothing to fear, we have nothing to worry about for Christ will take care of us in all that we do. He is here to take away the pain and the sorrow and makes us whole again.
We have a wonderful experience here in our Orthodox Church that other Christians do not have. We have sacramental confession. The ability to stand before God and confess all the we have done, and we do this in ear shot of another person the priest. After we confess the priest prays the prayers that assure us that our sins have been taken away and we need to have no further anxiety about them. They are gone forever, not only the sin but the pain and sorrow that is associated with that sin. It is gone forever, but we have to let go!
Most of us are like Capt Kirk, we want our pain we need our pain because it makes us who we are. Who would we be if our pain and sorrow were gone? We would be new creations, we would become new in the life of Christ and we would be free to worship Him the way it is intended to be. If we are shackled by pain and sorrow we cannot worship God as we should it holds us back and prevents us for authentic worship.
Give it all to Jesus and let Him free you from those shackles. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but will have eternal life.”
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