At the invitation of Abba Seraphim, Reader Daniel Malyon from the British Orthodox Parish at Portsmouth, was invited to St. Felix, Babingley, to preach the homily on the Gospel for the second Sunday in Kiakh (Luke XII: 20-28). This was Daniel’s first opportunity to preach and it was very well received by the local congregation, who made him very welcome.
Finding God in worship
“And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” Jesus “turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”
Finding God everywhere!
“Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.”
This woman of Samaria came to the well to draw water. This was a daily task, an essential part of her daily round, her daily routine – one of the things that simply had to be done every day, a part of her everyday life. We are not told if she found this daily task boring… we may well suspect that she found it lonely. For she went to draw water at the hottest part of the day, at the sixth hour – noon. Perhaps, given her lifestyle (“thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband”) she wasn’t popular with some of the other women –or maybe, given her lifestyle she was too popular with some of the local men who saw her as ‘easy’ in that judgmental way that men too often do. Either way she preferred to come in the noon heat when no-one else would be there so as to avoid either male advances or female recriminations. She carried out her daily, possibly boring, certainly arduous and physically demanding, routine alone. “It was a task that was familiar and repetitive. She rounds the corner as she approaches the well, she rounds the corner of the pathway that she knows so very well – but today everything is different as she comes round the corner: there beside the well is the Son of God. In the midst of her familiar daily work there is Christ – but at first she does not realise who it is. And so Christ says to her, “If you knew the gift of God, if you knew who it is who is saying to you give me a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Are we not like this woman? How often “we do not ask. We do not recognise who it is …we are bored, inattentive, blind, deaf…” We must “wake up, come alive, rediscover the sacramental nature of reality; the whole cosmos is one great Burning Bush. We are to find Christ present in all persons, in all things, in every daily task. The Christian is the one who wherever he or she looks sees everywhere Christ and rejoices in him…”
Finding God in repentance
Whenever we sin we are like the prodigal son who “took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living” because to sin is to journey away from the Father, away from God, to sin is to waste the substance of this very life that God has given us… But to repent is to turn back to the Father; indeed one Greek New Testament word sometimes translated to be converted can be translated to turn or to turn around or to turn back. So if sin is a journey away from God then repentance is a turning back to God, a journey towards God, an encounter with God. “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee…”
When Orthodox Christians think of the word “repentance” we do not think only of coming to ourselves, of our realisation that we have gone wrong, of our inner feelings – we think primarily of the Holy Mystery or Sacrament of Repentance or Absolution (often commonly referred to as the Sacrament of Confession)..
“It is true that repentance is a work within the heart involving regret and a resolution to abandon the sin… Yet repentance is completed inside the Church by confession and the absolution. The sinner is to confess his sins and the priest is to read the absolution…also followed by the guidance which the penitent receives from his spiritual father…”
Finding God in temptation
God, of course, is not the author of temptation. This we know from the catholic epistle of Saint James, the Brother of the Lord and first Bishop of Jerusalem: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” It is the devil, the Enemy, who is the author of temptation, who has ever sought to tempt man away from God, seeking man’s destruction in his envy and hatred of us. Nonetheless, it is true that God allows him to tempt us – but why? No doubt there are theological discussions we could enter into here concerning the origin of evil, free will and other matters – but I would bear in mind our patriarch, His Holiness Pope Shenouda’s teaching that “sacred fasting days…are not days when concentration is on books that increase your knowledge and information. Concern yourself with spiritual books that inflame your heart with God’s love…warmly lead you to prayer, and urge you to repent and lead a life of purity.” So in this sermon I will not be considering theologically the ancient origins of evil and temptation but rather accepting that it is part of our lot as Christians, it is simply part of the way things are and seeking to approach the subject from a spiritual and practical perspective.