SERMON DELIVERED AT ST. VLADIMIR’S SEMINARY, CRESTWOOD, NEW YORK
Orthodox Education Day
October 5, 1996 / 17th Saturday after Pentecost
1 Cor 15:39-45 / Luke 5:27-32
The reading from Saint Paul's first letter to the Corinthians presents us with some of the most difficult and profound verses found in both the Old and New Testaments. Indeed, the words and phrases used by the apostle disclose to the audience his skill as a writer as well as his depth and genius in proclaiming the Gospel.
What we have heard from Saint Paul this morning focuses on the very core of the Gospel message. He speaks to the Corinthians and to us about two basic realities which will confront all of humanity. These realities are death and resurrection. Between these realities is the unfolding of God's love for his creation and his desire to offer humanity new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The reality of death is described by words that expose its horror and ugliness. Words such as "perishable," "dishonor," and"weakness" disclose to us the pain and fear associated with our mortality. And yet as Saint Paul speaks about the inevitability of death he simultaneously speaks about the victory of our Lord's resurrection. Thus speaking about our death in light of the death of Christ he proclaims that "What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power" (1 Cor. 15:43). Saint Paul continues beyond what we have heard this morning to say that at the Lord' second coming the trumpet will sound "and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For the perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality" (15:52-53). And then quoting the Great Prophet Isaiah he says "Death is swallowed up in victory" (15:54).
Yes, death and resurrection confront each of us. Yet, even while the victory of Christ's death has already begun to bear fruit, there seems to be a lack of awareness that what Saint Paul describes is true and therefore real. I speak particularly about ourselves who being within the Church are aware that man's origin is from the dust but are unaware or have forgotten that man is a creature destined to dwell in heaven.
Through the Church the Gospel of life and resurrection never ceases to be placed before us. But tragically we all know how easy it is to choose different gospels — false gospels — which place us on a path that leads us to turn within ourselves. These false gospels of self love, worldly success, empty glory, and instant self-gratification leave us thirsty, parched, lonely and afraid. It is because of these and other related gospels that we are called today to ensure that the words of Saint Paul are our words and that the Gospel he proclaims is the Gospel we embrace.
Dearly beloved, we are people of the New Covenant. We are people who, while keeping vigil for the Lord's second and glorious coming, already participate in new and eternal life to which all of humanity is called to share. For this reason we are to bring the Gospel of Resurrection beyond the walls of our Church buildings and into the world. To us has been given, by virtue of our baptism, chrismation, and participation in the Holy Eucharist, the responsibility of revealing to a thirsty and tired world that the gospel of life has triumphed over death. And that indeed, we have put off the image of the man of dust and have clothed ourselves with the imperishable image and nature of the man of heaven. Together let us take this Gospel into the world so that all who hear of Christ's saving death may see this world being transformed into the kingdom of heaven. Amen.