Sunday, February 23, 2014

Children's Sermon on the Sunday of the Last Judgment, 2014

Today is Meatfare Sunday, and the actual name of this Sunday in our tradition is the Sunday of the Last Judgment. As we heard in the gospel, we talked about what will happen at the second coming of Christ and how, specifically, God will look at us, what He will use to determine who is saved and who isn't, as it says in the last sentence, who will be punished and who will not be. I think of this, thinking back to when I was your age, and I was back in Romania, and it was under Communism, so my parents had me baptized when I was six months old, but I didn't really know almost anything about the Church.

So when I heard this morning in Orthros, in one of the hymns, it was asking: Are you fasting? Make sure that you don't say anything bad about your neighbor, about somebody around you; make sure that you watch what you say as well. And I thought back to when I, as I said, was about your age, and I'd never thought about that in particular, you know, the things we can do with our words and how sometimes we don't pay attention, and I can remember things even now, things that I said that I should have known better, that are part of our fasting process. It's not just a matter of food. We talked about that last week, how if you hadn't done anything you could start with something little like not eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent, but there are all these other things that are associated with Lent.

And you have this wonderful opportunity to listen to the epistles and the gospels of the Church, if you are here early enough also to listen to the hymns that we sing in Orthros, that basically tell us what this upcoming fast is all about, how we're supposed to look at it, the things that we're supposed to do, and how we're supposed to live our lives. So this morning, one of the hymns in Orthros, as I said, reminds us to pay attention not just to the things that go into our mouths but to the things that we say. Do we allow ourselves to say things when we're angry that we're going to regret later? Do we do things... Perhaps we hurt people and not tell them if we have a reason for it. Those are things to which, as we begin Great Lent, the Church calls us to pay attention. So we have one more week before we start Great Lent, and we'll begin that next Sunday at vespers, with Forgiveness Vespers, when we come and pray and ask forgiveness of one another.

As we think about that, as we think about all the things that we hear—we heard this morning in the epistle, we heard about food again, and in the gospel we heard about visiting the sick, about helping the poor—there are ways that, even at your ages, you can do that; you can help. What do we do every Lent here at St. John's? Throughout Lent we collect coins for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. So we help people in various parts of the world hear the good news of Jesus Christ, hear the Gospel. We have this opportunity that is such a wonderful opportunity to learn about Christ. Like I said, at your age I did not have that opportunity, and you are so blessed to have the opportunity to learn your faith, to live your faith. And I'm very thankful that I had that opportunity later on in life.

One of the things we need to do, as Christ tells us in this morning's gospel, is to collect whatever little change we have around the house and your parents may give you for one thing or another and bring it here to collect for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. Let that be one of the things we do. I mentioned paying attention to what we say and how we say things, and you can think of other things. You can read the gospel from this morning again after you go home or if you can't read it, have your parents read it with you. And see if you can do some of those things that Christ speaks about in this morning's gospel in your own way, because, as I said, it truly is a blessing to be able to know your faith, to live your faith, and of course, by living our faith, we do this for our salvation and to the glory of God: the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.



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