Second Sunday After Pentecost

All Saints of Russia

"And they straightway left their nets"

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today, on the Second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the memory of
all the saints of Russia who have enlightened that land and shown their
light on top of the hill instead of under a bushel.  What is it that
makes a saint?  We've talked about this last week.  We read part of the
same reading today as we read last week also.  

When Jesus called His disciples, they left immediately, left their nets,
and they didn't look back. They left with many weaknesses. We can see
them. Their warts are shown in the scriptures: they argued with one
another, they jousted with one another to see who would be the greatest,
they had lack of faith, they even denied our Lord, and not just Peter,
by the way; all of them were afraid, even St. John, who followed from a
distance.  They all had human frailties.  But they did as the good
farmer that our Lord speaks about in a parable: you put your hand to the
plow.  And no man who wants to plow a field looks back, because then the
furrows will be not straight, and you will not get as much fruit from
the ground.  

This is the key, brothers and sisters.  Have you left your nets?  Our
Lord called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and straightway they
left their nets.   The "nets" are the "world", in this context.  The
spiritual, the inner meaning, of the nets is this: all the things which
entangle us.  Have you left your nets?   Or do you still keep nets
around?  

I'm not talking about whether or not you fall into sin.  We are sinners.
 We should not be surprised when we sin.  I'm not talking about if you
have weaknesses, passions.  I'm talking about your priorities.  Have you
left your nets?  Do you understand?  Do you live your life in accordance
with the fact that Christianity must be a continual ascent, away from
the earth, into heaven? A continual change, a continual changing of
one's mind. Warfare till the last breath. This is what Christianity is.
You must leave your nets. 

If you set your face towards Jerusalem, as the Lord did, meaning, if you
don't let the world get in the way of what your life is for, and then
God will strengthen you and will help you.  You'll have many problems. 
You might have many sins.  In fact, you might sin wretchedly and
continually, but God will help you if you have the right priorities, and
if you beg Him to help you.  

Christianity is not what we believe; it's how we act, it's what we
become.  It's not possible without belief, but belief is only the
beginning, just like when the grain of mustard seed is put into the
ground.  That is only the beginning.  That is only the start.  Then the
seedling starts to grow.  Many things endanger the seedling, but
eventually, with care, it becomes a great tree.  This is what we must
do.  We must have the priority to grow, to change.  This is
Christianity.  This is the essence.  

Our Lord called His disciples; they straightway left their nets.  They'd
been waiting for the Messiah.  At this point they didn't really
understand.  He was a charismatic man, and there was something about
Him. Those with sensitive souls would see such a thing.  They might not
understand it, but they saw it and they desired to follow it.  They gave
up everything in order to follow it.  Everything.  And they didn't look
backwards.  Now they still brought along their baggage, and their sins,
and their passions, and their pride, and - everything else.  But their
desire was to change.  

And look what God has done, with twelve men!  He didn't come to twelve
kings, twelve princes, twelve great ones, twelve scholars, but twelve
simple men, uneducated for the most part.  Simple.  Men of the sea, men
of the earth.  And look what happened.  Because they desired to follow
Christ, they left their nets.  And anything that was imperfect in them
would be, eventually, healed because of their desire.  

It is so important to understand the purpose of the Christian life.  We
can talk about it, but to really understand it is to live it. 
Perfection.  Self-amendment.  Change according to the One Whom we say we
love.  Leaving behind those things that shackle us.  As St. Paul says,
"We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses."  Let's leave
behind sin which so easily entangles us.  But the first step to leaving
behind sin which entangles is to leave your nets.  

The sin may still come with.  We see that from the apostles.  The sin
may still come with.  The weakness still comes with.  But if God sees a
man who wants to change, He will help him.  Grace will descend upon him
and will warm him.  This is the key.  You must desire to change.  You
must desire to become like Christ.  You must desire to be all fire.  And
all these imperfections, they'll just be a memory some day.   All the
things that are wrong with us, they'll burn away, and all that will be
left, if we live according to desire for Christ, will be the pearl, all
burnished and shining because of our efforts, because of God's grace
which has descended upon us.  

Don't lament so much out of proportion about your sins that you commit
and your difficulties with passions; don't lament about those more than
you lament about your attitude and your desire.  A lack of desire, a
lack of proper priorities, a lack of faith and belief in the
resurrection is what really makes those sins which entangle you still
hang around.  They will be burned away by the grace of God, but you must
leave them.  You must struggle with all of your might to leave them.  

Now after having been a priest for I think over five years now, I am
well aware of the great grace of God and the great weakness of men. 
Unfortunately, I've learned it autobiographically, but also by observing
my flock whom I love.  But mostly by observing my own weakness and
seeing how God takes an imperfect vessel and bestows grace upon it. 
Most of the grace is wasted, and is not made fruitful, like the water
that flows into the ditch and into the sewer and is not retained in the
orchard.  But some of it is retained.  And I've learned, and I wish you
to know: God desires your heart, and not so much today that you don't
sin but that you desire to not sin, and that you order your priorities
according to what God has done, and the grace the God-man gives us.  If
you leave your nets, everything else will follow.  

Certainly, God who has created us for a good work will complete it in
the day of Christ Jesus.  Of course He will.  But He will complete it
for those who endure to the end.  Not for those who make a beginning,
but for those who endure to the end.  He will not leave those who
struggle with their sins.  And I tell you boldly; He will not leave
those who fail when they struggle against their sins, who continue to
sin.  He will not leave them, if they struggle, if they desire.  

This is the key.  This is the pearl.  This is the inner knowledge a
Christian must possess.  God will not abandon you, but you must not
abandon Him.  You must struggle to abandon all that is not of Him. 
Whether you are successful or not, in this life, in this world, in being
free of every sin is not as important as if you are successful in
ordering your priorities and your desires.  Leave your nets.  

There are many of them in the world today.  Sometimes we think that some
of these things, the vices and passions and difficulties, have been
invented by our generation.  They've been around a long time.  But now
we have a terrible affliction in our society: lukewarmness of belief. 
It affects us, makes us make excuses, and makes us to have false
priorities, to arrange for our retirement, but not for the keeping of
the church.  To take care of this, or that, but to not say our prayers. 


Don't be entangled by the world.  The world offers you nothing.  The
world pushes you to the abyss, and then you fall off.  Leave your nets. 
And then you'll be like the saints.  

We can share in something that they have obtained.  We all, I tell you
boldly -- every one of us, no matter how sinful, are capable of becoming
as the saints.  And that is an arrogant statement; that is the truth. 
We are made of the same stuff, and the same grace is shed upon us.  

But the reason why we are moribund in our sins, and why there is little
fruit in our lives, is because we have not left behind our nets.  We
still have the wrong priorities.  Then let us obey the apostle Paul,
"seeing that we are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside sin, which so easily encumbers us."  Let's strive for
the goal.  Let's struggle.  Let's desire.  Let us leave our nets.  God
will not abandon us.  God will help us.  

This is glorious news.  The saints, you know, are the resurrection in
action.  The saints are living examples of the resurrection, and even in
our life we should experience living examples of the resurrection, if we
are able to turn aside from the sins that once beset us, if we are able
to make the right choice, instead of the wrong one that we've been
making for so long.  This is the resurrection at work in a man.  And it
is a glorious thing.  It is a privilege, and an honor to be a creature
of God, for He dwells within us, an amazing thing.  Let us leave our
nets, and let's truly experience what God desires for us.  Amen.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.       HYPERLINK "http://www.orthodox.net/"
 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas 

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 Cf. (Luke 9:59-62)  "And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said,
Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. {60} Jesus said unto
him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of
God. {61} And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me
first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. {62} And
Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and
looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

 (Luke 9:51)  "And it came to pass, when the time was come that he
should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,"

 (Mat 13:31-32)  "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The
kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took,
and sowed in his field: {32} Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but
when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree,
so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.".
Also in Mark 4:31-32, Luke 13:18-19

 (Heb 12:1)  "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great
a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which
doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is
set before us-"

 (Mat 13:45-46)  "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant
man, seeking goodly pearls: {46} Who, when he had found one pearl of
great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."

 (Phil 1:6)  "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath
begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"

 (Mat 24:13)  "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be
saved."

 Heb 12:1

Sunday of All Saints of Russia

Sunday of All Saints of Russia