Gospel Message & Recording
A fruit when it stands alone does not have any nutritional value. Only when it is cut and pressed (squeezed) does the juice come out. The juice holds the nutrition that is easily absorbed into our bodies. Even if the fruit is not juiced, when bitten into, our teeth break it down for digestion; hence providing our bodies with nutrition and sustenance. Like a fruit that is pressed for nutritional and taste value, so also the preaching of the Word of God, in the Orthodox Christian Church, must not only be heard, but also “pressed” into our hearts for spiritual value. The preaching of the Word of God is like a fruit that sits there, but until and unless it is “pressed” into our hearts, it will not add any spiritual value to our lives.
In the Gospel reading today, we hear our Lord Jesus Christ saying these words: “The Law and Prophets were until John. Since then the Kingdom of God has been preached and many are pressing into it.” (Luke 16:14-15) The Kingdom of God that Christ is referring to is the heavenly kingdom; that is, heaven, which we as Orthodox Christians are generally familiar with. However, the Kingdom of God is also here and now. It is the Orthodox Church. The late Fr. Alexander Schmemann always referred to the life of the Church (liturgy, praying, fasting, fellowship etc.) as heaven itself. In other words, when experiencing the life of the Church, we are in fact experiencing heaven; not only is it a taste of heaven; but heaven itself has come down to earth in all its glory. This is a reality for us, because every Sunday (and other days) we receive Christ Himself, first, through His Body and Blood, and second, through the preaching of Word. [The Word of God (Greek: Logos) has two meanings: 1) Jesus Christ himself 2) the Scriptures, Gospels, General and Pauline Epistles, Revelations…from here on referred to as the Bible.] When Christ speaks of the preaching of the Kingdom of God, He is referring to the experience of hearing the preaching of the Word of God within the life of the Church, which is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Preaching, for the most part, as I have observed in the Malankara Orthodox church, does not have a prominent place on a Sunday morning. It is often moved back to end of the service, given to a layperson to deliver, poorly prepared, poorly delivered, and/or inapplicable to a normal person’s life. On the contrary, the sermon should be given the proper attention and importance within the Sunday liturgical experience. These are the failures of the Church, in the past and at present, one that I hope this parish does not repeat.
That said, as people who experience this “heaven,” that is, the Kingdom of God at St. Luke’s, do we take the preaching seriously, or shall I say, seriously enough?
Preaching of the Word of God is prepared and delivered with utmost seriousness at St. Luke. However, are we as a parish receiving the preaching and allowing it to “press” into our hearts so that it changes our families and us? The preaching has to become “real” to us. In other words, it has to “touch” our hearts. This is not only the responsibility of the one delivering the sermon/the preaching but also the one listening.
Here are a few ways that we can allow the sermon/the preaching to “press” into our hearts:
Listen carefully: as we listen to the sermon, we should make sure that we are paying attention. Focusing on what someone is saying is critical if we want to comprehend it.
Realize you need to be taught: no one should think that they know everything or they are not in need of teaching. Everyone is in need of teaching! Pride is the root cause of a non-teachable attitude, one that stunts the spiritual growth of a person.
Talk about the sermon at home: it is a good idea to review the sermon at home with your children; or go over it during the week, asking God to provide you with insight to live a holy life. This can be coupled with the reading of the Bible portion. In other words, the sermon can be the push we need to read the Bible.