In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen (1)

Today is the 9th Sunday after Pentecost and we read about Jesus walking on the water to His disciples when they are in a ship beset by a storm. It is also the day when we commemorate St. Panteleimon, being July 27 on our calendar. And in the Epistle which is appointed for St. Panteleimon the Apostle Paul tells his son, Timothy, "Thou, therefore my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Then he goes on to say, "No man that warreth entangleth himself in the affairs of this life, that he may please Him Who has chosen him to be a soldier." There is instruction here for how we are to live the Christian life. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. How does one do this? For one thing, St. Paul immediately says 'don't be entangled with the affairs of this world.' But there's something even deeper than this and it is really shown in the Gospel that is appointed for this Sunday.

Jesus had just fed a multitude with five loaves and two fishes. And the people looked at Him as the potential for a king, the potential for a military commander who could crush Rome, because, after all, an army needs rations as much as they need weapons. No starving army wins. And Jesus was their, let's say, "meal ticket". He was their way to crush Rome. That's why He constrained His disciples to get into a ship and that's why He left. St. John is even more explicit about it. He says it right out, that they tried to make Him a king and because they were going to, He left. And then what did He do right after this great miracle where people look and see the magnificence of what God can do? He goes up in a mountain apart to pray. Now, how do we react to good fortune, eh? How many people who were brushing the crumbs off their beards were praying to God with thanksgiving, huh? Not too many. It's a great contrast. You should pray alone in your closet begging God for help. This is God's example here. The God-Man himself is showing you. Go up into the mountain. How is the mountain? The mountain is to ascend right? The mountain is to bring your thought up to godly thing and to pray. How many times to you do this? How often? Does it happen once a day? Perhaps. Does it happen once a week? Does it ever happen that you really gather your thoughts and pray to God with desire in a mountain? You have to examine yourself and see if this is true. I'm the confessor of most of you and I can say that I would guess that for some of you it's not true that you go up into the mountain very often. And that's sad. This is the example God's giving us. Let's make our thought ascend and pray.

Now, while He's praying the disciples are in the boat. And the boat is a metaphor for the Church, the Ark. The boat has sides to keep us safe and it floats in the water to keep us safe from the waves and the storms of life if you stay in the boat. If you leave the boat you will drown. The boat is the life in the Church. Everything that has to do with being a Christian-our laws, our ways of thinking, our ways of living, but the reason for all of those things, is the mind of Christ which should be in each Christian. If you don't have this mind, you're going to falter. Now the disciples were in the boat and it was beset by storms. Christ was on the mountain praying deep into the night, because the fourth watch is the watch right before dawn. So He comes to them after the entire night and that night is the indication of our entire life, brothers and sisters. If we are to be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus, then we must endure to the end. Not to somewhere in the middle or even at the beginning, we have to endure to the end, in the boat, in the way of life that is the Christian way of life. The Christian way of believing, acting, changing one's soul and heart and to be godly all the way to the end - the fourth watch.

So Christ comes to them walking on the water and they're frightened. Alright, they shouldn't have been. They should have immediately realized it was Christ, because they were once in a boat before. He wasn't walking on the water. He was asleep, but they knew He had command over the elements. But they're mortals. They're sinful men. Their faith was still not tested and proven, but they were in the boat. They were following as best as they were able and God was revealing Himself a little bit more to them every day. So they were safe. Although it still was perilous for them, it was dangerous if they were to leave the boat. So they see Christ and Peter says "Lord if it's You, bid me to come." There is a problem with that. Peter had the best of intentions and he had zeal. God can do things with zeal, only, zeal when it is mixed with ardent love for the Savior. When he got out of the boat He walked just fine until he saw the wind. What is wind to a man? The waves are what will drown him. What is the wind? I'll tell you what the wind is. The wind is things in life that seem to so frighten us and seem to so effect us. We don't see the waves. We look at the wind. And he saw the wind boisterous. He saw the struggles, to extend the metaphor, the struggles of life. He became afraid. How many of us are afraid when we see the wind when we have struggles in life that we're not quite able to conquer? Or, most often, let's be honest with ourselves, most often we don't really want to conquer these things. And it causes this hurt in our conscience right, because we know we should try to be Christians? And yet there are things that we are attached to. So it sets up this cognitive dissonance in our life. And usually the way we deal with it is by ignoring the waves, by forgetting about godliness, or sometimes by getting despondent. Despondency, in my experience, is almost always when a person is not really struggling against a sin. Not struggling and failing, mind you. I've had the wonderful privilege as a Christian to see people struggling against a sin and failing. And they're blessed people because they are wholly depending on God.

I just got a letter from one yesterday. A woman who has deep problems, but deep honesty, too. And her afflictions are actually causing her great afflictions, great troubles. She falls. She blames no one. She makes no excuses for herself. In an external sense, she fails. But, in her heart, she's becoming purified. And in the fourth watch, this will become evident. That's when her reward will come and that's when she will be freed from her afflictions which, in my heart, I believe she'll be afflicted until the end of her days, until she dies, with some terrible afflictions and terrible difficulties. But most of us are not like that. Most of us do not really struggle against our sins. We say we do. We give lip service to it, and it causes all kinds of difficulties in our lives. Not only because we continue doing the sin and the sin leads us into all kinds of other sticky nets and crooked traps of the evil one. But because a man who's lying to himself cannot know God. We're created to know God. Jesus Christ chose apostles who were weak men. They squabbled with one another they made boastful comments about their own faith and they fell, in the case of Thomas and in the case of Peter, in the case of all of them. But there was something about these men. When they had God revealed to their hearts they responded. This is what it means to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

God reveals Himself to you. You must respond. You must not just be like the stump of the tree- not listening, not changing. If you change then you are a Christian, if you struggle. You must understand. You must struggle until the end of your days. For some, I think, this is a very frightening statement-to struggle until the end. We don't like struggle. We don't like to work very hard. We don't even like to spend more than two minutes waiting for our hamburger at the restaurant. We're very impatient people, unwilling to endure much. This is a problem, because if you don't endure you won't be saved. Jesus Christ will come in the fourth watch. Not in the second, not in the first or the third. You must endure until the end. You must understand what God reveals to you, by putting it into action. And that's what Peter tried to do. He was not quite ready. He was a little bit beyond his abilities, but because of his ardent love God raised him up. And see what became of Peter. See his faith later on. See his ardent love for the Savior. I've said this before and I think it's worth repeating. When Peter goes out of the boat and he said, 'Lord, if it's you bid me to go on the waves' and then he starts to sink, this is, in a mystical way, pointing to his later three-fold denial of Christ, where he was full of faith but then he denied Christ three times. But Christ raised him up after that as well and it became fire. But all of his days, after his denial of Christ, after all the great things that he did, raising the dead, having thousands come to Christ in a single sermon, seeing miracle upon miracle and having his heart changed into fire, every day of his life he wept when he heard a cock crow. Every day because he felt the love of God and he remembered a time when he had not felt the love of God. He didn't feel unforgiven. His heart was tender.

We must have a tender heart. If we don't have a tender heart we're not Christians. The only way to have this tenderness, is to struggle in all the things that God has given us. But we must struggle with a purpose. Not just blindly. Not just because Fr. Seraphim says so and he's going to talk to me if I don't. You don't have to face me in the Judgement. You have to face God in the Judgement. He's going to say to you, 'I've given you all so much, and you haven't stood strong in the grace that I've given you. You haven't grown. You haven't changed.' May it not be that any of this happens to any of you because it would be a terrible tragedy. You were born for God but you won't realize God in the end. The path, brothers and sisters, is to stay in the boat; to struggle in the way of life that is the Christian way of life. Not to listen to liars who try to say the Christian way of life is something other than it is, other that struggle, other than changing our hard heart to be soft. These people are liars inspired by the demons. We know what the Christian way of life is. We see it over and over. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ Himself showed us personally the Christian way of life, and all the saints, also, have showed us, also, this way of life.

May God help you to struggle to stay in the way of life that is Christian and to remember you are the temple of God. The Spirit of God dwells in you. May God help you in all these things. Amen.

Mat 14:22-34

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. {23} And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. {24} But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. {25} And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. {26} And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. {27} But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. {28} And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. {29} And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. {30} But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. {31} And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? {32} And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. {33} Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. {34} And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.

1 This homily was transcribed from one given On July 27th, 1998 according to the church calendar, being the ninthSunday after Pentecost. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.