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Illuminating All the Earth with Christ’s Gospel

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Sermon: Illuminating All the Earth with Christ's Gospel IconA full moon rising in the evening, visible just above the horizon is often a breathtaking sight. The moon in that position often seems large beyond belief. And if there are no clouds, and not too many city lights, the full moon will often light up the night.

When that happens, it is often hard to believe that the moon actually has no light of its own but it is only reflecting the light of the sun.

The bright full moon should always be a reminder to us that, just like the moon, we have nothing that was not first given to us by God. Because of the grace which we have received from Him, we are called - each one of us - to reflect the light of Christ to all those whom we meet in our daily lives.

Light is a theme that appears throughout Holy Scripture.

We read in chapter two of the Gospel of Luke that Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple on the 40 th day after his birth and presented him to the Righteous Simeon, who had been granted to live until he saw the Messiah. What Simeon said is what we repeat in the Orthodox prayers of the 40-day blessing, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all people, a light to lighten the gentiles and a glory for your people Israel.

In chapter 8 of his Gospel, Saint Luke the Evangelist quotes Jesus, "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

The Psalmist sings, "the Lord is my light and my salvation."

And Jesus told us that whoever believes in him and follows him does not remain in darkness, but has the light of life.

When we were baptized, we were given the light of Christ --- symbolized by our baptismal candle - God lit His flame in our souls. The purpose of our baptism was to make us lights in the world for Jesus.

According to Saint John Chrysostom, Christ's commandment, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" is addressed not only to the disciples, but to each one of us. As we read in 1st Peter 2:9, we are all challenged to rediscover our calling by our baptism to be "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people". As baptized Orthodox Christians, we are to reflect the light of Christ through the quality of our lives.

There are many people whom we as priests may never reach. For this reason St. John Chrysostom calls on the laity to perform spiritual duties of teaching, social work and mission.

Each of us has influence on those around us. Everything we say and do has a ripple effect. It either hurts or helps. It either leads or misleads. We are responsible - and are held responsible by God - for the influence we are sending out from our lives.

From the earliest times the Gospel was not preached only by the apostles & evangelists, but as stated in Paul's second letter to Timothy, by those lay people who "were able to teach others" (2 Tim 2:2). Teaching was carried out by lay people --- both men and women. Many prophets, teachers and evangelists were lay people, and many clergymen, fathers of the Church and teachers, first distinguished themselves as lay people in the Church.

Our duty - both clergy and laity - as we read in the First Epistle of Peter, is to "always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls us to account for the hope and faith that is in us" (1 Peter 3:15), that is, to reflect the light of Christ in all that we do.

One current author writes that there is a need for Christians whose lifestyle and work style are so unique and so distinctive that friends and co-workers will want to know why.

Jesus instructed us to be:..salt, yeast, and light. We are not called to be great, but Like St. John the Baptist, to point to Jesus' greatness. We are to decrease so that He may increase.

This Liturgy which we celebrate is not an ending but a beginning. The dismissal, "Let us go forth in peace," sends each of us to the world in which we live and work to witness to others - not through words, but by how we live our lives..

In ancient Greek society, the runner who won the race was not the one who crossed the line in the shortest time, but the one who crossed the finish line in the shortest time with his torch still burning.

Our goal as Christians is that we may cross the finish line of our life on earth with the light of Christ which we received at our baptism still burning brightly.

Amen.

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