Peace to you dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Recently, our Bishop Vsevolod visited the parish of Saint Luke in Yurga (Kemerovo region) to celebrate the feast of Saint James the apostle. Deacon Ruslan Zinnurov assisted him during the liturgy.
May we bring to your attention a part of the Bishop’s sermon.
It is for us men and for our salvation that Jesus Christ (as we read in the today’s Gospel) “drank the cup” and “was baptized with the baptism” [Mt 20:22]. The word “cup” is used here not literally, but in a figurative sense, which is common in the Scriptures: in the Old Testament, the word “cup” often meant a person’s destiny (in a good or bad sense).
The Lord has drunk His cup to the dregs. Christ’s “cup” and “baptism” were His sufferings for us. He died for us to live. What meant death to Him it means life to us. For us, the “cup” and the “baptism” mean salvation – it is through them that God gives us the gift of eternal life.
The Lord has established that if we want to be saved, we must use certain means for this. Lutherans love to talk about these “means of grace.” These are the tools we shall use if we want to be saved. As a builder uses tools to build a house, or as a surgeon uses tools to heal us, God gave us the baptism and the Eucharist to save us.
The apostles understood this. And after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit from Christ, they immediately began to use this authority to save people. So on the very first day of Pentecost, three thousand people were baptized and became the first parishioners of the Church.
And then the apostles went from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, even reached Dnieper and India, to proclaim God’s word there, to baptize and to commune, to save people in the name of Jesus Christ.
But Saint James was not among them. His life was short. He became the first of the apostles to sit next to Christ in His Kingdom.
In the middle ages, it became customary to honor Saint James as the patron saint of pilgrims and travelers. And this was due precisely to his martyrdom. Saint James reached the Kingdom of Heaven before the other apostles. They were still travelers on this earth, pilgrims on the way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and he had already entered into there.
And we are all such pilgrims. Our whole life is a path to the Kingdom of Heaven. How can we walk this path and persist? In order not to fall, and when to fall, then to rise again, to remain standing in the faith? We cannot do this without the Church and her sacraments. We cannot do this without the life example of the saints. We cannot do this without their prayer for us. We are pilgrims, we are still going up. Those who have already reached Heaven pray there for us who follow.
Among them Saint James the apostle is. That is why the prayer of this day sounds so: “Almighty eternal God, Your saint James was the first of the apostles, who shed his blood for Christ, so we pray to You: grant that his courageous confession strengthen Your Church, and his intercession accompanied us constantly. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Please pray for the Lutherans in Siberia to stand firm in the faith during this difficult time, and for safe travels of the clergymen.
“Faith and hope”