May 3, 2020

Sermon – Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing Women 2020

Pastor’s Sermon
Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
May 3, 2020

On the third Sunday of Pascha the Orthodox Church commemorates a
number of persons connected with the final events of Jesus’ life who were
important witnesses to His Death and Resurrection. These are the Myrrhbearing women who came to anoint the Body of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea
who buried Jesus and Nicodemus who helped him. They are remembered for
their faith, courage, and devotion to the Lord. Beginning with this particular
Sunday, we begin our reflection upon the details of the events that surrounded our
Lord’s Resurrection and the individuals who were among the witnesses to the
specific events. The lesson is very intentional in purpose. It causes us to review
what we may have missed during Holy Week, but is now viewed from the
perspective of the triumph of Christ’s victory over death, in what appeared as a
human tragedy.

Today’s Gospel lesson first says something to us about how personal
decisions of conviction are made. A good contrast is to recall the words of the
Apostle Peter, who was quick to speak, and ended up denying our Lord in the
same evening when the sacred Holy Communion was something that he and the
other disciples had just received from the hands of the Lord. One would think that
the twelve (or what we know ended up being eleven), who where personally
called, spending a great deal of personal time with the Lord; who walked and
talked with him, would be among those who would not be absent following the
death of our Lord. Instead, the scripture indicates that they fled for fear of the
authorities.

Today, the Myrrh-bearing women, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are
brought to the forefront of today’s commemoration. These women and men were
among those “behind the scenes.” In the case of the women, we know that in the
first century: women were not very visible. Yet, their service was certainly not
among the least. They like Joseph and Nicodemus acted with great faith and
courage.

And so the first thing we can learn from disciples like the Myrrh-bearing
women, Joseph and Nicodemus is a lesson we discovered during the season of
Lent: When pride is humbled by faith and love, and stirred by a deep sense
of humanity and courage, it becomes selfless service.

Second, to love and care for someone makes a task very personal. And
so, it is very important that we be reminded: that a faithful servant of the Lord
never understands a labor of love as a task or chore, but a holy ministry. You and I
are called in numerous and unique ways to serve God as His fellow ministers.
Following the Resurrection we hear in today’s epistle that the church needed
helpers: deacons to assist with the work of ministry. The word deacon [diakonia
(Greek)] means service. While you may not dress in black or wear a collar or are
donned with vestments at divine services does not mean that you are not
participants in Christ’s royal priesthood. We all share in Christ’s service. St. Peter
states it clearly in his epistle: ...you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a
holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)

Any person, who offers their time, gifts, talents, resources, or just
themselves, is a co-worker in Christ’s vineyard. In God’s eyes, no ministry of
service is too small, too insignificant or unimportant. One does not have to be in
the limelight, have a good voice, be particularly glamorous, or even be wealthy by
any standard of this world; only a desire to share the love of God, the desire and
willingness to be of service, a help and support to others, perhaps being there
when others are not, a listening ear, a strong shoulder, a good friend.

Stewardship is not ownership. Anything we do to the glory of God in
service of Christ is not anything we possess or own. Stewardship is being
available, being wise and prudent; being courageous. Stewardship is love and
devotion that prompts service. For someone like myself who am called to the
Holy Priesthood: that calling is something based upon what St. Paul described for
himself as based upon being …considered faithful enough to be called into His
service (I Timothy 12:1). It is not even “my priesthood!
It is Christ’s Priesthood!

It is very necessary that you and I not limit our perception of what it means
to be a good steward. We cannot allow obligations, urgent and desperate calls for
help to be the norm in Christian service. Our young people today are becoming
more and more conditioned to the notion of providing community service and
applying their time in acquiring credit by serving the church. While this is not a
bad thing, especially since we need persons who are properly trained as leaders in
serving, we should not forget that this was not the case in years past. Parishes,
organizations, ministries of the church were built and founded by volunteers not
paid workers. Today, however, many of our churches are experiencing growth by
those who have found their vocation in the church as lay persons trained and
educated in their specific fields as an aid to the priest’s pastoral ministry.

Among the other observations that tell us something about the piety of the
men and women who are brought to our attention in today’s lesson is their use of
time. The Myrrh-bearing women were obviously “morning persons.” The church
has a great deal to say about being a “morning person.” First of all, a person does
not have to be early riser to be a “morning person,” although it can help. The
morning for any Christian is spoken about a great deal by the Church Fathers, as
we hear in our prayers, as a time for illumination, thanksgiving and praise. My
soul awaketh early unto Thee… for Thy precepts are a light…

There is a much than can be accomplished and a great deal that we all can
protect ourselves against spiritually when we aim to make the time of the morning,
and specifically the first moments of our day as a time that is dedicated to God. I
personally describe it as “untouched snow.” The morning is a “new beginning,”
and therefore, a new opportunity of beginning anew. “Rise up in joyfulness of
soul having had rest.” Just as it is important to end our day with confession and
forgiveness.

Second, and finally, the Myrrh-bearing women and the pious Joseph
and Nicodemus, were not loners. They shared in a fellowship and their service
was something they did with those who were likeminded.

It helps to do things with others. However, doing tasks and sharing
responsibilities, however, is not always easy. For one thing, one’s ego can get in
the way. My mother used to say, “too many cooks spoil the soup.”

No one likes to have their toes stepped upon. It is a known fact that men
and women do not always work or think in the same way. Generally, men often
are task oriented, and women build on relationships and work as a network.
Leadership is always necessary, and while not much is said about who were the
leaders among the women, we are told that Joseph approached Pilate boldly. We
also know that among the pious men and women heard in today’s Gospel, their
egos were not in the way of their mission. That was because their motivation and
purpose was selfless service in love. No one was looking for credit or recognition.

Remember: It was our Lord Himself who set this pattern of love and
service. Before the Last Supper, you may recall: He washed the feet of His
disciples. It is recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel that on one occasion, our Lord
spoke with His disciples when they became angry with each other over their
personal position and privilege. In admonishing them He said: You know that the
rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority
over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you
must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a
ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-27).

Prayer
O Christ, our God, strengthen us as your ministers in service of your Kingdom.
Enable us to be faithful and ever mindful of the needs of others, especially of those
who are the most dear to us. Grant us strength to do what is right and to be good
stewards of all that you have entrusted to us. Grant us courage to wash the feet of
our brothers and sisters. And may the light of Your Holy Resurrection shine
through us as we respond to the needs around us.

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