[Weekly - Su/M] What did you learn/teach at church?

Because my wife and I join our Sunday school class over Zoom at the same time our church livestreams the Sunday morning service and because said livestream is updated and made available on Tuesday mornings instead of immediately, I've taken to watching services a week later rather than live. (If COVID-19 cases start to trend downward, @Ember and I may try returning to church in person without the kiddos in the near future.)

Last week's sermon continued a series on 1 Peter and the call to holiness. The sermon focused on holiness in the home and the husband-wife relationship. At the end of the sermon, our pastor challenged us to examine areas where we struggle in holiness toward our spouse and to seek out the counsel and experience of older Christian couples who have withstood the challenges of life.
Our pastor had family matters keeping him away the last couple of weeks. He was back this week to finish out a series on loving difficult people. Really good closer. Big take away for me was that in a world all in on us vs them, the us vs them for the church isn't this church vs that church, this mindset vs that mindset, or even the church vs everyone else. Rather, the us vs them is Christ vs the evil one.

My inclination this year is to take after ol' Treebeard and say "I'm on no one's side because no one is on my side." This weekend more than ever have I felt "everyone outside this home is now a them." The sermon really challenged me on that.
This past Sunday, our pastor taught on transformational ministry. Verses referenced included 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 8:29, and 1 John 3:2. One key lesson from the sermon is that the church should be focused on inward transformation, not outward religion.

I've been watching livestreams one week after they air (Are they still livestreams at that point? We need a :thinking: emoji.) and last week's sermon was on hospitality. And it was an uncomfortable sermon because this is not something I excel at. I like to be kind to others when it's convenient for me and on my own terms. I also like reserving a space for myself. Sometimes that's keeping healthy boundaries, but I strongly suspect that more often, it's more a matter of me being selfish with my time and resources.

But enough about me! The key verses for the sermon were Acts 28:23, 30-31.

The sermon was definitely a challenging one, but I'm praying it will help root out that selfishness I mentioned before...
Last Sunday's sermon (which I watched yesterday) was on the subject of intentional growth in our faith. The pastor taught from Colossians 2:1-7 and used the illustration of "walking" to tie together the main points. He opened by explaining that "to walk" means "to make progress and to make use of opportunities." He emphasized that the moment we come to a saving faith in Jesus is not the end, but rather the beginning of a life-long walk with Christ. The Bible teaches us how to walk well and God uses other Christians to help us along.
October 11's sermon was on the topic of generosity and, wow, did it kick my butt. Generosity has never come easily to me and this sermon definitely convicted me of my tendency toward selfishness. The pastor used the story of the woman and the alabaster jar in Mark 14:1-9 (and in other books of the Bible as well) to illustrate the lesson. The sermon point that challenged me most was that generosity begins with where you are and what you have.

Another great sermon!
Currently watching sermons 2 weeks after the livestream. The sermon I watched this morning was on the subject of Advent and the key text was Isaiah 9. Much of the sermon was spent setting up the historical context in which Isaiah delivered God's message to Israel. The culture of the time was corrupt and the people of Israel were going through the motions but not serving God with their hearts. Isaiah 8 includes a pronouncement of judgment, but Isaiah 9 delivers a message of hope. Judgment does not last forever and, in Christ, God gives us someone who can carry the full weight of our hope.
From today's Online Chapel services of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:

"The divine Maximus, who was from Constantinople, sprang from an illustrious family. He was a lover of wisdom and an eminent theologian. At first, he was the chief private secretary of the Emperor Heraclius and his grandson Constans. When the Monothelite heresy became predominant in the royal court, out of hatred for this error the Saint departed for the Monastery at Chrysopolis (Scutari), of which he later became the abbot. When Constans tried to constrain him either to accept the Monothelite teaching, or to stop speaking and writing against it - neither of which the Saint accepted to do - his tongue was uprooted and his right hand was cut off, and he was sent into exile where he reposed in 662."

It's always the right thing to stand up for truth even when it doesn't lead to earthly prestige and blessings, because falsehoods - intentional or not - left unchecked to take root and gain more momentum to spread will cause greater damage and division in the end.
From today's GOAA Online Chapel:

St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 10:32-38

Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. "For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith."
From today's GOAA Online Chapel:

The Gospel according to Luke 19:1-10

At that time, Jesus was passing through Jericho. And there was a man named Zacchaios; he was a chief collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaios, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchaios stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."

In times where life seems to be getting a lot more complicated and difficult to figure out our personal roles in it, it helps to remember that Christ's focus has always been on seeking and saving the lost, not on fixing the world.
Our pastor taught on Jesus' conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27). The main points were that (1) the doctrine of the Resurrection is essential to Christianity and (2) what you believe about the Resurrection has eternal significance. He also pointed out that Jesus addressed the disciples' heart ("O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe") rather than their ability to reason. Rather than reveal Himself immediately after that statement, Jesus pointed to the Word to explain the necessity and the purpose of His death and resurrection.
This past Sunday, our pastor delivered a sermon on unexpected delays and used the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (and specifically Exodus 13:17-22) to illustrate the lesson points. The highlight for me, having grown up in a church sub-culture that trended toward Prosperity Gospel, was the point that delays do not necessarily mean that God is not leading us. Yes, we need to be constantly vigilant for sin in our lives, but delays (as we measure time) don't mean we've missed God's plan for us.
This past Sunday, our pastor delivered a sermon on unexpected delays and used the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (and specifically Exodus 13:17-22) to illustrate the lesson points. The highlight for me, having grown up in a church sub-culture that trended toward Prosperity Gospel, was the point that delays do not necessarily mean that God is not leading us. Yes, we need to be constantly vigilant for sin in our lives, but delays (as we measure time) don't mean we've missed God's plan for us.

One of the other takeaways from the Exodus story along those lines - and against the logic of the prosperity gospel - is that sometimes the delays are multi-generational. I think it was something like 400 years of Israelites lived and died in slavery to Egypt, not because of anything they did wrong, but because the Canaanite's iniquity was "not yet full."

Which has got to be tremendously painful and frustrating to try to maintain faith in that situation, to literally sacrifice all of your earthly prospects for the sake of God's will and your future descendants, but I'd presume they must have gotten some equally tremendous rewards in the afterlife for keeping that faith.
Our pastor taught from James 5:13-18 regarding prayer this week. The sermon was an excellent reminder of the importance and the power of prayer!
Listened to an excellent sermon yesterday morning about the story of Joshua, the people of Israel, and Jericho which focused more on the obedience of the people of Israel than the more common, "What are the walls in your life! God can bring those down!" theme I suspect many of have heard before. Joshua relayed the instructions of God, the people of God trusted that Joshua heard God correctly, and obeyed what was, by any account, a strange plan for victory that would bring God, instead of Israel, the glory.
From today's sermon at https://www.goarch.org/documents/32058/6612234/12th+Sunday+of+Luke

Luke 17:12-19
[The Ten Cleansed Lepers]
At that time, as Jesus entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. “When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’s feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

"[...] In the ancient world, leprosy brought great physical suffering, banishment, and isolation from society. Lepers were removed from any contact with family or friends. In the Jewish context, they were not permitted to enter the Temple nor participate in Israel’s religious or liturgical life. The lepers were at the outskirts of the village, but when they heard that Christ had come, they entered the town and, standing at a distance, addressed Him as “Master” and asked for His mercy.

The lepers come to Jesus with a cry from their hearts as they “lifted up their voices.” It was not a quiet, tentative request but an urgent cry from those dying and suffering on society’s fringes, alone and miserable. When Jesus saw them, He immediately told them: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

This might have been a very puzzling command to the lepers. In the Old Testament, the Mosaic Law required that people with leprosy be isolated. Still, if they were ever to be cured by a miracle, they were to go back to the priests for restoration (see, for example, Leviticus 14:3-31).

No doubt, the lepers knew of the Law that regulated their condition, but now Jesus sends them to the priests without curing them first – at least as far as they could understand. Notice that Jesus did not touch them, as He often did in other healings. This is because the Lord heals us in His way and in His own time.

Here is where faith and obedience come into play. The lepers obey the word of Jesus without questioning why they were asked to show themselves to the priests while they were still apparently diseased. They did not question the Lord nor oppose His command but went as He told them. We read that as they went, they were cleansed.

Notice that their healing came about while they were, first, exercising their faith in Him and second, obeying Him without question. They believed and obeyed Him as they departed and made their way to Jerusalem, where the priests resided. This was a display of faith and works. They had faith in Christ and His words and showed their works through obedience.

The virtue of obedience is essential in our relationship with God and is often mentioned in the writings of the Church Fathers. Saint John of the Ladder says, “Obedience is ... a voluntary death ... the tomb of the will and the resurrection of humility.” Voluntary obedience, in other words, is the means through which we set aside our personal cares and self-interest and arise as true sons and daughters of God.

Ten lepers were healed, but only one, a Samaritan, thanked the Lord. He turned back, praising God with a loud voice, and fell to his knees at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. To the Samaritan, Jesus was no longer just a “Master,” but his “Lord” – not simply the One Who commands, but his Benefactor.

[...] The Samaritan’s thanksgiving was an act of love – and Christ honors the gratitude of the Samaritan while remarking on the ungratefulness of the others. The Lord does this to show us that faith alone will not save us because true faith includes obedience and thankfulness. That is why it is essential to show our gratitude to God. Love for Christ leads us to be grateful and obey His commandments (John 14:15).

The Church teaches us to be thankful even during difficult times and to say, “Glory to God”, no matter what might happen. As Saint Peter of Damascus says, “Be mindful of God at all times, in all places, and in every circumstance. For no matter what you do, you should keep in mind the Creator of all things . . . everything you do becomes for you an occasion for glorifying God.”
From today's sermon at https://www.goarch.org/documents/32058/0/Sunday+of+the+Publican+and+the+Pharisee

Luke 18:10-14

[The Pharisee and the Publican]
The Lord said this parable, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

"[...] in this parable, the Lord teaches us the meaning of humility and repentance. It teaches us that God sees the heart, not external appearances. It teaches us that humility means recognizing our brokenness and sinfulness and that judging others is not our purpose. Saint Basil the Great says, “Never place yourself above anyone, not even great sinners. Humility often saves a sinner who has committed many terrible transgressions.” The true faith, righteousness, and piety alone cannot save us. When combined with constant practice in humility and love, however, they can.

Humility justifies us before God, and repentance is the door through which we enter Great Lent. The Pharisee had no desire to change his heart because he was pleased with himself, thinking he was righteous – but, as Saint Gregory Palamas says, “Humility is the chariot by which we ascend to God.” Repentance and humility caused the Holy Apostle Paul, who was brought up as a Pharisee, to give his entire life to the Lord. Encountering Christ empowers us to repent and grow in humility.

Jesus taught us not to be like the proud Pharisee but instead to understand the spirit of the Law and to have it inscribed in our hearts. Humility allows for love, and a humble spiritual life produces true virtue. Our preparation for Great Lent begins with humility, the beginning of sincere repentance. In this way, we can attain deeper communion with God as we receive His forgiveness and, through His blessings, we are guided to greater spiritual heights.

God is patient, kind, and loves the humble heart. As we encounter Him, we also encounter others from His perspective, not the world’s superficial point of view. We recognize our failures and sins, and we trust in God’s great mercy and love for all humanity. God’s mercy and love bless us, and as Christians, we have the blessed responsibility of extending that same mercy and love to all – not out of mere duty but out of joy because God has been so merciful to us."