Saturday Sermon. Lovers of Pleasure or Lovers of God?

Luke 20:45–21:4
2 Timothy 3:10 – 15

Apostle Paul thus admonishes his disciple Timothy: “But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” Apostle Paul does not refer only to pagans. He foresees these vices will also find their way behind church walls. Later in the readings, he refers to Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses despite belonging to God’s chosen people.

The above-listed temptations are familiar to us, too, and many of us will have encountered them frequently in our church life. Consider this one, for example: “Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” We are no longer coming to Jesus to share his torments, but rather for enjoyment: to admire the art, the singing or the magnificence of the church. At our disposal, we have a variety of means and technologies to bring us pleasure. We may recline on our bed and still enjoy the beautiful singing of the church hymns. We may attend the church service from the comfort of our home, live, up close and with social distancing. From saying our prayer, we expect a sure reward – a warm feeling to our hearts. From our confessions, we want comfort. When we do not get what we expect, we become frightened and confused; we blame it on the way we confessed – was it expressive and eloquent enough?

Here is another that rings a familiar note. In today’s readings, Apostle Paul speaks of some who “are always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” In our times, learning is a lot more related to the spoken word than to obedience and imitation of someone who had achieved great mastery in some skill or virtue.

The apostle contrasts the form of godliness with its power. Those who seek to project the form will inevitably miss its power. Herein lies perhaps one of the greatest deceptions. For the Lord has said: “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets.” Such a form of goodliness always attracts the eye. Yet true goodliness often has no such conspicuous form. Who, other than our Lord Jesus Christ, paid attention to the poor widow who put some pitiful amount of money in the church box? She had sacrificed all her money for food, but who cared? Yet eventually, all will be clear to everyone.

So far, nothing is lost. Tomorrow, we are going to hear an enlightening story about someone who had gone astray but began his journey back to our heavenly Father.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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