Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sermon: Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity

Sermon for September 25, 2012
Feast Day of Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity, Moscow
St. Philips In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
The Rev. Vicki Hesse, September 25, 2012

I speak to you in the name of one God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Today is the feast day of Sergius,
a national hero and patron saint of Russia
from the mid-14th century. 

A little bit about his background:
He was born during civil war and
his family left Moscow to begin farming in a nearby village. 
At the age of only twenty, he and his brother
moved to an even more secluded life in a nearby forest. 
From this location,
they developed what is now the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

Apparently, he had a humble nature and
refused higher advancement, such as becoming
Bishop of Moscow. 
Instead, he remained, (and this line in particular struck me)
“…simple and gentle in nature, mystical in temperament and eager to ensure that his monks should serve the needs of their neighbors…” 

In other words, his life was not about him. 
We can draw inspiration from this one who grew deeply
in his faith through devotion and through his fellow monks.

The fertile inner-work that he did
is reflected in Proverbs and
in the Gospel and inspires our own inner-spiritual work.

From Proverbs,
“Listen, children, to a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight…”
and again
“The beginning of wisdom is this:
Get wisdom, and whatever else you get, get insight…”

From the Gospel, we hear
“Pay attention to how you listen;
for to those who have, more will be given…”

Woven together, these texts raise up the nature of wisdom, gained from attentive listening and sharing. 

In biblical context,
the Gospel passage
“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar or
puts it under a bed but puts it on a lamp stand…”
can be seen as a commentary on the parable
that actually preceded it. 
The parable that preceded it (but not read today)
was the parable of the sower and the seeds –
the seeds that fall on the path,
that grow among thorns,
that fall on the rocks and
that grow in good soil. 

In biblical context, then, Jesus could be heard saying
just as one sows in order to reap a harvest,
so one lights a lamp in order to give light. 

One doesn’t sow in order to feed birds or
to choke a bush with thorns –
so also one does not light a lamp
to put it under a suffocating jar or
under a bed. 

The purpose of sowing –
God’s purpose for the Word or the light –
is to effect change. 

If you receive God’s word –
the light of God’s word –
like good soil receives the seed,
you gain even greater insight and
maturity and knowledge of God. 

This is what Sergius did. 
He received the Word and passed it on. 
His sharing – his own proclamation
was the dynamic act that effected change. 

Today we hear how God’s word
burns like an eternal candle.
When we allow it, when we are attentive to it,
it gives light to produce a bountiful harvest. 
The very hearing of God’s word can transform us –
and especially so if we approach it
with radical openness and trust. 

Then, as we share our gifts of wisdom, time,
endurance and life experience,
so will we grow in the knowledge and love of God. 

The good news is that God’s word –
God’s light –
shines all the time,
whether or not we are aware of it. 

We are called
to offer our simple, gentle, humble attention to it and
to realize the life and vitality it offers. 

With our simple and gentle nature,
may we continue to seek and serve Christ
in every person we meet this day and every day,
just as Sergius invites us.


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