Fr. Luke A. Veronis serves as the Director for the Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, pastors Sts Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Webster, MA, and teaches as an Adjunct Instructor at both Holy Cross and Hellenic College. He also taught at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (2005-2008). Fr. Luke has been involved in the Orthodox Church’s missionary movement since 1987. Together with his family, he served as a long-term cross-cultural missionary in Albania more than 10 years (1994-2004), and as a short-term missionary in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana for 18 months (1987-91). Since 2010, he teaches a summer missions class which he takes to Albania for two weeks every year. He has led four mission teams from his church to build homes for the desperately poor through Project Mexico. His published books include Go Forth: A Journal of Missions and Resurrection in Albania (2010); Lynette’s Hope: The Witness of Lynette Katherine Hoppe’s Life and Death (2008); and Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations (1994). Fr. Luke teaches the Preaching course at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, as well as numerous classes in Missiology and World Religions. His weekly sermons since January 2013 can be found at http://www.schwebster.org/sermons/ Fr. Luke is married to Presbytera Faith Veronis, and they have four children.
Sunday Sermon, January 31, 2016
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
In Jesus Christ, all things have become new.
What does it mean that “all things have become new” and that each one of us have become a “new creation?”
CS Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, states that, “To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves.’ Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go… the Christian life is simply a process of having your natural self changed into a Christ self… One’s most private wishes, one’s point of view, are the things that have to be changed.”
Our natural self changed into a Christ-self. We invite Jesus Christ to enter our lives and to be formed in us, and thus, become mirrors of Christ. We become little “Christs” in the world around us. We fulfill the potential that He has placed in each one of us when He created us in His likeness. Of course, such change implies something radical happening in us; it demands us to crucify our own ego, our egocentric ways and live according to Christ. And such change continues throughout our life, it becomes life-long transformation. This new life in Christ may have what seems to be a sudden, obvious beginning, yet it continues changing us each and every day, transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ until our dying days.
Well, in today’s Gospel story, we see an example of such radical change in the story of Zacchaeus the tax-collector. In the eyes of his Jewish neighbors, Zacchaeus was a good-for-nothing thief and traitor, a despised man. As the chief tax collector for the Romans in the region of Jericho, Zacchaeus had become very rich. This most likely meant that he pocketed a good portion of his collections for himself, as he collected the taxes for the Romans, who oppressed the Jews. Obviously, Zacchaeus would be considered a traitor to his own people. The Jews despised tax collectors to such a degree that they placed them in the same category as robbers and murderers, and all three were forbidden to enter into the Jewish house of worship.
In the person of Zacchaeus we get a strong sense of how radical it can be when someone allows Christ to enter their lives and begin the process of making someone new! This rich tax collector, who had cheated so many people, listened to the words of Jesus, accepted the Lord’s desire to come to his house, and then allowed Christ’s Spirit to turn his world upside down. To the amazement and chagrin of the crowd, Jesus chooses to go to the house of Zacchaeus, yet after this decision of Christ to enter his house, we see the beginnings of a radical change! Zacchaeus proclaims that he will give half his wealth away to the poor, and will even repay anyone whom he has cheated four times what he took from them!
Being renewed in Christ
Wow! If we want to see what a new life in Christ means, what this new creation does to a person, look at the example of Zacchaeus! Can any of us imagine giving away HALF of what we possess to the poor, and if we became rich by cheating people, by then giving back not only what we took from others, but repaying them FOUR FOLD! The new life in Christ doesn’t simply mean saying nice words and professing an intellectual belief in Christ, but it implies a radical change of heart and change of living! It means becoming Christ-centered as opposed to self-centered.
Becoming a new creation in Christ means to life under God’s reign and take on the “mind of Christ” by allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire, empower and direct their lives. Through this new direction, our life becomes full of meaning and purpose, full of grace and love, full of mercy and peace – a life filled with God’s presence at all times.
Becoming a new creation means living according to God’s will. This entails putting off our old, fallen, corrupt nature and ways of living. In the case of Zaachaeus, this meant leaving his ill-gotten wealth and way of life and following a new path. Our Church tradition says that Zacchaeus became the first bishop of Caesarea. Imagine, going from being a wealth, corrupt tax-collector to becoming a leader of a persecuted Church. For many of the first bishops and leaders of the apostolic Church, this meant persecution and ultimate martyrdom. Yet, Zacchaeus willingly accepted this risk because he was a new person, an imitator of Christ and thus a person willing to follow the same path of Jesus. Zacchaeus left a life of comfort and wealth for a path of danger and persecution, but all for a greater purpose. He now lived for Jesus Christ, not for himself!
As we reflect on the life of Zacchaeus, we have to ask ourselves if we have allowed Christ to make each one of us a new creation. Have we allowed Christ to be formed in us, the mind of Christ to be central in our own worldview, and have we adopted a Christ-centered as opposed to self-centered spirit? Let us all put aside our old nature, and put on the new.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
ABOUT THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN NETWORK
Looking for more? The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. We currently produces three types of video programming: Recorded Sermons from churches across the US, Live Bible Study with chat room availability, and This Week in Orthodoxy, a weekly news video with stories and issues of interest to Orthodox Christians around the world. Visit our OCN Video Channel
$20,000 MATCHING CHALLENGE FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY
Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners. Anonymous donors have issued a $20,000 matching challenge in honor of OCN’s 20th Anniversary! For every $1 you give, $2 will be donated! You can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website.
OCN Spark is here! Our Spark app is an Orthodox Christian News portal that allows you to take action. Spark provides daily devotions, live Bible study, and you can read and learn about events going on in the Orthodox Christian world and persecuted Christians. In addition to making it easy to share news and articles with friends, Spark allows you make prayer requests for those who are suffering. Click here to download OCN Spark from iTunes.