- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Nicholas Voucanos at St. Theodore Greek Orthodox Church in Lanham.
As you know, the Olympics of 2004 will return to Greece, where they began. Every time the Olympics are held, the flame on the torch that is taken around the world is lit in that part of Greece where this great tradition was started off.
Today we begin the new ecclesiastical year, and we pray to our good Lord that He would be the light of our world. At the same time, He expects all of us to keep this light burning. We are to pass the light, as we do with candles on Easter Sunday. In this way, He said that you will be the light of the world. And we invite people to come and receive the light and we have to keep this torch going.
In the city called Olympia, the Olympic games started hundreds of years before Jesus Christ. But we can compare the Olympic torch with the light of Jesus Christ today. There is a similar meaning here. In one case there is a historic value, the value of passing on a tradition from generation to generation. This is the Greek heritage for our children. In the other case, we have an obligation to pass on what began with Jesus Christ, the founder and organizer of the church.
As the holy icons in our church show, Jesus was our founder, but there were others who perpetuate the faith, including the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter, our own namesake, St. Theodore, and, as we learned about this week, St. Phanourios, who prayed for his mother's salvation. This is the other heritage we are passing on, the heritage of Christianity and of Orthodoxy. But like carrying the torch, this takes action.
Many times we like to listen more than act. Yet we say, "Action speaks louder than words." If our faith needs a practical expression, then we need our church. A vague belief in God, a few moments of something like devotional feeling and a good deed once in a while hardly show a real expression of the faith. Our Church is a treasury, a storehouse of centuries of accumulated wisdom in man's effort to relate to God and his fellow man. Our church is far more than an occasional baptism, wedding or funeral. It is the "ecclesia," a gathering of the people who have come together to worship the Triune God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We should be followers who have chosen to help and love one another as Christ Himself commanded. As a consequence of their belief in Christ as the Son of the living God, they have been baptized and received His precious body and blood regularly. They repent for their shortcomings which offend God and seek God's help and the help of their fellow Christians to do better.
None of us is so expert in our Orthodox faith that we can afford to ignore the Church. Truly, what we know of our faith we have ultimately received from the Church. Those of us who have received and cherish this heritage have an obligation, a duty, to pass it on to future generations. It takes the body we call the Church to achieve this goal. To take only for ourselves today and not be concerned for others tomorrow is selfish. For this reason, we need to be active and concerned stewards of Christ's body, which is His Church.
In the Gospels, God offers us a new life. The Church and only the Church brings the gospel to people. No other group or organization shares God's gift of life in Christ. Your support, your concern, your prayers and your commitment are necessary for our church to continue working in the Lord's name. As you reflect upon your Christian responsibilities, bear in mind His exhortation that:
"Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord, your God which He had given you."
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Dean Snyder at Foundry United Methodist Church in the District.

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