Sent Back for Our Benefit

God has graciously allowed these events for our benefit. That is, he has allowed, somewhat outside of the natural order of things, for a few individuals to come back from a temporary death, like Lazarus did, or in some other way to help relate to us who are still among the living, what awaits us when we die. Some were “sent back”; some spoke of what they saw as they were dying; and in one account—the most helpful—we have a much more complete account, continuing far beyond the few hours after death.

That being said, it is hard to even know what to call these experiences. Near-death experiences? “Near death” does not seem to fit so well, when some of these experiences not only neared death, but passed well beyond it. And I also will try to avoid the word “story”, since that might give it the feel of something fictional, something told around a campfire with a flashlight pointed up at my face. And indeed, many will be tempted to discount these stories, especially for the ways in which they are dissimilar. We will get to that, but the important point to make before we really get started is that these experiences were passed down to us for our benefit. The Lord allowed them for our benefit, and faithful Christians have handed them down to us. Most of these accounts mention this in some way, that they are for our benefit.

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Do We “Go to Be with Jesus” or Not?

Growing up, I gained a lot of experience with death, or at least, with funerals; my mother took me to every funeral we had in our church. Also, when I was not yet two years old, my younger brother died prematurely, only hours after his birth. I remember many times in my elementary school years: sharing with other children on the playground, or wherever else we had our serious conversations, about my younger brother who had died. How much my brother’s death and all those funerals impacted me, I cannot say, but death was always a topic of great significance to me personally.

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Service for St. Tikhon of Moscow

We celebrate the glorification of our beloved father Tikhon tomorrow, who did much to establish and organize the Church in America, but also guided the Russian Church through some of the most tumultuous times in its history, the Russian Revolution.

It is likely too late for this to be of help to anybody for this particular Sunday in October of 2022, and it reveals to you all how late these things are prepared here in Bend, Oregon, but hopefully, it will be of use later. I was tempted to not go to the trouble of “cleaning this service up”, but there were just too many awkward phrases that would not be understood, especially when sung in our services, that I could not resist going through and rewording: moving phrases around, placing particular words to be emphasized by the music, and similar other changes.

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Losing Our Lives for Christ in Our Hardships

For the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Church both prepares us for the feast with a special reading the Sunday before, and also, today, sends us off from the feast with a special reading the Sunday after. This past Sunday’s gospel reading, for the Sunday after the feast of the Cross, is what our holy Fathers want us to take away from the feast.

And actually, there was a reading the day before, too, for the Saturday after the feast, with the same theme. The theme of both of these passages is the practical application of the Cross of Christ to our lives. In Saturday’s gospel reading, Jesus says: When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father taught me, I speak these things.

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Going the “Extra Mile” in Forgiveness

The Gospel passage mentioned in the last post said, …if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. But, going the “extra mile” in forgiveness, in his first epistle, St. Peter says:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. And James echoes this same idea of “covering” the sins of others: …whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

This covering others’ sins is something we don’t think about much, though it has been around a while…in Proverbs, love covers all offenses, and elsewhere in Proverbs,
Whoever covers an offense seeks love,…

We not only are called to forgive, but to actively use love to cover sins.

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