“Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured.” ― Galileo

Passages: Isaiah 19:1-11, Galatians 2:1-10, Mark 12:35-44

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Diratsoo how do you know I have faith or that my faith is weak? Countless times when I have conversations with people and we speak about how genuine our faith is, the conversation leads eventually to well how can you measure how much faith I have or how much faith someone else has? What is faith? How do we measure it? Is it by the clothes we wear, the style, the length, the color? Perhaps it is by how big of a check we send to our Church or charity, or the size of the fellowship we host after Liturgy. Can faith be measured by the music we listen to or the people we associate with? Perhaps these are measurements of our faith, perhaps not.

44094689_2131403090510684_3331407575169105920_n-1.jpgI have always wondered why we as humans desire to quantify everything, even our faith. We measure our calories to lose weight, we measure recipes to make delicious food, we measure our heights and weights and compare it to those around us in order to find an answer to a question not worth asking. Some things are needed to be measured, because they give us a result we aim to achieve. To quote the great Galileo, our mentality is very much, “Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured.” However, I believe the question to pose to us here my dear brothers and sisters, is not how large is my faith but what is the aim we hope to achieve through our faith, by what are we measuring our faith?

I read a humorous yet, sad story about when white missionaries came to Africa. The missionaries brought with them the Bible, and thinking they are the civilized society, they decided to teach “wild” Africans about the Bible. They brought the Bible, the locals owned the land. So the missionaries said to the locals, “Let us pray,” and asked the locals to close their eyes and bow their heads. By the time the lengthy prayer was over, the missionaries owned the land and the African’s had the Bible. This story really resonates in my heart when I ask, what is the aim of our faith? Do we use faith to justify our mistreatment of our environment and others around us? Do we use faith to raise us up onto a pedestal and look down upon those “heathens” below us?

Strangely enough when I examine this “style of faith” I am reminded of the words of Karl Marx’s criticism of all religions but especially the Christianity of his day “religion is the opiate of the masses,” – that which puts people to sleep, which blinds us and numbs us to reality, while the ground under our feet is taken away. In the Gospel story today Christ speaks, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (vv. 38-40) These teachers of faith, externally expressed their faith and looked for rewards for their measured faith by praying longer and with more emotion, by making sure their presence was felt when they entered the room yet, internally the measurement, the justification they truly gained was as vile as the rotting bones of the dead in tombs, as Christ calls them later.

When I read this I can’t help but picture some of those televangelists who are screaming and yelling because they “feel the Holy Spirit within them.” Though I cannot judge them all, but many who listen to them and those who don’t pray with such fervor often wrongly wonder why their faith is supposedly “weak.” I would argue because the purpose of these teachers is not to enrich the lives of their flocks with God’s commandments and love, no it was to, as Karl Marx emphasizes, blind the people to a false understanding of faith, one completely based on external satisfaction.

In fact the disciples themselves were not far from this criticism either. After Christ’s ascension, many times we read of how St. Paul and the other disciples argued about circumcision, was it necessary or not? Eventually, coming to the realization, that the external expression paled in comparison if it did not reflect the internal faith – for in Christ there is no Jew, nor Greek, no male, nor female, no slave or free – St. Paul’s words which we read during our baptism. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters again I ask what is the measure and the purpose of our faith?

The purpose of our Christian faith is the person of Christ Jesus. To be in communion with God through Christ Jesus. Because by being in communion with God we share in the living Word of God. As Christian’s we are directly involved in the work of salvation, as co-creators and co-rulers. Christ has come and died for our sins. Through His resurrection we are raised to life by being baptized in the Church. However, unless we desire to go to God and be union with Him, our salvation will merely remain a long-winded prayer or hymn on paper. Our faith will become for us an opiate, artificially numbing us towards the need of a real deep relationship with God, yet in truth the sickness of our sin remains. And unfortunately, when we try to measure our faith by our emotions or lengthy prayers or whatever earthly measurement, we will always fail. Those prayers, those emotions all external expression should be a natural overflow of what is already inside us, of our union with God.

How does this union happen, how do we come to God? For this we look to the remainder of the Gospel story. “And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.”(vv. 41-44)

My dear brothers and sister, coming to God means giving up all we are to God without excuses, without an artificial consumer mentality that God needs our money or our feelings or our long-winded prayers. By literally laying down in front of God, God will raise us up. Who can tell me the Armenian word to worship? Երկիրպագեսցուք. It literally translates to “to bow down and kiss the earth.” As Orthodox Christian’s by participating in the sacramental life of the Church, humbling our selves to the point that we are bowing down and kissing the earth, meaning by confessing, repenting and approaching the Holy Altar and by taking the body and blood of Christ, we receive forgiveness of our sins, we receive the tools by which we become participants in our salvation through Christ, by which we join in union to God. The tools which then we receive here we must then take out there and shown through our actions towards each other.

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. What is the aim of our faith? When we have faith, we have been fed, we have drunk from the unending font, we have been clothed in the light and we have been freed from the shackles of death. And with that faith we must then feed the hungry, we must give to the thirsty, we must clothe the naked and we must be with the enslaved. And our Father who sees us doing these not for personal gain but for the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven, only then will we be rewarded. Only then will we find the true measure of faith- the love of Christ Jesus.

My prayer is my dear brothers and sisters, that we place our aim in God, to be in union with Him and to take his boundless and unconditional love to those who have been blinded and numbed by this world. Let us not measure our faith according to our standards but through Christ who became the measurement of Gods love. Let us not worry about the length of our prayers but the length of our hands. May we always give of us truly, even if it is only 2 coins worth. For God can take the smallest seed and make the greatest of forests. That is faith in Christ Jesus.

Amen!

Show me your faith…

Passages: Isaiah 66:22-25; Galatians 6:14-18; Matthew 24:30-36

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

There are certain things in life that should remain a secret. Then again there are certain things that should be celebrated and put on display. Recently, I was listening to a car insurance ad selling car insurance and potential clients are giving more inform21d.jpgation then necessary and the narrator kept saying, “Too much information is not always a good thing, we only ask etc.” And this reminded me of a story I had read about a child who had gone out with her mother one day. They had decided to visit a friend of there and the daughter feeling left out of the adult conversation was waiting for her moment to contribute to the discussion. The moment her mother and her friend paused and there was a lull, she loudly proclaimed that “Mommy can take her teeth out and put them in whenever she wants.” Thereby revealing an embarrassing secret of mother’s fake teeth. Truly there are some things in life that should remain a secret.

Often as adults, we keep two types of secrets, 1) something that is embarrassing or hurtful to ourselves or 2) it can hurt someone else. We keep secrets to protect those around us or to protect ourselves. What if someone finds out that I cheated? What if someone finds out that my spouse is struggling with gambling or alcoholism? These are painful secrets that we pray God guides us through. Yet, the truth is there is a secret that many of us, if not all of us at times, we keep in order to not offend others by showing ourselves. A secret that should be a secret in truth.

The truth of our faith in God. How many of us are truthful about our faith around our co-workers, our friends, or even perhaps the rest of our families? I remember me and my friends growing up, we would gather around a bonfire on the beach and play guitar and sing classic rock songs. Naturally at that age, apart from the music and friendship, we hoped to attract some girls. And in that moment, looking back, was I honest about my faith or did I think “don’t talk about Jesus, you’ll scare the girls.” We may say, “No Diratsoo that’s not me. I’m not ashamed or secretive about my faith.”

Okay, but let me ask it in a different way. What are generally accepted as the 2 most taboo topics that we must ignore in all conversations? Politics and Religion. But why? Two of the biggest topics that today because of misunderstandings and misinterpretation cause families to break up, wars to start, etc., we avoid these two? Politics aside, because religion or faith is a taboo topic we each silence God’s voice in our hearts and minds so that we “don’t offend” those who may not think like us. Sadly, if we were to look back at our conversations with each other, those people who come to Church, who are part of our immediate family, apart from Bible Studies, how many of our conversations revolve around our faith in Christ? And this is with people who do think like us, who do come to the same Church.

We shy away from our faiths. St. Paul writes to the Galatians, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak. An Armenian feast dedicated to the rediscovery of the relic of the holy cross on Mt. Varak, which had been buried there by Sts. Hripsime and Gayane so that it would not be destroyed by their persecutors. Do we take pride in the Cross of Christ Jesus?

We are afraid to offend others because what if someone finds out I believe in God, yet, we are not afraid of offending God? Imagine if your child denounced you in front of his friends, or a close friend or relative ignored you, because you were not accepted among the others? How would we feel? How can we therefore say we love God, we believe in Christ Jesus and yet, keep him a secret from others? Christ teaches, “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:31-33) Does this mean everywhere you go talk about Jesus? No, not necessarily. There is a time a place for that. But does our lifestyle, do our daily choices, our friendships and our surroundings reflect our faith? Do we gossip about others, look down judgmentally upon someone we disagree with? Do we curse those who curse us? Do we show favoritism? Do we go places that we know in our hearts is wrong, do we stand by and allowing bullying to happen? Do we put ourselves in a position where we willfully silence God in our heart so that we stop feeling bad for the sins we are committing?

My dear brothers and sisters, why are we keeping our faith a secret? Christ teaches us to love, pray and forgive each other like I have done to you. Feed the hungry, pray for your enemy, repent and be proud of your faith. So that when others see us, they look with wonder, what makes us so different, not “Oh you’re a Christian just like all those other ones.” This is how we understand Jesus Christ’s words, “And he said to all, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Lk. 9:23) Do we want to follow Christ fully, asking for God’s blessings in all aspects of our lives? Then the questions remains do we allow God in all aspects of our lives? Faith is not what we do behind closed doors, faith is not what we do on Sunday alone, faith is a seed, planted into the ground, watered with the sacrificial blood of Christ, and strengthened by the love of his resurrection light.

Faith is not a secret. It is a gift that must be put on display not arrogantly, but in love for those around us. Will we be accepted by everyone? No of course not. Will some people be offended? Yes, most likely. But what will we answer when Christ calls us? Because who knows when Christ will call us? “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

My dear brothers and sisters, show your faith. Show glory in the Holy Cross, which has been turned into a tool of life. And God our Father will look upon us and smile, just like every loving parent looks upon their children. For the love of God knows no bounds, for salvation has been given to all through Christ Jesus. And we, the children of God, are the disciples called to bring forth this revelation to all in this darkened world.

Amen!!