Passages: Colossians 2:8 – 15; Lk. 2:21
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Breathing heavily, he could hear his heart thumping in his ears. The pressure was building. He had not even stepped out on to the platform yet, and sweat was dripping down his face. He stepped up to the bucket of chalk and wiped his palms. Making sure he had fully covered his hands, he tightened his belt and made sure all his equipment was check. Moving up to the bar, he got under 850 lbs and got ready to squat. Controlling his breathing, he knew he was prepared for this lift. He was ready, he had the mindset, he had prepared, he was equipped to make this work. Holding in his breath, he squat the heavy weight. People cheered and screamed all around him, but all he could hear was silence, all he could hear was the internal voice, you are ready. And slowly but surely, he stood back up with what felt like the entire weight of the world.
Recently I saw an advertisement for police/security. It had 2 people side by side. One was a fully equipped soldier with a gun, bullet proof vest, combat boots and gloves. Everything to protect him and to get the job done. Next to him was a regular man, dressed in a green dress shirt, slacks, runners, regular wrist watch and cellphone. If you had seen him walking down the street, you would not say there is anything special about him. However, there was one additional thing on this advertisement. The civilian, had dashes on him, pointing out his hands, his eyes, mouth, ears, and cell phone. And the advertisement it said, we are all equipped to stop terrorism.
This idea and what it was emphasizing resonated with me, because it wasn’t about stopping terrorism or crime, but rather about being aware of how equipped we are to deal with such situations. Even with out own lives, whenever we face trials in life whether it is with our health, work, relationships, school, social justice issues, etc. we begin to question why God allows us to face crisis, pain, isolation and hurt. Our faith strains and we seek God either initially or eventually, looking for answers in our prayers for questions. Then we begin to question whether we are even able to handle the situation we are in. Some of us may use scriptural references about how “God will not lead us, where he cannot protect us” or “God never gives us more than we can handle” Yet, how aware are we of the truth behind those words, when we are isolated, when we are struggling.
St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians writes, “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.” He is warning us to not merely go after empty statements or slogans, philosophies. We spew out scripture; we quote poster boards, yet it falls on empty deceit. We put our hope in the words and not in the WORD, Christ Jesus. For this reason, St. Paul continues, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”
About a month ago, we looked at the vestments of the clergy in the Armenian Church. Each piece had a theological and practical application to it. Yet, ultimately the vestments reminded us that we are equipped by putting on Christ and through Christ we have been equipped to not only have faith but also to use that faith against the tyranny, against the pains and darkness of this world. The soldier, the civilian and the weightlifter are all equipped to take on the challenges presented to them. Through training, through an awareness of what equipment they have at their disposal, each of them has an understanding of their role in overcoming obstacles.
What about us? In moments of pain and sin we ask where is God? Yet, we don’t come to Church, we don’t pray, we don’t open the Word of God, our Bibles and we don’t speak to our priests. And when we do, it is either superficially or because we have tried every other means. Does reading your Bible cure cancer or feed the hungry? Does talking to your priest or lighting a candle make the pain go away? Perhaps not. But these are tools, they are equipment given to us to bring us to a place of awareness of how we are equipped through Christ Jesus to grow in our faith and to use that faith in overcoming our pain.
My dear brothers and sisters, Christ Jesus is born and revealed. Last week, celebrating Christmas and Theophany we understand that Christ was born. How aware are we of his revelation in our lives? How aware are we of the tools and training we receive in Church, from our baptisms, through the Word of God, to not defeat sin which has already been done by Christ Jesus on the Cross but to grow in spite of it. This is done in small ways and as well as large. We hear about someone miraculously being healed of cancer we say Praise God. What about when we see a child praying? What about when we see forgiveness and love being shown to someone? This is faith applied.
These are all applications of those tools we have been given. Sure a child praying doesn’t cure cancer. It does teach us however, that just like that weightlifter who feels like the weight of the world is on his shoulders, that when we feel likewise, through the person of Christ Jesus and the tools we have been given of faith, we are equipped to grow and use that faith to help this world grow. Christ is born and revealed, Blessed is the revelation of Christ and may that revelation create in us an awareness of faith.