Passages: Isaiah 56:1-57:21; Ephesians 4:17-5:14; Luke 16:1-31
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!
During the season of Great Lent, one of the many practices that have developed over the years is the evening Lenten service. These services are conducted throughout the week and are known as the Rest and Peace – Hankstyan yev Khaghaghagan Jamererkutyunner. These are not in anyway Lenten services, however, in much of the world, they are regularly conducted during Lent, especially because of the beautiful words and melodies that accompany these services. In the Rest service – Hankstyan jam or Hsgoom, the custom is practiced of reciting verse by verse, the beautifully and poetically written Confession of Faith or Creed. 24 stanzas to reflect the 24 hours in a day. The 12th hour or 12th prayer states, “O Lord, Desirer of Good wills and performer of wills, let me not pursue my own inclinations, but guide me so that I may, at all times, live according to your good will. Have mercy upon your creatures, and upon me, great sinner that I am. «Gamétsogh paryats Dér gamarar, mi toghoor zis i gamûs antsin imo kûnal, ayl arachnortya ints linél mishd ûsd gamats kots parésirats, yév voghormya ko araradzots yév ints pazmaméghis».
What stands out to us about this prayer? How many of us pray the Lord’s Prayer, Hayr mer? And each time we do, we say “let your will be done” yegheetsi gamk ko. And we struggle with this. Wrestle with the notion of praying to God for healing, praying for an answer, praying for help and ultimately saying but let it be your will. By saying this I often wonder how many of us say it truthfully, trustingly vs. How many of us say it to use it as an excuse? What do I mean as an excuse?
This past week during our Lenten service on Friday, the movie we watched was a war movie. And two of the main characters were discussing death and God. The unbeliever said, I don’t believe in God because when I looked into the eyes of a dead soldier, I saw nothing, I knew there was nothing. And the faithful soldier laughed and said how convenient that must be for him, because he had the same experience and instead saw peace in the eyes of the dead soldier. Therefore, I ask, how many of us truly ask for God’s will or do we use it as an excuse to say, see nothing happened therefore, there is no God? And yet, St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer emphasizes something very important, desirer of good wills AND performer of wills.
The saint does not deny that God does in fact perform, does allow, does grant us our wills our choices. We read repeatedly in scriptures, ask and it will be given, ask in the name of Christ Jesus and believe that it has already be given. Yet, as Christian’s how are we supposed to understand this therefore? What about the will of God?
Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent; The Sunday of the Steward. A man, who had been entrusted with the property of his master and had been caught cheating. And when he was about to be fired, he used his position, his knowledge, his wisdom and the tools given to him to make friends with others in the community because he was looking out for his own skin. How many of us have acted like this steward? How many of us have used our talents, our position, our abilities, our tools, in a manner that does not glorify God, but rather saves our own skin? Maybe it by telling a half truth? Perhaps calling into work sick, when we just really want a few more days off work? We serve in the Church, we have gathered here in prayer and worship or downstairs in fellowship, how many of us have love in our hearts for those in here vs. How many of us judge each other, what we wear, what we think, how we sing, the color of our clothes and hair?
St. Anthony, one of the desert fathers says, “if you see someone sleeping in Church, do not wake them. Rather, lend them your lap as a pillow. Because we do not know what life they live that their only rest is found in the Church.” Yet, how many of us would look and say, “how shameful, they are sleeping in the Church.” If you want to find the greatest reason for unbelief in this world, it is those who say they believe yet, deny it daily by their lifestyles. My dear brothers and sisters, God desires to fulfill our wills, however, how many of us truly desire his? A true and faithful servant is one whose will is in line with God’s will.
We are blessed. With family, health, talent, position, wisdom, knowledge, a Church etc. Yes, those blessings also have difficulties with them. Not everyone’s health is perfect. Not everyone’s family is strong. Yet, what is our response? What is our responsibility as Stewards of this world? Because that is what we are. When God created the world, He made Adam and Eve, He made humanity stewards of all creation. Meaning we have a responsibility. A responsibility to love, to lift, to care, to serve one another as Christ has served and loved us. That is when MY WILL, our will is one with Gods will. If we truly want God’s will in our lives just as we pray, to see God, to be in communion with God, then we must begin by using what he has already given us, use what we have been trusted with to be the same blessing to others. If you want God to listen to our prayers, to fulfill our desires, to continue to bless us, then we must be accountable for those desires and blessings. And our accountability is in how we treat one another. Only then will we hear those blessed words from Christ Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master. (Matthew 25:21)”
My dears, we are half way through Lent? Where is our heart, our mind? Where is our will? It is not just by showing up to Church every Sunday. It is not just by writing a check to the Church. It is by being the Church to those outside everyday. It is by living the writings of God, the Word of Christ Jesus in the workplace, in the school, in the streets, everywhere. As St. Paul teaches, “Putting away falsehood, let everyone speak the truth, be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…be imitators of God, as beloved children. And thereby, we will become faithful servants, God’s will shall be done in our lives.