Sermon for Sunday May 5, 2019 Sunday of the World temple (Green Sunday)
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!
Christ is Risen. Քրիստոս Յարեաւ ի Մեռելոց. (Krisdos Haryav i merelots)
Step by step approaching the Holiness, the pressure was building. Beautiful angelic music in the background, the smells and sounds ultimately building to the excitement of the moment. The priest and everyone gazes upon them. Dresses in white, anticipation builds in the hearts and minds of everyone present. This scene echoes the first moments of what? A wedding. As the bride is led up to the Priest and her betrothed and a beautiful marriage is blessed. What else does this scene echo? The ordination of a priest. The candidates is being led to the Holy Altar to the priests, dressed like a bride in a white robe, preparing for a beautiful marriage blessing. Both are adorned in beautiful hymns and both ultimately are done publically, through the witnessing of each of us – the Church.
And today the Armenian Church is celebrating what? Sunday of the World Church. We are recognizing the establishment of our Church, which was given by God to us. And yes, in scripture we know the story that after Jesus resurrected and ascended into heaven 40 days later, 10 days after that was Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and they began to speak and teach. So what do we understand by the World Church? What about this imagery of the bride and priest? Ultimately continuing on last week, so what?
First what is the world Church? After all there are many versions of Christianity. And if we are recalling the world church than what is the difference between all those other churches and the Armenian Church? The differences are plenty and we can speak at length about them. And no we are not speaking about some Ecumenical council of Churches. Rather, when we remember the world Church, what we are ultimately speaking of his what the Church is.
What happened after the resurrection of Christ? Through scripture we read that for 40 days Jesus appeared to his disciples and to the people. People witnessed the resurrected Lord. Some recognized him, some did not. But the body of those who believed was growing. And people proclaimed what? The risen Christ. When we come to Church and learn and grow in our faith, we don’t do it to be “nice people” or to get into heaven. It’s up to God who gets into heaven and the world is full of nice people who don’t believe in God. That is not what the Church is for. Rather, when we come to Church, we are here as witnesses, we come here and declare that Christ Jesus, who was crucified and killed, who bore our sins and died, is resurrected. As the hymn says, “he trampled down death by death.” And through his resurrection we also live. That is the Church.
1 Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The Church, each of us, we are a chosen people, we are Gods people and we declare the wonderful deeds of who? Christ Jesus who took us out of darkness and into his light. That is the Church. A community of royal priesthood. The imagery of marriage and priesthood is symbolic of our own marriage and of our own ordination to the royal priesthood. Not a physical marriage or the priest up here. Rather the true bride – the Church, which is made up of us. Meaning we are the bride. And we are the ordained, meaning chosen people of God, we are of the royal priesthood. What is a priest? We all call upon God, we pray to God, we ask for Gods blessings, we want to serve God. We are a royal priesthood, servants of His creation. Physical marriage and the priest in the Church have their own place and purpose, and again we can always speak to the importance of that later. However, the so what comes ultimately when we begin to recognize that we have all been called to serve God, to declare to the world of the Resurrected Lord – to be part of the body, which is the Church, the bride.
Not by words alone, but as the Apostle teaches, “put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.” We declare by putting our faith into action. Faith has brought us to God. A faith given to all freely to choose. Yet, if we don’t act on our faith, use our faith, than it will diminsh. Faith is our love for God. And recognizing that love He has for us is what should create in us a desire to act on our faith in order for us to also grow in our love for Him.
How? Be kindhearted and forgiving. Be merciful to those who need it most. Stand up for those who are oppressed. We live in first world luxury and have first world problems. And yet, there are those who are around us struggling as if they were in a third world county – because of bigotry, sexism, racism, etc. These things defile the bride of Christ, these things make us unworthy and blind us of the royal priesthood. But the love of God continues and Christ appears to all of us, to become witnesses of His resurrection. In order for all of us to recognize our royal lineage and that we are the Church, we are the great witnesses bringing light into this darkened world. From our fonts to our funerals.
Though I started this sermon with the image of a bride and priest being led to the Altar, we are also led to the Altar two more times. When we are baptized and first become part of this body, of the Church; and finally when we are buried – as our casket is brought before the Holy Altar. These images, these actions ultimately are the reminder, of the realization that we are all invited to serve God, to show our love for God by spreading His love and light into this world and to ultimately declare that Christ is Risen from the Dead, Blessed is His resurrection through us!