Sermon for Sunday May 12, 2019 – Red Sunday
Passages: Acts 13:16-43; 1 Peter 5:1-14; John 5:19-30
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen!
Christ is Risen!
This past week, I was invited to attend a wonderful presentation of Armenian culture at the University of Chicago. It was presented by the Armenian Student Association, and featured music, dance, poetry and play. Armenian students of all ages, displaying and paying honor to the Armenian culture for a non-Armenian audience. It was beautiful to see how by reciting and sharing the vast treasures of Armenian cultural art was honored through each student and their expression. And I began to reflect on what it means to honor culture and people.
A few weeks ago, I lost a fellow friend of mine to cancer. And several articles and social media posts were shared, honoring this individual and the life they lived. This past week, the news was again filled shootings and murder. Unfortunately, it has become too much of a reality now a days and to combat this, attempts were made of focus being turned onto not those evils of the world, but rather on the hero’s, the victims. Those who sacrificed their lives for others. To honor the good, by focusing on the lives of these hero’s. So, what does this even mean to honor someone?
We learn from scripture, that we should honor who? Our mothers and fathers. Honor thy mother and thy father – Ex. 20:12 This commandment is unique, because it is the first commandment that gives us a promise. “Honor thy mother and thy father, so that your days will be long in the land that the Lord has given you.” Meaning so that you will be blessed. Well, okay today is mother’s day. Today, especially, we remember to love and to honor our mother’s as best we can. Kids make cards or gifts at school. We share pictures. We talk about our mothers. Yet, mother’s and even father’s both come in several forms. We have our biological parents. Mother’s who physically gave birth to us. We also have motherly figures like teachers and mentors. The Church is our mother – when we are born again from the baptismal font and we receive nutrition and discipline from her to grow in our faith. Likewise, we have Fathers and fatherly figures. We call priest’s – Fathers. We also have God, our Heavenly Father. So what is the criteria for this commandment, and a greater question I have is, what does it mean to honor them?
In the Gospel today, Christ is speaking about all judgment having been given to the Son and that by honoring the Father, we also honor the Son. (vv. 22-23) From this it is clear, that the Gospel is speaking about God the Father and God the Son – Jesus. By honoring the Christ, we honor the Father who sent him. So how do we honor the Son, how do we honor God, or our parents, mother’s and father’s, how do we honor our heavenly Father and even spiritual mother the Church? For those who have been to Armenia or the Middle East, or if you’ve had the opportunity to sit around the table for a dinner with those from Armenia and the Middle East, there is a beautiful custom of toasting one another. When Armenian’s drink a toast we say genats – meaning to life. And though some of these toasts can get longwinded and off topic, for the first 3 or 4 toasts, the sequence is always the same. First, a toast to the gathering and seeing each other – long and healthy life for each other. Second, a toast to the host – long and healthy life for our host. And third, a toast to our parents – long and healthy life or a blessed memory to our parents. Remembering those parents who have passed and/or are still present and expressing gratitude for all they have done for us, as their children. It is a matter of honor to correctly toast our parents and it comes from a special love in our hearts. Yet, something each of us often don’t underline or express, whether it is while we toast our parents or when we think about our biological and especially our spiritual parents – we have to begin from a recognition of being their children. And there is a nuance in this.
Who are we as the children of our parents, of God and of the Church? As children, we are the fruit of love, we are the ultimate expression of family. By recognizing everything that our parents have done for us. Staying up and waiting for us to come home, wiping away our tears from heartbreak, sharing in our joys when we succeeded. Sacrificing from them to give to us. There is a wonderful poem called, “My IOU to Mom.” And a beautiful line in it says, “I remember when there was 3 pieces of pie left and 4 hungry people and you decided all of a sudden you never really liked pie anyway.” Yes, some of those sacrifices were not appreciated until much later.
What about the blessings and sacrifices made by our Heavenly Father? The ultimate sacrifice being of Christ on the cross. When we begin to recognize all that our parents and especially all that God our Father has done for us, their children, we begin to 1) appreciate them much more deeply and 2) we desire to honor them.
For our earthly parents this may be by doing as they have done for us. By living life to the fullest with all the opportunities they have given us. By sharing with others about how amazing our parents are. What about our Father in Heaven? As children of God our Heavenly Father, how do we honor Him and the Church, as scripture teaches us today? Do we share our faith with others? Do we bless others as we have been blessed?
My dears to honor God our Father, to honor the Christ, to honor our mother the Church – we are called to be set aside from others. To be of a higher caliber and standard. How we act, how we speak, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves. If someone looks at us what image of God do they see? When we speak, whether it’s jokingly or in a serious conversations, what quality comes from our words? Christ teaches us to be perfect like our Father in Heaven is.
Does this mean no joking and constantly serious? No! Perhaps our understanding of a perfect child of God is one who does not fall or sway from the Churches teaching? No. Than it must be someone who is strong in faith and lives a pious a holy life? No. These are all ways to be faithful however, it is a matter of our hearts and choices. God in His infinite wisdom gave us earthly parents to learn from, to see and observe not merely a temporal relationship but also the relationship we have with Him. When we mess up and don’t listen to our earthly parents – is the love gone? No. When we pursue our own desires, and fail over and over again – are we cast our from our families? No. If we are a person who is not a perfect child, do our moms and dads say get lost? No. Than why would God our Perfect Heavenly Father, ever do that?
Our ultimate goal is to be in a relationship with Him. To honor the Son, to honor our Father, to honor our Church – we must desire them, love them, seek them out as they desire, love and seek us, their children. Because it is a recognition of our deep relationship with them. The love that He, God our Father has for us, and we desire to honor Him by also doing what he has done for us, for others.
Therefore, to understand how we honor God, I invite us to reflect on what quality of faith and life is it that we live with in order to honor Him. Every time we turn a blind eye to injustice and hatred – we dishonor Him. Every time we lie to ourselves and fill our lives with meaningless satisfaction – we dishonor Him. Every time we choose to turn away from His love – we dishonor Him. Yet, every time we repent and turn back to God’s love – we honor Him. Every time we show our love to others – we honor Him. Every time we come to the realization and He is my Father and I am His child – we honor Him. Share your faith not merely by posting it on social media but by acting it out. Love others not merely by feeling bad but by giving of your time, effort and money. And by honoring our Father in Heaven, just as we honor our father and mother – our days will be long and our blessings plentiful. Even in our darkest hour, even in our tombs, we will hear His voice and rise to life. I pray, therefore, in the words of St. Peter – let us “humble [y]ourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you [us]. [Let us] Cast all [y]our anxieties on him, for he cares about you [us]. Let us care for others as we have been cared for. Yes, today is mothers day and we honor all of our mothers and wish them genats – life to the fullest. Let us likewise remember to also honor our Father in Heaven and our Mother the Church, who gave us such wonderful earthly mothers. And by honoring them, through Christ Jesus, we too will rise with Christ because Christ is Risen from the Dead!