Conversations from the Heart

Sermon for Sunday May 19, 2019

Passages: Acts 17:1-15; 1 John 1:1-10; John 7:14-23

In the name of the Father…

Christ is Risen; Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ! 

Friday morning I got up around 4 am, in order to come to Church so that I could order an Uber to the airport for my trip to New York. I had planned my time and knew exactly when I had to be at the airport. When my Uber arrived, I got in and cordially greeted the drive with Good morning and thank you. I could tell right away, the man became unsettled or nervous. He asked my name and where I was going and checked with the order that had come in through the app. Within a few seconds he asked me if I am a priest. Naturally, being dressed in my collar shirt I answered politely yes, I am the pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Orthodox Church. “What is that?” he replied. “It’s kind of like Catholic but we’re a little different” I quickly answered. He then began to tell me how he knew there was a God but struggled with his faith and was wondering if he could ask me some questions. I obliged. This was a gateway, one I am very familiar with and one I enjoy. However, as we spoke, I paid attention to the road and I felt that he was definitely taking the long way to the airport and kept saying, I wish this drive was longer since I have so many questions. In my head I’m thinking “yes but I’m going to miss my flight.” Thankfully, I did not. I just barely made it as they made the final boarding call.

This scenario of being confronted with questions everywhere I go once people know I am clergyman is familiar and honestly I do enjoy it. Not because I always have the right answers. Rather, I enjoy it because through conversations I create an opportunity to learn. Learn about people, learn about myself, and ultimately to learn about God. 1John 1 reads that, “…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin [then we have fellowship with God].” We understand the in order to be in communion with God and to be in his light, we all, each one of us must be in communion through the blood of Christ – Holy Communion, and second in communion with one another. The joining word used is and. Not, if you would like, or, nor any other joiner. Rather, both of these points are emphasized and necessary in order to have a true life of faith done so through a both real bonding with the Church where we receive Holy Communion and with those outside the Church. It does not speak about level of education. It does not say, purity of life. It does not speak of political persuasion or job title. Rather it teaches us that the most important practice, the way to a truly deep faith and a way to obtain a pure life is through the relationship we have with each other and with Christ Jesus. Because through both these things, Holy Communion and our relationships with one another, we begin a process of learning and educating, of our hearts, minds and souls.

The Uber driver ceased the opportunity of having a priest in the car to ask personal questions about his faith. How many of us invite our own priest into our homes or seek a one-on-one opportunity to sit and talk? Too many of us worry about what we will feed priest instead of worrying about how the priest is the one who is coming to feed us. When we gather in Church and participate in Badarak, we listen to the prayers and hymns. We also add our own prayer and seek to strengthen our understanding of God. We enter into a conversation with God – prayer. We are than invited up as baptized Christian’s to partake in Holy Communion – the body and blood of Christ, which was given to us as a sacrifice. Hopefully all this ignites within us a flame that we want to grow and so we continue to also grow a relationship with our priest. But what about everyone else? I just said, that there are two necessities.

When children are mean and do wrong towards on another, we teach them by saying “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” What about as adults? I seldom think we use this approach. Yet, as adults, as men and women this approach is much more of a necessity because we understand what it means to be misunderstood. We understand what it means to lose, to be frustrated and hurt. We have a lifetime of battles that we struggle with. And yet, in the most cliché of ways, when we say “hello how are you,” do we mean it or are we merely trying not to appear rude?

Last week, the young adult Bible study spoke about forgiveness and that true forgiveness begins when you desire the good for the other through empathy, love and hope. But the way we do this is by physically creating bonds with each other. Knowing who the person next to us is. Not just by name but on a much deeper level. That is why God came to us in the form of a man – in Jesus Christ. To know us, to share with us, to hunger and thirst as we do. And that is what we are being called to. This does not mean we agree on everything or that life all of a sudden becomes easy. No. But by being in Communion with Christ and with each other, by having conversations and relationships we begin to build. We begin to build and grow understanding that it is with each other that we continue to strengthen.

Therefore my dear brothers and sister, I invite us to create and utilizes opportunities to truly understand and put ourselves in each others shoes. Having honest conversations with God through our prayers but also with each other. Today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Apparition of the Holy Cross. When at noon on May 19, 351, a bright, luminous cross, appeared over the skies of Jerusalem, centered over an area spanning from the Mount of Olives. Awestruck, the faithful of Jerusalem rushed to church to give thanks and glorify the Lord. My dears do we desire to see the cross in our lives? To see the light of God span over our homes, places of work and relaxation? Then let us place our gaze upon the Altar of God, let us approach with a sincere heart and a desire to understand and learn. Let us participate and receive Holy Communion and be fed by the word of God. And let us use the opportunities given to us by God – whether in the Uber, at work, at school or wherever we may be to then take that love to all those around us. For Christ is Risen from the Dead giving life to all who seek him and believe.

Amen!