Remembrance of Prophet Elijah
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
In only 2 shorts weeks, our community will gather along with many other Chicagoland Armenian’s and guests in celebration and in the election of a new priest. Yes, as that individual I am both excited and haunted by the sheer responsibility of answering this call to the Holy Priesthood. This is truly a blessed celebration, as we ask God to ordain through the imposition of our hands someone, we the people choose to lead and shepherd us towards God. Yesterday, Bishop Daniel and I read over the prayers of the service in order for me to truly understand and embrace the meaning and something stood out to me. In each of the prayers, the Bishop is asking God to bless the individual but concludes with “likewise bless all those present” – all people. Repeatedly, the term and also us or and all who are present are emphasized begging the question, who is actually being ordained? Who is answering the call?
Whenever we speak about the authority or vocation of an individual who is becoming a priest, we ask, “when did you receive your call?” Ultimately this is what being a priest is, answering a call from God to serve – the Church, the people, God. Yet, this idea of receiving “the call” is very obscure to us as Orthodox Christians. It is as though for that one individual someone may have knocked on their door and said God is calling for you to be a priest. Or perhaps a phone call, maybe another priest seeing their potential made a comment. Perhaps the heavens opened up and an angel from above said you must become a priest. I don’t know – perhaps all of the above. The reason I don’t know is because “the call” for me was not like this. And unfortunately through movies and stories, we have romanticized what being called means or what being a priest is. We have blinded and deaf to the truth.
I once read a story about a gay prostitute who lived on the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you saw this person from behind, you could never tell that he was a man. Very well dressed, expensive clothes and wigs. And the way they walked, from behind you would say he was a woman. One day, this man, all dressed in women’s clothing walked into a Church. What drew him in he wasn’t sure. But, he kept coming back. Until one day he disappeared. The pastor, who had built a relationship with this person, reached out but to no avail. A few years later, as the pastor was preaching, a couple walked into Church. The woman was fair but the man next to her was big, muscular, hairy and gave the impression of being a lumberjack or construction worker. As the pastor preached he thought nothing of it, new people! Afterwards, this couple came up to the pastor and thanked him for his service. However, the pastor could not help but stare into the eyes of the man, whom he instantly recognized as the gay cross dressing man from a few years back. This man had completely changed his life. He had gotten married, come to faith, and had opened up his own business. However, because of his previous life, he was sick and dying of AIDs. Regardless, the pastor embraced and received this new couple into the Church and asked for them to continue coming back. One day, the pastor received a call from the mans wife. In a broken voice, she said that the man wanted to speak with him but was too weak. The doctor’s had given him a few more days to live – his sickness had taken over. Hearing the heavy breathing of the man on the phone, the pastor only listened, thinking of what he could say to comfort this man. But instead of praying for comfort or easy passing, instead of giving him final rites and saying that Christ would meet him in heaven, the pastor prayed that God give this man strength to be a witness to others of the life in Christ Jesus. My dears, that man lived for another 4 years and began a program to help homosexual and straight male prostitutes out of the life they lived and which was ultimately killing him and them.
My dear brothers and sisters, this man did not become a priest but he answered his call. God is calling each one of us. No matter how old we are, no matter what profession, what gender, what side of the world, what political affiliation, what color skin, no matter what, God is calling. No matter if we are on the lowest level of sinfulness or we are preparing to become priests, each one of us is being called. Because we have lost sight of our relationship with God, because we have created platforms and barriers, it is this truth that we have become blinded and deaf to. St. Peter calls us a nation of Holy Priesthood. Each one of us, who bears the name of Christ, baptized children – no matter if you preach from the pulpit with your words or from the back seat of the car with the life you live.
In the later of James today we read, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”(v.16) Yet, the righteous are those who are made righteous through faith in Christ Jesus. The righteous are those who listen and answer their call. A priest is not someone with special powers, or someone who is sinless. In fact the Church fathers teach us that as priests we are even more culpable and more sinful, because we know the truth and still fault. No, my brothers and sisters. God is the only one who makes us righteous. A life through the Holy Sacraments, a life lived through the Holy Church, a life in Communion with GOD bring forth righteousness – IF we answer his call. Philippians 3:9 – “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;”
My dear brothers and sisters, when will we answer “our call”? Serving one another, lifting each other up, sharing love and living in a life of repentance and continual communion with God. Christ came into our darkness and broke our chains. Christ came and healed the sick and called saying follow me. Christ stands in our tomb, as he did with Lazarus and calls.
And we are invited my dears to answer His call. To live a life of righteousness – to be a witness of Gods love, hope, faith and healing. To serve the Church, the people and Him. Therefore, yes in 2 weeks I will begin my new journey of answering my call, but my journey does not end there – because by becoming a priest I do not yet answer my call. No rather, everyday God will call me, just as he is calling each one of us. Today is Fathers day and we celebrate and remember those fathers and fatherly figures who have answered their calls, as physical, spiritual and fathers of all capacities. Let us answer our call, let us heed to the voice of God in everything we do, in the relationships we have with each other and with ourselves. Because only by growing in faith ourselves, will we be able to guide others. And together let us ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit to be upon us, to cleanse us, to open our eyes and hears to the righteousness of God, now and always forever and ever. Amen!
Therefore I ask, do we hear Gods call for us? What will our answer be?!