Every Action!

Sermon for Sunday August 25, 2019

Passages: Proverbs 11:30-12:4; 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1; Luke 1:39-56

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!

 Growing up one piece of advice my mother always shared with me was “don’t boast about your achievements, let others speak about you.” These humbling words from the very beginning taught me the importance of acting out of kindness, love and compassion. How we treat each other, ourselves, the environment, everyone and everything – our actions speak louder than words as the saying goes. Actions that others see, imitate and speak about. Of course, this is nothing new. Almost every Sunday, we hear that as Christians, our actions must be a reflection of the faith in Christ Jesus we profess with our mouths. But what kind of actions?

Only a few short months ago our community prepared, did the work, for the celebration of an ordination. A few weeks ago, again our community prepared and held a successful annual summerfest. Both very different types of events, yet both ultimately which display our actions of our love, dedication and commitment to our Church, our community and ourselves.

Maybe we didn’t volunteer here but we do other kinds of work. Volunteering to help the less fortunate, helping out with organization which strive to make this world a better place. What if we do things on a smaller scale but just as impactful? Spending time with our families, listening to them, being with them at the best and worst of times. Passing a beggar in the street and not judging them but remembering them in our prayers and if we are able to, helping them out with something to eat or drink? What about not being wasteful with food or trash? Caring about our environment and our surroundings.

My dear brothers and sisters these are the actions I speak of. Every action impacts our soul. A soul that God has given us. A soul that our Ever-Virgin blessed Mother of Christ, Mary says “all generations will call blessed…” What did Mary, a teenager in 1st century Palestine do that gives cause for all generations, meaning all people throughout the years, to call her blessed? The easy answer is she gave birth to Jesus Christ. The difficult answer is she gave birth to Jesus Christ.

In order to understand her words to Elizabeth more clearly here, I invite us to also look at Prov. 11:30 – “the fruit of the righteous is the tree of life, but lawlessness takes away lives.” Last week we celebrated the feast of Assumption. And during the sermon I spoke about how our Church fathers teach us of how by Eve death came into this world and through second Eve, meaning Mary, life was restored. Their actions had consequences. Mary’s humility in accepting the angels news to become the vessel through which Christ Jesus would be born, exemplifies for us, that through the seed in her womb, she became righteous and she gave birth to Christ – our source of life. Her words to Elizabeth in other words are clearly understand because her soul “magnifies the Lord, and [her] spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.” Mary, being only a child, having nothing to offer, being of low estate, is blessed by all nations because she through her humble actions and her faith glorified the Lord. She became the tool by which Christ Jesus came into this world to give life. She became a temple. And the Lord seeing her love, humility, compassion made her praise worthy, rewarded her not only in this world but in the heavenly world as well.

My dear brothers and sisters, what are we offering to the Lord? What seeds are we planting and what will fruit will they bring forth? Especially each of us here, who proclaim with our lips of our faith in Christ Jesus, we who are baptized children of God, what fruit do we bear? St. Paul asks, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (v.16) Let us think, how are we different from those around us? Are we compassionate, loving, charitable? Do we forgive and love without condition? Do we repent of our actions and ask for God to work through us in our neighborhoods, our families, our Churches and our communities? Are we more concerned about public policy and comments on social media or do we act and speak words of acceptance, love and hope? Ultimately, do our actions, like Mary, give birth to Christ Jesus in this world?

As families of people who have survived genocide, persecution, hatred; As the children of those who built Churches and communities, even in the desert – we remember them for their love and dedication. They gave us the opportunities that we have today. We are their faith’s legacy…what will be our faith’s legacy? Do our souls magnify the Lord, and what will generations say about us? Because when the world sees us my dears – they must see Christ. And when Christ sees us, he will boast of about us, he will call us his worthy servants and reward us.

Let us therefore, not boast about our works but humbly act, speak and put our faith to work – and others will speak of what we have done. Christ Jesus will speak of what we have done. And our prayer is that on that faithful day, we will hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant” And as those servants, may we continually glorify and praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

My Salvation

A man prayed for 10 years to change the world. After 10 years he began a new prayer, praying 10 years to change his country. After 10 years he began a new prayer, praying 10 years to change his community. After 10 years he began a new prayer. He began to pray to change himself. My dearest brothers and sisters, I cannot express the great joy that is in my heart today. Joy to have rejoined you my family. Joy to greet you as Der Andreas. Joy to acknowledge that I am truly blessed to be part of this body of Christ. A joy only made greater and climaxed through the joy of celebrating Holy Badarak. And today’s celebration of Badarak comes on one of the most blessed feasts the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary.

Truly I say this is one of the most blessed feasts because it shows an immediate participation of us, humanity, through Mary in the salvation of the world. All of the great feasts in the Orthodox Church teach us and remember the present reality of Christ Jesus and the salvation He brought to us through his death and resurrection. Yet, today by remembering the ever-virgin Mary, we see that each of us must also play an active role in that salvation.

Having just been ordained into the priesthood, I am sure many-many of you wondered as to what it was like to spend 40 days after ordination in seclusion. No phone, no Internet, no family, no real connection to the outside world and its distractions. As our Primate and my spiritual Father Bishop Daniel mentioned, those 40 days are meant to be a time of reflection for all of us. Through prayer, fasting, meditation and contemplation each one of us is called to place our faith in Christ Jesus and to humble our egos allowing God to work through us.

Having come out of these 40 days, sadly I was again greeted by hearing about mass shootings, hatred, and racism. Undoubtedly when we see and hear about these atrocities whether on a large scale or perhaps on a more personal level, we begin asking why and how much longer? Why don’t our politicians or police, why don’t those people in charge do something? Tougher gun laws, more in dept screenings, taking away the guns – are all slogans we hear. Yet, my dear brothers and sisters, how many of us stop, reflect, and pray that real change can only come through the individual and not the system.

When we go to the doctor because of a sickness, does the doctor treat the entire body or a specific area? A specific area because by healing the cells, by healing one area, the entire body finds relief. Likewise, the same is with our world. Instead of worrying about changing the world God invites us everyday to begin by changing ourselves. Instead of shouting through the streets in protest, God wants us to use our mouths to spread love. Instead of holding onto false hope in the material and temporal, God is calling us to hold onto each others hands, to lift each other up, to bring salvation into this world.

The Holy Mother of God, humbled herself and her understanding, and became the vessel by which God came into this world as Christ Jesus. We to must humble ourselves and become vessels for God to come into this world. Regardless if we are priests, men, women, children, choir members, Altar servers, dues paying members, whether we are living in luxury or suffering quietly, each one of us is called to be an active participant in the story of salvation. And that is the greatest joy in the world – to know that God loves me and I love God and my love of God is something I can share with everyone.

St. Anthony the Great teaches us that “our life and death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God. But if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.” My dear brothers and sisters, how do we treat each other and the ones we don’t know? How do we treat ourselves? Do we want to change the world? Do we want to see how communities grow? Do we want to see St. Gregory Armenian Church prosper? Then we must begin like the Holy Virgin Mary, praying and saying “let it be to me according to [Gods] word.” And the word of God is Christ Jesus – who calls us to repentance, to humility, to forgiveness and to love.

If you’ll notice, none of those things are based on feelings – they are all actions. Our faith demands action. Because actions are the fruits of our faith. These grapes which we bless today, we pray produce fruits also in us of our faith – produce actions not just feelings. Starting with our own hearts, minds, mouths, feet and hands. Those actions grow from this joyful celebration of Badarak and must continue out the doors and in this world.

Therefore, as your new priest I invite us all today along with my clergy brethren, let us look to the gift of salvation that has been given to us. Having received this blessed let each one of us take it and change the world. And doing so we will continue to glorify the Father, the Son Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Amen!