Lifting Up Our Cross (Children’s Sermon for Feast of Exultation of Holy Cross)

Children’s Sermon

Passages: Isaiah 49:13-23; Galatians 6:14-18; John 3:13-21

In the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit, Amen!

 Who can tell me what cross is in Armenian? And who can tell me what this is? (Basil) Bonus points if you can tell me what it is in Armenian? (Ռեհան) Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. It is a very important feast and one that all Churches around the world celebrate together. But who can tell me what exulting means? Glorifying, raising up, celebrating. Right after the sermon today, you will see me lift up the cross and I ask God to bless the Basil, everyone here, each one of you, our families and friends, and even all the people in the four corners of the world.

There are many types of crosses right; some bigger, some smaller. How many of us have seen maybe a cross at home? Or in Church? There are a lot right? Maybe we have a cross that we wear around our necks? As a priest I get to carry a cross in my hand as a tool. I use it to bless people, to help people. Is this a cross? (show knife) And if it was bigger it would be a sword right? Knives, daggers and swords are used more for fighting, or hurting. They are weapons right? But what happens if I turn this knife upside down? It looks like a cross. When we think about a cross, just like the ones at home, the ones on the priest’s clothes or hand, we always look at it like this. Yet, the cross needs to be seen from every angle in order for all of us to understand what it is used for and why it is important for us Christians.

This looks like 2 sticks together right? But the cross that we are exulting, raising up, is a more than just two sticks put together. The cross that we use to bless and have in our homes and maybe even around our necks is a shield that we use to protect ourselves but it is also a sword that we use to protect others.

But that’s not what the cross was always. Who can tell me what the cross was? Where do we see the cross the first time, what is it used for? When Jesus was crucified, when Jesus was killed for our sins. That sounds horrible, right? But Christ Jesus did that because of his love for all of us. Me, you, your families and friends. God’s love iss so powerful, his compassion iss so deep that, in order to free us from our sinfulness, He came and died for us. And when Jesus did that, He picked up his very heavy cross and carried it with him. But he taught us something very important, He commanded each one of us to also lift up, to raise up our own crosses and to follow Him through our actions.

Is this cross heavy to carry? (give my hand cross to someone) No, its pretty light. What about this cross? (The processional cross) It’s a bit heavier. See being a Christian, as Christ says, is we have to carry our own crosses. And sometimes those crosses can be very heavy, sometimes they are lighter. Some are small, some are large. Sometimes they feel like shields that we use to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Sometimes they feel like swords and knives that we have to use to defend and fight evil. Because to be a Christian, to follow Jesus and carry our cross isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of work and sometimes we don’t want to do what it takes to be a Christian – we don’t want to carry our cross.

Who can tell me an example of something that is hard to do but Jesus teaches us that we have to? Being kind and loving to someone who doesn’t love us back. Forgiving someone who has hurt us, even when they don’t say they’re sorry. Listening to mom and dad when they tell us to do our homework or that we can’t go out with friends even when we really want to. Standing up against a bully and helping someone in need, even when it’s not the popular or cool thing to do.

These things can be very hard, but these are examples of how Jesus Christ is teaching us to lift up our crosses, to follow His example, and as St. Paul teaches us today, to take pride in our crosses. Jesus carried his cross to death because he loved us. And to show him we love him also, we must lift up our cross and ask him to be our strength when it becomes too heavy to carry.

So my dears, I want us to remember what the cross is every time we see it. Anytime we see the cross in Church, at home, every time we cross ourselves before we pray, we cross ourselves when we pray and ask for God’s protection and help. And when we cross ourselves what do we say Hanoon, Hor yev Vortvo, yev Hokvouyn Srpo Amen – every time we do this, we should remember that God loved us so much that His Son Jesus Christ came down and took up His cross and died on it. And we love God so much that we as Christian’s also are called to take up our crosses and to love everyone the same way he loved us. No matter who it is. Because being a Christian, being a follower of Jesus is not always easy but it is always filled with blessings and love.

Now as we get ready to bless everyone with the cross for this feast, I have a small gift for you each. These are small crosses that were made and blessed in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where Jesus was born and lived and died. And every time I lift up the cross to bless the world, I want you all to also lift your cross up and help me bless the world too. And then when we finish today, take these crosses home with you, keep them in your pockets, backpacks, purses or wallets, and every time you see it, or every time life demands from you something difficult, I want you to remember that as Christian’s we are called to be different, to be a light in this dark world – to protect and defend. To be love in the face of hate and hope to those who don’t have hope. And every time each of us do that, we begin by lifting up our crosses and following Jesus, whom we glorify and exult with the Father and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Family Tree

Sermon for Sunday September 8, 2019
Passages: Isaiah 61:9-10; Galatians 3:24-29; Matthew 1:1-17; Mark 7:31-37

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

Who are we and where do we come from? This question can be viewed from several different places. The existential idea of where did life begin, what was it like and ultimately leading us to understand who we are as human, as men and women? This is one way to address the question. Another may be from the cultural aspect or maybe our family tree; Our genetics and predisposition to certain illnesses. Today, I am sure many of us have participated in the 23 and Me, Ansestory.com or other such DNA databases, which can answer these questions on a more biological or anthropological level. Knowing our dynasty and our lineage is a powerful thing because for many of us it can describe who we are as individuals. And knowing who we are is vital in our growth and development. It’s no wonder that some of the greatest philosophers and thinkers of the ancient world emphasized this idea of “know thy self.”

In fact this is so important that the very first chapter of the very first Gospel found in our Holy Bibles begins with the lineage and family tree of Christ Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew – starts with “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (v.1) To understand why Matthew begins this way, we need to understand that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel for a Jewish audience. And for Jewish listeners and reader genealogy was extremely important. If you ever get a chance to read the Old Testament in full, you will see how many times family trees are described. What is unique about Matthew’s genealogy compared to the others found in the Old Testament is that it contains the names of women. Who are these women? Tamar, Rehab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. They are neither Jewish and if we examine their lives, they were in fact dishonorable and extremely sinful women. The only honorable women mentioned is the Virgin Mary, as the genealogy concludes with “…Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” (1:16) So what can we understand, what is our take away from today’s Gospel?

My dears, what kind of people did we say were listed in this genealogy? Sinful, prideful, adulterous, arrogant, vengeful, law-breaking, etc. Abraham, called by God “the father of many nations,” lied to his wife, twice. David, known as “a man after God’s heart,” is also an known as an adulterer and murderer. Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, was the one with whom David committed adultery. Rehab was a prostitute, Ruth entered into a marriage forbidden by Jewish law, the list goes on and on. Yet, out of this family tree, a sinful and frail tree was born the sinless and salvific Lamb of God – Christ Jesus.

St. Severus, a 6th century Patriarch of Antioch notes “By this means the genealogy revealed that it is our very sinful nature that Christ himself came to heal. It is that very nature which had fallen, revolted and plunged into inordinate desires. When our nature fled from God, he took hold of it. (exile) When it dashed out and ran away in revolt, he stopped it, held onto it, enabled it to return and blocked its downward spiral…Christ therefore took upon himself a blood relationship to that nature which fornicated, in order to purify it. He took on that very nature that was sick, in order to heal it.” Another one of our saints writes – Christ taking on flesh and sin did not become sinful but rather cleansed humanity of its sin. Like a piece of broken and dirty metal going into the furnace, it does not break or pollute the furnace but rather, the metal is melted down and made new.

My dear brothers and sisters, we are all sinful. Every day we require the love and healing of Christ Jesus – the fire that melts our impurities away and shapes us into the tool by which we become a light in this darkened world.

Today the Armenian Church celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary. Mary was not sinless, nor was she special. Yes, she is the only honorable women mentioned in that genealogy, but she was sinful. Rather, she was cleansed and purified when she willing became the vessel through which Christ came into this world. And my dears we too are called to his. If we work with God and willingly act, speak, think, feel the way He commands us to – we each become a vessel through which Christ Jesus enters this world. Through the Grace of God, no matter how broken we are, are much we struggle, how much darkness we are surrounded with, no matter what decisions we have made in the past, no matter how many times we have fallen and sinned, no matter how high in power, statues and riches may have achieved in this life – every day, every moment, every second God gives us the opportunity to choose Him, to choose to be healed and to be healing in this world. Does this mean we will never again fall or fail? Absolutely not! However, through God’s love we are given again another opportunity to try again and again and again!

So if we want to know where we come from, if we desire to learn about our past in order to know who we are, I invite us to look at St. Pauls words today which teaches us, as baptized children, “you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Therefore, my dears, if we are of Abraham’s offspring, then we also belong to the lineage of Christ Jesus. We belong to the family tree of Christ Jesus. We too are of royal blood. A blood, which was spilt for us on the Holy Cross through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. A sacrifice through which we are given the opportunity to choose to rise and to be a light in this darkened world. Let us remain vigilant and prayerful and continue to ask God to teach us His ways, to lift us up no matter our shortcomings and to make us instruments by which we will bring glory to Him, to Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Amen!