Sermon for Sunday November 3, 2019 – 94th Anniversary of St. Gregory Armenian Church
Passages: Isaiah 22:15-24; Ephesians 1:1-14; Luke 8:17-21
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Life is defined by moments. These moments can be personal or corporeal. They can be uplifting, but they can also be painful. We can recall many moments in life like a first kiss, a first dance, first crush. We can reminisce about the moment of the thrill of the Cubs winning the World Series. We can reflect on where we were in the moment of 9-11. Perhaps we can remember the moment we heard about the crushing news of illness. Perhaps we can remember the moment we heard about the news of healing and prayer. I remember the moment of when the people of Armenia celebrated with the news of the successful velvet revolution. I remember the moment my bestfriend told me they were getting married. I’m sure many of us can likewise remember moments like these. Because life is defined by moments, which we must seize or let go astray.
This past week, once again we had such a moment over the joyful news that the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915 for what it was. And as I pondered of the emotions that many of us, our parents, grandparents have felt over this news, I couldn’t help but connect and reflect on this moment, where our beautiful parish is celebrating 94 years.
Where were we in that moment? I know that many of us were not even alive to be honest, when this community was formed. But we are the children and grandchildren of those people and of that moment, which ultimately paved who we are and what we are celebrating.
The prophet Isaiah today speaks about Eliakim – a man who was Godly and faithful and for which God made him into “a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his ancestral house…” (vv.23-34) God seeing the faithfulness of Eliakim made him a foundation for all his descendants to build upon and grow from and towards God. Much like the founder’s of this community, God seeing their faithfulness to build a communion, build a home – God blessed their work and made them “a peg in a secure place.” I wonder what that moment was like for them. Did they envision fully this family and where it would ultimately go, what that moment created? Perhaps not. Yet, as children of God, they faithfully created and laid the foundation, which we celebrate and enjoy today. So what about us? What foundations are we laying forth, what vision of communion, of faith, of family are we envisioning and creating for the next 94 years in this moment?
Perhaps some of us are saying “Der Hayr, this message is not for us in the Church today – we’re here after all.” Perhaps this message is better shared with our families and community members who are not here? No, my dear brothers and sisters. This message is for all of us because each one of us, no matter how dedicated, how successful, how blessed; no matter how sinful and frail and broken; no matter what committees we have served on in the past or will serve on in the future; regardless of it all, if we are here or not, whether we have 100% Armenian blood or not, each one of us must create first within our hearts an understanding that God blesses those whom are faithful always – because God is the God of ALL!
Eliakim was already faithful, but his continued faithfulness made him the tool that God blessed others with. Our forefathers, our founding fathers, created and built a community by coming together. Driven by love of family, faith and community they remained faithful, much like Eliakim, even in the face of death, they remained focused on the vision of what could be, for which God continued to bless them and those who followed. Likewise, us, whether we are here now or if we are at home – when we remain faithful, when we make Christ Jesus our foundation, as St. Paul teaches – God will bless us and our vision of going forward. What vision? Not one founded on our own agenda or on our own desires of leaving a “legacy” but on the real gift of faith given to us through Christ Jesus. A vision of acceptance, of love, of communion and of family. A vision that could be realized in every corner of the world. The same vision that our ancestors had in the deserts of Der Zhor, the same vision of St. Gregory the Illuminator and ancestors of our people, the same vision of the founders of this St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church parish. A vision of life after death, of hope in hopelessness, of light in darkness, a vision that can only be realized in Christ Jesus – who is faith, hope, resurrection and life – as I say every Sunday.
That is what we are celebrating today – that is what we celebrate in this moment and every Sunday as we gather in communion with each other. My dear brothers and sisters – how will we answer that vision? How will we remember this moment? Will we rekindle that faith, that vision, that hope found in Christ Jesus alone or will we let this moment pass us by like many other moments? What will we leave behind? What are we creating for the future? If we truly are the children of God, then as Christ says in today’s Gospel, we must hear the word of God and do it. (v.21)
Because the 94th anniversary of St. Gregory, this moment we are celebrating today is not about this building or the building on Hoyne Avenue. It is not about our festivals or the past leaders of this Church. It is not about whether we preach from the pulpit, sing in the choir or the Altar, whether we are Parish Council, Women’s Guild or ACYOA because that vision is the very real presence of God in our lives and of us living those lives in the presence of God. Where our gaze is on Him and we pray, as the psalmist says, that His gaze remains upon us and that he does not turn his face from us.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers – let us focus our gaze, our vision on Christ. Let us continually and faithfully serve not for what we can gain – but for what God can create through us. Let us celebrate not simple milestones of material wealth but the treasure of faith we received from our elders and what we pray we can pass on to our children. Let us pray for this moment. Today is our moment, how will we answer?