Sermon for Sunday March 1, 2020
In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit Amen!
A farmer who owned land and a horse, one day woke up to see his horse had run away. His neighbors came by and said, “you are very unlucky, or else your horse wouldn’t run away.” The farmer responded, “who am I to tell you what luck is, all I know is that God has a plan.” A few days later, the farmers horse returned, bringing with it 20 wild horses. His neighbors came by and said, “you are so lucky, because your horse ran away and brought back with it 20 wild horses.” The farmer responded, “who am I to tell you what luck is, all I know is that God has a plan.” These new horses needed to be trained and fed, so the farmers son went out to feed them. One of the horses got spooked and kicked the boy, breaking his leg. The farmers neighbors came by and said, “you are very unlucky, your horse ran away and brought back 20 wild horses. Those horses kicked your son and crippled him.” The farmer responded, “who am I to tell you what luck is, all I know is that God has a plan.” One day, a group of bandits came through the town looking for recruits. Seeing the crippled boy they had no use for him. The farmers neighbors came by and said, “you are very lucky, your horse ran away and brought back 20 wild horses. Those horses kicked your son and crippled him and so the bandits couldn’t take him away.” The farmer responded, “who am I to tell you what luck is, all I know is that God has a plan.”
I’m sure many of us have heard this story. An old Eastern story, which emphasizes the importance of seeing purpose in pain, the will of God in both the temporary success and in human suffering. As Christian’s, as children of God, we are taught that even though our loving heavenly Father desires nothing but good for us, because of sin, because of our own passions, we fail to live according to His commandments and thus in consequence we suffer sickness, pain, fear and even death. So where do we see the love of God in all this?
Today the Armenian Church remembers the greatest consequence of disobedience to God – the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. God, in His magnificence, through His love, created life gaving shape and purpose to the cosmos. And creating humanity in His image and likeness, commanded us to likewise love, meaning to take care of this world, to steward it, grow it, tend to it. And secondly, to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or else humanity would begin to die. Now regardless of our own personal beliefs regarding how creation took place, whether it was 7/24 hour periods or over millions of years, one thing as Christian’s we must know is that God created and ordained all life for a purpose and when that purpose was broken, there were consequences. In the Newtonian expression of physicals, every action has a reaction. However, when we see that God’s reaction or the consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin is expulsion from paradise, we struggle to see how and where God’s love is present in that punishment.
My parent’s were not brutes but they were not pushovers either and in my youth, I was not well behaved. Detention in school was so common it was an elective for me. Being suspended from school and getting into fights was a normal as going to Church on Sunday. Therefore, it is safe to say my parents exercised their right of discipline, one which I did not enjoy at the time, but I digress. In my 8th grade, half way through the year, I crossed a line and without going into details, my actions got me suspended and my reaction to my punishment led to me being expelled from High School. The son of a priest was expelled from a Christian school. Like Adam and Eve, my expulsion cut me off. So where is the blessing in my expulsion?
My dears, just like I did not understand the blessing of my parent’s discipline in that moment, because of pain or hurt I felt, likewise, I did not see the blessing of my expulsion until I graduated from my second high school. A school where I made life long friends and a school where I grew in my faith, where I did not get into fights and where to this day I remain connected to dearly. A school, which placed me on a journey that has led me to here, serving God in Holy Priesthood. However, when I, when we fall into pain, when we suffer, when we feel expelled from our joy, from paradise, in that moment we fail to see the even then, God’s hand is protecting us, God has a plan. Much like a child who doesn’t see that a parent’s punishment is not done out of anger or hatred but rather out of love, in order to guide the child from future and greater pains, likewise, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise was our Heavenly Father’s act of love, which we did not understand in that moment but was done in order to prevent us from further damage – greater pains. Like the story of the farmer, our vision, as children, is limited to that moment but what we are invited to do is remain steadfast in our faith to understand that God’s love is in our pain, in our suffering, in our expulsion from paradise.
When Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, what does scripture say? It was so that they did not eat from the tree of eternal life. My dears, by being banished in that moment from paradise and being cut off of the tree of eternal life, God did not allow for humanity
to eat of eternity in its sinful state or else, we would have remained sinful for all eternity. Yet, God’s ordained love, God’s providential love, knowing as a parent that we would sin, we would fail, He took us away, removed the potential for greater suffering and in our place sent Christ Jesus to suffer and die for us. God, Himself, came down to suffer and die in our place, in order to free us from sin.
My dears, as children of God, as we go through this Lenten season, we are invited to look past our earthly suffering and likewise, look past any success and joy we enjoy on earth in order to find purpose in it all as ordained by God. Yes, we will have ups and downs, we will have days of sorrow, pain and isolation, where we feel we have been expelled from God Himself. However, God never turns from us. God never leaves us in our pain just as God never left humanity even after sin. What remains for us to say is, just as the Father in that story says, “who am I to tell you what luck is, all I know is that God has a plan.”
My dears, let us look to find God’s plan both in joy and pain, expulsion and acceptance. Let us live according to His Divine commandments, to love one another, take care and tend to all creation. Repent and turn to Him, placing our hope in Him, in God who reveals all truth and breaks all chains and to whom is befitting all glory, dominion and honor. Amen!