Sermon for Sunday April 5, 2020 Palm Sunday
Zechariah 9:9 – 13; Philip. 4:4-7; Matt. 20:29-21:17
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
During coffee hour, as the pastor greeted everyone after Church service, he saw a new woman in their midst and wanted to introduce her and welcome her first visit to their small community. As the woman was introduced and the pastor said welcome, the lady put her hand up and asked if she might be able to say something. Surprised the pastor obliged and the women spoke, “I am not a person of strong faith, nor do I honestly believe whole-hardheartedly that God is always watching over me. However, I am also not someone who believes in coincidences. A few days ago, as I sat in my home and looked out on the rainy afternoon, I felt alone, isolated and in pain. I had no one to love and no one loved me in return as I have no children and my husband has passed for many years. After much thought I finally decided to attempt to take my life. As I prepared and climbed onto the chair, all I could think of in my head was, this is right, no one would miss me really.
Then I heard a knock at my door. I thought, ‘who could this be?’ And so I waited and thought it must have been a mistake. But again, a strong knock at my door. I figured I would ignore it and they would leave me alone. But again, a strong knock at my door! At this point I was irritated, who was this and why were they bothering me? I got down from the chair and made my way to the door.
As I opened the door, I didn’t see anyone at first until I looked down and saw a child standing there, smiling as he said, ‘good afternoon Ma’am, I am sorry to bother you. I am from the Church down the street and I wanted to invite you to join us for Sunday prayer if you can.’ He then handed me a pamphlet and walked away. As I looked down at the pamphlet, it had an icon of Jesus on it and it read , ‘I knock at your door, who will answer to let me in? For I loved you so much, I gave my life for you, so that you may live.’ That is why I am here today because I opened the door, when God was knocking.”
My dear brothers and sisters, I am sure some of you may have heard this story and whether it is true or not, the message of God’s presence at our doors and his love for each one of us is very real. This day, which should have been a day of great celebration, of joy and of breaking horizons, this day which celebrates Christ’s entry into the earthly Jerusalem where the Armenian Church conducts the rite of opening of the doors, opening of the curtain and our entry into the presence of God – this day, for many of us, feels lonely, isolated and cut off from that celebration. Every Palm Sunday for as long as any of us can remember, we faithful have gathered in Church as the priest has song the somber hymn of Open for us Lord – Բաց մեզ Տէր, where as children, we cry out to God and ask Him to open to us the doors of mercy so that we too can enter with Christ into the heavenly Jerusalem. Today, many of our Churches remain empty of the echoes of that hymn.
However, my dears, today remains a day of change. Today, I invite us to change our mindset and focus on a different “knocking”; of God knocking on our own doors. We often forget that our faith is a two way street. We come to God, we pray, we seek and we desire to build communion with Him, yet, the moment we step outside of the walls of the physical building, the instant we fall into distress and hard times or the moment we become comfortable and life gets easy, we forget God. We forget the words of our own prayers; we forget that our faith in God is not limited to the 4 walls and dome of the Church; we forget God. Yet, my dears, as much as we seek out God – we need to understand that God also seeks us out. For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. (Ezekiel 34:11) The difference is that God never forgets us. God does not forget us when we are not in the physical Church nor does God forget us when we turn our back and deny Him with our choices and lives.
Today we are in a pandemic and we can easily fall into the temptation of saying God has forsaken us or else this would not have happened. However, my dears even in this sickness, even in our pain, even when we feel like there is no hope and we might as well be dead, God is still knocking in order to enter into our lives. Why? The reason He knocks, the reason God seeks us out is because He loves each and every one of us and desires for us to live in hope, in love and in peace. Yet, how many of us are listening when God knocks vs. how many of us listen only when we feel like we need God? Life get busy. Work, relationships, school, family, etc. However, God’s presence must be felt in all of the aspects of our lives and at all times. Yes, my dears, in today’s world especially as we continue to live our Holy Week physically cut off from the Church, we must not lose heart or be dismayed because even now we are still with God, if, we live our faith and answer His call when He knocks.
God will not force Himself into our lives nor will he break down the door. He will keep knocking. Even if we think that we can just ignore it and He will go away; God will keep knocking. Even when we have become deaf to his call; God will keep knocking because my dears, God demands from each of us the same thing He gives to us: love and communion. Love for Him through Communion with one another. That is what Palm Sunday is about. It is about God entering into our lives and showing us His love and his mercy through Christ Jesus, who illuminates and opens our eyes. That is why the Gospel reading today begins with, two blind men who yell out after Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on us.” Christ moved with compassion, meaning love, healed their eyes and they began to see. Yet, what did they do after? “They followed him”. To follow Christ means to live according to His divine commandments, to love, forgive, repent, and show the same love and mercy we have received to those around us and to all creation.
My dears, we sing Open for us Lord, the doors of your mercy yet, we must also open our doors in order for God enter and to heal our eyes, hearts and minds – in order for us to recognize His love and mercy. Only then can we truly follow him, through a good life and a difficult life; in sickness and in health. Therefore, my dears I ask, do we hear God knocking? If we don’t, let us begin to remove the distractions that keep us away from God. If we do hear Him knocking, will we answer? Through the lives that we live, will we answer His call and allow Him to enter all the areas of our lives. Today is Palm Sunday; today God is knocking; today is our turn to answer, Amen!