Sermon for Sunday April 19, 2020
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Christ is Risen, Krisdos Haryav i Merelots!
At the age of 16-18, while we are still in the prime of our teenage lives, preparing for adulthood and getting out into the real world, what is one of the key things we desired? Something that was a staple and defining element to the independence that we seeked? Our driver’s license and the new car. Regardless, if you grew up here in North America or overseas, for majority of us, the first car was special.
Though truth be told, for most of us at that age, and perhaps even in the early stages of adulthood, our first car is rarely ever fresh off the lot and new. It may even have a few dents and the smell it comes with is not a new car smell. Regardless, when you show it off you tell me people this is my new car. The word new has a very specific meaning, yet, new can be understood in various ways. New could mean new to us, like a new car or new experiences. New can mean the latest or ever the greatest. New can often times also indicate the beginning of something – such as a newly married couple. Yet, how do we understand “new” within the context of our faith?
All throughout the Traditions of the Church – meaning scripture, prayers, hymns, theology etc. we read or hear about Christ making us new. St. Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The concept of a New Jerusalem being established at the end times is often said. Isaiah speaks “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (43:18-19) Our hymns testify to all creation becoming anew through Christ. Yet, when we speak about new in the material world, whether we receive something or experiencing something new – often times it is a replacement for the old. But within the context of our faith, new is not so much a replacement but rather a transformation and renewal.
What do I mean? In the Armenian Church the first Sunday after Easter is known as Nor Kiraki – New Sunday. Yet, what is new? The day of the week is the same. Perhaps, 2000 years ago, it was a “new” Sunday for those disciples who witnessed and saw Christ Jesus resurrected. Well what about us? Why is today known as New Sunday?
My dear brothers and sisters, Christ teaches, I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17) meaning what Jesus taught or did, His ministry, on earth was not new nor was it a replacement for the Old but rather it was an illumination or revelation in our hearts and minds – Christ transformed and fulfilled what was already there – Christ raised up what was broken. Christ took water and made it into wine; Christ took prayer and directed it as a more personal connection with our Heavenly Father; Christ took death and through His own death, transformed it into life because “new” in our faith means fulfilled, transformed, purposefully and ultimately renewed.
God in His love has already made everything perfectly and with purpose. Through sin, we became blind to that purpose and to His love and so we turned away from God and tried to justify life according to our own limited and already sinful ways. Yet, God continuing to love us, continuing to desire for us to join Him, gave us an opportunity to be renewed and transformed through Christ Jesus. God did not replace us; God did not wipe the slate clean or throw us out because we were defective. But rather, God desired for us to return, just like the prodigal son; God went out searching for us, just as the lost sheep; God created communion with us by physically communing with humanity and all creation through the person of Christ Jesus. That is why today is a renewed Sunday, it is a renewed opportunity, and we are a renewed creation.
Yes, my dears, through the pains and difficulties of life many of us will feel used, abused, broken, crippled and useless. We may feel unimportant in the greatness that is all creation and we all ask what is our purpose, what is my purpose in life? But Christ Jesus came and sacrificed himself in order to renew each and everyone us. Christ came to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and life to the lifeless. Christ is that fire through whom we must go through to be cleansed, the same way any precious metal is cleansed through fire. Christ came to teach us and heal us in order for us to find the purpose for which we have been created for. Not a new or replaced purpose but the original purpose, the original love which we see and witness.
A purpose for us having been renewed to also called to go forth and be a source of renewal for all others, for all creation. Young, old, sick, healthy, tall, short, black, white, male or female, ALL! – because the power of renew is in the power of God’s love for ALL creation. God’s love in the person of the Christ Jesus, who we must exemplify and share with each other. Not by preaching alone, but by loving solely.
Therefore, my dears, it is a renewed day and we are a renewed people to whom the resurrected Christ has been revealed. Though in the current situation we are in our homes – God’s love and our love is not limited by dry walls and closed doors. God’s love and renewal is available everywhere and at all times. However, we must desire to be renewed, with a greater desire than we have for new material toys, clothes, cars or experiences. As the prayer of St. Nersess Shnorhali beautiful commands –” When you come in glory, on that awesome day, Christ remember me. Making old things new, make me also new, livened and adorned.” Christ is Risen, Christ is revealed, Christ is here and we all ask that Christ renews us and lifts us up from our brokenness. So that together we can glorify him with the Father and Holy Spirit, Amen! Christ is Risen!