In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
This past week, all the children of the Armenian Church and nation across the world have watched earnestly about what is happening overseas. We have seen news of war, news of fighting, news of death coming from Armenia and Artsakh. Living here in the United States, as Americans, our attention this week also greatly focused on the Presidential debate and the
arguments made as to who could govern this country forward in the most prosperous way. Compounded with the ongoing pandemic, the end of summer, flu season, job loss, personal, financial, economic problems as well as, the health and well-being of our social, emotional and spiritual life – we begin to wonder what can be done, how can we cause change and bring positivity, justice, longevity, life, focus and healing to what is taking place?
St. Paul in 2 Corinthians teaches us to “Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (v.11) Mend our ways – agree with one another. It almost seems to simple what St. Paul is teaching us here, and what does it mean to mend our ways and agree with one another? I don’t agree with everyone around me, how can I live in peace? Or sure, I will try to live in peace but what if my version of peace is not the same as my neighbor’s version of peace or what if, as peaceful as I try to be, others are breaking that peace, so how could I agree with one another?
This morning as I started getting ready for Church, as I have been all week, I turned on the Armenian news and listened to the words of the President of Artsakh, Mr. Arayik Harutyunyan, who spoke about the recent bombing of an Azeri military airport. Though he was proud of his men and the armed forces, he made a very important statement – though the fighting continues on the front lines, I have told my forces to no longer strike into Azerbaijan for the time being because we do not want civilian causalities, we want peace and we know that even the people of Azerbaijan are captive of a totalitarian government. So imagine this leader, who is in an all out war holding back, assessing, understanding that the reality and darkness of war is horrendous for both sides, and though he is able to continue with bombarding, out of a true desire for peace, he is practicing restraint – he is mending his way to agree and live in peace. In essence his words are the words of Christ off of the Cross – Father, forgive them for they no not what they do – these civilians are forced into this war and they don’t know better.
How? How is he able to be so calm and restraint? St. Paul makes it very clear in the previous verse (5), “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” We, and all those who believe and declare that they are children of God, are baptized co-heirs and princes and princess of God All-mighty must always, daily, with each decision, with each word, choice, etc. examine ourselves and see where are we coming from, what and more preciously who is directing us? Are we bloodthirsty, arrogant, vengeful, and are we hateful and spiteful? Are we childish and misinformed? Are we emotional or tired? Or are we open to learn, to listen, to pray, to ask, to understand, to appreciate, to accept our own wrong in order to grow? I spoke about Artsakh and its president’s comments towards a ruthless and barbaric enemy; now compare his words and behavior to both Presidential candidates here in the United States? I don’t care who we each vote for – as a priest I am not going to teach politics – however, we each need to look at our elected officials, chosen by us. Do they reflect us? Additionally, who are we in the case of all these leaders? Are we escalating the negativity or truly wanting peace in our lives? Are we fighting a war in our heads or are we willing to act peacefully?
My dears, just as on a wide platform in both these examples, the same is in our own daily lives. When people hurt us, disagree with us and judge us, how do we behave, comment or react? If we fall on hard times, get sick, feel helpless or alone, how do we behave, comment or react? If we are children of God, if we are Christ’s as we believe we are according to scripture, through our baptisms – then we must begin every day by examining ourselves, by praying, by confessing and repenting of our sinfulness, by coming together with each other in unity and prayer.
That is why St. Paul ends today’s passage with “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” What Holy Kiss? The voghchuyn ողջոյն the “kiss of peace” which the Armenian Church, along with many other Churches practice every Sunday. Yes, perhaps with the pandemic we can’t physically do the “kiss” however, the beautiful words we declare “Christ among us is revealed – Kristos i mej mer Haytnestav” can still
resonate from our mouths, our hearts, our prayers because Christ is among us and is revealed to us every day, everywhere and every time we live, love, act, behave, repent, pray in peace Christ is revealed through us. That is how we bring healing, love, peace, comfort, focus, life, justice and all positive changes into this world – by beginning with ourselves.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, let us begin our days with self examination and prayer. Wake up and before you even get out of bed, say a short prayer asking for guidance and peace. Open the Scriptures and read what God is saying to us now, so that in our pain, in our darkness, in times of wars, uncertainties and confusion – we will remember this teachings. Let us gather in Church on Sunday and everyday continually praying for peace for each other, praying for peace for our enemy, for those who hate, persecute and despise us. Because by doing so, we will begin to mend our ways, we will begin to learn how to love, and live and agree with those we don’t necessarily agree with. We will learn how to be Christ revealed to the rest of the world who is in dire need of healing. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of our saints, we will have peace!