In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
As a priest, I have often said, one of the most difficult things do is prepare a weekly or sometimes even daily sermon. What makes it so difficult is because each of us here listening, are at a different place in our life. Some of us are heavily concerned with the elections; some of us are concerned with the pandemic; some of us are concerned about what the war in Armenia and Artsakh; we are concerned about the unknown future. Still there are some who are concerned about how they will pay their bills, put food on the table, buy warm clothes or even where they will sleep tonight. Therefore, if we are all in such different places in our life, and even more so with our faith, what kind of message would speak to each of us?
Repeatedly, in scripture we see how Christ Jesus answers the questions or concerns of his listeners in very strange ways. He teaches something that seems confusing or bizarre when you hear it. A man asks Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18) That’s not what was asked. Or in the Gospel today we read that Christ goes into the home of a man whose daughter has just died and rather then console or express sympathy, Jesus says “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” (v. 52) Clearly everyone sees the girl is dead. Everyone is weeping, the family is in pain, the lifeless body of the girl is laying there and yet, Jesus tells them something that on the surface level makes no sense.
Of course we as Christian’s know that Jesus is saying this because he is about to bring the child back to life. We know that Jesus Christ is God and He will heal all those who are sick, who are blind, deaf, and paralyzed. We know that Jesus raised Lazarus also from the dead. We know that ultimately, Christ Himself rose from the dead promising life to us who believe. We know all these stories, we know what Jesus does, and yet, when it comes to our own lives we don’t know or we choose not to know that Jesus Christ continues to do the same for us. We act like those who hear what Jesus says and think what nonsense – “And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.”(v. 53) Or we listen but because we don’t hear the answer we want, we say, “see the Church or our faith doesn’t cover relevant issues. It’s just a personal belief full of metaphorical stories or philosophies.”
My dear brothers and sisters, regardless of what kind of concerns we have in life or how strong our faith is in that life, the Church, Holy Scriptures, Christ Jesus is not going to tell us who to vote for, or what to do when there is a pandemic or war. The Word of God is not a manual, it is not Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (BIBLE). Nor is it a textbook, or a Hallmark card we open to feel good. The Holy Church is not a place we gather to only hear stories of a good teacher and what He did in the past. What we learn here, what is preached through the Scriptures in Church is about our communion and purpose with God in this world. God knows and sees what the world is like; He knows each of our own needs and necessities; He knows where in life we are and what it is that we need to keep moving forward.
The prophet Isaiah writes, “…The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth…”(v.4) God knows about our pandemic, about the election, about the war; God knows who is struggling with drugs, alcohol, or other addictions; God knows who is stressed about paying bills or keeping the house warm. God knows and He will take care of us – just as He brought back the child, because God is actively present in our lives. What we must do, what the Word of God through the Church teaches us to do is to trust God by remaining Holy, remaining in communion with Him. St. Paul says, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (vv. 15-17) That is why St. Athanasius, one of our beloved Church Father’s, teaches “God became man so that man would become God” (On the Incarnation)
My dears, the will of God is for us to be perfect like Him. Not perfect according to our standards but as God defines it, which means to love, to create, and to build. The will of our Lord is for us to repent from our life of sin and live a life not void of concerns but full of God’s presence. This is done by how we live this life. What kind of decisions, what kind of response or reaction we have to the negativity or struggles of our life. Are we hopeless or do we knowingly believe God will help us? Do we hold our tongues or lash out on social media or in person? Do we judge the beggars in the street that come to our car or do we see Christ in that person? Do we use our bodies for momentary pleasure and deny the true beauty we are created for or do we honor the Divine image we are created in and the Spirit that lives in us through our baptisms? Are we being loving in the face of hatred and forgiving in times of misunderstanding?
These are the practical things that we live by and by which God keeps us Holy when we live according to His will. It is in these practical ways by which we are like Christ Jesus who says, “I have done these things, so that you would do likewise.” (John 13:15) And when we are like Christ, we remain Holy by being in communion with God, who ultimately works through us to make this world a better place. Our faith is not a feeling nor is it a philosophy. It is living and active reality that acknowledges the evils of this world and combats it in practical ways. Yes, my dears, the world is full of evil. Not of horned goats and pitchforked devils like we see in movies. But real evil such as mistrust, carelessness, abuse, lust, laziness, exploitation, arrogance and ignorance; A world that is full of unknowns. However, my dears, I was reminded of a beautiful quote this week from the saintly person, which I recommend you read about, Corrie Ten Boom, who says, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God”.
My dears, we know God. We know God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know Him as a living God who works through us. Not a God from stories about some teacher from the past or from a history book but from the Living Word about a Living God that continues to heal, answer, feed, and resurrect us. We must therefore, always turn to God through the life we live, and He will makes us Holy through His Grace. Place real trust in Him, who will answer us either through sermons, quiet prayers, the reading of scripture or countless other ways, when we remain in communion with Him through the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. His grace, is the source of virtuous deeds in the life we live. A life that must reflect Christ Jesus; a life that must shine light in darkness and be salt to the world. A life that at all times must give glory to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!