Passages: Is. 20:2-21:6; Galatians 4:3-18; Luke 4:14-23
Ընթերցուածթներ՝ Եսայ. Ի 2 – ԻԱ 6; Գաղ. Դ 3-18; Ղուկ. Դ 14-23
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This proverbial phrase is often used to encourage optimism and a positive approach in the face of difficulties or misfortune. If I ask, how would we describe a lemon, what would we say? Firstly, the physical appearance is yellow, round, grooves, about the size of a small ball or a bit bigger, and of course its smell. How would we describe the taste of a lemon? Bitter, sour, and with an acidic sweetness. It is not easy to merely bite into a lemon and eat it like an orange or any other fruit.
Thus, the saying that if life gives you lemons – in other words if in life you face bitterness, or sour outcomes try to make something sweet and positive out of it.
The reality is in life all of us receive lemons in life. Once we grow to a certain age, when we “enter” the real world as it is said, life doesn’t just give us lemons, but throws them at us at a fast pace. Daily we face bitterness, sourness, frustration, anger, sickness, hurt and many other negatives that we try to navigate through. Whether we experience them firsthand, hear about it on the news or other outlets, it is undeniable that life hands each of us our share of lemons, to a point where we don’t know what to do, or how we can manage. Many times, I have heard the teaching, that God will not give you more than you can handle; God won’t allow more than your share of lemons. However, this is simply not true and is a misreading of a verse from 1 Corinthians. It is a misunderstanding because what it is saying in essence is that God is the one who gives us lemons, God along with the good and blessed, is also filling our lives with bitterness because He knows we can handle these things. This is not the loving God, a forgiving and healing God we believe in because God does no evil; God does not lead us to suffering.
Therefore, why does He allow it? Does God even see our pain and the difficulties we face in life? Absolutely! The question we must ask my dears, is when we face those difficulties, the bitterness and pain, do we face them with the tools the God has given us to overcome? St. Paul in his letter today tells us, that prior to knowing God we were slaves to the elemental spirits. What are these spirits? In the ancient world, these were philosophies, teaching, and or pagan gods or other such deceitful lies. Today we might describe these as “isms”, so called philosophies, theories, or beliefs that people use to navigate life. Slogans, political or pseudo-religious beliefs, crystals, tarot cards, coffee cups, blue eyes, individual people, the so called “4 steps to happiness self-help teachings”, etc. Things apart from God, which we believe can help us, aid us, to face the dangers and the bitterness and pains of life. Before knowing God, we were slaves to these, St. Paul is teaching, yet, “now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (v. 8)
We sitting here (or watching at home) confess that we believe in God, therefore, why do we put our trust in things apart from God. Now we may say, “no, I trust in God only but I still face bitterness.” Far be it for me to make any judgement however, for this St. Paul clearly tells us each to examine ourselves, test ourselves, is Christ truly in us? We ask does God see our pain, to which the answer is yes. But do we seek out God’s presence in our life and especially in our pain daily? Do we go to God only as a last resort or do we look to God through regular prayer, reading scriptures, attending Church, confession, repentance, and Holy Communion? Do we look to God when life gives us lemons or do we remain slaves to the elemental spirits which will leave us unfulfilled and thirsty? For us, as children of God, who are reborn through the baptismal font and freed from the lies and deceits of those spirits, we are washed and born of the spirit of God. The same spirit which Christ in today’s Gospel says, is upon Him. The spirit we are anointed by to do the work of God in this world, which is to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release of the captives, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, liberty to the oppressed and life to the dead. A life through Christ Jesus, who has overcome death not in terms or philosophies, but in truly and completely.
Yes, my dear brothers and sister, life gives us lemons and we should make lemonade with those lemons. We should do so by taking those bitter, sour, painful, hurtful, and dark moments in our life and trusting God alone to help us navigate through them. But we do so not blindly in words alone but by learning who God is and coming into communion with Him. A knowledge by which we likewise are called to do His divine work of healing, creating, loving, teaching and tending to each other. For we do as we have seen and heard, so that others will learn and do likewise. This doesn’t mean we will no longer suffer or that the world will no longer be in pain, but rather, we will no longer be slaves to the world by which we feel bombarded and overwhelmed. “Because [we] are [his children], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God [we] are no longer a slave but a [child], and if a [child] then an heir.” (vv. 6-7) As a trusting child of God we learn how to make lemonade with the lemons in life, so that when the heat of life gets too much to bear, we can all sip on some ice-cold lemonade together knowing we are free children of our loving Heavenly Father, who has already overcome this world and its lies. A Heavenly Father to whom with the Son and Holy Spirit is befitting glory, dominion, and honor, now and always forever, Amen!