Passages: Isaiah 33:22-34:1; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24; Matthew 24:27-36
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԼԳ 22 – ԼԴ 1; Ա Կորնթ. Ա 18-24; Մատթ. ԻԴ 27-36
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
A few years ago, while I was still a seminary student in Jerusalem, I traveled to Armenia on vacation and I took with me small crosses, which had been blessed at the birthplace of Christ and on the tomb of Christ, to give out as gifts to everyone I met. Anytime I attended Church, and the priest would mention that I had come from the Holy Land, faithful would flock to me when they heard that a student from the Holy Land had brought blessed crosses to give out. For them, and many faithful, this small wooden cross symbolized a direct blessing from God from the Holy Land. To them it was as if they were receiving a piece of the original cross of Christ to take home. I of course felt great about this because even though I was not a priest I was bringing a blessing to these people. Naivety set in when I believed that everyone would feel this way, as I began giving crosses out to anyone I met. One day, I saw a beggar in the street and after I gave them some money, I also gave them one of these small crosses and explained what it was. Yet, as I walked away, I heard him say, “what garbage” and I watched as he threw the cross into the trash. Again, while I was having lunch at a restaurant, the waitress, who was an acquaintance of my brothers, gave us the check and after I paid her, I also gave her a cross, which she returned and said, “I don’t want it, I am just going to throw it into the trash.”
It is interesting to see how people reacted so differently to the cross and we truly see that words of St. Paul come alive, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (v.18) My dears, I don’t share this story for us to judge the beggar or the waitress, or anyone, as if they are fools or that we must determine that they are perishing, but rather, I share to ask, how often do we throw our cross into the garbage?
“Der Hayr, what are you saying, we don’t do such things.” And perhaps none of us here, or watching at home, literally throw our crosses into the trash, but how many of us do so emotionally, mentally, spiritually? We come to Church on Sunday’s, maybe we sing, serve, bring food, volunteer, give money, etc. yet, we don’t truly trust, or love fully the commandments of God. We judge those around us with our hearts, we lower ourselves, we give way to false belief and hope because it is easier then to take up our own cross. We may think we are better, or we think we are far worse than others; We are not sinners, or we are beyond saving. We act as though our dollars and diploma’s define us, or we are blinded to see that our addictions and pains are who we are. We are all guilty of throwing away our crosses at times, my dears.
However, Christ Jesus calls us to Him again and again; Christ calls to us off that very cross to be in communion with Him. To repent, confess, pick up our cross and follow all His commandments. Today as the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Discovery of the Cross, we don’t only remember the historical reality that St. Queen Helen came to Jerusalem and discovered the Lord’s Cross. What we are truly celebrating is that she remained faithful and trusted in the Lord and she in fact came and took her cross out of the garbage, the emptiness and she lifted it up as a witness. In fact, when we learn the story, we see she had to clear the rummage and trash away, because the place where Christ Cross was discarded was just a trash pile. Yet, she did so faithfully. She was the Queen, she had no needs, no human struggles we know of. Yet, she knew that the true king was her son Constantine, the King is not the one in the throne room here on earth, but is God in Heaven. As the prophet Isaiah teaches, “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Yes, my dears, ask, does the life we live witness to the faith we say we have, do we truly believe in Christ the King who will save us, or do we throw our cross away through our choices, our actions, our heart and mind?
We are all sinful, we are all in need of God’s love and salvation. Regardless of our brokenness, our stature, our age, our experiences, our wealth or health, our knowledge or wisdom; no matter, if we are king, queen, priest, beggar, waitress or parishioner, Christ Jesus tells us all equally to pick up our Cross, to trust, to love, to feed, to clothe, to forgive, to come back, to bring back, to answer and hope in Holy Communion with Him. For as we know the Holy Cross is a witness to the transformative power of God; a testament to how God took a tool of death and made it a symbol of salvation. And the life we live my dears is equally a witness and testament to the power of God to others who look for hope in this darkened and broken world. Therefore, I pray, that today we take an opportunity to listen to God’s call to us, as we seek to discover our Cross. And if by chance, we have thrown or disregarded our cross, I invite us to rummage through the garbage in our life and pick up our cross, through the life we live daily, so that we will be a witness to God’s love and awesome healing power.
“For the Word of the Cross…to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Amen!