Sermon from April 24 Joint Service in Remembrance of Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide
Passages: Acts 5:34-6:7, James 3:1-12, John 1:1-17
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Գործք. Ե 34 – Զ 7; Յակոբ Գ 1-12; Յով. Ա 1 – 17
Krisdos Haryav i merelots. Orhnyal e Harootyunn Krisdosi.
Christ is Risen! Indeed he is Risen!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Every year, on this date Armenians here in Chicago along with Armenians from around the world come together for special events, marches, protests, Church services, cultural and/or religious commemorations all centered around the Armenian Genocide. Whether these events are political, cultural, or even religious, the nature of these events all speak about justice, we reiterate the importance of rehabilitation, we uphold and sing songs about strength and unity, power and victory. Yet, for now over 107 years, our hunger for what each one of us would define as justice or retribution has not been satisfied. The truth is for each one of us, justice, peace, power, strength and many more of these terms are defined quite differently, and so what satiates one, does not satisfy the other.
In fact, we don’t even have to look at the Genocide to find these differences. Merely listen or read the comments made on television, table talks, or social media about current politics and main other issues, in Armenia, America or the rest of the world. There is more and more division, focus on personal ideas and agenda’s than there is in working together, understanding and creating hope for the future. There is focus on how we are different rather than what unifies us. These divisions are nothing new of course, we are human, we each have ideas, thoughts, opinions, and a vision for what we see is needed for the betterment of the future. Our Holy Martyr’s likewise, had differing thoughts and opinions. Yet, look at the icon of the Holy Martyr’s what do you see? Reflect back on the stories of our own loved ones who have survived or the atrocious stories of those who died through the Genocide, what remains with us?
It is their political opinions? Is it the ideas they had about how to best run for office, or what war tactic to use in the face of danger? Is it recipes for pilaf and choregs? Is it what how they were different Armenians vs. the other Armenians walking through the dessert or sleeping in the orphanage next to them? What do we see and remember? My dears, what stays with us, what we remember and the reason we are able to gather here each year is their strength and unity in faith, hope and love that tomorrow, we their children, as a family would come together to build something better. Come together once a year to protest, yell slogans or listen to a concert? No, but in heart and mind be unified always. How? Do we give up our politics, opinions, thoughts and ideas? Not necessarily. When a husband and wife, come together in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, repeatedly in scripture and in the prayers we say what? Two have become one. However, regardless of how 2 become 1 sacramentally, we stay individually unique. We don’t agree on everything, we don’t share the same thoughts and opinions, yet, we raise 1 family, we build 1 home, we come together as 1.
In Holy Scripture we read, “But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt. 5:39) Often, this passage is looked at and misunderstood as one of weakness, of constantly taking the hits of enemies or of those who don’t agree with us. And while it is true
that as Christian’s we are called to be peacemakers, Christ never tells us to be, for a lack of a better term, punching bags. St. Nektarios of the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that when we are being struck, as peacemakers and children of God, we must turn the other cheek. However, if someone strikes our child, we must defend and fight for our child with all our strength.
My dears, to fight, to defend does not mean to be hardheaded and egotistically opinionated rather, it means to come together and defend that which is sacred. To come together as a family, as a community, and as a people means we put God ahead of us by trusting Him and working with each other because today my cheek hurts, today I may die but tomorrow my children will live. And together we are stronger, together we can defend and protect against all adversaries because together we hold to the cross. Today our cheek hurts, tomorrow our children will be stronger and equipped to face the challenges of the world. Today we are divided, tomorrow must be uniquely one. However, that strength is not what we may think because that strength is this family under God. A family that God has ordained from the beginning as the Armenian people who landed with Noah on the Ark. A family with different thoughts and opinions but one God. A God who saw his children being struck and so He fought, He came and offered not only His cheek but himself entirely and He died for us upon the cross in order to raise us up to life. Because, my dears, when we say Christ is Risen or Krisdos Haryav I merelots, we are declaring a victory in war.
A victory against the rebellion and evil of Satan, who tried to strike our cheek and divide humanity from God, the Father from His children. But my dears, through Christ, we know nothing can divide us from God. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, when we gather to remember the Martyrs of the Genocide, when we write comments on social media, when we talk to one another, think about what life we are giving? What hope, what seed, what future we are creating for our children? Is it a life that is unified in God or a life that divides us from Him and each other? Today in James 1:11-12 “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.” We who are the children of those holy martyrs, who are the children of God, are the fig tree, the spring, but the question that remains is what fruit, what kind of water do we yield?
A village priest saddened by the lack of attendance in his Church, one day announced in the village that there was going to be a funeral. We all know that for funerals and hokehankists, our churches are full and so likewise, everyone in the village came out to see who had passed away. When faithful entered the Church, they saw the casket sitting in the Church and they approached to pay their respect. However, when they looked into the coffin, they saw no one, but rather, only a mirror, reflecting themselves back at them. My dears, I asked earlier, what do we see when we look at the icon of the Holy Martyrs?
Do we see a story of weakness, of politics, of division and of death? Or do we see ourselves? Do we see the same trust in God that they had, do we see resilience to fight and defend that which is sacred not because it serves us and our opinions but because by doing so, we create opportunity for new life, a life that can only blossom when it is entrusted to God. We are not looking into a coffin and seeing our death, rather our vision is set on the Cross, we look to Christ, we look to each other and to our Holy Marty’s and all our saints and we see new life, new hope, new faith.
Therefore, may the life we live, the words we say, think or post on social media, the actions we do foster that victorious renewed life in Christ Jesus, to whom we are in communion with our Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit and as well as, in communion with one another. Though today our cheek may hurt, tomorrow we will grow into something greater with God. Christ is Risen, Krisdos Haryav I Merelots. Orhnial e Harutyunn Krisdosi. Blessed is also the life of our Holy Martyr’s and our life, in union with the resurrected Christ Jesus, Amen!