True Peace and Strength

Passages: Is. 14:3-17; 2 Corinthians 10:18-11:10; Mark 10:1-12
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԺԳ 3-17; Բ Կորնց Ժ 18-ԺԱ 10; Մարկ. Ժ 1-10

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

In English folklore and legend there is a story about a young King; A boy, who though was born of royal lineage, was raised by a commoner and was unaware of who he truly was. As the legend goes, the son of King Uther pulled the mighty sword Excalibur from the stone and was hence forth known as King Arthur. Though the historical King Arthur is often argued about, the legend holds a place of great importance. Arthur became King Arthur when he found strength in himself and lifted Excalibur out of the stone. Though many of great strength attempted this feat, only this young boy was able to do so not because of his physical strength but rather the strength that was in his heart.

What is strength my dears? Today as Armenian’s we are once again forced to ask ourselves what and where is our strength, as Azerbaijan once again attacks, kills, and decimates our homeland. Where and what is our strength if something we ask even if we set political hardships aside, and look into our lives, and the struggles we face daily. Broken families and friendships, shattered communities, and deception. Skeletons in our closet, addictions and darkness we wrestle with, the lies we tell ourselves to justify the wrongs and evils in our lives; how do we overcome all this? Where and what is our strength?

One of the Fathers of the early Church, St. Justin Martyr tells us, that the author of all war is the devil. War is not merely what is in the battlefields my dears; nor is war limited to firing weapons at each other or killing each other through other means. War is evil that we do to each other, to the environment around us and to ourselves. And the only way to overcome  and fight this war is by finding out strength. Karekin the I, Catholicos of All Armenian’s taught that nations do not survive merely with economics and with foreign policies but with all that God commands. These words reflect to Christ’s words in the dessert, who tells the devil, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4) Does this mean if we merely come to Church, fast, and pray that we will have strength to overcome war and all the darkness in our lives? Or that if we believe in God, than war does not happen? No, my dears. Evil is real and war is real.

Rather, when we come to Church, fast and pray and live our Christian life with a heart open and trusting God than God will transform us and reveal to us the strength we have through Him within us. And God does this by equipping us with what we need to overcome those wars in our lives. Patience, hope, fortitude, love, compassion, mercy, etc. tools by which we grow into who God created us to be. But this only happens when we begin trusting in God more than in our own abilities, trusting God more than in other worldly leaders or any other thing. Not world economics, not foreign policy, not bread alone but everything God gives us. God gives us the strength and God is our strength to overcome evil and find peace. Because if the author of war is the devil, then know that the author of peace is God alone and peace does not mean weak. And peace is not just the absence of warfare and conflict, but is an active state of harmony and well-being that applies to all relations, to each other and to the relationship of God and man

Every Sunday, the priest repeatedly says, «Խաղաղություն ամենեցուն», “peace unto all”. In fact, it is the very first words out of a newly ordained priest, his first blessing is peace unto all. But what peace is he talking about? Peace from earthly wars? Peace in our communities, in our governments? No, my dears, peace and strength as given by God is greater than what this world defines, and this peace is given as a blessing that we take with us as strength to fight and bring harmony in our relationships. Because when things go bad, when we struggle, when we see real war or personal battles, our first instinct should be to fight! We must fight to bring peace. Sometimes this is hard, especially after we’ve been fighting for a long time. But we fight not with the swinging of the sword to strike each other down and we fight not with our own strength which may fail us but with the humility and trust in God. Fighting for peace means working for peace, living our faith. As St. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

Our strength my dears, to keep fighting, like that of the legendary King Arthur’s comes from recognizing who we are through God. We are a child of God, loved and cared for no matter what scars we have, no matter what wars we have fought, no matter how dirty and vile we think we are or how cruel the world has been to us, we are loved by God. And we need to recognize this in us and in others as well because when we recognize this then we understand what God’s peace is, then we can understand what it means to live by God’s commandments. A peace that fights not to kill but to overcome and lift up; A peace that comes from Christ Jesus, who came and suffered just like us, who died just like we do but we who overcame death, just like we will through Him. This is our strength and peace, this is our faith – no matter who we are Christ comes for us and loves us. If only we would trust in Him to help us pull the sword out of the stone, to arm us with everything we need to fight and overcome the evils in our lives. Let us pray for each other, pray for our soldiers, for our homeland, our leaders, our Church so that through her we will learn how to trust in God, who will equip us with everything we need to overcome war and bring peace into this world.

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