Reading More Than A Book

Passages: Is. 38:1-8; Heb. 1:1-14; Lk. 17:1-10
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԼԹ 1-8; Եբր. Ա 1-14; Ղկ. ԺԷ 1-10

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

In Armenian there is a saying, “be afraid of the person who reads one book.” As Christian’s we are known as the people of the Book because my dears we are called and taught through the example of Christ Jesus to serve, each other, to be humble in heart and mind and as I mentioned a few weeks back, to be different than those around us. We learn this from the Book, the Holy Bible. To serve one another, to serve God can be done in various ways. It can mean to physically go out into the streets and feed the hungry, tend to the homeless and broken of society; to serve can mean to volunteer our time for our Churches, our communities and organization; another way of serving can be to fulfill our responsibilities to our families, to ourselves, etc. Regardless of which of these we do, Holy Scripture is clear that above all else we must, do all out of love, hope, mercy and forgiveness, living a life of repentance and Communion with God.

“Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (vv. 3-4) We often like to say, scripture tells us not to judge yet, Christ clearly is saying that if your brother or sister is in sin, is hurting themselves, then we must rebuke, we must care for and help them turn to repentance. And when they do, we must forgive and not hold their past over their head and make them feel worse. This is the greatest way of serving God, through love, hope, mercy and forgiveness, bringing others, our brothers and sisters, to God. This is what it means to be a Christian, a child of God, the light and salt of the world as Christ teaches which we learn from the Holy Book. However, my dears there is a danger that we ourselves must avoid. The danger is in only reading one book of the Bible or only reading one verse of the Bible and making it fit our lives. What do I mean?

Too often, too many of us say, “I’ve done enough” or “it’s not my job” or as Cain says to God in Genesis, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We think that to be a Christian means to follow a moral code, to be controlled by the institution that is the Church. Dress, think, act, love, give, live, come sing, volunteer, vote, etc. a certain way in order to get to Heaven. Or we focus on ourselves, on our self-improvement because we don’t want to judge other’s, we don’t want to make comments or get involved because it’s none of our business how others live. Today we hear a lot of the same psychological phrases, “we’re all broken”, or “we all are going through something.” And while this is true, and therefore, empathy and humility are necessary, it does not mean we neglect our call of serving others, of addressing sin and hurt and helping guide ourselves and others to God. Getting into Heaven is not what our Christian faith is about; and only focusing on “us” and our sins is not what Christ teaches us. Rather, both approaches to Christianity, to our relationships with each other and with God are only one verse out of the richness that God has given us through His Word.

This is dangerous not only to us but to those around us as well because it limits and creates artificial, incomplete boundaries around what our faith and the human condition is about. Think about a person who has only read one book. Their entire viewpoint of life is based on that one book. Their personal beliefs, their political viewpoints, the way they choose to dress, the way they treat others, the way they vote, the reason they believe or don’t believe in God, everything they do is based on what they read in that one book. As much as there are certain books, I love more than others, I could never limit myself to just one book, one viewpoint, one approach. It would be dangerous, it is limiting, and it would not teach me what is true about God, the world and my role in it all. If I read, Chronicles of Narnia, I would think all animals talk and there is a magical world in my closet; if I read Hamlet, I would think that ultimately, death and revenge are the way of life. What if I only read Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and my viewpoint was that the world’s problems are the Jews? That is why the saying goes, “be afraid of the person who reads only one book.”

Sadly, this is often the case with our faith my dears. We only read one verse or only read what we want from the Bible. We don’t delve deeper into what Holy Scripture teaches us, we don’t ask questions, we don’t learn more and so we limit ourselves and in how we are called to understand what it means to have faith and what it means to serve others. That is why Christ ends today’s Gospel, after the disciples ask him to increase their faith, by saying, when we ponder about how we serve God we must say to ourselves, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Christ isn’t saying that we must think we are worthless servants bound to duty alone, but unlike the person who reads only one book and thinks they know everything and enough that they can pass judgment on the world (I’m sure we all know people like this especially with social media as an anonymous platform), we must be humble and understand we are all servants of God our Father in Heaven, we are all called to be  imitators of His love towards those around us and we do this as it is our calling as Christian’s. We do so not because we ‘get into heaven’ but rather because it makes us like God our Heavenly Father.

What this mean and how we learn to do this begins through humility, and a desire to read, grow, attend Church, ask question, etc. By reading more than just one verse or book. Yes, my dears, the call of a Christian, the responsibilities we have as children of God is much and it is difficult at times.  But we do not out of personal gain or because we are better, but rather, we live our Christian faith serving God and each other, regardless of how that may be, out of a response to Christ Jesus, who died for us, who humbled himself, was born in a manger, who fed us, washed our feet, saw our brokenness, took our brokenness or sins unto Himself and died upon the Cross so that we may live. Therefore, let us live, let us tend to, let us volunteer, care, protect, serve one another in such a way that Christ will look upon us and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful…” (Matt. 25:23) May this Christmas season create in us a desire and heart to grow in our Communion with God, to attend and be part of God so that God will be a part of our life and we will see clearly and understand more and more what that means, Amen!

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