Passages: Acts 13:16-43; 1 Peter 5:1-14; John 5:19-30
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Գործ. ԺԳ 16-43; Ա Պետ. Ե 1-12; Յով. Ե 19-30 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Քրիստոս Յարեաւ ի Մեռելոց. Օրհնեալ է Յարութիւնը Քրիստոսի! Christ is Risen from the Dead. Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ!

How many of you have seen this painting and know where it comes from? This is known as the painting “checkmate” painted by German painter Friedrich Moritz August Retzsch in the 18th-19thcentury, and it used to hang in the museum of the Louvre in Paris.  What do you see in this painting? What stands out? Two individuals playing chess with an angel observing the one player who seems defeated and hopeless. The painter has painted a man playing chess against the devil and from his posture, it is easy to understand that the devil has won; it is checkmate. There is a story that is connected to this painting about a world class grandmaster of chess who was visiting the Louvre with a group and the curator believed the grandmaster would enjoy seeing this painting.  And so the group was led to this painting and it was presented as it is. While the group moved on, the guide realized that the grandmaster was not with them and had remained examining the painting. When asked about what was so intriguing, the grandmaster said, either painting must change or the title. The master examined the chess board and said, the player has one more move, it is not checkmate. Though the devil seemed to be the obvious victor, he wasn’t and the man, who thought he was losing, was still able to win. There was one move left was for the King.

When we examine this painting from this approach, as Christian’s, we cannot help but find the spiritual and theological teaching. In this season of Resurrection, we are in celebration of this very fact; the devil has not won, the King has made the final move and when all hope seems lost, when we believed that defeat was imminent, we find that we have in Christ won. This story of the chess master making this observation has been shared worldwide, and when we hear it, we understand what is being taught. Yet, there is something we neglect to reflect on. Who is playing Chess my dears? Some of us may have seen the movie or read the popular book series of Harry Potter, where playing wizards chess, the pieces move on their own. But even then, who wills the pieces? Who is playing chess? 

My dears, we all know God is present in our lives; we believe that He is all powerful, all encompassing, all merciful and loving. However, God is not what? Enforcing. In other words, God is not controlling us, our will, our desire, our hopes, and dreams; God is not making our decisions; God is not playing chess with us. In fact, when we look at the painting the Angel, who represents God’s presence, is doing what? Standing watch. We are the one’s who are playing Chess. Yes, the King has one more move on the chessboard, yes, God is present in our lives, but he isn’t going to move by Himself. We must move with Him in the same way my dears, God’s will to be fulfilled, God is revealed, His power and victory over death in our life is manifested, when we allow God into our lives, when we live out the will of God in our lives. God does not control us nor do we control God. Rather, God’s presence in our lives is revealed and understood only by how much we want Him in our lives.  That is why St. Peter in his letter today writes what? “Tend the flock of God that is your charge…clothe yourselves, all of you with humility towards one another…cast your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” (1 Peter 5:1-10) What St. Peter is teaching us is that though the roaring lion, the devil is ready to strike, though he may think he has won, if we come to God in humility – which means without arrogance, without making excuses about what we want, without hatred towards each other, without lies and cheats in our hearts, without fists to strike others down; if we come to God even if we have anxieties and fears, even if we feel lost and confused, God will strengthen us.

God’s action requires for us to act with Him; for the King to make the final move, we need to trust Him. Sometimes, when we consider the mess of the world, of our lives, war, violence, pandemics, unemployment, depressions, broken families, etc. we fall into this mindset of why God isn’t acting; we feel, like that angel may suggest, God is standing there with his arms folded.  And when we inevitably do fall into darkness, we feel as though we’ve lost, it’s checkmate and the game is over. Yet, Genesis 2:15 tells us that, “God took man (humanity) and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” In other words, God, though always present requires, desires for us to choose to come to Him, trust Him and work with Him. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God gives freely, willfully and lovingly always, but we unless we are in Communion with Him, we will never understand this. We will always look down and fall into worry asking why isn’t God there. Yet, the Church Father’s repeatedly speak about how from the very beginning God willfully loved us and gave us free will so that we would willfully love Him.  Not out of compulsion or force but out of an understanding that God desires to save us from all suffering. As St. Clement of Alexandria says, “we…have believed are saved by voluntary choice…To obey [God] or not is in our own power…” 

My dears, this understanding, the revelation of God’s love, God’s presence and power comes to us from the moment we are illuminated through our baptisms, raised in the Church, read the Holy Scriptures and live our life faithfully out of our own desire. When we choose to live the will of God, by coming to Church and praying the Lord’s Prayer saying, “your will be done.” and declaring our trust of hope and humility, that it’s not what we want, it’s not about what we think is right but what we know God will do for us. It is then that the King reveals His victory; then how we see God continually working in our lives; then when we realize it is not checkmate. Yet, how many of us truly trust God my dears? How many of us make excuses, find reasons why we don’t come to Church, we don’t care for people around us, we can’t forgive others, we don’t read our Scriptures, etc. How many of us truly desire God’s will to be done in our life? Looking at this painting, do we see a distant God? Ourselves as the defeated player? Or perhaps as Christian’s, children of God, we are invited to see ourselves as the grandmaster of chess, who doesn’t focus on the players but rather on the chessboard and is witness that the King has one more move. That the angel of the Lord is always with us, protecting us, tending to us, if only we would trust in our Heaven Father.

What will we do with what God has given us? What will we choose? How will we play the game of chess in our life? My dears, God has not abandoned us, the devil has not and will not win, the King has one more move which is our victory. Come to God, pray and seek His will, and know that our Father in Heaven, through Christ Jesus will renew us to life, raise us from the ashes, remove all hopelessness and darkness from our lives. So that in Church and all over the world, wherever we may be, we will choose to bring glorify to God with our lives by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Amen! Christ Is Risen! Krisdos Haryav I Merelots! 

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