Passages: Is. 22:15-24; Eph. 1:1-14; Lk. 8:17-21
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԻԲ 15-24; Եփես. Ա 1-14; Ղկ. Ը 17-21
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Living in a big city, we often miss a beautiful reality that exists in nature – the night sky and our ability to observe the stars and constellations. As Christian’s when we look to the stars, we see the magnificence and beauty of God’s creation. In fact, only a couple hundred years ago the sky was referred to as the Heavens; the great unknown that is beyond our understanding. Through science and the amazing work of telescopes we have seen depths of space, stars and planets previously unseen to the naked eye. And while there is a lot to be learned from the stars, we as Christian’s don’t believe in astrology, fortune telling or the reading of stars for hidden messages about our lives. Some of us have heard the saying that our destiny is prewritten, or written in the stars. In Armenian, we bring it closer to home and say that our destiny is written, where? On our foreheads. That is why the Armenian word for predestination or destiny is jagatakir ճակատագիր. Literally, text on our forehead. The question of ones destiny is one we all think about and it affects not just our physical lives, our biology and where we will end up as a person, but also our spiritually.
Biologically, one might define destiny as family history. If we generationally have had obesity, or diabetes in our family, it is highly likely we too will develop these. Physically, one might define destiny based on if you come from an affluent family or from a higher income surrounding, then we are destined to be educated and “successful.” If we come from a Christian family or community, we are most likely destined to likewise be a believer. And if someone is unsuccessful or if we see certain individuals who struggle with their faith or relationship with God we might say that they were predestined to not believe or succeed no matter how hard they try. In fact, St. Paul in Eph. 1:4 says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined…” While family medical history or where in the world we are born might determine a lot about our future health and statues, this word destiny, jagatakir, pre-destiny, etc. or even the idea that our future is written in the stars is problematic when we apply it to our faith. Because it means that not everyone is given an equal opportunity. God has already chosen certain individuals. God has already decided without any regard to our prayers and hopes if we will be His child or not. In other words, God has pre-determined and/or destined us for Heaven or Hell regardless of how we live. This is problematic – if we don’t look deeper into the text.
It’s problematic because it takes away our free will. It’s problematic because if scripture says, by faith we are saved, by works we bring forth fruits of our faith, then what is the point of trying if in fact, everything has already been predetermined. My dears, as Orthodox Christian’s we do not believe in predestination or that our future is written on our foreheads or the stars. Rather, we believe that as children of God we are pre-oriented, pre-designed, which is in fact more closely translated from the original Greek word, prooristhentes. In Armenian it is the word nakhakhnamvadz նախախնամուած or nakhasahmanvadz նախասահմանուաց. What’s the difference? We begin to understand the difference by looking past just the word predestination. St. Paul says “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him…” in other words according to His, God’s plan or purpose.
My dears, take for example this Ukulele. How is it played? By plucking the strings. Can I not use it as a percussion instrument by keeping a beat on the back? Yes of course, I am free to do so. What about if I were to use a bow to draw the strings? Sure I can, I am free to choose how I play. However, this instrument was designed, oriented, and made to be played a certain way, in order for it to create a certain sound and serve a purpose. In the same way each one of us my dears, we are free to choose how we live; how we behave, how we pray, how we eat, what we believe, how we vote, how we dress, etc. We are free to choose. However, God has predestined meaning God in His love for us, for a higher purpose created, designed us in a certain way for a certain purpose – To be His children. To be in Holy Communion with Him. What do we read in Genesis at the Creation story? God created Adam and Eve, meaning humanity, in His image and likeness. So yes, we are predestined, we do have a destiny, or more correctly a destination. And as Christians we recognize that we are pre-designed for a purpose that goes beyond this flesh and blood, beyond our physical limitation. God in His providence, which is a better word than predestination, in His Divine Wisdom and Love did not create us merely as animals but created us for a purpose.
Thus, my dears, the real problem at heart is we have forgotten our purpose, our direction, for which we were predestined. Because of sin, we have become blinded to God’s purpose and design for our life. We have allowed our physical appearance, our jobs, our social statues, our age, our degrees, our checkbooks, our clothing, etc. to re-define and re-orient our value in this world. It’s no wonder we are looking to the stars for answers because we are looking for something outside ourselves that is greater because we begin to realize that those arbitrary and artificial values hold no purpose, no value. Yet, Christ Jesus teaches us in the Gospels, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” My dears, Christ Jesus, God the Son, sees our brokenness, knows that those things are not our real purpose and so calls us back into Communion with our Heavenly Father. Christ reveals to us that when we live our life, freely choosing to repent, learning the Holy Scriptures, following His commandments, then our true identity, our true worth, the purpose for what each and every one of us was created to be by God our Father, will be revealed to us in such a way that the fog before our eyes will be removed, that the arbitrary and hopeless pains of this life will melt away.
My dears, we were predestined for greatness, if only we choose to follow, and the only text that is written on our foreheads, the only jagatakir we have, is the Christ, Krisdos, which by Holy oil, the Holy Myron, by which we were chrismated at our baptisms we become a children of God. Yes, look to the stars my dears, look to the Heavens, look at the creatures in the wilderness, the vastness of the ocean’s and see not horoscopes or other such nonsense. See the majesty, the power, the love and creativity of our God. In that same way, God created each one of us, God has destined us and designed us for a greater purpose, God our Heavenly Father, created us with a plan in mind, that sin hid from us. Yet, in His infinite love God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to bring us back into Communion with Him. And every day we freely choose to follow, every day we choose to allow God’s will in our life, than through the Holy Spirit, our true value, our true purpose, our destiny will be revealed. So that like the stars in the sky we will shine brightly. Like the instruments in our hands, we will make beautiful music, and like the Children of God we are, we will bring glory to our Father in Heaven, to Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit by the life we live, Amen.