Trumpets…

Sermon for Sunday November 11, 2018
Passages: Isaiah 24.1-12; Ephesians 5.15-33; Luke 8.49-56

Names to Remember: Stephen, Joseph, Alexander, Paul, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…

In 1862 US General Daniel Butterfield camped with his troops trying to recuperate, after a long 7 days of battle during the Civil War. His men had seen the worst on the battlefield and they needed to rest and be prepared for the freedom for which they strived for. According to military custom at the time a bugle was played loudly to signal the time of rest had come for that day. However, the sound of the bugle did not stir anything in General Butterfield’s heart. It was not pleasing to him and he reworked the melody to his liking. Today that melody is heard every time we lay a solider to rest. The music of Taps, was born.

how-did-taps-originates-featured-photo.jpgThough only a few notes, it echoes in our souls and stirs us every time we hear it. Today we remember 100 years ago the fields of WW1,  where this melody was all too familiar. And yet, today though not as often heard but the general public unless you attend a military funeral, but the pain of waking up to hearing the loss of a loved one is all too familiar. And for us who lose that loved one, there is no rest, only memories. The sound of the bugle rings on.

Yesterday, at a youth retreat one of our priests spoke about trumpets. And the sound of the bugle and the 11th of November and the events of this past week resounded in my heart. The bugle is a type of trumpet and trumpets are not associated with quiet or calm music. If any one of you has ever played a trumpet, the control it takes is very difficult. Throughout scripture we read of the trumpet as a instrument to announce battle, life and kingship. We see trumpets at the battle of Jericho. The walls are brought down with a blow of a trumpets call. We see trumpets at the last judgement alerting us of the coming of Christ. Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of the Archangels and it is they who blow the trumpet bringing forth such news in the book of revelations. In 1 Corinthians (15:51-52) we read, “Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” The trumpet raises the dead.

These images are loud and powerful. They are not timid or afraid. In fact the bugle was also played to signal a charge by the military. To be a trumpet player in battle took courage. I rather have a rifle in my hand and be hiding rather than run on the field blowing a trumpet. Like I said yesterday the youth of our Diocese had gathered in New Hampshire and during one my talks I spoke about the “hot topics” or the taboo issues that our society faces today. One of the young gentlemen asked me why don’t we as Christian’s speak out against such issues. Why do we allow hate and wrong thoughts about our faith to be preached. We see extremists of both sides left and right screaming and polluting what Christianity actually teaches, why are we so quiet?

It’s interesting that with last weeks political events and some of the comments I read on social media, truly this mans words spoke to me. Because unfortunately those who are most ignorant are always the ones who have the most to say and the loudest in saying it. This week I witnessed the most awful comments on my social media feed about gun violence, about immigration and about voting. Loud, boisterous, in your face. Why? Without blaming extremists and their loud approach, regardless of who voted left or right or what their views on all the “hot topics” are, the passion that is felt in peoples heart spoke out. Passion for what they believe in. However my dear brothers and sisters, when will we be as passionate about faith?

We are bombarded with hate, violence, pain and darkness in this world. What about the call of God? Not the call done from this pulpit, not one from angels and miracles. But each one of us through our actions, resounding like trumpets. Our voices, our actions which can bring down the walls of Jericho and change the world. Our voices, our actions can raise the dead. Our voices, our actions can announce the coming of the Lord our God. As Christ says, “if we have faith”…we can tell the mountain to move. But we like the bugler cannot be timid or quiet. We must be steadfast in our faith and fully trust in God, in his love. So that we can be a testament of that eternal love both on the battlefield of life and when God finally calls us to rest.

As plain as the melody of taps is, it echoes and stirs the depths of our soul. As plain as our actions may seem, our kind words may seem, it echoes and stirs the depths of our souls. When we share a kind word, when we forgive someone who hurts us, when we simply smile. The weather is cold, perhaps when we go to grab a hot tea or coffee, we can buy an extra one for someone who is sitting on the street. Downstairs in the hall, the ACYOA is collecting items to donate to those less fortunate. Though those who receive will never know us by name, that act will echo louder than the call of the loudest trumpet.

Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, let us not be timid and afraid to proclaim our faith. Let us not incline our ears and hearts to those hateful words of this world. Let us be the calming call of Christ love in all circumstance through our actions. Let us be the bugle’s call who brings peace and rest to this world.

Amen.

My Cross to bear?

Sermon for Sunday, October 28, 2018

Passage: Wisdom 14.1-8; Isaiah 33.22-34.1; 1 Corinthians 1.18-24; Matthew 24.27-36

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

Խաչն կենարար որ եղեւ մեզ փրկութիւն,
սովաւ ամենեքեան զքեզ բարեբանեմք:

Որ ի Հօրէ լուսոյ լոյս ճառագայթեալ ի յերկրի
եւ գաւազան զօրութեան հաւատացելոց,
սովաւ ամենեքեան զքեզ բարեբանեմք:

Որ լուսափայլ ծագմամբ հրաշափառապէս մեզ ցուցաւ
ի յօգնութիւն ընդդէմ թշնամւոյն, սովաւ ամենեքեան զքեզ բարեբանեմք:

The lifegiving cross, which for us became salvation,
Together everyone glorifies.

Which shows the light of the father shine upon the earth,
And is the staff of power for those who believe,
Together everyone glorifies.

Which with great radiance showed us that against our enemy it is our aid,
Together everyone glorifies.

flat,1000x1000,075,fThese are the words, sung by the faithful and by the clergy during Holy Week and Easter and any feast that pertains to the Holy Cross of Christ. It is a long line of beautifully created hymns that have been rooted in deep theology for the Armenian Church. And it magnificently describes what the cross of Christ is for us, the cross that we are remembering today. In the Gospel of Mark we read of Christ telling us to “pick up our cross and follow him.” (8:34) And many people read this passage as bearing through suffering. How many of us have even said about one thing or another “this is my cross.”

If there is one thing that unites us all regardless of age, wealth, health, skin color, politics, etc. one unifying factor is that we have all in some shape or form suffered. We have felt pain whether through sickness. We have felt betrayal from friends and family. We have felt alone. And the words of the Gospel have in some way helped us, because we have accepted pain as the cross we must bear. However, my dear brothers and sisters I ask, are we certain of the cross we carry is truly the cross we have been given?

When St. Helen came to Jerusalem, looking for the Cross of Christ, the cross was discovered in a field or graveyard of crosses. As we know, during the Roman times, crucifixion was a common form of capital punishment and because the Romans did not believe in who Jesus was, they naturally just threw away His cross. So when Queen Helen and her entourage searched for the Cross, they had an idea on how to identify the Cross of Christ. Tradition says, with some differences, that at that time a funeral procession was going by, and Queen Helen requested that the body of deceased be placed on the different crosses. Who could refuse the Queen? And so the body was placed on each cross one-by-one. Nothing happened, nothing happened, nothing happened. And then when the body was placed on the Cross of Christ Jesus, the person was resurrected from death and the Cross of Christ was discovered. And this is the feast we celebrate today, the discovery of the Holy Cross.

And it may be strange to ask, but though we each claim to be carrying our Cross and we pray that God help us carry our Cross, how many of us have truly prayed to discern if the cross we carry truly is the one given by God for us or is it a artificial cross we have made for us? There are any types of sufferings and pains in this world, but through St. Paul’s teaching especially in Galatians we see that much of these sufferings are because of our own sinfulness and not something given by God for us to carry. When we are filled with jealousy, hatred, anger, envy. When we become judgmental towards one another, or when we fill our lives with fornication of body and soul. We look for our future in coffee cups and our protection by a blue ceramic eye. When we persist on our own desires and ways, with no regard for those around us. And when the world doesn’t smile back we say “woe is me.” These woes are not the cross Christ speaks of. This is not the True cross we must bear. If our pain, our suffering is not done so by the virtue of God, then our cross, as heavy as it may feel, is not one we are called to carry. Our cross is discovered by separating us from sin, by denying our sin and temptation from us through Christ, through repentance, confession and humility that our salvation or freedom from true suffering is only through God our Father.

My dear brothers and sisters, let us truly examine our lives and the cross we carry. Is it a cross that as the hymn says, shows the light of the Father, protects us from evil and is life-giving? For the Cross of Christ is the ladder by which we rise up, the cross of Christ is the Altar on which our sins are sacrificed upon. I have mentioned in the past that if you turn a cross upside down it is a sword. Is that sword used to strike others down or is it used to defend others. Let us continue to pray to discover the true life giving cross in our own lives and may we bear our cross with joy in our hearts and follow Christ in every way. Amen!