Der Vasken's Sermon on May 7, 2017

May 10, 2017

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

"I tell you the truth, a time is coming....when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live."

Today is "Red Sunday" in the Armenian Church.  It's a day set aside by our Church to recall the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross before His Resurrection.  It's a day to remember the sacrifice of Christian martyrs for their faith.  And it's a day that we are asked to recall the price that was paid for eternal life in God's Kingdom.  "I tell you the truth," He says, that "a time is coming....when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live."

These Words of Our Lord are among the most famous of the Gospels.  And He spoke them to His disciples.  But in many ways they are also among the most troubling words in the entire Bible.  They are troubling because they are saying to us that a message has been delivered to the people of the world--an important message.  It's a message that is tied directly to our eternal life and only those people who can "hear it" and "comprehend it," will understand it.  They are troubling because they warn us that suffering, in some form or another, is part of the Christian experience.  This is because in the biblical sense, the words "to hear" or "hearing" mean more than "listening."  They mean putting the words we hear into action.  They mean believing them with our whole heart.

In this day and age, believing in the Christian faith, unfortunately, still implies suffering.  When people hear the words suffer or suffering, they immediately think of physical suffering such as

  • suffering from diabetes or cancer or arthritis;
  • suffering through an unhappy family life;
  • suffering from being let go from work;
  • or suffering through financial difficulty.

Suffering can take on many, many forms.  We no longer suffer martyrdom for our faith like most every one of the Apostles and so many early Christians did.  Although today in parts of the world, unfortunately, it seems to be resurfacing.  But suffering for our faith is still part and parcel of our lives as Christians today.  Just listen to this one story I heard only days ago.  A philosophy professor, teaching at a university somewhere in the mid-west, made an announcement to his class on the first day.  In very clear and firm words, this professor announced that his class was open to only those students who agreed in the possibility that God does not exist.  In other words, if you are committed to your Christian faith, you are not welcome in that classroom.

Our Church Fathers called today "Red Sunday" because they knew that we, as followers of the teachings of Christ, will always suffer for our beliefs.  Suffering for our faith is still very much a part of our Christian experience. The opening statement of that professor is just one example.  And he said it to impressionable young adults who, in their minds, have come to the university to be educated.

Think of the many spiritual problems this might cause in the minds of students who look up to their professors.  To hear the Words of God and believe in them means to follow His example in life the best we can by living them so fully that we set ourselves apart from the world while living in it.  The Bible shows us that Jesus addressed the same kinds of everyday problems that we face today--the problems of disease, hatred, prejudice, racism, anger, loneliness, sadness and depression.  But He did so with love and acceptance and generosity to all who needed it.  He did it in a way that was considered both strange and wonderful at the same time.

And we know how the world responded to Him.  At first they responded with praise for all He did.  But then they responded with rejection and anger and violence.  Living out the Word of God is not easy.  Sometimes it's easier not to do what He would like.  Sometimes it's more popular to do just the opposite because the world around us seems to have little value for God or His ways.  Hearing the Word of God and believing them means living our lives with our faith in the center.  It means denying our "wants" for the "wants" of God.  It means suffering for our beliefs in a world which constantly challenges the message of Jesus Christ and purposely tries to relegate it to insignificance in the world today.

  • Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master.
  • He had no university degree, yet they called Him Teacher.
  • He had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer.
  • He had no army, yet Kings feared Him.
  • He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world.
  • He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him.
  • And although He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.

So on this "Red Sunday" ask yourself:

  • How much time do you devote every day in developing a closer relationship with the Son of God?
  • And what in your life prevents you from hearing Him every day?

"I tell you the truth, a time is coming....when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who can hear will live."

Amen.