Der Vasken's Sermon on April 22, 2018
Apr 26, 2018
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of 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 Fathers to recall the sacrifice of Jesus Christ before His Resurrection. It's a day that we are asked to recall the price that was paid for eternal life in God's Kingdom through the miracle of Easter. "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 well-known of the Gospels. And He spoke them to His disciples. But in many ways, they are, also, among the most troubling words in the New Testament.
They are troubling because they are saying to us that a message has been delivered to the people of the world--an important message that is tied directly to our eternal life and only those people who can hear it and who 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.
Why is this? Because in the biblical sense, the terms 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. And 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:
- 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.
But 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. But suffering for our faith is still part and parcel of our lives as Christians today. Our Church Fathers called today Red Sunday because they knew that we, as followers of the teachings of Christ, will suffer for our beliefs. Suffering for our faith is still very much a part of our Christian experience.
To hear the Words of God and believe in them means to follow His example in life the best we can by copying it 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 and hatred and prejudice and racism;
- The problems of anger and loneliness and 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 is easier not to do what He would like. Sometimes, it is 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 the margins in the world today.
- Jesus came to serve, yet they called Him Master.
- He had no college degree, yet they called Him Teacher.
- He had no medical bag, 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 like a criminal.
- And although He was buried in a tomb, He lives today.
So on this Red Sunday ask yourself:
- What stands in your way of 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."