Der Vasken's Sermon on May 27, 2018

May 30, 2018

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

Not too many weeks ago, I attended a very interesting annual dialogue hosted at the Boston University School of Theology.  It was an interfaith dialogue where I spent an afternoon exchanging thoughts with some Jewish rabbis, a few Muslim imams, a Buddhist monk or two and a few other people of differing faith traditions.  And during that two-hour round-table discussion, I realized two things.  One is a great deal is different about our beliefs and two, but that there are many "things" in common between us as well--more than most people realize.

Memorial Day (or Merelotz) is one of those "things."  Memorial Day (or Merelotz) is a revered tradition for people of many faiths and religions around the world.  For us, as members of the Armenian Church tradition, setting aside a day for our dead has been basic to our spiritual "culture" since the very beginning.   Memorial Day is about remembrance.  It's about remembering those who served.  It's about showing respect for those who have left this world whether we knew them personally or not; whether they were a part of our family or not.  And Memorial Day has always been about visiting their graves and cemeteries and honoring them.  It's a day of remembrance.

Originally, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day because it was a time for decorating the graves of soldiers, who died in war, with flowers and flags.  Many of us today approach Memorial Day with the respect we saw our parents and grandparents approach it.  

  • It was always looked upon as a day to honor our dead.
  • It was marked in our calendars.
  • It was the day that began the summer season.
  • It was an unmovable day for which we paused our routines.
  • It was a day we spent with family.

Memorial Day was a day we all looked forward to.  It was a fixture of spring and it was permanent.  When we were children, many things around us seemed permanent.  If we each think back to our childhood for a moment, there were many wonderful features of life that we never imagined would change.  I'm talking about those basic elements found in all healthy homes such as the stability and strength of family, our values, our priorities, and our support for each other, our family's history and purpose in this world, our faith in God and His Love for us, and there was the permanency of respect for our dead.  These things identified who we were and who we would become.

Today, of course, much of that has changed.  In today's world it is easy to lose the anchor of our lives.  It is easy to become confused and uncertain about what really matters or it is easy to become so concerned with the changes occurring around us that we lose sight of those values that never change and that give meaning to our lives.  

St. Paul speaks very clearly about this in the Bible and he gives us this advice.  "We should fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen," he says, "because what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal."  In other words, what is seen is a confused and confusing world in which the only thing certain is that more change will come our way.  But there remain "unseen things" in this world that are permanent.   These "unseen things" are the things valued by our Christian faith.  Things like humility and compassion, forgiveness, respect and love.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, ask yourself:

  • What were the values passed down to you from your parents and grandparents?
  • And then ask yourself if you still hold them in that same high regard today?

Let's honor our dead this weekend by remembering all that they held in value.  And let's remember what St. Paul was telling us.  When the world we live in today passes away, those "unseen" values and those "unseen" gifts that were passed down to us through the generations remain with us forever and unchanged.

Amen.