Der Vasken's Sermon on August 19, 2018

Aug 21, 2018

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

"And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation." These are the rare words of St. Mary as she shared her feelings about why God selected her to give birth to His Son in this world.

Today the Armenian Church continues the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of St. Mary.  It's a celebration that continues for nine days. And throughout these nine days, the Armenian Church focuses its Bible readings around the central role St. Mary played in nurturing the infant Jesus.  The Feast of the Assumption is a wonderful summer holy day.  The church has celebrated the Assumption of Mary in one way or another for about fifteen centuries.  This feast draws together the whole lifespan of St. Mary.

In today's Gospel reading, we hear Mary, a young girl of about seventeen, speaking of God's love and justice. Our focus, then, fast-forwards about a half century later to her burial when she is taken into God's Kingdom--body and soul.  She is the very first person to share completely in the promises of the Resurrection.  She shared closely and deeply in Jesus' life and ministry and death.  And she shares a special and unique place in His Resurrection.  She is our "glimpse" into Heaven.

Through her Assumption into Heaven, we learn a very important lesson.  

  • It's a lesson most people forget.
  • It's a lesson that Jesus' Resurrection is transferable to us.
  • It's a lesson that eternal life is ours because Jesus offers it to us.
  • It's the lesson people want to hear--the one that tells us what we most want to know.

"Will we be with our loved ones again someday? And what is Heaven like and who will be there waiting for us?"  She offers us a glimpse into Heaven.  Today we hear the rare words of St. Mary and that's a treat because her words are limited in the Bible.  With these words, Mary opens up her heart and shows the pure joy inside.  She was deemed worthy to become the Mother of the Lord and that filled her with great joy.  But about halfway through the passage, Mary's words change from words of joy to words of advice for others.  She says, "And God's mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation."  Great words--comforting words.  These words offer encouragement.  They show us that God is with us at all times in both the joys of life and sorrows of life, in our days of health and our days of illness, in the good days and bad days.  God is with those who invite Him into their lives.  This is the promise of St. Mary.

Now what does it mean to "fear" God?  "The mercy of God is on those who fear Him..." she says.  In a biblical sense the word "fear" can mean more than being afraid.  For St. Mary, fear means to respect the ways of God, to do as God expects, and to simply obey His teachings.  In other words, follow the teachings of God and you will enjoy His mercy in your eternal life.  It means take a look at the people God has placed in your life:  family, friends, children, spouses, parents, co-workers--whoever it may be:

  • And take the storms in their lives and help bring about peace;
  • Help turn their tear into a smile;
  • In every trial they face, be a refuge for them;
  • And for every "sigh" they express, be a source of comfort.

So the words of St. Mary are as relevant for us today as when she first spoke them.  We are to use our time in this world, no matter how long or short that is, for the glory of God, to help meet each other's needs, and to spread His Light everywhere we go in this world.  "The mercy of God is extended to all who fear Him from generation to generation."  May we all take the time to think about how we can be a blessing in the lives of others.

Amen.