Der Vasken's Sermon on January 27, 2019
Jan 28, 2019
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
During the last two weeks, the Armenian Church has celebrated the feast days of a large number of saints--some better-known than others. Some of these feast days celebrated the lives of saints we know well like the feast of the birth of John the Baptist. Others celebrated are rather unknown or are rather unfamiliar saints such as St. Anton, the Hermit, or St. Adrian and his wife, Natalia. It has been a month of feast days dedicated to not only the saints themselves, but to the example they set in how to follow Christ as a true disciple.
Today's Bible reading picks up on this month-long theme and speaks about discipleship. It focuses on the dignity of being a follower of Christ. And there is a subtle message in between the lines of this story that helps us understand how faith was received by people and accepted by people from all walks of life and throughout time. Let's look a little closer at faith. Some people hear God "calling" them to their faith and they respond accordingly. But not everyone hears "a call." Most of us have been brought to our faith by other people like Andrew in today's Bible reading. Most of us were baptized and brought to the church by our parents and Godparents. We grew up in the church and were taught about the Christian faith in the church by other people. We were encouraged to live our lives in a God-pleasing way by other people.
And so from that, we can understand that God brings other people into our lives to call us closer to Him--people like our parents, grandparents, our Godparents, Sunday School teachers that we all remember and who made an impression on our lives, and other faithful members of the church, priests, deacons or an elderly parishioner for example. I spoke with one such lady about ten days ago. We spoke over the phone for fifty minutes. She told me that at ninety-seven years old, "I still tell the young people in church today why it's important that they make this church a part of their lives and to take care of it. This is the House of God," she said. "It's our House of God so I tell them," she said.
God brings other people into our lives to reach us and teach us and to guide us and ultimately to strengthen our faith. It's the responsibility of all of us to be that Christian witness--that important example for others. It's a privilege to do it and it's our Christian responsibility to do that. Today's Gospel lesson says that we are all "called" to follow Christ whether we realize it or not. Now when God calls us to follow Him, what does He mean? What does He see within us? When Jesus called His disciples, what did He see in them? When we look at His disciples, we see what's on the surface.
- Twelve men who were not highly-educated,
- Fishermen for the most part,
- Men raised in and around 1st Century villages--just average men.
But what He saw within them was very different. He saw them as they were with all their strength and all their weaknesses. And he saw them for what they could become. When we look at people, we often see them only for what they are right now. But Jesus saw more within them; He saw their potential.
A few months ago, I went to the Cambridge City Hall to attend a monthly meeting, called by the Mayor of Cambridge, with the leaders of faith communities from around the city. And most months the Mayor invites one of the various City Department heads to speak. This particular month the invited speaker was the city planner. And as this man spoke and described the work he was planning for this intersection and that neighborhood, I realized that he saw things through a very different lens than most people do. Show a city planner a piece of property and he or she will immediately imagine the neighborhood it can become. And I guess that's also true for a businessman as well. Show him or her an empty lot of land and they envision a future store. And it's probably the same for an artist or a sculptor as well. A blank canvas to us is a painting not yet painted in the eyes of an artist. A marble stone to us is just that, but to a sculptor, he sees the statue hidden within it.
That's how Jesus saw His disciples, and that's what He sees when He looks at us. He looks at us and through faith, He shows us what we can become. That's the dignity of our discipleship. Every day we are called to reflect that dignity into the world. We can do that
- by helping people who struggle with anxiety or have been betrayed or are full of doubt,
- by respecting the value of marriage,
- by honoring the sanctity of human life--something that used to define us as human beings but that took a major blow last week in this country,
- by learning to forgive rather than hold onto grudges--those grudges that have held us down for far too long,
- and we can reflect God by building up our corner of the world based on those things that honor God and bring Him glory.
So as we leave here today, let's take a moment to ask God to help us see ourselves as He sees us. And then ask Him to help us bring forth that disciple--that disciple that He has called. The dignity of being a disciple is not to settle for what we are today, but to see what each of us can become through faith. So let's take a moment to ask God to help us see ourselves as He sees us and then work to bring forth that disciple that He has called. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you.