Der Vasken's Sermon on July 14, 2019

Jul 16, 2019

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

We went to kiss the ground upon which Jesus Christ walked and we went to kneel and pray before His empty Tomb.  As many of you know, eighteen of our parishioners spent much of the last two weeks on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other parts of the Holy Land.  It was an incredible ten-day experience.  

On this pilgrimage we visited many important sites tied to the Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ.  We visited and prayed in the Tomb of His Resurrection and were given the honor of cleaning it.  We knelt before the place of His Crucifixion.  We kissed the manger in Bethlehem.  We rode a boat on the Sea of Galilee and read how He walked on water and we visited the ancient Armenian Quarter of the Old City.  It was a captivating ten days and we are all better off for the time we spent there. 

This was now the sixth time I have been to the Holy Land.  Each time I come away with having been "moved" by something new.  In the quiet peace found on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I was moved by the message of the Gospels.  I love the Sea of Galilee and all it offers.  This beautiful spot is where the famed Sermon on the Mount was preached.  I've read those famous Words many times before, yet while standing on the hillside where they were first spoken, the words touched me and grabbed me powerfully and most definitely.

As we read these Words, I thought about how often we hear of the Holy Land in less than favorable ways--struggles between ethnicities and religions, controversy over land ownership and the issues between the Israelis and their neighbors.  But here we were on the peaceful mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and all we could feel was the peace and presence of the Son of God.

These were the words that filled my heart with emotion.  "Come and follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  This quote leads directly into the Sermon on the Mount.  We know that Jesus began His Ministry by calling His Disciples to "follow" Him and that it didn't take long for Him to gather the twelve disciples.  They essentially dropped what they were doing and very willingly began "following" Him. In this, the most famous sermon ever preached, Jesus describes the traits He seeks within His followers.  He told them about the Laws of God and about how we are to live our lives in a way that "seasons" and "flavors" the world around us by spreading the message of the Gospels wherever and whenever we can. 

Standing on the hillside where Christ spoke this sermon, you can't but help feel that He is speaking directly to you because on that hillside He taught about so many things that relate directly to our everyday lives:

  • How we should respond to anger,
  • How we should respond to worry and personal temptations,
  • And helping those who need help,
  • And He teaches about prayer.
And as our group read His Words, I thought about how He "called" each member of our group to do exactly what He told His disciples to do--to "Come and follow Me."  So what do we do now that we are back and where do we go from here?  Our group is back now--all the better for having gone, but how do we keep the memories alive?  How do we continue to feel His presence and hear His voice as loudly and clearly as it can be heard on that hillside of Galilee?  How do we focus in on His voice when we are not standing on that peaceful and serene hillside in Galilee?  How do we focus in on His voice when we are standing among things like our illnesses or our mortgages or our schedules or the daily news reports telling us how awful the world around us is?

How do we hear Him speak directly to us when we become consumed in worries such as our child is struggling in some area of his or her life; when we have endless demands and deadlines placed upon us and bills have to be paid; and when the doctor appointments grow too frequent? How can we hear His voice and feel His presence during those stressful times that we all have?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke to us as "Children of God" because the "Children of God" know how to live with the "Peace of God."

  •   When we accept the "Peace of God," we reject doubt;
  •   When we accept the "Peace of God," we reject the notion that God doesn't care about us;
  •   And when we accept the "Peace of God," we focus on God.
The "Peace of God" is His gift to each one of us.  So on this warm summer Sunday, we owe it to ourselves to think about if we are following Him and are we living our lives as "Children of God" ought to?  The sermon, spoken on the mount near the beautiful Sea of Galilee, was a conversation God had with His children.  So let us remember His timeless calling to each one of us:  "Children of God come follow Me, and you'll never be alone."
  • Are we following Him?
  • And are we living our lives as "Children of God" ought to?
It was a beautiful ten days.

Amen.