Der Vasken's Sermon on August 4, 2019

Aug 7, 2019

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

"Der Hayr, what did Jesus eat?  Der Hayr, where did He sleep?  Der Vasken, did He ever take a vacation?"

I just returned from directing the last session of our diocesan St. Vartan Camp program.  This camp program is housed at the beautiful Ararat Center in upstate New York, which is a perfect location with its open-flowing valleys surrounded by the Catskill Mountains of New York.  There, during the seven days I was at camp, I had many opportunities to teach, preach and interact with the children and teens of our diocese. 

Each morning our program would begin with a twenty-minute worship service.  Included in those twenty minutes was a short daily message presented by me or one of the visiting clergy of our diocese.  These services took place about 9:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. every morning.  And each morning by looking at the young faces and their expressive eyes, I could tell who slept well the night before and who stayed up far past the nightly curfew.  

So I and the other clergy would wonder from time to time whether the message was actually "sinking in" or was it "falling" on sleeping, tired ears?  And what surprised me regularly was that, later in the day, while shooting a basketball with them or in one of the classrooms teaching or even just sitting down on a bench with the campers, I heard a young camper repeat something--a phrase, a sentence or even just a thought--that I said earlier in the day during our morning worship message.

That type of thing happened more than a few times and each time I found myself amazed.  "How did he or she remember that?  They looked like they were half asleep," I would think to myself.   From there, their questions would begin flowing.  Questions like:  "What did Jesus eat?  Where did He sleep? And did He ever take a vacation?"  I loved those questions, but I think I loved the opportunities to share thoughts and answers with these young minds even more so.  I particularly liked the question: "Did Jesus ever take a vacation?"  And so in answering them, I would think back on our recent pilgrimage and tell them stories of times when Jesus and His disciples went away from the crowds and rested and spent time in private prayer.  Like last week's feast for example, on the day of Transfiguration, when Jesus took His disciples to a mountain, and on the top of that mountain, they rested and they prayed.  The same was true after He fed the crowd of 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  The same was true after His own baptism when He entered into the wilderness for forty days or in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night before His arrest. 

The reality for many of us is that what the Bible taught us to do to keep ourselves refreshed and connected to God has eroded over time.  For too many of us, gone are the days of summer vacations, restful weeks and family time.  Life no longer slows down during the summer for far too many people.  And that's a sad reality because life moves by us all too quickly.  We live in a very fast-paced world.  There always seems to be too much to do with too little time to do it and even less time to rest.

Yet, God showed us that rest is not only appropriate but also, it is right.  And "rest" in the biblical sense means to set aside a period of time for "holy use"--a time with God, a time with family and a time for ourselves.  So on this first Sunday of August, ask yourself:

  • Do I place as much care in scheduling my rest as I do in scheduling my work?
  • I work hard to take care of my family, but do I also rest to take care of my family?
Think about it.
  • How is your summer going?
  • Have you found time for rest and time for family and time to be with God?