Der Vasken's Sermon on January 26, 2020

Jan 28, 2020

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

For the last two weeks, if you were in church, you heard me speak about the Baptism of Jesus from different angles.  His Baptism ushered in the start of His three-year public ministry.  Well, today, I want to share with you what happened the next day according to the Gospel of St. John.  The Bible says: "The next day John the Baptist was there again at the Jordan River baptizing people with two of his disciples, namely, Andrew, who was known as the first one called to be a disciple, and John, who is believed to be the writer of the Gospel of John.  When John the Baptist saw Jesus passing by, he stopped what he was doing and pointing to Him, he shouted out, 'Look, it is the Lamb of God!'  And the two disciples, when they heard him say this, they dropped everything and began following Jesus.  And along the way, Jesus noticed these two men following Him and so He turned around and He asked them this question. 'What do you want from me?'  They said, 'Rabbi' (meaning teacher), 'where are You staying tonight?' 'Come,' He replied, 'and you will see.'  In other words, 'Follow Me, ' He told them, 'and you will find the answers you seek."  And they did just that and their lives were changed forever.

Today's Bible reading is about discipleship.  Its focus is on the dignity of being a follower of Christ.  It says that we are all called to follow Christ whether we realize it or not.  So let us look at what it means to be "called" by Christ to follow Christ.  When Gods calls us to follow Him, what He sees within us plays a very big role.  What does He see within us?  That is an important question.  When Jesus called His disciples, what did He see within them?  When we look at His disciples, we see what is on the surface--twelve men, who were of limited education, 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 strengths and all their weaknesses.  But He also 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 who they were, who they can be and who they are in their heart-of-hearts.  This thought comes to mind every month when I visit the Armenian Nursing Home in Jamaica Plain.  I enter the facility and at first, I see people worn down by time.  I see elderly mothers and fathers, who no longer remember their children's names or even their own.  And I look around the room and I see very few family members visiting.  On the surface, I see tired people, but when I spend one-on-one time with them, I meet the inner person and faces begin to have names and people begin to have stories and lives begin to have history.

I realize that these dear people all have stories to tell.  That among them is a former teacher, who inspired children to grow up and believe in themselves.  Among them is a grocery store owner, who helped many less fortunate people feed their children and never charged.  Among them are people, who escaped bombings from wars in Beirut, Artsakh and Syria in earlier periods of their lives, and there is even one man, who was a fighter pilot in World War II. What is seen on the surface today says little about who they were and what they did, but there is an inner person within each of them that God not only sees but values.

About ten days ago, I went to the Cambridge City Hall as I do most every month to attend a morning meeting called by the Mayor of Cambridge with the clergy of faith communities from around the city.  On this particular day, there was no invited guest speaker.  Instead, an informal conversation took place on various quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr.  And as the conversation unfolded around one of my favorite quotes, I realized that this quote is a very basic teaching of the Christian faith.  The quote says: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  This is a faith that says God wants the inner person He sees within us to surface to help make our world a better place, and God wants that inner person He sees within you and me to shine forth and fill our world with everything He values.

That's how Jesus looked at His disciples and that's how He looks at us.  He looks at us and He sees His children.  He looks at us and He sees His creation. And when He looks at us, He sees our past, our present and our future.  That is the dignity that comes with following Christ.  Every day we are called to reflect that dignity into the world.  We can do that by being bridge builders and peacemakers, by caring for our elderly and children, by honoring the sanctity of human life and by forgiving, rather than holding on to grudges, those grudges that hold us down for far too long.  When we do these things, we build up our corner of the world and bring high honor to God.  

So as we leave here today, let us 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 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 us take a moment to ask God to help us see ourselves as He sees us and then work to bring forth that inner person that He sees within us.



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