Der Vasken’s Sermon on February 7, 2021

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

Here is a thought-provoking quote for you this morning. “Why do we close our eyes when we pray, when we cry, when we kiss and when we dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen, they are felt only by the heart.” This is an interesting thought, isn’t it? It’s thought-provoking.

I came across this quote on someone’s Facebook post a few weeks ago and it caught my eye. I thought this quote to be very fitting to share today because it is true for all of us and because we just commemorated a life of a very special Christian man who lived a long, long time ago and it fits his life’s story.

Recently, the Armenian Church celebrated the feast of a man who lived by the feelings of his heart. This feast is dedicated to St Sarkis the Warrior. Sourp Sarkis lived in the 4th century and during his time in this world, he made the world he lived in rise up and notice what it meant to have true faith in Jesus Christ. The Feast of St. Sarkis the Warrior is based on the life of a man of very deep faith.

Here is a brief background. St. Sarkis came from Asia Minor just outside of historic Western Armenia. He rose through the military ranks and became a trustworthy general to Emperor Constantine the Great—the first Christian Roman Emperor. But Constantine eventually died and a non-Christian emperor named Julian rose to power. And so Sarkis and his son, Mardiros, fled seeking asylum in the nearby Kingdom of Armenia.

Not long after he entered power, Emperor Julian started a war against the Persian Empire. Sarkis and his son traveled to Persia to join the army of the Persian King, Shabur II. Sarkis, along with Mardiros, fought with great bravery again Julien’s army. King Shabur eventually discovered that Sarkis was a Christian and asked him to renounce his faith and embrace the Persian faith instead. The King didn’t want to have his fearless top general killed for worshipping a God the Persians didn’t believe in. He gave Sarkis an option—leave your faith in Jesus Christ on the ground and take up the Persian faith of twelve gods. Both Sarkis and his son simply refused to give up their Christian faith.

The King offered great wealth and promises of even higher positions but nothing shook Sarkis or his son. They would rather die than deny Christ. Eventually, the King ordered both father and son to be executed for their Christian beliefs. Sarkis was and still is a powerful Christian example.

The Christian Emperor Constantine taught Sarkis to live his life around faith, hope and love and around forgiveness and around experiencing the presence of God in ways he had never known before. Because of Emperor Constantine, Sarkis’ faith in God grew stronger every day to the point where he only understood life through his Christian faith. For him, faith wasn’t only about the words we say or the thoughts we think, it was about a way of life.

The message of St Sarkis’ life and death is that we can truly honor Jesus Christ by living as He lived and valuing what He values. We do that by living and breathing and practicing our Christian faith every day and by realizing that the most beautiful things in life are not seen. They are felt only by the heart.

What is the take-away message here? To me it is that St. Sarkis’ life speaks to us today from the pages of history. His life tells us to live our Christian faith every day even when the world around us wants nothing to do with God. He is telling us that our faith in Jesus Christ is far more important than anything else this world has to offer. He is telling us that, at the end of our lives, the only thing we have is our faith, our hope and our love for the One Who promises us eternal life in Kingdom of Heaven. Everything else will pass away but that Promise of God will live forever.

Difficulties and troubles like St. Sarkis faced come in different forms for everybody and they will be challenging for everybody, but they will be impossible to face if we face them without our faith. So as we look at the life of St. Sarkis, ask yourself:

• What questions do I struggle with in my life that never seem to get resolved or answered?
• While I am struggling with them, do I look at them through the lens of my Christian faith and ask God to show me a better way?
• What trouble, what problem is my spouse or parent or child or sibling or friend struggling with at this point in their life and have I turned to my faith to find the words to help them?

“Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen, they are felt only by the heart.”

Amen.

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