Der Vasken’s Sermon on April 25, 2021

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

What comes to mind when you see the color red? You see a lot of red in church today and there is a reason for that. Today is Red Sunday in the Armenian Church. It is a day set aside by our Church Fathers to recall the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is a day that we are asked to recall the price that was paid for the Easter miracle that gave us eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

“I tell you the truth,” Christ says, “that a time is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” These Words of Christ were first spoken to the disciples but today He is addressing them to us and these Words are somewhat troubling.

They are troubling because they say to us that a message has been delivered to the people of the world. It is an important message that is tied directly to our eternal life. Only those people who can “hear it” will “comprehend it.” They are troubling because they refer to death and no one likes to hear about that, and they warn us about suffering and no one likes to hear about that.

We don’t like to hear about those things that disturb us and trouble us because we don’t understand enough about them. By putting two of those things on the table to be discussed, Jesus is saying, “We need to hear about it because a time is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”

In a biblical sense, the phrase “to hear” means more than “listening.” It means putting the words we hear into action. It means believing what we hear with our whole heart. In this day and age, believing in the Christian faith, unfortunately, still implies suffering. When we hear about suffering, we immediately think of physical suffering such as:

• Suffering from Diabetes, cancer, arthritis or COVID-19;
• Suffering through an unhappy family life;
• Suffering from being let go from work;
• Or suffering through financial troubles.

But “suffering” can take on many more forms. We no longer suffer martyrdom for our faith like most every one of the Apostles and so many early Christians did. Suffering and faith still go hand in hand even today.

Our Church Fathers called today Red Sunday because they knew that we, as followers of Christianity, will suffer for our beliefs. Just look at the reason we commemorate April 24th every year. No one needs to spell out for us what it means to suffer for our faith. We all understand that we grew up with this vocabulary because the lives of our ancestors bore witness to it.

To “hear” the Words of God and believe in them means to follow His example in life the best we can by living it so completely that we set ourselves apart from the world while living in it. The Bible shows us that Jesus addressed the same kinds of everyday problems that we face today—the problems of disease, prejudice, racism, anger, loneliness and depression. But He did so with love, acceptance and compassion for everyone He met, and we know how the world responded to Him. At first, they responded with praise for all He did, but then they responded with rejection, anger and violence. Living out the Word of God is not easy. Sometimes it is actually easier not to do what He would like because the world around us seems to have little value for God or His ways.

Hearing the Word of God and believing them means living our lives with our faith in the center. It means denying our “wants” for the “wants” of God. It means suffering for our beliefs in a world that challenges the teachings of the Bible every day and purposely tries to marginalize it in the world today.
• Jesus came to serve yet they called Him Master.
• He had no college degree yet they called Him Teacher.
• He had no medicines yet they called Him Healer.
• He had no army yet Kings feared Him.
• He won no military battles yet He conquered the world.
• He committed no crime yet they crucified Him like a criminal.
• Although they buried Him in a tomb, the Tomb could not hold Him.

So on this Red Sunday ask yourself:
• What do you hear God saying to you?
• Or what in your life prevents you from hearing Him speak to you?

“I tell you the truth, a time is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who can hear will live.” Hearing the Word of God and believing them means living our lives with our faith in the center. That is what it means to hear the Voice of God.

Amen.

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