Der Vasken’s Sermon on May 15, 2022

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

According to the Armenian Church calendar, today commemorates the day when God “wrote” in the sky. The year was 351 A.D. and a miracle related to the Cross of Jesus Christ occurred in the skies over Jerusalem.

Here is the story. The countryside around Jerusalem is made up of many hills and valleys and as people approach the City of Jerusalem, the first thing they notice is the Old City Wall that completely surrounds the Ancient City. Built into these walls are eight huge gates each called a different name. These gates allow people to enter and exit every day for business, for worship, for shopping or for whatever reason they wish.

Of these eight gates, seven are open and functioning to this day, but one has remained sealed for centuries. That one gate is called the Golden Gate. The Golden Gate is the gate Jesus entered on Palm Sunday. So Jesus came down the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday and passed directly through the Golden Gate on His way into the city.

In the year 351 A.D., something never before seen occurred in the sky over that area. A massive Cross appeared from the Mount of Olives to the Golden Gate, which is between one and two miles in distance. It is recorded that this occurred in the afternoon hours when the city was busy. It was visible to everyone in the area including to both the Christian and non-Christian communities living there.

Think of what it must have been like to see a symbol like that in the sky over 1,600 years ago! The miracle affected everyone. Christians were strengthened in their faith. Many non-believers began to see life differently because of that cross.

Today is a Sunday dedicated to the Holy Cross, to serve as a reminder of the greatest sacrifice ever made by God for the world. So today is an appropriate time to ask ourselves: What does the Cross of our faith mean to you and me personally? Listen to what Jesus said to His disciples: “Then He said to them: “If anyone wants to follow Me, he must first take up his cross and then follow me.”

Many people are uncomfortable with these words. They find them upsetting because they tell us something we are not used to hearing. They tell us that the world doesn’t revolve around us, which is a very different message than what the world tells us.

Every day we are given some message in this world that reminds us that life is all about me, but then along comes Jesus Christ and He tells us something completely different—that we are not individually the center of the world. We are collectively and we are together and we have to help each other and be there for each other and build each other up. Nothing short of that matters.

These words are upsetting because they tell us that sacrificing our needs for the needs of others is one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith. What He is saying to us is this. Pick up the Cross that was placed on our shoulders and carry it forward. It’s about doing God’s work in this world. It’s about caring for God’s children in this world. It’s sacrificing by denying our wants for the wants of others. It’s sacrificing by denying our needs for the needs of those around us.

In other words, whoever cares for other people and puts their needs before his or her own, serves God and will inherit eternal life. To “take up our cross” and follow Christ means to follow His example in life the best we can by doing what He would do as a way of life, by being His hands and feet and His eyes and heart in this world and loving those around us and those who need us. It means living our lives with our faith in the center, that by taking up His Cross in this world, we are following Him on the only path that leads to the Golden Gate of Heaven.

So on this May Sunday of the Holy Cross, let us remember the Cross of Our Lord is calling us to look for ways to live out our faith every day in this world. So ask yourself:

• What stands in your way of taking up your cross and following Him?
• What does your cross in life look like?

“Then Jesus said to them: ‘If anyone wants to follow Me, he must first deny himself and take up his cross every day and then follow Me.’”

Amen.

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