Der Vasken’s Sermon on July 18, 2021

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

“Everyone needs someone and anyone can help with that.”
These were the words of a young high school student as she and her friends were asked about why they invited a classmate they didn’t know to sit with them in their school cafeteria a few weeks ago somewhere in South Carolina. They chose to invite him to their table because he was sitting along and no one seemed to notice or care. “Everyone needs someone and anyone can help with that,” she said.

The student they welcomed to eat with them had apparently been sitting alone in the cafeteria every day since the first day of school. No one noticed Andrew Kirby. No one invited him to sit with them and no one made room for him when he tried to sit with his peers at their table. But then one day this group of long-time friends noticed Andrew and invited him to sit with them. “Everyone needs someone and anyone can help with that.”

This young boy’s mother named Kay was aware that her son had no one to socialize with. No one to talk with and that every day he sat alone to eat his lunch in a room full of unwelcoming classmates. She knew that in a room full of noise, in a room full of active teenagers, in a room full of friendships and classmates, her son sat alone because he was physically different than the other children, having suffered neurological issues earlier in life and grew up with challenges.

So every day this mother prayed for her son asking God to send someone to sit with her boy and on that day, her prayers were answered. Ask how he felt when the group of friends came up to him and asked him to sit with them, Andrew responded. “I was excited. Their friendship has made me feel extra special to have friends like this.” This group of teens have had lunch together every day since that first day. Why were these kids different than the others in the cafeteria? I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but the kind of heart and compassion and love they showed Andrew Kirby is learned from parents and mentors and teachers. It’s planted in our childhood and nurtured over time. “Everyone needs someone and anyone can help with that.”

Yesterday the Armenian Church celebrated the feasts of Thaddeus the Apostle and Santookht the Princess. St. Santookht was the teenage daughter of King Sanadrook of Armenia back in the 1st Century. She converted to the Christian faith after having spent time with Thaddeus. Santookht was captivated by the stories Thaddeus shared and taught about the life and teachings and miracles of Jesus of Nazareth. He taught the young princess all about what he experienced as one of the twelve disciples. He told her how Jesus led by example and how to live her life around faith and hope and love and with forgiveness in her heart and around placing her trust in God and letting Him guide her steps. Through the Apostle Thaddeus, the princess learned about the heart and message of Jesus and she chose to remove her crown and put down her title of princess, and the only way of life she ever knew, to put on the “Crown of Heaven” and wear the title of Christianity and learn of a new way of life by following Him for the rest of her very short life. Thaddeus encouraged the princess to better the world around her through her faith.

Princess Santookht came from a family with great power and almost limitless authority in their land, but Thaddeus spoke to her about a different kind of authority and power—the kind of power that brings honor to God and builds up the lives of other people forever.
In our world today there is always so much talk about power and there is a constant struggle for power and often we get caught up in the power struggles that go on around us every day. We get caught up in the economic struggles over who has and who doesn’t have. We get caught up in the debates that take place over the seats of power. We get caught up over whose voice will influence more people but Thaddeus wasn’t talking about that kind of power. He was teaching the princess about a power that will last beyond this world and she would see the world around her through the “Eyes of God.” He was talking about the kind of power that helps those in need, those who are struggling, those who are lonely or stressed by an illness or going through tough times. Thaddeus told the princess that by living this faith, she would have the kind of power that doesn’t come with a title, but the kind of power that will do good and be felt within the Kingdom of Heaven.

For more than two weeks now we have heard about the needs of the people who survived the terrible building collapse in Florida and about the people in the western states struggling with the worst heat and temperatures and droughts ever recorded. We have heard about the ongoing struggles of the families who lose their sons and fathers and husbands in the Artsakh War and I am sure tomorrow will bring about more needs and more struggles around the world.

Through our baptisms, we received the same power that Princess Santookht learned about from Thaddeus. So we should ask: Are we using that power for the good of others and to make our world a better place—a world where God’s name is honored and revered every time we do something to help the lives of others.

So as you leave here, ask yourself:
• Whose example do you follow in your life today?
• And what will you do to help make the life of someone else a little bit easier?

Saints Thaddeus and Santookht chose to follow the ways of God. May we do likewise in our lives.

Amen.

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