Der Vasken’s Sermon on March 24, 2024

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

“Where did you learn this prayer?” I asked them. Their answer brought tears to my eyes.

Today is Palm Sunday. It is one of the few Christian feast days that the world around us still talks about. On that first Palm Sunday, the City of Jerusalem was very different. There was excitement everywhere. There were crowds of people larger than any that had ever gathered before overflowing in its streets. People heard of Jesus and people wanted to meet Him and touch Him.

We can imagine and almost hear what was being said in those streets. “The One, we heard about, is coming to our city. The One, Who can heal illnesses, is making His way to our city. We heard that He made the blind see and the dear hear and that He gives voice to the voiceless and helps the disabled stand up and walk.” So on that day, Jerusalem was alive with excitement because the famed “Miracle Worker” was heading to them.

I’ve had the privilege of traveling to that Holy City six times in my life. Six of the greatest experiences I’ve ever known and each time we travelled there, the Bible unfolded before us. We saw 2,000-year-old history in every direction we looked. We walked along the same road He walked and entered the same city gate He entered on that first Palm Sunday. At the end of that road appearing right before our eyes was the city that changed the course of the world—the city of the Crucifixion and Resurrection and the city that has been the focal point of Christianity since that very first Palm Sunday.

There is a story that often gets overlooked that takes place at the beginning of the Palm Sunday story. The Gospels tell us that just as Jesus and His disciples began their long walk to that famed city, He passed two blind men waiting for Him along the road. These men know about Him. They heard of His miracles and healings and how He cured what others could not. So they began shouting to get His attention. He heard them, which isn’t surprising because His heart is the heart of compassion. He heard them and He stopped and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked them. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” He had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately, they received their sight and they began following Him.

This story took place on the day before Palm Sunday, but we hardly ever hear about it because it is often lost behind the greater story that follows it. This story is about two individuals—two healed people—whose names we don’t know, who made the personal choice to follow Him with their lives because of their faith. Just like those two blind men, people today follow Him.

Let me give you an example. About six weeks ago, Yeretzgin Arpi ad I returned from Armenia. We had spent two weeks distributing the winter clothes donated toward our clothing drive and because of the generous heart and spirit of our parishioners, we were able to help a great many people and families who were removed from their ancestral homes in Artsakh.

One day, while in a city called Vanadzor, people gathered in the hundreds to receive a portion of the clothing that would make their winter experience just a little bit easier. There a mother approached me with her young son and she thanked me for the winter coats and boots, but said she wanted something much more important for her son.

So I leaned in and asked her what it was he needed and she said, “My little boy,” she said “has the need for a blessing.” So I pulled the little boy closer and I put a cross around his neck that I had in my pocket and blessed him. We said the Hayr Mer together and to my surprise, that little boy and his mother said every word of that prayer with me. “Where did you learn this prayer?” I asked them. Their answer brought tears to my eyes. The mother told me that during the last war in Artsakh, the little boy’s father perished and the local priest taught him this prayer and encouraged him to say it whenever he missed his father because this prayer, he said, your father will hear in Heaven. Just like those two blind men on Palm Sunday, people today follow Him.

We can all relate to this story because it sounds familiar to us having grown up in families that survived genocide and injustice. We know what it means to have faith and to cling to that faith when the world turns against you just like it did to the families of Artsakh. That is how our families survived and pushed forward and built again and smiled again.

So, on this important Sunday, we should ask ourselves this. If Jesus asked us the same question that He asked those two blind men sitting along the side of the road, “What do you want me to do for you?” how would you answer? Where did you learn this prayer? I asked them and their answer brought tears to my eyes.

If Jesus asked us the same question that He asked those two blind me, how would you answer? Something for all of us to think about it.

Amen.

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