Der Vasken’s Sermon on May 16, 2021

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

“The City of Peace is today a city of turmoil, hatred and destruction.”

That was a headline I read last week while catching upon the news events from around the world. I was saddened by this headline. It was uncomfortable and disappointing to read because I have been to that city many times. My sadness had bits of anger in it and disappointment and even a little confusion. “Don’t these people get it?” I thought to myself. They live in the City of Peace and they never live up to that beautiful distinction. In fact, there has been little peace in the City of Peace over the centuries.

This is land that is Holy to three major world religions—three religions that speak of peace were founded in peace but have never lived in peace. It’s ironic that today, in the Armenian Church, is called “the second Palm Sunday.” We recall the day that Jesus Christ entered the City of Jerusalem and in the midst of all the noise and chaos in the city, He brought His peaceful presence.

“My peace, I leave with you. My peace, I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” These words have been shared and read throughout many generations and also at many funerals. They are often read in times where we experience trouble and tense moments.

“My peace, I leave with you. My peace, I give to you,” He says. Jesus was speaking to His disciples at a moment when they needed to hear good news and needed to hear words of comfort. Throughout this past year, during those long days and months we have all been through, we also needed to hear words that would give us comfort. He was talking about peace—a “peace” that He offers that is different from what the world offers. We all know that the world’s peace is often defined by just a lack of tension or turmoil. Just because people are not fighting doesn’t mean that there is peace. Just because people are not openly arguing doesn’t mean that we really have peace. But He speaks about a “peace” that He is leaving us and that He is giving us that we will need before those moments arrive that bring us tension. We know what tension has been like over these past several weeks that turned into months and now over a year, but as we read these words where Jesus says, “I have a peace that I want to give to you,” the question for us this morning is whether or not we will accept it.

There have been countless moments when I, like all of you, have faced troubled times and difficult times. I have looked for a source, a power or a strength that would help me get through the moment, that would help me overcome the moment and be able to rise above the challenges that are in front of me at that very moment. So how can we have peace in the midst of the storms of life? Well, let me say this morning that it is possible. Even when we think of Jesus bringing calm and peace to the storm on the Sea of Galilee; or those who are hungry; those who are needy; or those who grieve loss, He has a peace that is different. He has a peace that is present even in the midst of difficult moments.

There is a story I read once that I want to share. There were two painters, who were challenged to paint a picture of peace. One painter grabbed his canvas and paintbrush and painted a scene of a sunset –a beautiful sunset going down over calm waters. It was a beautiful picture that captured a peaceful moment. Well, strangely enough, the second painter, he too, grabbed his canvas and paintbrush, but his painting was completely different than the first painter’s picture. On his canvas he painted a picture of a storm—dark clouds and lightening flashing. He painted a picture of the shore where the waves and the waters were crashing against the huge rocks along the shore. You could see the wind blowing; you could see the lightening flashing; you could see the dark clouds and you could see all the chaos of the fierce storm. Down in the corner of this painting, he painted birds that settled between the rocks and between the rocks, those birds were singing.

• In the midst of the storm, those birds found a place where they could sing their song.
• In the midst of the storm, they found peace and they found shelter.
• In the midst of the storm, they found a place where they were protected, knowing that there was no power that the storm had that could steal their peace.

So today’s Bible passage is about the peace Jesus Christ brought into the City of Jerusalem and placed within the heart of all who believe. It is a story that tells us of a peace that only God can give and with that peace, we can sing our song even in the midst of a storm.

Let us all keep the people and holy sites of Jerusalem in our prayers and may God’s Peace reign.

Amen.

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