Der Vasken’s Sermon on September 19, 2021

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

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”

Over the past summer, our sanctuary has seen a large number of weddings take place. Weddings scheduled for 2020 had been put off for a safe time and so, for much of the summer of 2021, this church had been decorated with beautiful floral arrangements and filled with family and friends more so than in the recent past.

These were the weddings of young couples, who grew up in our Sunday School or some who are new to the parish and were taken aback by the beauty of this Sanctuary. It’s been wonderful to see these couples standing before this majestic altar right next to the one they plan to spend their lives with—with joy just radiating from within them.

The Bible reading we just heard is commonly asked for by the brides and grooms. It sets the stage for why they gather. The reading is from St. Paul’s first letter to the Christians living in the ancient City of Corinth.

Brides and grooms love this passage. Its words sound like poetry or a hymn celebrating love. But what many people and many brides and grooms don’t realize at first is that this passage isn’t about the love between a husband and a wife—not specifically anyway.

It’s about the love among people—people who believe, who are struggling and uncertain of how to be the Church together—to be the Community of believers, to be the Body of Christ and to be the Church.

In the City of Corinth, the Christians had been arguing with each other over everything—power, prestige, teachings about the faith, who was a better Christian and who was not ad on and on. They argued over many, many things. St. Paul grew frustrated by it and so he wrote a letter to this community. He lets them know that they missed the point of the faith and that they are members of one Body, a holy Body and a Body that was established by God Himself and that they have been called not to applaud themselves or praise themselves, but to focus on their spiritual life and their service to God.

This is a very well-known passage of the Bible, but we can’t really understand it without reading the passage that comes before it. Right before this passage, St. Paul compares the Church to “a body” with many parts. He asks this question.

• “Can we ALL be the ears of that body?
• Can we all be the eyes or the hands or the feet of that body?”

And he goes on,

• “Are we ALL teachers or administrators or prophets?
• Are we ALL Apostles or miracle workers?”

“Of course not,” he says. “No one person is blessed with every gift or talent. It is only when we pool our gifts and talents together that we become what the Church was meant to be—a “Wall of Faith” against everything that is eating away at the world around us. Only together can we be that Church where Jesus Christ dwells. Only together can we be that Church that brings the Light of God to people.”

What St. Paul is essentially saying is this. We need each other’s gifts to be the True Church. We can only be the True Church when love is present. This is a beautiful passage! That love is not a romantic love or a selfish love but a sacrificial love. It is a love that forgives and heals and speaks the truth and doesn’t envy. It’s the kind of love that parents have for their children and spouses have for each other. It’s the kind of love that patriots have for their country and Christians have for their Church.

This is the kind of love that Christ spread everywhere He traveled. If we don’t find that kind of love around us, then it is up to all of us to plant it there. But that takes teamwork. St. Paul used the image of a body to explain this point.

So let me end with this thought. This afternoon, many of us will go home to watch a football game. So let’s use the image of a football team and ask ourselves:

• Is everyone on the team the quarterback?
• Is everyone on the team the kicker?
• Is everyone on the team the coach?

On a team all the players need each other because it is the success of the team that counts. And it’s the same way with the Church. Nobody has all the gifts the Church needs, but we all have a gift that will help build up God’s Church.

Last Sunday, we saw this passage of St. Paul come to life right here on our church grounds. The number of volunteers and the number of people, who came to support our parish picnic, was a beautiful thing to see, especially after being separated by restrictions and health concerns for so long. Now, as we start gearing up and preparing for the re-opening of our Armenian School and Sunday School, for our fall celebrations and events and our bazaar preparations begin, we will see the words of St. Paul come alive within our church.

Everything we do here at Holy Trinity points to the God of Heaven and to His Holy Cross—that ultimate symbol of love. When we serve His Church, we serve Him. When we serve Him, we bring Him glory.

“…in the end, these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest of these is Love.”

• What talent has God blessed your life with?
• What gift has He placed in your hands to help build up His Church?

Something we should all think about.

Amen.

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