Der Vasken's Sermon on March 1, 2020

Mar 4, 2020

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

Today is the Second Sunday of Great Lent.  Of all the Seasons of the Church's year, Lent is one of the oldest and most striking. The drawn curtain, the dark curtain, the idea of fasting, the "giving up of something for Lent" that we talked about last week, the more solemn music and hymns all evoke common memories.

In today's Gospel reading, Jesus goes into the desert and during Lent, we join Him there.  We go into "the desert" as well.  During these 40 days, we try to go back to the basics, to breathe new life into our Christian identity  It's like a fresh start.  There are many, many stories in the Bible that deal with "fresh starts"-- opportunities for people to begin anew or an event that allowed a person the chance to re-create themselves. Well, right in our own ancestral homeland such a story took place at the foot of Mount Ararat...well before the land was called Armenia.  I am referring to the story of Noah's Ark.

A fresh start is what the story of Noah's Ark is all about.  It is not hard for us to understand the fear that the people of the Old Testament had for floods or other natural disasters  A flood could eliminate entire villages or wipe away towns and cities.  Rising water threatens to destroy everything in sight.  Not too many years ago, we all saw a video of a horrible Tsunami in Indonesia and the power water has to destroy.  Noah, however was safe because he was in the Ark that rode above the waters.  After the rains stopped, Noah saw a rainbow--a sign from the Heavens.  It was a sign of a new beginning and a sign to the entire human race of God's promise to save those who had faith in Him.

It is still thrilling to see a rainbow.  People usually stop and stare at a rainbow when they appear across the sky.  It was  a rainbow--a sign that reminded those on the Ark that whatever storms they faced or experienced, God is faithful.  The ark and the rainbow were two signs of God's love for His Creation.  Time has passed.  Thousands of years have come and gone since the flood and Noah's Ark, but floods still occur.  And time had shown us that there are other kinds of floods and rising waters that can destroy lives and families just as tragically.

These are the floods of greed and lust and drugs and alcohol and gambling and materialism and on and on.  We all know people whose lives and families have been destroyed by one or more of these floods.  It is difficult today to raise a family, to stay true to our values and to sustain a marriage vow with the temptations this world throws at us every day.

But like Noah, we, too, have been given an Ark.  It is the Church.  Like Noah's Ark, the Church floats over the flood as a place of safety.  Our Ark is found in the community into which we were baptized.  Noah's sign from God was a rainbow.  Our rainbow comes from the chalice.  It is Holy Communion.  Our sign and our rainbow are the timeless Words of the Bible.  Those are God's "forever" signs to us that He remains faithful in any storm to help us stay on course and above the waters no matter what life hands us.

But a question remains for us.  Are we still in the Ark?  That is what Lent is all about. Lent is not about God's loyalty to us, but about our loyalty to God.  Lent is a time to refresh our faith in Him and all He stands for.  On each Sunday of Lent this year, we will hear a story, a parable.  We will hear different stories about different people with different issues and different problems and all these stories center around the theme of getting to know God and growing closer to Him and His promises.  

In the Christian tradition, the Promise of God is often liken to that of a faithful spouse--for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.  God will never walk away.  But what about us?  Can we say the same about our Promise to God?  These 40 days are a perfect time to think about that.  Do we remain faithful to God for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.  

Lent is the time to renew our commitment to God and to all He values and to re-take our place in the Ark of His Church and live our lives following His Rainbow--that same rainbow that Noah saw during the Great Flood.  Lent is a way of re-assessing our loyalty to God.  God is faithful to us.  Are we faithful to Him? Lent opens the door for us to enter the Ark once again.  And it is from here, inside the Ark, that we can see the Rainbow of God and receive His Holy Communion.  And because of His Holy Communion, we are never alone. 

Today is the Second Sunday of Great Lent.  God is faithful to us.  Are we faithful to Him?  Something for all of us to think about.