Der Vasken's Sermon on August 30, 2020

Sep 1, 2020

It is with great pleasure that we resume offering Fr. Vasken's Sunday sermons on a weekly basis to our faithful parishioners and friends.  We begin this with last Sunday's Sermon of August 30, 2020.  You can also view the entire Badarak and Sermon on our parish Facebook page each week.  May these messages brighten your spiritual journey through life.

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

Children playing in the ocean; tides and waves coming and going; families sitting together, reading together, eating and laughing together.

These were the views I had for much of last week as I had the chance to share some August vacation time with my family.  And during all this, I had the chance to catch up on some events that took place over the last few months, over the last few weeks even, that I heard about but never found the time to read much about.  The two stories that caught my attention the most had to do with the ocean.

The first was about the multi-million dollar restoration of the Mayflower II, a wooden replica of the ship made famous by the pilgrims in 1620.  This ship recently returned through the deep waters of Cape Cod on its way back to Plymouth where it will remain as part of the 400th Anniversary Celebration marking the pilgrims' arrival. The other story had to do with astronauts returning from the international space station and how they splashed down in the deep waters of the ocean after so many weeks in space. 

These stories caught my attention and I found myself scrolling through my phone-reading article after article about them.  While reading about these two events, I was aware that I don't particularly care for deep water--water so deep that you can't see the bottom.  I don't look for opportunities to engage in that type of experience. I wondered how those people did it 400 years ago on a wooden ship--a ship that was considered huge by the standards of the 1620's but would hardly even be considered much more than a yacht by today's standards or how men could allow themselves to free-fall out of the sky at lightning speed only to crash into the deep waters of the ocean.  These are people far braver than I am.

While reading about these events, I thought of today's passage from the Bible.  It brought me perspective and it brought me reassurance that God's eye was upon them and is upon us all.  Belief and doubt take up great space in the hearts and minds of people when they face the uncertainties of life.  It's like an ongoing war between believing and doubting within our hearts.  When something frightens us, when something unnerves us, when something throws us off balance, we try clinging to our belief; otherwise, doubt begins filling our heart.  We look for God's help and if we don't find it, we wonder if God is even there.

In today's Bible reading, Jesus asks a very powerful and personal question during a similar situation.  "Why are you so afraid? He asks.  Do you still not believe?"  Jesus asked these questions when He was woken up by His disciples form the back of the boat. The small boat was filled with His frightened disciples.  They were frightened because their boat was being tossed from side to side from powerful winds and the high waves of a sudden storm on the sea.

The Sea of Galilee is well below sea level and is surrounded by hills.  Winds blowing across the land gain power as they approach the sea often causing violent storms.  The disciples were seasoned fishermen, who had spent their entire lives around this lake, but during this particular storm, they panicked.  And so as their small boat was being tossed about from the fierce wind and the unusually high waves, He called out to the frightened men to hold on to their faith and to cling to their beliefs.  For the disciples to be caught in an unexpected storm on this sea, on "their sea," was strange and odd. They were better than this.  They were among the most experienced of fishermen.  How could this be they must have thought.  But what was most concerning to them was that they noticed something very troubling.  They began thinking that their Teacher didn't seem to care about what was happening to them.  They found Him asleep in the back of boat and so they lost faith and trust in Him.  And they wondered:  "Doesn't He care about us?  Doesn't He feel like helping us?  Doesn't He, Who we trusted, He, who we left our families for, want to stand with us and help us face this great storm?"

He was asleep in the back of the boat so they lost their trust in Him.  And that is the same feeling many of us feel with the "storms" we face in life.  We begin losing our trust in God when the storms rain down.  Theirs was a physical storm, but storms come in many shapes and colors. Think about the situations in your life--those "storms" that cause you great stress and anxiety.  Whatever our storms look like, you and I have two options.  We can place our trust in our God or in our "storm."  Most people begin losing their trust in God when the "storms of life" begin to pour down upon them and that is understandable.  But in days of anxiety and stress, when we are burdened with problems or in moments of fear and doubt, when we don't know how we can possibly face what lies ahead, we, as Christians of the 21st Century, know something that the Christians of the 1st Century didn't yet know.  God's eye is always upon us.  We just have to look through the "lens of faith" to realize it. We have to realize that it is a solid faith in God that will get us through our difficulties in life.  The Christian belief is about holding firmly to our faith.

Jesus Christ never promised to prevent the storms of life but He did promise that He will always remain with us in the "boat of life" and never leave us.  And with Him, we can face whatever deep water may come our way.  The presence of God in our lives does not prevent the "storms of life" from taking place, but His presence will make a difference in the way we face those storms.  May we all take a moment out of this late summer weekend to think about the storms we face in life whether it is Covid related or racial tensions or what is going on politically in our country or something personal in your life and remember today's questions:

  • Why are you so afraid?
  • Do you still not believe?
Today's Bible passage is about faith and belief.  It's about faith overcoming doubt.  So the next time your heart fills with anxiety, remind yourself that your God is greater than what is causing you anxiety and hold on tightly to that belief.


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