Der Vasken's Sermon on February 18, 2018

Feb 21, 2018

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

Today is the Second Sunday of Great Lent.  It's the Sunday that the Armenian Church tells the story of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden.  This well-known story has been told and retold in different cultures in different languages many, many times since it was first recorded.  The version we know that was handed down to us is from the Old Testament so we know the Hebrew version of this story.

According to the Hebrew tradition, life was perfect in the Garden of Eden.  Adam & Eve had everything they wanted.  Nothing was missing. They were living in absolute paradise.  Life was good, but we, much more often, hear about a very different side of the Adam & Eve story.  We hear about the story of the forbidden fruit and the temptations Adam & Eve faced.  From there, we begin to think about the questions of temptation, evil, suffering and rejection.  We begin asking questions like:

  • Why does suffering occur in the world?
  • Why does God let bad things happen to people?
  • And where is God when we need Him?  And so on.

Most all of us have entertained thoughts like these, I'm sure, at some point in the past.  We can all relate to these thoughts because:

  • We've all seen suffering.
  • We've seen the pain of others.
  • We've seen evil and terror.
  • And when we see these things, we wonder "What happened to God? Where is He in all of this suffering and evil?"

Now, of course, there are many people we know who, when faced with suffering, turn right to their faith and rather than question God, they seek His help.  These people are fortunate to have such strong faith, but not everybody is like that.

In the story of Adam & Eve, after Adam eats the forbidden fruit, the Bible tells us something about Adam that we don't expect to hear.  It says that Adam "runs away from God" because he was ashamed for what he did.  He runs and buries his face in shame because he knew that God asked very little of him and Eve. God actually asked only one thing of them--that they not eat of the forbidden fruit.  All else was theirs to have and to do, but "Do not eat of the forbidden fruit."  And so when he hears God's voice, he runs away.  God was calling him and He was asking, "Adam, where are you?"  And Adam ran away to hide. Adam rejected God and he abandoned God.  But, let's be honest, there have been times in each of our lives that we felt abandoned and rejected by God.

Feeling rejected and abandoned by God is nothing new for us.  Most all of us have thrown blame on God when things don't go our way at some point or another.  We are quick to point our finger at God and say God blinked.  God took His eye off the ball.  God abandoned me when I needed Him the most.  It's a sense of abandonment--a sense that God abandons us during difficult times. 

This is nothing new.  History tells us that people have felt this way for thousands of years.  A prophet named Isaiah, 2,500 years ago, called out to God and asked Him a question:  "God," he asked, "Where are you?  We need your help.  Come back to us.  Let us see you!  We are your children... open up the heavens and help us!"[Is. 63]  Isaiah was crying out to God for help because the people all around him were suffering and he realized that they were moving away from God and that they lacked the faith to believe during those moments.  

Why is this important?  It's important because Isaiah wasn't asking God why He abandoned His people because Isaiah knew that God would never do that.  He loves us and values us and cherishes us.  He would never abandon us.  Isaiah was seeking God because he believed that God would help the people of this world overcome the difficulties they faced.  The people around Isaiah abandoned all hope but Isaiah knew the source of all "hope" and so he prayed. For years he had been mocked and for years he had been ridiculed for preaching about "hope." But Isaiah always knew that "hope" was present in this world.

"Hope" is the great promise given to us by God.  And in the face of difficulty or doubt or when we think that we are all alone in this world and we feel abandoned or rejected, that is when we are called to cling to our "hope" in God all the more.  So, today, on this Second Sunday of Lent, let's take the examples of both Adam and Isaiah and ask ourselves these questions:

  • Am I more like Adam or Isaiah?   Adam ran away from God in the face of difficulty and Isaiah ran toward God when faced with difficulty.
  • Do I relate more to Adam or Isaiah? 
  • And how do I hold on to "hope" when life bears down on me?

Something for all of us to think about in this early part of Lent.  How do you hold on to "hope" when life bears down on you?