Der Vasken's Sermon on January 21, 2018

Jan 22, 2018

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

"Faith is taking the first step even when we don't see the whole staircase."  [MLK, Jr.]

These are interesting words--thought-provoking words.  These are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and I thought they would be very appropriate to share on the week we commemorated his life.  They are appropriate because they are timeless words and because at the end of this week, the Armenian Church will celebrate a feast of a man who lived on faith.  

Saturday is the Feast of St. Sarkis the Warrior.  St. Sarkis lived in the 4th Century and during his time in this world, he made the world he lived in take notice of what it means to be devoted to Jesus Christ.  The Feast of St. Sarkis the Warrior is based on the life of a man of very deep faith.  Here is a little background. St. Sarkis came from Asia Minor just outside of historic Western Armenia.  He rose through the military ranks and became a trustworthy general to Emperor Constantine the Great--the first Christian Roman Emperor. 

When Constantine died, a non-Christian emperor named Julian rose to power.  And so Sarkis, and his son Mardiros, took up refuge in nearby Armenia.  It wasn't long before Emperor Julian started a war against the Persians.  Sarkis and his son traveled to Persia to join the army of the Persian King Shabur II.  Sarkis, along with Mardiros, fought with great bravery against Julian's army and King Shabur noticed.  But the King eventually discovered that Sarkis was a Christian and asked him to abandon his faith and embrace the Persian faith instead.  The King didn't want to lose his fearless top general so he gave Sarkis this option.  But both Sarkis and his son simply refused to give up their faith in Jesus Christ. The King offered great wealth and promises of even higher positions but nothing shook Sarkis or his son.  They would rather die than deny Christ.  Finally, the King had both father and son executed for their Christian beliefs.

Sarkis was a powerful Christian example.  The late Emperor Constantine taught Sarkis to live his life around faith, hope and love and around forgiveness and around experiencing the presence of God like he never had before.  Because of Emperor Constantine, Sarkis' faith in God grew stronger every day.  He chose to blend his life with his faith to the point where he only understood life through his Christian faith.  For him, faith wasn't only about the words we say, or the thoughts we think, but it was about a way of life.

The message of St. Sarkis' life and death is that we can truly honor Jesus Christ insofar as we try to live as He lived and to prioritize our lives to what He values.  And we can only do that by living and breathing and practicing our Christian faith every day. And by realizing that, "Faith is taking the first step even when we don't see the whole staircase."  

What's the take-away message here?  To me, it is that St. Sarkis' life speaks to us today from the archives of history.

  • His life tells us to live our Christian faith every day even when the world around us wants nothing to do with God.
  • He is telling us that our faith in Jesus Christ is far more important than anything else this world has to offer.
  • He is telling us that, at the end of our lives, the only thing we have is our faith, our hope and our love in the One Who promises us eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Everything else will pass away, but the promise of God will live forever.

Trials and difficulties, like St. Sarkis faced, come in different forms for everybody.  And they will be difficult for everybody but they will be impossible to face if we face them without our faith.  So by looking at the life of St. Sarkis the Warrior, ask yourself:

  • What question do I keep grappling with in my life that never seems to get resolved or answered?
  • And while I'm grappling with it, do I look at it through the lens of my Christian faith and ask God to show me a better way?
  • What difficulty, tribulation or question is my spouse or parent or child or sibling or friend struggling with at this point in his or her life?
  • And have I turned to my faith to help me find the words to help them?

Something for all of us to think about.