Archive for January, 2014

Faith Through Song

January 16th, 2014    |    No Comments »

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States—a day off from work for many of our fellow citizens, but also a day for serious thought and reflection. Editorials on this day typically (and justifiably) focus on King’s political legacy. But often overlooked is how his mission was a consequence of his ministry—grounded in a religious vision of human dignity and family-like solidarity, under the fatherhood of a watchful God. Reverend King’s splendid oratory had its rhetorical roots in the cadences of the King James Bible: in the prophetic poetry of Isaiah and Micah, and certainly in the Gospel utterances of Jesus.

It found another source in the vernacular of America—especially in its tradition of songs: from old-time Protestant hymns, to spirituals, to anthems of wholesome patriotism.

Armenians might find a special point of contact here, for our music likewise resonates in deeply religious ways. Through our sharagans, our people express, in a unified way, an entire system of belief; an experience of sorrow; but above all a sense of hope: a faith, really, in the ultimate beneficence of God.

Similar chords are struck in Reverend King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  Its concluding words weave together the strands of religious redemption and national aspiration, using the common thread of song. The uplifting result is not so different from what churchmen of another time and place accomplished when they penned the sharagans of the Armenian Divine Liturgy. In the badarak, as in the following words of Reverend King, song creates a unity of distinct voices, lifting our hearts and our thoughts upward:

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Martin Luther King

Advent Reflection

January 5th, 2014    |    No Comments »

Read Luke 2:8-20

Christ is born and revealed amongst us! Blessed is the revelation of Christ!

On the eve of the Feast of Holy Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us reflect on the beauty and mystery of the incarnation of Jesus. God, the Creator of the universe and the Author of our lives, chose to reveal himself to us in the most humble of ways. Our indescribable, limitless, and almighty God came to earth in the form of a helpless baby wrapped in cloths. The shepherds found him cradled in a manger alongside Joseph and Mary, surrounded by hay and animals. This doesn’t strike you as the sort of entrance that the “Messiah, the Lord” would have, does it? Yet the angels guided the shepherds to this baby boy, and they knew within seconds that he was the one who would turn everything around. He was the “great joy for all the people,” the one who they foretold as Emmanuel: “God with us.”

This, folks, is what the Gospel is all about. This is the “good news.” We don’t serve a God who is far away, uninterested in the day-to-day lives of his creations. We serve a present God, one who is with us and never, ever leaves us. We serve a selfless God, one who chose an earthly life to give you and I a life of eternity. We serve an everlasting God, one whose revelation as a man is but one chapter of the grand story he is weaving for the redemption and glory of us all. Tomorrow, as you enter into your churches to worship God, remember who you are praising. Remember the babe who was born to die, who was born to bear the sin of the world upon his shoulders. And remember that he overcame death to give us life to the fullest. Ever blessed is this beautiful revelation, both now and forevermore.

Lord, we are so grateful that you gave us salvation through your son, Jesus Christ. We pray for the grace and love of Jesus to surround us as we celebrate his birth and majesty.

Advent Reflection

January 1st, 2014    |    No Comments »

Read Luke 20:41-21:4

Have you ever felt that Christmas is a show of self-importance rather than a show of selfless service? In American culture, we want success, we want fame, and we want to be well-liked. In something of a vicious circle, these goals arise from and then reinforce self-absorption and false piety. Like the scribes that Jesus is criticizing, we often make an exaggerated effort to gain approval and respect from those around us. We “like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect.” In one of his many counter-cultural moves, Christ says that these are the exact people who will be “punished most severely.” But why?

When we call ourselves Christians, we are claiming that we love Christ more than anything else in the world. We put aside our own desires and put the love of Christ before our love of self. That’s why Jesus praises the woman who gave the last two coins she owned. She gave all that she had out of her love for Christ, and she didn’t make a big show of her donations like the scribes did. Christ honored her genuine selflessness. God isn’t looking for the person who seeks the approval of others by wearing the nicest clothes, throwing the most lavish parties, or giving the most expensive gifts. Quite the contrary, He is calling His children to humility, kindness, and sincere service. During this Advent season, don’t get caught up in the popularity game of the scribes; serve others and serve Christ with your whole heart, in the sure knowledge that by doing so you are pleasing the only Person whose opinion of you should matter.

Lord, this world entices us to love wealth and power. Guide us to a path where we tame our desire to be popular and embrace a life of loving service.