“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test!”—2 Corinthians 13:5-6
Paul says examine yourself. Test yourself as Christians. Most people don’t like tests because it is hard to study, and learn, and none of us likes being judged for what we know. Two weeks ago I gave a few of our altar boys parts to learn for badarak, and said the next time you come to church your test will be to recite before God and all of you. Not surprisingly, they didn’t come last week! But they did redeem themselves somewhat today by reciting the prayers for you all!
Nobody likes tests, but life is full of tests, and if we avoid them we can make things worse for ourselves. I’m thinking of the story of the four school boys and girls who on a bright spring day failed to show up at high school until noon, reporting they’d had a flat tire. The teacher smiled understandingly and informed the youths that they’d missed the morning test, but she would give them another now. She requested that they sit far apart from one another. As the students sat, pencils in hand, the exam proved very brief. The teacher gave them her one question: “Please write down which tire was flat?”
So you see, life is full of tests, and though we don’t always like taking them because they take work, time and challenge us, we avoid them at our own peril. Those students ended up getting a 1 question test that was much harder than the 50 question test that they skipped in the morning.
Life as an Armenian Christian also brings a series of tests, the test that Paul is speaking about to the people of Corinth in today’s reading when he says “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves.”
We all know what questions are on this spiritual test, we talk about it every week, questions like, Are you grateful everyday for what you have, give thanks to God morning and night and on Sunday? Do you give generously of the gifts you were given to others? Are God, family and church your real priorities or do other less important things always threaten to take their place?
Well Paul’s test of being a mature Christian is one for adults, even more than for children. Ironically, though, many of us adults revert back to behaving like boys and girls playing hooky from school when we face these daily spiritual tests. And many of you as I am speaking today may be saying to yourselves “this is all great for church, but who it is a different thing in the real world,” or “Der Hayr, I’ve heard this stuff a million times from you, we all know this.”
Indeed, we all do know this, but it doesn’t mean that we get it, that we understand it and do it. With spiritual tests, just because you and I may know the right answers, doesn’t mean we pass. How many people know this? What is Einstein’s theory of relativity? Right, E=mc2. We all know the answer in 2 seconds. But does anyone here truly grasp and understand the implications of this truth, what is behind it and what it means? No, to do that takes a lifetime, and we can say exactly the same about the test of our Armenian Christian faith.
Yes the right answer is “I am an Armenian Christian,” but that doesn’t mean we pass the test. Behind that word Armenian is a language that was created to glorify God, to translate the Bible and tell of the good news of Christ…don’t you want to learn everything about that language, and the Word of God it was designed to reveal? Behind that word Armenian are the names we have read off in church today and for centuries, St. Nersess Shnorhali, Gregory of Narek, Gregory of Datev—don’t you want to know how they scored in the 99th percentile of following our Lord and how they can help you with your test today?
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves.”
Let’s do this today and everyday so we will not be like the boys and girls who tried to avoid their daily test and ended up having to answer even harder questions in the end…. Questions that our Teacher will have waiting for us; “What did you say kept you from coming to me?”, “Where were you all the times I tried to bring you to me?”, and “After all this time did you never truly grasp who I Am and what I have called you to be?” Let us test ourselves now and deeply come to know, to realize that Jesus Christ is in us…now and always and unto the ages of ages amen.
This sermon was preached by Fr. Hovnan Demerjian at St. Hagop Armenian Church, Florida on Oct. 2, 2016.