The Child Is Watching
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and four year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eye-sight was failing and he could not walk as well as he use too. When he moved in, the family sat together and ate dinner, but as the grandfather aged and his health began to deteriorate, it was harder for him to eat. The food would often roll off his silverware onto the floor and he would frequently spill his drink on the tablecloth.
His son and daughter-in-law would get angry and irritated with the mess that the grandfather would make. “We must do something about father,” said the son to his wife, “I’ve had quite enough of all this mess and his noisy eating.”
So they decided to get a small table and place it in the corner of the room where their father would eat alone and not bother the rest of the family. He also was given plastic ware and a wooden bowl because they tired of him breaking their plates. They would glance at him once in a while and sometimes they would see tears in his eyes as he sat alone. Still the couple only had a sharp tone and negative things to say when he dropped the food and made a mess on the floor. The four year-old watched in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with some scraps of wood on the floor. The father knelt down and gently asked his son, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The little boy smiled and went back to work.
We often read in the scriptures how the people of Israel disobeyed God, and the actions of the parents led the children to do the same and God would punish the children of Israel. They would learn from their mistakes for a while, however, they would soon be led astray again and sin again. This process happened over and over again throughout the generations. God would send prophets to lead the people into salvation and still only a select few would follow the paths of righteousness. They would even ask for a king, thinking to themselves, “If only we had a king we would be a nation.” But, still the same result: when a good king would reign the people would follow after good, but not completely. Then, when a wicked king came into power he would lead the people into paths of wickedness. Still the people persisted and did not change their hearts. They had no hope of changing, especially with the amount of laws that the leaders placed upon them. They had been delivered from Egypt, from the Philistines and the Babylonians, all the enemies that came against the people of Israel were defeated because God loved his people. Then came the Romans. Another pagan empire whom also persecuted the people of God.
As if the Romans did not do enough, the problem was that the people who served the temple put such harsh requirements on the children of Israel that they themselves became enemies. Christ came and began to preach and stir up the waters and the way of life for the regular people who needed a Shepherd and for the leaders of the Temple, He became their enemy. He threatened their way of life and with pride in their hearts they committed the ultimate sin: They put Christ to death.
The same happens today. We have the truth in our ears, we see it, and we know it, but still we live in some sort of rebellion every day. Our hearts have grown cold and we are not willing to help our neighbor who might be a stranger or our neighbor who we know. Crime is on the rise and hatred is all we hear on the news. Violence fills our streets and evil runs rampant. Divorce statistics are climbing because we are not willing to fight for our marriages. Children are growing up in broken homes, sexually and violently abusive homes—they, too, are sitting watching us in silence, making the wooden bowl for when they come of age.
We, as Christians, so often do not stand up against this wave of evil. We are not willing to cross the street to help people, we do not want to give the homeless man a dollar or break a sweat doing what God wants us to do – because it takes effort. We, as Christians, are to pick up the cross and follow after the One who did it before us—but, too often, when we pick up the cross we find its burden too great and we drop it. Some pick it back up again, but some never do. We say we are against drugs, right? Do we do anything about it? We say we are against pornography—do we do anything about it? We often say we want to leave our mark in the world, we want to make a difference, we want to make a change—how often do we pick up the cross and follow in the footsteps of a man who held it down the path of his own death? What are we teaching our children about sacrifice and martyrdom? We come to church and we do some small part to do what we think is enough—do we teach our children that we need to do more?
We do, however, have some great role models in our lives and in our traditions. We have men from the scriptures such as Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Joshua and David. We have men such as Sts. Peter and Paul, and women, such as Sts. Fotini, Justina and Kyriaki. We have our patron saint of our parish - St. Nicholas, and others like St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian who paved the way for our faith. The list goes on and on. What do all these men and women have in common? They were all sinners. They all failed in some part or another in their lives, but changed to follow God and suffered for following after Christ. The things that made these regular people into great men and women is something we all have and are just too afraid or just to proud to accept—faith and love.
These men and women, as-well-as so many others did something extraordinary in their lives and the made a difference. They picked up their cross, they followed after God in the best way they knew how and pushed until they could not push any more. And, if you asked anyone of them if they were Christians they would most certainly say—no.
I know for myself I try to make a difference in my life every day. Could I do more? Yes, I could. I try to be the best man that I can be with the talents that God gave me.
There are some words I would like you to think about this morning.
Honor—Do we honor our parents? Our families? Our God?
Integrity—Do we talk about others behind their backs? Do we steal, lie or cheat?
Valor—Would we stand up if someone was being attacked, robbed or beaten?
Love—do we love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, all our soul and our entire mind? Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?
These are only a few of the traits we need to embody. We are to strive to be like—not only the saints—but, strive to be like Christ Himself. We are to strive to be a Christian that is courageous in the face of evil, to have the strength to keep our families together, to have love and to pray for our enemies who hurt and persecute us.
This week’s gospel lesson tells us something important and I want you to keep in mind the story I began this sermon with about the wooden bowl.
The Lord said, "And, as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And, if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And, if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But, love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
The grace of God falls upon all of us. No matter whom it is—from the wicked to the most devout Christian. The difference is what we do with that grace. Christ died for all of us. He came to heal the sinners, not the ones who are already whole. There are those who will enter the Kingdom of heaven that we are not expecting to see there and the plain simple truth is that we all need to try harder. For we all will be judged according to our own deeds and merits. We will stand before God and He will ask us to give an account of everything we did and said.
In the book of Revelation, Christ describes a number of churches. He tells us that it was not the “hot” church that he despised nor was it the “cold” church it was the “lukewarm” church. It was the church that called themselves children of God, but acted as if they were children of the evil one. We are called to be hot or cold, not lukewarm.
We are called to be Christians and we are not to be part of this world, even though we must live in it. We will all meet our death. We who come here “expect the resurrection” we wait for Christ to return and take us home.
As for the grandfather from the beginning of this sermon, the words that the little boy said struck deep in his father’s and mother’s soul. They both shed tears and both knew what they needed to do. That night, the boy’s father went and grasped his father’s hand and led him to the table and for the remainder of his years and they ate together as a family. Neither one of the parents seemed to mind that their father was making a mess.
You see, life is one mess after another; it is not how angry we get at life it is how we face the adversity. A wise man told me something that another wise man told him: “When we lose someone in our lives, it takes time to heal those wounds. The problem with time is, is that it takes time.” We are called to fill our lives with the good things Christ has to offer. We are called to live as examples of Christ even when people are hurting us, persecuting us—putting us to death. We need to be careful when we are out there in the world, when we proclaim to be Christians and we act otherwise, the world is watching us and silently building the wooden bowl. We are Christians—let us be Christians.