by Rev. Fr. George A. Aswad
You are seated in a church pew. You are seated in the House of God. This morning you made a decision to visit God.—Why?
When you visit a relative or friend, you go for a purpose—usually with love—to see and to talk to them. Sometimes you call or make an appointment so you are sure they are home and prepared to greet you.
This is God’s House. He is always here. The appointment is for every Sunday, same time, same place. This would be a most opportune time to discuss the question, “Why are you here?”; to speak to you about being on time for your visit with God; about showing respect; participating in the conversation with God which is the Divine Liturgy; partaking of the refreshments, that which refreshes the soul, Holy Communion. But these subjects are for other sermons. This morning let us talk about the question that is on the lips of the oppressed; those in fear; the people that are in need; on the lips of all who view the world in all its misery; the question—”Where is God?”
Father Michael Shahin tells of his visit to a hospital in Syracuse to visit a parishioner. After a conversation, he asks her, “Where is God?” Her answer is, “God is in Heaven.” Father Michael turns to a little old lady in the next bed and asks, “Where is God?” Her answer is, “God is here in my heart.” Dearly beloved, I ask you, which lady had the greatest faith?
A minister in Louisville, Kentucky. explained the presence of God to his parishioners this way: “God is right here. I can reach out and shake hands with God.”
There is the story of a famous English surgeon. Lord Moynihan; who was invited to operate before a group of distinguished doctors. After the operation, one doctor asked him, “How can you work so calmly and well, undisturbed by the onlookers?” The surgeon’s answer was, “When I operate, there are just three people in the room: the patient, myself, and God.”
The true Christian must feel the very presence of God and the Lord. He must say, “God is here in my heart!” It is when we lose sight of God that we become atheists, alcoholics, adulterers, sinners, misguided and hypocritical followers of God—a God we have lost in the dense fog of our spiritual blindness.
I saw a war story on TV the other night—an exciting drama: soldiers shooting guns; planes diving, spitting their pellets of death; trucks, tanks, and raging fires; people dying. Why, they were even killing women and defenseless children! It was a great “production,” except that—it was real, and those lying in the streets were really dead! The looks of fear on the faces of the people were real. I was watching a news report on the war in Saigon. TV was bringing into our living room the awesome horror of war. Amid the noises of war and the screams of death, we cry out: “Where is God?” “Has God left us?” “Is He dead?” The answer is, “God is here—but the world has lost sight of Him.”
Do you want more proof, more evidence, about a Godless world? Read a newspaper or a magazine: War, Crime, Dope, Hate, Sex! Why do we sit back and watch some misguided designers disrobe our young women—our daughters? Why do we allow publishers to print obscene and lewd pictures and risqué stories? Authors publish stories about the excitement of committing adultery, and the movies draw crowds by simply advertising. “This movie is recommended for adult and mature audiences.”
Those responsible are getting rich, and why? Because the public, the people, Christians, you and I, will buy these things—with our money and with our minds; we accept them, body and soul, and we say to our children: “It is all right when you are adult and mature.”
The Church—the one force capable of fighting back—is not getting the full support of the people. For some reason, the message is not as appealing as the mighty forces that push God out of man’s life. We do not accept the Church with our bodies and our souls, and by our actions we say to our children: “God is some faint image in the pages of an ancient dusty Bible. He is a sleeping God who watches the world commit suicide, physically and morally.”
Tolstoy, when he was fifty years old, became very despondent. He could not write. He even feared to be alone with himself, for he had the compulsion to commit suicide. One day while walking in the woods, he found himself thinking about life and the existence of God. He noticed that every time he really thought about the living God, every time he said out loud, “Our Father in Heaven,” he felt a joy, a new peace. He had once again found his God.
An active Church is a living Church; a living Church is one in which God is alive because the congregation has Him in focus. SOYO is an organization that was once very strong, and a moving force in the Church. It was a living organization because it had a living God. For some reason, SOYO died a little. The spirit was weak. It was in need of revitalizing. New leaders like President Terence Jabour are inspiring us and bringing God back into the Organization. Then God again becomes the focus of SOYO’s function, when the identity of God replaces the names of groups and individuals, then will SOYO live and once again become a moving force in the Orthodox Church of America.
Our church organizations bring us into contact with God and people. They make God real for us because we are working for Him through the Church. Through our organizations we become doers instead of viewers.
Finally, our Church Services make God real for us. Prayers and fasting make God real for us. Communion offers us a living God, for Christ said, “This is My Body, this is My Blood.” This is the Living God. God is here on the Altar; He is here, this morning, in our hearts.
A SOYO sermon preached by the Rev. Fr. George A. Aswad at St. George’s Church, Niagara Falls. N.Y., at the visit of the Regional President to the local CAN-AM Chapter.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America