Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Monday, December 29, 2014


(Sermon of Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara at St. Michael & All Angels, Seaford, Long Island 12/28/2014)

As we draw closer to the end of 2014, I wish to thank God for the wonderful blessings we received, including this time of being with you.  I also want to share with you my personal prayer for 2015. 

What will I pray for 2015?

Recently, I read on Facebook a funny prayer and it says, “Lord, for 2015 please give me a fat checkbook and a thin body…not like in 2014 that you mixed it up.” 

Sometimes we treat God as if He were Santa Claus, ”whose making a list a checking it twice, go’nna find out whose naughty or nice.” Or the Grinch who steals our joy away.

The fact of the matter is that God is neither Santa Claus nor the Grinch. God is active in our lives, but oftentimes He allows us to work in partnership with Him. In most things, it is divine-human cooperation. We do our part and God does His part. If we do our best, God will do the rest. Maybe if the guy who prayed funny only worked hard and saved enough, and exercised enough and had a balanced diet, he might have both a fat checkbook and a slim body.

The other day, I listened to Angelina Jolie being interviewed for her movie, “Unbroken.” It is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who joined the US Armed Forces during the Second World War and was captured by the Japanese after a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean. The movie, directed by Angelina, has become a box office hit, partly because it is very inspirational. It is a story of survival, resilience and redemption. It is a testimony to the power of the human will, to triumph against all odds, against all pain and suffering---and to live to tell the story.

After surviving a harrowing ordeal from his captors and returning to America, Zamperini had another war to fight----alcoholism. He also had to wrestle with his desire for revenge. Then he heard a gospel message from the evangelist Billy Graham which was the contact point for him to turn his life around. He went back to peace-time Japan and searched for his former captors and tormentors, not to avenge the past but to forgive each of them personally.

What was greatly significant was not only the movie but the making of the movie itself. It was the  result of connected prayers. Angelina Jolie who is a young and famous actress and Santorini, an aging veteran, were actually neighbors. He lived in Torrance, California which was just a few distance from Angelina’s parental home. As he was dying (he died a few months ago at age 97), he was wondering who was going to produce and direct his life story in a movie. At the same time, Angelina was praying that God would give her a movie project that would create a big impact to people’s lives.  

In narrating the events, Angelina said, “well, the answer (to my prayer) is just outside of my window.” God seems to be in the business of connecting the dots.

So what will I pray and what will you pray?

My first prayer is for family unity. I believe much of what is missing in the American family is unity. Although we have plenty of communication gadgets, we actually seldom communicate to one another. Do you as a family, have quality time together? Do you have a family dinner at least once a week where you are present with one another? Someone outrageously suggested that “maybe God took Steve Jobs early because he kept on inventing the iphone which takes away meaningful conversation among family members.” 

When children and parents meet, everyone is busy texting, tweeting or doing Facebook and seldom look at each other. Of course, I do not agree that was the reason why Steve Jobs of Apple died young, but it only illustrates the fact that no matter how modern our modes of communication are, we still need to have actual quality time together.

My second prayer is for church unity. Psalm 133 says, “Behold, how pleasant and how good it is; when brethren dwell in unity, for there the Lord commands the blessings, life forever more.” It says that unity is a pre-requisite for blessings. 
I am teaching Healing at church and healing is defined as “the restoration of the wholeness of mind, body and spirit.” Sickness is a disruption of the unity of the trinity, a breach or rupture of that holistic relationship. For instance, when you are wounded or when you have cancer in the body, it affects your mind and your spirit in a negative way. Disease is “dis-ease.” Healing is the restoration of that harmony. 

 St. Paul likened the Church to a Body: when one member suffers, all suffer together. That is the reason why unity is pre-requisite for blessings of Church Growth. If the Church is whole, it has a chance to grow. People would be attracted to the love and the fellowship that exist and they would like to belong to that church. But if there is division, if there is envy, malice, jealousy,  suspicion and distrust, there is no motivation for people to invite others to come.

Finally, my prayer is for the unity of our country.  St. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3: “First of all, then, I urge that prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all, for rulers and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Lately, our nation and our city of New York have become embroiled in turmoil. There is a perception from the Black Community that they are being targeted by the police and are unfairly treated in the justice system. Once again, fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, the age-old issue of racism, particularly white against black, rears its ugly head. 

 The death of African American Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and Eric Gardner in Staten Island were blamed on white cops. A troubled black young man from Maryland, seeking to avenge,  traveled to New York and in an execution style ambush, pumped bullets on two cops: Rafael Ramos and Winjian Liu. The irony of it is that the two cops are not white: Ramos is Latino and Liu is Asian (Chinese). In the cycle of violence, there is neither rhyme nor reason.

Moreover, there is a breach or a chasm that exists between Mayor Bill De Blasio and the NYPD. In yesterday’s funeral of Ramos, hundreds of policemen turned their backs when the mayor spoke. Some sectors of the NYPD accused de Blasio of favoring the protesters over the cops. There is a distrust that exists in the city.

And so my prayer is for unity in all fronts: family, church and nation. This is a prayer for healing in our lives and in our community. When we pray in Jesus’ Name and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father will hear. So let us pray:

Heavenly Father, you said in your word “If my people, 
who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, 
and turn from their wicked ways, 
then you shall hear from heaven 
and will forgive their sins and heal their land “ (2 Chronicles 7:14). 

We pray for our families, our churches, and our nations. 
We pray for healing of our mind, body and spirit. 
We pray for healing of all relationships. 
We pray for unity so that the blessings of peace, love, joy and godly prosperity 
may be poured out over our land. 
This we pray in Jesus Name. Amen.

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