Tag Archive for: sincerity

The Schmoozer

Armodoxy for Today: The Schmoozer
Did you ever think we’d talk about a schmoozer or the art of schmoozing as a daily message? 

The word schmoozing implies disingenuous feelings, a type of insincerity. It’s something politicians do to attract more votes. Interestingly enough, Jesus turned the schmoozer into the hero of one of his parables. Here, Jesus talks about an insincere, unjust and dishonest manager, who is entrusted to be in charge the finances of his boss – he was a steward over his boss’ affairs. As Jesus tells the story, the manager a crooked man who was found guilty of stealing from his employer. We read in the Gospel of Luke (16) that when the steward knew he was to be fired from his position he schmoozed his way into making friends so he would have a place after being fired.

He took his employers assets to do the schmoozing! Interesting. You would think that his boss would be even more upset after these negotiations. But Jesus turns the situation around. “The master,” Jesus says, “commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly…” And the justification? Jesus continues “…for the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than the people of light. I tell you use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so when it is gone you will be welcomed in eternal dwellings.”

This can be very confusing parable on the surface. In fact, something as disingenuous as schmoozing becomes a norm for this person and he is commended for his behavior. He is applauded for his shrewdness. Jesus is telling us that while we are here in this world we need to use the tools that are given to us. We must find the language of this world to better understand one another and function together – to communicate, so that we can implement and do the work that is necessary. Of course, confusion can arise because it sounds foreign based on our prejudices. That is, we are conditioned to believe that religious individuals do not opt for worldly means. In common terms: this does not sound “religious.” But that is the beauty of what Jesus is teaching us.

Sadly, the religious community of Jesus’ time as well as of today, wrongly places its emphasis on a life to come forgetting that our life here is one of beauty, one that needs to be cared for and one with which we need to interact. Today we know that there are many problems in the world. There are wars, famines, injustice and an absence of peace on every corner of the globe. On a very personal level, we know of disease and illness. Relationships have gone awry. Families are being destroyed by our materialistic desires. Drugs are coming into the lives of our children and wreaking havoc. All these things Jesus tells us are real. Don’t think that you can avoid them. However, he gives us the tools to deal with our real problems.

As you overcome the problems that you have using the tools and talents that God has given you, you begin to see the big picture and your place within it. You have the tools to do anything, even bring about peace.

This life is what God has given you. Do not look out beyond yourself and your life. Do not look at something or some life to come. That will happen. The life to come is in God’s domain. Jesus tells us, not to worry about tomorrow, but deal with the now. Set your mind on God’s Kingdom and all else will come to you. How else do you think Armenians survived all the perils throughout their history? God has given you everything you need to make it and make this the beautiful life that He intends it to be.

Let us pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali (19): Grantor of mercy, grant that I may come to you with true faith, with good works, and the communion of your Holy Body and Blood. Have mercy upon your creatures, and on me. Amen.

Cover: Schmoozing the Egg fight, 2013 Fr. Vazken

Advent 24-50: Private Access

Advent Day 24 of 50: Private Access

Thus far, Jesus has laid the groundwork for his essential teachings. He invites us to aspire to be Christ-like. The teaching is revolutionary because adhering to it unfolds the formula for lasting peace. The difficulty of accepting the teachings, though, stems from the fact that they are diametrically opposed to the ways of a world that is consumed by materialism and ego-glorification.

In this next portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays out the method by which we can accept the Teachings of Christ.

He starts by instructing, Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. …Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

Giving and helping others is important, but even more significant than the act of charity is the manner in which it is done. Jesus makes yet another call for sincerity, this time in terms of our actions. Your relationship with God should be simple. Not showy. Private. Between you and your Maker. Herein, Jesus gives private access to God eternal. To take advantage of that access, you merely have to be sincere. Give, so your left hand does not know what your right hand is doing.

Let us pray, from the 8th hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer, Searcher of secrets, I have sinned against you, willingly and unwillingly, knowingly and unknowingly. Grant me forgiveness; since from my birth through font of baptism to this day, I have sinned before you Lord, with all my senses and in all the members of my body. Have mercy upon your creatures, and on me. Amen

Advent 16-50: Oaths

Advent Day 16 of 50: Oaths

By this time, still in the early part of the Sermon on the Mount, we are understanding that what we are hearing, is uniquely Jesus Christ. “Those of old” have heard one thing, but today, we are hearing, “But I say to you.” And thus far, the message plain and simple, is about the sincerity of our expressions.

Jesus was reacting to the times. Religion had become mechanical, non-relevant and therefore meaningless. Matthew records that the religious elite, the Pharisees, were criticizing Jesus on multiple fronts. On one occasion (chapter 15), Jesus’ disciples were eating in a manner not prescribed by the Law of the Jews. Jesus taught that it was not, “what goes into the mouth [that] defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

The words we speak reflect the purity of our heart. And so, the next teaching we encounter in the Sermon on the Mount is about oaths, the words that come from our mouth, and thus proceed from our heart.

Jesus says, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

An oath is the ultimate statement of one’s sincerity. To this day, oaths are taken to mean a person’s complete commitment to his or her promise. It is a vow solidified by some higher power. For this reason, often public oaths are taken on the holy scriptures, in sanctified spaces, or in the presence of a representative of ruling authority.

Jesus’ commandment is that we refrain from oaths that we cannot keep. Thus far, he has given a higher standard of living than what the religious community was handing out. Remember, murder is not only killing, but it is defined by anger. Likewise, adultery is the lustful conditions leading to the act. Jesus’ standard is a higher standard, and he cautions that we be honest and say nothing more than yes or no.

Let us pray, from the 17th hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer, You who bring back the wanderers, turn me from my evil ways to good ones and imprint upon my soul the recollection of the dreadful day of death, the fear of hell and the love of Your Kingdom that I may repent from my sins and do righteousness. Have mercy on me. Amen.

Cover: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

Mask Removal

Armodoxy for Today: Mask Removal

After trick-or-treating the neighborhood and snapping enough pictures to keep the memories going beyond the evening and season, the custom of opening the bag, inspecting, and sampling the treasure takes place. The first step, though, is removing the mask off your face, to better enjoy the goodies.

The masks we wear in life come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The masks we wear at Halloween are celebratory, they are part of the fun and excitement of the evening. The most beautiful young face can be distorted into something so old and hideous, and vice versa. The masks we wear after Halloween are the ones that we need to examine, for they are easy hiding places for our true nature. We wear one mask at home and another at work. The mask we wear as a spouse might be different from the mask of a friend. The one we wear as parents speaking with our children might be different than the mask we wear speaking with our parents. One mask may be that of the boss and the other of the faithful employee. We wear masks to fit the occasion.

At the end of the day, we remove our masks, and usually do so in front of a mirror. What we see is the maskless self – the one that looks back at us and the one whose stare we cannot escape.

When we talk about an all-knowing and all-seeing God, we understand He has the unique vantage point of seeing through our masks, no matter how many and how layered they may be. In this sense, it is like a mirror-stare, in that we cannot escape His view. To open the bag of “goodies of life” and enjoy the treats within, that view – unhindered, unobscured, is the God view that is the same view from a clean and receptive heart.

The prayer of St. Nersess says (#9) “Lord, Protector of all, instill Your holy fear in me that my eyes may not look lustfully, that my ears may not delight in hearing evil, that my mouth may not speak lies, that my heart may not think evil, that my hands may not do injustice, that my feet may not walk in the paths of iniquity. But direct all my actions that I do your will in everything. Amen.”

Cover: Envato Elements

Sincerity and Purity

Armodoxy for Today: Sincerity & Purity

Throughout his ministry, Jesus associated with a wide variety of people. You could say that his circle of acquaintances – friends, associates – was diverse. Jesus was often criticized by the religious community of the day for this association with sinners. We read in scripture, (Luke 5) that the Pharisee rebuked Jesus for eating with sinners, to which Jesus responds, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

In fact, Jesus tolerated and associated with everyone. Most notably many remember that he forgave the adulterous (John 8) and included the tax collector (Matthew 9) in his inner circle. The tax collector, we should remember, was considered among the lowest of the low because he was a Jew collecting taxes for the oppressive Roman government. Yes, he accepted them all, but for one. The one person for whom Jesus showed contempt and criticized was the hypocrite. The hypocrite was the one who said one thing with his mouth and lived another way with his life. The Pharisees were the teachers and keepers of the law. They knew scriptures backwards and forward, they gave a tenth of their income to the Temple, but Jesus called them out as “blind guides.” (Matthew 23) He said, 27 “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

For Jesus, sincerity and the pureness of heart is central to being in the Kingdom of God. His invitation to become as children (Matthew 18) was an invitation to sincerity and purity of heart.

(For the last couple of days we’ve been looking at the phenomena of Arev Children in Yerevan.) Fr. Gregor, who founded the Arev Children after his child was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, works with these children daily. He has formed a theatre, where the Arev Children perform by reciting poetry, playing music and dancing. But their greatest asset is their sincerity.

According to Fr. Gregor, “It is not possible to be next to the Arev-children and not learn from them to love and see only the good in people.”

As we spent time with the Arev children, Fr. Gregor’s words resonated with more and more meaning. The children are pure and sincere. They laugh, they smile and they hug, and there is nothing insincere about any of their expressions. Every bit of the love they share comes for the deepest depth of their soul.

In these children we see only good. We realize how superficial our lives have become because we identify people by what we observe on the outside. God, looks into the depth of our heart and sees what is real. We refer to a child as having Down Syndrome while God identifies them as the ones who love, laugh, smile and hug with complete sincerity. Fr. Gregor’s Arev Children give us a chance to see beauty that comes from the soul. We understand the value of sincerity and how it is missing in the world. We now understand the words of our Lord Jesus as we read in Matthew chapter 18:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.… See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Learn more about the Arev Children at their Facebook page

The Good fill in the blank

Next Step 483: A reading of the Good Samaritan for today opens the discussion for relevance. The passing for Fr. Arnak Kasparian and that special class of 1948. Pastor Joel Osteen under fire for post Harvey haste, but Fr. Vazken brings yet more dimension to the conversation that has the listener looking closer to home. Much more from the POV of sincerity.
Vanoush Khanamirian – “Shepherd’s Dream”
Good Samaritan Parable
Joel Osteen under fire
Fr. Vazken’s Bible Study on Mother Teresa
Hurricane Harvey donate here
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