Find your Moment
Transcribed sermon by Fr Daniel Fanous
Passage: Luke 1:5-20
Zechariah was an interesting figure. Our Lord Christ at another point in the gospel mentions somebody by the name of Zechariah the son of Berekiah who was murdered between the horns of the altar and the temple (Matthew 23:35). This was somebody that was murdered literally as he was holding onto the altar.
Origen, one of the early church fathers said that perhaps this was Zechariah of our story today. It is theorised that when Herod went to kill all the infants under the age of two, Zechariah was unwilling to give up his son, John the Baptist and so instead, Herod had him murdered between the temple and the alter.
But what is the story of his son?
Zechariah was a priest of the Aaronic priesthood. The Aaronic priests were the descendants of Aaron. For almost a thousand years, there was a generational priesthood. No one became priest unless they were part of this specific family, there were no other ways into the priesthood.
Over this period of time, every son that was born into this family became a priest so over the course of thousands of years, there would have been thousands of priests. The worship in Israel was very different to how it is now, there weren’t multiple churches or synagogues, there was only one temple in Jerusalem and so, there wasn’t enough room for the priests to perform the sacrifices.
They divided them into 24 orders, each order would take one week a year. Then each order would take one week and of the seven days of the week, there would still be hundreds of priests allocated to a certain day. They would then cast lots to determine which priests were worthy of praying on that day. This meant that offering incense was a once in a lifetime gift. On this day, Zechariah was given his moment.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were both, “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). BUT they were barren. They were unable to have children. Their infertility had nothing to do with their sin as they was wrongly inferred by the people.
It is one of the most painful things to see someone that cannot have a child. It’s easy then to think that any kind of barrenness, whether physical emotional or spiritual, is a punishment of some kind. But here we see that it wasn’t, instead, it was part of God’s plan.
This is not to say that anyone who is barren will eventually have a child. But regardless God still has a plan. His plan may not be our plan, but He always has a plan. Any kind of failure or barrenness, whatever the cause, was always part of God’s plan, but only if we hold on to God.
When we look back to Zechariah, he was well advanced in years, well beyond the time of children, while his wife was postmenopausal. For many years, they tried for a child, they laid their lives before God walking blamelessly and obeying the commandments. At their age, there was no hope left to hold on to. The much easier scenario would have been to walk away from the God that seemingly ignored their prayers.
It would have been extremely easy for them to think that God doesn’t exist. He didn’t stick to their plan and He didn’t give them the desires of their heart. After this suffering that lasted many years, after this total loss of hope, Zechariah’s moment came.
His lot came, after he had lost all hope and thought there was no chance of conceiving a child. His lot was taken and his once in lifetime chance came for him to go to Jerusalem to worship. Zechariah lived Hebron; Hebron is about 30 kilometres south of Jerusalem. Roughly the distance between Cronulla to the middle of Sydney CBD.
Zechariah could have easily thought in this moment, what is the point? He served his entire life, yet his one request was not answered by God. Instead, he took his moment. Each one of us in our lives will have a series of moments. Some quiet moments, some very subtle moments, some of them very, very dramatic moments. God at certain points in our lives will reach into our lives and touch us. Sometimes when we expect other times when we don’t expect it.
Perhaps then like Zechariah, God has left us barren. Our lives have not gone according to our plans. But still God reaches out and touches us. And in these moments, we must respond. It may be simply an awakening to sin – a realisation of something I have done, something I’m doing is afflicting me and obstructing my spiritual life. It may be a gentle niggling feeling that I’ve been avoiding confession. It may be a moment of inexplicable joy that I received joy that God touches my heart during prayer or when I listen to a word or when I’m in church.
It may be an awareness that something is far greater than me. It may be an overwhelming sense that God wants me to do something. When you feel these moments, your lot has been cast. Your moment has come. How then do we react to these moments?
Do we ignore? Do we push it? Do we continue to distract ourselves so we don’t hear it? We must understand these are our moments.
We must discern these moments and cease them before they pass. There was a lady that came who had left the church for a long time that came for a baptism. After the baptism she to me to say goodbye. And as she came up to me, she tried to rush away from me and she began to cry.
I said, “are you alright?”
She replied, “No, no, it’s just something in my eye.”
I said, “Okay, that’s fine, something always goes in my eyes as well.”
And then she left. I messaged her after and I said to her, “There wasn’t something in your eye, is everything alright?”
She replied, “Sometimes whatever happens in church, I just miss it. And I thought you know; this is the chance. This is the chance.”
She didn’t come to church and I didn’t see her there again, but she had a moment. She walked into church and she felt something deeply touched her, but she ignored it. Her moment came, and we can only pray that God gives her many more moments.
The opposite scenario presented itself when I met a young monk in Egypt. He told me that he never entered a church his entire life. He had nothing to do with church, but that wasn’t because he had anything against God, he just didn’t know Him, and was never exposed to church.
One day, a friend of his invited him to play soccer, and the soccer field happened to be in the field of the church. As he walked into the church’s gates thinking only of soccer, a priest walked past him and the priest must’ve mistaken him for someone else, walked to him and said, “I have missed you so much,” and gave him a big hug. In that moment, he began to cry, and he didn’t know why. He said that in that moment it was the first time he felt he had a father. That was all it took, and from then on, he attended every church service for a year and then entered the monastery.
St Anthony the Great heard one verse – “If you would be perfect, give up all you have and follow Me,” and that was enough. He paid attention to his moment. He left and became the greatest monk of the church.
Zechariah had more reason than all of us to ignore his moment. He was a priest, he was blameless, he walked righteously, he obeyed the commandments, and yet for 40 years his prayer was ignored. Despite all logic, he walked 30 kilometres across hill country to Jerusalem, where unbeknown to him, he would receive his moment.
He drew near to God, and God drew near to him, as He revealed His plans that Elizabeth’s barrenness was only for a period to prepare the way for the birth of John the Baptist. While this is not God’s plan for everybody, God always has a plan. He has a plan for you and me, but in the right moment.
Zechariah almost missed his moment, but the nine months of muteness that followed was almost God’s way of forcing him to reflect upon this moment. God wanted him to discern, to stop, to think, to reflect, to perceive the gravity of that moment. When your moment comes, don’t ignore it, but come to God so that He may move your heart.