It was frustrating not having the whole story. It felt like I was on a bridge that was only half finished. No matter how hard you try you’re never going to cross a bridge half built.
And yet we all too often make final decisions about small and big issues in our lives without the “whole story” and when this happens we often discover we’re at a dead end!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 19:1-8:
In those days, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God.
St. Paul continues his missionary work and he comes across some more of St. John the Baptist’s disciples. You remember them, don’t you? They believed in the coming of the Messiah. They had heard John declare that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” They had even been baptized by John for repentance. But, as yet, they had not heard the rest of the story. They hadn’t finished their journey to Christ. After being questioned by Paul, they listened to the rest of the Story and received baptism into the Church. They had their own Pentecost at their immediate chrismation, and this event alone was enough to encourage Paul to speak boldly in the area and preach in the synagogue about the Kingdom of God!
So, what was the danger of leaving these disciples of John the Baptist where they were? Why not leave well enough alone? Because Paul knew if they were that committed to seeking the Kingdom of God and living a life of repentance as John taught, they were going to need the fullness of the Faith to take them through this journey to the Kingdom of God. They were going to need the Church!
You see, it is more than just having part of the story. Having just a section of the truth always risks the truth getting lost in its incompleteness. Just look around you today to all the religious confusion that runs rampant in our society. People bounce from place to place, always looking for something but not knowing what it is they are looking for. All because they are only halfway there. Groping in the dark confusion of a multitude of religious voices, they find themselves victim of the confusion of the age. And this confusion never satisfies their desire to know God and His fullness. Some settle for what they have, thinking that this must be all there is. Some tire, believing there is no fullness. So they abandon the journey altogether. While still others just decide that their halfway mark is the finish line and delude themselves into believing they’re finished! And, in the end, the heartbreak of that delusion leads to despair!
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The timeless Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. The Church is the fullness. The Church is the Body of Christ where all the healing of the Lord Jesus resides in full potency. The Church is where every human finds complete identity and fulfillment. No wonder St. Paul didn’t leave these twelve men in their halfway condition! He knew, and we must know as well, that it’s in the Church, the Body of Christ, where the destination becomes the joy of being “like Christ.”
Today, are you stuck halfway? Do you sense that there is no fullness in your life? Perhaps it’s time to stop beating around the bush and finish what you started. Perhaps it’s time to be Orthodox on Purpose!