Let’s see; thinking of things that go great together – ham and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Tom and Jerry, a crisp, cool morning and a warm cup of coffee, bacon and, well more bacon!
OK, so that’s a bit silly, but there are some things in life that simply always go together. It is understanding the power of these pairings that help us see deeper into our own lives and to discern the very presence of God in the events of our lives. I can’t tell you how many times, when I’ve been struggling with the noise of life, how wonderful it has been to get in a quiet place and listen for that still, small voice to remind me of that which is most important in life.
It is in noticing these apparent paradoxes that invite me into the trans-rational (notice, I did not say irrational) mystery of knowing God.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 16:4-12:
BRETHREN, it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may speed me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Speed him on his way in peace, that he may return to me; for I am expecting him with the brethren. As for our brother Apollos, I strongly urge him to visit you with the other brethren, but it was not all his will to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity.
St. Paul is laying out his travel plans for the Corinthian Church so they can know when to expect his visit. By the way, there was a group there in the parish that wasn’t looking forward to this visit at all! My, how things stay the same! But the fascination insight is in how Paul clearly says he has a GREAT Opportunity AND there “are many adversaries.” This is always the way!
So why does great opportunity stir great opposition?
First, Opportunity reveals a poverty of vision. There is nothing like a dreamer and one who sees what could be to scare the living daylights out of those who have become comfortable with mediocrity. And folks comfortable with the status quo rarely enjoy having their world disrupted by prophets. That’s why prophets usually get in trouble!
Second, Opportunity requires action. The truth is perpetual potential is just another way of saying “failure.” The Apostle called his opportunity ” a wide door for effective WORK…” and I don’t know anything that scares those comfortable with “the way things are” more than work! Effort requires vision to strengthen you for the task at hand. If you can’t see beyond the nose on your face, you’ll never stay motivated for the work that carries the Faith to the next generation.
Finally, Opportunity rejects fear. If you are given the gift of seeing what could be, the very glory of that insight banishes the natural fear of failure. If the vision is grand enough, if the vision of what could be is cosmic enough, if it is glorious enough, then it is powerful enough to overcome all those voices that will constantly scream in fear “It can’t be done” It’s a waste of time” or worse “We’ve never done it that way before!”
St. Paul needed to stay in Ephesus BECAUSE of the great opportunity AND the great opposition. In fact, he was able to recognize the opportunity because of his opponents.
Today, know that nothing worth doing is going to be easy. Banish from your mind the temptation to be surprised by contrary voices when you attempt to do great things. Mediocrity always makes excuses for itself. Push through those opposing voices and keep your eye on the great opportunity to become Orthodox on Purpose!