We learn how to make all of life sacred by making one moment of our life sacred.
While that may really sound paradoxical, it makes perfect sense when you consider that it’s only by a focused effort I can wake up to a wider truth. If I try to take in the whole world, eternity, and all things, I get overwhelmed. Why do you think we are so impassioned by politics and the “big questions?” Those “big” issues are easier to wash over us and intoxicate us with anger or worry or even fear. But, if I take the neighbor next to me and serve him and love him as myself, I learn how to embrace the whole world as God’s gift to me.
It’s how we Christians are called to take our everyday lives and avoid wasting all our energy on the temporary and focus first on the eternal!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 12:1-11:
About that time, Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church.
The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
Notice three actions in temporary time that point us to an eternal purpose.
First, the persecution of the Faithful was intense and that caused the Faithful to pray. They didn’t march on the capital. They didn’t organize a concert to benefit the families of the martyred saints or to protest St. Peter’s arrest. They prayed. All too often we think that prayer is some “last resort” when it should be our constant lifestyle. I’ll never train my time bound body and soul to see eternity if I don’t carve out specific times to pray. Prayer is the lifestyle of the Orthodox Christian.
Second, the prayers of the Faithful brings rest and rescue. Peter is asleep between two soldiers. Talk about a sense of confidence and peace. This is the same Peter who was so intimidated by a slavegirl outside of the high priest’s home when Jesus was arrested that he cursed and denied he ever knew Jesus. Peter’s lifestyle had changed with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and his life in the midst of the Faithful as they prayed brought him peace and rescue. The angel comes; let’s the guards keep sleeping, and gets Peter back to the gathered faithful!
Finally, the temporary rescue confirms God’s eternal purpose. St. Peter sees this temporary rescue at this specific time and place as another confirmation that his ministry and the ministry of the Faithful isn’t done. Peter has already heard from the risen Lord that he would be killed for being a follower of Jesus, but not today! Today, this moment, confirms that the lives of the Faithful, gathered to pray, and to affect the rescue of St. Peter sanctifies a moment and a place and a person for an eternal purpose.
Today, on this day we remember the Chains of the Apostle Peter, see this moment, right now, as being in the freedom God has purchased for you in Christ and live every moment by being Orthodox on Purpose!
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