Christ is risen!
It was exasperating! I tried to get my buddy’s attention but he was too busy enjoying building a fire in the woods near our neighborhood where we were going to camp out for the night. Never mind that it was the dry part of summer. Never mind that there was a “burning ban” on. Of course, everybody paid attention when the two Sheriff’s officers walked up to our little makeshift camp-out and took us all home in the squad car! Those were some scared 13 year old boys, me included!
Sometimes not paying attention can be the result of hiding from the truth. But sometimes you are in a state of unbelief because of the sheer joy and magnitude of reality.
Look at our lesson today in Acts 12:12-17
IN THOSE DAYS, Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran and told that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are mad.” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking; and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell this to James and to the brethren.” Then he departed and went to another place.
This is one of my favorite scenes in the Book of Acts. St. Peter had been arrested by the authorities for spreading the News of the Resurrection, and an angel had come in the night and released him from jail. Read the whole chapter if you get the chance.
Suffice it to say, this event happened just as Herod was looking to kill St. James, the first bishop of Jerusalem,, and the faithful thought St. Peter was next. So, they were in constant prayer for him. The Lord answered their prayers and St. Peter made his way to Mary’s house where all the faithful were praying for him. Notice what happens next. Rhoda hears Peter’s voice at the gate, but, and I love this, “in her joy” she didn’t let him in but ran and told the other believers. They, in turn, out of their doubt, don’t believe her. But then some of the more “spiritual” among the group (you know who you are) say that perhaps it’s Peter’s guardian angel.
Amazing. They were praying for the very thing they already had, but, for some, joy didn’t allow them to believe it or act on it, and others simply didn’t believe it possible, and still others wanted to make it all about some cosmic spiritual experience. But Peter kept knocking! And when they finally opened the gate he had to tell them all to be quiet so as not to give away where they all were!
What a powerful picture for you and me today on how to live a life of faith. First, when you pray don’t be shocked when the answer comes. Of course it did. Don’t allow joy or doubt or even some easy explanation to dismiss the wonderful grace God has given you. No, open the “gate” of your heart and allow the joy to be sober, the doubt, to be quieted, and the all too easy explanation to be made mute in the face of the real thing! Then, be quiet! The gift of God, the answered prayer is yours. Let the fruit of that wonderful moment mature you and fill you with a quiet confidence that protects your heart from spiritual pride or self-righteousness. And then don’t be surprised when you’re told to move on!
Today, the purposeful Orthodox Christian life makes “normal” the real and active presence of God in our lives. The normal Orthodox life has intimate and real examples of God’s love and His actions. We are not to be intoxicated by these normal events. We are to be strengthened and made more peaceful and bold in living Orthodox on Purpose!